Beloved Neighbor and Hero Passes Away

By Kelly MacConomy

Local hero and beloved Alexandrian Norman Thomas Hatch, Sr. passed away April 22 in his residence at the Hermitage in Alexandria.

He was 96.

A Del Ray resident for over 70 years, Norm was well known and appreciated for his kindness but famous for his courage as a combat photographer in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

In 1943, then 22-year-old Marine Staff Sargent Norman T. Hatch waded ashore onto the Tarawa Atoll armed with a .45 caliber pistol and a 22 millimeter Belle and Howell Eyemo camera held high over his head to keep his gear dry while the riflemen surrounding  him crouched down, submerged in the waves appearing to Norm like a sea of turtles.

Norm fearlessly filmed what would become a 76-hour bloody battle claiming the lives of 1,000 Marines and 4,000 Japanese soldiers, one of the first decisive US victories in the Pacific, as well as providing the raw footage for the 1945 Academy Award-winning best documentary Short, “With the Marines at Tarawa.”

Norm Hatch was the last living WWII combat veteran witness to the epic Battle of Iwo Jima.  It was he who verified the authenticity of the famous flag-raising photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal.  That moment  is the inspiration and model for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington Ridge Park, Roslyn.

At the viewing at Everly Wheatley Funeral Home Norm’s son, Tom, showed a photo of his father caring for a feral kitten making a home under a blown-out tank, giving it water from his helmet.

The image of this brave, movie-star handsome, tall man of over 6’2″ compassionately concerned with the well-being of a suffering animal, tells you what a wonderful man our community has lost.

Semper Fi.

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One Comment

  1. To The Hatch Family, We are sending you our most heartfelt sympathies and sincere condolences in learning of the recent passing of your Husband, Father, Brother, and Our Fellow Marine, Fellow American, and Our Friend. He was a True American Hero who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so his Family and every American, and all Freedom Loving People throughout the World could continue to enjoy the Freedoms and Liberties we all hold so dearly in our Hearts and Souls. I thank God everyday for people such as Norman Thomas Hatch who was part of the Greatest Generation and its only because of their sacrifices we all have had a better World to live in following the conclusion of World War Two. I am so thankful God allowed our paths to cross in Life here on Earth and for allowing me to be able to listen to some of his encounters as a Combat Cameraman, especially those during amphibious assaults on the islands of Tarawa and Iwo Jima and for allowing him to somehow survive the carnage of war to be able to tell the Marine Corps’ Story and show the sacrifices required to protect our American Way of Life and for allowing him to serve our Country and the Marine Corps as long as he was able to do. We are forever indebted to you for all your sacrifices, and especially of those others who made the ultimate sacrifice and never made it home. One thing is certain, Norm loved his Family, God, America, and the United States Marine Corps. What a Truly Great American he was and one whom we will definitely miss in this Life here on Earth. God bless Norman Thomas Hatch, His Family, The United States of America, The United States Marine Corps, The Armed Services of America, and all the Freedom Loving People throughout the World. Sent with an Extremely Heavy Heart – Semper Fi Marine and Godspeed, until we meet again, in Heaven.

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