A kid from Philadelphia

The jump into Normandy

Brecourt Manor and Carentan

Attacking the guns at Brecourt Manor

We thought he was nuts

Operation Market Garden

The Bois Jacques

After the war


[Annotators Note: The interview begins with Guarnere and the interviewer talking about previous interviews Guarnere has taken part in.]William Guarnere grew up in South Philadelphia. He was the youngest of 10 kids. He has written a book on his life. Guarnere had two brothers in the service. His brother Henry was killed during the war and is buried near Cassino, Italy. Guarnere initially wanted to join the Marine Corps because he heard that they were the best. On his way to the enlistment center he saw a poster advertising the Airborne. It looked exciting and paid more so he joined the Army. After enlisting, Guarnere was sent to Camp Tombs, Georgia, later called Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Captain Sobel trained them. At the beginning all of the training was physical. A lot of good men were weeded out because they could not handle the hard physical training. They would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and run up Curahee Mountain. Guarnere joined the company in July 1942. In 1938, 1939, and 1940 he had been in the CMTP [Annotators Note: Civilian Military Training Program]. When he joined the 3rd Platoon he did not tell anyone. He had two steps up on everyone. Captain Sobel was a good training officer. He did everything he told the men to do. But in combat he was no good. Everyone knew that he was not good, but it was not until just before D-Day that they got rid of him. After Sobel, they got Lieutenant Meehan [Annotators Note: 1st Lt. Thomas Meehan]. Meehan went down with the plane carrying the company headquarters and was killed. If Winters had been made the company commander he would not have survived D Day. He would have died in that plane.


[Annotators Note: William Guarnere was a paratrooper in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.]On 5 June they were all ready to go. Then the mission was cancelled. That was when they were shown the sand tables again. That night they saw the movie Mr. Lucky with Cary Grant. Looking at the sand tables the hedgerows looked low. They thought that they would just be able to jump over them. The weather was the determining factor as to when they would go. The men were nervous but they were ready to go. Guarnere could not wait to go. The following morning they were told that they were going. They were carrying everything they needed. They overloaded themselves with ammunition. It took two or three guys to help them get into the plane. Guarnere jumped with a .45cal Thompson submachine gun. The first few guys in front carried a leg bag. The leg bags were to carry extra supplies and ammunition. They overloaded the leg bags so much that when they jumped they lost the bags. Everybody who carried a leg bag lost it. Joe Toye had a leg bag and so did Guarnere. Toye was behind Guarnere on the plane. Guarnere had overloaded his leg bag. He put it on his lap for the flight over the English Channel and his leg fell asleep. When he stood up to hook up he almost fell over but Toye grabbed him and pushed him out of the plane. Toye was a tough guy. He and Guarnere were good friends. When Guarnere jumped he was a three stripe sergeant and was in charge of the mortar squad. On D-Day Guarnere was made platoon sergeant and put in charge of 2nd Platoon. When they landed Guarnere knew exactly where they were. He landed in the square in Sainte Mere Eglise. They had landed in the 82nd Airborne drop zone. They were eight or ten miles off course. When Guarnere hit the ground, he went back to pick up the men in his stick. He found Joe Toye, Malarkey, and Compton. They took off and headed for their objective.


[Annotators Note: William Guarnere was a paratrooper in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.]In the book and the series the company was together and went out to attack the guns [Annotators Note: the German artillery battery emplaced at Brecourt Manor]. Guarnere does not recall it happening that way. He does not think that they would have been sent out with only 10 men to attack the guns if the whole company was available. They attacked the guns at Brecourt Manor from the front. The Germans did not expect an attack from the front. Winters set it up and they carried it out. The Germans thought they were being attacked by a large force but it was only 10 men. They killed about 20 Germans there. They were shooting and throwing grenades. During the battle a grenade went off between Joe Toyes legs and Popeye got shot in the rear end. When the battle ended Guarnere was in a trench looking through his binoculars at the German positions and he was so exhausted that he fell asleep. Toye thought had been hit and ran over to him and when he slapped Guarnere on the back he woke up. Guarnere was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the attack on the guns. Winters received the DSC [Annotators Note: Distinguished Service Cross].After Brecourt Manor they made the attack on Carentan. They were supposed to get relieved to go back to England then jump again. Carentan was a pretty big town. The account in the book and in the series of Winters standing in the middle of the road just outside Carentan is true. The men were scared. They thought Winters was crazy for standing there. The machine guns were shooting right down the ditches they were in. Finally Lt. Welsh took a group around the flank and knocked out the machine gun and they were able to move into the town. After their time in Normandy they were supposed to jump on Paris. For political reasons they did not and were sent back to England. There next jump would be the Holland operation that Montgomery came up with, Operation Market Garden. Guarnere met Babe [Annotators Note: Edward Heffron] when he got back to England from Normandy. When they got back they [Annotators Note: replacements] were there waiting for them. Guarnere had not known him before then but could tell by the way he walked that he was from South Philly. Guarnere sent Babe to be a machine gunner with Joey Toye. Toye was from Reading, Pennsylvania.


[Annotators Note: William Guarnere was a paratrooper in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.] Operation Market Garden was different. It was a day jump. They had a beautiful landing zone. Unfortunately they were dropped too far from the bridge and by the time they got to it was blown up right in their face. They should have jumped closer to it. It was an ill conceived mission. The American 101st Airborne landed at Eindhoven and the 82nd Airborne landed at Nijmegen. The British landed in Arnhem. As the British ground forces launched their part of the operation they would pass through the 101st Airborne first. The problem was that they had never fought together. The concept of the operation was that the British that landed at Arnhem would be the first to enter Germany. Montgomery wanted to be the first one into Germany. That is what Guarnere thinks anyway and that is what he put in his book. The way he saw it the regular British soldiers fought like lions but they were led by donkeys. The Dutch were completely different than the French. They hate the Germans. When they got there the first thing they saw was the girls who had been with Germans either being killed or having their heads shaved. The Dutch also fought alongside the Americans. The Dutch were also the first to invite them back after the war. Guarnere has been back 15 times. Holland is very flat and there are a lot of dykes. There was also a church in every town and they knew that there would be Germans up in them. They would tell the British tank crews to blow up a church because there were Germans in it but the British would not. They were under orders not to. Guarnere and the others did not want to destroy the churches but there did not have a choice. The new guys like Babe [Annotators Note: Edward Heffron] did well. They were in Holland longer than they were in Normandy. Guarnere feels that they were there so long because of Montgomery. They did not know it but the senior leadership though that the war would be over by Christmas but then Hitler started the Bulge. The paratroopers did not feel the same way. The Germans were still fighting hard and the closer they got to Germany the harder they fought. Many of the men went on pass to Paris. They ran into some SS in Holland. They were much better trained than regular German army. They were the best the Germans had. When Guarnere went to Phoenix to bury his friend Johnny Martin, Martins son Billy, who had been a Marine in Vietnam, asked him to tell the story about the pistol he gave his dad in D-Day. Guarnere did not remember anything about giving Martin a gun on D-Day so when he got home he went through a roster of the company. He started with the As and worked his way down. When he got to George Lutz it all came back to him. Guarnere had surprised two German SS officer and killed them both. He gave the Luger pistols each one had to George Lutz and Johnny Martin. The reason it came back to him when he saw Lutzs name was that one day he and Lutz went on a pass to London. They did not have any money so they took the gun and sold it and used the proceeds to go on pass.


[Annotators Note: William Guarnere was a paratrooper in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.]In combat Guarnere never underestimated the Germans. They were better trained and better equipped. Everything the Germans had was much better than what the Americans had except volume. The Americans could produce more. After the war Guarnere did not care about the Germans. After they got back from Holland they were in Mourmelon resting when the Bulge began. Trucks pulled into the area and they were ordered onto the trucks. They were trucked toward Bastogne. When the trucks came up they were told to get on them with whatever they had on them. They were told that other trucks would bring up clothing, guns, ammunition and medical supplies. They did not know it but the medical team had been up there first and had been captured. They first went into Bastogne itself then moved out into the Bois Jacques. In the Bois Jacques they could see the Germans and the Germans could see them but they were so far away they could not shoot at each other. They got into their fox holes and repulsed everything the Germans sent through. The Germans sent infantry and tanks and the paratroopers turned them back. The Germans were constantly probing the lines. The Ardennes during that winter was the coldest on record. One night Tony Garcia approached Guarneres foxhole. Guarnere could hear him coming. Garcia had fallen into some water and was frozen. They did not take too many casualties in the Bois Jacques. Most of the casualties were from the cold.By this time Winters had gone up to battalion. Moose Heyliger [Annotators Note: Frederick T. Heyliger]. After Heyliger got shot Norman Dike took over the company. To Guarnere Dike was kind of like Sobel. He would just sit in a foxhole during the fighting so they called him foxhole Norman. Dike was not a leader. He had just been thrown in. Winters and the other officer were separate from the enlisted men except Buck Compton. They could talk to Compton. The day Guarnere and Toye got banged up Compton had had enough. The day Guarnere was hit they had attacked the town of Foy then fallen back. The Germans were firing artillery at them. When Guarnere saw Joe Toye get hit he went to try to get him on a stretcher but when he got to Toye Guarnere got hit too. Toye had been out of his foxhole when he was hit. Guarnere heard him yelling and without thinking he left his hole to go to his aid. Guarnere thought Toye was dead after the second shell that hit him. Guarnere thought he would not make it. Guarnere and Toye spent a year in the same hospital. Guarnere kept up with his friends from the company after he left. When the war in Europe ended he thought that they would have to go to Japan and did not like that. He knew that things were worse in the Pacific than they had been in Europe. Guarnere had been sent home by the time the Germans surrendered. He was in a hospital in Atlantic City on VE Day.


Heffron [Annotators Note: Edward Heffron, also known as Babe] knew that William Guarnere lived on 17th Street and came to see him after the war. They have been friends ever since. The best thing about the war was meeting guys and making lifelong friends. The worst thing was seeing guys get killed. Guarnere thinks that institutions like The National WWII Museum are important if those who visit it are interested in learning about it. If they are not then what good are they? Guarnere feels that if the war and holocaust did not affect someone directly then they do not care about it. He does not think that the way things were in the 1940s could be the same today. He thinks the kids today are too spoiled. Guarnere wishes the war in Iraq would wrap up. War is different today. Some of the things E Company did during the war would land them in Alcatraz today. Guarnere thinks that Sobel is the reason Easy Company has stayed together all these years. He really bonded them together with that training. Guarnere saw Sobel after the war. He even paid the dues for Sobel to come to one of the reunions but he did not. His sister and nephew did go to a couple reunions. Sobel did what he had to do and it worked out.

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