Editor’s note: Edsel E. Noland will serve as 2022 Grand Marshal of the Chanute Veterans Day Parade Friday at 11 am on Main Street.
Special to the Tribune
Edsel Noland was just finishing high school when WWII ended in 1945, but as soon as he graduated, he joined the Navy. Within a few weeks, he was leaving home on his way to San Diego, Calif. to start boot camp.
Edsel was born in Urbana, 12 miles southeast of Chanute, the only child of Wes and Ollie Noland. He attended Little Friend, a one-room country school for the first eight years of his education. He attended Royster Junior High and one year of Chanute High School. His junior year, his family moved to Downey, Calif. where he graduated from Downey High School in 1945.
After basic training in San Diego, Edsel was assigned to the communication ship USS Appalachian. He was an 18-year-old Mailman 3rd Class. The USS Appalachian sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii as part of Joint Task Force 1, where they picked up 150 journalists bound to report on the atomic bomb tests being conducted in the Marshall Islands near the Bikini Atoll.
The reporters were from all over the United States and international papers. Edsel remembers that the reporter from the Kansas City Star was journalist Alvin McCoy. Edsel was related to some McCoys in Chanute. He said it was a busy assignment with so much mail going back and forth with the number of journalists and sailors on the ship.
The test area was set up with a decommissioned ship, the WWII USS Nevada, painted bright orange and 100 other vessels surrounding the USS Nevada to see the effects of the bomb blast.
On July 1, 1946, the USS Appalachian was anchored about 12 miles from the target area when shot. Able, an implosion-type atomic bomb with a yield of 23 kilotons, was dropped from a B-29 Superfortress. The sailors were told to turn their heads and not look when the bomb was dropped. Of course, many of the sailors looked anyway.
Edsel remembers hearing the explosion, then feeling the blast wave of air pass over them on the ship.
Another memory Edsel had of that time was all the collectors that would send postcards to be sent to the ship to be stamped and sent back as collector items.
Edsel sent several home to his mother, who kept them in a scrapbook of his time in the military.
After his two years, Edsel came back to Chanute to attend what was then called junior college, housed in the top story of Chanute High School.
He followed his father into the oilfield business, first starting with Halliburton in El Dorado, and eventually starting his own business, Consolidated Oil.
Edsel has been a member of the American Legion and VFW for 66 years. He is proud of his service and a supporter of any kind of veteran organization in the Chanute area.