Pointe du Hoc

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Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc is on the coast of Normandy in the north of France. In 1944 it was part of the biggest sea invasion in history. During the World War 2 planning of the assault on Nazi-captured France; Allied commanders noticed the massive coastal guns at Pointe du Hoc. There were six 155mm cannons in heavily armoured bunkers that could be very dangerous to Allied ships.

Pointe du Hoc was bombed during air raids by Allied planes flying from English airstrips. The heavy artillery guns were barely damaged by the bombs. Pointe du Hoc was surrounded by steep cliffs that dropped down into the sea. Only at a certain part of the day a very narrow beach would appear at the bottom of the cliffs.

The U.S. 2nd and 5th Ranger divisions had been training with the British commandos for about five months and had been climbing the British coastal cliffs for training. To get to the French coastal cliffs they were using LCA and LCVP's or Higgins boats (both were flat bottomed landing crafts made to carry troops onto the beach) manned by British navy sailors. The boats were lowered into the sea a few kilometers out to sea. The British had added some extra armour to the sides of the landing crafts, exchanging speed and manoverability for protection for the men that were to assault the French coast.

The nearly 100m high cliff was attacked by the American 2nd and 5th Army Ranger Divisions. Colonel James Earl Rudder led the attack. The attack started at 06.30am when the battleship USS Texas, stopped bombarding Pointe du Hoc. Due to harsh weather conditions, the Rangers drifted off course and spent an extra half hour in reaching the beach. By then the Germans had come out of their bunkers and set up defensive positions along the ridge of the cliff. The landing craft doors were opened and the men of the two divisions ran up the beach to the cliffs. The soldiers used ropes attached to rocket propelled grappling hooks to climb the cliffs. The ropes and grappling hooks were carried in a wooden box held by two soldiers. The soldiers also used ladders that were attached to landing crafts and grappling hooks that were shot up from the boats.

When the Rangers reached the top, small groups of soldiers attacked the German positions. After reaching the gun emplacement bunkers, the Rangers found that they were no longer there. The guns were later found and destroyed in a field a bit inland.

At the end of the attack, the Rangers were forced to defend Pointe Du Hoc from constant counterattacks until they were relieved by the 5th Army Corps coming from a neighboring beach. Out of the 225 original attackers only 90 remained.

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