4:23 | The Marines were having a lot of trouble on the beaches in the Marshall Islands. Frank Noonan was on board the USS Helm, a destroyer that was bombarding the shorelines. After this action, the Helm escorted a damaged battleship back to the States and he got leave to go visit family. His new assignment was going to be totally different. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
Keywords : Frank Noonan USS Helm (DD-388) Tarawa Eniwetok Kwajalein Marshall Islands USS Maryland (BB-46) USS Idaho (BB-42) USS North Carolina (BB-55) USS Washington (BB-56) shore bombardment 5 inch gun Japanese USS Bagley (DD-386) Bremerton WA San Francisco CA Mare Island ration stamps Small Craft Training Center (SCTC) Terminal Island crash boat Patrol Torpedo boat (PT boat) rescue attack cargo ship Philippines
On a family vacation in San Diego, Frank Noonan became enamored with the sailors he saw and, instantly, he had a new goal. As soon as he was old enough, he would join the Navy. His chosen path led him to a berth on the battleship USS Oklahoma, which pulled into Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
It was Sunday morning and Frank Noonan was getting ready to go on liberty when the alarm sounded. The ship was under attack. In fact, the entire fleet in Pearl Harbor was under attack by Japanese aircraft. He made it to his battle station, but was trapped when the ship capsized. In an air pocket with two others, he banged and yelled for help that would not come. Part 1 of 2. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
Frank Noonan was trapped with two others below deck on the USS Oklahoma after eight torpedoes ripped into her hull. A savvy Petty Officer figured a way out, but it was no picnic in Pearl Harbor when he broke the surface of the water. Coated with oil and sick from swallowing it, he wondered what his next step would be. Part 2 of 2. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
On his first maneuvers after joining the Navy, Frank Noonan saw a destroyer performing boring duties and thought to himself, "I'm glad I'm not on that ship." He was on the battleship USS Oklahoma at the time, but after it was sunk during the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, he had to be reassigned to another ship. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
The Japanese had been bombing a weather station south of Hawaii, so the USS Helm was dispatched to evacuate the civilian survivors. Frank Noonan was a lookout on the bridge and he was having a problem with his helmet. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
The USS Helm returned to its home naval yard at Mare Island to rearm with improved weapons. Frank Noonan was able to call his mother for the first time since the war started and then it was back to sea. The Helm was an older destroyer and its sonar would not function when the ship was making more than 15 knots, so she was relegated to escorting auxiliary ships. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
When the Japanese fleet came down "The Slot" to support its troops in the Solomon Islands, an American force was rapidly gathered to engage them. Frank Noonan was loading projectiles on the USS Helm, so he could not see the action, but he could sure hear it. After the battle, the ships that were damaged were told to make for port at what speed they could manage. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
Frank Noonan's ship, the destroyer USS Helm, was sent to join up with some Australian ships, a Dutch destroyer and a French destroyer. The crews of the Dutch and French ships had escaped the Nazis in Europe. The duty was mostly anti-submarine patrols and, eventually, the force moved to Sydney, where they became part of "MacArthur's Navy." (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
The USS Helm was told to protect the Queen Mary on its way into Sydney harbor, but there was one problem. The cruise ship was way faster than its anti-submarine escort. Frank Noonan had made his way up to coxswain of the whale boat on the Helm and this allowed him a great privilege, going ashore. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
After a long stint aboard a destroyer, Frank Noonan ended the war on an entirely different kind of craft, a crash boat. Based in the Philippines, his job was to wait just offshore to rescue downed flyers. He was obligated until 1946, so after celebrating with friends and visiting home, he was going back to sea. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
A veteran of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank Noonan reenlisted after the war and served on the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge during the Korean War. He details the awesome firepower its dive bombers carried and the technology of launching and landing jets on a floating runway. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
A veteran of World War II and Korea, Frank Noonan served long enough to make it to Saigon on the first American warship to venture up the Mekong River. There, he observed a German civilian use an unusual defensive technique when attacked at a sidewalk cafe. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
Frank Noonan owed the Navy another year. That's how he wound up at the Bikini Atoll for Operation Crossroads, the first post-war nuclear weapons tests. There were two detonations, an air burst and an underwater burst. He describes the scene and the devastating effects on the target ships. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
After a short bit of shore duty, Frank Noonan was assigned to the USS John R. Craig, a destroyer that was bound for a goodwill tour in the Pacific. It berthed in some unlikely places, including up the Irrawaddy River at Rangoon. (This interview made possible with the support of JANIS HAUSER In Memory Of Alfred W. Hauser, Army Air Corps.)
The men of the 306th Bomb Group crossed the Atlantic on the RMS Queen Elizabeth and settled into a hastily constructed base in the English countryside. Right away, gunner Nicholas Sawicke did not like the place or the food.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
In college after the war, John Hancock was asked if he wanted to join the Navy Reserve. The veteran Navy pilot said he hated the reserve. Then he was told it paid money. Where do I sign? A long career followed alongside his successful working life.
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
On your return flight, if your bomber fell out of the formation due to damage or mechanical trouble, you were a sitting duck for the German fighters. Gunner Nicholas Sawicke recalls that, if you had to abandon the first target and go to a secondary target, that put you out there in their reach for even longer. There was flak too, and he has the souvenir to prove it.
There were Japanese radio antennas on Chichi-jima that needed to be destroyed. John Hancock recalls the downing of an American plane during that operation which was piloted by a future president. From there, his fighter squadron and carrier participated in the retaking of the Philippines.
Nicholas Sawicke was a lucky man. The B-17 gunner finished the required missions without any aircraft he was on suffering a mishap. His pilot, who was out for a few missions, had to stay on longer than the gunner to finish his tour. He was not so lucky.
It was fighter pilot John Hancock's job at Iwo Jima to keep the kamikazes off the ships. They came in huge waves, but they were slow and easy to hit. The pilots still caused a lot of damage because they were determined to die to achieve it.
Near the end of the war, fighter pilot John Hancock would escort B-29's to Japan and then cut loose to create mayhem on the ground with his machine guns. He returned to Hawaii to begin training in F-4U Corsairs and one day, he heard so much noise he thought the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor again.
Nicholas Sawicke was from a tiny rural community and when he was old enough for high school, it was sports that gave him the discipline to succeed. When the draft came after Pearl Harbor, his test scores put him in the Air Corps.
The sinking of the Yamato off Okinawa was the coup de grace for the Japanese Navy. Fighter pilot John Hancock recalls the hair raising moments trying to bring down kamikazes. It took him years to forget about it after the war, but then he began speaking about it.
B-17 gunner Nicholas Sawicke's first mission was to hit some submarine pens on the French coast. As the missions moved across France and then into Germany, fighter escort became harder to come by. The airmen had to face the anti-aircraft fire and the German fighters with their own firepower.
John Hancock describes the experience of torpedoes hitting his ship at the Battle of Midway. Though it was close to sinking, the abandon ship process was orderly because of all the drilling. He didn't even know he had shrapnel wounds and a collapsed lung until after he was rescued from the water.