Pointe du Hoc
|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|
|225+ infantry||6 field guns
20+ Fw 190s
4 machine gun emplacements
1 observation bunker
|Casualties and losses|
|135 killed/wounded||Around 3 captured|
Pointe du Hoc (French pronunciation: [pwɛ̃t dy ɔk]) is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy in northern France. It is situated between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east, and stands on 100 ft (30 m) tall cliffs overlooking the sea. Marking the Western end of the Omaha beach sector, it was a point of attack by the United States Army Ranger Assault Group during Operation Overlord in World War II.
Pointe du Hoc (sometimes erroneously given as Pointe du Hoe as a result of a typographical error) lies 4 miles (6.4 km) west of the center of Omaha Beach. The Germans had built, as part of the Atlantic Wall, six casemates to house a battery of captured French Canon de 155mm GPF guns. These guns threatened Allied landings on both Omaha and Utah beaches, risking heavy casualties in the landing forces. Although there were several bombardments from the air and by naval guns, intelligence reports assumed that the fortifications were too strong, and would also require attack by ground forces. The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion was therefore given the task of destroying the strongpoint early on D-Day.
Prior to the attack, the guns were moved approximately 1 mile away, where they were sighted to fire on "Utah" beach. However, the concrete fortifications were intact, and would still present a major threat to the landings if they were occupied by artillery forward observers. The Ranger Battalion commanders and executive officers knew the guns had moved, but the rest of the Rangers were not informed prior to the attack.
The Ranger battalion was 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 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 Point du Hoc. During a briefing aboard the Landing Ship Infantry HMS Ben My Chree he heard that Free French sources reported the guns thought to be there had 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 to land in ten landing craft with another two carrying supplies and four DUKW amphibious trucks carrying the 100-ft ladders - requisitioned from the London Fire Brigade - that would be used. 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 keep it afloat. German fire sank one of the DUKW. Once within a mile of the shore, German mortars and machine guns fired on the craft.
Despite these initial setbacks because of weather and navigational problems, resulting in a 40-minute delay and loss of surprise, the British landing craft carrying the rangers finally reached the base of the cliffs at 7:10 and with half the force started 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.
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 moved out of position, possibly as a result of air attacks during the buildup to the invasion. It is said that German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel gave the order to move the battery since he had recently been placed in charge of the coastal defenses of Normandy. Removal of the guns had actually been completed on June 4, 1944, but poor weather conditions prior to the invasion limited a final reconnaissance effort which would have revealed the guns' removal. The Rangers regrouped at the top of the cliffs, and a small patrol went off in search of the guns. This patrol found five of the six guns nearby and destroyed their mechanism with thermite grenades. The new battery location inland was sighted solely for Utah beach.
The costliest part of the battle for the Rangers came after the cliff assault. Determined to hold the vital ground, yet isolated from other Allied forces and outnumbered by the German garrison on the point, the Rangers fended off several counterattacks from the German 916th Grenadier Regiment. Rudder's men were finally relieved after units of the American 29th Infantry Division's 116th Infantry Regiment broke through to the Rangers from Omaha Beach on June 7.
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 found that their radios were ineffective. The added impetus these 500+ 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. At the end of the 2-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225+ was reduced to about 90 men who could still fight.
American war crime accusation 
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.
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.
Pointe du Hoc now has a memorial and museum dedicated to the battle. Many of the original fortifications have been left in place. The site is 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.
Photo taken on D+2, after relief forces reached the Rangers at Point Du Hoc. The American flag had been spread out to stop fire of friendly tanks coming from inland.
US President Ronald Reagan giving a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the event.
- Focke-Wulf FW 190 Aces of the Western Front, Osprey Publishing
- 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
- American Battle Monuments Commission. "The Battle of Pointe du Hoc (interactive multimedia presentation)". ABMC website. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
- p.210 Gawne, Jonathan Spearheading D-Day: American Special Units 6 June 1944 2001 Historie and Collections
- LTC Cleveland Lytle, U.S.A. "Distinguished Service Cros Recipients". 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. p. 161. ISBN 0-8232-3120-8.
- Beevor, Antony. "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy". (New York: Penguin, 2009), p106
- "Call of Duty 2 Review". Retrieved 19 December 2010.
- "The American Battle Monuments Commission". 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.".
Further reading 
- "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.
- 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
|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