A former Navy pilot, he was shot down on his 22nd reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam.
“It was about 20 minutes into the mission when I ran into heavy aircraft artillery fire,” Norrington said during a phone interview. “They blew the right wing of my airplane.”
After ejecting from the plane, he and a navigator, both of whom suffered burns, were captured.
Over nearly five years, Norrington was moved from prison to prison, a practice known as the “camp shuffle.” At one point, he was at the same prison as John McCain, a place called “The Plantation.” Through a hole he made in his cell wall, Norrington could see McCain occasionally being led away for interrogations — another term, he said, for torture.
“He was on crutches at that time,” Norrington said. “In fact, he was on crutches most of the time. I knew he was in pretty bad shape...
“I could see him making his way back toward his cell and he was really hobbling along slowly. He would pause for a time...I realized that each time he stopped it was in front of a room with American prisoners. I kind of guessed he was talking to them, but I didn’t know until much later that he was whispering words of encouragement...”
Norrington was part of a mass release of prisoners in 1973, who were shipped to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
That’s where he experienced his first “bracelet miracle.”
While riding in a caravan of three buses, packed with more than 100 POWs, Norrington saw a young boy among the cheering crowd on the base run toward the bus holding a cardboard tube with a metallic object wrapped around it. The boy shoved the tube through an open window right where Norrington was sitting.
The metal object was a POW bracelet. The name on it was “Giles Norrington.”