One of the most crucial American attacks was to take place in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, prior to the allied beach invasions. Pointe de Hoc is a 120-foot cliff overlooking the English channel that had been occupied and fortified by the Germans. There were large German 155 mm guns (which look more like cannons) that could reach the Allied ships miles off the coast from where the landing troops were to be launched. There were also 3-foot thick fortified bunkers where there were living quarters and from where the guns could be fired.
From this vantage point, the Germans could see for miles and could easily assault the various beaches, which were to be the sites of the allied invasion.
In April 1944, this spot was bombed by the Americans, causing the Germans to remove the guns and move them inland, replacing them with telephone poles to make the allied forces believe the guns were still there.
The capture of Pointe du Hoc by the U.S. Army Rangers in the early morning hours of D-Day was one of the most daring, costly and pivotal battles of WW II.
These 225 Rangers scaled the cliffs while constantly being fired upon by the entrenched Germans. Once securing the point, they moved inland to find the 155 mm canons that the Nazis had relocated. They were able to locate four of the five and destroy them.
At the end of two days of fighting, only 90 U.S. Rangers of the original 225 were in fighting condition. The monument that my wife, Liz, and I are standing in front of was erected on top of a German bunker. It is a simple granite pylon, meant to represent the tools / spears that were fired into the cliffs, to which rope ladders were attached for scaling. This is the spot President Reagan gave his famous speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day.
As you tour the grounds you notice two types of craters caused by the Allied bombing. If they are bowl shaped, the bombs were dropped from the air. If they were more oblong in shape, the munitions were fired by our vessels at sea. As you look over the jagged cliffs down to the ocean, you can’t help but feel the bravery those men exhibited in the early morning, climbing rope ladders while being fired upon by Nazis embedded within 50 yards of them.
Coming Wednesday: The role of gliders and paratroopers in the D-Day invasion.