William “Wild Bill” Guarnere was one tough motherfucker. He was one of the original Currahee Band of Brothers of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He joined his brother’s-in-arms at the age of 90.
Guarnere earned the nickname “Wild Bill” because of his reckless attitude in attacking the Germans after learning his brother had been killed at Monte Cassino. He known as a terror on the battlefield, fiercely attacking the Germans he came into contact with.
After parachuting into Normandy on D-Day, his squad ran into a German supply platoon coming and took up an ambush position. Going against Lieutenant Winters orders to wait for his command; Guarnere wanted to avenge his brother, took the initiative and opened fire first, killing most of the unit.
Guarnere was wounded in October 1944, and returned to Easy Company still wounded and against orders. He just wanted to be back with his unit. He was caught, court-martialed, and demoted to private, but was returned to Easy not long afterward.
During the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, Easy was holding the line just up the hill south west of Foy, a massive artillery barrage hit the men in their position. Guarnere’s friend Joe Toye was severely wounded during an artillery barrage. Guarnere ran to his friends’ aid to get Joe to a field hospital when another shell struck close by and blew Wild Bill’s right leg of too. This was the end of the war for Wild Bill.
Guarnere received the Silver Star for combat during the Brecourt Manor Assault on D-Day, and was later decorated with two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, making him 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.
Bill Guarnere lived out his life doing all sorts of odd jobs and being heavily involved in veteran affairs. I remember seeing a special where Wild Bill and Edward “Babe” Hefron (who died only back on December 1, 2013 at age 90), were touring the forest outside of Foy where Easy was held up in a desperate situation. They visited the site where their brother’s Warren “Skip” Muck and Alex Penkala were blown to bits by a direct hit on their foxhole by a German artillery round.
In his autobiography, Beyond Band of Brothers; Memoirs of Major Richard Winters, Richard “Dick” Winters referred to Ronald Speirs and Guarnere as “natural killers”. It was mentioned with the utmost respect.
Although Wild Bill was 90, it still makes me melancholy this warrior has now passed into history.
I raise my glass as a toast to you Wild Bill, life well lived, and one hell of a story. RIP.