To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, members of the 75th Ranger Regiment have recreated the actions of their forefathers by scaling the cliffs at Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking the English Channel on the northwestern coast of Normandy, France.
On June 6th 1944, the Rangers landed on the beaches of Pointe Du Hoc at 7:08 AM, some 38 minutes late due to choppy seas as H-Hour had been at 6:30. The beach was about a hundred yards wide, and it wasn’t even a beach really but rather broken shale and rock. Landing craft fired rockets carrying ropes heavy with sea water to the top of the cliffs in an attempt to grapple them, but most failed. The Rangers were soon under fire from Germans who held the high ground. Some Rangers desperately attempted to free climb up the cliffs, even using bayonets to try to gain traction but to no avail. Finally, several lines were secured and men began to make their way to the top.
Pre-assault fires had also collapsed parts of the cliffs and in one case created a 40-foot mound of rock atop which a ladder was placed, allowing Rangers to scramble up and secure an initial foothold. By 7:45, the first Rangers had made it to the top. Once up the cliffs, the Rangers moved out to their objectives. They had taken about 15 casualties on the shale rocks where they landed already.
Their main objective was to secure a gun battery atop the cliffs, but when they arrived, they found telephone poles instead of weapons. They were decoys, part of a Nazi deception plan. However, there were plenty of Nazis around and firefights began breaking out as they were engaged by the Ranger companies. At a Nazi observation post which was one of the designated targets the Rangers had been given, they came under sustained fire until the American fired a bazooka round right through the aperture of the concrete bunker.
By 8AM, the Rangers were pushing outwards, fighting Germans in several directions, but all in all, it was now time for them to sit tight and wait for reinforcements. However, Sgt. Leonard Lomell and Staff Sgt. Jack Kuhn had come across some tracks in the mud and wondered if the Nazi cannons they had been sent to destroy had been moved elsewhere. They moved down the road on foot to see what they could find. They found five of the six guns, pointing towards Utah Beach, unfired.
“We got lucky, anyone would have done it,” Sergeant Lomell told Ranger historian Ross Hall in 2003. Sergeant Lomell was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions and Sergeant Kuhn received a Silver Star.
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