Twin brothers buried together 74 years after WWII death at Normandy

Twin brothers, 19, who died during a WWII D-Day Normandy rescue mission are finally reunited after 74 YEARS and laid to rest side-by-side at a French cemetery

  • Julius Heinrich Otto ‘Henry’ Pieper and twin Ludwig Julius Wilhelm ‘Louie’ Pieper were 19-year-old, US Navy sailors when they died on June 19, 1944
  • An underwater mine sank their boat while they were en route to Normandy 
  • Louie’s body was found soon after and he was buried at the Normandy cemetery
  • Julius’ remains weren’t discovered until 1961 when French divers found them
  • Julius was buried in Belgium, identified only as ‘Unknown X-9352’
  • A US agency was able to finally identify Julius by name in 2017
  • The Pieper family asked that Louie’s body be moved so he and Julius could rest side-by-side at France’s Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
  • The reburial ceremony will be occur Tuesday, 75 years after the twins died 

Twin sailors who died together, but were separated when their US Navy boat sank during a D-Day rescue mission, will finally be reunited in death 74 years later as they’re reburied together in France’s Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Tuesday.

Julius Heinrich Otto ‘Henry’ Pieper and twin Ludwig Julius Wilhelm ‘Louie’ Pieper, of Esmond, South Dakota, were 19-year-old sailors in the US Navy when they died on June 19, 1944. 

The two Navy men died when their ship shattered on an underwater mine while trying to reach the blood-soaked D-Day beaches that day.

Twin brothers Julius Pieper (left) and Ludwig ‘Louie’ Pieper, in an undated photo, were 19 when they died while en route to Normandy, when their Navy boat was hit by an underwater mine. Louie was found quickly and buried, but Julius’s remains weren’t discovered until 1961

The Pieper children (L to R: MaryAnn, Leona, Ivona, twins Louie and Julius, and Fred) in an undated photo, outside their Nebraska home. Louie and Julius were aboard the Navy’s doomed LST-523 when the boat sank on June 19, 1944, during a rescue mission in the wake of D-Day 

Louie’s body was soon found, identified and laid to rest at what is now the Normandy American Cemetery, but Julius’ remains were not recovered until 1961, when French salvage divers found them in the vessel’s radio room.

Julius — given the identifier ‘Unknown X-9352’ — was interred as an ‘Unknown’ at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium, which is devoted to the fallen of World War II in the region that saw the bloody Battle of the Bulge.  

Julius’ remains might have stayed among those of 13 other troops from the doomed LST-523 still resting unidentified at the Ardennes cemetery, had it not been for a U.S. agency that tracks missing combatants, establishing case files for each from witness accounts to DNA testing. 

That agency’s efforts led to Julius’ proper identification in 2017.  

After his identification, the Pieper family asked that Louie’s grave in Normandy be relocated to make room for Julius’ grave so the twins could rest side-by-side.  

By the end of the day Tuesday, the family’s wishes will be granted as the twin brothers will be reburied, together again for the first time in 74 years.

Assistant Superintendent Vincent Joris (on June 15) speaks while standing in front of Julius’ original grave site at Belgium’s Ardennes American Cemetery, where he had been buried as ‘Unknown X-9352.’ He was properly identified in 2017

The grave marker of 13 men from the Navy ship LST-523 who were never identified by name and are now buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery

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The Pieper twins will be the 45th pair of brothers at the cemetery, three of them memorialized on the Walls of the Missing. 

But the Piepers will be the only set of twins among the more than 9,380 graves, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Julius, radioman second class like his brother, is being 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 Normandy landing beaches of Operation Overlord, the first step in breaching Hitler’s stranglehold on France and Europe. Family members will be in attendance.

The story of how the twins died and were being reunited reflects the daily courage of troops on a mission to save the world from a Nazi conquest, and the tenacity of today’s living to ensure that no soldier goes unaccounted for.

The Pieper family requested that Louie (in an undated photo) be relocated from his current burial site in Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, so that he and Julius could rest side-by-side after Julius’ remains were transferred from the cemetery in Belgium

Julius (in an undated photo) and Louie’s reburial ceremony will take place on Tuesday. They will rest side-by-side and be together again for the first time in 74 years

The Pieper twins, callow fellows born of German immigrant parents, worked together for Burlington Railroad and enlisted together in the Navy. Both were radio operators and both were on the same unwieldy flat-bottom boat, 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 was to deliver supplies at the Normandy beachhead and remove the wounded. It never got there.

The vessel struck an underwater mine and sank off the coast. Of the 145 Navy crew members, 117 were found perished. 

Survivors’ accounts evoke a major storm on the Channel with pitched waves that tossed the boat mercilessly before the explosion that shattered the vessel.

The last time the United States buried a soldier who fought in World War II was in 2005, at the Ardennes American Cemetery, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission.

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