While Hollywood may have a penchant for over-dramatizing historical events, there are few who would claim that the events chronicled in the 2001 miniseries "Band of Brothers" were embellished. Rather, many critics say that it was the real actions of William Guarnere and his fellow soldiers of Easy Company during World War II that defy belief.
Military.com reported that Guarnere, 90, passed away Mar. 8 in his hometown of Philadelphia. While he may have lived a relatively obscure life after military service, the WWII veteran's story was brought to light by historian Stephen Ambrose's 1992 book and immortalized by the television series.
Guarnere was only a year out of high school when he enlisted in the Army from his home in South Philadelphia. As readers of the book and viewers of the series know, Guarnere was placed into the 101st Airborne Division that would parachute behind enemy lines days before the D-Day invasion.
While most soldiers were concerned for themselves, Military.com explained that Guarnere had learned his brother was killed fighting in Italy just days before his jump. His fearless actions during countless firefights after the jump and until the completion of the war in 1945 earned him the nickname "Wild Bill."
"He was without a doubt one of the bravest and best soldiers in all of Easy Company," historian Jake Powers told NBC Philadelphia. "He was one of the best combat leaders not only in his company but also the division. If there was a fight going on with the 1st Platoon or 3rd Platoon, Bill would miraculously show up and leave 2nd Platoon to go help."
Guarnere's tour of duty would be cut short when he lost a leg attempting to rescue a fellow soldier from an artillery barrage as Easy Company marched across Belgium.
Guarnere's life after service
Though Guarnere was no longer a solider, he never let go of Easy Company completely. Powers told NBC Philadelphia how the veteran would coordinate reunions for the surviving members of the company with constant newsletters and personal notes.
Decades before their exploits would become widely known – Guarnere would not tell his own son about his experiences in WWII – Powers believed that he was the real reason Easy Company stayed in contact after so many years.
"He was the glue that held the Company together," Powers said.