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John Frank Heifner,

Deadeye

1926 - 2013

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Friends and Family of my father John Heifner,
I count it a great honor to be the son of such a humble and great man. My dad was a consistent loving father that was so fair and just with his family and his businesses. He was always so supportive and nurtured his family to keep the faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. I will sorely miss him and will eagerly look forward to seeing him on the other side some glad morning.
Mark Heifner   
July 26, 2013
Obituary

John Frank Heifner passed away at his long-time residence at Alexandria on Friday, July 26, 2013, in the early morning hours at the age of 87. John was born in Arlington on April 22, 1926.
His father died in 1938 when John was twelve years old. He graduated from Arlington High School in 1944. He served in WWII with the U.S. Army in Okinawa in 1944. He was a member of the 96th Infantry and was in a division known as the Deadeyes.

Upon returning from military service he attended a technical trade school in Chicago.  While working in Fort Wayne he visited Muncie and met Barbara Nell Savage on a blind date. They were married on June 15, 1952, in Alexandria. The couple raised four sons and regularly attended the First Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Alexandria.

He was employed at Delco-Remy at Plant 10 in Anderson for thirty-three years and was a member of UAW #662. He served as a youth leader, teacher, deacon and elder in several Christian fellowships. He was an officer in the Full Gospel Men’s Fellowship in Elwood. In recent years he attended Cornerstone Community Church in Alexandria.   He retired in 1983 and enjoyed gardening, lawn work, church work, family time and especially watching his children and grandchildren play sports.

John is predeceased by his father, Albert, mother, Nellie, of Arlington, and his sister Betty Reuille of Waynedale. John is survived by his loving and devoted wife, Barbara (Savage) Heifner, of sixty-one years. John is lovingly remembered and honored by his four sons, Steven Heifner of Palm Bay, Fla., Kenneth (Sarah) Heifner, Mark (Rhonda) Heifner of Angola, and Jeff Heifner.  He is survived by sixteen grandchildren: Anna (Brian) Elliot of Martinsville, Angie Heifner of Indianapolis, Adriel (Bill) Pike of Shelbyville, Amber (Brandon) Aiman, Aaron (Mary Ann) Heifner, Andrew (Lindsay) Heifner of Tarpon Springs, Fla., Susie Lindell of Noblesville, Chris Heifner, Lance (Natalie) Heifner, Shana (Mitch) Walter, Caleb Heifner, Kaylee Heifner, Carter Heifner, Ella Heifner, and Joseph John Heifner all of Angola, and Nathaniel Heifner of Evansville.  John is remembered by his sister’s children: Tom (Nancy) Reuille, Ron (Sandy) Reuille, Don (Linda) Reiuille, and Bonnie (Bill) Blaising of the Fort Wayne area.   

He also leaves behind sixteen great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

He was a faithful man that lived his life for Jesus Christ with great respect towards God, family, and country.

 
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The Service of Deadeye, John Heifner

In late 1944 WWII was raging all over the world.  John Heifner was just 18 when he received his draft notice to appear for his physical exam to enter the service. His family drove him to the Armory in Indianapolis on North Pennsylvania Street where he passed with flying colors. John raised his hand and was sworn in the Army. He would always remember the date: It was September 14, 1944.

From there he was transported by bus to Camp Atterbury just south of Columbus, Indiana to begin his career. Here he would be fitted with army clothing, get shots, and be processed to be sent to Basic Training. He heard the humorous yell, “You’ll be sorry” several times by men in nearby lines also being sorry.

He would get up at 4:30 every morning roused from his bunk in the barracks and wait in a long line for an hour before the loudspeaker played Reveille, to get a taste of warm black coffee, eggs and bacon all served on warm plates. Here is where he learned to appreciate the famous saying “Hurry up and wait.”

Camp Atterbury was the home to many wounded veterans who were at Wakefield Gardens; a very large US hospital and to the men in the famous 101st Airborne Division who fought at Bastogne. It also incarcerated Italian prisoners of war. Camp Atterbury today is a vital military hub. There is also a chapel built by those Italians and a fine small public museum.

John soon traveled by rail to Camp Blanding, Florida where he received 15 weeks of strenuous Basic training. The Army unit he will join was now engaged in killing Japanese in the Philippines on the island of Leyte.

When John finished Basic in January he came home for a few emotional days and traveled by rail to beautiful Fort Ord, California, and after a few days of training went to Ft Lawton, Washington, an old small army post just east of Seattle. At that time Ft Lawton was a dreary place to ponder one’s military future. It was relatively warm and rained much of the time.

He shipped from the United States on February 12 to beautiful Oahu, Hawaii where he received advanced army training for one month, and from there he shipped to the sweltering hot tropical island of Saipan in the Mariannas for a month of very intense infantry training.

It was here that he met Bill Hill. They had quarters in the squad tent together where they shared the experiences of the day with others. They shared an emotional evening with others in a farewell get together in the recreation hall; twice singing the song: “My Buddy.”

They sailed in a large convoy to Okinawa in sub infested waters and landed there May 1, 1945 in a rainy evening just like spring in Indiana. John was assigned to K Company as a rifleman in the 382 Infantry, 96th Division. His Company was assigned to protect the Kadena air strip. Bill was assigned to M company.

On April 9th his Company proceeded to the front lines just south of Koghi Ridge and moved into the foxholes of haggard riflemen in the 7th Division. They had been in a terrific and bloody battle to take the area and had lost many men. Now they will have a chance to rest and get replacements.

On the 11th K Company took part in a big Army offensive all across the line. John pushed off with his squad, with his loaded rifle on his hip and grenades hanging on his straps and experienced his first hell of combat.

Japs were waiting. They were in tunnels behind each hill and their artillery and machine guns had been zeroed in; ready to kill. They were so deeply dug that our intense artillery barrages were ineffective. So when our men attacked in open ground they were stricken down by cross fire and frontal attack by Japanese crawling out of their safe tunnels, with their bayonets drawn.

When our men charged up those hills they were quickly dropped in place. They left screaming buddies behind as they bravely pushed on up with their rifles blazing at each Jap that appeared. This meant that waves of our men had to be used to overcome the numbers of Japs coming up out of the tunnels. Our men climbed over bodies as they attacked with grenades flying, mortar rounds dropping and machine guns chattering. Often rockets were launched from aircraft and large shells launched from cruisers moored offshore. Tanks were used when possible.

This lethal mayhem often went on for hours, with counter-attacks from both sides as the battle shifted. Officers yelled orders to sergeants and directed artillery fire, while medics treated those still alive and stretcher bearers lugged men back to aid stations.

The battle changed by nightfall. However artillery shells still came screaming in and Japanese infiltrated the lines and slit the throats of men asleep in foxholes. Often grenade battles lasted for hours.

This was the experience of the front line troops all across the lines for weeks in April, May, and June of 1945 and a lot of it in the rain. America lost thousands of men; but John’s life was spared. He made a promise to God that if he lived he would serve Him the rest of his life.

John bravely participated in battles in the days that followed, His Company fought for and took Dick, Item, Zebra, Baker, Oboe hills and then farther on south took Ozato and finally Aragachi. The island of Okinawa was declared secure on the 22nd of June.

John and Bill Hill had limited contact but John told Bill that he had been in a foxhole with a couple of his buddies and returned to learn that an artillery shell had come crashing in and killed them while he was gone.

Company K had fulfilled its mission and headed back north to live above ground and in tents again. Here they took warm showers and watched movies and searched for lost buddies. The war was not over.

 

In early August a menacing typhoon was headed for Okinawa and the 96th Division was ordered to leave the island. Soon they boarded ships and sailed in the churning waters of the typhoon for Mindoro, an island in the central Philippines.

It was later on this voyage that they heard of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima Japan. They were all hoping for the end of the war.

When the second one dropped on Nagasaki they were elated.he division landed on Mindoro and set up their tents and waited for the peace treaty to be signed.

(It was here Bill took a picture of John holding his rifle. It was the one used to make a bookmark you can find on this website).

The division sailed home in December with all the older men and left the younger men who were transferred to the 86th Division on Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines.

When assigned to this Division John had the title “Reconnaissance Car Crewman.”

 

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John’s Company was stationed in tents about ten miles west of Manila in a town named Mariquina as occupation troops until October. Then he shipped home in a nineteen day voyage to San Francisco and was quartered at the Oakland Army Base where he was quickly processed and sent to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois.

From there John was sent home and put on military leave until December 2, when he was discharged.

 
John Heifner was awarded these medals
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Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Ribbon with one bronze battle star, Philippine Liberation Medal, Victory Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and Marksman M1 Rifle

 
 
A Letter from Mrs. Heifner

The one thing that I remember John said that he was so scared while fighting and one night he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus in a fox hole. When he came home, he made his public confession at his church in Arlington, In. and was baptized in the creek following that afternoon.

After we were married, we always attended church regularly and John taught a Sunday school class of 7th and 8th grade students. We also led the young people’s group on Sunday evenings for a while. He was an elder in the Christian church for some time also.

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I remember the boys would get down and crawl under the seats when John was at the communion table and I couldn't keep all of the four at my side at one time. We lived through it all and was blessed. John always loved fox terrier dogs. He had one at home growing up and we too had one through the years. 

We had many nice trips with the sons and in later years. We went down to South Texas and over to Mexico on short missions to give out beans and rice clothing water etc. John was better with the Spanish than I was.  I'm so thankful at this Thanksgiving season for all the blessings that God has given to John and my family.

Blessings, Barbara

 
 
An Old Deadeye Buddy

Several years after the war, Bill Hill began searching for his old buddy John and he remembered he was from Alexandria. Bill always thought John was a great guy. After a few telephone calls Bill made contact and they met in Noblesville with their wives at a restaurant for lunch. Much to Bill’s disappointment John didn’t remember him. So Bill kept reminding him about several incidents but John still couldn’t remember.

Barbara called Bill a few weeks later and said that John was beginning to recall some things after all. Everyone kept in touch by phone and then later on by email. Then one day in 2013 Barbara emailed Bill and said John was terminally ill and had returned home.

At that time Bill came up to see John and when he had arrived John had previously experienced a seizure the night before and did not recognize him. Bill had brought his army shirt with him to show John’s family his medals and insignia, because he knew they were identical. He put it on over his other shirt and went into see John the second time and as he was his buddy and wanted to give him a final military salute of respect.
It was at this time the short video was made and pictures taken. It was of course a very sad time for John’s family and Bill felt like an inadvertent intruder. He was introduced to John’s family as they came in and felt much honored to meet John’s fine family

w  Click for YouTube video

   

Remember the Deadeyes

John Heifner is featured on this website

http://rememberthedeadeyes.com

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This poem, "Aways a Deadeye" was written by John Heifner's friend, Bill Hill and features a photo taken during WWII of John by his war buddy. Click image for a larger jpg version

 
There is also a bookmark that can be made with John's image on it.
Click Here for Printable Bookmark

 

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