Harold B. Norvell, 84, Bethlehem Steel worker

January 29, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Harold Bertram Norvell, a retired Bethlehem Steel employee who witnessed the liberation of the Dachau death camp in Germany, died Wednesday of cancer at his White Marsh home. He was 84.

Until he retired in 1979, he mixed the ingredients for making steel at the Sparrows Point plant, where he had worked for 34 years.

As a staff sergeant in Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army, he moved through Europe in 1945 while the German army was retreating.

"He was one of those people who directed fire. It put him ahead of the front lines," said his brother-in-law, George Beshore of Alexandria, Va.

Mr. Norvell kept a detailed diary of his World War II experiences, beginning with his November 1944 departure from Camp Kilmer in New Jersey, then across the Atlantic on the troop ship Carnarvon Castle. He wrote that it was "a long and tiresome trip" of 12 days accompanied by rough seas and a submarine alert. A destroyer that accompanied the convoy dropped depth charges at enemy subs.

He landed at the heavily bombed port of Southampton, England, and heard V-1 bombs drop.

Early in February 1945, he crossed the English Channel to France, where he recorded that one of his company was "fined $30 for chopping down a tree and using it for firewood" near Rouen.

Later in the month he moved into Germany as its army was in retreat. His unit pressed on into Bavaria. Mr. Norvell was stationed near the Dachau death camp.

"The experience completely changed his life," said Gloria Pumphrey, a friend. "He saw bodies stacked as high as his own house. He could smell the ovens 20 miles away."

He sailed back to the United States on the converted troop ship Queen Mary and recorded his arrival at Fort Meade on Aug. 4, 1945, at 10 a.m.

He then signed up at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point plant, where he directed the mixing of the red-hot ingredients in the steel-making process. He was known as a scrap chaser.

Born in Waverly, Mo., he was a 1933 graduate of Waverly High School. He moved to the Baltimore area in the early 1940s for a job at the old Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant.

In 1935 he married Dorothy Brian, who died in 1977.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Dipple Brothers Funeral Home, 7710 Belair Road.

He is survived by two sons, James William Norvell of Edgewood and George Robert Norvell of Tampa, Fla.; two sisters, Mary E. Brown of Shawnee, Kan., and Margaret J. Beshore of Alexandria, Va.; one grandson and one great-granddaughter.

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