Veteran shares some of his World War II experiences

In observance of the end of World War II this week, The Sunshine Girls in Troutville recently visited World War II veteran Marion Noel, who shared some of his memories of the war. Here is their story.

Marion Noel as a senior at Eagle Rock High School and as a member of the US Navy.

September 2, 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the ending of World War II. On one of our visits to WWII Veteran Marion Gray Noel we asked him to share some of his memories from his days serving in the Navy. He started out talking about Eagle Rock, where he grew up and proudly showed his yearbook and report cards and remembers the names of every teacher he had in school.

He graduated in 1942 and said, “WWII was on and they had bombed Pearl Harbor, so it was already in full steam when I graduated.” He was ready to be drafted but wanted to sign up for the Navy so he waited until he was old enough. In October 1943 he was on his way to boot camp and celebrating his 18th birthday in Sampson, N.Y., and on Lake Geneva, got on-the-water training. He was interested in mechanic work and went to diesel engine training in Richmond.

Making up the crew to LST779 they went to Pittsburgh where the ship was made– Dravoe Ship Building Company in Pittsburgh at the head of Three Rivers. The ship was launched there all the way down to Alleghany and Mississippi River to New Orleans. Then they went on what they called a “shake down cruise” to test the ship to be sure it was seaworthy and safe for cruising.

From New Orleans south through the Panama Canal up the West Coast to San Diego, Calif., where they loaded supplies. Then they headed to Hawaii with the Big Island as their first destination. They loaded Marines and equipment and shuttled around the islands. It was then they got a view of Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head and saw several ships sunk and he tells us the USS Arizona was one of the largest ones. He remembers Christmas on the beaches in Hawaii in 1944.

Marion goes on to tell about the invasion of Iwo Jima in February 1945.He was a motor machinist mate third class on a ship called LST779, which became famous for supplying the flag that was in the historic picture of the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi. He went on to tell of battles with 20mm guns on the topside of the ship and when they had to leave the beach due to ammunition being shot at them by the Japanese. Airstrips were owned and occupied by Japan and Marion said the US wanted those airstrips to make a fueling stop on their way to bomb Japan. He said they had the Island fortified so not to distinguish and they lived underground.

They went back out to sea, to Guam, then to the Philippians loaded up and battle ready to go into Japan. But didn’t go because the atomic bomb was already dropped on Japan at that time so they stayed in Philippians for a while until it was clear enough to go in. Later they went back into Japan to “Occupy Japan!” Marion has a clear memory of those days at war and many stories to share.

He said that when the war was over, he was asked if he’d like to stay in and with no hesitation he said, “No.” He then was headed east to go home!

Marion and his wife Beveline just celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary on May 3, 2020.

There are so many veterans like Marion out there who share part of their stories. We wish we could recognize all of them,” said Lee Minnix of The Sunshine Girls. “To all our veterans, we thank you for your service and, Marion, thank you for sharing a little bit of history with us!”

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