William J. Guarnere Sr. (April 28, 1923 – March 8, 2014) was a United States Army paratrooper who fought in World War II as a non-commissioned officer with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division.
Guarnere 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 in 2007. Guarnere was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Frank John Hughes.
Brothers in Battle (2007) edit
- Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story. by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron with Robyn Post. New York: Berkley Caliber. Hardcover.
- When you're a paratrooper, you're the elite of the Army, you're always on the front lines. You know you're going to pay the price. Then you had the German army. They were fighting the war for years. By World War II, they had it perfected, they had the best weapons in the world. We were no match for German artillery. Those Germans were technologically advanced for being a small country. They had the best fighters in the world, the Fallschirmjaeger, German paratroopers, and the SS- Nazis, even the Germans were scared of them. They were fearless, raised as boys to live and die for Hitler. Germany was prepared, and America was sound asleep. We didn't make the plans for it, kid.
- p. xix
- I kept my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut. That's what I learned growing up in South Philly. You want to get educated? You observe, but you don't say a word.
- p. 17
- Camp Toccoa was only about one thing: weeding out the weaklings. Our training schedule was brutal, and the training was brutal- all physical conditioning, led by Captain Sobel. Sobel didn't look like an officer. He was kind of awkward, and all he did was scream. He was high-strung, ranted and raved, criticized everything, a mean son of a bitch. He'd punish you for the hell of it. He was a chickenshit. Any GI knows what chickenshit is. A tyrant, takes authority to an extreme, the type that would get their ass kicked if the situation was reversed!
- p. 18
- My leadership abilities came through right away. You can tell the leaders, they're at the front, they're observers, they're always looking out for the guys. The kids who are leaders make good choices, think quickly, have good instincts, figure things out for themselves; they don't wait to be told. They can read people and situations. If you lived on the streets, you done these things to survive. I got promoted to corporal pretty quick. It was just a promotion in stripes. I had two: one for private first class, and then corporal. The stripes went on both arms and showed your rank. Later at Camp Mackall, I was promoted to squad sergeant, leading the mortar squad. I never wanted to become a sergeant, it was just the way I was. Most of the men did not want to accept that kind of responsibility. They're smart. They know what it entails and they don't want no part of it.
- p. 22-23
- In June, we got attached to the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles. They were formed August 1942. They had the 502nd as their only parachute regiment. Then they added the 506th and the 501st. We didn't know what the 101st was about. We were hoping to go to the 82nd because they were going overseas real fast. The 82nd Airborne was well established. They were a damn good outfit. They were in Africa, and they fought on D-Day and up in Holland and Bastogne, too. When we became part of the Screaming Eagles, we put on our eagle patches, and we were so proud. Our division general was Maj. Gen. Bill Lee. He's the one who said, "We have no history, but we have a rendezvous with destiny." He never made it into combat. He had a heart attack before we left.
- p. 33
- Combat was getting closer, and I took it upon myself to learn every gun that I could get my hands on. Taking initiative is part of what makes a person a little better. No one tells you to do it, but you do it.
- p. 36
- I drove trucks. I drove Jeeps. I tried to be versatile. I didn't say a word to nobody. I just did it. If I told them, they'd have me all over the damn place. So I played dumb like a fox. Keep your mouth shut, never volunteer. You got to learn that real fast. When you first come in everybody volunteers. Once you volunteer, you think, What the hell did I do that for? I said to myself, Keep your mouth shut, you dummy. You don't know what the hell they're going to throw at you. It's usually the worst thing in the world. Never volunteer. Turn your back and run the other way. Say you didn't hear it.
- p. 37
- People ask if your first kill is hard. It was easy as squashing a bug. I released a lot of anger.
- p. 63
Quotes about Guarnere edit
- I first made contact with Bill on November 18, 1999- the night before my fourth and final audition for the miniseries. It was a gig I wanted more than anything in my life and I was hoping that a last-minute call would give me some kind of good luck- some edge that would make the difference. I had read the book a few months before our first chat and had spent every waking moment since becoming an expert on all things Easy Company and all things Guarnere. The more I learned about him the more superhuman he became to me. From his rough-and-tumble childhood on the streets of Depression-era South Philly to his losing a leg in Bastogne to save the life of his friend- it all added up to a man unlike any other I had ever known. A hero. A legend, and I needed to hear his voice to make him "real" to me.
- Frank John Hughes, as quoted in Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story (2007) by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron with Robyn Post. New York: Berkley Caliber, hardcover, p. 281