William Gaines was born in Gates County, North Carolina in 1923. His father was a small-time farmer, peddling his chickens to the local Foil and Sons grocery store. 'Willy', as he is known by most, seemed born with a gun in his hand. Frequently accompanying his father on hunting trips - the Gaines family often lived off the fruits of their hunts in order to make ends meet.
Willy was not much of an educated boy. He would go to school during the week, only so he could get to the next weekend when he could take his gun out and go hunting. By the time of his sixteenth birthday, on April 1, Willy had become such a crack shot with his rifle, that his raw skill had turned into an exceptional talent. Something of a city treasure, Willy's talent often landed him in the local paper as the frequent winner of the local Turkey Shoots in surrounding counties. It was clear that Willy's precision with a rifle was as natural to him as breathing or blinking.
After asking for his father's permission, Willy lied about his age so that he could enlist in the war. The pride of Gates County, before he boarded a train for boot camp in San Diego, William was invited to City Hall where his rifle was retired and he was given a key to the city for his talents.
After completing Marine Boot Camp, he was appointed the unit marksman.
He participated in much of the US Marine Corps' campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations of World War 2.