VITAL ASSAULT GICLÉE CANVAS PROOF
by Simon Smith
The Allies believed Pointe du Hoc to be the most dangerous battery on the Normandy coast. If the D-Day landings were to succeed, the guns that threatened the American beaches had to be destroyed.
Sited on a high rocky headland jutting out into the sea four miles to the west of Omaha beach, Pointe du Hoc would be a tough nut to crack. Despite intensive Allied bombing in the months leading up to D-Day the concrete casements remained stubbornly unscathed and, although reports from the French Resistance suggested the guns might have been moved, nobody knew for sure. It was equally possible the guns were in place, and that was a risk that couldn’t be taken. If the amphibious assault of Omaha beach was to stand any chance of success.
The Pointe du Hoc battery was protected to seaward by near-vertical cliffs and, on the land side, by a web of intricate defences. To take it would need a crack unit and the task was given to three companies of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion and on the morning of 6 June 1944 the Rangers would need to call on all of their elite training.
As they made their approach three of their landing craft and an amphibious DUKW had been incapacitated by the rough seas and the delay caused by battling the strong currents had lost them the element of surprise, giving the Germans plenty of time to prepare a hostile reception when the Rangers finally hit the pocket-sized beach. Taking casualties immediately on landing, they had little time to ascend the cliff.
Scaling the 90-foot cliffs under relentless enemy fire, the first Rangers hit the top intent on destroying the guns – guns that had remained ominously silent. The French Resistance had been right; the guns had been moved. The Americans quickly sent out patrols in search of their quarry and soon found the guns, hidden in an orchard and trained directly on Utah beach, ready to fire. They were swiftly destroyed with grenades but the men now had to hold their ground enduring ferocious fighting for almost two days before reinforcements could get through.
Simon's piece Vital Assault, one of the most dramatic depictions of the assault on Pointe du Hoc, portrays the men of Dog Company as they unleash a withering volley of return fire, forcing the Germans to retreat.
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- 38 x 21 inches
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