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Some of you may have guessed that there is a cliff in your future...

Rangers land at Pointe du Hoc - There are no heavy guns up here!

Being wounded

Hill 400


Lomell served with Company D, 2nd Ranger Battalion, United States Army. Lomell states that Rangers were volunteers and aimed to be the best of the best in the Army. Lomell first went to a Ranger school that was specialized in many things that regular troops do not have to submit to. Rangers were in a specialized field with specialized missions. Lomell entered the US Army in June of 1942. His first combat action was in Normandy, France.The 2nd Ranger Battalion trained at Camp Forrest, Tennessee and organized. Lomell was invited to become the 1st Sgt of D Company on the very first day of the 2nd Rangers activation in the spring of 1943. They had to be trained in all kinds of warfare. They were given jump training, and all kinds of training that any troop is inflicted when entering the US Army.Lomell found out on 27 April 1944, his mother's birthday, that the Rangers would be heading to Normandy. Prior to that, it was speculated as to what they would be doing since they had been climbing so many cliffs during their months of training. He didn't know where those cliffs would be until April of 1944. Lomell and the Rangers were in England and had been training with the British Commandos there. A notice went out 1 day about a conference regarding the invasion plan, but with high security, the date and location were not given. They were told very general things since they were sworn to secrecy and didn't want things to leak out. The Rangers were told they would be used, but did not know where or what day at that particular conference. They were sworn to secrecy and then kept in training areas that were kept under guard in order to keep information from leaking out.Lomell was still the 1st Sergeant of D Company when preparing for Normandy. His main concern was the men and making sure their needs were met for the invasion. They eventually loaded the channel steamers and waited for what would become D-Day [Annotator’s Note: Operation Overlord], English boats that took tourists back and forth prior to the war.


Lomell and the rest of the 2nd Ranger Battalion loaded the channel steamers a day or 2 before what would become D-Day [Annotator’s Note: Operation Overlord]. During the night of 5 June, they crossed the English Channel and were ready to assault on the morning of 6 June. They landed at the west side of Omaha Beach at Point Du Hoc, which was just a tremendous cliff. Omaha Beach was several miles in width, but only about a third of that was beaches where troops land in their LCA, landing craft assault.But the Rangers went further west of that beach where there are several miles of cliffs up to a hundred and some feet high. Lomell could not remember exactly where. He did remember that the cliffs his area were around 100 feet high and they had a very narrow beach, maybe 50 feet wide, but not sand, it was made of little rocks. That didn't give them much room to unload their LCA's, which were British and not American. The British Navy was transporting them on D-Day and unfortunately they made a mistake and went to the wrong cliffs, which delayed their operation about 30 minutes.They landed around 7:00 or 7:10 in morning on 6 June 1944 on that little ledge 50 foot wide, below the 100 foot cliffs of Point du Hoc. It was their mission to climb those cliffs and destroy 6-155 milimeter coastal guns which were situated at Point du Hoc. Point du Hoc had heaviest firepower on the Atlantic Wall that Hitler had to rely on. This mission was said to be the most dangerous mission assigned for D-Day. This was repeated by General Omar Bradley, who was the commanding officer of the operation. General Eisenhower and the upper-level leaders were tremendously concerned because the guns of Point du Hoc were necessary to get out of action as soon as possible.They boarded the LCA's manned by the British Navy at around 4:00 o'clock in the morning. As mentioned earlier, they were about 30 minutes late on landing. As the LCA's landed and the ramps went down, they pushed buttons on a control panel and launched rockets [Annotators note: which launched ropes attached to grapling hooks] that would fly up about 150 feet and fall behind the lines. As the Rangers pulled on them they secured to the Earth. They could climb hand over hand 150 feet straight up.Had everything gone right, the Germans would have been in bed when they did this. But, because they were late it gave the Germans time to "welcome" the Rangers. The Germans cut the ropes, dropped grenades on the Rangers and shot men off the ropes. It became almost impossible to climb the ropes and get up there and find the guns. When they got up there and fought their way through the Germans and to the gun positions, D Company was assigned gun positions 4, 5, and 6 on the west flank. They were the only Company assigned a mission on the west flank of Point du Hoc. When they got to the position where these 3 guns were supposed to be, they weren't there. There was nothing but telephone poles sticking out of the immense emplacements. They trained for this mission from aerial photographs and information that had been given to them. They didn't know, as they later found out, that those guns had been removed to alternate positions before D-Day. They could not find any guns at that point of the early invasion of Point du Hoc.By 8:30 in the morning on D-Day, Sgt. Keuhn [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling] the acting platoon Sergeant of 2nd Platoon of D Company, and Lomell had their section sergeants set up a road block on the shore road from Point du Hoc to Grande Con [Annotator's note: spelling unknown] and man that roadblock to keep the Germans from getting up the road or down the road to help each other. When they did that, he and Sergeant Keuhn went and found the guns. They happened upon a road that ran from the coast road along the English Channel, inland. It had wagon marks or something on the dirt road between the mammoth 9 foot tall hedgerows. These were giant hedgerows that tanks couldn't get through. Lomell and Sergeant Keuhn, leapfrogged from position to position, meaning 1 would advance and look around and hold the position while the other would move up. They kept this up never knowing if they would ever run into the enemy.


Lomell and Sgt. Keuhn [Annotator's note: spelling unknown] kept advancing forward, but as luck would have it, within the first couple of hundred feet, they located the guns and destroyed them so that they could not be used.They returned to their roadblock men and fought there for 2 days. There they took heavy casualties until finally being relieved on D+2. Out of 65 men, Lomell had 15 men left by the end of the fighting. He feels that those that did survive were just plain lucky and they accomplished the mission by 8:30 in the morning of D-Day. This was so important because this was the heaviest firepower along the Atlantic wall and it could have destroyed the invasion fleet with thousands of ships in the channel and off the coast. They were visible targets for the Germans.Historians say that Allied leaders tried to use battleships that were off the coast and the American Air Force units. All the guns and all the planes and ships had the same target, to get those guns. Lomell does remember that there was not a shell hole near the guns when they found them. They were fortunate, they were lucky, were in the right place at the right time. Jack [ Annotator's Note: Sgt. Keuhn - unsure of spelling] got up on the hedgerow while Lomell destroyed the 5 guns, there were only 5 due to 1 being destroyed in an earlier bomber mission.They saw that there were about 100 Germans taken by surprise at around 8:00 in the morning. They never knew there would be an invasion and never expected anyone to climb the cliffs and destroy those guns. They took them by surprise. There were 2 defensive lines in back of the Germans. They couldn't dream there was any American soldier nearby.Lomell felt that the bulk of D Company casualties started at the shore road. He was the first wounded when they landed. The ramp went down and he caught a machine gun bullet through his right side above the right hip in the fleshy part. It did not hit the joint or anything important. It just burned. He wasn't disabled, he continued on and did his duty.In doing what they did, in being at the right place at the right time and having a lot of good luck, they put those guns out of commission, thus saving thousands of lives. He's heard estimates on how many lives numbering up to the tens of thousands of lives. Soldiers lives, sailors lives, American lives, civilian lives. It was important that they destroy those guns so that the invasion could be a success.The Rangers had to be as light as possible when climbing the cliffs so they didn't have a lot of hand grenades and things. They each carried 1 thermite grenade and that was about the size of a beer can. When you opened it and air hit its contents chemically, it turned to solder and you could pour it out of the can. That would go over the gears of the traversing mechanize or the elevation mechanism to raise the gun. As they float out like solder on top of the gears, whether flat to go on the traversing mechanism or elevation or on the hinges of the breech blocks where the projectiles go in. When it cooled off, it cooled off like a weld. It was all welded together and you couldn't move these things. You could fire it and it would be in one spot. If the breech block firmed up, you couldn't do that either.Lomell doesn't remember how many fused the breech block on the guns from the thermite grenade. All that he knows is those guns became inoperable by 8:30 in the morning on 6 June 1944.There were about 170-180 Germans resisting there. He only had 22 men to begin with and only had about 10 that could still fight on. They were relieved 2 days later finally from the American troops coming up on the highland from the beaches of Omaha.After the destruction had been accomplished, Lomell and his men concluded the Germans were very angry. They felt this because as far as they could see or tell, they had destroyed the guns, they had chased off some of the Germans, they killed the Germans on top of the cliffs or they ran off. But, that night the Germans launched 3 attacks on the Rangers trying to drive the Rangers off the cliff but they were unsuccessful and the Rangers held their positions along the cliffs.Lomell was surprised that the Germans didn't attack the Rangers more the next day. He assumed that they had reduced the 180 Germans down so much that they didn't have many left when the troops from Omaha Beach met the Rangers on D+3 and 4. The 29th Infantry Division and the 1st Infantry Division had some 30,000 men coming into the area near there.The German ranks were greatly depleted by D+3 or D+4. The Rangers were very fortunate that they accomplished their mission. The Germans were chased out of all of their positions and the Rangers had taken a lot of prisoners. They were relieved because they still had not had any advanced medical treatment for those who were wounded during all of the fighting.


Lomell remembers that the Battle of Normandy lasted for 2 and half months. As the beachhead grew to be larger in the days after D-Day the forces continued to grow and moved inland.Lomell mentions that General Patton broke out and lead the way across France until he ran out of gas in Metz because he got ahead of his gas lines. Patton was bogged down and the Rangers played an important role in getting gas to him so they could get through the Ruhr Valley, across the Rhine, and into Berlin.On the 4th Day after D-Day [Annotator's Note: 10 June 1944], Lomell was evacuated back to England for operations on his wounds. Then he was sent back to Normandy and became the Sergeant Major of the entire battalion. He remained in that position and in the movement across France until the Rangers reached Belgium. In Belgium Lomell received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant. He led the 1st Platoon of D Company the rest of the way until he was wounded bad enough to be sent home.The 2nd Ranger Battalion was involved in a lot of combat after landing on D-Day. They were involved in the fighting in the Brest Peninsula. They spent a whole year in combat. They were constantly being called by other divisions for special details. When divisions had trouble or were held up and needed someone to raid an outfit, they would send in the Rangers. They were very active in combat all the time.Hill 400 was important for the Rangers because of a tremendous battle there. Patton ran out of gas in Metz and the army had to make sure the lines were open and the gasoline got to where Patton needed it.The army needed the Rangers to go forward into the Ruhr Valley to clear it out. It seemed every intersection was on the target boards of the tower on top of Hill 400. On D-Day the Rangers only had 100 feet to climb. There, on 7 December 1944, they had 400 feet to climb. The hill was straight up, the weather was terrible, ice and snow, and the hill was covered solidly with evergreen trees. This battle became known as the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. Their duty was to help clear the Ruhr Valley to open it up so that Patton could come through the Ruhr Valley and cross the Rhine on the way to Berlin. The Rangers did that job knowing that there were thousands of other men from other divisions that tried it and failed. Just a few days before the 2nd Ranger Battalion did it, 5,000 men from the 4th Infantry Division tried it and failed. They lost a lot of people wounded and killed. Equipment was all over the area in front of Hill 400 in the Bergstein, Germany area. They were called in on short notice by the 8th Infantry Division. They rode in open trucks from their previous camp to Kleinhaus, a little German village where they detrucked at around 2:00 o'clock the next morning, 7 December.


The Rangers detrucked in Kleinhaus at about 2:00 o'clock in the morning of 7 December 1944. Then they marched a couple of miles to the area that they were going to attack from. 2 patrols were chosen to reconnoiter the area. Lomell led 1 of them.They were to reconnoiter Hill 400 that had this tremendous control tower that was camouflaged there. The troops in the tower used a number system when they sighted in the artillery pieces on the hill. That way, if they wished to shell a nearby intersection, they hit that corresponding number and the guns would all fire there blowing up anything in that area.Lomell and the patrols reported in at about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning what they saw. They then made their battle plan to jump off at 7:30 on the morning of 7 December from the sunken road in front of the church of Bergstein. It was at the base of Hill 400. They did this and were successful. They captured Hill 400, they captured the tower, killed the gunners and put them out of business. They were successful. However, they did not know that on 16 December 1944 the Germans came out of the Ardennes in the worst battle of all and then started another fight.The Rangers were engaged in attempting to stop the Germans from coming out of the Ardennes. In the German rush, they took Hill 400 back from the Americans. There were 68 men in a Ranger Company and Lomell thinks they had about 130 men that took Hill 400 in Bergstein, Germany on 7 December. A week or so after the Battle of the Bulge started in the Ardennes, the German forces were turned around and forced back. And the American forces had to recapture from the Germans the Ruhr Valley. It took the paratroopers, Lomell thinks some 15,000 infantry and paratroopers took three days to recapture Hill 400 and Bergstein, Germany, that the Rangers had done just a couple of weeks earlier with 130 men.The war was over by the following May. 8 May 1945. Lomell does not think he changed much, if at all when he came back from the war. He did not see any change in himself, his family, or his friends. They went right back to work and to getting an education. Lomell thinks the best thing that happened for him was getting the G.I. Bill. His family did not have the money to send him to college, but the G.I. Bill did. Everyone came back with the same enthusiasm that they had in the outfit and they all took advantage of the G.I. Bill and put the war behind them.Lomell and his Rangers remained a family immediately upon their return from the war that has lasted ever since. Lomell's own children were teenagers before they came to realize that all of their "uncles" were not their blood uncles. The Rangers have a close family relationship to this day and are very active. Lomell is a past National President of all Rangers and was President of the Northeast Chapter during the time of the interview.The modern day Rangers socialize well with the Rangers of World War II and the old veterans have a great deal of respect for the modern day Rangers. Lomell has flown around and talked with Ranger units and with the 2nd Rangers. He thinks the Rangers are just as good as they ever were, maybe better. Lomell thinks the Rangers measured up in their time, and the modern day are measuring up now.When Rangers get together, they exchange ideas and how to best perform certain maneuvers. For example, the top level powers that be did not give adequate consideration to the hedgerows in Normandy. When they found out their tanks and heavy equipment couldn't get through them, they were horrified. Some farm boy found if you put blades on the front of a tank, it would tear into the hedgerow [Annotator's Note: credit for the invention of the hedge cutter is given to Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III]. Lomell mentions that solutions do not always come from the top. When you least expect it and can't think of a solution at the top, someone below will come up with a solution. The Rangers operate that way. If they have a problem, they don't like to give in without solving it.Lomell says that the Rangers are to US forces what the British Commandos are to their forces. During the war, the Rangers relationship with the Commandos was excellent. He felt they were brave, intelligent, serious and lots of fun. They had a great sense of humor and were often kind to the Rangers. They didn't live in barracks, they lived with the English people and sometimes Commando's parents. The Rangers regard them and see that they stand for the best of the best of the British forces like the Rangers stand as the best of the best for the US forces.

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