Pointe du Hoc

This page describes the attack on Pointe du Hoc and what there is to see today.

No visit to the US sector of Normandy would be complete without a visit to Pointe du Hoc.  Jutting out from the Normandy coastline and forming a point into the sea, this area would have been of interesting even were it not been involved in the fighting.

Pointe Du Hoc was as important to the Americans as Pegasus Bridge was to the British, as it was believed to house six 155mm guns that could reign devastation onto both Utah and Omaha beaches. Despit having been extensively bombed and shelled by the Navy, troops had to go ashore to ensure that these were destroyed.

Attacking these guns would mean scaling 100′ (30m) high cliffs, as neither a glider nor paratroop assault could be used due to its defences and geography.

US Rangers

The attack at Pont du Hoc called for the special skills of the recently formed US Rangers.

Based on the British Commandos, with whom they originally trained, the Rangers were trained in scaling cliffs using rocket fired grapnel hooks and ladders. Some of their amphibious DUKWs were even fitted with fireman’s ladders – supplied by the London Fire Brigade, with a machine gun at the top.

On D-Day one of these DUKWs sunk, and the three remaining were unable to reach the cliff due to the loose shingle.

Commanded by Lt Col James E.Rudder the Rangers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion departed from Weymouth in southern England, with H-hour set at 06:30.

Although the defenders were ready for the assault, the Rangers scaled the cliffs under heavy fire and captured the battery. They then discovered that the bunkers were empty, and the guns had been moved due to the constant bombardment the battery had recieved. The Rangers probed inland, finding the guns and destryoying them.

The Germans counter attacked the position, with the Rangers holding out for two days until relieved.

The 2nd Rangers who had scaled the cliffs were joined by troops of the 5th Rangers who had came ashore at Omaha Beach tasked with fighting their way to the guns.

With the beach being itself a scene of carnage and chaos, this was no mean feat. James W. Gabaree of the 5th Ranger Battalion describes his experiences of this part of the assault.

Getting there

Pointe du Hoc lies on the D514 coast road between Omaha Beach and Grancamp Maisy. See the ‘Getting about in Normandy section’ for details of bus routes.

What to see

Today the landscape around Pointe du Hoc still bears the scars of the fierce bombardment of all those years ago, but time is softening the craters. The damaged bunkers are still accessible (with care).

The site has ample parking and good disabled access. There is a vistor centre at the carpark and a viewing platform on one of the bunkers which gives a good panoramic view of the site. Sadly the forward observation bunker is no longer accessible to the public.

Musee de rangers

The Musee de Rangers in Grandcamp Maisy, 3 miles west of Pointe du Hoc tells the story of the assault, mainly in pictures and a video. This small museum lies on the seafront just around the corner from the fishmarket on the harbour.

Quai Crampon 14450 GRANDCAMP-MAISY
Tel. : +33 2 31 92 33 51/02 31 22 64 34
Email : grandcamp-maisy@wanadoo.fr

Not associated with Pointe du Hoc, but in the vicinity is Maisy Battery. This German battery has recently been excavated and is well worth a visit.