D-Day heroLeonard Lomell

During World War II, Lomell volunteered for the U.S. Army Rangers, and rose to Staff Sergeant. Like many he landed on Normandy for the invasion on D-Day. Before he even got to shore, “I was shot through the right side,” he said years later. “I was the first one wounded.” But he went on with his mission: to scale the 100ft (30m) cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and take out hidden German 155mm cannons that could fire down on both Omaha and Utah beaches. He was 24 years old, and the acting commander for the 2nd Ranger Battalion’s D Company.

As he and his men climbed up ropes that they shot to the top of the cliff with rockets, German defenders shot at them with machine guns — and tried to cut the ropes. But incredibly, he and his men succeeded in the mission, destroying all five guns and saving hundreds of Allied lives. Historian Stephen Ambrose judged that after Gen. Eisenhower himself, Lomell was the single individual most responsible for the success of the Allied invasion, which spelled the end of the war in Europe. When he arrived back home, Lomell went to law school, and practiced law in New Jersey. He didn’t talk about his experiences in the war much, until Tom Brokaw dedicated a chapter to him in his book The Greatest Generation. “We were all his law partners for years,” said his former partner, retired Judge Robert Fall. “We never knew how significant a role he had played in D-Day and the aftermath of D-Day until Brokaw decided to write his book. Bud never talked about that stuff because he was one of the most modest guys you’d ever want to meet.” Leonard “Bud” Lomell died March 1. He was 91.

From This is True for 6 March 2011