TWC remembers distinguished war veteran, alumnus

Posted on: June 6, 2014

On this day, the 70th anniversary of the Allied Invasion in Normandy, Tennessee Wesleyan College looks back at the connection between D-Day and the college.

On this day, the 70th anniversary of the Allied Invasion in Normandy, Tennessee Wesleyan College looks back at the connection between D-Day and the college. June 6, 1944, has long been viewed by many as the turning point in World War II, and the beginning of the end of the war. It is believed that the majority of most Americans have had some family connection to WWII and specifically D-Day, with a great-grandparent, grandparent, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, serving in some capacity.

Today TWC remembers all of those that served during the war and were part of the invasion. Tennessee Wesleyan has had many of its alumni family faithfully serve America throughout the years, and the college is forever grateful to those that have served. Today the college would like to reflect on the story of one of its own D-Day veteran alumni.

Leonard G. Lomell arrived to Tennessee Wesleyan by way of New Jersey on a football scholarship and a work-for-pay program. Lomell graduated from TWC in 1941, where he was preparing for his future as a lawyer. In a 2007 interview for the college’s alumni magazine ARCHES, he said, “TWC was the only college I could find in the late 1930s that could or would help me get started with the necessary education it takes to become a lawyer.”

After finishing at Tennessee Wesleyan and the start of the U.S. involvement in WWII, Lomell joined the United States Army, volunteering for the Ranger unit. On D-Day, 1st Sgt. Lomell, was a part of Company D of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and served as the platoon leader of the 2nd platoon. His battalion was assigned to find and destroy five German coastal guns once they reached their landing in Normandy.

As soon as the ramp on the landing boat was down, Lomell was wounded by enemy fire, but it was not a life threatening wound. After reaching the beach, a major part of their mission was to scale a 100-ft cliff by rope while coming under fire from enemy weapons. Once they reached the top of the cliff, they were to find and destroy the five German guns, but what they found was a shock. What were believed to be guns on surveillance photos were actually decoys and large poles made to look like guns.

Knowing that the guns were probably moved out for the decoys, 1st Sgt. Lomell and the remaining members of his platoon continued searching for the guns. 1st Sgt. Lomell and Staff Sgt. Jack Kuhn were able to find some tracks in the ground that led them to the real guns that were being hidden in an orchard. The group proceeded to destroy the guns with grenades and other devices, so the continued invasion could be successful.

Many of 1st Sgt. Lomell’s platoon were injured during this courageous assignment, and would not be able to continue in battle. 1st Sgt. Lomell was commissioned on the battlefield to the rank of Second Lieutenant following D-Day. He was wounded again during the battle of Castle Hill and then again at the Battle of the Bulge. In December of 1945, 2nd Lt. Lomell was honorably discharged and he returned home to prepare for his career as a lawyer.

For his bravery and actions during the D-Day invasion, Lomell was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for the United States. He was awarded the Silver Star in 2007 for his bravery and heroism during the Castle Hill battle, and was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1994. He has also been featured in many national news stories about the D-Day invasion and the success of the event.

Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation, dedicated an entire chapter to Lomell in the section on heroes. 1st Sgt. Lomell was able to go back for a few of the anniversary services in Normandy over the years. He has been credited as the one person, other than Dwight Eisenhower, that made the D-Day invasion successful. Since his passing in March of 2011, a memorial marker has been placed at the battlefields of Europe.  

Tennessee Wesleyan College is proud of 2nd Lieutenant Leonard Lomell (’41) and all of the college’s veterans. TWC respects the significance of this day, and want to reflect on and honor the efforts of one of its own during the D-Day invasion.