Local WWII Vet Bob Williams Fought Under Patton

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – On Thursday, Lewisboro resident and World War II vet Bob Williams was inducted by state Senator Greg Ball (R/Paterson) in the first class of the 40th Senate District’s Veteran’s Hall of Fame.

While only a private with no major medals, Williams’ story is typical of the citizen soldiers who made up the backbone of the United States Army, but it remains a compelling one. He served in the 45th Infantry Division – known as the Thunderbirds – under General George Patton. He participated in four invasions, including Sicily, Italy, Corsica and southern France.

As a machine gunner, Williams also fought his way through Belgium, Luxemburg and southern Germany. While most combat infantry companies had extremely high casualty rates, Williams fought on almost a daily basis for two years.

“He fought for two years, which is unbelievable,” said friend Dean Travalino. “He would say,’ I was there and did my job and saw a lot of bullets flying around, but I don’t why I didn’t get hit.’”

Twenty-six veterans representing the various villages, towns, and cities throughout the 40th Senate District were honored along with Williams for their military service.  Due to a last-minute illness, Williams was unable to attend the ceremony or be interviewed for this article.

Ball will be establishing a Traveling 40th Senate District Veterans' Hall of Fame Wall which will honor each of the 27 veterans locally. One member from this first class of Hall of Fame inductees will be chosen for induction into the New York State Veterans' Hall of Fame.   

Williams ran a successful floor maintenance business that employed more than a dozen people and is known around town for his outgoing personality and volunteerism.

“He is a gregarious guy and always upbeat,” Travalino said of Williams. “He is very active with the senior citizens and you see him at all the ceremonies. He organizes the seniors for the Memorial Day parade and they ride in antique cars. He’s the driving force behind all that. He also runs the fishing derby for the Lewisboro Senior Adults.”

Travalino said Williams was a high school dropout at the age of 14 and “proud of it.” After completing his military service he was a volunteer with the Veterans’ Administration, which, in recognition of his work, paid for him to go back and get his GED. In 2009, he was awarded an honorary high school degree from John Jay High School and he has become a member of Mensa, the organization for people have attained an IQ score within the upper two percent of the general population.

The school district awarded Williams the degree in recognition of the work he did at the schools. He lectured at John Jay Middle School about the Civil War and both world wars. He also was a regular participant in Intergeneration Day, where seniors talked to the students about that the type of things they did during their era.

"He’s mesmerizing,” Travalino said. “He would go for hours and the kids loved him. He’s golden with them.” 

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