Pointe Du Hoc...


...a Battleground Normandy title, from Pen and Sword


Title: Pointe Du Hoc

Author: Tim Saunders

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47388-916-3

A new addition to Pen and Swords fine series of Battleground guides, this time within their Normandy sub-series.  This 234 page book covers in detail the famous and specific assault by the US Rangers on the battery position on top of the cliffs at the Point Du Hoc.  The bulk of the book.  The background starts with the background to the formation of the US Rangers units in WW2, going on of course to detail how Colonel James Rudders 2nd Ranger Battalion planned and carried out their assault, and coping with the obstacles they faced, not least of which were the high cliffs of the Pointe and the fact that German troops were at the top defending their position.

Like so many military operations, the initial plans had to adapt to events when the invasion came.  The main unit landed on the small beaches below the Pointe and had to scale them, they used grapnel hook projectors and ropes, and even had a couple of extending ladders from the London Fire Brigade carried in DUKWs.  Two other elements, Forces B and C ended up landing on the Western end of Omaha beach, having to scale the bluffs there, and then make their way west to link up with their other elements at the Pointe itself.

The book splits into 10 chapters, covering Origins of the US Rangers; The German Defenders of Normandy; The D-Day Ranger Plan; Embarkation and Passage; Ranger Force B at Omaha Beach; Pointe du Hoc, Escalade and Assault; Ranger Force C at Omaha Beach;Finding the Guns and Holding the Pointe; The Relief Column; and Subsequent Operations.  The story is then followed by three Appendices, each one giving a short description of a tour you can undertake when visiting the area.

The story of the guns not actually being in the emplacements is quite well known, and the book does include the story of how and where they were found, set up in a field just a short way inland from the concrete emplacements.  The story also includes that of the Ranger units who landed on Omaha itself, and made their way to assist their comrades at the Pointe, and the story of the Rangers dealing with another battery position at Grandcamp Maisey.

Having visited the Pointe du Hoc myself, it is I think a staggering sight when you see the cratered landscape from bombing and shellfire, some of the concrete emplacement reasonably intact and others reduced to rubble.  The second tour described show you where to go that little way inland, to where the guns were actually found.  The third tour covers the Western end of Omaha beach, at Vierville sur Mere.  If you combine these three suggested tours and combine them with the story of events held in the book you will get an appreciation of events all those years ago and get a really good feel of the environment and landscape.  The moonscape of the Pointe itself is thought provoking, what the German defenders had to withstand from bombing, shelling and the assault itself must have been terrifying, just as climbing those cliffs must have been a real challenge for the Rangers.  Of course the fact that the guns were not in the main battery position when the assault went in is also a sign that Allied Intelligence wasn't perfect on D-Day.  A useful book to have with you if you visit the Normandy landing beach areas.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.