Edward James "Babe" Heffron (16 May 1923 – 1 December 2013) was a private with Easy 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 was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1923, the third of five children to Joseph (a prison guard) and Anne. The family were 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 them to be converted 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. When a teenager, he had also developed an intermittent medical condition with which his hands and fingers would curl under and lock-up, causing severe pain (possibly, the onset of Dupuytren's contracture), but he never told anyone about this because he wanted to keep 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 7 November 1942 in his hometown.
As a 'replacement' member of Easy 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. This is incorrectly portrayed in the Band of Brothers episode "Bastogne", where Heffron refers to Julian as a "new replacement".
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.
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 Easy 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.
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 remained lifelong friends after returning home. Guarnere was Heffron's best man at the latter's wedding in 1954. He was also godfather of Heffron's daughter Patricia.
Heffron is referred to frequently in the Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers; in the HBO/DreamWorks/Playtone miniseries of the same name produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in 2001, he 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, sitting at a table in Eindhoven and waving a small flag, while Sgt. Floyd Talbert is seen kissing a Dutch woman. He was also in the HBO series "The Sopranos" being watched on T.V. by Tony Soprano in Season 5 episode 2.
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 Easy 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 Edward had trouble celebrating Christmas because of the friends he had lost during the hard fighting around Christmas time 1944. Towards the end Edward expressed concern that he was dying so close to Christmas because he didn't want to spoil the holiday for his friends and family.
Edward Heffron died on 1 December 2013 at Kennedy Hospital in Stratford, New Jersey, four days after the death of Earl McClung, who was also portrayed in Band of Brothers. He is survived by his wife Dolores and daughter Patricia.