Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 in northern France. It lies 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II...

, and stands on 100 ft (30 m) tall cliff
In geography and geology, a cliff is a significant vertical, or near vertical, rock exposure. Cliffs are formed as erosion landforms due to the processes of erosion and weathering that produce them. Cliffs are common on coasts, in mountainous areas, escarpments and along rivers. Cliffs are usually...

s overlooking the sea. It was a point of attack by the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 Ranger Assault Group
Ranger Assault Group
The Ranger Assault Group was a provisional regiment of U.S. Army Rangers that was formed for the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, in World War II.- Formation :...

 during Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...



On Pointe du Hoc (sometimes erroneously known as Pointe du Hoe following a typographical error by an American military cartographer) the Germans
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 had built, as part of the Atlantic Wall
Atlantic Wall
The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain.-History:On March 23, 1942 Führer Directive Number 40...

, six casemates to house a battery of captured French 155mm guns
Canon de 155mm GPF
The Canon de 155 Grande Puissance Filloux mle.1917 was a 155 mm cannon used by the French Army during the first half of the 20th century.-History:The gun was designed during World War I by Colonel L.J.F...

. With Pointe Du Hoc situated between Utah Beach
Utah Beach
Utah Beach was the code name for the right flank, or westernmost, of the Allied landing beaches during the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as part of Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944...

 to the west and Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II...

  to the east, these guns threatened Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 landings on both beaches, risking heavy casualties in the landing forces. Although there were several bombardments from the air and by naval guns, intelligence reports assumed that the fortifications were too strong, and would also require attack by ground forces. The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion
2nd Ranger Battalion
2nd Ranger Battalion is the name of two distinct units of United States Army Rangers. The first was part of the six Ranger battalions of the Second World War...

 was therefore given the task of destroying the strongpoint early on D-Day
D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...


Prior to the attack, the guns were moved approximately 1 mile away; however, the concrete fortifications were intact, and would still present a major threat to the landings if they were occupied by artillery forward observers. The Ranger Battalion commanders and executive officers knew the guns had moved, but the rest of the Rangers were not informed prior to the attack.


The Ranger battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder
James Earl Rudder
James Earl Rudder was a United States Army Major General, Texas Land Commissioner, and President of Texas A&M University.-Early life:...

. The plan called for the three companies of Rangers to be landed by sea at the foot of the cliffs, scale them using ropes, ladders, and grapples under enemy fire, and engage the enemy at the top of the cliff. This was to be carried out before the main landings. The Rangers trained for the cliff assault on the Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 2–4 miles off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent...

, under the direction of British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...


Major Cleveland A. Lytle was to command Companies D, E, and F of the 2nd Ranger Battalion (known as "Force A") in the assault at Point du Hoc. During a briefing aboard the HMS Ben My Chree he heard that Free French sources reported the guns thought to be there had been removed. Impelled to some degree by alcohol, Lytle became quite vocal that the assault would be unnecessary and suicidal and was relieved of his command at the last minute by Provisional Ranger Force commander Rudder. Rudder felt that Lytle could not convincingly lead a force with a mission that he did not believe in. Lytle was later transferred to the 90th Infantry Division where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

Despite initial setbacks because of weather and navigational problems, resulting in a 40-minute delay and loss of surprise, the British landing craft
Landing Craft Assault
The Landing Craft Assault was a British landing craft used extensively in World War II. Its primary purpose was to ferry troops from transport ships to attack enemy-held shores. The craft derived from a prototype designed by John I. Thornycroft Ltd. During the war it was manufactured throughout...

 carrying the rangers finally reached the base of the cliffs. The landing craft were fitted with rocket launchers to fire grapels and ropes up the cliffs. As the Rangers scaled the cliffs the Allied destroyers USS Satterlee
USS Satterlee (DD-626)
USS Satterlee was a Gleaves-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II. She the second Navy ship named for United States Coast Guard Captain Charles Satterlee....

 and HMS Talybont provided them with fire support and ensured that the German defenders above could not fire down on the assaulting troops. 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 moved out of position, possibly as a result of air attacks during the buildup to the invasion. It is said that German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 gave the order to move the battery since he had recently been placed in charge of the coastal defenses of Normandy. Removal of the guns had actually been completed on June 4, 1944, but poor weather conditions prior to the invasion limited a final reconnaissance effort which would have revealed the guns' removal. The Rangers regrouped at the top of the cliffs, and a small patrol went off in search of the guns. This patrol found five of the six guns nearby and destroyed them with thermite
Thermite is a pyrotechnic composition of a metal powder and a metal oxide that produces an exothermic oxidation-reduction reaction known as a thermite reaction. If aluminium is the reducing agent it is called an aluminothermic reaction...

A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

s. The new battery location inland was sited solely for Utah beach.

The costliest part of the battle for the Rangers came after the cliff assault. Determined to hold the vital ground, yet isolated from other Allied forces and outnumbered by the German garrison on the point, the Rangers fended off several counterattacks from the German 916th Grenadier-Regiment. Rudder's men were finally relieved after units of the American 29th Infantry Division's 116th Infantry Regiment broke through to the Rangers from Omaha Beach on June 7.

The original plans had also called for an additional, larger Ranger force of eight companies (including Companies A, B, and C of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the entire 5th Ranger Battalion
5th Ranger Battalion
The Fifth Ranger Infantry Battalion was a World War II Ranger battalion activated on 1 September 1943 at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. By this time, while in maneuvers on the United States, they were commanded by the Major Owen Carter...

) to follow the first attack, if successful. Flares from the clifftops 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.
The added impetus these 500+ Rangers provided on the stalled Omaha Beach landing has been conjectured to have averted a disastrous failure there, since they carried the assault beyond the beach, into the overlooking bluffs and outflanked the German defenses. At the end of the 2-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225+ was reduced to about 90 men who could still fight. One of the battleships which helped the battalion was the USS Texas (BB-35)
USS Texas (BB-35)
USS Texas , the second ship of the United States Navy named in honor of the U.S. state of Texas, is a . The ship was launched on 18 May 1912 and commissioned on 12 March 1914....

In the aftermath of the battle, some Rangers became convinced that French civilians had taken part in the fighting on the German side. A number of French civilians accused of shooting at American forces or of serving as artillery observers for the Germans were executed.


The assault on Pointe du Hoc has recently been portrayed in the video game Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 2 is a first-person shooter video game and the second installment in the critically acclaimed Call of Duty series. It was developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. It was released on October 25, 2005 for Microsoft Windows and on November 22, 2005 as a launch game for the...

, in which the player is a member of the Dog Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, and is faced with destroying the artillery battery and fending off the counter-attacks. Another video game version of this battle is in G.I. Combat, a real-time wargame from Strategy First and Freedom Games. A playable version of Pointe Du Hoc is also featured in the real-time strategy game Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes
Company of Heroes is a real-time strategy computer game developed by Relic Entertainment. It was released on September 12, 2006, and was the first title to make use of the Games for Windows label. A standalone expansion, Opposing Fronts, was released on September 25, 2007. A second standalone...

. It also exists as a map in Forgotten Hope 2, a Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2 is a computer game by the Swedish developer Digital Illusions CE . During development, Trauma Studios contributed to the development of the game after it was acquired by DICE...


The movie The Longest Day
The Longest Day (film)
The Longest Day is a 1962 war film based on the 1959 history book The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about "D-Day", the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, during World War II....

also contains scenes of the assault on the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.


Pointe du Hoc now has a memorial
A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks....

 and museum dedicated to the battle. Many of the original fortifications have been left in place. The site is speckled with a number of bomb craters
Impact crater
In the broadest sense, the term impact crater can be applied to any depression, natural or manmade, resulting from the high velocity impact of a projectile with a larger body...

. On Jan, 11 1979, this 13-hectare field was ceded permanently to the US government, who made the American Battle Monuments Commission responsible for its maintenance.

Further reading

  • Rangers Lead The Way, Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944; Steven J. Zaloga. Osprey Raid Series #1; Osprey Publishing 2009. ISBN 9781846033940

External links

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