On June 6, 1944 in World War II Allied forces invaded Northern France by way of beach landings in Normandy, France. Allied Infantry troops began landing on the beaches around 6:30 in the morning. The assault was planned along a 50 mile stretch along the coast. This allied assault was split into five sectors named: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
The weather conditions on D-day were not ideal. Strong winds blew landing craft east of their intended positions especially at Utah and Omaha. “Saving Private Ryan” and many other World War II movies depict storming the beaches of Normandy at sector Omaha. When allied troops landed at Omaha they were immediately under heavy enemy fire. The Germans had set up heavily armed fortified positions along the cliff side in anticipation of an allied invasion.
The allied troops landed on the beaches and were immediately faced with heavy enemy fire. They also had to navigate through a serious of obstacles on the beaches that made their mission very difficult and dangerous. The shore line at Omaha was riddled with land mines, wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire.
Pointe du Hoc was an area with 100 ft. cliffs situated between Utah and Omaha sectors. This area was assigned Colonel James Rudder and two hundred men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. The Ranger’s mission was to scale the 100 ft. cliffs with grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders then destroy the enemy gun batteries at the top of the cliffs. When the Rangers scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc they found the enemy gun positions abandoned. The Rangers then faced numerous attacks from the German 914th Regiment.
At one point the Rangers became isolated and some were captured. The fighting continued on for a couple of days. By the end of D-day +1 Colonel Rudder only had 90 Rangers able to fight out of the original 200 men. Relief didn’t arrive for the Rangers until D-day + 2. By that time the Rangers had run out of ammunition and were having to use captured German weapons. By the end of the 3 day battle 135 Rangers were either dead or wounded out of the 200 Rangers at the start of the campaign. German casualties were 50 killed and 40 captured. An undetermined number of French conspirators were executed.
One of the most decorated Army Rangers that fought at Pointe du Hoc was William “L-Rod” Petty. It took him three times to finally reach the top of the cliff at Pointe du Hoc. He is thought to have killed over 20 Germans during the campaign. Another Army Ranger named Leonard G. “Bud” Lomell was shot in his side and still managed to climb the 100 ft. cliff. He then took out two big German guns with thermite grenades. Frank South, was a Ranger medic, and he treated many wounded men on the beach before ascending the heights of the cliff at Pointe du Hoc.
Antonio “Tom” Ruggiero and 21 other fellow Rangers were plunged into the 42-degree water when a shell hit their landing craft several hundred yards from the shoreline on D-day. Eleven Rangers survived that explosion. These Ranger had to tread water in the cold ocean for almost two hours before being picked up by a gunboat and brought to shore. When Tom’s unit finally reached the shore his captain insisted that the Rangers scale the 100 ft. cliff they were trained to climb. The captain sent up Ranger Tom Ruggiero first to secure the climbing line for the other Rangers. Tom went on to become a highly decorated Army Ranger sniper.