Norman F. McNeil
– 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division –
Norman “Norm” F. McNeil was born in Cambridge Massachusetts in 1919 to the roommate of Babe Ruth, a catcher for the Boston Red Sox. He was the godson of the Babe. As a young man, Norman was gifted as an athlete, lettering in baseball, golf and basketball in high school. He was a very talented ball player with a good arm and a good hitter; he could have had a major league tryout with the New York Yankees, but because of his strong religious faith, would not agree to playing on Sunday, the Lord’s day. He had become a born-again Christian at the age of 16, which forever changed his life. Norm also started working at the age of 16 for his uncle at a cement plant in Erie PA. He then moved to Buffalo.
He married his sweetheart Betty in 1941 after being drafted and remained faithful to her throughout his almost five years at war.
Norm would become a highly decorated veteran, serving in the 47th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division. He took part in the invasion of Tunisia, Sicily, Normandy and fought in the Hurtgen Forest and stood strong during the fights of Battle of the Bulge. Norman’s unit also was part of the taking of the famous Remagen Bridge.
He was written about in the Buffalo News when he and his unit captured about 100 Germans in North Africa. He didn’t talk much about the battles he fought, except to say that he didn’t like General Patton as he slapped a man in his unit. He also saw Patton retreat very quickly after a German round came very close to his jeep. This was strange to the men, as Patton always prided himself as a brave soldier.
After the war, Norm returned to Buffalo and worked at Penn Dixie Cement Corp, where he became a Superintendent. He was also active in the Army Reserves Unit 402nd Civil Affairs, where he eventually became its commanding Officer. He went to Camp Fort Devens every summer and would get free baseball tickets from Joe Cronin, whom his father Norman F. Sr managed in AAA ball previously for the Johnston Johnnies, who won the championships back in in 1926. He also managed Ripper Collins, Eddie Montaigue, and probably others that became famous. When he was catching for the Red Sox, he discovered Waite Hoyt, a future Hall of Famer.
Norman was transferred to Milwaukee in 1975 and bought a home in Elm Grove with his wife. There he was the Plant Manager also and retired in 1987. He remained active in church and in meeting people and mentoring younger men and children, especially those interested in serving our country in the military.
Norman passed away on June 29th, 2016 at the age of 96. He is one of the many men who served overseas in order to liberate Europe and return freedom to many. He will forever be remembered.