After completing their Flight Training Edward & James
were sent to England in December 1942.
Engeland. The brothers were assigned
to Bombardment Squadron. At full strength the B-26 Bomb Squadron consisted of 16 aircraft
and 377 men. After the arrival of their aircraft in March 1943, further exercises were carried out.
This was necessary as it turned out, that recently graduated airmen had little experience with formation flying and some of the onboard gunners had never shot with a machine gun during a flight! It was also necessary for them to practice flying at zero altitude – just aboce the ground. That was dangerous but increased the chances of success in bomb attacks.
In the spring of 1943 322 Bombardment Group was fully operational and ready to fly their first mission on May 14, 1943. Although the Norton brothers did not participate in this mission, they would undoubtedly have followed the mission from minute to minute. The target was a power plant in Velsen.
During their zero altitude flight the formation of 12 B-26s twice came under fire from German anti-aircraft artillery – FLAK – along the Atlantikwall. Several aircraft were badly damaged, but they all managed to drop their
bombs and were then able to return to England.
The mission seemed successful at first, but two days later it turned out this was not the case. The released bombs - by agreement with the Dutch government - had a time delay of 30 minutes. This was in order to give the local Dutch people time to get away before the bombs exploded. This delay, however, gave the Germans the chance to defuse the bombs.
After the failed mission of May 14 the miliatry leaders decided to immediately launch a new bombardment. Everyone was stunned: a new attack so soon after the first attempt was a suicide mission. But in the military an order is an order, so again on 17 May ten B-26s left B-26's for Velsen. This time Edward and James participated in the attack.
Again, the formation was attacked right by the Dutch coast and came under fire from FLAK. Within 10 minutes five units were shot out of the air by the Germans. With only five aircraft over, including those of Edward and James, the B-26's flew on towards their target. They dropped their bombs by mistake on the South gasworks in Amsterdam.
Again the aircraft came under fire. Three B-26s crashed in the North Sea, two were shot down by German Focke Wulf 190 fighter aircraft. Edward and James did not survive the attack. The second mission of 322 Bombardment Group had ended in tragedy.
Edward Norton and James Robertson Arthur Norton Jr. were both killed on May 17, 1943 in the chilly waters of the North Sea at the age of 22.
Their parents received 2 messages on May 19 : Missing in action ... All of Conway sympathized. For months after they heard nothing more. Their father learned that his sons' plane had crashed in the North Sea. In September 1945, more than two years after the disaster, on July 26 he heard from the Mayor of Haarlem that James' body had washed up on the beach. Edward's body was never recovered.
After the war the Norton family decided that Edward & James would have their final resting place in Margraten. Of the crew members killed on 17 May 1943 twelve are buried in Margraten, 1943, including James Norton (P-16-5), Alvin Zeidenfeld (R-22-17) and Ralph MacDougal (P-22-3). The names of seven crew members are listed on the Walls of the Missing, including Edward Norton.
The brothers Edward and James were commemorated in Conway, by two cenotaphs placed at the local Lakeside Cemetery.