OMAHA BEACH : American Troops



 
 
 
 

 

The Rangers at the Pointe du Hoc

While the main assault was taking place on Omaha Beach, Companies D, E and F of the 2nd Ranger Battalion were engaged in a solitary action, 5 kms to the west.
Under Lt.Col. James E. Rudder, the 225 Rangers had a very special mission to accomplish at the Pointe du Hoc: capture that fortified postion and neutralize the 6-guns 155mm battery that was capable of firing on all the approaches to Omaha and Utah. The layout of the terrain was making this mission particularly difficult: a 25m-wide strip of beach overlooked by a 30m high cliff that would have to be climbed.

It was around 0430 hrs that the ten LCAs and four DUKWs carrying the troops had been lowered from the transport ships about 20 kilometres off the coast. Each LCA was equipped with rocket-propelled knotted climbing ropes and rope ladders that would be used to climb the cliff. Each landing craft was also carrying extending ladders made of several sections that could be easily assembled to each others while each DUKW were carrying 110-foot long firemen' ladders.
The attack plan was that, at H-Hour, D Company would land to the west of the Pointe while E and F Companies would land to the east of it, and then they would neutralize the battery emplaced on top.

Due to strong tide currents and low visibility, the british control boat mistook to Pointe de La Perçée for the objective, 2km to the east. This forced the Rangers to navigate along the coast under the german fire which sank one of the DUKWs. Previously, one of the LCA had already sunk in the rough sea near the start line.

This navigation error caused a 40 minutes delay on the planned schedule and the follow-up Rangers companies, without any news from Rudder, would be redirected to Omaha Beach.
 

Climbing the Pointe du Hoc ( 64Ko )
Climbing the Pointe du Hoc
( USA Signal Corps )

At 0710 hrs, the 9 remaining LCAs reached the eastern side on the cliff on a 400m-wide front and the Rangers landed on the narrow strip of beach. In less than 5 minutes, the first men were already on top of the cliff and, after regrouping into small squads, they moved towards their assigned objectives. They reached the battery emplacements but found no guns inside them. Without stopping, they carried on with their mission and pushed inland to cut the coastal road, establish a defensive perimeter and await for the reinforcments coming from Omaha Beach.

The patrols started around 0900 hours. Following a path beyond the coastal road, two Rangers found the guns in a field as well as a large amount of ammunitions but with no german soldiers around. They destroyed two of the guns with hand grenades and then retraced their steps to fetch some more. Another patrol finished up the job and blew up the ammos.

After a while, the enemy began to recover from the early confusion and mounted several counter-attacks during the day. The small group of Rangers back at the battery was besieged and only with sporadic contact with advanced group near the road and the Command Post couldn't establish communication with the main attacking forces on the beaches.
During the afternoon, only a single message could be sent to V Corps from the Pointe du Hoc: "Here is the Pointe du Hoc - missions accomplished - need ammos and reinforcements - casualties heavy".

This situation lingered on June 6th and 7th, the Rangers dug in and awaiting the reinforcements from Omaha.

Rangers at the Pointe du Hoc ( 51Ko )
Rangers at the Pointe du Hoc
( USA Signal Corps)

It's only around noon on June 8 that the relief forces, made of the 5th Ranger Battalion, the 116th Infantry Regiment and tanks from the 743rd Tank Battalion forced the germans to withdraw toward Grandcamp and the Rangers were able to take a short rest.
During this assault, the 2nd Ranger Battalion suffered 135 losses out of the 225 men that landed. On June 8 at 1200 hrs, only 90 men remained fit for duty.