Updated: Jun 24
I send this with my best recollection. It may be off in a few facts and spelling but overall it should be what Ed and Al told me of their amazing story of young men going to war,
I met WWII combat veteran PFC Ed “Doc” Pepping of the 101st Airborne 506th PIR Easy Company BAND OF BROTHERS in 2005 at the first ITOA TEMS Conference.
Ed came to us through the efforts of one our Board members. When Ed flew into O’Hare, a number of us met him at the gate. He was wearing his WWII uniform and surrounded by well wishers. He hugged all the young girls. He was as one of our members said, a rock star.
We would soon meet Ed’s lifelong friend and brother in arms, Sgt. Al Mampre who lived in the North Suburbs area.
That night, Al and his family drove south, down to the Matteson Holiday Inn and there these two great American heroes reunited, face to face after a forty-year absence.
They spoke for hours and went page by page through Mark Bando’s book,
Band of Brothers, speaking about their many mates and the history of their service.
I had the opportunity to sit with them both and record their recounting.
Later, I asked about D-Day and Ed explained that Al had been injured and could not make the jump. Al would later make the famed combat jump into Holland in Operation Market Garden and also was in the thick of the defense in the Battle of the Bulge.
Tonight, 76 years ago....this is Ed’ story as he told me.
They knew they were about to go into battle. The intense training that started in 1942 at Camp Toccoa Georgia, was about to be put to the test.
Ed said that they were in their marshaling areas in England. Airborne troops were to drop after midnight of June 6th into the 7th.
Ed said that Easy Company was divided into a number of C-47’s. Ed was tall and with all his equipment and medical gear (which both he and Al as medics described as “not much”) he said he was crushed into the side of the plane. But he had a window through which he said he could observe. Many aircraft - thousands is how Ed described it, had to take off and then go into holding patterns so they could keep the attacking force coordinated and concentrated.
When the order came to head over the English Channel, Ed related that he had been in the air for several hours. As they flew over the Channel, Ed said his clearest recollection and memory was the sight of thousands of ships of every size sailing across, underneath the aircraft. He said that he could see their phosphorescent wakes like steaks of light.
After midnight the C-47’s approached the Coast and he said they started to encounter heavy flak. Ed explained that the pilots broke formation and as a result were strung out and worse, the paratroopers were ordered to jump at too high a speed. Ed said that on command, he and his mates jumped from the aircraft and because the pilot had not slowed to the lower jump speed, the force of the wind blast tore his medical gear away.
Ed described landing in a field and located other troops who made their way toward the forward edge of the fight.
The history is recounted from The military wiki site below.
Before taking off in England, Ed would change his assigned aircraft at the last moment, a move that saved his life. The good Lord was looking after Ed.
At a critical road junction, a point of intense fighting,
Ed said Lt. Col. Turner was riding on a tank and a sniper shot the Col. through the neck. Ed rushed to his officer’s aid while under fire and attempted to assist. The Col. was killed and Ed could not do anything.
Ed would later be awarded the Bronze Star for his act of valor under fire.
Ed’s last memory of action was that he saw a small French armored vehicle approaching his position on the roadway. It came within close distance to Ed when he said there was an explosion. Ed described how he no memory of what happened for sometime afterwards. He was seriously wounded In the blast and said he never found out what had caused the blast.
Ed was evacuated and saw no further combat. As stated in the Wiki history, he did return for a period to his unit. Ed had a long recovery but was able to once again walk and add to the war effort, but due to the severity of his wounds, could not go back to the field.
76 years ago tonight, nearly to the hour, Doc Pepping was in the air with thousands of other courageous young paratroopers. Many would die that night in a fight across the French coastline and inland
But for these men and all who put their lives in harms way, the worst evil would have ruled the world.
Let us salute this “Greatest Generation” and always remember their service and sacrifice.
As a result of this meeting with Ed and Al, we would continue our partnership and become the best of friends. Because Ed lived on the west coast and travel was difficult, we stayed in contact by email and phone. All and his daughter Jenny became very active members of ITOA. So many of our ITOA members sat with Al and his wonderful daughter Ginny at our Conferences and events. Al told his many stories with humor, no matter how terrible the event. Al was wounded twice whole providing assistance to wounded team mates. As bad as it was, he had us laughing.
Ed and Al spoke by phone daily. Year in and year out. They were truly, close as brothers.
They lived long and well.
We lost Ed in September 2018, two months to the day after his 96th birthday. He would always smile when he said he was a Fourth of July baby.
Al was a force of nature. At age 97, his schedule was busier than ours. When we would call to see it Al could join us for an ITOA lunch or dinner, a training day or whatever, he would say, “Let me talk with Ginny and see what our schedule is”.
Al (and Ginny) was set to go to the 75th Anniversary commemoration of D-Day with General Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s, last June but fell ill.
Al passed away with his family and friends close by on May 31, 2019.
Nearly 20 currently serving 101st Airborne Troops attended Al’s funeral. It was an extraordinary moment.
Each of these men meant so much to all who knew them and they will continue to be an honored example of the best of what America represents.
I have pictures of Ed and Al nearby as I write this. I feel them close by tonight and as I close my eyes, I see Ed in that C-47, one of hundreds, looking below into the Channel and waiting with great anticipation as destiny awaited.
Rest in Peace dear friends. We will not forget you and your extraordinary Band of Brothers.