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William Sayles

PFC in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co B, 3rd Platoon


Born 1920 in NY, Died 2018


County of residence at enlistment: Albany County, NY
Other residence(s): Albany, NY in 1950s; lived his last few years in New York, NY
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
College education before the war: Pratt 1 year
College education after the war: Pratt
Notes: birth name William Sapolsky; rank changed from PVT in GA roster to PFC per New York Area Leave List
Source: 603rd Camouflage Engineer Roster provided by W. Anderson; Rick Beyer; Company B Names and Addresses roster; bio info from The Ghost Army by Beyer/Sayles; photo courtesy of Sayles family

Bill Sayles was born on August 22, 1920 in Albany, NY. His family name was Sapolsky; he was the second of four children and both of his parents were born in Russia.

After graduating from high school, Bill enrolled at Pratt Institute in New York City to study advertising. He registered for the draft on February 15, 1942, while he was still a student at Pratt, and interrupted his studies to enlist on November 10, 1942.

Bill was one of a number of Ghost Army soldiers who spent their spare time in Europe painting and sketching; a number of his works are featured in The Ghost Army of World War II.

After his service in the Ghost Army, he returned to Pratt and graduated in 1947. Bill and fellow Ghost Army veteran and Pratt '47 graduate Arthur Shilstone started a design studio called AdVisuals which they ran for several years before both heading off to independent careers as illustrators.

Bill married Shirley Weinstein of Boston in 1949; they would go on to have two children: Michael and Elizabeth.

Bill illustrated many books and, with his wife, produced the best-selling Step-by-Step line of craft books in the 1960s and 1970s. The couple traveled to China, Japan, and Mexico to do research for the books, and one book, Macrame: An Introduction, sold millions of copies. Bill was interviewed by Barbara Walters who admitted that she had learned macrame from the book.

In his later years, Bill enjoyed spending time in his studio painting. He was also involved with the Edward Hopper House in Nyack and the Rockland Center for the Arts.

He died on October 31, 2018 in South Nyack, NY and is buried at Temple Israel Memorial Park in Blauvelt NY.

A Note About His Daughter

Elizabeth "Liz" Sayles, Bill's daughter, was the co-author with Rick Beyer of The Ghost Army of World War II. Liz was also an award-winning, best-selling illustrator of more than 25 books for children. She died in 2021.


1930 census

1942 draft card

1942 enlistment record

1974 US Public Records Index

2008 Prattfolio article "Faking Out the Enemy"

2018 obituary in the White Plains NY Journal News,0.5674554,0.3451271,0.98009455&xid=3355&_ga=2.65118638.1665004024.1614630553-83527741.1614370813

2018 Find a Grave record

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