Brothers in Battle

Author: William Guarnere, Edward Heffron & Robyn Post

I have watched Band of Brothers several times since it’s arrival to our screens in 2001. Before the series, I had little comprehension of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne. Since the series, my interest has grown. I have read several books relating to the 506th, each written by different members of the Regiment. While the campaigns were the same, their descriptions of them and after effects of them varied from man to man.

‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere and ‘Babe’ Heffron were an oddball pair. Different men from different walks of life but with a shared commonality of their hometown – Philadelphia.  This book is a memoir of how these two found each other at the worst time in life – war. How they became best friends and how that continued until the end of their lives.

Some reviewers  have said that this book is not well written. This book is not perfectly written, but neither should it be. The way it is written, captures every ounce of our authors personalities and language. What’s a memoir if it doesn’t do that? Every line that you read, I guarantee you can hear that South Philly accent in your head. Both Bill and Babes personalities shine through in this book as they talk about “limeys”, “the Piccadilly lily’s” and “bobbies”.

Given the subject matter, and our authors backgrounds, there is a necessity to capture the insanity and the rawness of the situation that they found themselves in during World War 2. This book achieves that without a doubt. A combination of background information about incidents and talk about campaigns fought. Chat about what they got up to on their time off and how excited they were to get their wings. Combine all these things along with everything else and you have one hell of a story.

What made this book blossom for me, was the background that was not party to the Band of Brothers TV show. It showed more of their life, more of who they were. This book gave so much more than Band of Brothers.  Of course, we know who we think Bill and Babe are, from Frank J. Hughes and Robin Laing`s performances, but who were they really?

What is written on the pages of this book, and especially for me the way it’s written, gives you a much better understanding of Bill and Babe, and what it was that drove them to be paratroopers. They describe each aspect of the war in the book and the actions that they took. Of course we are all familiar with how Bill lost his leg, during that selfless act of going to help his friend. There are many acts of what we would define as heroism.

They have been called heroes but are very keen in this book to remind readers that they have never considered themselves as such. Both men talk in the book of how a “hero is someone who doesn’t come home”. How a hero “is a mother who has lost a child”. To these men, those people are the heroes as they feel they have given more to the war than they (Bill and Babe ) did.

Their stories needed to be together. The camaraderie that they had from day one served them well and lasted for life. They knew each other almost better than anyone else. The bond that they clearly had from the day Bill learned Babe was from Philly…was beautiful to see through the pages.

The epilogue of this book was an added bonus. A written treat from the actors entrusted with the roles of William Guarnere and Edward Heffron. Both Frank Hughes and Robin Laing took research to the next level. Talking to these guys. Asking the right questions. Learning from them. Should we mention getting drunk with them? Most of all, they learned all they needed by simply respecting the man and honouring the history. Honouring everything Bill and Babe did and everything they fought for.

Gentleman, thank you for your service.

Rest easy with your comrades.