Bloomsburg University program focuses on segregation during World War II

For Immediate Release
Date: April 7, 2005

BLOOMSBURG— Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania will bring together two World War II veterans who didn’t meet until 50 years after the war in the program “We Are Brothers” Thursday, April 21, at 7 p.m. in Carver Hall’s Kenneth S. Gross Auditorium.
Herbert Heilbrun and John Leahr were both pilots. Heilbrun flew missions over a Germany in a B-17 while Leahr was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen who escorted the bomber squadrons. Although Heilbrun’s bomber squadron was primarily escorted by the all-black Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Squadron pilots in P-51 Mustangs, Heilbrun and Leahr had never met.
It was not until Heilbrun’s curiosity got the best of him and he decided to search through American military records that he learned Leahr had piloted one of the planes that escorted him on his missions. When they finally met 50 years after the war at an annual meeting of the Tuskegee Airmen, they discovered that not only were they from the same hometown, Cincinnati, but that they could be found standing next to each other in a third-grade photograph.
The two men realized racial segregation kept them apart in the military and in the years to follow. They vowed to share their story for historical enlightenment and to improve interracial understanding. Since then, they have traveled around the country speaking about their experiences, their friendship and their hope for future generations.
The presentation is sponsored by the Office of Social Equity and is open to everyone, free of charge.
Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students and offers 65 bachelor’s, 17 master’s and one doctoral degree.