Junior N. Van Noy

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Junior N. Van Noy, born Nathan Kilby Van Noy Jr., was a United States Army soldier and recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

Van Noy was born on August 9, 1924, in Grace, Idaho. When his father died while he was in high school, he assumed his share of the family’s support until the war came. His older brother left for service in World War II and a year later Junior began his service for his country on February 27, 1943, at the age of 19.

He was serving as a private in the Headquarters Company of Shore Battalion, 532nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment, at Scarlet Beach near Finschafen, New Guinea. On October 17, 1943, he manned a machine gun during an enemy attack, “refusing to withdraw even after being seriously wounded. He destroyed half of the small enemy force before being killed.”[1] For his actions during the battle, he was awarded the medal posthumously on February 26, 1944.

Private Van Noy's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy near Finschafen, New Guinea, on October 17, 1943. When wounded late in September, Pvt. Van Noy declined evacuation and continued on duty. On October 17, 1943 he was gunner in charge of a machinegun post only 5 yards from the water's edge when the alarm was given that 3 enemy barges loaded with troops were approaching the beach in the early morning darkness. One landing barge was sunk by Allied fire, but the other 2 beached 10 yards from Pvt. Van Noy's emplacement. Despite his exposed position, he poured a withering hail of fire into the debarking enemy troops. His loader was wounded by a grenade and evacuated. Pvt. Van Noy, also grievously wounded, remained at his post, ignoring calls of nearby soldiers urging him to withdraw, and continued to fire with deadly accuracy. He expended every round and was found, covered with wounds dead beside his gun. In this action Pvt. Van Noy killed at least half of the 39 enemy taking part in the landing. His heroic tenacity at the price of his life not only saved the lives of many of his comrades, but enabled them to annihilate the attacking detachment.

In a Deseret News article dated March 16, 1944, writer Belva Hart noted that traditionally the person receiving the award is taken to Washington, D.C., where the president of the United States personally makes the presentation. Van Noy’s mother, Pauline, asked to be excused because she felt that travel was likely to hinder the war effort. Instead, state and military officials came to Preston to present the award to her.

His mother said, “I am proud of my son, not because he is my boy alone, but because he is one of many boys who go from our homes where we have reared them in love and tried to teach them true principles and they have been able to meet the supreme test with courage. They are men among men.”[2]

The U.S. Army Engineer Port Repair ship Junior N. Van Noy was named for him in 1943 and was the first of the ships operating, reporting August 10, 1944 to assist in repairing the port of Cherbourg.

Van Noy was initially buried in the American cemetery in New Guinea. He is interred in Grace Cemetery, Grace, Idaho. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.