S1c Robert Harold Noonan

Unknown Sailor

S1c Robert Harold Noonan

Robert Harold Noonan earned $9 a week for eight weeks of work as a Civilian Conservation Corps laborer in 1939.

The Depression-era federal jobs program was run by the Army, and young men who succeeded in the CCC often joined the armed services. Mr. Noonan followed that path, enlisting in the Navy on Sept. 9, 1940.

He was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Mr. Noonan was born Jan. 22, 1920 to Harold M. Noonon, a boilermaker in car shops, and Rena Curtis Noonan, a homemaker. It’s unclear why they used different spellings of their last name. 

Two weeks earlier as reported in the 1920 Census the parents and sons Roy and Glen were living in Owosso, population 12,575, about 25 miles northeast of Lansing in Shiawassee County. In August 1926 the mother, by then with four sons, obtained a divorce on grounds of “cruelty and non-support.”.

The April 1930 Census said the mother and sons ages 8 through 12 had moved about 3 miles east to Corunna, the county seat but with just 1,936 residents. The mother operated a machine at a candy factory. The boys attended school in Shiawassee County. Bob, as the future sailor was known, had perfect attendance in the 7th grade.

The same census noted that the father was almost 50 miles to the southeast – an inmate in the Pontiac State Hospital, an asylum for the insane.

In August 1938 the mother married Wesley Murdock, who in 1939 earned $880 as a machine operator in a factory, Glen earned $432 as a restaurant waiter, and  Robert earned $72 – a total of $1,384 for a family of five. That would be the equivalent of about $29,500 in June 2022 prices.

At least two Noonan sons served in the Army — Glen from June 1941 until October 1945 and Roy from January 1942 until January 1946.


Sources: the Lansing (Michigan) State Journal; the Corunna (Michigan) News; Census; Michigan divorce record; Army enlistment record; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Defense Department; Navy muster roll. Note: The spelling of the father’s last name comes from his grave marker. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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