'Babe' Heffron, 90, hero of 'Band of Brothers'

Edward J. Heffron in 2010. His book, cowritten with a fellow vet, was preceded by inclusion in Stephen Ambrose's book and followed by two TV appearances.
Edward J. Heffron in 2010. His book, cowritten with a fellow vet, was preceded by inclusion in Stephen Ambrose's book and followed by two TV appearances.
Posted: December 04, 2013

Edward J. "Babe" Heffron, 90, the former Easy Company private whose World War II experiences were chronicled in the cable TV miniseries Band of Brothers, died Sunday, Dec. 1, at Kennedy Hospital in Stratford.

Mr. Heffron served as a machine gunner with the Second Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division from 1941 to 1945.

He fought in some of the major conflicts of the European Theater - Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium - and used his stories as fodder for a memoir.

The 2007 work , Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends: Two WWII Paratroopers from the Original Band of Brothers Tell Their Story, was written with longtime friend William Guarnere and journalist Robyn Post.

Post said Mr. Heffron made a point to go to schools, teaching children that the war was not a joke or fairy tale but an actual historical event with serious worldwide implications.

"He shared what he saw and experienced so that they could get a sense that this really happened," Post said. Mr. Heffron also wanted to honor his war buddies who never came home, and make sure that people never forgot their sacrifice.

Mr. Heffron's heroics were also chronicled by the historian Stephen Ambrose in his book Band of Brothers, and Mr. Heffron's character was portrayed by the actor Robin Laing in the TV miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in 2001.

Mr. Heffron appeared as himself at the end of Episode 10, describing Easy Company; he also had a cameo part in Episode Four.

A South Philadelphia native, he dropped out of South Philadelphia High School during the Great Depression to support his family. He enlisted in August 1941.

At parachute jump school, he and two buddies vowed that if any were to die in battle, the others would make sure his personal effects were delivered to the family.

One buddy, J.D. Henderson, was wounded, but returned to the United States safely. But Mr. Heffron's best friend, John T. "Johnny" Julian, was killed in a foxhole by German fire on Jan. 1, 1945. His death so upset Mr. Heffron that it was 12 years before he could carry out the pledge and approach Julian's family.

Mr. Heffron helped liberate the Kaufering concentration camp in Landsberg, Germany, and aided the Allies who seized Hitler's Eagle's Nest. For his valor, he received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

After the war, Mr. Heffron went to work for Publicker Industries in the firm's whiskey distillery on South Delaware Avenue. In 1966, Publicker moved to Linfield, Montgomery County, but Mr. Heffron chose not to go. He checked cargo on the Delaware River waterfront for the next 27 years and retired at age 70.

Surviving are his wife, the former Dolores Moffitt, and a daughter, Patricia Zavrel.

Services are private.


bcook@phillynews.com

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