Rangers Lead the Way: Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944, Steven J. Zaloga

Rangers Lead the Way: Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944, Steven J. Zaloga

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Rangers Lead the Way: Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944, Steven J. Zaloga

Rangers Lead the Way: Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944, Steven J. Zaloga

Raid 1

This is the first entry in a new Osprey series, looking at some of the most famous raids in military history, starting with the US Rangers' attack on the German gun battery on Pointe-du-Hoc on D-Day.

The attack on Pointe-du-Hoc was one of the most audacious operations of the Second World War, a real version of the 'Guns of Navarone', with a small elite force climbing high sea cliffs to attack a gun battery that threatened Allied troops ships (to be precise the moment off the Normandy coast where the troops were loaded from the larger cross-channel transports into the small landing craft).

The focused scope of this book allows it to be much more detailed than many Ospreys. The text covers the history of the gun battery from its construction in May 1942 until D-Day, the reason for the Allied raid, the attack itself, the German counterattack and the fate of the other Ranger forces on D-Day.

Zalaga finishes by examining whether the raid was as necessary as the D-Day planners believed (probably not, but there was no way they could have known that in advance) and with a look at the post-D-Day history of the Rangers (like the SAS the Rangers struggled to find a role in the large scale conventional fighting that followed D-Day, before coming back into their own after the war).

The events of the attack itself take up 15 of the book's 64 pages, not including the sections on the other Ranger forces on D-Day or the German counterattack. The text on the attack is supported by some excellent maps, including a two-page 3D map showing the initial assault on the cliffs, and the fate of each of the landing craft.

This is an excellent account of one of the most famous incidents on D-Day, and a promising start to a new Osprey series.

Origins of the Raid
The Plan
The Raid

Author: Steven J. Zaloga
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2009

Pointe du Hoc

La Pointe du Hoc (French pronunciation: ​ [pwɛ̃t dy ɔk] ) is a promontory with a 100-foot (30 m) cliff overlooking the English Channel on the northwestern coast of Normandy in the Calvados department, France.

Pointe du Hoc was a series of German bunkers and machine gun posts. Prior to the invasion of Normandy, the German army fortified the area with concrete casemates and gun pits. On D-Day, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs. United States generals including Dwight D. Eisenhower figured that the place had cannons that could slow down near by beach attacks.

ISBN 13: 9781846033940

Zaloga, Steven J.

This specific ISBN edition is currently not available.

In the early hours of D-Day, 1944, a group from the US Army 2nd Rangers Battalion were sent on one of the legendary raids of World War II. Their mission was to scale the cliffs overlooking Omaha beach and assault the German coastal artillery at Pointe-du-Hoc, which allied intelligence had identified as a threat to the impending invasion. It was thought that only a raid could ensure that the guns would remain silent during the D-Day landings. But allied intelligence was wrong. After climbing the cliffs under aggressive German fire and securing the battery site, the Rangers discovered that the guns themselves were no longer there. The determination of those heroic Rangers involved in the initial raid allowed them to locate the guns, which had been relocated to firing positions facing Utah beach, and destroy them before they could be used.

In the first of a brand new series for Osprey, this act of audacious daring is brought to life, complete with fully illustrated artwork, detailed maps and rare German accounts. Taking a closer, more critical look at a famous story, Steven Zaloga analyzes every detail of the raid, from the intelligence failings behind the mission to the boldness of the Rangers' actions in the face of incredible odds. You'll never get so close to the action!

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Steven J. Zaloga received his BA in history from Union College and his MA from Columbia University. He has worked as an analyst in the aerospace industry for over two decades, covering missile systems and the international arms trade, and has served with the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federal think-tank. He is the author of numerous books on military technology and military history, with an accent on the US Army in World War II. The author lives in Abingdon, Maryland.

“In his book on this most famous of Ranger missions, author Steven J. Zaloga covers the initial construction of the site, the planning of the Allies and the assault itself. As usual, the mission did not go quite according to plan. The following chain of events is clearly depicted in the book, along with some excellent 3-D maps of the various areas of interest, excellent period photos and color photographs of many of the remaining relics that are part of Normandy today. It is a superb read as seen from both sides of the event with interviews of survivors that really add a lot of spice to things. A superb start to a new series and one I know you will enjoy reading.” ―Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness (October 2009)

Uncovering 2nd Ranger Battalion, the Inspiration for 'Saving Private Ryan'

By Dr. Homer Hodge, USA (Ret.)

During the first terrifying thirty or so minutes of the 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, the audience is spell-bound as they watch Tom Hanks as Captain Miller of Charlie Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion approaching in a &ldquoHiggins&rdquo boat and landing on the Dog-Green section of Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944, and assaulting fortified German defenses under murderous fire. Although the opening sequence and details are historically accurate in some respects, the actual events of C Company after landing are much more amazing and heroic than the scenes portrayed in the film.

The real commander of C Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day was 24-year-old Capt. Ralph E. Goranson. His company did not land on the Dog-Green section of Omaha Beach as portrayed in the film but several yards to the right or west of Dog-Green on Charlie section. Soldiers of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division landed on Dog-Green.

Consisting of 68 Rangers, C Company sailed from England to the Normandy beachhead aboard the British ship Prince Charles. The Rangers were divided into three groups. Force A consisted of three Ranger companies with the mission of scaling Pointe du Hoc four miles westward along the Normandy coast and attacking the German artillery position there. Force B was C Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion whose mission was defeat of the German defenses at Pointe de la Percée on the far right of Omaha Beach. Force C consisted of the 5th Ranger Battalion plus two 2nd Ranger Battalion companies with a mission to follow up the success of the Pointe du Hoc attack.

None of the Rangers on D-Day were in U.S. LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicles & Personnel) - &ldquoHiggins&rdquo boats - but in British Royal Navy LCAs (Landing Craft, Attack) with Royal Navy crews. The LCA was a British designed landing craft with a four man crew and capable of carrying 37 troop passengers. Unlike the &ldquoHiggins&rdquo LCVP, the LCA had armored bulkheads, sides and a decked-over troop well. Goranson would later praise the Royal Navy crewmen who &ldquobeached us on time in the best place, exactly per our instructions,&rdquo according to video footage narrated by Navy Cmdr. Charles E. Robison. In one of the two Royal Navy LCAs transporting Company C to the beach, Ranger Sgt. Walter Geldon was celebrating his third wedding anniversary and the men in his boat were singing in his honor. Geldon was one of many who would die on the beach that morning.

The German defenses consisted of fifteen semi-independent strongpoints (Widerstandsnest, or WN) numbered consecutively WN60 to WN74 from east to west. These strongpoints included concrete structures and pillboxes with various caliber field and anti-tank guns. They were sited with interlocking fields of fire and reinforced with belts of barbwire and infantry trenches. The sturdiest pillboxes were generally built directly in or immediately adjacent to the five beach exits.

Vierville draw, the western most exit off the beach near where Company C would land, was defended by three such strongpoints - WN 71 above the eastern side of the draw, and WN 72 and WN 73 on the western side.

Just past the Vierville draw, the beach narrowed along side a stretch of cliffs higher than 100 feet that extended all the way to Pointe de la Percée to the west where it abruptly terminated. At high tide, there was no beach save for a belt of boulders only a few feet wide. Cloud cover prevented bombers from bombing close-in prior to the landing and they released their bombs too late to hit anything near Omaha beach. The problem was further exacerbated by failure to provide adequate naval gunfire, the best means of destruction of beach defenses, to achieve the desired effect. The result was the sustainment of heavy casualties among the landing forces and the near-failure of the Omaha operation.

Lt. Col James Rudder, commander of 2nd Ranger Battalion, told Goranson in May before the attack, &ldquoyou have the toughest goddamn job on the whole beach.&rdquo

Capt. Goranson had devised two different attack plans, depending upon the situation when they landed. Provided troops of the 29th Infantry Division to the immediate left of section Charlie were able to clear Vierville draw, he would execute his &ldquoPlan One&rdquo and Company C would move inland through the draw after landing. The 2 nd Ranger Battalion would then move west along the coast road and attack the enemy strongpoint at Pointe de la Percée, before continuing on to Pointe du Hoc. However, if the Vierville draw had not been cleared, Goranson would initiate his &ldquoPlan Two,&rdquo a much more challenging scheme requiring the Rangers to ascend the sheer cliffs overlooking Charlie sector prior to moving inland. Even if only a few Germans had survived the planned pre-invasion bombardment and could resist the Rangers from the clifftop, Plan Two would be extraordinarily difficult to execute, especially as Goranson&rsquos men lacked most of the specialized climbing gear that their fellow Rangers would employ at Pointe du Hoc.

By first light of dawn, the two LCAs carrying the 68 Rangers of Charlie Company reached the beach at 6:45 a.m. By that time, they came under fire from German artillery, mortars and small arms. As Goranson&rsquos LCA landed, it was hit by four artillery rounds At least twelve Rangers in his LCA were killed, most of the rest were wounded, and not a single Ranger was yet on Omaha Beach.

On the second LCA carrying 37 Rangers, Second Platoon leader Lt. Sidney Salomon could hear the sharp, pinging of machine-gun bullets hitting the side of his LCA. When the LCA landed, Lt. Salomon was the first off the ramp, but Sgt. Oliver Reed, who followed Salomon, was immediately felled by machine-gun fire. As the rest of the boat team exited the LCA, Salomon grabbed Reed&rsquos collar and dragged him through waist-deep surf on to dry sand. After going a short distance, a mortar shell landed behind Lt. Salomon, knocking him forward and on the ground. German machine gun fire was kicking up sand around him as he rose and ran to the base of the cliff.

Burdened by equipment and waterlogged uniforms, the Rangers found it hard to move swiftly across the soft sand, and German Forces cut many of them down.1st Sgt. Henry &ldquoSteve&rdquo Golas, seeing men cringing under the fire, shouted &ldquoGet your ass off this beach!&rdquo and then moved forward only to be killed by machine-gun fire. Thirteen more Rangers were seriously wounded, crossing the almost 300 yards of exposed beach at low tide. Those who survived kept moving while the wounded crawled behind them. T/5 Jesse Runyan, a BAR gunner, was shot in the groin and lost the use of his legs. Despite his wounds, Runyan continued crawling forward with his weapon, firing as he went. He was awarded the Silver Star for his action.

In front of the Vierville Draw off to his left, Goranson saw tanks and 29th Division troops receiving even heavier enemy fire. Nineteen Rangers were killed on this part of the beach. The best course of action was obvious - &ldquoPlan Two&rdquo. Although reduced to about thirty men, the Rangers would climb the cliff. First Platoon leader Lt. William Moody, Sgt. Julius Belcher, and Pfc. Otto Stephens followed the cliff base westward for about 300 yards and found a section of cliff to ascend. Stephens climbed the 100-foot cliff first, thrusting his bayonet into the cliff face to gain successive hand holds. Belcher and Moody followed and brought up four sections of toggle rope to anchor on the cliff top, for following Rangers. The ascent of the cliff would not be easy, but those Rangers still capable of climbing it slipped westward along the cliff base to follow the first three men up. Without waiting for his others to reach the top, Stephens proceeded to attack the enemy positions located there.

As later events would prove, this movement passed WN 73 defensive position at the clifftop allowing the Rangers to make the strenuous climb without interference. Charlie Company may have been the first assault unit to reach the high ground above Omaha Beach. More Rangers climbed the cliff and joined those at the top. Goranson climbed at 7:15 a.m., and decided the situation in front of the Vierville draw required immediate action, and turned his diminishing force east to attack the fortified house and surrounding trenches rather than move westward to eliminate WN74 at Pointe de la Percée.

Attacking WN 73 would be a tough job. WN 73 was located on the high bluff on the right side of the Vierville draw and consisted of several stone buildings as well as zigzag trenches, heavily fortified fighting positions and dugouts, and a well camouflaged concrete pillbox housing a 75mm PAK 97/38 gun in the side of the bluff. The pillbox&rsquos aperture faced east, making it nearly invisible when viewed from the sea, with a field of fire straight down the entire beach.

There was a large stone house built in a small nook in the cliff face. A stone barn-like building stood behind the house on one of Omaha&rsquos highest spots. Moody and Stephens advanced eastward along the cliff edge toward the house and quickly saw that the Germans there were focused on killing the U.S. soldiers landing in front of the Vierville draw. The house was destroyed by naval gunfire, but German troops still occupied the trenches on the far side of the building. The Rangers moved past the house in search of Germans lurking somewhere in the dugouts and trenches in this strongpoint. Goranson&rsquos meager force, however, could do little more than probe the enemy position and engage the defenders. Lt. Salomon, who had managed to climb the cliff despite a wound he suffered on the beach, was one of the first Rangers to enter the maze of trenches on the far side of the house. Only nine men of his platoon got to the top of the cliff.

A sniper killed Lt. Moody. Salomon, Stephens and other Rangers continued to clear trenches and dugouts using grenades and small arms. They remained on top for the rest of the day, as the enemy was apparently driven back inland. Although the surviving Rangers were too few to completely overrun the strongpoint, Goranson opted to hold the ground already gained and continue engagingGerman troops in the trenches. As the Rangers in the trench began to pass the house and barn, the German forces threw grenades at the Rangers and the Rangers threw the grenades back. Belcher inched up to the trench-edge, and encountered a German who ducked into a dugout. Belcher and another Ranger entered the trench and killed three Germans near the mortar emplacement.

Goranson led an attack to clear the stone house and his Rangers began to clear trenches, mortar pits, and machine-gun nests in the vicinity. They were eventually joined by about twenty infantrymen from the 29th Division, who had climbed the cliff. As more German troops came from Vierville to reinforce the WN 73 strongpoint, Company C remained through the early afternoon killing Germans. Later, as the fighting subsided, Goranson led a patrol to Pointe-de-la- Percée around 1400 hours, but as they were approaching, the site was destroyed by US Navy destroyer fire. In the late afternoon, Company C headed toward Pointe du Hoc.

Unlike Tom Hanks&rsquo Captain Miller of Saving Private Ryan, Ralph Goranson led Charlie Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion through the rest of the war and lived a long and productive life before passing away on November 14, 2012 at age 93.

Robert W. Black, The Battalion: The Dramatic Story of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in World War II

William O, Darby, Darby&rsquos Rangers: We Led the Way

Steven J. Zaloga, Rangers Lead The Way: Pointe-du-Hoc D-Day 1944

Steven J. Zaloga, The Devil&rsquos Garden: Rommel&rsquos Desperate Defense of Omaha Beach on D-Day

Joseph Balkoski, Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944

All quotes are from Balkoski, Omaha Beach

Major Homer Hodge, US Army Retired, is an independent historian specializing in the US military in World War II. He has an MA in Military History and a PhD in International Relations and 30 years experience doing research and reporting in intelligence.

German counterattacks [ edit | edit source ]

The costliest part of the battle for Pointe du Hoc for the Rangers came after the successful cliff assault. Determined to hold the vital high ground, yet isolated from other Allied forces, the Rangers fended off several counterattacks from the German 914th Grenadier Regiment. The 5th Ranger Battalion and elements of the 116th Infantry Regiment headed towards Point du Hoc from Omaha Beach. However, they preventing from linking up with the 2nd Rangers during the evening of June 6, 1944. During the night the Germans forced the Rangers into a smaller enclave along the cliff, but were supported by fire from Allied vessels. On the evening of 7 June 1944, General Kraiss ordered the 352nd Division to withdraw. It was not until noon on 8 June that the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc were finally relieved when tanks and infantry of the 116th Infantry Regiment, along with the 6th Ranger Battalion finally linked up with the survivors.

At the end of the two-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225+ was reduced to about 90 fighting men. ⎗] ⎘]

Rangers Lead the Way -Pointe-du-hoc D-day 1944: No. 1 Paperback – 10 September 2009

I liked this book and I consider it as a very precious thing, because it was a pleasure to read it and I learned from it A LOT!

This book describes comprehensively the events which led to this dramatic battle, allied air raids and shelling by warships, then we go to the landing by Rangers at Pointe-du-Hoc, the site ot the coastal battery considered dangeorus for allied transport ships on approach. Author described also the landing of those Rangers who couldn't arrive to the main target on Omaha Beach at Vierville, where they were used by general Cota as shock troops with this short order "Rangers, lead the way!" - a phrase which from that time became the motto of this whole elite formation.

The description of events goes well beyond the capture of the gun positions and guns themselves as we can also follow the more and more desperate fight against German counter-attacks until finally the relief force arrival on D+2.

I learned a lot from this book but probably the most important thing was the importance of RAF air raid in the morning of 6 June which saw the use of 108 (one hundred eight) Lancasters against just this one coastal battery - as it turned out later, during the post-battle analysis of events, this attack in itself more or less put the whole battery of business. But NOT definitely, as it was proved when Rangers discovered the guns abandoned but still very much operationnal and with plenty of ammo. The fire support provided by old battleship USS "Texas" was also extremely precious for Rangers and by partly breaching the cliffs and allowing the use of ladders it certainly saved dozens of lives.

I rather disagree with the conclusion by authot that with the benefit of hindsight the raid seems to not have been necessary - those powerful guns WERE operationnal and without Rangers attack, with just a minimum effort from German defenders could (and almost certainly would) have been used against allied landings, if not in the first hours of D-Day then without a doubt somewhere in the afternoon. Their destruction was therefore certainly worthy the casualties suffered because on this "longest day in the history" every and each precaution had to be taken to make the landings a success. And a success they were - in part because Rangers "led the way".

The description of the battle may not always seem entirely clear, but this is because as most modern infantry engagements this fight simply was very complex and unavoidably even occasionally confused (hence the heart-breaking cases of friendly fire) - but as far as my personal taste is concerned Steven Zaloga described this battle as clearly as it was humanly possible. In some places repeated readings are needed to follow the events, but it is nevertheless possible to understand them - and analysing and understanding clearly this incredible exploit is certainly worth every effort.

Rangersi prowadzą. Pointe du Hoc, dzień „D”, 1944

Nad ranem 6 czerwca 1944 roku grupa amerykańskich rangersów z 2. batalionu rozpoczęła jedną z legendarnych akcji specjalnych II wojny światowej. Jej zadaniem było wspiąć się na urwiste skały powyżej plaży Omaha i opanować niemiecką artylerię nadbrzeżną na Pointe du Hoc. Alianckie dowództwo uznało, że tylko w ten sposób można będzie uciszyć działa nieprzyjaciela przed rozpoczęciem głównego desantu. Wywiad posiadał jednak błędne informacje. Pod morderczym ogniem Niemców rangersi sforsowali klif i dotarli do baterii, gdzie odkryli, że dział już tam nie ma. Zlokalizowali je z ogromnym poświęceniem i w porę zdołali zniszczyć na stanowiskach ogniowych w zupełnie innym miejscu, zwrócone w stronę plaży Utah.

Pierwsza publikacja z nowej serii wydawnictwa Astra, opisująca szczegółowo tę brawurową akcję, zawiera również grafiki, mapki, szkice sytuacyjne i nieznane relacje strony niemieckiej. Steven J. Zaloga przygląda się krytycznie tej historii i analizuje każdy detal, od błędów wywiadu, po bohaterstwo rangersów w obliczu niesprzyjających okoliczności.

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My grandfather, who passed away last year at 96, landed on Omaha beach on D-day. I recently visited Normandy to gain a better understand of what he experienced. To help, I bought several D-day guide books, and visited without a tour group so I could go at my own pace. It was the right choice, and I'm glad I had this book.

This book, while not a guide book explicitly, has fantastic, detailed color maps of the sections of Omaha beach and Pointe du hoc. Walking the beach today, it is serene and peaceful. The old war photographs, color maps, and detailed commentary really help one grasp an understanding of how the day unfolded. Maps show troop movements, terrain features, and provide a list of what German resistance elements were where. There are concise parts on the history of the planning phase.

There are several other D-day guide books out there, and recommend Major Holt's battlefield guide of D-day. It has many color present-day photos and is a great help in making the tour at your own pace, without the expense of a tour group.

For a more detailed account of Omaha beach, I recommend Joseph Balkoski's "Omaha Beach", In those 400 pages, you'll get many detailed, personal accounts supporting the narritive in the words of those who were there. However, it is a much longer read than the Osprey book.

Further reading

  1. ^ Heinz W.C. When We Were One: Stories of World War II, Basic Books, 2003, ISBN 978-0-306-81208-8, p170
  2. ^ Le Cacheux, G. and Quellien J. Dictionnaire de la libération du nord-ouest de la France, C. Corlet, 1994, ISBN 978-2-85480-475-1, p289
  3. ^ Zaloga, Steven. D-Day Fortifications in Normandy. Osprey Publications.
  4. ^ http://www.maisybattery.com The Maisy Battery
  5. ^ a b American Battle Monuments Commission. "The Battle of Pointe du Hoc (interactive multimedia presentation)". ABMC website . Retrieved August 29, 2011 .
  6. ^ p.210 Gawne, Jonathan Spearheading D-Day: American Special Units 6 June 1944 2001 History and Collections
  7. ^ LTC Cleveland Lytle, U.S.A. "Distinguished Service Cross Recipients" . Retrieved 5 September 2010 .
  8. ^ "The Ultimate Sacrifice: Rudder's Rangers at Pointe-du-Hoc" militaryhistoryonline.com
  9. ^ Beevor, Antony. "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy". (2009) pp. 102–103
  10. ^ Beevor, p. 103
  11. ^ Bahmanyar, Mir (2006). Shadow Warriors: a History of the US Army Rangers. Osprey Publishing. pp. 48–49.
  12. ^ Piehler, G. Kurt (2010). The United States and the Second World War: New Perspectives on Diplomacy, War, and the Home Front. Fordham University Press. p. 161.
  13. ^ Beevor, Antony. "D-Day: The Battle for Normandy". (New York: Penguin, 2009), p. 106
  14. ^ "The American Battle Monuments Commission" . Retrieved 29 October 2012 . The site, preserved since the war by the French Committee of the Pointe du Hoc, which erected an impressive granite monument at the edge of the cliff, was transferred to American control by formal agreement between the two governments on 11 January 1979 in Paris, with Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman signing for the United States and Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs Maurice Plantier signing for France.
  15. ^ "Call of Duty 2 Review" . Retrieved 19 December 2010 .
  16. ^ http://forgottenhope.warumdarum.de/fh2_maps.php?map=18

Watch the video: Veterans watch US Rangers scale Normandy cliffs