Private First Class John Pershing Keplinger, Service Number 34192748
John was born on 28 August 1919 in the Lamar Community of Jonesborough, Washington County, Tennessee. He worked as a farmer until he enlisted in the United States Army on 13 March 1942 at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
John was sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for the reactivation of the 82nd Infantry Division on 25 March 1942. He was assigned to the 325th Infantry Regiment and training began. Once their vehicles and heavy equipment arrived they were reclassified as the 325th Motorized Infantry Regiment.
On 15 August 1942 the division was redesignated the 82nd Airborne Division, thus becoming our nation’s first Airborne Division and the 325th later became the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. In October 1942, John and the entire division were sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for airborne school. Afterwards, he completed glider training at the Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base, North Carolina and was assigned to Headquarter Company, Second Battalion.
John and the 325th sailed out of New England and landed at Casablanca, French Morocco, North Africa on 10 May 1943. He was trucked to Tunisia where they readied for the invasion of Sicily, Operation Husky on 9-10 July 1943. His first battle would not be a glider drop, but a landing by sea. Later, during Operation Avalanche that began on 9 September 1943, they again arrived by sea and landed at Paestum some 18 miles south of Salerno, Italy on 15 September to await orders. The next day, John and the 2nd Battalion reloaded onto the landing crafts and were moved further north to Maiori. Here they were attached to Colonel William O. Darby’s Ranger Task Force holding the 4000 foot Mount St. Angelo di Cava. After Italy, the 325th set sail for Ireland and England with the entire 82nd Airborne Division to begin training for the invasion of France.
John’s combat glider drop would come on 7 June 1944 during Operation Overlord the day after the invasion began in the vicinity of St. Mere Eglise to reinforce the Parachute Regiments that dropped in the morning before on D-Day. Eight days later on 15 June, John was killed in action while engaged with the enemy near St. Sauveur le Vicomte, Normandy, France. He was 24 years old and was interred at the United States Military Cemetery at Blosville, France. After the war, he was disinterred and moved to the Highland Church of Christ Cemetery, Jonesborough, Tennessee. John participated in four unit campaigns Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia and Normandy. For his actions, he was awarded the Purple Heart.
He was the son of Walter Gray and Dora Elizabeth Keplinger. John was married to Helen Frances Green and they had one son. Three of John’s brothers also served during World War II.
-Submitted by Allen D. Jackson, USAF (Ret)