Medal of Honor mystery no more: VAntage Point reader uncovers relatives of forgotten hero

Author, Veteran Will Carpenter finds Joseph B. Noil's family


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Acta Non Verba

What does that mean?  Ask Will Carpenter and he’ll tell you, simply: Deeds … Not Words

In the late 1960s and beyond, Will’s service in the Air Force, plus serving 33 years at sea as a “deck rating” and ship’s officer in U.S. Merchant Marines, no doubt taught him how to say “Yes Sir”, and “No Sir”… and that deeds are much more powerful than words.

And it is through Will’s most recent deeds that afford me an opportunity to bring you an important and exciting update to the story of Canadian-born Medal of Honor recipient Joseph Noil.

Wonderful progress started to take place in this case over the past few years. Recently, much excitement has come forth as the St. Elizabeth’s Cemetery staff and many others reached out to tell of the ceremony to unveil a new Medal of Honor marker for our rediscovered hero on April 29th. When VA’s Vantage Point staff received a request to participate, they immediately jumped in with their support and created the very exciting blog in this space. That blog saw many a reader send in comments. One of these expressed the hopes that descendants of the late Joseph Noil would be invited to the service.

The problem was that research at the time failed to reveal the tidbits of info we needed. But Will’s fresh eyes … and determination changed it all a few days ago.

Image of Joseph B. Noil's miss-marked headstone that had gone undectected for nearly 129 years.

Joseph B. Noil’s mismarked headstone that had gone undetected for nearly 129 years. On April 29 a new Medal of Honor headstone bearing the correct spelling of his name will be dedicated.

He tells me that after seeing the comment about family attendance, he rolled up his sleeves and started his own research. As trained historian himself, he was able to find one of Joseph’s granddaughters and her husband. Unfortunately, both had long since passed away. Having another shot at it, he found two more relatives, one was passed, but the second was still alive and aged 95.

More work produced the name of yet another descendant, also said to be a granddaughter, but I believe she may have actually been a great-great-granddaughter. And that woman, also has a daughter, a granddaughter and great grandchildren of her own.

Several of us on an extended unofficial committee, all working on the unveiling ceremony, have either called or emailed the granddaughter above. She is flabbergasted and most overwhelmed with joy about the events of days past and hopes that the family will be able to attend the ceremony. The woman also tells me that while she knew of the relationship with Joseph, it was not until the last few days that she learned that he was a Medal of Honor recipient.

With Will’s permission I want to share these most profound words he sent the family a few days ago:

I’m happy that I enriched a part of your life. Truth be told, when I started this, I had every reason to suspect there were no surviving family members and no reason to think there were any. I had every reason to believe that, if there were, their reaction would be, “Meh.”
It might have been disappointing to discover Mr. Noil’s family had died out. Instead, I found you and a whole, vibrant gang of descendants.
When I saw the pictures of the small children who might be – and probably are – your grandchildren, it wasn’t too great a leap to imagine Mr. Noil moving unseen among those at the upcoming ceremony, squatting down in front of one of them the way grandfathers do before such a miracle. It’s also not difficult to image one or more of those children standing a bit taller in the future because they know who their great-great-great-great grandfather was and what he did.”

Another comment, on the original blog, noted that no picture of the grave marker was shown. While I cannot show the marker that shall be unveiled at month’s end, I leave you with this image of the current marker and you can see the need for the work that has been done for the last six or seven years to right his horrible wrong.

It shall be my honour and privilege to meet you someday, Mr. Joseph Noil!

Editor’s note:  VA’s Vantage Point team thanks the author for this exciting update and Will Carpenter for his genealogical detective work.  We plan to attend the event on April 29 and will provide photos and interviews with those there to honor Joseph Noil.


Image of Bart ArmstrongBart Armstrong of Victoria BC, Canada, is college educated and has spent many years with the Canadian Forces Reserves, in Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Germany and the U.S., retiring as a Master Warrant Officer in the mid 1980’s. He has worked in police and security fields for well over a decade and has also worked in various freelance capacities in the journalism world for over 25 years. Bart’s latest journey of 15 plus years, and over 40,000 kms of travel, self-financed, has been to research and document the Canadian side of the  U.S. Medal of Honor story. That journey started with just 54 accepted recipients from Canada. Two weeks ago the number reached 109.  His three year old, searchable web site, www.canadianmedalofhonor.com, has produced over 350 stories on his findings.

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VAntagePoint Contributor

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Comments

  1. Ronald Ellsworth    

    Great story but a little disappointing that the deed(s) that earned the Medal were not disclosed.

  2. Carlos Alba    

    This is very nice of you to find this hero and honor him correctly thank you

  3. Jay W. Bagley    

    Ancestry.com is a good source for assisting veterans with information about military service for family members.

  4. Curtis H. Wadlington    

    Why don’t all Veteran both past and present get the Purple Heart and Legion of Merit. P.T.S.D. formerly known as Shell Shock should be awarded these medals and benefits.

    1. Richard AragonGS37    

      I understand what your saying. Those of us who suffer from PTSD should get some kind of medal but not the Purple Heart! Those of us suffering from PTSD receive medical benefits.

    2. Del Allegood    

      That will never happen,because the compensation portion of the Va sees that as the service members own fault. Only projectiles,explosions and such are honored by the VA. Many other things are acknowledged and treated,but not honored.This is a long tradition and will not change. There are no purple hearts for mental war damage,nor for agent orange and other chemicals.

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