Pointe du Hoc Part Two

From the barbed-wire fence along the cliff top, you can look down the hundred-foot cliff to the east beach where three companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James E. Rudder, landed on D Day. Their mission was to scale the cliff, then silence the six 155 mm howitzers thought to threaten the landing operations on both American beaches. On the morning of D-day the Rangers (3 Companies of 2nd Battalion) set off in ten British crewed landing craft, but three sank on the approach to the beach. The tide here pulls to the east, and the boats drifted off course, and they landed at Pointe de la Percée, just to the east. Because of this they landed some quarter of a mile to the right of the gun emplacement. The method of scaling the cliffs had been practised using specially equipped DUKWs with firemen’s ladders. The beach was under fire and had many large craters, caused by shells from the battleship "Texas" which was supporting the assault. The rocket fired ropes had also become wet and very few reached the top of the cliffs. Rommel, in anticipation of an attack here, had ordered the cliffs to be mined and trip wire placed along the cliff top. The Germans also dropped grenades over the cliffs to deter the Rangers from scaling the cliffs. Air support was called for and medium bombers succeeded in making the defenders take to their underground bunkers. This enabled the Rangers to gain a foothold on the cliffs, and the British and American destroyers Talybont and Satterlee moved as near to the cliffs as possible to give supporting fire. By the time the Rangers had regrouped on the cliffs very few defenders remained, but they took a lot of dislodging from the bunkers. Later that morning, a patrol found the 155s unguarded and spiked them. Colonel Rudder then set up a defensive perimeter and waited for reinforcements. "Located Pointe du Hoc," he managed to signal V Corps that afternoon, "mission accomplished need ammunition and reinforcement many casualties." Those reinforcements were to have come from Rangers of the 2nd and 5th battalions waiting offshore. Because Rudder’s assault was late, the Rangers assumed that it had failed and landed instead on Omaha Beach. It took them two days to fight their way overland to Rudder’s relief. By then, his force had been reduced to about ninety effective men. Rudder received the Distinguished Service Cross for continuing to lead his men, although twice wounded. The photographer assigned to the Rangers had his camera and film ruined by the sea water. All the photographs that you see of the assault were taken later in the week.

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