World War II Soldier Created Beer He Didn’t Know Became a Legend

One of the most memorable events of the Battle of the Bulge took place in Bastogne, Belgium, in December 1944. It’s the siege during which Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe responded to Germany's offer to have the American surrender with one word: “Nuts.” Vincent Speranza, who lives in Auburn, Illinois, was with the unit and saw a lot of his buddies killed and wounded at Bastogne. That included his friend, Joe Willis, who was wounded when he was hit by shrapnel in his leg. Speranza asked Willis if there was anything he could do for him. “Yeah, go find me something to drink,” said Willis. Speranza happened to find a bombed-out tavern, and when he pulled the tap behind the bar, he was surprised to see beer come out. He took off his helmet and filled it with beer. When the other wounded men near Willis saw the beer, they wanted some too. Speranza had to go back to the church to fill up his helmet with beer again and again. That's where the story would have ended had it not been for the 2011 commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the battle in Bastogne. Speranza traveled there for the events, including visiting the museum dedicated to the siege. While there, he met two young soldiers. “You were the GI who gave beer to the wounded,” they said. “You’re famous in Europe!” Speranza didn't know what they were talking about, so the two men called a waiter over and ordered some Airborne Beer. It seems a Bastogne brewer commemorated the story with the beer. The Airborne Beer label shows a soldier, which now is known to be Speranza, carrying a helmet full of beer. Today, Speranza, who is 96, still lives in Auburn, Illinois, and is still happy to share his story.