6 June 1944

Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2010 by Travis Cody in

Today is the 66th commemoration of the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944, D-Day.  Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and civilians from many nations invaded Hitler's fortress Europe.  Many gave their lives to liberate the continent from Nazi tyranny.  For my previous posts about this day, click the links below.

6 June 1944, posted in 2009
A Momentous Day, posted in 2008

Today I'd like to give you a few details of the US Army 2nd Ranger Battalion assault on Pointe du Hoc.  You can click here for an excellent and complete study of the objective and its importance to the success of the invasion of Europe.

Essentially, the Rangers were tasked to climb an 85-100 foot cliff in order to reach German gun emplacements that reportedly housed at least 6 155mm cannons.  The range on these weapons was about 25,000 yards.  Those guns could decimate the landing forces and put the outcome of the battle in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, the attack got off to a bad start as the landing craft drifted in the heavy current, putting the Rangers more than a half hour behind schedule.  When Dog, Easy, and Fox companies finally reached the top of the Pointe, they searched and found that the guns were not installed in the battery.  The Rangers destroyed the position with grenades, and then began the secondary phase of the mission.

2nd Ranger Battalion was also tasked with cutting the coastal highway inland, and then holding in force to link up with the 5th Ranger Battalion and the 116th Infantry Regiment that was due from Omaha Beach later on D-Day.

But the 116th was late.  The Rangers managed to cut the highway and hold.  Lt Col James Rudder split his command.  Half of the battalion found the 155mm cannon further inland, unguarded in an apple orchard.  Those guns were destroyed.  

The rest of the battalion hunkered down and held off repeated German counterattacks against the highway position.  5th Ranger Battalion finally broke through from the beach, linking up and relieving the battered 2nd Rangers on D-Day plus 2.

The 2nd Ranger Battalion suffered heavy casualties during the assault on Pointe du Hoc and the subsequent two days defending the coastal highway.  They went in with 225 men total from Dog, Easy, and Fox companies.  Eighty men died, while another 55 were wounded or reported missing in action.  Able, Baker, and Charlie companies, which landed at Omaha Beach and pushed inland to link up with the rest of 2nd Ranger Battalion, lost more than half of their strength.

D-Day was a bloody battle across all sectors.  2nd Ranger Battalion earned a Presidential Unit Citation for its efforts to secure the deadly guns and the coastal highway.  

This day also marks the 42nd commemoration of the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, who was shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after finishing a speech.  Senator Kennedy had just won the California Presidential primary.  

In his eulogy for his brother, Senator Edward Kennedy said,

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.'

It is also my grandfather's 86th birthday today.  He lied about his age in 1940 so he could go to sea as a Merchant Marine.  

I have written this before, but it's worth repeating.  The world changed on 6 June 1944.  It changed again 6 June 1968.


  1. Debra says:

    Did not realize that today was the anniversary day of Robert Kennedy's death. How sad, I don't know how Rose Kennedy could handle the loss of so many of her children. I hope and pray we NEVER have to witness the assassination of another President ever, ever again.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    My 92 year old Father-in-law and 80 year old Mother-in-Law travelled to Normandy on Friday to be there today for the services, as FIL was there on the actualy day of the landings. This is quite an achievement because my FIL was given two weeks to live in November last year!

  1. What a battle D-Day was. But eventually it was over. The battle that Robert Kennedy was part of has never been over.

  1. Travis, if you ever head East, stop in Virginia to the D-day memorial. It is a wonderful tribute to those who lost their lives on that fateful day. also a wonderful monument to those who served and survived to tell the story.

    it is a must-see destination.

  1. Love your post today, Travis - you have a way of making history feel urgent and fresh. Just the way it always feels to me, because I'm a history buff. But your writing style made the military action seem like it happened yesterday.

  1. Debra: I would hope that we've grown beyond assassination of our world leaders as a means to affect change, but I can't honestly say I'm confident of it.

    Akelamalu: I will go there one day. Many thanks to your FIL for his service.

    Charles: Indeed. One wonders if the battle for equality will ever be over.

    Lois: I'll get there one day.

    Julia: It's my small attempt to honor and thank those who sacrificed so much.

  1. Linda says:

    I knew I would be able to come to your blog today and find a post about D-Day. Thank you for the history on the US Army 2nd Ranger Battalion, those were some very brave men who deserve to be remembered for their role in history.

    A belated happy birthday to your grandfather on his 86th birthday; I'm sure the world has changed many, many times over the course of his years - changes I'm sure he thought he'd never see and sadly, not all for the good either.

  1. Happy birthday to your grandfather. I just sang to him. Somehow through the course of reading you over the years I missed the part about how he joined the Marines! I know how proud you are of him.

    Thank you for this important post. I love the way you draw readers into history.

  1. TopChamp says:

    Happy belated birthday to your grandpa.

    Big day in history there Travis.