Today, decorated World War II veteran John Noble turns 98.
The 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2019, brings back memories for the DuBois Village resident and area native. Noble has done many things in his lifetime, starting with entering a war zone in just his early 20s.
Noble was a United States Army Ranger and machine gun sergeant in the 79th Infantry, and can recall specific details about his short time on Normandy beaches in France during World War II.
Noble’s mother and father raised him and 15 siblings on Gerard Street in DuBois, said his son Tom, who currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but is home visiting for his father’s birthday this week.
Three years ago, when an electrical fire occurred at Noble’s house near the Village, they moved him into the Continuum of Care facility, Tom said.
Noble joined the Army at age 21 in 1942, he said. While World War II was under way, Noble trained in different places, going to England before the D-Day invasion, he says.
Noble only fought in France for 14 days before he was seriously wounded by a German grenade. The explosion caused him to lose his left hip and a knuckle, as well as suffer injuries to his leg and left arm.
After he was injured, Noble lay in the mud for hours and hours, recalling seeing his fellow soldiers crying and dying right in front of him.
Noble was in a full body cast and in the hospital for seven months, he said.
Tom and his sister, Allison Noble, said their father never used to talk about his times at war, but in recent years, has started telling stories at random, like he is suddenly overcome with memories and sadness.
She recalls when he talked about the troop coming to a “fork in the road,” where one half went one way, and the other half another way. The troop opposite of Noble’s never came back.
He’s recalled his boat ride to the invasion, Tom said, where his fellow soldiers wondered how he remained so calm, flipping through “Reader’s Digest” and holding the Rosary, or when he arrived in France, taking a nap on the hedgerows, and felt shrapnel start to hit him from an dogfight in the sky.
Noble smiles as he recalls seeing U.S. Army Gen. George Patton on more than one occasion, in both England and France, with his “pearl-handled pistols.”
For years after the battle, Noble suffered post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of the stories told by his father are unfathomable, Tom says. He started video taping them, in case the stories were only told once.
Noble is also known for shooting off many renowned fireworks displays in the DuBois area over the past 50 years. A longtime member of the DuBois Country Club and golf player, he is recognized as a great Italian cook, too. For several consecutive years, he cooked a spaghetti dinner for more than 200 people at the DCC, Tom says.
He was also involved in local theater, producing shows for more than 20 years in the local community.
He can’t imagine being shy of 20 years old and experiencing everything his father did, Tom says. He and his siblings are proud of their father, having the U.S. Congress raise an American flag for him on occasions like his 90th birthday.
For 98, Noble is still “pretty sharp,” Tom adds.
When asked how he feels for 98, Noble smiles and simply says, “I feel fine.”
He returned to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Tom said, but hasn’t returned for other ceremonies, because it’s just too much for him.
Noble is the oldest living member of American Legion Post 17 in DuBois. His purple heart is displayed there, as well as a plaque with photos and history.