On this day during World War II in June 1944, Army Rangers would complete a mission, scaling the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc on D-Day that would immediately become the stuff of legend. Later, the survivors would comment that they couldn’t believe that they survived. The Commander of the Rangers, LTC James Rudder would comment, “How did we do this? It was crazy then, and it’s crazy now.”

The Allies had formulated their plan in the fall of 1943 to storm the coast of France the following spring. While the Germans assumed, with much Allied disinformation, that the landings will take place in the Pas de Calais area, Normandy was the actual target.

The two beaches in the American sector code-named Omaha and Utah were separated by a large promontory point called Pointe du Hoc. The Germans recognized the importance of the high ground which rises to over 100 feet over the beaches, where both are clearly visible and spotters or guns from the point can dominate both beaches.

The Germans initially placed a battery of six captured French 155mm artillery pieces in open gun pits in 1943, in a good position to support their defenses on both beaches. The 352nd Infantry Division (a good hardened unit) was in positions to defend and support the guns. The open pits were vulnerable to air attack and because of Allied bombing, the Germans withdrew the guns 1000 yards to the rear in an apple orchard early in April 1944. An American Army Air Corps A-20 raid dropped 33 tons of bombs and forced the Germans to build casemates, an observation bunker and gun pits for 20mm flak anti-aircraft guns. By the time of the invasion, two casemates would remain unfinished.