SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It has been a year since the inseparable Pieper twins were reunited for a final time.
Julius “Henry” Pieper and Ludwig “Louie” Pieper were born to Otto and Anna Pieper, German immigrants, in 1925 in Esmond, South Dakota.
The family moved to Creston, Nebraska, when the twins were around eight-years-old. Upon graduation from Creston High School in 1942, the twins moved to Lincoln where they worked with the Burlington Railroad.
In 1943, Henry and Louie enlisted together in the U.S. Navy. Shortly after, they reported for active duty and were transferred to the U.S. Naval Training Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. By May 1943, they became radio operators at the Radioman School at the University of Chicago.
On January 7, 1944, they joined the LST-523 mission to deliver supplies at the Normandy beachhead and remove the wounded. The flat-bottom vessel, Landing Ship Tank Number 523, never made it to its destination because it struck a German underwater mine and sank off the coast just 13 days after the D-Day landings.
Of the 145 Navy crew members, 117 died including Louie and Henry Pieper. Louie was laid to rest in the Normandy American Cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach. The remains of his brother were eventually recovered in 1961 but weren’t identified until several decades later.
Seventy-four years later, the inseparable Pieper twins— whose service on the same ship ran against standard military policy— were reunited.
“They pleaded with grandpa,” said Linda Suitor Pieper, their niece. “Grandpa then wrote a letter to their commanding officer saying, ‘My boys came into the world together, they want to serve together, and if they go down together, so be it.’”
But a positive identification wasn’t made until 2017, and it took a Nebraska high school student doing a history project to put together what the military had not.
“She ran across my uncles’ names, and they said, ‘Oh, same name! Oh, same birth date! Oh, same death day!’ and she knew she had a story there,” Pieper said.
“I’m just really happy for them that they are finally being buried together and for the whole family that it kind of came to a conclusion, a happy conclusion like this, it’s very exciting for them I am sure,” Vanessa Taylor, the student who made the discovery, said.
The Pieper boys were given full military honors.