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Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc

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The Rangers climb the cliff

The Pointe du Hoc is a major historical site for the one of the battles that were undertaken by the U.S rangers.  It was one of the epic allied landings which happened on the Normandy Coast with an aim to liberate France and the whole of Western Europe from the German conquest.  The U.S army Second Ranger Battalion exhibited a particular heroism commanded by Lt. Colonel James E. Rudder.

On the D-Day of the battle which was on 6th June 1944, the American Rangers landed at the foot of the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.  The cliff, eighty to one hundred feet high, was one of the challenges that the army had to go through to defeat their German enemies.  The cliff is almost vertical and it provides a very commanding view of the Channel that could be used for observation and setting of the gun crews (Keegan, 1994).   The Germans had built the Atlantic wall and reinforced the wall with six concrete emplacements which were then equipped with French 155mm guns which had been captured from the French forces.  Before the allied forces decided to attack the area   the guns had been detected and a heavy attack carried out but the guns had remained intact.  There had to be a major operation that would lead to total destructions of the guns. However, the Germans learned of the plan and moved the guns further inland. The cliff and Ponte du Hoc remained a major obstacle for the allied forces and the assault remained most critical.

The main objective of the mission was to destroy the batteries that had been moved inland by Germans.  Lt Colonel Rudder had expected the Rangers to face a challenge moving up the cliff and therefore there had been intense training prior to the assault.  Rudder had been stunned by the magnitude of the cliff and therefore he had focused on intensive training of the rangers specifically focusing on cliff climbing and amphibious tactics before the assault (Keegan, 1994).

 Their training program really paid off. On the date of the attack, the three companies comprising the second battalion under the command of the Rudder personal leadership landed on the floor of cliff with boats although they initially encountered problems with landing direction.  The Rangers were then well covered by the naval gunfire to guarantee them security as they climbed up the cliff.

Getting up the cliff was an anticipated challenge that they had to go through.  They used ropes and other equipments to climb the cliff. The ropes were fired up the cliff by rockets. However, this was not without a lot of resistance from the Germans. The Germans had used the cliff as a part of their defense and they understood well that once the American Rangers went up the cliff, they will destroy the guns which had been confiscated from the French forces.

After the mistakes that had been made at the beach, Rudder was determined that his men would eventually make it to the top. The initial phases in the attack involved jumping out of the LCAs.  The rangers had to jump out of LCAs and the cross a small and little beach before reaching the base of the cliff.   The LCAs could not land at the base of the cliff and therefore the Rangers had to make a dash from their boats to the bottom of the cliff where there were ropes, rope ladders and grappling hooks to climb up the cliff.   From the boat to the base of the cliff, there was a distance of about 30 yards that rangers had to cross under heavy attack from the German forces.

The rangers could not use their hands to throw the ropes and the grappling hooks up the cliff.  In their dash from the LCAs through the shingle beach, some of the ropes had soaked up with water and were very heavy to mount over the cliff.  Therefore Rudder had found it necessary to use rockets to propel the ropes up the cliff.

However, at the base of the cliff, it was not that simple for the rangers.  In the ensuring battle before the assault, there were craters that had been created by the Allied bombs as they assaulted the cliff to destroy the guns before they realized that only a ground operation could bring the guns down. The allied forces had thrown heavy bombs and shell missing the Pointe.  When they reached the base of the cliff, the rangers sank at these craters and had to struggle out before finding ropes and grappling hooks up the cliff.  Most of the rangers had to use their Mae West lifejackets while others were assisted by their comrades to get out of these craters (Wilde, 2009).

In the course of crossing the beach, there were others who were wounded by the German machine gun that had been strategically placed pointing towards the cliff. The DUKWs failed to land on the shingle beach and therefore their ladders were obsolete and could not be used. The shelling from USS Texas and the other machine guns had made the earth to pile up which made it difficult for the DUKWs to approach the cliff so that their ladders could be used.

As they climbed up the cliff, the Germans were up the cliff using all the necessary means to keep Americans from reaching the top of the cliff.  There were incredulous German defenders who were busy cutting ropes, tossing grenades toward the American down the cliff, and in many other ways. Amidst all the attacks, the rangers were well prepared to mount a successful attack on their enemies (Keegan, 1994). They closely followed their training and they took advantage of any opportunities that came on their way.  Due to the heavy bombing from the allied forces (USS Texas and Britain destroyer) a part of the cliff had collapsed. This was advantageous to the rangers as it created a muddy mound which helped the rangers to climb. They clambered their way to through the muddy mound up to third of the cliff.

The grappling hooks that were used by the ranger had been fitted with lit fuses on the top which were specifically designed to scare away the German forces. The lit fuses were fitted in such a way that they appeared like a bomb.  On the sea, the navy continued to give a suppressive fire offense to the enemies which pushed them further away from the edge of the cliff (Wilde, 2009).

There were many heroes for the day. It is recorded that one intrepid ranger provided the rangers with covering fire from an extended ladder in a DUKW. The ranger continuously swung back and fourth the fire in mid air with the waves from the fire buffeting him around.  Apart from this assistance from the fellow rangers, the ragged cliff also provided a particular opportunity for the rangers as they were able to support themselves as they climbed up the cliff.

Although there was a heavy resistance from the enemy the Ranger was well prepared for any assault. They were also reinforced by the allied forces especially the British destroy (Taybont) which continuously fired towards the Germany forces. The rangers struggled and within 10 minutes after landing on the foot of the cliff, the fir Ranger had reached the top of the cliff and secured a safety foot hold.  In the course of climbing the cliff, the American rangers incurred only 15 casualties although many more had been incurred in the course of crossing from the LCAs to the base of the base of the cliff.

With time, more and more rangers moved up the cliff. The German defenders were pushed further away from the cliff and Rudder continued to expand his perimeter of jurisdiction sweeping clean the area.

When the reached the top of the cliff, they found out that the guns had been moved from their original location.  At the top of Pointe, Rudder gathered his man to platoons and each was assigned the duties they had to carry in destroying the guns.  In their search, the rangers were helped by the landscape which had been heavily ragged and cratered by the heavy motor firing from the aerial bombardment that had been carried out through the day and prior to the assault.  The landscape of top of the cliff is usually compared to the landscape of the moon.

Some of the craters were several meters deep and they provided a cover for the rangers and the continued to push away the Germanys.  The rangers moved from one crater to the other with few casualties.  The rangers were facing opposing from the machine gun at west, anti-aircraft gun at their right, and the German troops who had been tucked in their trenches. However in a mater of time, they reached their encasement.

The rangers fought fiercely with the Germans at the top of cliff in search of the guns. They created road blocks at the cliff which kept the Germans away. The rangers were following any suspicious tracks which could assist them to recover the guns.  They destroyed the telephone polls. However it was Sergeants Leonard Lomell and Jack Kuhn who made the first discovery following a dirt road inland. There were five guns which were hidden beneath camouflage nettings which made them invisible.  The guns had been laid in a way that they were ready to fire on Utah Beach (Wilde, 2009).

After this discovery, the two rangers used the two termite grenades in their possession to destroy the guns. However, they later went for grenades from other rangers who were manning the road block and successfully destroyed the guns without being noticed by any German soldiers.


Keegan, J. (1994). Six armies in Normandy. New York: Penguin Books

Wilde, R. (2009). Pointe du Hoc: The sixth D-Day landing. Retrieved 24th January 2009 from http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/worldwar2/a/Pduhocarticle_3.htm

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