IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Twins who fought together 75 years ago are buried side by side at Normandy

A family is taking solace on the 75th anniversary of D-Day in knowing that twin brothers who died together during the invasion are side-by-side in a Normandy cemetery.
/ Source: TODAY

Twin brothers Julius H.O. "Henry" Pieper and Ludwig J.W. "Louie" Pieper were always by each other's side, right up until the day they died together while serving in the U.S. Navy off the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

It would be more than seven decades until they were finally reunited.

Twin brothers Julius (left) and Ludwig Pieper, who died during the June 1944 invasion of Normandy, were reunited at the cemetery in Normandy, France, decades after their deaths at 19 in World War II.
Twin brothers Julius (left) and Ludwig Pieper, who died during the June 1944 invasion of Normandy, were reunited at the cemetery in Normandy, France, decades after their deaths at 19 in World War II. U.S. Navy

Their family is now grateful to know that the brothers are together again in the same cemetery in Normandy as the world marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday.

"I don’t even know how to express it in words, that they’re finally side by side," the twins' niece, Susan Lawrence, told USA Today.

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron will be among the thousands expected to attend a ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on Thursday.

D-Day remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, as over 150,000 Allied soldiers stormed the French beaches to fight the Nazi military in a battle that served as a turning point in the victory over Germany.

We apologize, this video has expired.

The Pieper brothers, who were the sons of German immigrants, became inseparable from an early age.

They graduated as the first set of twins from their Nebraska high school, worked together on the railroad and ultimately joined the U.S. Navy together to fight against Hitler.

They were killed at just 19 years old while serving as radiomen aboard Landing Ship Tank (LST) 523, which struck a German mine off the coast of Normandy just 13 days after D-Day on June 19, 1944.

The twins were among 42 men who died when the ship sank, according to the U.S. Navy Memorial.

While Louie's body was recovered immediately by rescuers and buried at the American military cemetery in Normandy, Henry's remains weren't discovered until 1961 and their identity was unknown at the time.

Henry was laid to rest as "Unknown X-9352" at a military cemetery in Belgium. He remained there for decades before a 2015 research project by Nebraska high school student Vanessa Taylor led to Henry's remains being re-buried next to his brother's in Normandy at an emotional ceremony last year.

Taylor's requests to the U.S. government for the twins' personnel files led to officials at the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency drawing a link between Louie and the remains of an unidentified sailor found off the coast of Normandy's Omaha beach by divers in 1961, according to NPR.

DNA and dental records determined that it was Henry, leading to his remains being transferred by his family's request to the plot next to his brother at the Normandy cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.

"You almost feel like it's holy ground,'' Lawrence told USA Today. "It’s almost like when you go there, you’re living it. You can see as many movies as you want to, but once you’re there, and it’s like, this is the beach, that they came in on, it’s just overwhelming."

U.S. Navy personnel carry the casket of WWII U.S. Navy sailor Julius H.O. "Henry" Pieper during a reburial service at the Normandy American Cemetery last year. Virginia Mayo / AP

The twins had four siblings, all of whom have died. One of their nephews, Louis Henry Pieper, is named after them both.

Another niece, Linda Pieper Suitor, was deeply moved after being given the flag from Henry's coffin at last year's ceremony.

"I think I've found a new purpose for my life," Suitor told NPR at the time. "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 only time the brothers were separated other than after their death came when they first joined the Navy. Their commanding officer eventually broke with protocol and allowed them to serve together after their father wrote him a letter.

"My sons came into this world together, and they should have the right to fight and die together,'' he wrote.