Retired Aug. 1, 1988.
Brigadier General Norman R. Thorpe is commander of the Air Force Contract Law Center and the staff judge advocate, Air Force Logistics Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He supervises military justice, labor law, environmental law and other programs of the Air Force Logistics Command and the five Air Logistics Centers. As Air Force Contract Law Center commander, he is the legal adviser to commanders and staffs of Air Force acquisition, research and educational agencies located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. His staff reviews the final decisions of all Air Force contracting officers and represents the Air Force in litigation before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals.
General Thorpe was born in 1934, in Carlinville, Ill. He attended the University of Illinois, and in 1956 received a bachelor of arts degree in economics with a minor in international affairs. In 1958 he graduated from the University of Illinois Law School and received a juris doctor (doctor of laws) degree. In 1967 he received a master of laws degree in international low from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C., through the Air Force Institute of Technology program. General Thorpe also attended The Hague Academy of International Law, Netherlands; Air Force Procurement School at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; and the Northwestern University Law School course for prosecuting attorneys.
Commissioned in June 1956 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Illinois, General Thorpe entered active duty in October 1958 at Forbes Air Force Base, Kan., and in December 1958 transferred to Headquarters 64th Air Division (Defense), first at Pepperell Air Force Base, Newfoundland, and later at Stewart Air Force Base, N.Y. While there he managed the Foreign Claims and Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction Programs for Canada, Greenland and Iceland, advised the contracting officers responsible for the Distant Early Warning line and Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, and served as prosecutor in the more serious courts martial arising in the command.
From August 1964 to August 1966, General Thorpe served in Ankara, Turkey, first as deputy base staff judge advocate and later as director of civil law, Headquarters The United States Logistics Group. There he advised on base maintenance contracts in Turkey and Greece, operated a Foreign Claims Commission and served as a military judge in courts martial.
The general was assigned to the International Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., from August 1967 to July 1969. He served on the Air Staff Escape and Evasion and Prisoner of War Policy Committee, planning for the defense of U.S. Air Force prisoners of war against politically motivated war crimes charges and for their return. He also served on the working group for United States base rights negotiations with Turkey.
In July 1969 General Thorpe was detailed to the Department of State to serve as legal adviser for the U.S. Ambassador in Manila, Philippines, where he negotiated the renewal of the U.S.-Philippine military bases agreement. He also assisted the embassy's economic, consular and political-military staffs with other negotiations including military assistance agreements, an extradition treaty and various economic agreements relating to civil aviation and U.S. trade and investment in the Philippines.
General Thorpe returned to the Air Staff's International Law Division in 1972 and in 1976 became its chief. During his tenure the division implemented the new Geneva Convention and new controls over international agreements required by the Case Act. He served as a member of the Terrorism Working Group, the NATO Initiatives and Actions Group, and as legal adviser to the Defense Department Code of Conduct Review Committee. Transferring to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., in April 1977, General Thorpe served as staff judge advocate of the Military Airlift Command's 21st Air Force, where the principal workload was military justice, labor relations and administrative law.
In July 1980 he became staff judge advocate, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. There he supervised military justice and other legal matters at 39 legal offices in 11 countries throughout Europe and exercised major responsibilities for the protection of U.S. service members under foreign criminal charges. He took final action on claims against the government, advised on source selection, resolution of protests and other contract law matters, managed litigation against the Air Force in European courts, and assisted the Air Force to negotiate and comply with international agreements and leases of military facilities. In support of expanding Air Force responsibilities, he planned and negotiated for establishment of new facilities for the Ground Launched Cruise Missile System, the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control System, and U.S. Central Command Middle East activities. He assumed his present duties in March 1984.
General Thorpe has lectured on International Law at the Air University, the Air Force Academy, the Foreign Service Institute and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. His writings include a thesis entitled "Prisoners of Contemporary War," a comment on the legality of the Hanoi Christmas bombing published in Law and Responsibility of Warfare, The Vietnam Experience Peter Trooboff, editor, and numerous Air Force publications. His speech to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York entitled "Discipline and Justice in the Armed Forces" was published in the Air University Review, November 1981.
General Thorpe is an active member of the American Bar Association's Sections of International Law and Practice, and Public Contracts. He has served on the American Bar Association's Space Law Committee and ad hoc committees on the law of the sea and the Iranian hostages. From 1976 to 1980, he was chairman of the American Bar Association Committee on the Law of the Armed Forces.
His military decorations and awards include the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster and National Defense Service Medal.
He was promoted to brigadier general July 1, 1983, with same date of rank.