Medal of Honor
THORNTON, MICHAEL EDWIN
Rank and organization: Petty Officer, U.S. Navy, Navy Advisory Group.
Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1972.
Entered service at: Spartanburg, S.C.
Born: 23 March 1949, Greenville, S.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces. PO Thornton, as Assistant U.S. Navy Advisor, along with a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as Senior Advisor, accompanied a 3-man Vietnamese Navy SEAL patrol on an intelligence gathering and prisoner capture operation against an enemy-occupied naval river base. Launched from a Vietnamese Navy junk in a rubber boat, the patrol reached land and was continuing on foot toward its objective when it suddenly came under heavy fire from a numerically superior force. The patrol called in naval gunfire support and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight, accounting for many enemy casualties before moving back to the waterline to prevent encirclement. Upon learning that the Senior Advisor had been hit by enemy fire and was believed to be dead, PO Thornton returned through a hail of fire to the lieutenant's last position; quickly disposed of 2 enemy soldiers about to overrun the position, and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded and unconscious Senior Naval Advisor to the water's edge. He then inflated the lieutenant's lifejacket and towed him seaward for approximately 2 hours until picked up by support craft. By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, PO Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Thanks to Chris N. Seger for the above photograph of Michael Edwin Thornton.
The following e-mail message was received on 31 May 1999:
This is written on the morning of Memorial Day. I came home from work this morning and suddenly realized what today was. When I got out on the net to look around for information on this very type of military history before I go to sleep for the day, I found your site. I appreciate the effort that you have gone to and applaud you.
But I would make one suggestion.
The one Medal of Honor winner I had the privilege to meet while I was in the Navy was Mr. Michael Thornton. He is a legend in the Navy, or at least he was while I was in. There is an important piece of information I hope you will add to his entry.
Michael Thornton is the only man to win the Medal of Honor for saving the life of a man who ALSO won the Medal of Honor, LT Tom Norris.
Thank You--- Wayne Roy < email@example.com >(formerly ET3 USN)
The following e-mail message was received on 29 January 2000:
Tonight I had the rare privilege of having dinner with Mike Thornton, USN Seals, and Tom Norris, USN Seals, both of whom were wearing the Congressional Medal of Honor. As you know, Norris' citation was for gallantry in action in April of '72. Then in October of '72 Norris was hit in the head with an AK47 round and believed dead in yet another firefight. Thornton, already safe on the beach, was part of Norris' group, and would not leave him for dead. He went back through fierce fire (and heavy friendly air bombardment) to retrieve Norris and drag him to the beach. Thornton then kept both of them afloat for nearly three hours before being rescued. Tonight Thornton said two 4" dressings could not cover Norris' head wound. To be in the company of such courageous men, and to listen to their stories is a humbling experience.
Chris Seger < firstname.lastname@example.org> USNR, 1960-1964
On 19 March 2000, Chris Seger writes: "I visited with Mike Thornton recently and he gave me the attached photo (see above) . . . Mike spoke to my breakfast club on Thursday morning, and he was mesmerizing."
The following e-mail message was received on 2 November 2000:
I served under Lt. Thornton during Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm,while he was stationed at Amphibious Construction Battalion Two. He was very instrumental in my life. He really helped me grow up, get focused, and live life with a sense of purpose. When I met him I was still a street kid who really didn't care about anything or anyone and he changed all that for me.I haven't seen him in years and if you have a way to get this to him please pass it on for me and let him know I said thanks for everything. I was in the Navy from 88-98 and at ACB-2 from 89-93. I was BM2 (SW) Jones.
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