16 May 1923|
South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1 December 2013 (aged 90)|
Stratford, New Jersey
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942-1945|
|Rank||Private First Class|
|Unit||E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division|
Good Conduct Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Edward James "Babe" Heffron (16 May 1923 – 1 December 2013) was a private with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during World War II. Heffron was portrayed in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers by Robin Laing. Heffron wrote Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with fellow veteran William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and journalist Robyn Post in 2007.
Edward James Heffron:8 was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1923,:87 the third of five children to Joseph (a prison guard) and Anne. The family was Irish Catholic and attended Mass every Sunday and Heffron and his siblings attended Sacred Heart Catholic School.:8–9 He attended South Philadelphia High School, but had to drop out to earn money during the Great Depression.:11–12
He went to work at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey, sandblasting cruisers in preparation for converting them to light aircraft carriers. Because of his job he had a 2B exemption from military service, but he didn't use it, since he wanted to go with his friend, Anthony Cianfrani, into the airborne.:13–14 As a teenager, he had developed an intermittent medical condition where his hands and fingers would curl under and lock-up, causing severe pain (possibly, the onset of Dupuytren's contracture), but this was never mentioned to anyone as he wanted to continue playing football in school. Either the exemption or the medical condition would have allowed him to remain stateside, but he refused to stay home when his brothers (Joseph, James, and John), friends, and neighbors were all doing their duty.:10–11,14 Heffron enlisted on 7 November 1942 in his hometown.
As a replacement member of E Company, Heffron fought and proved himself in several major battles, including Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium. During the Battle of the Bulge he served as a machine gunner and was awarded the Bronze Star. He helped liberate the Kaufering concentration camp in Landsberg, Germany, and in the seizure of Hitler's Eagle's Nest (Kehlsteinhaus).
While at jump school Heffron made a pact with his two best friends, John T. "Johnny" Julian and J. D. Henderson, that if anything happened to one of them, the others would gather up that person's personal belongings and return them to that person's family, while also making sure that they contacted the family and carried out any other individual requests. Henderson was wounded in Veghel, and made it back to the U.S.:51, 57, 124
Julian became Heffron's best friend during the time they shared while in front-line combat. On 1 January 1945, Heffron was in his foxhole manning his machine gun when he heard Sergeant Johnny Martin cry out that Julian had been hit. He left his position and attempted to get to Julian, but enemy fire prevented any approach. Every time he tried to make a move for Julian, the Germans opened fire, driving Heffron and his fellow soldiers back. Later, the squad that Julian was in repelled the Germans and brought back his body, but Heffron couldn't bring himself to look at his friend's corpse.:180–181
Heffron thereafter maintained he always hated New Year's Day, with its reminder of the anniversary of his friend "Johnny" Julian's death; he also thereafter always felt a similar dislike concerning Christmas Day, with its reminder of the anniversary of his Battle of the Bulge experiences in Bastogne. It was twelve years after the war ended before Heffron could bring himself to call Julian's mother, honoring the pact he and his friends had made at jump school.:237–238
In early May 1945, after E Company's penultimate operation, the capture of the Eagle's Nest, Heffron was standing guard duty at a crossroads near Berchtesgaden when German General Theodor Tolsdorff, commander of the LXXXII Corps, came down the road leading 31 vehicles (much of it loaded with the General's personal property). The general told Heffron that he wished to surrender, but only to an officer, not to an enlisted man. The officer who ultimately accepted the surrender was Lt. Carwood Lipton.:267–268
After the war, Heffron went to work for Publicker Industries, which operated a whiskey distillery plant at 3223 South Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia. In 1966, after he had been employed by Publicker for 20 years, it relocated its operation from Philadelphia to Linfield, Pennsylvania; Heffron did not relocate with the company, and spent the next 27 years working on the Philadelphia waterfront, checking cargo and clerking.:223
In the Band of Brothers miniseries Heffron was played by Scottish actor Robin Laing. Heffron appears as himself at the end of episode ten, speaking about the Company, and also makes a brief cameo appearance in the fourth episode, as an unidentified man sitting at a table in Eindhoven and waving a small flag, while Sgt. Floyd Talbert is seen kissing a Dutch woman.:267
Heffron wrote Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story with fellow veteran William "Wild Bill" Guarnere and journalist Robyn Post in 2007, outlining the activities of E Company 1942-1945.
For many years Heffron had trouble celebrating Christmas because of the friends he had lost during the hard fighting around Christmas time 1944. Toward the end of his life, Heffron expressed concern that he was dying so close to Christmas because he didn't want to spoil the holiday for his friends and family.
Death and legacy
On 17 September 2015, the 71st anniversary of Operation Market Garden, a statue of Heffron's likeness was unveiled in his old neighborhood in South Philadelphia. Located near 2nd and Reed streets, the 5'7" statue includes a plaque detailing Heffron's military career, as well as a bronze heart that contains a portion of his and his wife's ashes.
- Guarnere, William; Heffron, Edward; Post, Robyn. Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story. New York: Berkley Caliber. ISBN 978-0-425-21970-6. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
- "United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KMNQ-8S5 : 5 December 2014), Edward J Heffron, enlisted 07 Nov 1942, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing "Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946," database, The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (AAD) (https://aad.archives.gov : National Archives and Records Administration, 2002); NARA NAID 126323, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
- Alexander, Larry (2005). Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers. NAL Caliber. ISBN 0-451-21510-9.
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1992). Band of Brothers: Easy Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7434-6411-6.
- "Duty Bound". People. October 15, 2001.
- "Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron: A Remembrance". Philadelphia. March 14, 2014.
- WWII veteran and honorary graduate of West Point High School, Babe Heffron, dies
- 'Babe' Heffron, 90, hero of 'Band of Brothers'
- "'Band of Brothers' WWII Vet "Babe" Heffron Dies at 90". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "Edward Heffron, of WWII's 'Band of Brothers,' dies". Military Times. December 3, 2013.
- Farnsworth, Taylor. "Babe Heffron memorial statue unveiled in Pennsport | Passyunk Post". Retrieved 2017-05-11.
- "Homage to a humble hero, a son of South Philly". Philly.com. Retrieved 2017-05-11.