Norman Hochberg, 82, lawyer and bomber pilot

October 25, 2005|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Norman Hochberg, a retired Baltimore lawyer and decorated World War II pilot, died from complications of pneumonia Thursday at Sinai Hospital. The Stevenson resident was 82.

Mr. Hochberg was born in Baltimore and raised on Woodbrook Avenue. He was a 1941 graduate of City College and attended McCoy College at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, College Park before leaving to enlist in the Army Air Forces in 1943.

After training as a B-17 pilot, Mr. Hochberg joined the 94th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, based at Bury St. Edmunds, England.

Commissioned a lieutenant, his wartime service included 31 bombing runs, for which he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters, and two battle stars.

One mission resulted in a midair collision with another B-17.

"He was not flying the plane that day - a visiting colonel was. Impatient over waiting to land, the colonel broke formation and brought the plane down on another bomber. Its props cut the plane in half, killing its crew of 10. It was completely avoidable and not due to any enemy action," said Mr. Hochberg's son, Ian Hochberg of Mount Washington.

"Dad was sitting in the bombardier's bubble and managed to scramble to safety as it was sheared off in the collision. They were so anxious to get on the ground that they skidded off the runway into a field of Brussels sprouts," the son said.

"He used to tell his grandchildren, nieces and nephews that `Brussels sprouts saved my life, so you better eat them,'" the son said.

On another mission, Mr. Hochberg had gotten off course after being separated from his formation and discovered a train traveling along a railroad line. He was not anxious to bomb the train because its coaches had red crosses painted on their roofs. But he changed his mind.

"He thought it might be a deception and after bombing it, photos taken proved it was a munitions train disguised as a relief train," the son said.

Another harrowing moment occurred when one engine failed and then another, forcing Mr., Hochberg to turn back to England. A nearby P-51 pilot, sensing the limping bomber's dilemma, flew escort most of the way.

"And then the third engine quit, and as they were landing, the fourth engine cut out," the son said.

Discharged in 1945, Mr. Hochberg returned to the University of Maryland, where he earned his bachelor's and law degrees in 1948.

Mr. Hochberg maintained a general law practice in the Equitable Bank Building and later the Munsey Building and served as an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore from 1956 to 1959.

In recent years, until retiring in 2002, he practiced law from an office in his Stevenson home.

"Norm loved the law and his clients. He always put a lot of thought, effort and energy into any case he handled. He practiced law with an old-fashioned appreciation for common sense," said Philip Sherman, a longtime friend and Baltimore lawyer. "He was also a great raconteur who could tell wonderful stories. He was always wonderful company."

Mr. Hochberg had been chairman of the senior lawyer's section of the Maryland State Bar Association.

He was an avid map collector and enjoyed attending the Baltimore Opera Co. and visiting the Baltimore Museum of Art.

He was a longtime member of Oheb Shalom Congregation, where he had been a member of its brotherhood. He was a member and past president of the Menorah Lodge of the B'nai Brith.

Services were Sunday.

Also surviving are his wife of 53 years, the former Cherie Levine; a daughter, Baltimore District Judge Jamey Hochberg Weitzman of Northwood; a sister, Doris Friedman of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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