Norman Lee enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in May 1948. Following initial naval training in HMAS Cerberus, he commenced pilot training with the RAAF at Point Cook. Graduating as a probationary pilot, he travelled to the United Kingdom aboard SS Strathmore for deck landing training with the Royal Navy. On return from the UK he was promoted to Sub Lieutenant and undertook further naval training prior to joining No. 817 Squadron at the Naval Air Station, HMAS Albatross.
Norman saw service in the Korean War aboard HMAS Sydney in September 1951, when the Sydney relieved HMS Glory as the carrier representative of the British naval forces in the Korean theatre. Norman remembers that when they berthed alongside the Glory her band played ‘If I’d known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake’, a popular tune at the time. Norman took part in operations on the eastern and western coasts of Korea. Norman was aboard HMAS Sydney when she weathered Typhoon Ruth at sea in October 1951.
Norman remained on the Sydney for the duration of her service in the Korean War, during which time more than 2000 sorties were flown from her deck. Norman recalls that he became very close with two mates with whom he had undergone training. He remembers that they were a tight group and always went ashore for R&R in Japan together. In Kure they enjoyed steaks that were not available aboard the ship and in Sasebo his favoured drink was a milkshake. Both his friends were individually shot down at one point by ground fire, but fortunately both were quickly recovered, so Norman did not have long to worry about the fate of his friends.
Following the war, Norman remained in the navy and rose to the rank of Commodore. During his thirty-three years of service Norman flew twenty-five different types of military aircraft. He commanded HMAS Queenborough, HMAS Vampire, No. 724 Naval Air Squadron, HMAS Kuttabul and HMAS Albatross. Norman retired in 1981.