On Friday, I posted about Judge Ross and the judge’s valiant service in the Army Air Corp during WW II when he was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Today, I want to remember Judge Ross’ dear friend, Judge Gerald Heaney, who also served for many years on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Ross and Judge Heaney could not have been more different when it came to their politics. Both men were very “heavy hitters” on the national political scene and in their respective political parties. Nonetheless, both men had a strong kinship when they served together as judges. Their friendship was evident and very moving to those of us who had the opportunity to see it first hand. I believe that their mutual respect and true affection arose out of the fact that both Judge Ross and Judge Heaney had a perspective about what was truly important. In my view, that perspective was forged during the war.
Judge Heaney was an officer and an army Ranger. He won the Bronze Star, but it was the Silver Star for heroism on D-Day that speaks most loudly. Remember the old movies showing someone rushing a machine gun hidden in a concrete pillbox? In Judge Heaney’s case, life imitated art.
Here, in the sparse language the military favors, is Judge Heaney’s Silver Star citation:
FIRST LIEUTENANT WILLIAM G. HEANEY, 01309733, Infantry, United States Army, for gallantry in action in connection with military operations against the enemy on 6-7 June 1944 in France. Upon landing at Omaha Dog Green Beach, Vier Ville-sur-Mer, Lieutenant Heaney and his men were pinned down by heavy enemy machine gun,mortar, and artillery fire. With utter disregard for his personal safety, Lieutenant Heaney stood up, induced his men to continue the attack and led them across the beach to accomplish their mission in due operational time. The undaunted courage and leadership demonstrated by Lieutenant Heaney reflect great credit upon himself and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.
Reprinted in Judge Myron Bright’s letter of nomination of Judge Heaney for the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award for 2005.
I had the great good fortune to know Judge Heaney. He was a quiet, gentle and kind person with a towering intellect and a deep concern for the common man. Sadly, Judge Heaney is gone now. Nevertheless, we need to remember him for the extraordinary courage he displayed during two days in June, 1944 and for so much more.