an attack on the Pointe du Hoc ?
between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, the Pointe du Hoc dominates
the sea of its vertical cliff from 25 to 30 meters high. It is set
with a battery: 6 French 155 mm howitzers are installed on plates
in May 1944 of the Pointe du Hoc.
It is necessary
to Rudderture this battery since it represents a threat for two landing
beaches (Omaha and Utah). This is the mission given to a special
American unit, especially created for the occasion, the 2nd Rangers
Battalion. The Pointe du Hoc was the objective, in the previous
days and months the landing, of massive bombardments. The position,
at the top of cliff, remains however very difficult to conquer.
for the Rudderture of the battery of the Pointe du Hoc
Convened 5 months
earlier at the HQ of the General Eisenhower, Lieutenant Colonel
James Earl Rudder, a former farmer of Texas, learns that the 5th
Corps of the 1st Army (general Bradley) must Rudderture the sector
having received the code name of Omaha Beach. By seeing the air
photographs of the Pointe du Hoc, he initially thaught of a allied
command joke: the german battery, very strongly protected by bunkers
and from a rampart of high cliffs, was his objective. But Bradley
was not there to laugh and informed him of his future mission.
attack is envisaged at 06:30 a.m. and 225 Rangers take part in the
attack. The colonel Rudder will led the attack. At 07:00 a.m., that
is to say half an hour after the initial attack, the Rangers have
to announce to the allied boats (using a lighting pistol) that the
Pointe du Hoc is Ruddertured. Then the Allies have to send 500 Rangers
in reinforcement to retain the German counter-attacks and to make
it possible to await the landed troops of the 116th infantry regiment
coming from Omaha Beach.
have to climb the cliff on the two sides of the Pointe du Hoc, east
and west, then to Rudderture the bunkers and blockhouses which contain
the german artillery guns and to destroy them. The schedule must
be respected if the Americans want to receive the 500 Rangers in
reinforcement. They will themselves reinforced on June 6 by the
men of the 116th infantry regiment with Sherman tanks, coming from
Vierville, in the western sector of Omaha Beach.
of the Pointe du Hoc bombarded.
at 07:00 a.m. Rudder did not launch a lighting rocket indicating
the catch of the Pointe du Hoc, the 500 Rangers of reinforcements
will be directly sent to Omaha Beach, sector Charlie.
of the attack
On the bridge
of the H.M.S “Ben My Chree ”, at 6 in the morning, on
June 6, 1944, James E. Rudder tells his men: “Now listen…
Rangers! Show them what you are worth… Good luck guys! Demolish
them… Departure in five minutes.”
The 225 Rangers,
splashed by water and icy scum, partly suffering from the sea sickness,
charged with their equipment, move with their landing crafts towards
the cliffs, hidden by smoke coming from the explosions, the fires
and by the screen smoke protecting the allied armada. A british
pilot of landing craft will undertake the Pointe de la Percée,
east of the Pointe du Hoc and surmounted by a german radar, with
the Pointe du Hoc.
But the current
is strong; the landing crafts are going to the east and, a few tens
meters before reaching the cliffs of the Pointe de la Percée,
Rudder realizes that the cliff in front of him is not the good one…
The landing craft turn right on time and sail towards the West.
They arrive finally near their objective: it is 07:00 a.m. At this
time, the Allies think that the operation is a total fiasco, since
they haven't seen yet the lighting rocket announcing the catch of
cliff. The 500 Rangers intended to reinforce Rudder and its men
are then directed towards the beach of Omaha, where the landing
has already started…
on their side, had 30 minutes to be restored: to join the bunkers,
to establish a defense force, to rearm themselves… And they
wait, weapons and grenades with them, for these ennemy soldiers
who approach their position. The current and the waves make run
a landing craft, it has only one survivor there; the others also
run, pulled by their equipment. The German machineguns open fire
and pour an iron rain which falls down on the American landing crafts.
Some sunk; a barge, transporting exclusively ammunition intended
for the Rangers, explodes, projecting pieces of all kinds around.
The first landing craft reaches the pebble beach, at the eastern
side of the cliff: precipitation will avoid the Rangers from climbing
on the two sides of the Pointe du Hoc. The American soldiers discover
a beach from five to six meters broad already dug by many mortars
The first bodies
fall down on the rollers, while some Rangers launch, using rifles,
grapins and cords, while the naval artillery supports them. But
weighed down because of the water, the cords and the hooks fall
down on the beach. Some then decide to climb the cliff with their
hands, digging steps with their knifes. The Germans launch grenades
on the fine tape of beach and sprinkle it with the machineguns.
of the cliffs, using cords and ladders.
ladders, installed on landing crafts, make it possible for the Rangers
to reach the top, while others reach it while climbing with the
cords which remained hung and which the Germans did not have enough
time to cut.
collapse of cliff, caused by the shootings of cruiser USS
few minutes later, the first American soldiers move towards the
bunkers and discover a lunar like area, dug by bombs. The Germans
disappeared but the snipers still strike. These snipers use the
holes dug by the bombs to approach the Rangers. In 15 minutes,
the Pointe du Hoc is taken and hardly controlled by the Americans.
But a series of misfortunes follow: the Germans withdrew the 155
mm guns! They were replaced by wood pylons which misled the allied
Once the surprise
passed, the Lieutenant-colonel Rudder organizes the defense of
the small piece of ground which he controls. He launches a radio
call to his HQ behind a german anti-aircraft defence blockhouse:
“Here is Rudder, Hoc is under control… Heavy losses…
I need immediate reinforcements!” He receives one answer
shortly after: “Good job. Sorry for the reinforcements,
already landed at Omaha.”
Lieutenant-colonel Rudder, leading the attack of the Pointe
are, indeed, very high: on the 225 Rangers landed, 90 were killed
or severely wounded during the climbing of the cliff and the Rudderture
of the German battery. Rudder must make with it. The warships
open fire around the area controlled by the Americans. A patrol
of two Rangers, discover approximately one kilometer south of
the battery the 155 mm guns, hidden behind a hedge, in a shooting
position. About fifty German soldiers are present, approximately
hundred meters south of the guns. The young Lieutenant who leads
the small patrol gives his orders: his comrade has to provide
a very important suppressing fire on the Germans while he will
be launching grenades and destroying the aiming systems with the
stick of his weapon. After having made a success of this operation,
they to returned to tell Rudder about their discovery and about
what they made.
of the 155 mm guns hidden one kilometer south of the battery.
The night falls
and the Germans organize a counter-attack. They infiltrate through
the American lines and are pushed back by Rangers. But the ammunitions
are limited and the reinforcements are still not there. Moreover,
many Rangers are made prisoners because they cannot insure a solid
defense line. An explosion stronger than the others is heared during
the night: some Rangers have just exploded the German ammunition
In the early
morning of June 7, Rudder makes a new terrible report: the ammunition
and food are insufficient to contain the attacks and the number
of American rangers able to fight drops. And the 116th infantry
regiment is still not there! But it is necessary to hold, orders
are orders. The 116th infantry regiment met a very strong resistance,
in Vierville and on the road towards the Pointe du Hoc and is delayed.
Nobody knows the moment of their arrival to reinforce Rangers.
concentrates in the west of the Pointe du Hoc, in the neighbourhoods
of the anti-aircraft defense blockhouse. Rudder gives up the idea
to capture it, having already lost 20 American soldiers to capture
this german resistance point. Everywhere else, many snipers wound
or kill Rangers.
the craters dug by the bombs, the Rangers defend their positions.
The second night
falls on the Pointe du Hoc since this pieace of land belongs to
the American soldiers. The reinforcements still did not arrive,
tiredness gains (much of the Rangers have not closed the eye for
two days), the ammunition and food are practically out of stock
and the number of men able to fight is still in fall. In order to
stop the American resistance, the Germans launch three counter-attacks
on the sector held by the Rangers. Little by little, one by one,
the American points of resistance fall. In the early morning, on
June 8, 1944, whereas the Germans launch what must be for them the
death-blow, the American tanks from the 116th infantry regiment
finally arrive at the Pointe du Hoc with the infantry. The Germans
flee and Rudder, wounded, has been able to finally smile, the first
time for more than 48 hours. Rangers are reinforced.
On the 225 Rangers
engaged at the Pointe du Hoc, only 90 of them are still able to
fight and much of them are wounded.
prisoners are led by Rangers to the landing crafts.
The 500 Rangers
who had landed at Omaha on June 6 at around 07:30 a.m. met a very
strong resistance on the beach. They separated into two groups:
one with about fifty soldiers which landed as envisaged at the sector
Charlie (Vierville-sur-Mer), the other composed with the hundreds
of Rangers remaining, east of Omaha Beach in front of Colleville-sur-Mer,
estimating that the soldiers were more likely to survive there than
on Charlie. Indeed, on Charlie, less than ten out of fifteen succeeded
in surviving the landing while more in the east, about ten Rangers
of the Rangers at Omaha Beach was exemplary and these men, particularly
on Charlie, opened breaches at the price of incredibly high losses
like all the American companies on this beach.
moto of the Rangers, an elite unit of the United States Army, is
“Lead the Way, Rangers”. This moto was said the first
time by the General Cota on Charlie, to encourage these Rangers
to help the Americans of the 29th infantry division.
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