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.