William J Guarnere
It's with great sadness that I announced, the 8th March 2014, Bill Guarnere passed away.
<- William Guarnere in 1944 and 1954 ->
William J. Guarnere was born on April 28, 1922 in the Philadelphian southern suburbs in Pennsylvania. He is the youngest of a family of 10 children.
At 15 years old, his mother enrolled him in the CMTC (Citizen Military Training Corps) for a help program concerning young people aged between 15 and 17 years old during repression. The beginning of the war ended the program and Will left the CMTC after three years.
<- William Guarnere au Camp Toccoa en 1942
William first worked at Baldwin Locomotive Works before joining the parachutists in June 1942. He then integrated E Company of 2nd battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne.
He was promoted to Sergeant during summer 1942.
Few days before D-Day, William found out about his older brother’s death which happened in Monte Casino,Italy. He was dropped off over Normandy totally furious and in pain,.
“At the time, I had no feeling whatsoever. My feeling was for my brother, who was killed. That infuriated me. And that’s why, when I jumped on D-Day, I swore I would kill every damn German I came across. That’s why they nicknamed me Wild Bill. I killed a lot on D-Day.”
“Flak was terrible. Anti-aircraft as absolutely horrendous.It was like a July the 4th celebration, 10 time over. Wheter it was high, low, no matter where we were. Out! They were getting shot up.”
William took part in the storming of Manor of Brécourt’s battery which was made of 4 88. guns. For this feat of arms, he received the Silver Star.
“I never thought I’d get through D-Day let alone the next phase. I thought was gonna get killed instantly. The chances of survival is very slim. There’s the parachute. I got that done in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1944. Me and Johnny Martin. Drunk as a skunk.”
When he came back to Aldbourne, he was promoted to sergeant chief.
On September 17, he jumped over Holland (the Operation Market-Garden).
“I twas a Sunday afternoon, noontime, 70 degrees. Everybody got together. We all assembled very fast. They called us “angels from the sky” wich we were. I mean, you’re under German occupation for four years. It’s horrible, and you see paratroopers come out of the sky. Who were they? They were the angels. They loved you.”
On October 5, Guarnere took part in a counter offensive carried out by Captain Dick Winters. This semi counter-offensive disorientated two SS companies which were about attacking the 506st PIR’s HQ.
Then, in December, he took part in the defense of Bastogne. He was then seriously wounded.
The 1st of January, the company moved out towards Foy which was still in German hands.
The woods they occupied was named Bois Jacques.
As they just settled down, the Germans started firing. Sergeant Toye, a close friend of Guarnere was seriously wounded.
“Most intense I ever went through here, shelling. Most intensen in the world! Couldn’t believe it! You had to be here!
It scared the hell. I wass scared, but I think I was petrified then. I thought the whole world was shooting at us at once.”
As suddenly as it started, the bombing stopped.
Guarnere ran out of his foxhole to carry help to his friend.
At that moment, the artillery fired again.
A shrapnel burst out above his head which torn his right leg to pieces.
Toye and he were sent to the hospital and sent back England.
“Joe said, « Jesus Christ what do I have to do to die ? » He got hit real bad in the back of his leg! He’s out hollering, “Medic,” and he can’t find a medic. I went out to see what I could do for him... I got it too.”
He got an amputated leg, cut just above the knee. He was demobilised during summer 1945 and got a 80% disablement allowance.
<- William Guarnere when he left the hospital
William “Wild Bill” Guarnere ended the war as a Staff Sergeant. He received the Purple Heart (for Bastogne), the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Victory Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation.
After the war, he got married to Maria and got 5 children.
He worked as a printer, a salesman, and as an employee for the ex-serviceman ministry and as a carpenter : he did everything with just a single leg !
“I built homes. I was in construction. I went into hard work, tedious work. I’d done everything. You name it, I done it. Everyone done well, I done well too, thank God.”
He ended up having a 100% disablement allowance in 1967.
He got rid of its artificial leg and since then moves out with a crutch.
He lives in South Philly.
That is what he said about his companions:
“If you see them today, that bond’s there. The bond you can’t explain. Soon as you see them, you’re thinking of battles, thinking of it to yourself. The men stand out amongst each other.”
Not a long time ago he was there for the commemorations.
“The heroes had crosses over their heads the ones that are buried in the cemeteries. Those are the true heroes, not us! We’re just part of the works. And we thank God we got back alive. That’s all.”
But it seemed it was his last appearance. As he gets older, he wants to end his life in peace quietly.
<- Last appearance of Guarnere