William Leon Carey Jr., was born on April 12, 1922 to William and Ida Harple Carey in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His father was a World War I veteran and worked as a fireman, feeding coal into steam locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The family moved to Phoenixville in 1923. William Jr. was one of four children.
William graduated in 1940. After graduation, he worked for the Phoenixville Iron Company, and later as a plumber. William married Florence Smiley of Kimberton.
William entered the Army on October 15, 1942, and received training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, as part of the newly activated 85th Custer division.
William was sent overseas on December 24, 1943, to North Africa where he received a Good Conduct ribbon and the African Campaign ribbon with Combat Star. He served with the 82nd Custer division, part of the Fifth Army, the same division that Hero Leroy Barnes served.