June 6, 1944

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RxCowboy

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#1
This brings tears to my eyes. So sue me.

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force:

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.

The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force
June 6, 1944
 

RxCowboy

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My dad in 1942, after Pearl Harbor, before shipping out. The shoulder patch appears to be 11th Armored Division which was in Europe. However, I know that my dad served in the South Pacific, those are the stories he told us, so the shoulder patch is a bit of a mystery. My brother thinks he may have been in Europe for some time before going to the South Pacific, but I never heard him talk about it.

Dad in uniform.jpg
 

RxCowboy

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From wikipedia:

The 11 AD landed in France on 16 December 1944, crossed into Belgium on 29 December, and entered Germany on 5 March 1945.​

I know dad wasn't in France in 1944. He was in the South Pacific. He must've trained in the 11th Armored and then been transferred before shipping out.
 

John C

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My step-father, who was on the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor, operated one of the landing craft on D Day. He said he couldn’t look at the faces of the young men who boarded the craft because he knew many of them would be dead or badly wounded in a matter of minutes. I can’t even begin to imagine what either of those events would have been like.
 

Bowers2

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My best friend growing up had a grandfather who went into France on D-Day +21. This man and his wife had as much hand in raising me as my own grandparents. He joined the army after Pearl Harbor. His unit joined Patton’s 3rd army and was the first to fight on German soil. He graduated from Oklahoma A&M. He made flag poles for people in my hometown and loved to see the flag fly. Here’s to the greatest generation and what they went through for us.
 

RxCowboy

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I watched Patton and Ike: Countdown to D-Day today. Patton is my favorite WWII movie. I cry pretty regularly during WWII movies, at the bravery of the Greatest Generation. They were the best of what America can be.
 

Pokey

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My late Father flew his first two missions on D-day. 8th Air Force 490th Bomb group. Said he knew we would win the war when he saw all the ships on their way to Normandy. First B-24 group in England, shot down crash landed, finished 35th mission in B-17. DFC and Air medal with 4 oak leaf clusters. 19 years young that day over France.
 
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#19
How A High Schooler Helped Reunite Twins 74 Years After Their World War II Deaths
1530760823089.png

U.S. Navy personnel carry the casket of World War II sailor Julius "Henry" Pieper during a reburial service at the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France, on June 19. Seventy-four years to the day after their ship hit a mine off the coast of Normandy and sank, the soldier's remains were finally reunited with, and laid to rest beside, his twin brother Ludwig "Louie" Pieper.
Virginia Mayo/AP


Sometimes a high school history project ends up making history. That's what happened when a 16-year-old Nebraska student decided to participate in the National History Day project in 2015.

Partly due to her research, the bodies of two American twin brothers, separated at death during World War II, were finally reunited.

On June 19, 2018 — 74 years to the day after they were killed off the coast of Normandy, France — Ludwig Julius Wilhelm "Louie" Pieper and Julius Heinrich Otto "Henry" Pieper were laid to rest side by side in the Normandy American Cemetery, high on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.

The twins were born in Esmond, South Dakota, and grew up in Creston, Neb. They enlisted in the Navy together and took part in the 1944 D-Day Normandy invasion as radiomen 2nd class on the same landing ship.

1530760914408.png

An undated photo, provided by family member Susan Lawrence, shows twin brothers Julius (left) and Ludwig Pieper in their U.S. Navy uniforms.
Susan Lawrence via AP



Nearly two weeks after D-Day, Landing Ship Tank 523 was crossing the Channel from England, trying to reach France's Utah Beach. It was loaded with men, vehicles, equipment and explosives. The ship hit an underwater German magnetic mine, exploded and sank within minutes, according to the American Battle Monuments Commission. The Pieper twins were 19 years old.

Rescuers found Louie's body after the explosion. But Henry's wasn't immediately found and identified. He became one of World War II's tens of thousands of missing in action. His name was inscribed on the Walls of the Missing at the American military cemetery in Normandy, where Louie was buried.

Henry's remains were eventually discovered, but remained unidentified. For decades, the body was labeled "Unknown X-9352" and was buried at another military cemetery in Belgium — until now.

Tim Nosal, who heads external affairs at the American Battle Monuments Commission in Virginia, says they are always looking for America's missing soldiers, but this time there was an incredible coincidence that helped them find one.

"We were looking at all the information we have on the unknowns in our cemeteries when, at the same time, a high school student in Nebraska was doing research," says Nosal. "And it's almost like a new piece of the puzzle came across the table."

It was 2015, and Vanessa Taylor was a student at Ainsworth High School in Ainsworth, Neb., and was looking for a topic for a class project.

"We were supposed to select a silent hero from our state," says Taylor, now a student at the University of Nebraska.

She began her research by looking at websites listing soldiers killed from her state.

"I just happened to notice there were two people killed who had the same exact last name," she says. "So I thought it was kind of interesting and wondered if there was a connection or if it was just a coincidence."

Taylor says she found out they were twin brothers who served in the same branch of the military. "And they were on the same ship when they died," she adds.

1530761197546.png

Headstones for Ludwig and Julius Pieper sit side by side in an American military cemetery Normandy.
Eleanor Beardsley/NPR


Taylor's requests to the U.S. government for personnel files on the sailors caught the attention of officials at the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, which tracks soldiers who have been prisoners of war or missing in action. They drew a possible link between the missing twin and the remains of six unidentified sailors found by French divers who were dismantling a sunken American ship off Omaha Beach in 1961. Those unidentified remains were buried at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium.

"It was fresh [information] to them and it helped them put the pieces together to identify a sailor that was missing from this particular vessel," says Nosal.

The remains were positively identified as Henry's in November 2017, using DNA and dental records.

The twins had four other siblings. Their last living sister, MaryAnn Pieper Lawrence, died in May.

At the June ceremony in Normandy, her daughter Susan Lawrence said her mother got the news of the positive identification last Thanksgiving.

"For her, it was like the biggest burden lifted off her shoulders. She was just carrying it all this time," says Lawrence. "What happened to the brother — and to have him identified and know he was found, it was the biggest blessing for Thanksgiving we could have possibly had."



Family members of the Pieper twins, Linda Suitor (left) and Susan Lawrence, hug during a reburial service for their uncle at the Normandy American Cemetery.
Virginia Mayo/AP


The family asked the monuments commission if they could bury the twins side by side in the verdant, pine tree-lined cemetery above Omaha Beach.

Louie's body was moved to a space where it could be reburied next to Henry.

"The American Battle Monuments Commission went out of its way to make it happen," says Lawrence.

At the end of World War II, about 79,000 Americans were unaccounted for, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Today, the agency's website says, more than 72,000 remain unaccounted for from the war.

Many bodies have been identified, says Nosal. But once they are, their families usually repatriate them to the United States.

He says this is the first missing soldier to be identified and buried in this Normandy cemetery of more than 9,300 graves.

"People will be talking about the Pieper twins and visiting their graves for as long as this cemetery exists," he says. "Five million visitors come through this cemetery each year. If you were to rebury your loved one in a private cemetery back home, he would never receive so many visitors. There's a strong message here for the world, of what these men sacrificed their lives for."

As the June ceremony got underway, taps was played as six midshipmen carried Henry's flag-draped coffin between the rows of white marble crosses and Stars of David. The twins' family members sat in a row of chairs on the green lawn. Six nieces and nephews of the twins traveled from the U.S. to witness the burial of uncles they never met.

One of the nephews, Louis Henry Pieper, is named after both twins. His father died before learning of the discovery of the missing sibling's remains.

"He knew that one of his brothers was buried in Normandy and the other one was unknown," said Pieper. "It was always a wound in his heart not knowing where his brother was, so he never talked about it."

As eldest niece and next of kin, Linda Pieper Suitor, was presented with the flag from Henry's coffin after the ceremony. She said this event has changed her life.

"I think I've found a new purpose for my life," Suitor said. "I'm going home and I'm going to visit high schools and share this story and make sure students know about this history project. I'm going to tell them what it's meant to me and my family."

The casket of U.S. Navy sailor Julius Pieper lays next to the grave of his twin brother Ludwig during a reburial service at the Normandy American Cemetery, in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Virginia Mayo/AP

A newspaper clipping from the summer of 1944 in student Vanessa Taylor's online project says 300 people turned out for a memorial ceremony for the twins in their little Nebraska town. Henry and Louie were the first sons of Creston to die in the war, according to the old newspaper article.

The twins were first-generation Americans. Both their parents had emigrated from Germany. Niece Susan Lawrence says the family was proud to be American and knew Hitler had to be stopped.

Initially, Henry and Louie were separated in the Navy. But their father wrote a letter asking that they be able to serve together.

And Lawrence recalls that the twins wrote to their parents just before they died.

"Do not worry about us," she remembers it saying. "We are together."

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/04/624354851/how-a-high-schooler-helped-reunite-twins-74-years-after-their-world-war-ii-death
 

OSU79

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My grandpa never spoke a word of the war. Only that the French were gross and threw urine on them.
Well, 58K plus Americans currently lay in repose in French soil. That's why they aren't speaking German today.
Yep. He had a huge problem with French people. Wouldn’t say much but they treated him and his fellow soldiers like garbage.
Of all the places I've been and things I've seen, nothing is as moving as a walk through the US Cemetery at Normandy. My kids were ages 10, 12 and 16, and even they were in awe - total silence, even with a number of groups of visitors. We strolled randomly, stopping often to read they names and ages of the dead and mostly very young heroes. Later we visited Omaha Beach - it is hard to realize just how small the area really is and how entrenched the Germans were high above the beach. Given the concentrated area of their fire it was hard to imagine how anyone was able to survive the landing, until you realize that the Allies simply kept pouring men onto the beach in such numbers that there weren't enough German bullets to stop them all. Standing on the beach and looking up at what the Allied soldiers faced almost made me physically ill - it's almost incomprehensible the courage it must have taken to board the tiny landing craft and head to shore.

Also, it is interesting to note that while France definitely has a very high per-capita ratio of assholes, there are numerous private residences in Normandy that choose to fly the American flag along side the French flag. It's at least a little comforting that some still appreciate the sacrifice of so many American lives to oppose tyranny.