CNN reports: “William Guarnere, a World War II veteran popularized by the “Band of Brothers” miniseries, has died. He was 90. During the war, Guarnere earned the nickname “Wild Bill.” He lost a leg trying to save a friend on the battlefield. The family is planning a funeral this week in Philadelphia, where Guarnere was born and lived most of his life, his son said.”
Philly Mag profiled Guarnere and Edward “Babe” Heffron, another Philadelphia member of the “band,” when the miniseries came out.
Heffron and Guarnere, both 78, are quintessential war heroes, though they adamantly refuse the title. “The guys that never came home are the heroes,” says Guarnere, who lost his right leg to shrapnel from a German 88 in the Battle of the Bulge but is still a tornado on crutches. Both he and Heffron, 18 days his junior, were members of Easy Company, an elite unit of paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, whipped in record time from citizen army to cream of the military crop. “Easy” was arguably the bravest, toughest, most physically fit, closest-knit group of soldiers the Army has ever produced. Its men were plucked for every high-risk operation of the war: D-Day in Normandy, Operation Market Garden in Holland, the Battle of the Bulge and the Rhineland Campaign in Belgium, and the capture of Hitler’s Eagles Nest in Berchtesgaden. Easy helped liberate towns in France, Holland and Belgium as well as the Landsberg concentration camp in Germany, regularly incapacitating German troops who outnumbered them.
“Hey, if they can capture what we were,” says Guarnere, sounding like a perfect hybrid of James Cagney and Curly Howard, “they’re going to have a goddamn good movie.”