Keller bill recognizing ‘Band of Brothers’ veterans signed into law

HARRISBURG, Dec. 21 – Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law legislation authored by state Rep. Bill Keller, D-Phila., honoring a pair of World War II veterans from Philadelphia portrayed in the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

House Bill 1279, now Act 87 of 2015, designates Columbus Boulevard between Oregon and Washington avenues in Philadelphia the William J. Guarnere and Edward “Babe” Heffron Memorial Boulevard.

“These hometown heroes deserve to be recognized in a permanent way that reminds everyone of the great sacrifices they made,” said Keller, Democratic chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “When I had the honor of befriending both men, it was apparent how much they loved our city and our country. I’d like to thank my colleagues for their support of this legislation, and our veterans throughout the commonwealth for their committed service.”

Guarnere and Heffron served with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division. Their stories were part of the 2001 miniseries “Band of Brothers,” produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, which chronicled Easy Company’s missions during World War II.

Guarnere, known as “Wild Bill,” graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1941 and worked for Baldwin Locomotive Works before joining the U.S. Army the following year. He served as a staff sergeant and paratrooper who made his first combat jump on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France. In addition, Guarnere fought during the Battle of Normandy, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He was later awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, among other honors. Guarnere passed away last year at 90.

Heffron attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and South Philadelphia High School, and worked for New York Shipbuilding in Camden, N.J., before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942. He served as a private first class, and fought in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, before helping to liberate the Kaufering concentration camp in Landsberg, Germany. Heffron was also awarded several honors, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. Heffron died at 90 in 2013.

The legislation also includes language naming sections of other roadways after notable men, including: a portion of US Route 222 in Lancaster County the Sen. Noah W. Wenger Highway; the bridge on State Route 1029 over the Tunkhannock Creek in Wyoming County the Jody Allen Cron Memorial Bridge; Exit 113, State Ramp 8001, from Interstate 79 onto State Route 208 in Mercer County the Lt. Col. Michael E. McLaughlin Veterans Ramp; and the bridge located on State Route 88 over Muddy Creek in Greene County the Army Spc. Richard W. Kowalewski Jr. Memorial Bridge.