Bill is on the cover of my book War Paint and, in fact, he's the one who got me thinking about veterans tattoos. Bill, though he's a celebrity now, lived his life after the war in anonymity, nobody wanted to hear war stories, he'd been telling people that a shark bit his leg off in Atlantic City for years. Then Stephen Ambrose interviewed him and a bunch of the other 101st Airborne men from Easy Company and wrote Band of Brothers ... meeting Bill and hearing his stories made me realize that every bus I get on is filled with incredible stories from people who just haven't had them told. Most will never get them told, but they're there -- not just war veterans, but everybody. The stories are there for the asking.
"Was the Battle of the Bulge the first time you got wounded?" Oakes asked.
"No," Bill said, "I got shot in the leg before that, I got shot off my motorcycle by a sniper."
"Where'd you get the motorcycle?" I asked.
"I stole it from a guy who then became a pedestrian," Bill said.
After Bill got shot in the leg he found out that he was going to be sent to a different unit, not the one he'd been through D-Day with so he went AWOL from the hospital to rejoin his unit in the front, painting the cast on his leg to look like a boot. He reunited with Easy company just before the Battle of the Bulge and lost his leg in shelling several days later. He was sent home and it was a while before the AWOL charge caught up with him. Though he was out of the fight and back in Philadelphia, he was retroactively demoted to private and ended up owing the U.S. Government $5,000 in overpaid salary which they took back by cutting his disability check in half (it was $120 a month) until it was repaid.
(I cropped Ryan out of this since he didn't seem to want to be in the photo and Wild Bill's friend Trouble because she didn't know I was posting this)
You can read about Bill's tattoos in War Paint which you can get here.
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