The Battle of Point du Hoc

Poetic_Mind

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I didn't see this in the forum. I thought it was an important moment in history...particularly to SF.

http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/dday/pointeduhoc.aspx

Pointe du Hoc
by Brian Williams

The Objective
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 point.

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.

The Landing
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 Percée, 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.

They 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 USS Satterlee, 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 war.

These Rangers did find the gun emplacements a few miles inland and took them out with experimental thermite grenades. This battle was very important. If these Rangers did not take out the gun batteries, there was chance that the storming of Utah and Omaha would fail.

Additionally, the success of this battle paved the way for other special ops soldiers to come: Green Berrets and the current Rangers.
 

Trip_Wire

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On a bus trip that I took in France, we did the Normandy area. The Pont Du Hoc Cliffs was on the tours as well as the Normandy Cemetery at Colleville-sur Mer, France.

As a former Ranger, I had brought my Ranger beret (Black) just for that occasion. As we approached the Pont du Hoc area, the French female tour guide, started giving details about the Rangers and the the mission. She made a few mistakes and I politely corrected her.

She knew I had been a Ranger, in the Korean War era, so she asked me to fill in my fellow passengers on the history of the Rangers in general and the Pont du Hoc battle, on the way into the battle area.

Of course, it was an honor for me to do so. I think my fellow passengers appreciated my lecture.

I was really impressed and awed to be standing on those cliffs and looking down to the beach below. Barbed wire, foxholes, shell holes were very evident. The German pill box at the site, has inside the names of those 2nd BN KIA there. The walls of the pill box have both marks from bullets and grenade fragments on the walls. We walked all over the area, looking at things.

http://www.haworth-village.org.uk/360/1940/pointe-du-hoc-02.asp

When we left, we went to the Normandy Cemetery, located on the cliffs above the Omaha Beach landing zone. I signed the guest book there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normandy_American_Cemetery_and_Memorial

What an impressive place! The rows and rows of white Crosses and Stars of David ... It brought tears to my eyes, as I walked through them reading Name, Rank and units. (82nd AB, 101st AB, 2nd Ranger BN and all the other Infantry Divisions that took part in the invasion.)

If you ever get a chance, be sure to visit both of these places! :2c:
 

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pardus

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...particularly to SF..

:uhh: huh? This was a Ranger mission.

Thanks for posting the article.

Trip, great story. I was at the 50th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy, sadly I missed both the cemetary and Point Du Hoc.
 

Trip_Wire

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Could be he meant SOF.

Excellent article, PM - thanks for posting.

There was so much that happened that day, plus all that led up to it and what followed. It's fascinating.

LL


The lineage of the Special Operations units, has been messed with, over the years. Most of it was to give the 75th Ranger Regiment it's linage.

Prior to the 75th Ranger Regiment the Special Forces Groups, carried the WW II and Korean War Airborne Rangers, as well as OSS, FSSF and other Special Operations units like the Alamo scouts, etc.

On the creation of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the WWII Ranger BNs linage was given back into their linage and incorporated into the history of Merrill's Marauders or the 5307th Composite Unit, (Provisional) which wasn't really a Ranger unit or associated with the Ranger BNs of WWII.

Of course, the Ranger Companies of the Vietnam era, were also taken into the linage of the 75th Ranger Regiment as well.

I'm, however, still angry at those military linage 'experts,' for some how, not including, the linage of the 15 numbered and two letter companies of the Korean War Airborne Ranger Infantry Cos. We are not a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment's linage! :(:doh:

In Special Forces, our linage was re-written to trace our linage to the FSSF of WW II. This was a great unit; however, the mission of Special Forces isn't even close to what the FSSF was created for, nor what they did or how they fought, in WWII.

The Special Forces Regiment's missions and duties IMO, are more closely associated to the WWII OSS activities, with the Guerrilla warfare missions carried out by OSS teams in both Europe and Asia. ;)

They (OSS) are of course, in our linage; however, the linage of the FSSF is given more emphasis than the OSS. Of Course, the OSS were the CIA of the WWII era, so that might have been the reason. }:-):2c:

BTW Ravage, a great Video that says it all!
 

pardus

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I'm, however, still angry at those military linage 'experts,' for some how not including, the linage of the 15 numbered and two letter companies of the Korean War Airborne Ranger Infantry Cos. We are not a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment's linage! :(:doh:

I'm surprised to hear that Trip.

Do you know why?

Are people lobbying to have you guys incorporated into the 75th?
 

surgicalcric

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...I was at the 50th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy...

I was there as well, with my father.

He recounted the entire battle for me while we sat atop Point Du Hoc that day. Nothing in my life has been as solemn as the times he would recount stories for me of his time in combat. I wish he was here today...

Rest in Peace RANGER.
 
S

Simmerin' SigO

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I got to go there twice; the second time i had a lot of time to walk around the area. Although you can't get as close the cliff as you used to because of erosion, you really don't get an appreciation for what a feat it was until you walk the ground. (Same thing for any of the invasion beaches. - The Marines can HAVE that whole "Forward from The Sea" thing!)

The people there are still great to Americans. Even the younger generation. It helps if you don't swagger unless you've been there when the shooting started. But i found that if you show respect for the history, the people are very warm in return.

Glad I went; wouldn't trade it. I have a ton of pics.
 

pardus

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I was there as well, with my father.

He recounted the entire battle for me while we sat atop Point Du Hoc that day. Nothing in my life has been as solemn as the times he would recount stories for me of his time in combat. I wish he was here today...

Rest in Peace RANGER.

RIP Ranger.
 

Poetic_Mind

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I had to do a report my freshman year on something about WW2. I thought about this battle because I think this was a forgotten battle that needs to recieve much more attention.


I did mean SOF. However, other guys from groups like OSS also integrated into the 75th and the Green Berrets.

I really want to visit the point, but like Simmerin said, the weathering of the soil makes it unsafe to walk on. I'm afraid I won't be able to see the site by the time I visit the beaches.:(
 

AWP

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People go to France to see PAris and all that shit, yet they forget that it was in places like Normandy where men died so we can enjoy those luxurious.

I've been to a half-dozen or so battlefields here in America and have seen the remains of 30 years of war here in Afghanistan. The thing about battlefields is you need an appreciation of history first and most Americans don't have that. They see history as a series of dates and not events or people (because that is basically how we are taught in history classes).

If you get a chance to stand behind the stone wall on Marye's Heights or look down upon Burnside's Bridge or walk the Little Big Horn Battlefield and know what went on there, know the stories, know about the people then you can have an appreciation for their sacrifices. Whether you took one side or another you can stand there and face the wind or look upon a ridge or feel the sun and heat beating down on you and imagine yourself there. You can for a brief moment feel yourself at the battle.

But first you'd have to care and Americans don't.

Normandy, Tarawa, the Hurtgen Forest, Guadalcanal, the trenches of France, the crater at Petersburg...I'd like to see those places.
 

Ravage

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Omaha beach....... so run on the sand thinking that you are not getting shot at, you are not sea sick and not ewighted by tons of gear and a M1 Garand....yeah...makes one think a lot about history.
 

AWP

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You don't even need to run, Rav, you can stand there and feel history pressing down on you.

The best is when it is quiet, just you and any breeze that happens to be blowing. No cars, no kids, no clown tourist groups (Gettysburg was bad about that) bothering you. Little Big Horn was great for that. It is isolated with only a single road leading into it. I was there in the summer and the heat was oppressive, only groups of 2 and 3 were walking around and they were spread out so you didn't run into a soul. I walked down into a ravine where a company (E Co.?) was wiped out to a man.

You don't need to run, maybe climb a little and walk a lot. It won't just sink it, it will smack you in the face.
 

Poetic_Mind

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Omaha beach....... so run on the sand thinking that you are not getting shot at, you are not sea sick and not ewighted by tons of gear and a M1 Garand....yeah...makes one think a lot about history.


Ravage... probably not a great idea... the locals may think your nuts.:doh:
 

pardus

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You don't even need to run, Rav, you can stand there and feel history pressing down on you.

The best is when it is quiet, just you and any breeze that happens to be blowing. No cars, no kids, no clown tourist groups (Gettysburg was bad about that) bothering you. Little Big Horn was great for that. It is isolated with only a single road leading into it. I was there in the summer and the heat was oppressive, only groups of 2 and 3 were walking around and they were spread out so you didn't run into a soul. I walked down into a ravine where a company (E Co.?) was wiped out to a man.

You don't need to run, maybe climb a little and walk a lot. It won't just sink it, it will smack you in the face.

As I said earlier I attended the 50th at Normandy, also the 140th at Gettysburg and the 86th at Gallipoli.
I enjoyed the ceremonies and particulary the chance to talk with a few vets in Normandy, however when I return to these battlefields in the future I will not do so at these times when the battlefield is swamped with people, it takes so much away from the experience.

In Gallipoli I managed to climb the cliffs the ANZACs had to advance up and managed some time alone where like FF says the history and spirit of the battelfield really makes itself known if you are receptive to it.

Picket's ridge gave me a chill advancing towards the wall and the guns...

I'm very humbled on a battlefield to know what happened and to walk where the dead had walked and fallen.

There are some great battlefield guides you can buy that will give you a history of the battle as well as maps and a guide of where to go and what to see.

Holts guides are very good, I have/had some.
 

LibraryLady

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... Little Big Horn was great for that. It is isolated with only a single road leading into it. I was there in the summer and the heat was oppressive, only groups of 2 and 3 were walking around and they were spread out so you didn't run into a soul. I walked down into a ravine where a company (E Co.?) was wiped out to a man...

Driving out to Reno-Benteen along the back road, there are even fewer folk walking around. The few who make it out there, just drive the road and don't bother to get out. To get there, you drive across privately owned property and the horses are generally in the fields. At one point along the way, you are almost on the level of the river.

I remember wandering/hiking up in the hills by the base where I was stationed in Germany and finding old gun emplacements. The solitude of the location then is in stark contrast to the history. I found many places like that in Germany.

LL
 

Trip_Wire

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People go to France to see PAris and all that shit, yet they forget that it was in places like Normandy where men died so we can enjoy those luxurious.

The bus tour I talked about started and ended in Paris. We had a few days on ech end of the tour to see the sights of Paris, which shouldn't be missed either.

The one place that I really wanted to visit in the Normandy area, but the tour didn't go there, was the town of St-Mare-Eglise and the Museum there.

http://www.battlefieldsww2.50megs.com/musee_airborne_st_mere_eglise.htm

I did sample Calvados! Very good stuff! I recall a story I read about an 82nd Trooper landing and falling into a cellar full of bottles and kegs of Calvados, which he sampled during the night. He, didn't kill to many Germans that night and had a really bad hang-over that morning! So, I had to sample that liquor in his honor. I liked it! :D

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4964484
 
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