Heffron, Edward James “Babe”, born 19-05-1923, in South Philadelphia, nicknamed South Philly, Pennsylvania, 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. He attended South Philadelphia High School, but had to drop out to earn money during the Great Depression.
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. 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.:Heffron enlisted on 07-11-1942 in his hometown. As a replacement member of E Company of the 101 Airborne Division under command of General Maxwell Taylor , Heffron fought and proved himself in several major battles, including Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, where he liberated my hometown of Eindhoven and the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne, Belgium. During the Battle of the Bulge he, a private first class, 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.
Julian became Heffron’s best friend during the time they shared while in front-line combat. On 01-01-1945, Heffron was in his foxhole manning his machine gun when he heard Sergeant Johnny Martin
cry out that Julian had been hit. Martin died age 82 on 26-01-2005. Heffron 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.
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.
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 Lieutenant Lipton, Clifford Carwood “The Man”. .
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.
Heffron and Guarnere, William Joseph ”Wild Bill” remained lifelong friends after returning home. Guarnere was Heffron’s best man at the latter’s wedding in 1954. He was also the godfather to Heffron’s daughter Patricia.
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 Sergeant. Floyd “Tab” Talbert is seen kissing a Dutch woman. Floyd Merrill Talbert survived the war and died age 59, on 10-10-1982
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.
Despite having never graduated from high school, Heffron was named an honorary graduate of West Point High School in West Point, VA in 2013.
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. Bill Babe Heffner and Wild Bill Guarnere many times came to Holland for the Remember September festivities, where I met him personal
Death and burial ground of Heffron, Edward James “Babe”.
Heffron died on 01-12-2013 at Kennedy Hospital in Stratford, New Jersey; he was survived by his wife Dolores and daughter Patricia.
On 17-09-2015, 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.