Stories of Pointe du Hoc

On June 6, 1944 U.S. Army Rangers climbed the 100 ft. cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, destroyed a critical German battery and took control of the coastal highway, playing a crucial role in the Allied success of D-Day. Hear these Rangers recount their memories from that fateful day, and remember their comrades that perished.

Video Transcript

SGT. ANTONIO T. RUGGIERO:
[singing] We are Rangers true
Under red, white, and blue
And we fight
For the right
We adore
Where the battle cry
Ringing through the sky
Putting freedom on every shore
When the Rangers come
There’s no beat of a drum
But the flash of a cold steel blade
We’ll fight, fight, fight
For right, right, right
Just another famous Ranger raid

I got in the boat, when we pulled away the water was rough and it was cold.  And as we came in closer and closer to the shore, that’s when we start seeing these 88s or what the hell they were, flying over the top of us. You could see ‘em, you know.  Well by that time, I had thrown up through my vomit bag.  They gave us a bag, you know.  And my job was to hook the grappling hook on the rockets to fire the rope up the cliff.  When they told us to load up, you know the last thing I said to myself?  And I didn’t say it to myself; I said it to the guy upstairs.  I said, “Dear God, don’t let me drown.  I want to get in and do what I’m supposed to do.”  Ah, I’m starting to break down.

LT. JAMES EIKNER: I was the last man off of my boat.  Bullets were zipping by but none hit me, thank God.  I got a hold of the rope right in front of me and started up and I got about two thirds of the way up and this hellish explosion. The last thing I saw was all of this mud, dirt, and rock coming down the cliff and I was knocked out.  The next thing that I recall was I was buried up to about my waist.  And I looked up and I could see this German up there looking down like that and he could have shot me right there if he wanted to but I guess he figured I was gone, you know.  So I looked around for my rifle, I had a Tommy gun, and it was some feet away and I managed to squirm around and finally pull it out, and this fellow was still up there and looking round the other way and I took a shot at him, and pulled the trigger and it snapped, my gun was clogged up with mud. And there I was and I remember saying to myself, “Aint this a hell of a note, here I am in the damnedest war in history and I don’t have a gun.”

CAPT. JOHN RAAEN, JR.: The first thing about the beach that you notice is there are dead men all over it and the few that are still quivering are bleeding badly.  There are a whole pile—and I actually literally mean a pile of terrified men leaning up against the seawall—one on top of another, not beside each other, but on top of one another trying to get into the cover there. You see puffs of dust as machine gun bullets and rifle bullets are hitting in your area.  You hear the smack of bullets as they hit into the breakwaters.  And you can hear ‘em and hear ‘em go wayyyyyyyy off as they ricochet, but you can also hear that thump as they hit a rock and scatter fragments of rocks all over the place. You would hear the artillery exploding behind you as they hit the boats on the waterline, the shoreline.  And the rifle fire and the machine gun fire was just incessant as it cracked over your heads, as it hit into the breakwaters, as it chewed up the turf, as it banged into the road next to us. And it was one horrible noise after another with a lot of little nasty noises in between.  And of course when the artillery would hit near you, the whole ground would shake.  You’d have dust and fragments and things like that come and litter around you. No, it was a scene from hell.

SGT. LEONARD G. LOMELL: As our ramp went down, I’m the first one off the landing craft, And as I did I was shot through the side above my hip through the muscle on the right side. Fortunately for me, my side was sore and hurt from the shot, but it didn’t hit anything important.  Bob my radio man was next to me on his rope and we’re struggling and about to make the top when Bob says to me “Len.  Len, can you help me?” And I said, “What’s wrong?”  He said, “I don’t have an ounce of strength left.  I can’t make it!”  And it was only about a foot or two to the top of the cliff.  And I said, “Bob, now that you mention it, I don’t think I have an ounce of strength left either to make it.  But you gotta hold on.  I happened to see Leonard Rubin.  He was a very husky fella. And I yelled to him, “Rube! Rube! Get over here.”  And he comes over, “What’s up?”  And I said, “Bob can’t make it to the top, he’s out of strength.  Can you help him?”  With that, Rube throws down his weapon, reaches over, grabs Bob and he is so powerful of a man he jerked Bob up over the cliff, slung him over.  Bob’s going through the air. In the meantime, I gained enough strength to get up.  And I’m standing up there with my submachine gun protecting Bob and Rube and the Germans and Rangers are being shot all around us.

As we rushed them we got to the gun positions that we were assigned and there were no guns. What was there were these phony poles making it look from the air as if the guns were in those positions.  Well I told my platoon sergeant Jack Kuhn, “You come with me.” I said, “You and I are going to go find those guns.  They gotta be here!” Down this one sunken road we saw what looked to be wagon wheel tracks.  We came to a hedgerow that I had to look over into an apple orchard, a sunken apple orchard. And there, low and behold, are the guns of Pointe du Hoc.

SGT. FRANK SOUTH: When you hear the cry of medic, there’s no choice.  You don’t think, uh, you don’t think about anything except, you have to go.  There’s no choice.  Um, regardless of what’s happening.  You tended him and took care of him, if possible.  If he was dead, you went on to the next guy.  Later, it would hit.  But at the time, nothing mattered except your job.  But later on…

Every once in a while I think of a Sergeant Otto in F company, who I got along with very well, I liked.  He was on the top a very short time when he was hit in the belly.  And the wounds, these wounds, like that, just simply a hole in the abdomen.  And nobody paid much attention to it.  I mean, if they didn’t know any better didn’t pay much attention to it, just get to the medics and they’ll take care of you.  We had him in the aid station, what we made into an aid station.  I got him, and saw what it was, and insisted he lie down.  Typical of a wound of that sort is that the bullet will go in, and sometimes it’ll go all the way through and it’ll tumble, and do extensive damage, the pain is enormous.  We kept him under as much as we could with morphine.  And eventually when we were relieved, of course, he was evacuated.  But he died aboard the ship.  But I think of him every once in a while as, I remember him because we were friends. These are men who live in your memory.  But all this… the personalities become frozen, they never develop.  The people never develop.  They’re stopped in time and place.  These were living human beings, some of ‘em a little nutty, some of ‘em irritating, all of them were real, and the sacrifices all of these characteristics, all of this personality, all of their futures, gone…all of their futures gone.