- Early in the morning on June 6, 1944, US Army Rangers stormed the beaches of Normandy and scaled 100-foot cliffs under fire to eliminate German artillery that threatened the Allied spearhead into enemy-occupied Europe.
- On Wednesday, June 5, 2019, US Army Rangers made the same climb to honour the courage and sacrifice of the 135 US troops who were killed or wounded in the assault 75 years earlier.
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US Army Rangers climbed the towering cliffs overlooking the beaches of Normandy on Wednesday, reenacting one of the most daring and dangerous missions that US troops carried out on D-Day – the assault on Pointe du Hoc.
Wednesday’s climb honored the courage and sacrifice of those service members who participated in the assault 75 years ago on June 6, 1944, when US Army Rangers stormed the beaches of France and scaled 100-foot cliffs as a determined enemy fought to drive them back into the sea.
The mission’s objective was to knock out German 155 mm artillery positions able to target US troops coming ashore at Omaha and Utah beaches.
The task was given to Lt. Col. James E. Rudder by commander for the cross-channel invasion Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley, who wrote in his memoirs: “No soldier in my command has ever been wished a more difficult task than that which befell the thirty-four-year-old commander.”
Some war planners feared the mission might be impossible, but the US Army pulled it off. Here’s how the mission went down.
Following an early morning naval bombardment of the German position, three companies from the 2nd Ranger Battalion began their assault on Pointe du Hoc, landing under fire at the base of the steep cliffs.
The Rangers climbed up wet ropes and ladders in damp, muddy uniforms as German bullets and grenades rained down on their assault.
It took about half an hour for the invading Rangers to reach the top, where they battled against fierce resistance to find and destroy five of the six enemy guns, which had actually been moved farther inland before the assault.
More than 200 men from the 2nd Battalion fought to take Pointe du Hoc. When they were finally relieved after two days of fighting, there were only about 90 Rangers still standing.
Decades later, the scarred, pockmarked landscape stands testament to the hard-fought battles that took place at Pointe du Hoc.
On June 5, 2019, Around 100 US Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment donned WWII uniforms and scaled the cliffs (without the hassle of enemy fire) to honour their predecessors, who did the unthinkable with odds stacked against them.
“The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb,” President Ronald Reagan said in a memorable speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the assault.
“When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again,” Reagan said in his address. “They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe.”
“For us in the 2nd Ranger Battalion, this was our baptism by fire,” Maj. Ross Daly, who participated in Wednesday’s climb, told Stars and Stripes. “This is where our battalion’s legacy was born. They gave everything that day and now it is on us.”
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