In this undated photo, provided by a family member, Susan Lawrence, two brothers, Julius Pieper, left, and Ludwig Pieper in their U.S. Navy uniforms.
For decades, he was only known as the Unknown X-9352 on a World War II American cemetery in Belgium, where he was buried.
On Tuesday, the soldier would have his identity found and be reunited with his twin brother in Normandy, where the two Navy people came in together when their ship shattered on an underwater mine while trying to reach the blood-soaked D-Day beaches.
Julius Heinrich Otto “Henry” Pieper and Ludwig Julius Wilhelm “Louie” Beeper, two 19-year-olds, of Esmond, South Dakota, rest in peace side-by-side by the end of the day on Tuesday at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France, 74 years after their death, on June 19, 1944.
While Louie’s body was soon found, identified and buried, the remains of Julius were only restored in 1961 by the French salvage divers and non-identified until 2017.
They will be the 45th pair of brothers in the cemetery, three of them are commemorated on the Walls of the Missing. But the Youngsters will be the only set of twins among the more than 9,380 counts, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Julius, radioman second class, like his brother, is buried with full military honors at the cemetery, an immaculate field of crosses and stars of David. The site overlooks the English Channel and Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of the beaches of Normandy, in Operation Overlord, the first step in violation of Hitler’s stranglehold on France and Europe. Family members will be present.
The story of the twins died and were reunited reflects the daily courage of the troops on a mission to save the world from Nazi conquest, and the persistence of the current living-to ensure that no soldier goes missing.
The Pieper twins, inexperienced fellows born German immigrant parents, along the Burlington Railroad and enlisted together in the Navy. Both were radio operators and both were on the same heavy, flat-bottom boat, the Landing Ship Tank Number 523 (LST-523), making the Channel crossing from Falmouth, England to Utah Beach 13 days after the June 6 D-Day landings.
The LST-523 mission is to deliver the supplies on the Normandy beachhead, and remove the wounded. It never got there.
The ship hit an underwater mine and sank off the coast. Of the 145 Navy members of the crew, 117 were found to have perished. Survivors ‘ accounts evoke a heavy storm over the Channel with oblique waves that threw the boat mercilessly for the explosion that smashed the ship.
Louie’s body was to be buried in what is now the Normandy American Cemetery. But the remains of Julius, nicknamed Henry, were only restored in 1961 by the French divers who found them in the ship’s radio room. He was buried as “Unknown” in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neuville, Belgium, dedicated to the fallen of the second world War, in the region that saw the bloody Battle of the Bulge.
Julius’ remains would have remained with those of 13 other troops of the ill-fated LST-523 is still quiet unknown in the Ardennes. But in 2017, a U.S. agency that tracks missing fighters, establishing case files for each of the testimonials of DNA testing identified him.
The Pieper family asked Louie’s grave in Normandy to be moved to make room for his twin brother at his side.
The last time that the United States buried a soldier who fought in the second world War was in 2005, at the Ardennes American Cemetery, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.