Saturday, March 23, 2013

Point du Hoc Shootout.

Staircase on one side of the Ranger Memorial at the point of Pont du Hoc.

  Like any red-blooded American I wanted to see the Normandy Invasion beaches.  We started at Pont du Hoc, where Ranger companies under Col Rudder, a Texan and A&M grad, had the task of knocking out an artillery battery that could cover beaches looking East and West.  Everyone knows this story so I won't go into it in detail.  Once on the point I was roaming into old destroyed German bunkers, looking at firing points, in and out of bomb and shell holes, ranging all over.  There are some pretty great tourist spots and a monument to the Rangers on the tip of the point but I was more interested in the off-trail bunkers.  At one point I pushed through some brush, overstepped some German barbed wire and descended a staircase into a bunker.  Like most it had several exits, four inches of water in the bottom, long-gone iron doors, an interior room that plunged into film-loading level darkness.  All of a sudden, it occurred to me, (reading accounts of the battle), that there ought to be a few bullet pockmarks around the doorways.

There were:

 Just inside the doorway on one end, on both sides, there were fan-shaped patterns of bullet and grenade shrapnel marks.  Look at them in the lower left corner.  That's the bottom of the first step.

Other side.  The passage has concrete steps coming down and is about five feet wide.

 Somebody, (obviously one of Rudder's Rangers, or several of them), fired hundreds of rounds of small arms ammunition into this doorway, tossed in grenades, et, et.  They stood just out of sight on both sides at the top of the stairs and held the triggers down.   I think the longer streaks are grenade fragments, but I'm not sure why I think that.  It must have been quite a racket plus deadly to anyone in this hallway.  The floor was under mud and gravel so I couldn't see it.  I'm sure it's pretty pocky.

  I'll have a video of Pont du Hoc up soon, including this.

  THEN it occurred to me that all the brass belonging to these bullets must be at the top of the staircase and to the right.  I looked, but thick grass and old hardened mud....I didn't see a thing.  I bet they are under there, four or five inches in.

  If you visit Pont du Hoc, take rubber boots, a good flashlight, icepick or screwdriver.  It was a cool place.  On the way back to the car I crawled, (and I mean all-four-crawling), through the thick brush and briars lining the tourist path and out into a big bare plowed field behind the point.  The brush is as thick as the accounts of the battle describe.  I felt sure I would find a 30-cal hull somewhere if I looked.  Instead the field was full of pretty good flint chips.  Neolithic.  

Omaha Beach a low tide, just at bottom of bluff.

Katie at Omaha, just near the low-tide mark.  Landing was during a rising tide.


Anonymous said...

Bullets coming off the concrete were quite lethal. One of the first shooting lessons in my basic training was the value of the ricochet round placed in front of the target.

Many thanks for the trip descriptions.

Lazarus Long

Robert Langham said...

Davey Crockett used to "bark" squirrels, so as not to shoot up the meat. I doubt they were trying to "crete" these Germans, but didn't nind what happened, as long as they died. It was a great thing to take a look at.

Old NFO said...

Great pics, and yes it is quite a site isn't it...