The Ranger attack on the German gun battery at Pointe-du-Hox is one of the most famous, and in some ways most controversial, elements of the D-Day landings. Accounts tend to focus on the bravery of the Rangers and their daring attack up the cliffs, combined in some cases with a debate about whether it was worthwhile, triggered by the initial discover that the main guns were no longer in position (not every account acknowledges that the guns were found nearby later on D-Day).
This particular incident has been the subject of many books, so the key question when looking at another one is to see what it offers that is new. In this case I’d say Zaloga has successfully answered that question. His text includes sections on earlier amphibious landings and the lessons taken from the at the time, including Operation Torch and the invasion of Pantellaria, looking at the impact of coastal guns in the first, and how effective naval and aerial bombardments were for the second. He looks at the different types of coastal guns used by the Germans, how they were mounted, how they were aimed at their targets and how big a threat they may have posed. We look at the impact of the long Allied bombing campaign on the Pointe-du-Hoc battery and the effectiveness of the pre-invasion naval bombardment. The evolution of the battery is covered, as is what the Allies knew about it, or may have known about it. As well as covering the Ranger attack on the battery, we also get a good account of all of their other activities on and immediately after D-Day, which included playing a significant role in the fighting on Omaha Beach. We even go on to look at the two most famous portrayals of the attack in film, in the Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.
The account of the attack on Pointe-du-Hoc itself is excellent, with good material from both sides where possible (less for the Germans as many of the defenders didn’t survive – indeed even the fate of some of the batteries commanders isn’t clear!). The fighting around the battery itself is covered, as was the discover the ‘missing’ guns not far from the battery, and the controversy over who discovered them first and who put them out of action. Zaloga covers both the initial attack on the relatively lightly defended battery, and the much more dangerous battle to hold the area against German counter attacks.
The result is an excellent account of this famous range that does indeed add something worthwhile to the already extensive literature on the topic
1 – The Guns of Pointe-du-Hoc
2 – The Coastal Gun Threat
3 – ‘Hard Men for Dirty Work’
4 – Refining the Ranger Plan
5 – Spying on Pointe-du-Hoc: The Intelligence Battle
6 – Softening Pointe-du-Hoc
7 – Obliteration
8 – Assault Group O-4
9 – Carnage on Charlies Beach
10 – The Stormy Voyage to Pointe-du-Hoc
11 – Force A Stirkes Pointe-du-Hoc
12 – Spiking the Guns
13 – The Germans Strike Back
14 – Night Attack
15 – Ranger Force C on Dog Green Beach
16 – The Crazy March on D+1
17 – Relief from the Sea
18 – Final Mission: The Maisy Gun Batteries
19 – Battle Analysis
Author: Steven J. Zaloga