Vietnam-era vet recounts his 22 years in the Army

Danny Noss said it doesn’t take a gun to make a soldier 

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Danny Noss, now a Randall resident, spent 22 years in the Army, traveling in the U.S., Korea, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Noss, who grew up in North Dakota, joined the Army Dec. 1, 1970. He volunteered for Vietnam, but was instead sent to Korea.

“I was part of a group of 12 soldiers who were assigned to the joint service  program, but when we got to Korea, we learned it had been cancelled,” he said.

The 12 men received a list of four other units in Seoul, Korea, were shown to the bus and told to go find a “home.” What the officer meant was to go find another job somewhere.

Danny Noss
Danny Noss

“I became a clerk-typist with Yongson Data,” Noss said. “During my interview, the lieutenant colonel asked me if I played softball. When I said yes, he hired me on the spot.”

That was the beginning of a long career working with computers.

“I started with a Univac 1005 with a 4K memory,” he said.

Noss was in Korea from May 1971 to June 1972. Even though the war with Korea ended July 27, 1953, and an armistice was signed, no treaty ever entered the picture. Because of no treaty, U.S. soldiers continue to be deployed to Korea.

“The base is still viable,” said Noss. “In the 1970s, there were infrequent shootings between North and South Korea, but that wasn’t publicized.”

Noss was then sent to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, to work at the Armed Forces Entrance Examination Station. There he compiled soldiers’ records when they were processed into service. The job lasted a year.

In July 1973, Noss was at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, Ind., attending computer school, then was  sent to Germany where he spent nearly six years.

“I worked with the IBM 360s and Univac 1005s. I managed personnel systems and after 1976, added the supply system,” Noss said.

The personnel system Noss worked with was the data base of all soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany. The supply system maintained the data on all equipment used by the same Division.

Noss met his wife, Sandy  Strand when he was living in Little Falls in 1970.

“I was already in the service and Sandy and I saw each other maybe three weeks total from the time we met until we married May 31, 1975, at St. James Catholic Church in Randall,” he said. “We married the day after she graduated from Little Falls High School.”

Today, they have been married for more than 39 years.

While in Germany, with Sandy arriving a month after they married, Noss was promoted from Specialist 4 to Specialist 5. Not too long after that, he was promoted to staff sergeant.

Part of the time the Nosses were in Germany, they lived on a farm in Wies-enbronn, helping the family with chores when they could. Sandy also spent part of her life in Germany working in a nursery/day care center.

They also lived in the city of Wurzburg, Germany.

In March 1979, Noss was sent to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Aurora, Colo. For one year he was the non-commissioned officer in charge of the computer center, while also one of the computer operators. Again, he maintained both personnel and supply data.

Noss was again sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison in 1980 where he spent two months in school for system analysis. From there, he went to Alexandria, Va., to create program specifics for army-wide personnel systems.

While in Virginia for four years, Noss was promoted to sergeant 1st class and when he left, he was again promoted to chief warrant officer 2.

The next three years found Noss stationed at Fort Mead, Md., working at the National Computer Security Center and the National Security Agency as a computer security analyst.

“There, teams evaluated the defense contractors’ systems to ensure security,” Noss said. “I was a team leader for evaluating the White House Communications Agency and the security of its computer systems.”

Noss said he worked in parts of the White House that most people never get to see.

In 1987, the Nosses were sent to Nellingen, Germany, near Stuttgart, a military airfield that hosted different units. Noss was there until 1991 and the base closed in 1992.

“I was assigned to the 38th Personnel and Administration and was responsible for all computer systems within the 7th Corps,” he said. “I oversaw, along with 20-30 others, the installation of five large computer systems throughout the corps.”

In December 1991, Noss left Sandy in Germany when he was deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on the Persian Gulf. With the 7th Corps Rear Command, he collected and maintained the data base of all soldiers in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

“That time was tough on Sandy, for there were many people in Germany demonstrating against the war,” said Noss. “The riots in Germany occurred outside the base where she was living and she had to drive through them whenever going any place.”

Noss said Sandy took it upon herself to take care of other families who were left behind when loved ones had been deployed.

“Military spouses don’t get the respect they are due,” he said.

While in Dhahran, Noss’ duties changed. He was required to maintain the computer system for the 7th Corps.

Saudi Arabia, while a desert country, was very cold, Noss said.

Pictured is one of the bunkers dug by Dan Noss and the other soldiers while in Saudi Arabia to protect from scuds sent by the Iraqis.
Pictured is one of the bunkers dug by Dan Noss and the other soldiers while in Saudi Arabia to protect from scuds sent by the Iraqis.

“It was 32 degrees at night with ice on the shower water in the morning. It also rained once for 30 hours,” he said. “We had to dig bunkers and had a hard time seeing through the sand and the rain.”

Noss said that while he was not in the infantry, he was a soldier first. What needed to be done was done by everyone, and that included digging bunkers.

“I never shot at any soldier nor was I ever shot at,” he said. “The bunkers we dug were lined with sandbags to protect us from scuds from the Iraqis. We needed a place to go (in case of an attack).”

He also had the job, besides maintaining computers, of early morning patrol along the six-mile long berm around Camp Ogden (a temporary base no longer in use.)

“It takes many personnel to support an infantry soldier,” said Noss. “That includes computer personnel, supply people, cooks, medical personnel, mechanics and drivers.”

Noss said his worst moment while in Saudi Arabia came when the air war began in January 1991.

While in Saudi Arabia, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Anthony Soliz, left, posed for a picture with Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danny Noss.
While in Saudi Arabia, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Anthony Soliz, left, posed for a picture with Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danny Noss.

“We were told to dress in biological warfare suits,” he said. “We were told to “mop 4” which means there is an imminent chance of a nuclear or biological incident.

“We took a nerve gas pill, then were told to lay down on our cots,” he said. “After awhile, we heard a low rumble which slowly increased in intensity. We had no idea what was coming. It got louder and louder and the cots began to shake. We were terrified, not speaking to each other, wondering what was going to happen.

“All of a sudden, when it was as loud as it could possibly get, it was gone,” Noss said. “We learned it was a U.S. jet, flying at 100 feet off the ground to Baghdad, Iraq, on a bombing mission.”

Noss was also stationed a mere five miles from Dhahran when on Feb. 26, 1991, an Iraqi missile strike took out a barracks, killing 27 people.

During the year and a half he was in Saudi Arabia, Noss spent time at Camp Ogden, Al Qasim and King Khalid Military City. He then returned to Germany in March 1991 without his unit. He had been ordered to Fort Hood, Texas, to maintain the computer system for the 3rd Corps officers’ personnel records.

In June 1992, Noss was transferred to the 1119 Signal Battalion to maintain its data base. He retired in February 1993.

Except for time in Saudi Arabia, Sandy was with her husband for most of his time in the Army.

Noss said he was fortunate to attend two presentations in the 1980s given by Commodore Grace Hopper. She was a rear admiral and a computer scientist, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and inventor of the first compiler for a computer programming language. She was also credited with popularizing the term “debugging” when she assisted in fixing a glitch created by a moth which had entered one of the computers she worked on.

“I was lucky to be in the forefront of working with one of the first mass-produced computers,” Noss said. “I helped make them what they are today.”

Looking back, there is nothing Noss would change about his life or his military career. “If I had gone left instead of right at any point in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.