The story of a World War II Iwo Jima veteran from Eagle Rock

Marion Noel’s journey eventually took him to Okinawa and Toyko

It’s not often you get a chance to hear from the someone who was directly involved in the Pacific Theater battles that movies have been made about.

That’s the case tonight, as I had the honor of talking to an Eagle Rock native — who lived it.

Marion Grey Noel, Eagle Rock High School, Class of ’42, enlisted in the US Navy with his brother-in-law to avoid being drafted into the Army.

”​He knew he was gonna be drafted, so he said ‘I don’t wanna dig a foxhole’ and I said I don’t wanna dig a foxhole,” Noel said.

What he would do, was keep the diesel engines in the LST, or Landing Ship Tank-779 running smoothly.

They carried Marines — and supplies and artillery for key battles in the Pacific Theatre.

Marion’s journey landed him in Hawaii in Christmas of ’44.

Soon his ship would be front and center in one of the most important conflicts in the Pacific.

The battle of Iwo Jima — a tiny island that had a massive strategic impact on the war.

“The night before we said, ‘What are we foolin’ with a little old 8-mile island?’ but the main reason for us taking this was it had two or three airstrips and if we could get those airstrips, our bombers that were bombing Japan some crippled or out of fuel or whatnot, they could land at Iwo,” Noel said.

Noels LST was the first to reach the Marines with crucial heavy artillery.

The battle produced the most iconic image of the entire conflict.

As Marines raised a flag atop Mount Suribachi, the first one was too small, so they sent a runner to find a bigger one, that came from Marion Noel’s ship...LST-779.

“It happened that our communications officer had been scrounging back at Pearl Harbor. It was 4′ x 8′. He said that’s way too large for our ship but he gave it to this Marine and Marine took off up the mountain,” Noel said.

The 779 traveled to Okinawa for the next key battle, eventually preparing for Operation Downfall...the invasion of mainland Japan.

That didn’t need to happen, because the atomic bombs were dropped...leading to Japan’s surrender.

But that didn’t stop Marion from reaching Tokyo.

“I look up I look across I said, ‘Sir I said that ship over there has got my next-door neighbor from Eagle Rock on it.’ I said, ‘Could I go over and see him?’ he said, ‘That’s most unusual,’ our next-door neighbor, being halfway around the world...he came, ‘What are you doing over here?’ You know, that was a highlight that I can’t forget,” Noel said.

That Eagle Rock neighbor was Ethan Rodgers. The two, greeting each other, half a world away.

Without their service, we all may not be here today.

About the Authors

John serves as the Sports Director at WSLS 10. From Virginia Tech, to NASCAR and everything in between, WSLS 10 Sports covers the names making big plays in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB.

Lauren Helkowski joined WSLS 10’s digital team in August 2022, but has held a passion for storytelling long before.

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