William J. ''Wild Bill'' Guarnere

Staff Sergeant William J. Guarnere now as "Wild Bill" Guarnere was a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II.
William Guarnere was born April 28, 1923 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of 10 children (6 brothers and 3 sisters they called him "Billy baby") to Joseph "Joe" and Augusta Guarnere. After lying about his age, he joined the Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) program during the Great Depression. Guarnere's mother told the Government that he was 17 while he was, in fact, only 15. He spent three summers in the CMTC, which took four years to complete. The plan was that upon completing his training he would become an officer in the United States Army. Unfortunately, after his third year the program was canceled due to the pending war in Europr.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, and six months before graduation from South Philadelphia High School, Guarnere left and worked for Baldwin Locomotive Works making Sherman tanks for the Army. His mother was very upset because none of the other children had graduated from high school. He switched to the night shift and returned to school, getting his diploma in 1941. Because of his job he had an exemption from military service, but did not use it.
On August 31, 1942 in his hometown, Guarnere enlisted in the paratroops and started training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. At the end of 1943 after a hard training they were shipped to England. That’s where the preparations for D-Day started. William Guarnere joined Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

D-Day - Normandy. He made his first combat jump on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France. He earned the nickname “Wild Bill” because of his reckless attitude towards the Germans. Another nickname for him was "Gonorrhea" because of its similarity to his last name (this was used in the miniseries Band of Brothers). He displayed strong hatred for the Germans because one of his elder brothers, Henry, had been killed fighting the German Army in the Italian campaign at Monte Cassino. Bill swore that he’d kill every German soldier in Europe.
Guarnere lived up to his nickname of "Wild Bill." A terror on the battlefield, he fiercely attacked the Germans he came into contact with. In the early morning hours of June 6, he joined up with Lieutenant Winters and a few other men trying to reach their objective, to secure the small village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and the exit of causeway number 2 leading up from the beach. As the group headed south, they heard a German supply platoon coming and took up an ambush position. Winters told the men to wait for his command to fire, but Guarnere was eager to avenge his brother and, thinking that Winters might be a Quaker and hesitant to kill, opened fire first killing most of the unit.
Later, on the morning of June 6, he was also eager to join Richard Winters in assaulting a group of four 105mm Howitzers at Brécourt Manor. Winters named Guarnere Second Platoon Sergeant as a group of about 11 or 12 men attacked a force of about 50. The attack led by Winters was later used as an example of how a small squad-sized group could attack a vastly larger force in a defensive position. I received the Silver Star for combat during the Brécourt Manor Assault.
Bill's unit was pulled off the line in late July 1944 and returned to Aldbourne and under went more training, where they waited to jump back into France. But because General Patton advanced so quickly through France, Several jumps were cancelled. That was until September 1944, when allied forces invaded Holland in Operation Market Garden, under the command of Field Marshall Montgomery.

Market Garden. On September 17th 1944 Bill's unit jumped into occupied Holland (more specifically in the Zon area). Their objective was to capture two bridges, Wilheme and Canal Bridge. And also secure the town of Eindhoven and meet with British Armored units so they can make their way and reinforce British Airborne units in Arnhem. But because of the strong resistance from the Germans in Holland. The operation failed. A main road in the operation known as "Hell's Highway" had been cut off several times by the Germans where the fiercest fighting took place. The plan to end the war by Christmas has failed.
He was wounded in mid-October 1944 while Easy was securing the line on "The Island" on the south side of the Rhine. As the sergeant of Second Platoon, 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. While driving a motorcycle that he had stolen from a Dutch farmer across an open field, he was shot in the right leg by a sniper. The impact knocked him off the motorcycle, fractured his right tibia, and also lodged some shrapnel in his right buttocks. Bill left Holland and was sent back to England on October 17, 1944.
While recovering from injuries, he didn't want to be assigned to another unit, so he put black shoe polish all over his cast, put his pant 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 trying to leave the hospital to rejoin Easy Company. They kept him a week longer and then sent him back in early December of 1944 to rejoined Easy in Mourmelon t.
He arrived at Mourmelon-le-Grand, just outside Reims, where the 101st was on R and R (rest and recuperation), about December 10, just before the company was sent to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. Because the paperwork did not arrive from England about his court-martial and demotion, he was put back in his same position.

Battle of the Bulge. Then on December 16th 1944, Hitler launched an offensive through the Ardennes forest and broke through Allied lines. The closest reinforcements to help hold the area were the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. So Bill and his unit were sent via Red Ball Express to Bastogne, Belgium. Their orders were simply to hold the town at all costs, and secure all 7 roads leading in and out of the town. Despite heavy shelling, Easy company and the rest of the Airborne units held on until relieved by Patton's 3rd Army on December 26th 1944.
After holding Bastogne, Bill's unit was sent to the Boise Jacque forest and dug in until they were sent to capture the town of Foy. While dug in the forest on the outskirts of Foy, a massive artillery barrage hit the men in their position. While attempting to save his wounded buddie, Joe Toye (who could not get up because he had also lost his right leg), Bill was wounded severly in the right leg, and eventually had to have it amputated. For Bill, WWII was over. Bill was sent to England to be hospitalized, then the United States, and was finally sent home in March of 1945.
I received the Silver Star for combat during the Brecourt Manor Assault. So, I was one of only two Easy Company members (the other being Lynn Compton) to be awarded the Silver Star throughout the duration of the war while a member of Easy.

After the war. Guarnere returned to the USA in March 1945 and took on many odd jobs. Bill was a salesman, a clerk and a carpenter. Bill married with his wife Frannie. He wore an artificial right leg until he was able to secure full disability from the Army, threw away the limb and retired.He became an active member of many veterans organizations, and presides over many Easy Company reunions.Guarnere was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Frank John Hughes. In his recent autobiography entitled Beyond Band of Brothers; Memoirs of Major Richard Winters, Richard Winters refers to Ronald Speirs and Bill Guarnere as being "natural killers". When making those statements about both men, Winters says it in a way that reflects respect, not in a negative manner. After the war Bill saw his best friend Babe after the war in Philly too. Since the war they are the best friends.
Guarnere wrote ''Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends'': Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with Edward Heffron and Robyn Post, outlining activities of Easy Company.


William Guarnere 1944


William Guarnere with crutches, 1945



With his mother Augusta and his sister in Atlantic City where he revalidated of his wounds he received during the Battle of the Bulge


With his wife Frannie


guarnere11_1I wrote Mr. Guarnere a letter and offered him a plaque as momento.
He wrote me back and signed for my scrapbook with these words:
Dear Jelle: Thank ''U'' for the picture and letter,
as requested my pleasure.
Wild Bill Guarnere
Co.E 506 101
Band of Brothers