(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following are excerpts from an interview with Norris Grunhuvd of Superior by Mineral Independent reporter Colin Murphy, and a story written by Barbara A. Cramer of the Hysham Echo in 1983.)
Norris Grunhuvd was a Seaman First Class Gunner’s Mate on the USS Little. The USS Little (DD-803) was laid down by Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Co., on Sept. 13, 1943. She was launched on May 22, 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Russell O’Hara and commissioned Aug. 19, 1944, under the command of Commander Madison Hall Jr.
After training off the West Coast, Little departed from Seattle on November 11, 1944 to escort a convoy to Pearl Harbor. She arrived November 23 and participated in gunnery training and battle problems. On February 15, 1945 the USS Little sailed for the assault beaches. On May 3 at 1813, 18-24 aircraft attacked from under cloud cover. At 1814 the USS Little was hit on the portside. Within four minutes, three more enemy Kamikazes had hit her, breaking her keel, demolishing the amid ship section and opening all three aft machinery spaces. At 1955, the USS Little broke up and went down. Of the 200 sailors on board, 62 perished while 27 suffered injuries. Almost 7,000 Americans lost their lives. The five week battle saw some of the bloodiest and fiercest fighting of the war against Japan.
Norris was injured and estimated he had 150-200 pieces of shrapnel in him. He was bleeding from the mouth, and his floatation device was shot full of holes. Despite being wounded Norris was able to get himself over the side and into the water using empty powder cans to stay afloat.
Norris remembered floating in the water fastened together by the rings on their life jackets. The 50 survivors of the USS Little had formed a circle of men in the Pacific Ocean, just after sundown.
“As the Japanese planes came in low above the water, the remaining US ships fired at them and the sailors in the water had to duck under the water from getting hit,” he said.
After four hours the sailors were picked out of the water by another support craft, the LCSL-83. Norris was transferred to the base hospital on the island of Tinfan for a month. From there he was flown to the United States for a Survivors Leave and then sent to Bremerton, Washington. After recovering from his shrapnel wounds, he was sent aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga for one trip to Okinawa and one trip to the Philippines before the war ended.
One of Norris’s fondest memories was sitting in the bay of Iwa Jima, watching a group of US Marines try to raise the American flag on the highest point of the island, Mount Surabachi.“ They had a dickens of a time getting the flag up.” The Japs kept shooting at them. They didn’t even have the island secured and they sure didn’t have the highest point completely secured. But Marine psychology was to be able to see the American flag from the highest point of any island, so up she went! It took quite a few attempts as we watched before they could keep the flag up there. At the time Norris never realized at the time how close he was to a moment in history.
Norris ran a movie theatre and was also the Postmaster in Hysham Montana, and where Dorian was the school secretary for many years, before they made the move to Superior. Norris will be 92 on June 12, 2017, and they have been married for 69 years. They have four children: Tom, Linda, Peg, and Carol. There are 11 grandchildren, 26 Great Grandchildren, and 1 Great Great Grandchild.
There will be a presentation and luncheon honoring Mineral County veterans on Saturday, May 20. Norris will be honored at the event which starts at 1 p.m. at the Superior High School. The public is encouraged to attend.