Friday, November 16, 2012

Norman Sellz....A True American Hero!

I joined the automobile business in 1997. I was hired by Mr. Howard Sellz, then owner of Valley Dodge in the San Fernando Valley. To put it mildly, I knew absolutely nothing about the car business. A "Green Pea" to the max.

The first week I worked at Valley Dodge, I met an elderly gentleman whom I found was Howard Sellz' older brother, Norman, affectionately called "The Sarge." The Sarge started teaching me what to do when attempting to sell an automobile. You see, the Sarge had grown up in the auto business in Omaha, Nebraska, and knew all the ins and outs of making a deal. Sarge was very kind to me and helped me through my formative period at Valley Dodge.

I found myself going to his tiny corner office every morning to chat and have my morning coffee. On one of those mornings, Sarge came in wearing a baseball cap denoting the fact that he was a Purple Heart recipient. It was at that point that I really started to realize I was in the midst of a true American hero. As we talked through the months that followed, I discovered he was in the Air Force (a bombardier) and flew in a B-29 and that he was stationed in the Pacific. His eventual mission would be....to bomb Tokyo.

Here is an excerpt from Norman's daily diary....

March 31, 1945
Target, Omura Kyushu, Southern Japan. Hit airfield installation in conjunction with invasion of Okinawa. Sixteen hour mission. No flak, a dozen fighters, 3 of which pressed attacks on us. Quite a few bullet holes in our plane. One of our planes crashed at sea on shoreline of Kyushu. They were picked up two hours later by an American submarine. One man from this crew was killed.

Norman Sellz had a twin brother Edward, who was also stationed in the Pacific and flew in B-29s. Here is the last entry in Norman's diary after his plane was seen going down over Tokyo. The entry was made by Norman's brother, Edward and was added one week later.

April 7, 1945
Target Tokyo. Norman was flying number 9 position when a burst of flak exploded on their left wing. Ship did a slow roll and started to spin towards the earth. Five chutes were seen to come from the rear. Norm was one of them. Our ship was circling around Tokyo Bay. As we took the fighters up, we had to circle one of our submarines in order to protect it. I know that Norman is alright. Buddies of ours who were on the mission saw five chutes open for sure, possibly more and they couldn't have come out front.

Norman Sellz certainly did land via parachute, slap-dab in the middle of an incinerated Tokyo. He was beaten nearly to death before the Kempetai Police took him in tow and threw him in a dismal cell. Their thinking was to get him to confess his war crimes. Norman never said a word. When the police finally grew tired of questioning Norman, they sent him to another notorious compound called Omori Prison.

During all this time, his family had no idea as to whether Norman was alive or dead. And then came this most dreaded of all letters....

This is the first time I have ever seen a Missing In Action report and I can only imagine what Norm Sellz' family must have thought when they received it.

Norman survived that hell-hole of a prison and was released by American troops arriving in Tokyo on August 15, 1945.


Age 88, passed away November 12th, at Providence Tarzana Hospital after a sudden illness. He was a WWII veteran, former POW and MIA, decorated with two purple hearts.

All I can say is that I loved that old gentleman and will miss him greatly. He never said he was a hero. He just said he was an American doing his duty and would have gladly done it again. From the time he fell from that B29, he never wanted to fly again.

So long Sarge. I'll see you around the bend Buddy.

John Rhys Eddins

Years ago, I found a series of records (old 16 inch ETs). I cleaned them the best I could and assembled them because I knew I would need them someday. Today is a good day.

Listen to This Was America, 1942


Blogger Paula said...

On behalf of the Sellz and Shirley Sigman families, thank you for this lovely tribute.

11/18/2012 08:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a well written tribute. I knew and loved Norman. When I would work on Saturdays answering phones, Norman and Eddie would come by and tell all their wonderful stories. I loved hearing about them. He was a great man along with his brother and he will be missed. Thank You John for such a wonderful tribute and thank you Mark for sharing this.
Stefany (Brenner) Adams

11/20/2012 06:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a very moving article. thank you for writing it and may i say thank you to norman sellz for what you did for our country.

paul whitehead

11/20/2012 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger wendy cronin said...

What a wonderful man. Our bravest generation has taught us by doing not by talking. I send love to your family, be at peace.

Love Wendy Cronin and family

11/21/2012 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger wendy cronin said...

What a wonderful man and a hero in more ways then one. I know you and your family will certainly miss him. My heart and thoughts go out to you.

Love Wendy

11/21/2012 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael; said...

Very beautifully written. Thank you for all your kind words. Love to my California family.

Love, Michael, Rachel, Shanti, Anikka, Manny & Leah

11/21/2012 07:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure loved talking to The Sarge, he used to mistake me for a porter and it was funny every time. Guess my most noted impression was how the man could still speak fluent japanese to the present day as a result of his time in captivity. Men were durable in his day.

12/03/2012 10:49:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home