One Day in Normandy, Part 3: Pointe du Hoc

Now that I have this new site up and running, it’s about time that I get the rest of my Normandy posts finished. After this one, I have about two or three left and will do one a week until I'm done. We really packed the day full of sites! For any new readers, here are the other parts: One and Two.

Pointe du Hoc was about a 10 to 15 minute drive east of Omaha Beach. Although I knew some of the story about the Rangers’ ascent, I didn’t remember ever seeing pictures of the place. I had no idea what to expect.

From the parking lot I could not get a sense of what awaited us on the point, which was hidden behind a thick swath of greenery. A sign greeted us with some background information and let us know the significance of this place.

Pointe du Hoc sign

I tried to find a good oral history video from one of the Rangers but didn’t find as much as I had hoped for, so Ronald Reagan’s “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech from June 6th, 1984 seemed like a good alternative. I can’t deny that the man was a good storyteller.

There’s also this great in-depth interactive narrative, if you have some time to go through it all.

A short walk down the dirt path revealed a war-torn landscape. My first thought was that it looked like a cross between the earth and the moon. The scarring of the land and the size of the bomb craters knocked me back and hammered home the reality what happened here.

Pictures don't do the landscape justice. It's almost impossible to show how deep some of the craters are, so if you're ever in the area I highly recommend making a stop here. It is just better to see it with your own eyes.

We wandered around for a while, looked out at the sea and then back toward the casemates, trying to take in everything.

Henri showed us around a little bit. He told us a little about the guns, took us into the bunker areas, and enthusiastically jumped in and out of holes and shared his findings.

The French erected a memorial pylon on the point. They transferred its care to the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1979.

The erosion is so bad that the memorial is now behind a fence. It made me think that not only are we losing veterans and their memories, but we’re losing the land as well. There is, however, a major effort to preserve and stabilize the cliffs. For anyone interested in the stabilization project, there’s a PDF here.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay very long at this stop either. We were, after-all, on a mission to see as much as possible in the few hours we had in Normandy. I left feeling even more stunned and speechless at everything we saw. I knew there was only more to come.

Next stop? Sword and Juno beaches.