pieper ludwig
AGE19 yo
FAMILYParent: Anna H & Otto R PIEPER
RANKRadioman 2nd Class
DATE of ENLISTEMENT27 february 1943 Naval Reserve in Omaha


Force B 

Western Naval Task Force   

US Navy Reserve
DATE OF DEATH19 june 1944pieper ludwig tombe
PLACE OF DEATHin the "Channel"

Map of Normandy American Cemetery

usnr usnr
 pieper twin 1 
pieper julius presse pieper julius h stele

They’ll be together again. Finally.

On June 19, 1944, death separated Julius and Ludwig Pieper, identical twins from Creston, Nebraska. A mine tore apart LST-523, the flat-bottomed Navy cargo ship both served on, just offshore from the newly established Normandy beachhead. The brothers, age 19, died along with more than 200 other U.S. servicemen.

“Everywhere they went, they went together,” recalled Mary Ann Lawrence, 88, their only surviving sibling. “They were normal, average boys.”


The body of Ludwig — known as “Louie” to friends and family — was recovered and buried beneath a white cross at Normandy American Cemetery. But no one ever found Julius, known as “Henry.” His body was lost with the ship, which sank to the bottom of the English Channel.

The Pieper family heard nothing more for decades.

Then in mid-November, Lawrence and her daughter, Susan, got a surprising call from the Navy at the home they share in Fair Oaks, California. Henry’s body had been entombed for decades in a U.S. military cemetery in Belgium, in a grave marked “unknown.” Now his remains had been identified at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Lab at Offutt Air Force Base.

“I was shocked and surprised and happy,” Mary Ann Lawrence said.

And she wasted no time in deciding where Henry should be: next to his brother, in the cemetery at Normandy.

“They were born together, they wanted to be together,” she said.

Henry and Louie were born in South Dakota on May 17, 1925. The family moved to a farm near Creston when they were 8 years old. They graduated from high school there in 1942 and got railroad jobs in Lincoln.

They didn’t stay long. Though only 17, Henry and Louie enlisted in the Naval Reserve in Omaha on Feb. 27, 1943.

The twins completed radioman’s school in Chicago that November and were assigned to LST-523 together. It was part of the fleet carrying soldiers and supplies across the English Channel on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Thirteen days later, the ship struck the mine in the midst of a violent storm. Two other LSTs in the convoy sent small boats to rescue survivors before they died in the cold sea.

Mary Ann Lawrence can’t forget the day two Navy men in dress uniforms came to Creston. They knocked on doors, asking for directions to the Pieper home.

“The neighbors knew before we did, because it was a small town,” she said. “I was baby-sitting for somebody. I walked in, my mom was sitting in the chair, crying.”

Years later, Henry and Louie’s names were etched on a memorial in the Creston cemetery. The town’s American Legion post was named in their honor, and the town museum has a display about them.

In recent years a teenager from Ainsworth, Nebraska, has revived their memory through a high school history project that has grown into something more.

Just before Christmas 2014, Vanessa Taylor, then 16, was selected along with her teacher, Nichole Flynn, to participate in the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute the following summer.

They were among 15 student-teacher pairs from across the United States assigned to research the life of a “silent hero” from their state who is buried at Normandy, to prepare a website and presentation, and then visit his grave.

Taylor was touched by the story of the Pieper twins: one dead, one missing. And like her, they grew up in a small town.

She gathered information about Henry and Louie from official archives and histories. She interviewed Mary Ann Lawrence and visited Creston, which is about halfway between Columbus and Norfolk.

After six months of work, Taylor and Flynn visited Normandy. They toured the cemetery and battlefield, including Omaha Beach, and Taylor delivered a eulogy for the twins at Louie’s grave.

“It was so moving,” Flynn said. “It was really unforgettable.”


In the course of their research, Taylor and Flynn learned that Henry’s remains had been linked to a grave in Belgium and might eventually be identified.

“We knew there was a possibility,” Taylor said.

But no one from the military had ever told the Pieper family about the excavation of the wreck of LST-523 by a French salvage group in 1961. Divers had found several sets of remains — including those of a sailor in the ship’s radio room, where Henry would have been when the ship hit the mine. They turned over the remains to U.S. authorities in Europe.

It’s not clear why Henry wasn’t identified at the time. He was buried at Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial in Neuville, Belgium, on Sept. 8, 1965, in a grave marked “Unknown.”

Fifty years later, a historian with the POW/MIA Accounting Agency studied the file and realized that the remains inside could probably be identified. In April, they were disinterred and sent to the Offutt laboratory.

Dental and chest X-ray records helped to confirm his identity, said Katie Skorpinski, a forensic anthropologist at the Offutt lab. A DNA match wasn’t necessary.

“He was the only person associated with the remains,” she said.

The Lawrences, Taylor and Flynn learned the news a few days before Thanksgiving.

“I was so excited, I had to tell my students right away,” said Flynn, who teaches math and science in Ainsworth. “And to find out Henry’s remains were here in the state — it was so amazing!”

They are still at the lab. Navy officials are scheduled to visit Mary Ann and Susan this month. They have already asked that Henry be buried at Normandy, with his brother. A date hasn’t yet been set.

“It would be kind of a final end to this project,” Taylor said.

Brother's Ludwig

Julius H O  PIEPER


ARMY SERIAL NUMBER06488523pieper julius
AGE19 yo
FAMILYParent: Anna H & Otto R PIEPER
RANKRadioman 2nd Class
DATE of ENLISTEMENT27 february 1943 Naval Reserve in OmahaPhoto FDLM
SOURCE INFORMATION & - Nicole Sproncken - Frédéric LAVERNHE - - Valentin GASCHER
PROGRAMMERFrédéric & Renaud