Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: William

Last Name: Guarnere

Birthplace: South Philadelphia, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: J.

Date of Birth: 28 April 1923

Date of Death: 08 March 2014

Rank: Staff Sergeant

Years Served: 1942 - 1945
William J. Guarnere
'Wild Bill'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William J. Guarnere
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army

William J. Guarnere was born on 28 April 1923, the youngest of 10 children, to Joseph "Joe" and Augusta Guarnere, who were of Italian origin. He joined the Citizens Military Training Camp (CMTC) program during the Great Depression. Guarnere's mother told the government her son was 17 while he was, in fact, only 15. He spent three summers in the CMTC, which took four years to complete. The plan was: upon completing his training, he would become an officer in the United States Army. Unfortunately, after his third year the program was canceled due to the pending war in Europe.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor and six months before graduation, Guarnere left South Philadelphia High School and went to work for Baldwin Locomotive Works, making Sherman tanks for the Army. This greatly upset his mother because none of the other children had graduated from high school. In response, Guarnere switched to the night shift and returned to school, earning his diploma in 1941. Because of his job he had an exemption from military service, but did not use it.

Military Service in World War II

Guarnere enlisted in the U.S. Army paratroops on 31 August 1942 in his hometown of South Philadelphia, and left for training at Camp Toccoa, GA. He was assigned to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His first combat jump was made on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France.

He earned the nickname "Wild Bill" because of his reckless attitude towards the Germans. He was also nicknamed "Gonorrhoea," a play on the pronunciation of his last name. He displayed strong hatred for the Germans because one of his elder brothers, Henry, had been killed fighting the German Army in the Italian campaign at Monte Cassino.

Wild Bill lived up to his nickname. A terror on the battlefield, he fiercely attacked every German with which he came into contact. In the early morning hours of 6 June 1944 he joined up with Lieutenant Richard Winters and a few other men trying to reach their objective, to secure the small village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and the exit of causeway number 2 leading up from the beach. As the group headed south, they heard a German supply platoon coming and took up an ambush position. Winters told the men to wait for his command to fire, but Guarnere was eager to avenge his brother and, thinking Winters might be a Quaker and hesitant to kill, opened fire first, killing most of the unit.

Later that morning, he was also eager to join LT Winters in assaulting a group of four 105mm Howitzers at Brécourt Manor. Winters named Guarnere Second Platoon Sergeant as a group of about 11 or 12 men attacked a force of about 50. The attack led by Winters was later used as an example of how a small squad-sized group could attack a vastly larger force in a defensive position.

Wild Bill was wounded in mid-October 1944 while Easy Company was securing the line on "The Island" on the south side of the Rhine. As the sergeant of Second Platoon, he had to go up and down the line to check on and encourage his men, who were spread out over a distance of about a mile. While riding a motorcycle that he had stolen from a Dutch farmer across an open field, he was shot in the right leg by a sniper. The impact knocked him off the motorcycle, fractured his right tibia, and lodged some shrapnel in his right buttock. He was sent back to England on 17 October.

While recovering from his injuries, he didn't want to be assigned to another unit, so he put black shoe polish all over his cast, put his pants leg over the cast, and walked out of the hospital in severe pain. He was caught by an officer, court-martialed, demoted to private, and returned to the hospital. He told them he would just go AWOL again to rejoin Easy Company. The hospital kept him a week longer and then sent him back to the Netherlands to be with his outfit.

Guarnere arrived at Mourmelon-le-Grand, just outside Reims, about 10 December where the 101st was enjoying a little R & R (rest and recuperation) prior to Easy Company being shipped to the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. That took place on 16 December. Because the paperwork about his court-martial and demotion did not arrive from England, he was returned to his old position.

While holding the line just up the hill southwest of Foy, a massive artillery barrage hit their position. Guarnere lost his right leg in the incoming barrage while trying to help his wounded friend Joe Toye (who couldn't get up because he too, had lost his right leg). This injury ended Guarnere's participation in the war.

Guarnere received the Silver Star for combat during the Brecourt Manor Assault on D-Day, and was later awarded two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts, making him one of only two Easy Company members (the other was Lynn Compton) to be awarded the Silver Star throughout the duration of the war while a member of Easy Company.

In his autobiography, Beyond Band of Brothers; Memoirs of Major Richard Winters, Richard Winters referred to Ronald Speirs and Guarnere as "natural killers." In making those statements about both men, Winters was expressing respect, not negativity.

Medals, Awards & Badges

Silver Star Medal
Bronze Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Purple Heart with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Good Conduct Medal
American Theater Campaign Medal
European, African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars & Arrowhead Device
World War II Victory Medal
Croix de guerre with Palm
French Liberation Medal
Presidential Unit Citation with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Combat Infantryman Badge
Parachutist Badge with 2 Combat Jump Stars

Post-Military Life

After Guarnere returned to the U.S. in March 1945, he worked on many construction jobs. He wore an artificial right leg until he was able to secure full disability from the Army, then he threw away the wooden limb and retired. He became an active member of several veterans organizations, and presided over many Easy Company reunions.

He later wrote "Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends:" Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with fellow south Philadelphian veteran Edward J. "Babe" Heffron and Robyn Post, outlining Easy Company's experiences. The book was published by Berkley Publishing Group, Penguin Books in 2007.


Guarnere was one of the members of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by actor Frank John Hughes.


William J. Guarnere was rushed to Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia on Saturday, 8 March 2014, and died of a ruptured aneurysm early that night.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
Guarnere earned the nickname "Wild Bill" because of his reckless attitude towards the Germans.

Honoree ID: 228835   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image