Destination List > Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc

Photo by FaceMePLS

The history...

Pointe du Hoc lies 4 mi (6.4 km) west of the center of Omaha Beach. During World War II it was the highest point between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casemates and gun pits. On D-Day, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.

The assault force was carried in ten landing craft, with another two carrying supplies and four DUKW amphibious trucks carrying the 100-foot (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.

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 7:10 am 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 ships USS Texas (BB-35), USS Satterlee (DD-626), USS Ellyson (DD454), and HMS Talybont (L18) 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 Attack

The original plans 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.

When the Rangers made it to the top at Pointe du Hoc, they had sustained 15 casualties. The force 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.

Multiple copies of the Rangers orders were released in 2012 by the US National Archives, indicating that Lt. Col. Rudder had been told of the guns' removal prior to landing. His D-Day orders went beyond the taking of Pointe du Hoc and remained consistent: Land at Pointe du Hoc & Omaha Beach; advance along the coast; take the town of Grandcamp, attack the Maisy Batteries and reach the "D-Day Phase Line" (close to Osmanville) two hours before dark. The Rangers could then repel counterattacks along the Grandcamp-Vierville road, via the Isigny-Bayeux road or diagonally across open fields. They could also prevent mobile 150mm artillery getting within a 12-mile range of the beachhead.


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