The U.S.S. Noble was built in July 1944 at Permanente Metals in Richmond, Ca., commissioned into the Navy in November, and immediately sent to the Pacific. In the spring of 1945, she landed troops in Okinawa, bringing the war to Japan's doorstep. Following the Japanese capitulation in August, she helped repatriate Allied prisoners of war, and then ferried American troops home. From 1946-1949 she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, then shifted to the Pacific.
In August 1950, she again steamed into the war zone, landing troops at Inchon in Korea, a pivotal campaign for re-taking South Korea from the Communists. She remained in the area until mid 1953, when the conflict ended. During the rest of the 50s and into the 60s she remained in the Pacific, making periodic deployments to the Far East. In October 1962, she once again steamed into the Atlantic to participate in the blockading of Cuba, in the successful effort to force the former Soviet Union to remove their ballistic missiles from Cuban soil. Afterwards, she returned to the Pacific to make one more Far East deployment.
Noble was decommissioned in 1964, and given to the Spanish Navy, renamed Aragon, and served the Spain until 1980, when she was scrapped. Well, this history lesson is fascinating, you say, but I mentioned Hollywood and a mystery, right? I'm getting there!
I bought this model about a year ago at an estate sale. When I saw it, covered-literally-with a 1/2" of dust, I recognized it as something special, and purchased it immediately. Carrying it up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment, I thought it was very heavy (or I was very out of shape!) as I cleaned it; I was amazed at the meticulous detail and craftsmanship that had gone into making such a model.
The bulk of the ship is wood, with metal railings, chain and antennae. The 40mm anti-aircraft guns and binoculars are all hand-cast metal! The more I cleaned, the more excited (and impressed) I became! It was then I discovered that the upper decks superstructure lifted off, revealing a servo for steering the rudder, a motor for turning the real bronze propeller, what appears to be a generator for making smoke, an array of batteries for powering it all, and teeny little lights for lighting select portholes! I rushed back to the estate sale! I had to find out more! Now, I knew from what I had seen (or more precisely what I HADN'T seen-woodworking tools and a shop) that the former hadn't made this himself.
I grilled the family members to find out everything I could, but they knew very little. The old gentleman had not even been in the Navy, as far as they knew. One family member told me that he had once owned a marina, and perhaps someone had owed him money and given it in trade. A dead end! I returned home, unsatisfied with the lack of information. I got on the Internet, punched in USS Noble, and up pops all this fascinating history and pictures! There's even a veterans group with email addresses! I start a mad emailing campaign, but the responses I got were just as mystified as I was. None of them had ever heard anything about this model, nor could any of them tell me who had made it or why.
They were all very curious, requested pictures, and related stories of being on board. Who had made this model? Why had they picked this particular ship to copy? Why hadn't they told anyone about it? The mystery deepened! Then, much later, I got an email from a crewmember of the 60s who had heard about my quest from another vet. He started by telling me of the happy times he had spent on board and the life-long friendships forged. Then he told me that while he was assigned to the Noble in the early 60s, the Navy "lent" her out to make the movie "THE LONGEST DAY". This news hit me like a thunderbolt! Of course! It was a professionally made Hollywood miniature! I was sure I had solved the mystery!
The model turned out to be more special than I had imagined! For those of you unfamiliar with "THE LONGEST DAY", allow me to enlighten you! It is THE war film of the 60s, produced by Darryl F
Zanuck, who is well known for his lavish, bigger-than-life epic productions. It is a movie about the Allied invasion of Europe at Normandy in France told from both sides. Anyone who was anyone in Hollywood was either in this movie, or wished they were! The cast include such stars as Eddie Albert, Paul
Anka, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Fabian, Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Jeffrey Hunter, Curt
Jurgens, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Edmond O'Brien, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod
Steiger, Robert Wagner, Stuart Whitman, the "Duke" himself-John Wayne, and a cast of literally thousands!
This film won like a zillion Oscars that year! Now, I rented "The Longest Day" and watched it from beginning to end. There is no single big shot where you can say, "There it is!" definitively. There are lots of background, nighttime, smoky and group shots of the invasion fleet, and one scene in particular with Red Buttons and Jeffrey Hunter playing craps on an APA that could be the real Noble. They say in Hollywood that for every foot of film you see, there's a hundred on the cutting room floor! There aren't even credits for the model builders in the film! So, in some ways, this ship remains a mystery. I have examinee this model carefully. There are only pencil marks here and there inside, and the water line is marked. The components are unmarked, and much of the internal workings, though professionally made, are scratch-built. The model builders got no credit in the movie, and left their beautiful work un-signed. There's no company name, individuals initials, nothing! This ship has seen a lot of action over the years. It is in need of a complete restoration and some TLC.
It is nearly 5 feet long, which means it is 1/100th scale. It does fit nicely into a standard bathtub.