“Medics are just as courageous as a fighting man; they aren’t permitted to carry a weapon, yet when the lead’s flying, their job is to run toward the bullets, not away.”
The Band-Aid Bandits
Ed Pepping and Al Mampre met on the first day of boot camp at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. “No matter how crazy it got we always tried to keep a sense of humor, if you didn’t have a sense of humor, you were gone.” At Toccoa, they made catapults out of trees and tossed each other around to see how far a man could fly and one time a captain was set to be married and the night before the wedding, the medics anesthetized him, put his arm in a cast, and shaved off half his mustache. They became instant friends and have stayed friends ever since. That’s more than 70 years of friendship.
For D-Day, Pepping was originally assigned to the same plane of Lt. Meehan, but for some unknown reason he switched seat with another medic. Upon landing into Normandy Ed cracked his head on the ground, and blacked out. That same day, he made his way to a church in Angoville au Plein that was being used as an aid station and patched up as many casualties as he could. In tribute, the people from the church have never washed the bloodstains off those pews. Outside Beaumont, when Lieutenant Colonel Billy Turner was killed, the advance of tanks stopped as Turner was at the front of the moving column. Pepping helped to pull Turner out so the tank column could move again. He received the bronze star for his action. According to military records, “Acting without regard for his own life or safety, he attempted to save the life of a battalion commander who had fallen critically wounded on top of the tank commander, not only halting the advance of the six-tank column, but making the whole column potential targets for destruction by the enemy as well. Although an agonizingly painful choice to make, Pepping’s actions allowed the tank column to advance again”
In Normandy Pepping was wounded in his leg and was not able to join the company in France, he was replaced by Ralph Spina. He then went AWOL from the hospital to rejoin Easy and he was with his unit for fifty one days. After that, Pepping was then sent to serve in general hospitals in England and in France. He later operated switchboard for trunk lines throughout France.
During the training one of the jobs for the medics was to make medical checks in the community in the Deep South; right before D-Day Mampre had an infection on his neck and missed the jump, Doc Roe took his place . Al first battle was Operation Market-Garden where another man collided with him on the jump down, Al back was badly hurt but he kept going anyway. Just before the troops reached Eindhoven, Lt. Bob Brewer was shot through the neck by a sniper and was presumed dead. Unconvinced, Al sprinted out to the field where Brewer lay, saw that he was still breathing, got some plasma out of his kit, and pumped it into Brewer’s vein although the men were still under fire. Another rifle cracked, and Al took one just above his boot line. The bullet peeled the flesh off his leg all the way down to the bone. Both the lieutenant and Al were helped to safety by some nearby Dutch civilians. Al healed up and rejoined the company in Bastogne; he remembers a joke he had with a German prisoner who spoke some English just to set the man at ease. “Hey, why don’t we change uniforms? Think about it: if I wear your German uniform they’ll send me to the States as a captive—then I’ll be home. If you wear my American uniform, we’re going to go to Germany, you know that, then you’ll be home.” The prisoner thought about it for a moment then smiled. “Ah, the hell with you,” he said. “I want to go to America. You can go to Germany.”
Ed Pepping came home in December 1945. He studied business and technology and became a draftsman for NASA’s Apollo Program, helping to send men to the moon. He married and had three children, he also received the Army’s Legion of Merit medal and is a holder of the Combat Medic and Combat Infantry Badges. Pepping felt that he let his unit down for being knocked out after 15 days in Normandy and did not keep in touch with the men of Easy Company. He only got involved again after the Emmy Awards reunion in 2002.
Al Mampre came home from the war in September 1945 with two purple hearts and a broze star, married his childhood sweetheart Virginia and studied at UCLA and the University of Chicago. He worked as a psychologist and for International Harvester in their training department. The Mampres had three children together. He retired in 1978.
“Oh I was a daredevil kind of guy and I thought [paratropeers] that’s where the action would be” Mampre said.