LT Lawrence Leopold Lionel Heideman


The fourteenth of fifteen children born to Arthur and Lempi Heideman, Lawrence Leopold Lionel came into the world on December 3, 1912. His first exposure to the military was when he enlisted as a private in the Finnish-American Legion on December 26, 1939 (ranking him among the first Americans to volunteer in World War II anywhere in the world), he served as a dispatch runner for its Headquarters Corps in the Winter War until his discharge on June 20, 1940.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor he applied for a commission in the Naval Reserve; his wartime experience on land and sea, plus his JROTC training, recommended him highly. Following his initial induction at Dartmouth College the Navy assigned him to Ordnance (twice declining his request for Aviation), sent him to the Bomb Disposal School at the Washington Naval Yard, and then stationed him in Iceland in November 1942. In April 1943 Lawrence returned to the Bomb Disposal School; from there he joined the newly-conceived Naval Combat Demolitions Units (NCDUs) forming at Fort Pierce, Florida, where he graduated with Unit #11

LT Lawrence Leopold Lionel Heideman, USNR, was a graduate Navy Bomb Disposal Class #11.

On June 6, 1944, Lawrence – now a lieutenant (junior grade) – commanded a portion of the men assigned to the Special Engineer Task Force (SETF), a joint Army-Navy mission to clear Omaha Beach of German mines and obstacles so that waves of landing craft could unload the invasion force without getting ensnared, disabled, and destroyed. Lawrence commanded the eastern section’s eleven NCDUs, consisting of approximately twelve men each. They came ashore with elements of the Army’s 146th Engineer Combat Battalion in the first minutes of the assault. The NCDUs in particular took excruciating losses. Most of those occurred in the first half hour. Despite this, six of the planned eight 50-yard lanes on Omaha Beach were cleared before the incoming tide suspended the effort… although not necessarily in their planned locations.(12) In spite of this and many other deviations from the plan, their work saved countless lives and military resources, inestimably contributing to the success of the invasion.

He was killed on 3 March 1945 in an Army Air Force C-47A (43-48223) crash flying from Scotland bound for an airfield 16 miles northwest of Paris, France. The plane had nearly arrived at its destination when an unknown problem caused a loss of control. It went down while on final approach to the airfield, killing all aboard.

The Associated Press reported that this ended a safety run which the European Division of the Air Transport Command had conducted 5 million miles of flying without a loss of life. Also killed in the crash was PFC Alfred E. Barschdorf, USA (Service Number: 121754016), 1LT Robert H. Dearstine, USAAF, pilot from New York, CAPT Festus F. Foster, USN, from Virginia, PFC Paul J. Heeger, USA, from Ohio, 1LT Herbert H. Hirth, USAAF,  from Louisiana, S1c John G. Hope, USN, from Pennsylvania, 1LT Paul A. Mansell, USAAF, from New York, Sgt Albert J. McVey, USAAF, from Illinois, civilian Lester I. Chapman, wrestler from Texas, civilian Ruth G. Donor, civilian George Matkovich, wrestler, civilian Renny Reuben, wrestler, civilian George “Jack” Ross, wrestler from Illinois, civilian Harold A. Sabath, wrestler, and civilian Gaius W. Young, wrestler from Minnesota.

More information can be found on Lt. Heideman:


Posted on

March 3, 1945

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