View from inside the 155mm cannon casemate aimed at the English Channel horizon.
"These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war." President Ronald Reagan
Pointe du Hoc is a 110 foot cliff overlooking the English Channel, a highpoint between the landing zones of Utah and Omaha Beach. While most of us know about the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach thanks to the movie Saving Private Ryan, this would be the first time I had heard the story about the brave Army Rangers who had to scale these walls to overtake the German forces. The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions would be tasked with having to climb these straight faced cliffs using ropes, grapples and ladders, all while under the attack from heavy enemy fire. The photo below is looking southeast over the English Channel. Can you visualize the US Army Rangers coming over these walls? If you click the link HERE, you can see a similar shot from 1944 with German prisoners marching and the US flag draped over the landscape.
The photo below is looking southeast over the English Channel. Can you visualize the US Army Rangers coming over these walls?
The photographs seen here, are craters from the initial bombings which were to aid the troops in their mission, prior to the ascent. The USS Texas, USS Satterlee, USS Ellyson, and HMS Talybont all fired from below, leaving behind what are now remnants similar to the landscape of the moon.
German casemate. A crater filled landscape high above the English Channel, caused by the initial bombings.
The surviving German observation bunker pictured below, added to the ambiance of the hollowed grounds. Lucky for us history nerds, it was still open for exploration. Two of my most notable memories from being inside the bunker were: 1.) My photograph looking outwards from a machine gun opening up the entrance steps was haunting. I imagined a German soldier standing there, hand on the trigger, ready to open fire at the first site of invading Allies. 2.) The charred wood you see inside of the bunker, were the scars of fires once set by US soldiers after overtaking the bunker.
Surviving German observation bunker.
Looking up at the entrance stairs in the German bunker. Not a sight you'd want to see coming down the stairs. Charred wood remains of the fires set by US soldiers.
Upon reaching the top of the cliffs, the Rangers were shocked to find the bunkers empty of their main objective artillery. The Germans had moved them prior to the assault southward, eventually being located by a small patrol who went out in search of them. The victory of Pointe du Hoc for the Allies didn't come with-out loss though. During the two day fight, less than seventy-five of the original 225 who came ashore on June 6th, 1944 were fit for duty. Of those who served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 77 were killed and 152 wounded.
Constructed by the French, the Pointe du Hoc Ranger monument commemorates the brave men of the 2nd American Ranger Battalion. It reads, "To the heroic ranger commandoes D2RN E2RN F2RN of the 116th INF who held under the command of Colonel James E Rudder of the First American Division attacked and took possession of the Pointe du Hoc."
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Continue to part 4 of my 5 part series describing the the battle at Omaha Beach by clicking the link here: HERE
If you're just joining me, the first part of this 5 part series covering my travels to Normandy, France in February of 2018 can be found by clicking the link: HERE
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