|Battle of Pointe du Hoc|
|Part of Normandy Landings|
Map of Pointe du Hoc, showing German installations and what was believed to be the locations of the 155mm guns.
|United States||Nazi Germany|
|Commanders and leaders|
|James Earl Rudder||Gerd von Rundstedt|
4 machine gun emplacements
6 empty casements
1 observation bunker
|Casualties and losses|
|135 killed/wounded||Around 3 captured|
Pointe du Hoc (French pronunciation: [pwɛ̃t dy ɔk]) is a prominent 100 ft (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the coast of Normandy in northern France. During World War II it was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The Germans fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the United States Army Ranger Assault Group successfully assaulted Point du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.
D-Day target[edit | edit source]
Pointe du Hoc lies 4 mi (6.4 km) west of the center of Omaha Beach. As part of the Atlantic Wall fortifications, the prominent clifftop location was fortified by the Germans. The battery was initially built in 1943 to house six captured French First World War vintage GPF 155mm K418(f) cannons positioned in open concrete gun pits. The battery was occupied by the 2nd Battery of Army Coastal Artillery Regiment 1260 (2/HKAA.1260). To defend the promontory from attack elements of the 352nd Infantry Division were stationed at the battery.
To provide increased defensive capability, the Germans began upgrading the battery in the Spring of 1944 with fully enclosed H671 concrete casements. The plan was to build six casements but two were unfinished when the location was attacked. These casements were built over and in front of the circular gun pits that housed the 155mm French cannons. Also built was a H636 observation bunker and L409a mounts for 20mm Flak 30 anti-aircraft cannon. The 105mm guns would have threatened the Allied landings on both Omaha and Utah beaches when finished, risking heavy casualties to the landing forces. The location was bombed in April 1944 and following this the Germans removed the French 155mm cannons. During preparation for Operation Overlord it was determined that Pointe du Hoc would still need to be attacked by ground forces to prevent the Germans using the casements for observation purposes. The U.S. 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were given the task of assaulting the strong point early on D-Day. Elements of the 2nd Battalion went in to attack Pointe du Hoc but initial delays meant the remainder of the 2nd Battalion and the complete 5th Battalion landed at Omaha Beach as their secondary landing position.
Though the Germans had removed the main armament from Pointe du Hoc, the beachheads were shelled from the nearby Maisy battery. The rediscovery of the battery at Maisy has shown that it was responsible for firing on the Allied beachheads until June 9, 1944.
Main assault[edit | edit source]
Pointe du Hoc lay within the General Leonard Gerow's V Corps field of operations. This then went to the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) and then down to the right-hand assault formation, the 116th Infantry Regiment attached from 29th Division. In addition they were given two Ranger battalions to undertake the attack. The Ranger battalions were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder. The plan called for the three companies of Rangers to be landed by sea at the foot of the cliffs, scale them using ropes, ladders, and grapples whilst under enemy fire, and engage the enemy at the top of the cliff. This was to be carried out before the main landings. The Rangers trained for the cliff assault on the Isle of Wight, under the direction of British Commandos.
Major Cleveland A. Lytle was to command Companies D, E, and F of the 2nd Ranger Battalion (known as "Force A") in the assault at Pointe du Hoc. During a briefing aboard the Landing Ship Infantry HMS Ben My Chree he heard that Free French Forces sources reported the guns had not been removed. Impelled to some degree by alcohol, Lytle became quite vocal that the assault would be unnecessary and suicidal and was relieved of his command at the last minute by Provisional Ranger Force commander Rudder. Rudder felt that Lytle could not convincingly lead a force with a mission that he did not believe in. Lytle was later transferred to the 90th Infantry Division where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The assault force was carried in ten landing craft with another two carrying supplies and four DUKW amphibious trucks carrying the 100 ft (30 m) ladders - requisitioned from the London Fire Brigade. One landing craft carrying troops sank and all but one of its occupants drowned, another was swamped. One supply craft sank and the other put the stores overboard to stay afloat. German fire sank one of the DUKWs. Once within a mile of the shore, German mortars and machine guns fired on the craft.
These initial setbacks resulted in a 40-minute delay in landing at the base of the cliffs, but British landing craft carrying the Rangers finally reached the base of the cliffs at 7:10am with approximately half the force it started out with. The landing craft were fitted with rocket launchers to fire grapnels and ropes up the cliffs. As the Rangers scaled the cliffs the Allied destroyers USS Satterlee and HMS Talybont provided them with fire support and ensured that the German defenders above could not fire down on the assaulting troops. The cliffs proved to be higher than the ladders could reach.
The original plans had also called for an additional, larger Ranger force of eight companies (Companies A and B of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the entire 5th Ranger Battalion) to follow the first attack, if successful. Flares from the clifftops were to signal this second wave to join the attack, but because of the delayed landing, the signal came too late, and the other Rangers landed on Omaha instead of Pointe du Hoc. The force at the top of the cliffs also found that their radios were ineffective.
Upon reaching the fortifications, most of the Rangers learned for the first time that the main objective of the assault, the artillery battery, had been removed. The Rangers regrouped at the top of the cliffs, and a small patrol went off in search of the guns. Two different patrols found five of the six guns nearby (the sixth was being fixed elsewhere) and destroyed their firing mechanisms with thermite grenades.
The added impetus these 500 plus Rangers provided on the stalled Omaha Beach landing has been conjectured to have averted a disastrous failure there, since they carried the assault beyond the beach, into the overlooking bluffs and outflanked the German defenses.
German counterattacks[edit | edit source]
The costliest part of the battle for Pointe du Hoc for the Rangers came after the successful cliff assault. Determined to hold the vital high ground, yet isolated from other Allied forces, the Rangers fended off several counterattacks from the German 914th Grenadier Regiment. The 5th Ranger Battalion and elements of the 116th Infantry Regiment headed towards Point du Hoc from Omaha Beach. However, they preventing from linking up with the 2nd Rangers during the evening of June 6, 1944. During the night the Germans forced the Rangers into a smaller enclave along the cliff, but were supported by fire from Allied vessels. On the evening of 7 June 1944, General Kraiss ordered the 352nd Division to withdraw. It was not until noon on 8 June that the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc were finally relieved when tanks and infantry of the 116th Infantry Regiment, along with the 6th Ranger Battalion finally linked up with the survivors.
Pointe du Hoc timeline[edit | edit source]
6 June 1944[edit | edit source]
06.39 – H-Hour - D, E and F companies of 2nd Ranger Battalion approach the Normandy coast in a flotilla of twelve craft.
07.05 – Strong tides and navigation errors mean the initial assault arrives late and the 5th Ranger Battalion as well A and B companies from 2nd Battalion move to Omaha Beach instead. 07.30 – Rangers fight their way up the cliff and reach the top and start engaging the Germans across the battery. Rangers discover the casemates are empty.
08.15 – Approximately 35 Rangers achieving the secondary objective of building a roadblock. 09.00 – Six German guns are located and destroyed using thermite charges.
For the rest of the day the Rangers repel several German counter-attacks. During the evening, one patrol from the Rangers that landed at Omaha beach make it through to join the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc.
7 June 1944[edit | edit source]
The Rangers continue to defend an ever smaller area on Point du Hoc against German counter-attacks.
Afternoon – A platoon of Rangers arrives on an LST, with wounded removed.
8 June 1944[edit | edit source]
Evening – The Rangers are relived by troops arriving from Omaha beach.
Civilian executions[edit | edit source]
In the aftermath of the battle, some Rangers became convinced that French civilians had taken part in the fighting on the German side. A number of French civilians accused of shooting at American forces or of serving as artillery observers for the Germans were executed.
Today[edit | edit source]
Pointe du Hoc now features a memorial and museum dedicated to the battle. Many of the original fortifications have been left in place and the site remains speckled with a number of bomb craters. On January 11, 1979, this 13-hectare field was transferred to American control, and the American Battle Monuments Commission was made responsible for its maintenance.
Media[edit | edit source]
The assault on Pointe du Hoc has been portrayed in the video game Call of Duty 2, in which the player is a member of the Dog Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, and is faced with destroying the artillery battery and fending off the counter-attacks.
Pointe Du Hoc is also a map in the strategy game Company of Heroes.
References[edit | edit source]
- Heinz W.C. When We Were One: Stories of World War II, Basic Books, 2003, ISBN 978-0-306-81208-8, p170
- Le Cacheux, G. and Quellien J. Dictionnaire de la libération du nord-ouest de la France, C. Corlet, 1994, ISBN 978-2-85480-475-1, p289
- Zalonga, Steven. D-Day Fortifications in Normandy. Osprey Publications. ISBN 9781841768762.
- http://www.maisybattery.com The Maisy Battery
- American Battle Monuments Commission. "The Battle of Pointe du Hoc (interactive multimedia presentation)". ABMC website. http://www.abmc.gov/home.php. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
- p.210 Gawne, Jonathan Spearheading D-Day: American Special Units 6 June 1944 2001 History and Collections
- LTC Cleveland Lytle, U.S.A.. "Distinguished Service Cross Recipients". http://www.legionofvalor.com/citation_parse.php?uid=1032886021. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
- "The Ultimate Sacrifice: Rudder's Rangers at Pointe-du-Hoc" militaryhistoryonline.com
- Beevor, Antony. "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy". (2009) p102-103
- Beevor, p103
- Bahmanyar, Mir (2006). Shadow warriors: a history of the US Army Rangers. Osprey Publishing. pp. 48–49. ISBN 1-84603-142-7.
- Piehler, G. Kurt (2010). The United States and the Second World War: New Perspectives on Diplomacy, War, and the Home Front. Fordham Univ Press. pp. 161. ISBN 0-8232-3120-8.
- Beevor, Antony. "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy". (New York: Penguin, 2009), p106
- "The American Battle Monuments Commission". http://www.150th.com/letters/btl_monu.htm. Retrieved October 29, 2012 "The site, preserved since the war by the French Committee of the Pointe du Hoc, which erected an impressive granite monument at the edge of the cliff, was transferred to American control by formal agreement between the two governments on 11 January 1979 in Paris, with Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman signing for the United States and Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs Maurice Plantier signing for France.".
- "Call of Duty 2 Review". http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/callofduty2/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;review. Retrieved 19 December 2010.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- "Pointe Du Hoe 2d Ranger Battalion 6 June 1944". Small Unit Actions. American Forces in Action. United States Army Center of Military History. 1991 . CMH Pub 100-14. http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/smallunit/smallunit-fm.htm.
- Rangers Lead The Way, Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944; Steven J. Zaloga. Osprey Raid Series #1; Osprey Publishing 2009. ISBN 978-1-84603-394-0
- Dog Company: the boys of Pointe Du Hoc--the Rangers who accomplished D-Day's toughest mission and led the way across Europe; Patrick K. O'Donnell. Da Capo Press 2012. ISBN 9780306820298 plus corresponding Author Interview from November 15, 2012,at the Pritzker Military Library
[edit | edit source]
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pointe du Hoc.|
- American D-Day: Omaha Beach, Utah Beach & Pointe du Hoc
- D-Day - Etat des Lieux: Pointe du Hoc
- Pointe du Hoc
- President Reagan's speech at the 40th anniversary commemoration
- Ranger Monument on the American Battle Monuments Commission web site
- The World War II US Army Rangers celebrate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day
- Photos from Point du Hoc
- Migraction.net: seawatching at Pointe du Hoc - for visitors interested in seabirds at this site
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