William F. Nolan
Sgt. William F. Nolan was born September 3, 1923, in
Wisconsin, to William A. Nolan & Margaret
Vail-Nolan and was the older 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 National
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, and 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, and they found themselves living in tents with stoves in them. They remained in the tents until early December. 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. In January 1941, William was transferred to Headquarters Company when the company was formed in January 1941.
A typical day started at 6:15 A.M. with reveille, but most of the soldiers were already up so they could wash, dress, and be on time for assembly. Breakfast was from 7 to 8 A.M. which was followed buy calisthenics from 8 to 8:30. After this, the remainder of the morning dealt with .30 and .50 caliber machine guns, pistols, map reading, care of personal equipment, military courtesy, and training in military tactics.
At 11:30, the tankers got ready for lunch, which was from noon to 1:00 P.M., when they went back to work by attending the various schools. At 4:30, the tankers day ended and retreat was at 5:00 P.M. followed by evening meal at 5:30. The day ended at 9:00 P.M. with lights out, but they did not have to be in bed until 10:00 P.M. when taps was played.
In late August, the battalion was informed it would take part in maneuvers in Louisiana from September 1 through 30. During the maneuvers, the battalion performed exceptionally well. After the maneuvers, instead of returning to Ft. Knox, the battalion was ordered to Camp Polk, Louisiana. 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. Many believed that this decision had been made by General George Patton. Those members of the battalion who were married, or 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 real reason for this decision - which had been made in August 1941 - was the result of an event that took place in the summer of 1941. A squadron of American fighters was flying over Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippines, when one of the pilots, who was flying at a lower altitude, noticed something odd. He took his plane down and identified a flagged buoy in the water and saw another in the distance. He came upon more buoys that lined up, in a straight line for 30 miles to the northwest, in the direction of an Japanese occupied island which was hundred of miles away. The island had a large radio transmitter. The squadron continued its flight plan south to Mariveles and returned to Clark Field.
When the planes landed, it was too late to do anything that day. The next day, when another squadron was sent to the area, the buoys had been picked up by a fishing boat - with a tarp on its deck - which was seen making its way to shore. Since communication between the Air Corps and Navy was difficult, the boat escaped. It was at that time the decision was made to build up the American military presence in the Philippines.
The battalion traveled west over different train routes and arrived at Ft. Mason in San Francisco and were ferried, on the U.S.A.T. General Frank M. Coxe, to Angel Island where they given physicals and inoculated by the battalion's medical detachment. Anyone who had a medical condition was replaced or held back and scheduled to rejoin the battalion at a later date.
The 192nd was boarded onto the U.S. A. T. Hugh L. Scott and sailed on Monday, October 27th. During this part of the trip, many tankers had seasickness, but once they recovered they spent much of the time training in breaking down machine guns, cleaning weapons, and doing KP. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday, November 2nd and had a two day layover, so the soldiers were given shore leave so they could see the island.
On Wednesday, November 5th, the ship sailed for Guam but took a southerly route away from the main shipping lanes. It was at this time it was joined by, the heavy cruiser, the U.S.S. Louisville and, another transport, the S. S. Calvin Coolidge. Sunday night, November 9th, the soldiers went to bed and when they awoke the next morning, it was Tuesday, November 11th. During the night, while they slept, the ships had crossed the International Date Line. On Saturday, November 15th, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The Louisville revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it shot off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out the smoke was from a ship that belonged to a friendly country. During this part of the voyage, smoke from an unknown ship was seen on the horizon. The cruiser that was escorting the two transports revved up its engines, its bow came out of the water, and it took off in the direction of the smoke. It turned out that the unknown ship was from a friendly country.
When they arrived at Guam on Sunday, November 16th, the ships took on water, bananas, coconuts, and vegetables before sailing for Manila the next day. At one point, the ships passed an island at night and did so in total blackout. This for many of the soldiers was a sign that they were being sent into harm's way. The ships entered Manila Bay, at 8:00 A.M., on Thursday, November 20th, and docked at Pier 7 later that morning. At 3:00 P.M., most of the soldiers were taken by bus to Ft. Stotsenburg. Those who drove trucks drove them to the fort, while the maintenance section remained behind at the pier to unload the tanks.
At the fort, they were greeted by Colonel Edward P. King, who apologized that the men had to live in tents along the main road between the fort and Clark Field, but the fact was that he had not learned of their arrival until just days before their ship docked. He made sure that they all received Thanksgiving Dinner before he went to have his own dinner.
The members of the battalion pitched the tents in an open field halfway between the Clark Field Administration Building and Fort Stotsenburg. The tents were set up in two rows and five men were assigned to each tent. There were two supply tents and meals were provided by food trucks stationed at the end of the rows of tents.
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 Monday, December 1st, the tanks were ordered to the perimeter of Clark Field to guard against paratroopers. The 194th Tank Battalion guarded the northern half of the airfield, while the 192nd guarded the southern half. At all times, two members of every tank and half-track crew remained with their vehicles. Meals were brought to them by food trucks.
At six in the morning on December 8th, the officers of the battalion were called to the radio room at the fort. They were ordered to bring their tank platoons up to full strength at the perimeter of airfield. All morning the sky was filled with American planes. At noon, the planes landed to be refueled and the pilots went to lunch. At 12:45, the tankers were having lunch and watched as 54 planes approached the airfield from the north. As they watched, the saw "raindrops" falling from the planes. When bombs began exploding, the soldiers knew the planes were Japanese.
When the Japanese were finished, there was not much left of the airfield. The soldiers watched as the dead, dying, and wounded were hauled to the hospital on bomb racks, trucks, and anything that could carry the wounded was in use. When the hospital filled, they watched the medics place the wounded under the building. Many of these men had their arms and legs missing.
That night the members of the company slept in a dry latrine that was near their bivouac since it was safer then their tents. They had no idea that they had slept their last night on a bed. The next morning, they saw the bodies of the dead lying on the ground. Pilots who had night duty lay dead in their tents.
HQ Company worked to keep the tanks of the battalion running. This was often difficult since the tanks were constantly moving and establishing new defensive lines.
In March, the amount of gasoline was reduced to 15 gallons a day for all vehicles except the tanks. This would later be dropped to ten gallons a day. At the same time, food rations were cut in half again. Also at this time, Gen. Weaver suggested to Gen. Wainwright that a platoon of tanks be sent to Corregidor.
The Japanese lunched an all out attack on April 3. On April 7, the 57th Infantry, Philippine Scouts, supported by tanks, attempted to restore the line, but Japanese infiltrators prevented this from happening. During this action, one tank was knocked out but the remaining tanks successfully withdrew. C Company, 194th, which was attached to the 192nd, had only seven tanks left.
The tanks became a favorite target of the Japanese receiving fire on trails and while hidden in the jungle. and could not fight back. The situation was so bad that other troops avoided being near the tanks, and the 26th Cavalry turned down a tank company's offer of assistance in a counter-attack.
It was at this time that Gen. Edward P. King decided that further resistance was futile, since approximately 25% of his men were healthy enough to fight, and he estimated they would last one more day. In addition, he had over 6000 troops who sick or wounded and 40000 civilians who he feared would be massacred. At 10:30 that night, he sent his staff officers to negotiate surrender terms.
Tank battalion commanders received this order, "You will make plans, to be communicated to company commanders only, and be prepared to destroy within one hour after receipt by radio, or other means, of the word 'CRASH', all tanks and combat vehicles, arms, ammunition, gas, and radios: reserving sufficient trucks to close to rear echelons as soon as accomplished."
The evening of April 8, 1942, Capt. Fred Bruni, HQ's commanding officer, gave his men the news of the surrender. While informing the members of the company of the surrender, he waved his arm toward the tanks and told the men that they would no longer need them. As he spoke, his voice choked. He turned away from the men for a moment, and when he turned back he continued. He next told the sergeants what they should do to disable the tanks. During the announcement, Bruni emphasized that they all were to surrender together. He told the soldiers to destroy their weapons and any supplies that could be used by the Japanese. The only thing they were told not to destroy were the company's trucks. The men waited in their bivouac until ordered to move. Somehow, Bruni had found enough bread and pineapple juice for what he called, "Their last supper."
On April 11th, the first Japanese soldiers appeared at HQ company's encampment. Donald was now a Prisoner of War. A Japanese officer ordered the company, with their possessions, out onto the road that ran in front of their encampment. Once on the road, the soldiers were ordered to kneel along the sides of the road with their possessions in front of them. As they knelt, the Japanese soldiers, who were passing them, went through their possessions and took whatever they wanted from the Americans. They remained along the sides of the road for hours.
HQ Company finally boarded trucks and drove to just outside of Mariveles. From there, they walked to Mariveles Airfield and ordered to sit. As they sat, the POWs noticed a line of Japanese soldiers forming across from them. They soon realized that this was a firing squad and the Japanese were going to kill them.
As they prepared to die, a car pulled up and a Japanese officer got out of the car and spoke to the sergeant in charge of the detail. After talking to the sergeant, he got back in the car and drove off. The sergeant ordered the soldiers to lower their guns.
Later in the day, the POWs were order to move and taken to a school yard in Mariveles and ordered to sit. Behind them were Japanese artillery pieces. The guns were firing on Corregidor and Ft. Drum. When the two American strongholds began returning fire, the prisoners found themselves in the line of fire and shells began landing around them. Five POWs who hid in an old brick building were killed when it took a direct hit. When the barrage ended, three if the four Japanese guns had been destroyed.
It was from this school yard that the POWs began the death march. The first five miles of the march was uphill. They made their way north from Mariveles to San Fernando. During the march men who had fell were shot and bayoneted where they fell.
The POWs made their way north from Mariveles which was hard on underfed sick men, since it was uphill. At one point, they had to run past Japanese artillery that was firing on Corregidor which had not surrendered. The guns on the island returned fire and shells landed among the POWs. During the march they received little food and no water. When they reached San Fernando, they were put in a bull pen and left sitting in the sun. In one corner was a slit trench which was used as a latrine by the POWs. The surface of the trench moved since it was covered with maggots.
The Japanese ordered the POWs to form ranks, and they were marched to the train station and packed into small wooden boxcars used to haul sugarcane. The cars were known as "Forty or Eights," and could hold forty men or eight horses. The Japanese packed 100 POWs into each car and closed the doors. 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 that the Japanese put into use as a POW camp. There was one water faucet for the entire camp, and men literally died for a drink. The death rate in the camp began to rise until as many as 55 men dying each day with the burial detail working 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, so 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.
800 POWs gathered at 2:00 A.M. on October 6th, and were given rice coffee, lugow rice, and a big rice ball. After eating and packing their kits, the POWs marched out of the camp at 2:30 A.M. and received two buns as they marched through the gate to the barrio of Cabanatuan which they reached at 6:00 A.M. There, 50 men were boarded onto each of the small wooden boxcars waiting for them at about 9:00 A.M. The trip to Manila lasted until 4:00 P.M. and because of the heat in the cars, many POWs passed out.
From the train station, the men were marched to pier 5 in the Port Area of Manila. Some of the Filipinos flashed the "V" for victory sign as they made their war to the pier. The detachment arrived at 5:00 P.M and were tired and hungry. The Japanese fed them rice and salted fish and let them eat as much as they wanted. They also were allowed to wash.
About 1800 POWs were boarded onto the Tottori Maru on October 7th but the ship did not sail until the next day at 10:00 A.M. and passed the ruins of Corregidor at noon. In addition, there were sick Japanese and soldiers on the ship. That night some POWs slept in the holds, but a large number slept on the deck. Each day, the POWs were given three small loaves of bread for meals - which equaled one American loaf of bread - which most ate in one meal, but the men rationed their water. The ship was at sea, when torpedoes fired at by an American submarine but the torpedoes missed the ship. The ship fired a couple of shots where it thought the sub was, but these also missed. A while later, the ship passed a mine that had been laid by the submarine. The POWs were fed bags of buns biscuits, with some candy, and received water daily.
The ship arrived at Takao, Formosa, on October 11th. and were bathed on the dock. They sailed again on October 16th at 7:30 A.M. but returned to Takao at 10:30 P.M. the same day because of a storm. At this time, the POWs were receiving two bags of hardtack and a meal of rice and soup each day. The ship sailed again on October 18th and arrived at the Pescadores Islands at 5:00 P.M., where it remained anchored off the islands for several days. During this time two POWs died, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.
The ship sailed again on October 27th and returned to Takao the same day. The next day, the POWs were taken ashore and bathed with seawater at the same time the ship was cleaned. They were again put into the holds and the ship sailed again on October 30th and arrived at Makou, Pescadores Islands. The ship sailed on October 31st, as part of a seven ship convoy.
During this part of the voyage, it rode out a typhoon for five days on its way to Fusan, Korea. On November 5th, one of the ships was sunk by an American submarine and the other ships scattered. The Tottori Maru arrived at Fusan on November 7th, but the POWs did not disembark until November 8th. Most of the POWs were disembarked, but some remained on the ship since they were going to Japan. The ship sailed and arrived at Osaka, Japan, on November 11th. During the voyage, 17 POWs had died.
The POWs were disembarked and separated into detachments. The POW detachment William was marched to the train station and were taken to Narumi POW Camp arriving at the camp on August 4, 1944. At this camp the POWs worked for the Nippon Wheel Manufacturing Company producing wheels. The POWs in the camp were used as slave labor in the manufacturing of wheels for railroad locomotives. The Japanese were extremely brutal with the POWs, especially those caught stealing food.
The common punishment given to the POWs was to be beaten and kicked while standing at attention. Having their clothing stripped from them, and being made to stand at attention for long periods of time. Since a certain number of POWs were needed to work each day, the sick POWs who could stand were forced to work.
One day, the POWs heard that the emperor was going to speak to his people over loudspeakers. Through the interpreter, the POWs learned of the surrender. The camp was turned over to the POWs and the guards vanished. The guards left behind their weapons so the POWs posted guards to protect themselves against any possible attack. The POWs also marked the camp so that it could be spotted by American planes. The B-29s began dropping fifty gallon barrels of supplies to the former prisoners.
To get to the plant, the POWs had to ride a train with the Japanese civilians. The civilians would throw their cigarette butts on the floor of the train cars. The Americans who got on the trains first were able to collect the butts.
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 and finally retired on September 30, 1961.
William resided in Wolcott, Connecticut, 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.