Seventy-nine years ago, on D-Day, Leonard G. “Bud” Lomell was speeding across the dark, icy Atlantic Ocean toward the coast of France, hoping to take out a bank of Nazi artillery.
He and a small group of Army Rangers had been ordered to take part in the June 1944 allied invasion of Europe.
“To destroy those guns would save tens of thousands of lives,” recalled the Brooklyn native, who grew up in Point Pleasant. This mission is at the center of a riveting new book by Steven Gillon.
Lomell grew up with immigrant parents during the Great Depression, making ends meet clamming, fishing and caddying at the Manasquan River Golf Club.
Once drafted, he chose to become a Ranger Battalion sergeant.
But as Gillon’s book, Len Lomell: D-Day Hero (Dutton), makes clear, his battlefield exploits were among the most heroic—and important—in U.S. military history.
“His orders were to lead his 22 men up the 100-foot cliffs of Pointe du Hoc and dismantle the…guns pointing down on Omaha and Utah Beaches,” Gillon writes. Amid the chaos of the allied landing, Lomell was forced to complete the mission “almost single-handedly,” earning him a slew of honors, including the Army’s highest medal, the Distinguished Service Cross.
Had Lomell’s mission failed, “it’s possible that Germany’s guns could have wreaked a lethal amount of havoc on the invading Allied forces,” says Gillon.
Lomell later took part in an assault on a German installation, which left him with severe injuries.
After the war, Lomell returned to the Shore to practice law, raise a family, and stay active in veterans affairs. He died in 2011, though his 101-year-old widow still resides in Toms River.
“At a time when we’re so divided,” said Gillon, “Len Lomell represents the best of us…. He’s the American dream.”
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