Cliff Hanger by James Dietz
Second Rangers assault German position on Pointe du Hoc on D-Day the Sixth of June 1944
Pointe du Hoc, a prominent position along the coast of Normandy, was a focal point of the amphibious assault by U.S. forces during the early morning hours of D-Day, 6 June 1944. The cliff top (sometimes referred to as Pointe du Hoe) is located between Utah and Omaha Beaches and sits atop overhanging cliffs up to 100 feet in height. The careful and thorough planning of the Normandy invasion determined that several key missions would require painstakingly accurate execution in order for the invasion to go as planned, and one of those missions was the capture of Pointe du Hoc. As such, Allied planners named Pointe du Hoc one of the most dangerous German defensive positions on the Norman coast
On D-Day, Lieutenant Colonel Rudder and his force from the 2nd Ranger Battalion, made up of 225 soldiers, along with LTC Max Schneider and the 5th Ranger Battalion in support, would carry out the mission to scale these cliffs before dawn on that fateful day and neutralize enemy positions atop Pointe du Hoc. Rudder, who had commanded the 2d
Ranger Battalion since its activation on 1 April 1943 at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, was largely responsible for developing the plan for his Rangers on D-Day. The plan called for the use of a force consisting of three separate elements in the form of Force A, B, and C. Force A consisted of Companies D, E, and F, 2d Ranger Battalion, and would land just below Point du Hoc. The assault teams would come ashore in a group of nine British-crewed Landing Craft Assault (LCA) boats carrying twenty-two men each. LCAs 668 and 858 would carry Company D. LCAs 861, 862, 888, and 722 would transport Company E and Rudder’s command element, while Company F would occupy LCAs 887, 884, and 883. In addition to the LCAs, four DUKW amphibious vehicles equipped with extension ladders, acquired from the London
Fire Department, would accompany Force A.
Atop Pointe du Hoc, the Rangers of Force A formed into small groups and took off toward their assigned objectives, the elimination of the observation post and guns. In the planning stages of the mission, each gun position atop Pointe du Hoc was assigned a number. Company D was assigned the task of eliminating guns numbered four, five, and six, all located on the western point of the cliff. Company E was to destroy the observation post and gun number three, and F Company would destroy guns numbered one and two, as well as the antiaircraft gun positioned on the eastern sector of the cliff top. The Rangers soon took their first prisoners and sent them back down to the cliffs to the narrow beach below, where Rudder had set up his command post (CP).
A group of Rangers immediately turned their attention to the concrete OP near the tip of the point. While the Rangers silenced a German machine gun and managed to place some grenades and bazooka rounds into the fortified position through its firing slits, several German soldiers remained holed up in the OP. Not until the following day, when demolition charges were brought up from the beach was the OP finally neutralized and the eight German soldiers manning the post taken prisoner.
Following their actions Pointe du Hoc on 6-8 June 1944, Rudder’s Rangers suffered a seventy percent casualty rate. Less than seventy-five of the original 225 who came ashore on 6 June were fit for duty. Of those who served in the 2d Ranger Battalion on D-Day, seventy-seven were killed and 152 wounded. Another thirty-eight were listed as missing.
Among the casualties was Lieutenant Colonel Rudder, who was grounded twice and later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions at Pointe du Hoc. Thirteen other Rangers also received the DSC for heroism at Pointe du Hoc, and the 2d Ranger Battalion was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for capturing the position. The 2d Ranger Battalion would valiantly serve its way through the rest of World War II, but would never again use the special skills they trained for. Serving alongside various infantry units, the 2d Ranger Battalion took part in operations at Cherbourg, Brest, the Crozon Peninsula, Le Fret, the Hürtgen Forest, and other locations in the European Theater. Today, 2d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, is descended from the 2d Ranger Battalion.