William Guarnere

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William Guarnere
Bill guarnere 506e.jpg
Corporal Guarnere at Camp Toccoa, Georgia
Nickname(s)"Wild Bill"
Born(1923-04-28)April 28, 1923
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 8, 2014(2014-03-08) (aged 90)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1942–1945
RankStaff sergeant
UnitEasy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsSilver Star
Bronze Star Medal (3)
Purple Heart (2)
RelationsFrances (wife)
Henry (brother, deceased-1944)
Other workAuthor, veterans organization member

William J. Guarnere Sr. (April 28, 1923 – March 8, 2014) was a United States Army paratrooper who fought in World War II as a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division.

Guarnere wrote Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with long-time friend Edward "Babe" Heffron and journalist Robyn Post in 2007. Guarnere was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Frank John Hughes.

Early life and education[edit]

Guarnere was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 28, 1923.[1]: 87  He was the youngest of 10 children born to Joseph and Augusta Guarnere, who were of Italian origin.[1]: 4–5  He joined the Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) program during the Great Depression, gaining entrance at age 15 because his mother told the government her son was two years older. He spent three summers in the CMTC, which took four years to complete. His plan was to complete training and become an officer in the United States Army. After his third year, however, the program was canceled due to the war in Europe.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and six months before graduation, Guarnere left South Philadelphia High School and went to work for Baldwin Locomotive Works, making Sherman tanks for the army. This upset his mother, because none of her other children had graduated from high school. Guarnere switched to the night shift and returned to school, earning his diploma in 1942. Because of his work, he had an exemption from military service.[1]: 6  However, on 31 August 1942,[2] Guarnere enlisted in the military and started training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia.

Military service[edit]

Guarnere was assigned to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He made his first combat jump on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France.

Guarnere earned the nickname "Wild Bill" because of his reckless attitude towards the enemy. He displayed strong hatred for the Germans as his older brother Henry Guarnere had been killed fighting in the Italian campaign at Monte Cassino.[3]

In the early hours of June 6, Guarnere joined lieutenant Richard Winters and a few others trying to secure the small village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and the exit of causeway number 2 leading from the beach. As they headed south, they heard a German platoon coming to bring supplies and took up ambush positions. Winters told the men to wait for his order to fire, but Guarnere, claiming he thought Winters might be hesitant to kill, opened fire immediately with his Thompson submachine gun, killing most of the unit.[1]: 62–64 

Later that morning, Guarnere also joined Winters in assaulting a group of four 105mm howitzers at Brécourt Manor. Winters named Guarnere as 2nd platoon's sergeant as the 13 paratroopers came up against about 50 German soldiers. The attack was later used as an example of how a small squad could attack a vastly larger force in a defensive position.[1]: 64–70 

Guarnere was wounded in mid-October 1944, while Easy Company was securing the line on "The Island" on the south side of the Rhine River. He had to go up and down the line to check on and encourage his men, who were spread out over a distance of about a mile. He stole a motorcycle from a Dutch farmer and rode it across an open field, where he was shot in the right leg by a sniper. The impact knocked him off the motorcycle, fractured his right tibia, and lodged some shrapnel in his right buttock. He was sent back to England on October 17, 1944.[1]: 141 

While recovering from injuries, Guarnere did not want to be assigned to another unit, so he put black shoe polish all over his cast, put his pants leg over the cast, and walked out of the hospital in severe pain. He was caught by an officer, court-martialed, demoted to private, and returned to the hospital. He told them he would just go AWOL again to rejoin Easy Company. The hospital kept him a week longer and then transferred him back to his unit.[1]: 142, 150  Guarnere arrived at Mourmelon-le-Grand, just outside Reims, where the 101st was on R&R (rest and recuperation), about December 10, 1944, just before the company was sent to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, on December 16. Because the paperwork did not arrive from England about his court-martial and demotion, he was reinstated in his same position.[1]: 150 

While holding the line, just up the hill southwest of Foy, a massive artillery barrage hit Easy Company in their position. Guarnere lost his right leg in the incoming barrage, while trying to drag his friend Joe Toye (who had also lost his right leg) to safety. This injury ended Guarnere's participation in the war.[1]: 184–187 

Guarnere received the Silver Star for combat during the Brecourt Manor Assault on D-Day, and was later decorated with three Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts, making him one of only two Easy Company members (the other being Lynn Compton) to be awarded the Silver Star during the war while a member of Easy Company.

In his autobiography, Beyond Band of Brothers: Memoirs of Major Richard Winters, Richard Winters referred to Guarnere as a "natural killer."[4]: 88, 185 

Awards and decorations[edit]

CombatInfantry.png
 
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Arrowhead
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Cp2j.jpg
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Badge Combat Infantryman Badge
1st Row Silver Star Medal Bronze Star Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
2nd Row Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster Army Good Conduct Medal European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
with 3 Service Stars and Arrowhead Device
3rd Row World War II Victory Medal Croix de Guerre with palm Medal of a liberated France
Badge Parachutist Badge with 2 Combat Jump Devices
Unit Awards Army Presidential Unit Citation with one Oak Leaf Cluster

Later life and death[edit]

Guarnere returned to the United States in March 1945 and took on many odd jobs. He wore an artificial right leg until he was able to secure full disability from the Army, then threw away the limb, using only crutches thereafter, and retired.

He became an active member of many veterans organizations, and presided over many Easy Company reunions.[5]

After returning home from Europe, Guarnere married his girlfriend Frances Peca (d. 1997) and had two sons, Eugene and William Jr.[6] Eugene would follow in his father's footsteps and briefly served in Vietnam. At the time of his death, Guarnere had nine grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.[3]

Guarnere wrote Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with his best friend Edward "Babe" Heffron and Robyn Post, outlining Easy Company's experiences. The book was published by Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Books, in 2007. Guarnere also wrote a short piece for Silver Eagle: the official biography of Band of Brothers veteran Clancy Lyall, which was used as the afterword. British publisher Pneuma Springs Publishing released the book in March 2013.

Guarnere and Heffron remained lifelong friends after returning home. Guarnere was Heffron's best man at the latter's wedding in 1954.[6] He was also the godfather to Heffron's daughter Patricia.[7]

Guarnere died of a ruptured aneurysm at Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia on 8 March 2014. He was 90 years old.[8] He is survived by his two sons, nine grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.

Legacy[edit]

Guarnere was honored by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a half-staff flag order by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett to celebrate his life and military service.[7][9]

He is laid to rest in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery 1600 S. Sproul Rd, Springfield, PA 19064.[10]

Following his death, Wild Bill's granddaughter formed the Wild Bill Guarnere Memorial Fund to continue Bill's tradition of giving back to Veterans. September 19, 2015, the Fund presented an 8' Bronze Statue of Wild Bill Guarnere, by sculptor Chad Fisher, to the Delaware County Veterans Memorial.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Guarnere, William J., and Edward J. Heffron, with Robyn Post (2007). Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story. Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-21728-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Guarnere, William J.. – Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938 – 1946 (Enlistment Records). – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  3. ^ a b "William Guarnere, one of the 'Band of Brothers'". philly.com. March 11, 2014. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Winters, Richard D.; Kingseed, Cole C. (2006). Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-425-20813-3.
  5. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. (1992). Band of Brothers. New York: Touchstone Books. p. 296.
  6. ^ a b "Duty Bound". People. October 15, 2001. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron: A Remembrance". Philadelphia. March 14, 2014.
  8. ^ Chang, David. "'Band of Brothers' WWII Vet Bill Guarnere Dies at 90". NBC10.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  9. ^ "'Gov. Tom Corbett orders flags to half-staff for Wild Bill Guarnere'". DelcoTimes.com. Retrieved 14 March 2014.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ William J. "Wild Bill" Guarnere at Find a Grave
  11. ^ "Wild Bill Guarnere Memorial Fund Website". 24 September 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ooms, Ronald & Clancy Lyall (2013). Silver Eagle: The Official Biography of Band of Brothers Veteran Clancy Lyall. Pneuma Springs Publishing. ISBN 9781782282648.
  • Post, Robyn (June 1, 2001). "Veterans' Day". Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Metrocorp, Inc. Archived from the original on April 27, 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2014.

External links[edit]