It was on Sept. 9, 2001, that HBO launched its 11-hour World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers," which was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 book.

The opening of the 10-part series, which came just two days before the terrorists launched the attacks against America, followed a group of soldiers from "Easy" Company in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. While actors portrayed the main characters, each episode included interviews with some of the real veterans from Easy Company.

One of those soldiers who gained notoriety from the film was Bill Guarnere of South Philadelphia. He was nicknamed "Wild Bill" because of the hatred he held for the enemy after learning his elder brother had been killed fighting in the Italian campaign.

Guarnere, who lost his right leg in the Battle of the Bulge, died last Saturday morning at the age of 90 of a ruptured aneurysm.

He was always willing to share a story during his guest appearances at the Forks of the Delaware Historical Arms Society shows in Allentown's Agricultural Hall over the years.

Babe Heffron, who was from his same Philly neighborhood, was Guarnere's brother in arms with the 101st. One writer said they were like an old vaudeville team.

When Babe died in December after a short battle with colon cancer, also at the age of 90, his son-in-law said he was never one for tears and didn't want any fanfare. His simple advice was, "You got to do what you got to do."

The stand by the 101st airborne against the Germans at Bastogne in December of 1944 came during one of the region's coldest winters on record.

Heffron said whenever he and Bill saw snow, it made them thankful that they weren't in a foxhole and no one was trying to kill them.

Bill never accepted the hero label, which many felt he and his buddies had earned.

"We are not heroes," he said.

"The kids who never came home are the heroes. They risked their young lives, fighting fearlessly for the world's freedom."

Both Bill and Babe had visited the graves of their war buddies in Normandy, Holland and Belgium and kept in touch with some of the people in countries that they helped liberate in the war. Now the two lifelong buddies and American patriots from South Philly belong to the ages.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com