WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to name the Avondale Cincinnati Post Office for two Ohio World War II aviators, John H. Leahr and Herbert M. Heilbrun.
John Leahr and Herbert Heilbrun both flew for the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II. Leahr was a Fighter Squadron P-51 Mustang pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen and Heilbrun was a B-17 bomber pilot. The Tuskegee Airmen escorted American bomber groups in Europe during World War II, and the two men flew on some of the same missions. They did not get to know each other, however, until 1997 when Heilburn attended a reunion of the Tuskegee Airmen to thank the unit for its work protecting his bomber. Leahr and Heilbrun discovered they had much in common. They were in the same elementary school class in North Avondale. They volunteered for the Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor and worked in the same airplane engine factory while awaiting training. They even had similar career paths after the war. Leahr and Heilbrun became friends and dedicated their later years to sharing their experiences in World War II and promoting interracial understanding and unity. The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations honored them for their work in 2003, and their story is recounted in the 2007 book Black and White Airmen: Their True History.
This bipartisan legislation has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in the House by Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) and co-sponsored by the entire Ohio delegation.
“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to name the Avondale Cincinnati Post Office after John Leahr and Herbert Heilbrun. By naming the post office, we will honor the memory and lives of two incredible men who served our country during World War II and continued their public service long after their military service came to an end,” said Portman. “Their dedication to sharing their experiences in World War II and promoting interracial understanding and unity should serve as an inspiration to us all. Their service to Ohio and to our nation is something that should never be forgotten.”
“I was pleased to engage with the Avondale Community Council on this renaming. John Leahr and Herbert Heilbrun represent the best of Ohio. Their story is yet another chapter in Ohio’s rich history of achievements and bravery in aviation, as well as friendship bound by service, mutual respect, and trust,” said Brown. “This legislation does more than honor the legacy of these two great Ohioans – it implores all of us to live as John and Herbert have – to lift each other up, find common ground, and reject bigotry.”