(Picture: Wim Hilderson)

Six kilometers west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the D 514 you’ll find the roundabout that leads to Pointe du Hoc, a huge complex for heavy guns positioned on top of a protruding cliff. The Allied command had information that the guns would reach at least 25 kilometers and were a big threat to the Allied invasion for Utah- and Omaha Beach. From May, 1944, the complex was bombarded regularly. But the threat stayed and the 2nd Ranger Battalion was given the order to capture Pointe du Hoc and clear it of the 100 or so Germans.

June 6, 1944, 05.45 Hours

During a barrage of shelling given from the battleship TEXAS (she shot at least 250 grenades) the Rangers went 20 kilometers out of the coast on board of their landing craft. The Liberty schips, the Ben My Chree and the HMS Amsterdam had brought them to the French coast with their twelve LCA's. Four DUKW's were transported with the USS LCT 46. The first light of the day dawned over a heavy sea. To give some protection for the fragile landing craft, the force was escorted by a Royal Navy motor launch (ML) and two British LCS (the LCS 91 and LCS 102).

Colonel James E. Rudder

Waves of salt water hit the LCA’s and the men on board had to use their helmets to throw out the water. Unfortunately the LCA 914, a supply boat, made so much water, she started to go down. Just one man was saved from this disaster. It’s precious cargo, such as ammo and other materials were lost. Also LCA 860 toppled and sunk, but their 21 men aboard could be saved. Meanwhile ML 304, which was used as navigator, headed for the wrong position, Pointe et Raz de la Percée, some 5 km east of Pointe du Hoc. The commander of the 2nd Rangers, Colonel James Rudder, noticed the mistake and broke out to starboard hoping that the others would notice and follow. Instead, the captain of ML 304 saw the LCA of Rudder move of and steered his ML to Rudder to try to force him back in line. But the captain realized his mistake in time and also went to starboard. But one of the LCA’s was drifted to far off to be in time to launch the attack together with the others. The navigation error delayed the attack from the planned 06.30 hours to 07.10 hours.

A DUKW below the cliff shortly after the battle for Pointe du Hoc

The boats came in under heavy German. One DUKW was hit by 20mm cannon fire. The LCS 91 was hit below the waterline and started to sink. In broad daylight the Rangers started their climb to the top. Rudder remembered the words an intelligent officer spoke when he ventilated his doubts to Rudder about the attack on Pointe du Hoc;… ‘It’s impossible,… Three women with broomsticks can stop the Rangers when they climb the cliff,…’ .

A steep climb to the top of Pointe du Hoc

Fortunate for the Rangers, the USS Satterlee came under fire from a pillbox and she opened fire to this threat. The fire from the Satterlee made the Germans take cover. Thus giving the Rangers some slack when they climbed to the top of the cliff. When the fire control party, under command of Lt. P.C. Johnson, reached the top, they made contact with the Satterlee by using light signals.

The Ranger Memorial atop of the direction finder bunker H 636.
Some 400 meters to the right of this spot is the place
where the first Rangers came on top of the cliff.

But there were plenty of Germans who had guts to withstand the shelling of the Satterlee to expose themselves and to throw grenades on the Rangers who were preparing to shoot rockets with ropes and hooks attached to the top. There were men with ladders and even daggers were used as climbing tools in the crumbling cliff wall. During the climb, 15 men were wounded by grenade shrapnel. The first fighting group reached the top in 15 minutes after landing with their LCA 888. In a sweeping action the Rangers jumped on the Germans. At 07.45 hours the message was sent: ‘Praise the Lord’ as a signal that all the Rangers were on top of the cliff (the message was never confirmed). Rudder was also on top and made a headquarter in a bunker in the east of the complex. It must have been a devastating site for the Rangers to see Pointe du Hoc as it was, just enormous holes and rubble from the heavy bombardments.

A short break during the fighting at Pointe du Hoc at Rudders headquarters

Because of the great loss of time to reach Pointe du Hoc, and the late signal that the top was clear, the reinforcements, 5th Rangers Battalion and Company A, B en C of 2nd Rangers, did not follow Company D, E and F, but headed for the alternative, Omaha Beach. They would land near Vierville-sur-Mer in sector Charlie, Dog Green and Dog White. The first wave that landed here, in front of the Rangers, was the 116th Regiment, 29th Division, and they were decimated by German fire and did not reach their objective, to secure an exit. The Rangers that were landing from their LCA’s were greeted by German shells and bullets. Rangers commander, Lt.Col Max Schneider, decided to go ashore more to the east, and land the LCA’s in sector Dog Red. His decision saved probably many lives. 5th Rangers lost just 6 men of the 450 before they reached the seawall. Company C, 2nd Rangers went ashore two kilometers west of the other Rangers at Dog Red. A and B Company, 2nd Rangers had heavy losses, but made a breakthrough encouraged by officers such as General Norman Cota (with the words: ‘Rangers, lead the way!’, a motto later adopted by the Rangers) to climb the cliff. The breakthrough was made in conjunction with surviving element of the 116th Regiment, 29th Division. Company C, 116th was the first to reach the top of the cliff at Vierville, in front of the Rangers.

Colonel Rudders headquarters, Pointe du Hoc, Then and in 1995

(It’s impossible to make the same picture today (2008),
because of erosion the border is now some meters to the left.

In every corner the excellent trained men individually were fighting with Germans. There was some annoying fire coming from an anti-aircraft gun some three hundred meters to the west of Pointe du Hoc. The Rangers made some coordinated attacks, but to no avail. A mortar group and some ten Rangers were killed or wounded during the attacks. Even Rudder was later wounded by the same anti-aircraft gun. In the east of the complex a German machinegun nest was hidden in the edge of the cliff. The Rangers could not reach it, so a navy ship was called in, which blew it out of the rocks into the sea below.

The anti-aircraft position which was so annoying to the Rangers

During the inspection it was discovered that the big guns were not in place. The casemats were empty. Through the camouflage netting telephone poles were sticking to look like barrels of guns. It looked like the whole operation was a big joke. Thirty-six men of D and C Company moved towards the (nowadays) D 514.

The yellow and blue lines are route of D, C and F Company
The red lines are the defence positions of the Rangers
The white dots are the positions of the located German guns
(Google Earth)

Around 08.30 hours they were re-enforced with twelve men of F Company. They took up positions around the road that run towards Grandcamp-Maisy and patrols were sent out. They located the missing guns around 09.00 hours intact in an apple orchard (later was discovered that on June 3rd the guns were removed from their plateau because of the constant bombing of Pointe du Hoc). The Germans were already positioning the guns on Utah Beach. The shells were ready to use.

The red lines are the defence positions of the Rangers
The white arrows are a German counter attack

The German crew were at the time instructed by an officer and were not near the guns. Sergeant Len Lommell went to the guns and placed the thermal charges to make them useless. When he found out he had not enough, he used the butt of his rifle to wreck the direction finder equipment. A second patrol came along and placed charges as well. De guns were made useless and the Rangers could be satisfied they did not come in vain.

Rangers defend the headquarters of Rudder

But the battle was far from over. The Germans regrouped and counter attacked. More and more Rangers were killed or wounded. Rudder sent a message by radio;… ‘Mission accomplished – need ammo and reinforcements – many casualty’s’. General Huebner replyed with a simple message;… ‘No reinforcements available’. But help was coming from an unexpected source. Sergeant Leonard Goodgal of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division was dropped miles from his initial dropzone. He went to the sound of the fighting and joined the Rangers. Later that evening Lt. Charles H. Parker Jr. with 23 men of A Company reached Pointe du Hoc. They came ashore in the morning at Omaha Beach and fought their way to Pointe to join their comrades. When they reached their buddy’s, they brought along twenty German prisoners.

A badly damaged H 694 on Pointe du Hoc

The next day, June 7, the TEXAS brought food and ammo during then afternoon. Unfortunately the wounded could not be evacuated because of the rough sea. The fighting continued, but finally the Germans retreated to the river Aure, south of the N13. June, 8th, around noon, the reinforcements arrived from Omaha Beach when the 5th Ranger Battalion supported by the 1st Battalion 116th RCT. The last had M4 Sherman tanks which blew the road clear when they moved along the D 514. At last Rudder and his small group of survivors could be relieved out of their 200 meter deep perimeter. Of the 225 landed Rangers, 135 were killed, wounded or missing, in other words, it had 70% losses.


Next to the great and good parking lot, is located a visitor center. This is not used to their best. There is enough space to have a small museum. Before entering the Pointe du Hoc complex, a large copper plate shows the events to the visitors. Pointe du Hoc has changed little over the years. The terrain is littered with bomb craters, casements and bunkers. It is extremely impressive. But the time has taken it’s toll. The erosion and thousands of visitors each year have changed some places. Some spots can no longer be visited. One of these was the Ranger Memorial on the fire control bunker. But after a rescue mission in 2010, this spot was reopend to the public.

At the end of this dirt road, on the right, stood the guns

The spot where the guns were located in the apple orchard can be found near the roundabout at the cross roads with the D 514. Head for Vierville-sur-Mer, after a few meters is a dirt road on the right. At the end of this path, the guns were stored by the Germans. One of the displayed guns near the parking lot should be one of the 15,5cm K418 guns that belonged to Pointe du Hoc.

A preserved 15,5cm gun near the parking lot

Battleship USS TEXAS, that fired upon Pointe du Hoc prior the Rangers landing, is preserved and can be visited in Houston, Texas, at San Jacinto Park.

The TEXAS in San Jacinto Park


More on the background and silent witnesses of the battle for Pointe du Hoc, I advise you a visit to the Musee des Rangers in Grandcamp-Maisy. When approaching this town, you see an enormous statue that welcomes you with here arms spread. The statue was designed by the Chinese artist and sculpture Yao Yuan (real name We Yuan Yan). The statue is 15 meters high and has a weight of 40 tons of oxidized steel. Yuan had a though time during the cultural revolution in China. He dedicates his live now in bringing ‘world peace’, by donating the ‘World Peace Statue’ to the world. The first was erected in Peking on a central square. The next one was donated to Korea in 1995 and then one to Russia (2000). In 2004 Yau Yuan gave a statue to France and in 2011 to Chile. In 2013 one was donated to Israel as a symbol towards happiness in the Middle East.

Grandcamp-Maisy, World Peace Statue, van Yao Yuan

At the bottom of this statue is a small monument on a tobruk bunker as a remembrance to the men of the American National Guard. The monument is called 'Espace Frank Peregory'.

Medal of Honor

Technical Sergeant Frank D. Peregory and the Medal of Honor

Of the three winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor who rest at the American Cemetery, at Colleville, the only one not mentioned yet is Technical Sergeant Frank D. Peregory. He got his Medal of Honor for extreme bravery around Grandcamp-Maisy. On June 8th, 1944, when the first units of Comp. K, of the 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division reached Grandcamp-Maisy, they were pinned down by heavy machinegun fire.

'Espace Frank Peregory', Grandcamp-Maisy

The German fire came from a higher level of ground and covered the city. When even the American tanks were unable to crack these defenses, T/Sgt Peregory took his own initiative and headed for the German positions. At the top he found a trench and moved through it till he came to a stronghold 200 meters further. Without hesitation he fought eight Germans with hand grenades and bayonet, another three surrendered. His aggressive attack ended at the machinegun point where Peregory on his own forced 32 Germans to surrender. His action cleaned the way for the advancing American units. Unfortunately Peregory was killed six days later during an attack near Couvains. His grave can be found in sector G, Row 21, grave 7.

Grandcamp-Maisy, the Musee des Rangers

Drive into town and head for the harbour. At the boulevard you'll find the Musee des Rangers. It is rather small, but the intentions are sincere. First floor has a display of personal items from some Rangers who fought at Point du Hoc. Many pictures with written narratives illustrate the ordeals of these men. Second floor has a small theater that shows a remembrance video.

In the autumn of 2015 it was made public that the
Musee des Rangers will be permanently closed.

Hundred meters further down the boulevard stands a large monument dedicated to the Free French that served in the RAF with Bomber Command.

The monument for the French section of RAF Bomber Command

For those who wish to see some interesting bunkers, drive around the harbour. Take a stroll along side the local camping (watch out for the many rats around here!). Here are some amazing bunkers that were fired upon by the American navy, but there were no landings during D-Day in this area.

One of the coastel bunkers of Grandcamp-Maisy

New bunker complex found!

Click on the picture below, and you'll go to a page that highlights the new found location of Wn 83, and also on some other sites, such as Wn 88 and Wn 90, and a visit to the monument of ALG A-3. Then we head for the German cemetery at La Cambe, and to Utah Beach.