FORT MILL — Holding up the silk map of Germany that led his way, World War II veteran Charles Norris reflected on his time in the war
while standing in ‘Viv’s diner’ on the set of NarroWay’s production. “Not Just Another Love Story.”
NarroWay is celebrating war vets with the musical set in World War II. World War II veterans get free admission to the show. Veterans will also be recognized during a special part of the production.
The play aims to honor all veterans as it follows one man’s timeline during World War II, said Rebecca Martin, writer and producer for NarroWay.
“They are a magnificent generation,” she said.
The musical is based on Martin’s own father’s experience during the war.
“The stories are so wonderful,” she said. “This is a tribute to him.”
The musical pulls from World War II and incorporates the time period with a moral theme to create a unique love story, Martin said.
“It’s history as well as theater,” she said.
Norris, 88, who plans to see the musical again with 18 family members later in the summer, enlisted at 19 years old and worked as a flight engineer. During his 29 missions, Norris and his crew dropped bombs on their enemies in Berlin and other areas of Germany, often flying 16 hours to the locations.
Norris was stationed in Chelveston, England, a small village near Northamptonshire. The crew often warmed up by coal fires
As they took out on the bomber dubbed “Idiots Delight,” the crew knew they had a mission to complete.
“Anything (the enemies) had to do with the war, we were after to bomb them,” Norris said. “We tore a lot of people up, but we got Hitler.”
Norris experienced some close calls during his time overseas.
When a bomb became locked during their Jan. 20, 1945 mission, it was Norris’ job to detach it. At 28,000 feet in the air, Norris was working on releasing the bomb when his oxygen hose disconnected. Norris passed out and fell back into the plane. He made it home safely.
The flight engineer faced many more challenges along the way.
“We didn’t know whether the next puff of smoke would take you down or not,” he said.
However, Norris knew his work was important.
After the war ended, Norris and other vets toured the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, coming across scenes too gruesome to describe.
“That was horrible,” he said.
Norris said there was one thing that kept him going.
“My sweetheart, my lovely wife,” he said.
Norris married his wife Alyse the week before he left for overseas. They have been married 68 years.
Norris was medically discharged in 1958 after suffering a heart attack in Japan. He said his most powerful memory of the war was “getting back alive.”
Originally from Fayettville, NC, Norris lives in Charlotte with his family. He loves to spend time with his 2 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren.
Norris’ daughter Kaye Wolfe said she is extremely proud of her father.
“We celebrate our freedom because of men like him,” she said.
Want to go?
“Not Just Another Love Story”
6:30 p.m. Fridays and noon and 5 p.m. Saturdays, through Aug. 3
World War II Veterans get free admission (includes a meal)
NarroWay Theater and Conference Center, 3327 S.C. 51, Fort Mill