On anniversary of D-Day, WWII era vet reminisces

Published 4:49 am Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The “greatest generation” is growing sparser and sparser as time passes.

Angelo Pepe was just a boy of 13 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and he hadn’t yet joined the military
before the Normandy, France, invasion on “D-Day” — June 6, 1944.

Angelo Pepe, who was a China Marine during the end of World War II, looks over his discharge papers.

When Pepe left California aboard a troop ship in 1945, “D-Day” was long past, and rumor had it that they would take part in an invasion of Japan. But President Harry Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrendered, so the ship had to be diverted to China.

On D-Day, an Allied armada of 5,399 ships and landing craft deposited 156,000 American and British forces onto the heavily defended beaches of Normandy, France. It was the largest seaborne invasion the world had ever seen.

The Allies didn’t know how the mission was going to turn out, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower actually penned a letter taking full responsibility for the failure of the invasion of Normandy.

Four thousand Allied troops lost their lives, with thousands more left missing and wounded. Even despite the heavy casualties, the Allies conquered the beach.

It was the beginning of the end of the Nazi Reich.

Now, Pepe can recall his time as a veteran of World War II. He was a Navy Corpsman stationed at Tianjin, China, but was attached to the First Marine Division, where he served as a China Marine.

Pepe said he was in Guam for the Christmases of both 1945 and 1946. He related a story in which a man inquired where he was from, and Pepe told him, “It was a place you never even heard of — Bogalusa, Louisiana.”

Amusingly, Pepe soon learned that several other Bogalusans were in a tent right outside.