PO1 (SEAL) MICHAEL E THORNTON
U.S. Navy, Navy Advisory Group
Republic of Vietnam
31 October 1972
Petty Officer Thornton and another SEAL, along with a 3-man Vietnamese SEAL Team, were participating in an intelligence gathering and prisoner capture operation.
Thornton’s Team traveled by Junk then Rubber boat up-river to the infill point, continuing on foot toward the objective before they were ambushed by a vastly superior force. The SEALs called in naval gunfire support and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight. The team had to retreat to water’s edge to prevent from being surrounded and Lt. Norris, the SEAL commander was missing.
PO1 Thornton was told that Lt. Norris was dead – but that was not good enough for him to leave his brother behind.
Thornton would not accept that his fellow SEAL was dead without seeing him personally so Thornton returned to the lieutenant’s last position. Lt. Norris had been hit in the face but was not dead.
Thornton engaged and disposed of 2 enemy soldiers then carried the unconscious Senior Naval Advisor to the water’s edge.
Thornton inflated Lt. Norris’ flotation device and swam towing his brother for more than 2 hours toward the sea.
PO Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members
As a caveat, Lt. Norris had been recommended for the Medal of Honor on a previous mission. The two SEALs had the honor of being present when the other was awarded the Medal by the President.