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Edward Heffron

Soldier whose life was portrayed in Band of Brothers.

Born: May 16, 1923, Died: December 1, 2013

Edward J "Babe" Heffron, who has died aged 90, was a soldier whose service in the Second World War as a member of the US army's famed Easy Company was recounted in the book and television mini-series Band of Brothers starring Tom Hanks.

Heffron and the rest of his Band of Brothers fought through some of the Second World War's fiercest European battles between 1941 and 1945.

A paratrooper in Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Heffron took part in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and helped liberate the Kaufering concentration camp in Landsberg, Germany. He received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was featured prominently in historian Stephen Ambrose's 1992 book Band of Brothers, upon which the HBO mini-series was based.

It followed Easy Company from its training in Georgia all the way to the war's end in May 1945. Its producers included actor Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Heffron was portrayed by the Scottish actor Robin Laing.

He was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Joseph, who was a prison guard, and Anne, both of Irish descent, and had three brothers and a sister.

He attended South Philadelphia High School but had to drop out during the Great Depression so he could earn some money for the family.

His first job was in Camden, New Jersey, where he worked as a ship sandblaster for the New York Shipbuilding company but he then enlisted in the US Airborne in 1942.

He completed two years of training with Airborne, during which time he made friends with John T Julian, who would become central to the Band of Brothers story.

The two became very close, but in 1945 during combat Heffron heard that Julian had been hit. He tried to reach his friend but the German fire was too heavy and he was forced back. Later, when Julian's body was brought back, Heffron could not bring himself to look at it.

Heffron, Julian and several other close friends had been sent as replacements for the 101st Airborne Division in 1944 and assigned to Easy Company of the 506th PIR, where Heffron became a machine gunner. One of his other friends in the company was trooper William "Wild Bill" Guarnere, who was also from Philadelphia.

After the war, Heffron returned home to Philadelphia and found work at a whiskey distillery. He later checked cargo on the Delaware River waterfront.

In the early days, he did not much like talking about the war - and insisted he was not a hero - but he rose to greater prominence when Ambrose's book Band of Brothers was published. When the book was turned into the mini-series, Heffron made a cameo appearance.

Along with Guarnere, and journalist Robyn Post, Heffron wrote a 2007 memoir called Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends.

He is survived by his wife Dolores and his daughter Patricia.

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