OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, where Allied forces stormed the beaches at Normandy which eventually led to the end of World War II.
“‘Don’t plan on going home,’ that was the first thing that they told you,” said Rene “Kep” Keppering of Fond du Lac. “They didn’t lie about it. They told you right upfront that your chances of going home are maybe 1 in 10.”
Kep enlisted with the Army in 1943, but was interested in the Army Rangers after seeing a wanted poster. Unfortunately, he was too short and underweight, and they turned him down. That was until he mentioned something that the Rangers would find very useful – he was fluent in French. Once he passed the intense training, he was a member of the 5th battalion.
June 6th, 1944 rolled around, and Kep would be sent to Omaha Beach.
“We went down the fishnets, down to the landing craft and it was quite wavy and everyone was getting sick,” he said. “A lot of guys were praying and nobody was joking because we knew before we even hit the beach that we might be dead.”
He adds that it was unknown what they were getting into.
“You didnt know what was going to happen,” he said. “You had to think clear. If you see a German, shoot. Don’t ask questions, dont ask if it’s ok.”
His battalion arrived at Omaha Beach before the heavy gunfire that we’re used to seeing. They used a bomb to clear the barbed wire in their way.
“It blew up and the 5th battalion came rushing up – half going east towards Germany to block incoming Germans, and the other half to help the 2nd battalion,” he said.
Kep would be part of the half that helped the 2nd battalion in destroying artillery on top of Pointe du Hoc – a nearly 100 foot cliff that they had to climb.
“Which was supposed to contain four, 155 millimeter cannons that can shoot 16 miles,” he said. “Our mission, no matter what, was to destroy these guns. But when we got up there, no guns.”
The guns were found a couple hundred yards away covered in camouflage, and their mission was complete.
“Total teamwork with the Rangers was critical. If you didn’t do it, you were out,” Kep said.
Surviving D-Day is one thing, but he also did something that many may consider to be even more impressive.
“I slept in Hitler’s bed for four days,” he claims.
Kep says it happened when on a mission in a small town in Germany when they cam across a luxurious hotel.
“There was a big bed with pillow cases and Adolf Hitler embroidered in the pillow,” he said.
With his experiences, he says he couldn’t more more satisfied with how he served our country.
“I wanted to be a Ranger, and I was going to be a Ranger. I’ve always been so proud of it,” he said.