About Wild Bill
William J. Guarnere
William J. Guarnere, “Wild Bill,” fought in World War II as a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division.
He was born in South Philadelphia on April 28, 1923, and was the youngest of 10 children, to Joseph and Augusta Guarnere.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Bill wanted to join the Marines; however, that all changed when he saw a poster depicting the Army’s paratroopers. He joined the army and later became one of America’s celebrated Band of Brothers depicted in the 10-hour HBO miniseries. The Band of Brothers miniseries documents the 101st Airbone, 506th regiment, E - Company, or Easy Company and also known as the Screaming Eagles. Guarnere’s role was portrayed by actor Frank John Hughes.
When Wild Bill was hospitalized with a broken leg from combat, rather than worrying about his own injuries, Bill found a way to break out of the hospital to rejoin the men he considered brothers. He painted his cast with black shoe polish, left the hospital to rejoin his company, broke off his cast and joined his platoon on the frontlines. On a side note, Bill was demoted from sergeant for his actions; however, his rank was later reinstated when he explained why he went AWOL.
During the Battle of the Bulge, Wild Bill’s friend, Joe Toye, suffered the loss of a leg and was calling for help. Despite the ongoing attack, Bill left his foxhole to save his friend, and took shrapnel to his knee. Bill later had to have his leg amputated above the knee and if you asked Bill about his leg later he simply replied, “that’s in episode 7, kid.”
Bill’s courageous efforts and how he lost his leg was not known to his family until the release of Band of Brothers. Bill was not the kind of man to discuss much about his service although he remained proud of the fact that his company trained so long together that they became like brothers who risked their lives for each other on the frontlines.
Those who knew Bill know that he did not only display courage, compassion and brotherhood on the battlefield, but also in his everyday life. He was always loyal, dedicated and committed to raising his family and conquering obstacles that got in the way. He remained committed to fighting for those things he considered important and he believed that to get things done you have to work hard and to not be hindered by doing the right thing. He was proud of his service to our country and believed throughout his life that the men he served with that never made it home were the “real heroes of the war.”
He remained connected to his fellow platoon members and in 2007, Bill 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. Tom Hanks wrote the forward for his book reflecting on the arrival of Bill and Babe to the set of Band of Brothers in England. Although it had been fifty-six years since these men embarked on a journey that would change their lives forever, Hanks offers an insight that really highlights the love the world has for them: …”the war was not glamourous, but the men of Easy Company were, and still are.” Although Bill would most likely disagree with the statement, there is no denying that these men were the real deal and lit up every room they walked into. At age 90, Wild Bill went home to his heroes on March 8, 2014. However, his spirit continues to be a source of courage, inspiration and American pride.