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Joseph “Buddy” Noah « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

Joseph “Buddy” Noah

Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Branch of Service: Merchant Marines, USS Joseph Conrad
Location of Service: USS Joseph Conrad

I left for Charleston, SC to join the Merchant Marines the day after I graduated from Greensboro High School in May 1945. I was shipped directly to the Maritime Service Training Center at St. Petersburg, FL for “boot” camp. And what a boot camp it was! The physical training was demanding even for a 17 year old, and the discipline was strict! We had two ships at dock, the USS Tusitala and the USS Joseph Conrad.

What I remember most vividly about my time in boot camp were several things. First, I really wanted to be a fighter pliot like my two cousins, George & Bill Preddy. But I could not pass the eye test. Both George and Bill had been killed in action, George on Christmas Day 1944 and Bill only a month before — April 17, 1945. But we thought Bill was missing, not killed. We did not learn the facts of his death until 1991.

So, I spent evening hours watching the PBYs take off and land in the water between our Center and the Albert Whitted Airport across the bay. I had soloed in a Piper J-3 Cub in 1944, so I rented a Cub at the Airport on week-ends.

I recall that free newspapers were given every day that the sun did not shine. I don’t remember getting a free paper. I do remember heavy rains which we marched through to the exercise park, however. And I remember the Million Dollar Pier.

We had some members who were in their 30s and they had trouble doing all the exercises we were expected to do: pull ups, push ups, sit ups, etc. Back at the Center we had a large and deep swimming pool with a 40-foot tower from which we were expected to jump with our clothes on. The instructors were not allowed to push one off the tower if he was afraid to jump. A few just could not jump. Those of us who jumped were expected to pull off our trousers, tie a knot in the end of each leg, then fill the legs with air and use that as our life vest. That worked!

I also remember pulling KP (kitchen police). We served cold storage eggs which we were told had been in storage since 1927. The way some of them smelled, I believe it. We cracked eggs into a stainless steel pitcher, two at a time. Often, a bit of egg shell went in with the eggs.

I remember serving as coxswain of a lifeboat. The coxswain is an essential part of the boat, just as essential as the rowers themselves. The coxswain’s primary job is to keep the boat moving straight. In addition to steering the boat, I had to call cadence, calling out instructions and the stroke rating. I had to steer the boat by making minor corrections in the direction of the rudder. Don’t know why I was picked for this job, but it was much easier than rowing the boat.

I vividly recall my time on the USS Joseph Conrad. It was so hot and muggy we used folded newspapers to catch the wind and bring it into the port holes. When we got up in the early mornings, we had to shake the cockroaches out of our socks and shoes before putting them on. Not a pleasant duty, but the Conrad and the Tusitala have interesting histories.

I applied for and was selected to attend radio school where in one year I would get a commission as a radio officer. We left St. Pete and arrived in DC on VJ Day, a day I will never forget. After two weeks, we shipped out to Hoffman Island, NY for radio school. The School was closing since the war had ended. I was discharged and sent home in time to enroll at NC State College in September 1945!!