Bill Nolan joined the Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1937 as a splicer. He entered the military and was sent to the Philippines in September 1941. There he served as a communications sergeant with a coast artillery anti-aircraft unit near Clark Field. He was part of a detachment assigned to obtain more guns at Manila when the war began, and when War Plan Orange went into effect, he joined the other soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula.
When General King surrendered Bataan on April 9, 1942, Nolan became a prisoner of war and endured the Bataan Death March. He was then interned at Camp O'Donnell. In October 1944 he was sent to Hong Kong, most likely on the Hokusen Maru, and along the way the convoy was attacked by U.S. B-24 bombers from China. Eight of the eleven ships were sunk, but Nolan's wasn't among them. Nolan later found out that his brother Jack had been among the flight engineers aboard one of the B-24s.
From Hong Kong, Nolan then went to Formosa and eventually to Japan, where he labored at a copper foundry. Nolan learned of Japan's surrender two days after it was delivered, and U.S. planes began dropping food, clothing, and other supplies to the ex-POWs. Nolan was taken to Tokyo and then flown home from Manila.
On the 25th anniversary of Bataan's surrender, Nolan, with his wife Eleanore and more than 500 other survivors, flew to the Far East to commemorate the event. The Nolans also spent time in Hong Kong and Japan.