Sgt. William F. Nolan was born September 3, 1923, in
Wisconsin to William A. Nolan & Margaret
Vail-Nolan. He was the oldest of the couple's
two sons. The family resided at 403 South
Franklin Street in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Sometime during the 1930s, his mother died leaving
his father to raise two sons. William left
school, after his second year of high school, and
worked as a cabinet maker. He also enlisted,
with his father's permission, in the Wisconsin
In September 1940, the National Guard unit was federalized and re-designated as A Company, 192nd Tank Battalion. On November 25th, the company readied itself for training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The company boarded the train for Ft. Knox on November 28th. William was seventeen years old.
When the tankers arrived at Ft. Knox, they learned that their barracks were not finished. The area of the fort that they were assigned to was brand new. They found themselves living in tents with stoves in them. They remained in the tents several months. When they did move into their barracks, the roads in front of them were mud since the winter was extremely wet.
William, like all the other members of the battalion, learned to operate all the equipment of the battalion. It is not known what he trained to do with the company. With the rank of sergeant, he most likely was a tank commander.
In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana. During the maneuvers the battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion remained at Camp Polk. None of the members had any idea why they were being kept there.
On the side of a hill, the battalion members were informed that they were being sent overseas. They were told that this decision had been made by General George Patton. Those members of the battalion who were 29 years old or older were given the opportunity to resign from federal service. Many of the men received leaves home to say their goodbyes to family and friends.
The battalion traveled by train to San Francisco. By ferry, they were taken to Ft. McDowell on Angel Island. On the island, they received inoculations and physicals. Those members of the battalion who were found to have treatable medical conditions remained behind on the island. They were scheduled to join the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S.S Hugh L. Scott and sailed from San Francisco on Monday, October 27th, for Hawaii as part of a three ship convoy. They arrived at Honolulu on Sunday, November 2nd. The soldiers were given leaves so they could see the island. On November 5th, the ships sailed for Guam. At one point, the ships passed an island at night. While they passed the island, they did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. When they arrived at Guam, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables. The ships sailed the same day for Manila and entered Manila Bay on Thursday, November 20th. They docked at Pier 7 and the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg.
At the fort, they were greeted by Gen. Edward King. The general apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Airfield. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own. Ironically, November 20th was the date that the National Guard members of the battalion had expected to be released from federal service.
For the next seventeen days the tankers worked to remove cosmoline from their weapons. The grease was put on the weapons to protect them from rust while at sea. They also loaded ammunition belts and did tank maintenance.
On the morning of December 8, 1941, the members of A Company were informed of the Japanese attack on Clark Field. His tank and the others were sent to the perimeter of the airfield to guard against Japanese paratroopers. About 12:45 in the afternoon as the tankers were eating lunch, planes approached the airfield from the north. At first, the soldiers thought the planes were American. It was only when bombs began exploding on the runways that they knew the planes were Japanese.
The 192nd remained at Clark field for about a week before they were ordered to the barrio of Dau so it would be near a road and railroad. For the next four months, the tankers held positions so that the other units could disengage and form a defensive line.
On one occasion the company were in bivouac on two sides of a road. The posted sentries and most of the tankers attempted to get some sleep. The sentries heard noise down the road and woke the company. Every man grabbed a weapon. As they watched, a Japanese bicycle battalion rode into their bivouac. The tankers opened fire with everything they had. When they stopped firing, they had completely wiped out the bicycle battalion.
The night of April 8, 1942, the members of A Company circled their tanks. Each tank fired one armor piercing shell into the engine of the tank in front of it. The tankers next opened up the gasoline valves and dropped hand grenades into the turrets. The next morning at 7:00 A.M. they became Prisoners of War.
The members of A Company made their way to Mariveles at the southern tip of Bataan. It was from this barrio that the tankers started what they simply called "the march."
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles. The first five miles of the march were uphill. At one point, the members of the company had to run past Japanese artillery firing on Corregidor. They received little water and little food. When they reached San Fernando, they were put into a bull pen. In one corner of the bull pen was a trench the POWs were suppose to use as a washroom. The surface of the trench was alive with maggots. How long they remained in the bull pen is not known.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks. They were marched to the train stationed and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. Each car could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car. Those who died remained standing since there was no place for them to fall. At Capas, the living left the cars and the dead fell to the floors. They walked the last ten miles to Camp O'Donnell.
Camp O'Donnell was an unfinished Filipino training base. There was one water faucet for the entire camp. Men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day. The burial detail worked non-stop to bury the dead. Often, when they returned the next morning, the wild dogs had dug up the bodies or the bodies were sitting up in their graves.
The Japanese realized that they had to do something to lower the rate of death among the POWs. They opened a new POW camp at Cabanatuan. William went directly to the new camp when it opened. Medical records from the camp indicate that William was hospitalized on July 15, 1942. According to the records, he had "ascaris lumbricoides" which meant that he had round worms. This was a result of the unsanitary conditions in the camp. The records do not show when he was released from the hospital.
It is known that William was selected to go out on what was referred to as the "Army Air Detail." How long he was on the detail is not known. What is known is that he was sent to the hospital ward at Bilibid Prison and admitted on July 11, 1944, with malaria. He was discharged on July 15th, and sent to a detachment of POWs being sent to Japan.
The POWs were marched, from Bilibid, to the Port Area of Manila, boarded the ship, and put into the holds of the Nissyo Maru. The ship was boarded on July 17th and moved into the harbor the same day and dropped anchor. It sat in the harbor for a week. Inside the holds, the haul of the ship became hot from the sun raising the temperature inside the hold.
On July 24th, the ship sailed as part of a convoy. On the 26th, the ships were attacked by three American submarines. There was a huge explosion and the POWs could see the flames shoot over the hatch since the hold was not covered. The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on July 27th. After an overnight stay, the ship sailed the next day arriving at Moji, Japan, on August 3rd. The POWs were disembarked on a pier. They were later formed into detachments and marched to the train station.
The POWs were disembarked and broken into detachments. The POW detachment William was in was taken to Osaka Main Camp where they were used as stevedores on the docks. They lived in two one story barracks that were 72 feet long by 33 feet wide. The POWs slept in triple deck bunks. There was a 30 foot by 24 foot two story building that was used as the camp hospital on the first floor and POW quarters on the second floor. Another building, which was 64 feet long by 30 feet wide housed POWs on its second floor.
William remained in the camp until it was destroyed in a bombing. On June 2, 1945, the POWs were transferred to Tsumori Camp. They remained there for eight days and transferred again to 7 Nishino Sho-machi . He remained in this camp until he was liberated at the end of the war.
After being liberated, William was returned to the Philippines for medical treatment. He returned to the United States arriving at San Francisco, on the U.S.S. Yarmouth, on October 8, 1945. He returned to Janesville and reenlisted on March 26, 1946, at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. William married Lillian and was the father of a daughter. He was discharged, from the Army, on April 30, 1954, but reenlisted the next day. He remained in the Army reaching the rank of Chief Warrant Officer. He retired from the Army on September 30, 1961.
William resided in Wolcott, Conneticutt, and later Spring Hill, Florida. He died on November 23, 1989, in Spring Hill and was buried in Section 110, Site 225, at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.