At 4:30 AM on June 6, 1944 225 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder made their way toward the point of land which separated Utah and Omaha beaches the two primary beaches to be assaulted by the American forces on D-Day. Due to high wind and seas the Higgins boats were off course and delayed until the element of surprise was removed from the battle.
Their mission was to scale the more than 100 foot cliffs all at ninety degrees and put out of action the more than 300 Germans and the six 155 mm guns which they manned on top of the cliffs. These guns had a range of almost 15 miles and could strike both Omaha and Utah beaches as well as the ships brining the men to shore. They had to be taken.
The Higgins boats were armed with rocket launchers designed to fire the grapnels hooks to the top of the cliffs but because of the water soaked condition of the ropes many of the hooks failed to reach the top of the cliffs but the men made their assault and climbed to the top and took the Pointe.
A side note that one of the Frenchmen at Pointe Du Hoch told Carole and I about when we visited in 2012 was that the Germans did not know what the grapples were and thinking them to be some kind of bomb did not pull them loose and thus keep the Rangers from reaching the top.
The Rangers learned on reaching their destination that five of the guns had been removed and taken about a mile inland to an Apple Orchard in order to protect them from the navy shelling. The Rangers found them, and put all of the six guns out of commission and the battle.
Relief did not come for the 2nd Battalion as planned on that day and by the time it did arrived on June 8 there were only 90 of the 225 men left. Out of water and low on ammunition Lt. Col. Rudder and his men held on to their position and saved countless American lives from the German forces at the top of the Pointe.
“The Greatest Generation” held their ground, completed their task and I stood by many of their graves while in France. A great Memorial Day thank you to the men of the 2nd Battalion and countless others who did their best and gave their all that I might write this in a free country and send it across our world. – Ivan
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