Norstad, Lauris, 1907-1988

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1907-03-24
Death 1988-09-01
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

General Lauris Norstad (1907-1988) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in Red Wing, Minnesota where he attended high school. After developing an interest in military service, Norstad secured an appointment to the United States Military Academy where he graduated in 1930 with a commission as a second lieutenant of cavalry. In 1931 Norstad transferred to the Air Corps, thus beginning his long career as an air force officer. During the 1930s Norstad served as Commander of the 18th Pursuit Group at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; as Adjutant, 9th Bombardment Group, and as Officer-in-Charge, 9thBombardment Group Navigation School, at Mitchel Field, New York. When the United States entered World War II in December, 1941, Norstad was Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Air Force Command Headquarters at Langley Field, Virginia, and Bolling Field near Washington, D. C. Army Air Forces Commander Henry "Hap" Arnold, impressed with Norstad''s ability, named him to his advisory council in February 1942 to conduct long-range planning. In August Norstad became Assistant Chief of Staff For Operations of the Twelfth Air Force and was sent to North Africa to plan aerial strategy for Operation TORCH. At this time Norstad served under General Eisenhower, who later characterized Norstad as "sound, able, sensible, loyal, and tireless." During the summer of 1943 Norstad helped plan air operations to accompany Allied assaults in Sicily and Italy. Norstad''s military career was marked by a rapid rise through the ranks. At age thirty-six he became in 1943 one of the youngest brigadier generals in the Army Air Force. Nine years later he became the youngest American officer to achieve four-star rank. In December, 1943 Norstad was appointed Director of Operations of the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces. He helped plan bombing missions aimed at destroying Axis oil installations and interdicting highways in the Balkans and in Italy. He participated in several major operations including ANVIL, DIADEM, SHINGLE, and FRANTIC, an attempt to obtain the Soviet Union''s cooperation in shuttle bombing operations. Norstad, with an eye on the political aspects of military operations, advocated a strategy aimed at blocking the Russians from Germany by an Allied push through Yugoslavia''s Ljubljana Gap into Austria and Hungary, and then through eastern Germany and western Poland. In August 1944, Norstad was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he became Chief of Staff of the Twentieth Air Force. There, he assisted in planning B-29 bombing missions against Japan and worked as one of a group of air force officers who participated in planning the atomic bombing of Japan. After the war, Norstad, because of his exposure to atomic warfare, served on the Spaatz Board which studied the effects of the atomic bomb on employment, size, organization, and composition of the post-war United States Air Force. In 1946 he was appointed Director of the Plans and Operations Division, War Department General Staff, and charged with planning the size and utilization of the Air Force. He was partly responsible for securing equal status for the Air Force with the Army and Navy in the new national military establishment. From October 1947 through October 1950, Norstad, as Acting Vice Chief of Staff for Operations of the Air Force, was charged with the responsibility for implementing aerial defense and attack plans in case of emergency. Norstad''s assignment in October 1950 as Commander in Chief, United States Air Force in Europe, began more than twelve years of European service. His close association with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization''s military forces started almost immediately; in April, 1951 he became Commander of Allied Air Forces in Central Europe. On July 27, 1953 he was named Air Deputy, SACEUR, and in November 1956 he assumed command of NATO forces. Norstad took over the NATO command with a reputation as an outstanding planner. He brought to the post an adept political mind and sharp diplomatic skills which he put to immediate use by encouraging European political leaders to engage in diplomatic talks with SHAPE. His political adroitness paid off, for he earned the respect of such strong personalities as Konrad Adenauer and Charles De Gaulle. Norstad''s years at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) were eventful ones. No sooner had he taken command than he felt compelled to resist a British proposal to withdraw about one-third of the United Kingdom''s army from continental Europe. Norstad expressed his opposition to this move in public speeches and in private negotiations. Eventually a compromise was reached whereby the size of the troop withdrawal was reduced and portions of it were delayed. The development of nuclear strategy occupied much of Norstad''s time at SHAPE. He became a staunch advocate of NATO becoming a fourth nuclear power through the creation of a multinational atomic authority. He attempted to establish machinery for authorizing NATO''s use tactical atomic weapons while still retaining United States control over them. Resistance within NATO, combined with a lack of support from the Kennedy Administration which sharply changed policy on nuclear strategy, resulted in the demise of the "Norstad Plan". Norstad experienced opposition from the French Government on such issues as locating missile sites in France, expending nuclear weapons, integrating fighter air forces, and withdrawing French ships from the Organization''s Mediterranean fleet. Norstad also dealt with a wide range of questions involving command relationships and organizations, disarmament proposals, German rearmament, missile deployments and personnel, as well as crises over Berlin between1958 and 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 delayed his departure from SHAPE for two months. Norstad also carried during these years the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief, United States European Command. While engaging in private negotiations and planning for these myriad matters, Norstad continually promoted NATO''s mission publicly. He was NATO''s strategy as essentially one of deterrence employing three basic ingredients: 1. Sufficient forces to insure that no attack against NATO could succeed. 2. The will and determination to use these forces should the need arise. 3. A potential aggressor''s certain knowledge of the existence of the forces and the determination to use them. Norstad appears to have been an articulate and forceful spokesman for NATO and for an active role for SACEUR in formulating policies. This advocacy role probably helped earn him respect from European leaders as well as his colleagues at SHAPE. His strong convictions, however, may have exacerbated his differences with the Kennedy Administration, thereby hastening his replacement as SACEUR. After leaving SHAPE and retiring from military service, General Norstad became President and later Chairman of Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation. In 1969 President Richard Nixon called Norstad back to public service, asking him to serve on the President''s Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force, a duty Norstad performed until 1972 when the Commission completed its work and published its recommendations. President Nixon also called on Norstad to serve on the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament from 1969 to 1974.

From the description of Norstad, Lauris, 1907-1988 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10679504

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