Roy L. Noble’s oldest brother, Thomas, charged out of Schofield Barracks in Honolulu as Japanese warplanes began their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
A member of the Army’s Signal Corps in Hawaii, Thomas searched for an anti-aircraft gun. When he found one, he opened fire on enemy aircraft, which had also targeted the military installation farther inland.
“It was one of the first guns to be fired in World War II,” Roy said, proud of his brother.
Several months later, another of Roy Noble’s brothers, Ray, was among the first Marines to fight in the Battle of Guadalcanal, and again Roy had plenty to be proud of.
“Ray was a Marine Raider. He got hit with shrapnel from a Japanese mortar on Guadalcanal. The next thing we knew, Ray was on his way home, a casualty of the war.”
By January 1943, it was Roy’s turn to go to war.
“I enlisted as a cadet with the Army Air Forces. Then I was assigned to gunnery school and then armorer school. We took overseas training up in Mountain Home, Idaho, in B-24s, the Liberator. I was a ball gunner.”
By October 1944, Noble was in Italy, a member of the 15th Air Force, 419th Bombardment Group, 767th Bomb Squadron.
His sixth mission would prove to be his last one.
At about 5 a.m. Jan. 8, 1945, the 10-member B-24 crew soared beyond low cloud cover to 24,000 feet en route to railroad yards in Linz, Austria.
“I found out later we’d gotten hit with flak by the Adriatic Sea. We made it to Linz, but they were socked in with undercast; it’s like a fog. So we went to an alternate target and dropped our bombs. We’d lost the No. 3 engine from the flak and had to drop down into the undercast,” Noble says.
“We were told to start throwing things out. We threw out ammunition and machine guns – anything to lighten the plane. But as we were going along, we were still losing altitude above the Austrian Alps, which were 18,000 feet high. Then we lost the No. 2 engine, and the pilot gave the signal to bail out. Seeing I was the youngest on the plane, they told me to go first.
“I fell quite a ways before I pulled my parachute, and that was the last I saw of the plane. I landed in one of these evergreen trees that must have been 90 feet tall on the side of a mountain. I broke a branch with my head when I went into the tree, and I dislocated my right shoulder. I was hanging there and sort of pulled myself toward the trunk of the tree. I had a quick release on the chute’s harness and pulled it and climbed down. I was in a lot of pain with my shoulder.
“When I got toward the bottom of the tree, it was 3 or 4 feet in diameter. I jumped into snow from a bottom branch. There was snow everywhere. It was 4 feet deep or better, up to my chest. I saw this cabin quite a ways over and pushed myself through the snow. I couldn’t get my legs up, it was so deep.”
After he knocked on the door, a woman answered and let him inside, where he was introduced to, of all people, a doctor.
“He explained to me he was from Poland. The first thing he did was wipe the blood off my face. I had a cut over my left eye,” Noble says. “Then he explained that the two women in the house were going to hold me down and he was going reset my shoulder, which he did. It was painful.”
After two nights of recuperation, Noble headed up the mountain, and after a day’s walk, he noticed a sprawling farmhouse, where again he found shelter.
“I said ‘Americano,’ and this older man took me in,” Noble remembers. “Boy was I glad to get inside! I was wet. He had two daughters; and the older daughter, her husband was a German prisoner in the United States. But they took care of me. They heated up bricks in the bed where I slept on a straw mattress.
“The next morning, the younger daughter took me up the mountain to this village. We went around it, and she went back, and I went the other way.
“All of a sudden, as I started down the mountain, I heard this machine gun go off over my head. I turned around, and there were German ski patrol troopers. I fell down in the snow, and they had their guns aimed at me. That’s when I lost my freedom, until we were liberated” by Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s 3rd Army “at 12 noon on April 29, 1945.”
Two years after the war, Noble settled in the Buffalo Niagara region and worked for almost 38 years at the Westinghouse plant in Cheektowaga before retiring. Married for nearly 67 years, he and his wife, Lorraine, have raised two children and spent many years golfing together.
A fourth Noble brother, William, the youngest, also was part of the family’s commitment to duty by serving in the Army field artillery in the Korean War. Roy Noble is also proud that son Chris served on a nuclear submarine during the Vietnam War and that grandson Phillip served in the war in Afghanistan.
Roy L. Noble, 87
Army Air Forces
• Rank: Sergeant
• War zone: Europe
• Years of service: 1943-47
• Most prominent honors:
Purple Heart, World War II
Victory Medal, European-
Campaign Medal with four
bronze service stars, Air
Medal, POW Medal
• Specialty: Ball turret
gunner on B-24 bomber