Passionate motorcycle racer, United States Forces Austria member, successful businessman and by 1988 president of the USFA Veterans Association – these are just some milestones in the remarkable life of Bill Billet.
Blue Danube Network met Bill Billet, his wife Linda and some friends in Vienna on May 30, 2013 during their (almost) annual vacation in Austria – just a few days before they left for Normandy, joining the D-Day celebrations on June 6th.
Narrating us about how he came to Austria, He had been with the 350th Infantry Regiment – a part of the 88th Infantry Division – in Leghorn (Livorno), Italy.
He had been engaged in the headquarters with the “Military Intelligence (S2)” in Saalfelden (province of Salzburg) initially and then moved to “Camp Roeder” (named after Captain Robert E. Roeder) close to the City of Salzburg a bit later.
(Bill Billet as USFA member)
It had been in Austria, when Bill started pursuing his great passion for motorcycle racing again, a passion handed down to him by his father. Here in Austria he took part in road races. It was in Linz, where he contested in his first race. Bill raced twice in Salzburg, once on the autobahn and another time on inner city streets. He also raced in Innsbruck, Mattinghofen and the mountain races on the Gaisberg and Gmundenberg rennen.
(Bill Billet participating in a motorcycle race in Austria)
In 1952 Bill was transferred to Camp McCauley (the later “Hörsching” airbase) – where he served until 1954 before he returned back to the States and was discharged.
In his private life Bill had worked in several different fields of business until he founded his own, successful insurance business. However, one thing remained, and this was his passion for motorcycles and races. No wonder then, that he participated in races until his 60s and continued collecting motorcycles as well. He imported some even rare models such as a Puch 250 TF, a Horex Regina, a Zündapp KS600 or even a Moto Guzzi military Falcone from Italy which he had imported to the States from Graz via Austrian Airlines. Altogether he has 19 motorcycles.
Not feeling any tired by then, Bill founded the USFA Veterans Association in 1988 to get in touch with other former USFA Veterans. It is without saying that he later became president of the USFA Veterans Association where he remained active until 2010.
It was in 1989 when Bill received a phone call being asked if he wanted to come to Washington D.C. to be introduced to the Austrian Military Attache. Initially thinking about a silly joke, Bill was willing to make the trip. He met General Walter Schmitt and his wife in Washington D.C. and also was invited to visit Austria.
After this trip to Austria where Bill had the chance to refresh his memories about his time here, he also met Dr. Kurt Waldheim the former President of Austria. Bill is now spending his vacations close to Lake “Attersee” on an almost annual basis.
Finally Bill also admitted that for him, as for many of his former comrades (where many had served in different parts of the world as well) the time with USFA in Austria was the best in his military career.
Note: Bill suffered an attack of kidney stones in Attersee late June 2013 and was taken by ambulance to Vöcklabruck hospital. He flew home on June 29th and was taken to the emergency room at York Hospital on July 2nd. His status is still uncertain. He also received news that his dear friend from 1995, Artur Honemann, who drove Bill in a WWII Jeep for the filming of the 50thanniversary commemoration of the ending of WWII, had died. This was a very sad day for those who knew Artur.
Much to our regret Bill Billet passed away on June 12, 2016.