Batterie Pointe Du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc

Halfway between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, the Pointe du Hoc dominates the sea from its vertical cliff. It is crowned by a battery (partially under concrete shelter but still under construction in June 1944) installed by the Germans: six kilometers west of Omaha, six French-made 155 mm howitzers (155 mm GPF mle 1917) and dating from the First World War are set up on a plateau that ends abruptly in rocky cliffs, 25 to 30 meters high. The gunners belong to the 2nd battery of the Heeres-Küsten-Artillerie 1260 commanded by Oberleutnant Frido Ebeling.

The word “Hoc” comes from “haugr” in Norois, the language of the Vikings, and which means mound. This toponymy is frequent in the Norman language and particularly in “Cap de la Hague” and “Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue”. The Americans, by copying the maps, made a typographical error which transformed “Hoc” into “Hoe” on many cards and reports still accessible today.

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US Photo of Pointe Du Hoc 1943 with the guns marked up

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French155 mm GPF mle 1917, captured and reused by the Germans

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From D day -1 to +1 there was a massive aerial bombardment, above is a record on how much was draped on the Pointe

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June the 4th 1944

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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 TSS 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, drowning all but one of its occupants; 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 Talybontprovided 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 cliff tops 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.

06.39 H-Hour
D, E and F companies of 2nd Ranger Battalion approach the Normandy coast in a flotilla of twelve craft.
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.
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.
Approximately 35 Rangers achieving the secondary objective of building a roadblock.
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
The Rangers continue to defend an even smaller area on Pointe du Hoc against German counter-attacks.
Afternoon – A platoon of Rangers arrives on an LST, with wounded removed.
8 June 1944
Morning – The Rangers are relieved by troops arriving from Omaha beach.
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George Kerchner, veteran of Company D, 2nd Ranger Battalion, remembers Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, June 6, 1944
Elmer Vermeer, veteran of Headquarters Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, remembers Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Leonard Lomell, veteran of Company D, 2nd Ranger Battalion, remembers Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

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The below photos have been reported as General Eisenhower visiting the hidden guns of Point du Hoc

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