An LA Alum, One of the Band of Brothers...

An LA Alum, One of the Band of Brothers...


Frederick "Moose" Heyliger parachuted into Normandy 80 years ago today...


By John Bishop, Director of Communications


As we stand in the wake of Commencement 2024 and gear up for the upcoming reunion weekend, it makes sense to reflect on Lawrence Academy's history and how many former students and faculty have made significant contributions to events around the globe.


Take, for instance, the efforts of our alums 80 years ago, many of whom joined forces from around the world to fight alongside the Allies and play a crucial role in the liberation of Europe. The pivotal campaign began on D-Day, June 6, 1944, when soldiers from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and other allied nations successfully breached Nazi-occupied France.


The Lawrence Academy community's commitment to the cause was evident before this monumental event. On December 10, 1942, Principal Fred C. Gray shared in a letter to alumni that 172 former students were actively serving "on land, sea, and in the air," with four having already made the ultimate sacrifice and others enduring captivity in prison camps.


Captain Frederick "Moose" T. Heyliger, '37, of Concord, Mass., was among the 172 LA students.




Frederick "Moose" Heyliger '37

Decades later, Heyliger remains widely recognized for his association with the Band of Brothers, the men of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, as featured in the book by author Stephen Ambrose and the eponymous miniseries produced by Stephen Spielberg. The men in this unit fought "from the beaches of Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest" after enduring rigorous mental and physical training in the United States.


In the acclaimed HBO miniseries, actor Stephen McCole brings the late Heyliger to life, positioned as the heir to Major Richard Winters, the revered commander of "Easy" Company. As a result, Heyliger's contributions gained broader recognition with the widespread success of the book and series.


"I think he secretly enjoyed the notoriety that the HBO miniseries brought," said his son Jon. "He never would have sought out any notoriety, though. He certainly never did when we were growing up.


"But I think he enjoyed being known as one of the Band of Brothers when he was in the VA hospital in Bedford, where he was at the end."


However, "Moose," who played varsity football for LA (reportedly at 205 pounds, wearing a size 18 collar), is perhaps best remembered in his 1937 Lawrencian: "[An] authority on nature study who can be seen almost any afternoon equipped with his camera, notebook, and field glasses" tramping about the Groton countryside.


After the war, Heyliger's passion for the outdoors led him to Stockbridge College of Agriculture (part of UMass Amherst). Initially enlisting in 1940 in the Army Air Corps, he transitioned into an airborne officer (as Fred admitted having trouble landing planes). He displayed exceptional bravery during the D-Day invasion and subsequent operations in France and Holland (including an operation that rescued over 130 British Paratroopers). His courage was recognized with numerous commendations, including the British Military Cross and an Army citation for gallantry, among others.


Easy Company with British troops.

Easy Company with British troops. Is that Moose on the right (Screamin' Eagles patch)?


Handwritten notes from his wife Mary regarding his D-Day experience explain that Moose landed in a cow pasture around 1:30 AM on June 6, 1944, hitting the ground well outside his drop zone. Heyliger then hiked toward Utah Beach, connecting with soldiers who landed with the 4th Infantry. He fought with the infantry for several days before rejoining his paratrooper unit.


Stephen McCole

Stephen McCole as "Moose" Heyliger

Heyliger's combat experience concluded when he was wounded by friendly fire on October 31, 1944 (when a jumpy sentry shot him when Fred forgot the password); Heyliger spent nearly three years in military hospitals recovering from his wounds.


"Dad never talked about his injury," recalled the late Fred Heyliger Jr. (who also attended LA) when interviewed for Marcus Brotherton's book A Company of Heroes. "But he had a good-sized scar on his shoulder, and the whole calf on the back of his right leg was gone."


Speaking of the entry in his father's yearbook to Brotherton, Fred Jr. ensured that people understood that his dad — like many who served during WWII — remained true to his stateside nature despite the horrors he had witnessed and endured in combat.


"Picture Moose Heyliger wandering over the Groton hills with binoculars and a bird book," said Fred Jr. "That's how I'd want people to remember my dad."


Frederick "Moose" Heyliger, the "little" brother of LA Athletic Hall of Fame honoree Vic Heyliger '33, passed away in 2001 at 85 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord. He is fondly remembered and reminds us of the debt of gratitude owed to those who serve our country.


Heyliger (bearded) and seated with fellow Easy Company vets in 2001.

Heyliger (bearded) and seated with fellow Easy Company vets in 2001.


Additional notes: Current students can find a copy of Band of Brothers book given to the school by "Moose" Heyliger on the history shelf of McDonald Library... Meanwhile, near-graduates need only flip a few pages to see Heyliger's name etched under the entry for 1937 in the Alumni Register... Finally, Moose Heyliger's grandson Mark Heyliger, was also a paratrooper and parachuted into France to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004 (while wearing his grandpa's wings), and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He wrote about his military experience. Mark also said of his grandfather, "He loved his country. He loved serving in the Army and his fellow soldiers. And he believed some personal sacrifice on his part was well worth the reward: a safer, more free and more just world."


An earlier version of this article appeared in the 2014 Academy Journal.