Pointe du Hoc is a clifftop location on the coast of Normandy in northern France. It lies 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Omaha Beach, and stands on 100 ft (30 m) tall cliffs overlooking the sea. It was a point of attack by the United States Army Ranger Assault Group during Operation Overlord in World War II.
At Pointe du Hoc (sometimes erroneously known as Pointe du Hoe following a typographical error by an American military cartographer) the Germans had built, as part of the Atlantic Wall, six casemates to house a battery of captured French 155mm guns. With Pointe Du Hoc situated between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east, these guns threatened Allied landings on both beaches, risking heavy casualties in the landing forces. Although there were several bombardments from the air and by naval guns, intelligence reports assumed that the fortifications were too strong, and would also require attack by ground forces. The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion was therefore given the task of destroying the strongpoint early on D-Day.
Prior to the attack, the guns were moved approximately 1 mile away; however, the concrete fortifications were intact, and would still present a major threat to the landings if they were occupied by artillery forward observers. The Ranger Battalion commanders and executive officers knew the guns had moved, but the rest of the Rangers were not informed prior to the attack. The popular perception that the guns were "missing" on D-Day may be attributed to this decision not to inform the troops prior to the attack.
The Ranger battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder. The plan called for the three companies of Rangers to be landed by sea at the foot of the cliffs, scale them using ropes, ladders, and grapples under enemy fire, and engage the enemy at the top of the cliff. This was to be carried out before the main landings. The Rangers trained for the cliff assault on the Isle of Wight, under the direction of British...