William “Wild Bill” Guarnere, who was one of the WWII veterans depicted in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, perished at 90 Saturday in Philadelphia. He was considered a national hero. His family confirmed he was rushed to the hospital Saturday and later died of a ruptured aneurysm that night.
The successful HBO miniseries was based on a book by Stephen Ambrose, which depicted the exploits of Easy Company, the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division, telling of their training in Georgia in 1942 through the end of the war in 1945. The book detailed several of WWII’s bloodiest battles. The miniseries was produced by Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks, and Guarnere was portrayed by actor Frank John Hughes. Guarnere was a non-commissioned officer with the legendary unit.
Band of Brothers WWII veteran William Guarnere, who perished at 90, was known as a dedicated, loyal and astute soldier. He was considered one of the best combat leaders in the division. His wicked sense of humor and war-era exploits earned him the moniker “Wild Bill.” Guarnere’s war efforts came to an end when he lost his right leg while trying to help a wounded soldier. For his war service, he earned the Silver Star, as well as two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.
A native of Philadelphia, Guarnere was a senior in high school when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred on Dec. 7, 1941. Guarnere decided to leave school and go to work for the war effort. He took a job with a local specialty builder of railroad locomotives and military supplier of tanks. At his mother’s behest, Guarnere later switched to the night shift and earned his high school diploma.
After the war ended, Guarnere kept busy with several veterans’ organizations and Easy Company reunions. He was considered the glue that held the unit together and preserved the legacy of the company and their exploits. The war veteran coordinated the company events, encouraged communication among members, and kept everyone informed of events and personal travails of fellow company members. This was a responsibility he took upon himself when WWII ended, and he remained committed to it until his death.
In addition, Guarnere co-wrote a national bestseller in 2007 which detailed the unit’s exploits with fellow Easy Company member and Philadelphia native Edward “Babe” Heffron. Guarnere’s Band of Brothers comrade and co-writer died last December, also at the age of 90.
Band of Brothers WWII veteran William Guarnere, who perished at 90, might have lost his leg in the war, but he lived a “good, long life,” according to his family. He contributed a significant amount to the filming of the HBO miniseries on which his own exploits and that of the Easy Company unit was based. The veteran took great strides to ensure his brothers in arms were accurately and compassionately depicted. His fellow company members were not at all surprised by Guarnere’s efforts. They said he was a truly compassionate man who always put others ahead of himself and would lend a helping hand to anyone.
Guarnere’s funeral arrangements were still unconfirmed as of Sunday.
By Leigh Haugh