Since the infamous battle on Normandy beach in World War II, this soldier was only known as “Unknown X-9352.” His remains were buried at a World War II American cemetery in Belgium where he was interred.
But on Tuesday, that all changed. The soldier would not only have his identity recovered, he would be reunited with his twin brother in Normandy. That is where the two Navy men died together when their ship shattered on an underwater mine. They never even reached the blood soaked beaches on D-Day.
Julius Heinrich Otto “Henry” Pieper and Ludwig Julius Wilhelm “Louie” Pieper were the two 19-year-olds from Esmond, South Dakota. They will now rest in peace side-by-side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France. It is 74 years after their deaths on June 19, 1944.
While Louie’s body was soon found, identified and laid to rest, the remains of Julius were only recovered in 1961 by French salvage divers and not identified until 2017.
Julius’ remains might have stayed among those of 13 other troops from the doomed LST-523 still resting unidentified at the Ardennes cemetery. But in 2017, a U.S. agency that tracks missing combatants, establishing case files for each from witness accounts to DNA testing, identified him.
Their new burial site overlooks the English Channel and Omaha Beach, the bloodiest of the Normandy landing beaches of Operation Overlord. This battle was the first step in breaching Hitler’s stranglehold on France and Europe.
The Pieper family asked that Louie’s grave in Normandy be relocated to make room for his twin brother at his side.
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.
This country is grateful for the ultimate sacrifice these brothers made, and thankful for the team of professionals that enabled them to be reunited.