Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends

Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends by William Guarnere and Edward Heffron

Since the Miniseries and book, Band of Brothers, came out many other stories have followed. Individual stories told by some of the men in the 101st. This is one of them. 

Guarnere and Heffron went by their nicknames in the war, Wild Bill and Babe. (They are in Band of Brothers. I didn't catch on until I was reading the book, but Babe is in the Bastonge episode with Roe, He's the one Roe calls Edward, and he scolds Roe for not knowing his nickname. "Only the nuns call me Edward!" At the end of the episode Roe is bandaging up his hand and calls him Babe.)

Wild Bill and Babe met after the drop into Normandy. They grew up only a few blocks from each other but didn't realize it until Winters sent Babe to meet another man from South Philly. The two hit it off when they started to talk about their homes. Babe says that after that Bill began to look out for him.

While the two of them didn't really fight side-by-side through the war they did fight together. Wild Bill was a Lieutenant so he didn't spend as much time with the non officers. He and Babe were friends, but during the war they were closer to a couple other man than they were to each other.

At the Battle of the Bulge Wild Bill is hit while trying to save Joe Toye who had his leg nearly blown off. (This isn't a spoiler, but a historical fact, so there. It's in the miniseries and the book and is even in the summary of this book.) The whole thing was one of the most painful to watch in the series. After he sees them, half dead and missing their legs, Buck Compton shuts down and has to be taken off the battlefield.

Wild Bill was sent home, but Babe continued to fight. He made it all the way to the Eagle's Nest. After the war, the two men met up. Or as Bill put it, Babe found him playing craps in the street and he wasn't able to get rid of him since. They said they saw each other every week at least or called each other every day.

The book goes back and forth between them, and is written in a way that feels like your sitting in your grandpa's living room listening to him tell you stories. (I loved the parts were Bill had to put his two cents worth into Babe's part of the story.)

I especially loved Bill's stories. He calls the reader kid and did those, "Back in my day," moments. It was comical because they come off like, "Back in my day the trees tired to kill you, the sky was bluer, and my shoes lasted me my whole life." Bill was one of those easy going men who didn't care what people thought about him. I loved reading his story. He was also brutally honest. It seems that in most stories things are hidden to make the hero more heroic. Bill didn't hide his faults. His brother was killed right before he jumped, and he made a point to kill every German soldier he saw. He was very honest about it, telling about what he felt and how mad he was. He also still referred to girls as broads, which I found so funny.

Babe's writing was gentler, but there's a reason Bill's nickname had wild in it. Babe's side of the story balanced Bill's out and made the book amazing.

There is language in it, especially Bill's parts. But it's worth reading. These two men were amazing.

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