100-year-old vet recalls Normandy campaign as nation remembers D-Day

Local News

CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — It was 77-years ago that Allied forces assaulted the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

D-Day launched “Operation Overlord,” and by summer’s end, more than 2 million Allied troops such as DuBois resident John Noble had landed in France to win back the continent of Europe from the Nazis. At 100-years old, Noble is quick to point out that D-Day was a long time ago and his memory isn’t what it used to be.

As he talked from the courtyard at DuBois Village Personal Care Community, Noble recalled how welcoming the people were when he arrived in England a few months before D-Day. As a “machine gun sergeant” with the U.S. Army’s 79th Infantry Division, Noble was responsible for dozens of men and it was a great responsibility, he said, as they all looked to him.

“I was a machine gun sergeant. I had more to do,” said Noble. “Take care of my men and handle the care of my men.”

The 79th Infantry landed in Normandy over the course of a couple days starting June 12 and the fighting for them started June 19. It was intense, house-to-house combat as the Allied troops pushed through France. It’s the reception of the people Noble remembered. 

“They knew were coming there to defend because we were going to defend them. When we got there, that’s what we were doing, defending the French people,” said Noble. “Yes, they were happy to see us and we were accepted with greatness. They knew that we were going to help with the war.” 

On July 9. 1944, a German grenade ended Noble’s fighting days and almost ended his life.

“I was wounded by Germans and I got hit in the leg. I got hit all over. I got hit in the leg because I got hit with a different shell.”

Noble had to continue to fight after he was wounded, except his battle wasn’t against the enemy but rather a fight to stay alive until help arrived.

“I probably laid there 5 or 6 hours,” Noble said.

His daughter, Allison Noble, said her father never really talked about the war until he got older and now some of the stories he once shared, he doesn’t remember so easily these days. In April, for his 100th birthday, Noble was presented a letter from President Joe Biden in honor of his service, for which he received the Purple Heart.

Allison Noble said his wounds were so bad there was a question as to whether he would survive. When Noble saw his mother for the first time when he returned home, she was expecting his arm to be amputated.

And then there’s the story of how Noble and his men were one of two groups sent on missions in different directions and how he told her the other group never came back. She said that was something that had an impact on him.

Once Noble was carried off the battlefield, he faced a long, slow recovery with stops at various Army hospitals before ending up in his last hospital in Butler, Pa., before going home to DuBois.

“When I came back, people treated me like a hero. I came back because I was so badly wounded they had to treat me with care because I was shot all to hell,” said Noble.

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