Pointe du Hoc was located on the coast to the west of the Omaha beach landings
and was the position of six 155mm cannons with a range of 25,000
yards. These cannons had a commanding view of both Omaha and
Utah beaches and the potential to cause much damage to the
invading force. The area had been bombed since May and then
grew in intensity during the three days and nights before
D-Day. During D-Day, the USS Texas bombarded the
point as did 18 medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force at H-20.
The point stood on cliffs between 85 to over 100 feet high at whose base was a
very small rocky beach that offered no protection. Because
the point was positioned on near impregnable cliffs, the Germans
had concentrated their defenses in anticipation of a ground assault
from inland. Above were
heavily fortified concrete casements interlaced with tunnels,
trenches, and machine-gun positions around the perimeter.
Although the 716th Infantry Division was thinly stretched along 30
miles of the shoreline, approximately
200 German troops (125 infantry and 85 artillery men) were garrisoned in or around the
The task fell to Lt. Col. James Earl
Rudder's 2nd Ranger Battalion and called for 3 Companies (D, E,
and F) of the battalion to scale the heights. Company D was
to approach the heights on the west, while E and F were to attack
on the east. The main Ranger force (5th Battalion and
Companies A and B of the 2nd) were to wait off shore for signal of
success and then land at the Point. In addition to destroying the
guns, the Rangers were to move inland and cut the coastal highway
that connected Grandcamp and Vierville. They were then to
wait for the arrival of the US 116th Infantry from Omaha Beach to
the east - scheduled to relieve them at noon on the 6th.
Once linking up with the main force, they were then to move on
Grandcamp and Maisy to the west in order to attempt to link up
with the forces that were to land at Utah beach.
H-Hour was scheduled for 0630 on June the 6th. The Rangers approached the point with their flotilla of ten
landing craft and four DUKW's, but the seas were rough and one
LCA sank after taking on excessive water. Ten minutes later,
a supply craft sank leaving only one survivor. In the confusion
and strong tide, they approached the beach near Pointe de la
at over 3 miles east of their objective. Rudder immediately realized his
error and headed west toward the point, but not before losing
another DUKW to 20mm fire. The error proved to be costly
because the Rangers were now 35 minutes behind schedule at which time the
defenders at the point were able to reenter their positions after
the bombardment. The main Ranger force was to wait until
0700 at which time if the landing was successful, they would
follow the landings at Pte-du-Hoc. If not, they would land
on the western side of Omaha and fight their way westward to the
point. The designated time came and went and word was given
to land at Omaha - Rudder and his Rangers were on their own.
The Rangers headed for the cliffs, but now they found themselves
only on the Eastern side of the point when the plan called for
landings on both sides. The beach at the base of the cliff
was only 30 yards wide and heavily cratered from the
bombardment. In order to climb the heights, the
Rangers' LCA's were equipped with rocket-fired grappling hooks and
the DUKW's were fitted with fireman ladders. But, because of the shelling
from the USS Texas and others, earth had piled up at the base of
the cliff and the DUKW's couldn't approach close enough to the
cliff to effectively use their ladders. On the other hand,
the piling at the base gave the men somewhat cover from enemy fire
and also made the height to climb less.
After several failed attempts (due to the weight of soaked ropes) and
due to the assistance of naval artillery (especially the British
destroyer the Talybont),
the Rangers finally struggled to the top after incurring only 15
casualties. As men reached the top, they went off in small
groups to accomplish their missions.
reached the gun emplacements only to find that they had been
removed and telephone poles had been temporarily installed.
Lt. Col. Rudder then split his command into two. One group
stayed behind to establish a command posts, while the other went
in search of the missing guns. The second group headed south
and found the guns in an apple orchard, where they had been
removed in order to be saved from the bombardment. They were
unguarded and were destroyed with thermite grenades. The
primary mission of the Rangers had been accomplished.
Up to this point, the German defenders had not yet recovered from
their initial confusion. They were slowly regrouping and
assembling, and later that day the 916th and 726th counterattacked
the Ranger positions. Throughout the day, the
, Barton, and Thompson gave fire
support to the Rangers when possible. By nightfall, the
Ranger were forced back into a 200 yard wide defensive position
inside the battery. The Rangers had lost 1/3 of his men and
ammunition was running low.
By June 7th, the next day, of his original 225 men, Rudder had
fewer than 100 and almost no food. Despite attempts of the
5th Ranger Battalion that had landed at Omaha Beach four miles to
the east, the Rangers remained under siege. By the 8th of
June, the 5th Ranger Battalion finally relieved Rudder's
position. They were almost 2 days behind schedule.
In the end, Rudder's Rangers had suffered 70 percent casualties
and held off five German counterattacks. Rudder was awarded
the Distinguished Service Cross for his service at Point du Hoc
and went on to command the 109th Infantry Regiment later in the
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