“If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”
– General Dwight Eisenhower, future president, in a draft of remarks he’d made in case the Normandy invasion was a failure
“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”
– President Ronald Reagan
Pointe du Hoc is a promontory on a 100-foot (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the northwestern coast of Normandy. During World War II it was the highest point between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The German army fortified the area with concrete casemates and gun pits. On Jun 06, 1944 (D-Day), 225 Rangers of United States Army Ranger Assault Group landed, scaled the cliffs under intense enemy fire and after suffering 50% casualties captured Pointe du Hoc.
Sometime prior the landings the Germans had removed all of the heavy guns to an area behind the point where they were still a possible threat to the Americans landing at nearby Omaha Beach. Ranger patrols subsequently discovered the recently moved heavy guns and destroyed them with thermite grenades.
During my visit, all of the barbed wire, debris, and other obstacles were long gone¹. The area, about the size of a football field was quite serene with green grass and a smattering of flowers punctuated by concrete emplacements. The whole geography undulated due to the numerous craters caused by the naval bombardment that softened up the German position prior to the Rangers’ landing.
You can read about the rest of my Normandy inspection here.
¹ With the exception massive concrete bunkers and emplacements, the French have seemingly made a concerted effort to remove all evidence of D-Day. On many sections of the beaches the German’s constructed massive seawalls as well has thousands of obstacles such as Belgian gates, Czech hedgehogs, pilings, tetrahedrons, hemmbalken and Rommel’s asparagus, all of which have been removed. You know what they say “loin des yeux, loin du cœur“.