|Cpl. Copeland's unit, the 18th Infantry Regiment, approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day.|
William J. Copeland could have been 100 years old today.
He was born on April 1, 1917 in Pennsylvania. His parents were also both born in Pennsylvania. His father was a railroad yard master and later a trainmaster. William was an only child. By 1940 he was in his third year of college, working as a hospital attendant. After completing another year of college, William joined the US Army on July 8, 1941. He was a TEC5 in the cannon company (105 mm howitzers) of the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.
Based on Cpl. Copeland's enlistment date, it is likely that he was part of all the storied campaigns of the 1st Infantry Division, including Operation Torch in North Africa and the many battles that followed including Kasserine Pass. He would have participated in the Tunisian Campaign and the invasion of Sicily.
The 18th Infantry Regiment was one of the followup units that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, after the 16th Infantry Regiment went in earlier in the day. Cpl. Copeland was mortally wounded during the assault on the beaches and died later that day.
Curiously, Cpl. William Copeland was not the only allied soldier with this named killed on D-Day. There was an English sapper for the Royal Engineers also named William Copeland who was also killed on D-Day.
His remains were returned to be buried at Gettysburg National Cemetery.
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