Where did you meet your spouse? (Fellas, I apologize if I put you on the spot.) Did you meet her at college? Did you find him at church? Elevator? Job interview? Married couples have met in some unique places over the years.
But no one has ever met their spouse in a stranger place than William Tippins.
In February of 1944, Private First Class William Tippins was part of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion making his way across Anzio, Italy when he was blown from a foxhole by mortar fire. When Tippins regained consciousness, a German soldier was standing over his torn body and told him he had two options: be shot right then and there, or try to walk to the aid station two miles away. It was a no-brainer for the injured American.
After trudging to the aid station at gunpoint, Tippins was transferred to a field hospital near Rome. Even though he was still badly wounded, he masterminded an escape plan that set him free…for 72 whole hours. Following his recapture, the GI was sent to the infamous Stalag VII in Mooseburg, Germany where he was labeled a troublemaker who was prone to escape. While there, his health deteriorated even more due to the fact that he couldn’t keep down any food; his weight continued to plummet so he was transferred to yet another field hospital.
While there, Tippins, who looked more like a ghost than a man, befriended an attractive young volunteer in spite of the fact that she spoke zero English. Tippins referred to her as “Pinky” because the harsh German winter caused her cheeks to blush on a constant basis. Pinky cared for Tippins as his frail body tried to recover from its drastic wounds, but the improvements were meager; the rations given to prisoners of war just weren’t sufficient.
So, putting herself at great risk, Pinky began to smuggle homemade bread into the camp to give to Tippins. In a very short while, the American soldier put on enough weight that he could be transferred yet again to Luckenwald POW camp.
Fascinatingly, Tippins escaped from this camp, too! But his weak and malnourished frame gave him away. He was taken back into custody and placed into solitary confinement until the camp was liberated by the Russians in April of 1945. The Russians planned on detaining him 8 months before returning him, but their camp security turned out to be as poor as the Germans, so Tippins escaped one last time.
It took him several weeks, but he rejoined the advancing American army just two days before Germany’s surrender. At war’s end, he was discharged and returned home to the States, but he couldn’t shake the memories of the young girl who’d risked her life to save his. Finally, two years later, Tippins made up his mind: he enlisted in the Air Force and went back to Germany.
Many months later, while helping the police manage hotels for German refugees, he thought he recognized a young woman who’d come in searching for a room. Unsure of himself, Tippins walked up behind her and whispered, “Pinky.” Even though he looked completely different, the young lady recognized him instantly! They embraced and spent the evening talking to one another thanks to the fact that Tippins had almost mastered the German language by that point.
Within months, William and Pinky were married. Tippins spent the next 20 years in the Air Force and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant, the highest rank possible for an enlisted man. Together, he and Pinky raised a family and were married for 57 years until her death in 2003.
In the end, it doesn’t matter where two people meet that defines their relationship. The sacrifices they’re willing to make for one another are far more important.
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Topics Illustrated Include:
World War II
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)