Medium: Audio and Video Tape
Date: Wednesday, March 25, 1998
Place: Home of Noble and Donna Jones, 1310 S. D Street, Marion, IN 46952
Collected by: Brooke Solomon
bs: First, I need you to state your whole name and where we are.
nj: Noble Jones, Jr., we' re at 1310 S. D Street, Marion.
bs: And the date?
nj: Well, it is March the 25th of 19 and 98.
bs: Do I have permission to tape you with audio tape?
nj: Yes, you do.
bs: And video tape?
nj: Yes, you do.
bs: And do I have permission to submit this information to my History and English classes at school and to the Marion Public Library?
nj: Yes, you do.
Oral History of Noble Jones
bs: Could you please state when you were born.
nj: I was born January the 2nd 19 and 25, in Alexandria, Indiana.
bs: Okay. And how old were you when you moved...did you move to Marion, and how old were you?
nj: I don't quite remember. I might have been a couple years old. Probably very young.
bs: Can you tell us a little bit about your family? Just...
nj: Uh my present family consists of my mother which is still alive, and I do have two uncles still alive, and my wife and my family.
bs: And how old were you when you knew that you were going to war?
nj: Well, when I turned 18, and they sent out the sign, "Uncle Sam Wants You", I got the greetings. That you're going into service. And uh that's when it happened.
bs: And what was your family's reaction, and your own reaction to this?
nj: Well, of course, they didn't want me to go. But it was not a case of not wanting me or doing anything about it. I had to go, I had been drafted. So, I went, tried to make the best of it.
Off to war
bs: Um. Now did you travel? What...where were the destinations that you had to go? Like uh a training camp and also during?
nj: Well, after I left Marion, we went to Indianapolis and we went to oh I think that was Camp Atterbury. And uh there we were being processed. And then, we wasn't there but a couple of days and then they split us up. One group went one way, and another group went another way. And I'd went in with, it was about three or four of us that were in school together and we were great friends. And they all got sent together, and I got sent by myself some place else. So I figured though that was pretty fortunate. I got sent to Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania. That's were I took my training. Indian Gap-- Indian Town Gap, Pennsylvania. Which is just outside of Harrisburg. And then from there, I was sent to Camp Miles Standish for further training. And then they sent us to Boston and there we stayed for Boston for oh a few months unloading ships with great big bails of cotton. And then after we left Boston, we went back to Camp Miles Standish. And then from there, we went to Newport News. And we knew what that was. They were going to as soon as they got them processed and things well we were on the boat. And I believe that was August the 20th of 19 and 43. And uh we were on the boat headed for England.
Lorre One and Two
bs: And is that where you spent in England is that where you spent most of your time overseas?
nj: No, no because you see this was '43 and the invasion I don't think was until '46(?) maybe six '46(?). And um what our job was in England was to unload ships. We unloaded bombs, mustard gas, and kept building up this supply for the invasion. And during the unloading of the ships, planes were constantly trying to bomb us cause they knew a supply was coming in. And they were trying to locate us and uh then after the invasion hit, I think that might have been in the 36th wave. And then we went into France. And once into France, we went to a city by the name of uh Seaporttown, Cherbourg, Cherbourg. And what our job was to unload the ships out in the ocean into army ducks so we could supply the line the front line where the fighting was which was further on up. And we unloaded those ships 24 hours a day.
And uh then eventually after the line got spread out so far and the supply line got spreaded out so far, well we were taken from that and our camp was made into a disciplinary training camp called Lorre Two. They had two of them. One was white called Lorre One. Ours was black called Lorre Two. And what they primarily what they was was for soldiers that deserted the front. Caught 'em bring 'em back and they were to be shot by the firing squad. And also rape cases. If somebody was raped, and they proved it and went through the courts they take them to the scene of the rape and hanged them. And I'm here to say they hung some of them. But the thing about it is we never did shoot one that was deserted, cause most of those were white. They would ship 'em to Lorre One. Next thing I know they 're back over to the states. But those that were hung I felt sorry for 'em. I could not take it. Matter of fact, we had one soldier that he went off. He went completely off because when you see that man coming in you know what's going to happen. And they tell ya if he breaks to run or do anything don't you shoot him. You have to take his place take his place.
So what we had to do uh was uh be very careful. Try to get him there, handcuff him and so forth and when you see this big man come in and he was the hangman. And he would tie the knots and he's the guy who hanged them. And um I remember one man so particular. He was a very nice looking man, very intelligent man. And they said that he had raped. And he had a picture of his wife and family, beautiful family. And he was trying frantically to get word back here that they were going to hang him. And by some way, they got word over there and they didn't hang him. And he got sent back to the states and we were very happy about that. Very happy cause hanging we did not believe in. The Germans had taught the French women to say rape. They couldn't speak no other kind of language but they could say rape and they would say rape. But the Germans had been there so long they had been there so long I guess they convinced them that they were Nazi also. But um it wasn't a very good experience. I never wanted I refused to go on to take a man out to be hung. I was that militant. I refused to do it. I didn't believe in it. I didn't believe a man did that because women were available so easy - a carton of cigarettes, candy so why would he want to rape the woman and I just didn't believe it. So I wouldn't go. Instead I'd go into Cherbourg in town, go to a saloon, and drink Calvados till I was drunk. And that's just to throw it off. 'Cause that's a that's an awful thing and awful bearing. And that's the way I made that through and um.
Segregation in the Army
bs: Well, you talked about uh your job over you know working in shipping and you said we did we include just the African Americans or was that the whole Lorre One, Lorre Two?
nj: No, the shipping out uh when we was unloading the ships out in the ocean that was the black outfits. See at that time the services were segregated and uh we were all black and we were out there unloading the ships. There was no whites. The only whites that was there was the officers. We did have white officers. All the officers would be white except one. They tried to keep one black officer. And believe me, he had it rough because they didn't want him to be that. But uh normally we only had one officer that we could try to relate to. And he wasn't much help because he had problems of his own.
bs: Was was the type of work that you did was that the most difficult labor out of all the jobs that people had you know what I'm saying fighting during the war the kind that the African American soldiers did was that?
nj: Um I wouldn't say it was the most difficult because when I landed on Normandy and I had to wade the ocean to get in on the beach, climb up on the beach. Um there was a black artillery outfit that come along and we traveled with them till we got further inland dug our, our uh pup tents and put them on and that ariout (?) uh artillery outfit oh they just couldn't sleep because they shook the ground shooting, shooting a big cannon. But there was a black military outfit that I did get to see on my tour over there and uh I don't know I don't think I would've wanted to have been up there in that. But it was bad enough for us on the ship because I've heard German those German airplanes would come across and we'd be on the deck of the ship and we could tell that it was German planes because they had a distinct sound their engines would run and then sound like it's cutting off, run and then act like it's cutting off. And everybody would be quiet and no cigarettes lit, drop nothing on the deck and the plane would be so close that we could hear them talking and that's the truth. And soon as they got out aways they opened up fire on'em so not to light us up.
bs: So you talked okay about the job question, was that your only job in during the war, I mean, was it shipping, did you actually?
nj: No, after the line got so far, then they said, changed our outfit into a disciplinary training center. And that's when I was speaking about Lorre One and Lorre Two and we were just, we were a disciplinary training canter till finally the war was over and we got to come home.
Work and friends
bs: And that, okay so you had that type those types of jobs in the war, but did you have a job here in Marion before you left to go to the war or was it just?
nj: Yes, I worked at the Marion Malleable Iron Works. I just worked there to get a little bit of money so I would have some money when I went into the service. But I did work at the Marion Malleable Iron Works.
bs: And were you involved in you know, your church or activity or other activities or sports or anything like that before?
nj: Well, while I was in high school I played football. I did play football. And uh as far as that, that was about all.
bs: When, when you found out that you were going to the war, were your friends' reactions, cause were most of your friends also, I know you said a few of your close friends also went but were most of the people whom you I guess hung out with were they also going and was their action, reaction pretty much the same as how you felt?
nj: Yes, yes we all didn't know what we faced - all the same age so we were well we just didn't know. But uh we hoped that we all could stay together. That was our hopes - stay together. Most of them did with the exception of me - they went south and I went east so I had an advantage over them. And I'd rather go east than to go south.
The circuit of foundry work
bs: And once you came back from the war I guess things that you used to do I mean like those the same things did you try to pick those things up or were you just like to different after the war and became involved in different things?
nj: No I wasn't the same person when I come back from the war. I, I guess I was a very bitter person because I felt like this I'm fighting for a country and in the army they segregate me in the army then I come home and I'm segregated here. I'm just like a second-class citizen. And I was very militant. I did not like that, didn't understand it and uh so what I did, I tried to get a job. Jobs (cough) , pardon me, were not plentiful. As a matter of fact, about all that was open Malleable, Atlas. I tried to get on at the Anaconda. I used your grandfather as reference. And they told me, "Oh you've got one of the best reference. Oh sure everything's great!" But I didn't get on. I don't know if they had had their quota or what, I don't know. But I wanted there. I didn't want foundry work because I had seen that the foundries had a monopoly on the black people - on the black male working. He'd get mad at the Malleable, well, they'd let him go. He'd quit. He'll be back. He'd go to the Atlas, work there for a while. And then he'd get mad and quit there and go out to Pope's. And he wouldn't stay too long - be right back to Malleable. And they'd hire him cause they know they're just going to make the circuit. And I didn't want to get caught up in that.
War time discrimination
bs: You talked about how you treated over in England, I guess also in France, was was there a certain like any like specific war story or how about how you were treated I mean you know was it was that just like every day when you felt like this or was there um specific time you know when you felt like you were lower than everyone you know what I mean like...?
nj: Well, you know England has class on the bus, they've class. And uh whenever I would ride the bus or something, I would ride on the first class. I feel I'm over there helping to liberate them. But England that was uh a very bad experience there. What I mean by that, England ruled over a many countries - black countries. And when you walked down the streets you would see Africans and they would have their tribal marks and everything on their cheeks. And so they were used to black people. But yet when you have you walk down the street and a little boy come out and call you a "Monkey, let me see your tail," that was frustrating. And the only way that came about is when that American told them to say that. Saying we've got tails. That's the only way cause that country had a lot of blacks in it. And uh some were married, but uh course, when we come, they said we had "tails". And so that had to come from the white man, and that's what it was. And then we had fights we we'd fight, we'd fight. Cause anytime we'd get into maybe into saloon and be having a good time, and they get there they say the wrong thing. The fight's on. And we we did do a lot of fighting. Just black against white and uh it was just a bad situation.
Mutiny in Cherbourg
bs: There any war stories you know things that you you say you know about like with the fighting or just on a day-to-day basis or things that happened to you and you know besides the the fighting things you know related to the war. Is there like a story or you know your friends out on the front line or...
nj: Offhand, I don't really remember. Cause see I wasn't uh really close to the front. Because I was in the transportation core - unloading the ships, keeping the supply line going. So therefore, I wasn't right up on the front, and I didn't get to see any of that, actually the shooting and all of that. But um at that time when we went into Cherbourg, there was a battalion of us men in the monastery. And a battalion of men was 1,000 or more. And um we working on the ships it was still Germans around. We had, I had, to pull guard duty and some of them men had done slipped up and boy, I challenged them. And I was about ready to shoot them because I didn't know who they were. And um and it um they come they got the idea that we did not need our ammunition. Reee-remember the Germans still in Cherbourg. So they come along and took our ammunition. So quite naturally, we rebelled and he said, "Well take their guns! We'll keep the ammunition, take the guns!" We don't want the guns. The guns we gotta clean. We gotta maintain them and all that. And if you don't want us to have nothing - take the guns. And uh you might say that it was like mutiny. The whole battalion come out in the courtyard and throwed down their weapons. And uh those white officers were very, very scared. Because here you've got a rebellion, a thousand and some men. How are you going to prosecute all them and put them in in jail? Where you gonna put them at? And the war on. The fronts just maybe ten-mile. And so, they talked, they talked. And we had our say. But as it goes, the older ones usually rule. Um I had a friend from Anderson and he says I want to get home to see my wife, my son. I'm gonna pick my gun up. He picked his up. Another older fella picked it up. I'm being young, I chastise them. And well finally everybody did pick up their gun. And nothing never did come of it. And that was really mutiny.
A segregated country
bs: And how did possibly while you were there but more so when you came back how did that affect you? Would you say?
nj: It affected me pretty bad because I'll tell you why. I came back in 19 and 46. And shortly after that they were drafting people for the Korean War. And I got a notice to go up there and sign up for the Korean War to be drafted. I went up there and I said I will not go! I will not go! I don't care, I will not go! I've served this segregated country once. I'll not serve it twice. And so I just said I would not go. Well, with me being married and having a child I didn't have to go. I said praise God for that because uh I praise Muhammed Ali. I praise him! He didn't want to go, it wasn't his belief, he did not go and I really praise him for that. Cause had it been that I had equal rights and was treated right. I'd been glad to do ahead and fought for my country. But uh that wasn't that case. I think it's better now though, it's much better now.
bs: Speaking of present times looking back these 50 odd some years. Have you - I know you didn't have a choice of into going - but thinking back now on what you know now. Would would you have gone and how would this you looking back how would done I guess some things differently while you were over there.
nj: Well, I don't know what I could have done differently. I don't know um I probably would have tried to have got to start up some kind of um NAACP something like that this nature. And have some kind of pipeline back her to the states that would begin. Because if you write a letter to send it home, the officers, the white officers, they read everything you say. And if it's something they don't want them to hear, they'll mark it out. And we need some way to get bypass that and I would've liked to work to bypass that.
bs: Well, that's all I have for you.
nj: Is that it?
bs: So, I appreciate this. Thank you very much.
nj: All right.
bs: I guess we can stop the tape.
nj: We stopped.