Hero’s Homecoming: Family remembers WWII soldier whose remains were returned to Quinlan 78 years later

“We never thought it would happen. We never thought we would have him back home.”
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Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2022 at 11:16 PM CDT
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QUINLAN, Texas (KLTV) - Seventy-eight years after his death, World War ll soldier Frank Ardith Norris will be laid to rest in his hometown.

Frank Ardith Norris was born in Quinlan, Texas on December 5, 1919.

“He was good looking, he was smart, he was hard working. He would get up and go work the fields every day before they went to school, and then come home and work the fields,” nephew Robert Stephen Norris said.

Ardith Norris enlisted in the army air force as a flight engineer and top turret gunner one month before the U.S. declared war on Germany, November 11, 1941.

“He had a great sense of duty to his country, and knew that he was going into combat, and knew that he wouldn’t likely come home, and he made that sacrifice freely, and worked hard doing it,” Norris said.

A handful of medals, including the Air Medal with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster, are symbols of that duty.

“He flew more than 32 missions. He could have rotated out at 20 for some R-and-R, but he didn’t take it. He stayed in,” Norris said.

On August 1, 1943, Ardith and his crew “The Old Baldy,” flew out for Operation Tidal Wave.

“It was an important target in that we could cripple Hitler’s effort if we took those refineries in Romania out,” Norris said. “They got shot down by an 88 millimeter anti-aircraft gun that was manned by Romanian soldiers and they had the wherewithal to crash into the battery that shot them down. So, they killed the guys that killed them.”

Norris was buried in Romania. After the war, the U.S. removed the bodies of the unidentified soldiers, including Norris, to Belgium. The bodies were unearthed again a few years ago to be identified.

“In 2015 the army called us and asked my cousin and my sister and I for our DNA,” Norris said.

This was all apart of the process of identifying Ardith.

After a positive DNA match with the family in Texas, the army arranged for his remains to be brought home.

“Of course, it’s been sentimental, and an honor, and an absolute joy,” Norris said.

Sean Everette, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, DPAA Spokesperson shares the process of identifying the remains and bringing Frank “Ardith” Norris home.

“The number of modern heroes that it takes to recover our missing heroes is staggering when you think about it. And think about the number of hours and time that it takes to make it happen,” Everette said. “In the end it’s all worth it because we are able to bring these service members home to their families.”

“We never thought it would happen. We never thought we would have him back home,” Norris said.

On Friday April 22, Ardith’s nieces Mary Rhoades Korby, Nancy Norris, and his nephew Robert Stephen Norris welcomed him home. The Army Memorial Detail from Ft. Hood included his escort Sergeant First Class Shannon Alvarez US Army, the USO Honor Detail, and the Army Liaison Sergeant First Class Ryan Sparks, Tank Commander Ft. Hood.

On Saturday April 30, the family will bury Frank Ardith Norris next to two rows of Norris Family headstones in Quinlan.

“It really does your heart good to feel the American spirit the way it really should be. As a country, we have a lot to be proud of. A lot to be proud of that we don’t even know about,” Norris said. “This is one of those long lost stories that’s come back to the surface because here is, 78, almost 79 years later, they found him.”

The service will be at 2 p.m. this Saturday at Ford High School in Quinlan.

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