John Barrett
Francis Garcia-Pages
Txikia Hernández-Morales
Jesus Miguelez

Point du Hoc: Class Discussion

Passage A: Sergeant Victor H. Fast, age 21, 5th Ranger Battalion positioned on Omaha Beach, seven miles west of Point du Hoc. After having helped take the Omaha beach head, the 5th Ranger Battalion would be sent to relieve the 2nd Ranger Battalion holding Point du Hoc.

"When I crawled up the beach to the seawall I had an M- I rifle, two bandoliers of ammo, and several grenades. No helmet, no gas mask, no pack, because I had peeled them all off so I could swim. I crawled around to find a helmet from a dead buddy only to find it half full of head-I quickly found another.

"We were lying behind the seawall regrouping when General Cota walked up and said to Colonel Schneider, 'I'm expecting the rangers to lead the way.' We started inland through a smoke haze and a field of bouncing Betsies [antipersonnel mines] and captured some Germans. I was Colonel Schneider's interpreter, and he told me to interrogate them. He didn't tell me who or what to ask, he just said get whatever information you can. Now I used my head and country breeding and picked the youngest, most timid-looking, lowest-ranking Kraut I could find. I took him away from the other prisoners and told him straight-you are going to tell me what I want to know. First, I told him the war was over for him and to relax. I asked him if he had observed all the American and British bombers over- head earlier that morning. He said, 'Yes.' That was good-I wanted to get him in a 'yes' mood. Then I told him I'd give him three choices. One, if he told me nothing, nothing at all, just kept his mouth shut, I would send him over to the Russians. (Of course, I couldn't do anything of the sort.) Second, if he gave me information about minefields and number of troops in the immediate vicinity but left me in any doubt that he was telling the truth, I would turn him over to my Jewish buddy, Herb Epstein, who was standing next to me. Herb had not shaved that day, was big and burly. With a .45 on his hip, a ranger knife in his boot, and a Thompson submachine gun, he looked mean enough to scare the living daylights out of anybody. Thirdly, I said that if he told me what I wanted to know and convinced me he was telling the truth, I would send him to America, where he would have a good life until the war was over and he could go home. He told me about the little mines, the 'bouncing Betsies,' and about the fortifications on Pointe du Hoc. He told me there were no troops as such in Vierville, but inland there were numerous elite panzer divisions. He added that the beach area was covered with crisscross fire from 88s and machine guns. I said yes, I knew, because we had come through a barrage on the way up the slope.

"We proceeded up the Vierville draw and drew fire from both sides and sniper fire from the church steeple. Colonel Schneider called for a naval bombardment of the church, and it was promptly demolished. A girl sniper was found in the rubble.

"Another thing I remember about that day was that one of our HQ rangers boasted that he was going to have sex with a French woman within eight hours of hitting the beach. Sure as hell, Herb Epstein cracked a door when we were clearing Vierville and saw the knucklehead in the act."

Passage B: Taken from the preface to America at D-Day, written by Richard Goldstein, in the words of General Matthew B. Ridgway, who died on July 26,1993.

"As I reflect on the multitudes of soldiers, sailors, and airmen who braved the potential for sudden death on that perilous morning, June 6, 1944, I ponder the legacy of these Allied fighting men who gave so much to restore freedom to the world. No doubt, considerable planning, air and sea force, and an aggressive and timely offensive impressed the German defenders, who slowly inched back toward their beloved homeland only to surrender their conquest the following year. A blind reverence to Clausewitzian principles failed to consider the fighting spirit of Allied Forces who dropped from the skies, penetrating so-called impregnable defenses on the ground, and flew or glidered in for the ultimate defeat of the last standing true 'Army' of the Third Reich. Under the spirited leadership of General Eisenhower, we fought heavily fortified defenses, maneuvering our troopers, who worked their way in behind the massive defenses to ensure victory. Despite galelike conditions over four thousand ships and eleven thousand American, Canadian, and British planes made up our invasion. We had met Stalin's demand for a 'second front' with utmost offensive spirit leading to the ultimate rout of German invaders. The Allies were beginning 'Overlord' with a vengeance for the German occupation of France and the heavy losses then endured by the British and innocent civilians. Our valiant paratroopers of both the 82nd and 101st, and the British 'Pegasus,' met stiff opposition in securing lines of passage, bridgeheads, and critical road junctions. Many individual and small groups of courageous troopers died alone those first few precious hours from direct fire and drowning in the canals and flooded marshes. These troopers 'Led the Way' for the thousands of soldiers and their overwhelming airpower and armored vehicles to ultimately free the once wonderful Normandy city of Cherbourg.

"I think of these events as intense and masterful displays of the dedication and offensive spirit of the Allies, who, thousands of miles from home, relentlessly fought to make the land once again free for human habitation. Today, as I read about the tyranny of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and the Serbs in once peaceful Yugoslavia, I cherish the knowledge that American forces stand ready as they did some five decades ago to fight for freedom and human dignity."

Section Review:

1. As a class, discuss the importance of the United States as an allied force in World War II. Was it considered to be the same superpower that it is now? How was the threat different in Desert Storm? Should the United States take great initiative when it comes to questions of international conflicts?

2. The violent landings that took place during D-Day are considered to have brought about success for the individual soldier only through luck. Soldiers that landed on Omaha were randomly killed or injured by mines, machine guns, artillery, etc. After reading the Passage A, discussing the interrogation of a German prisoner as to the resistance the 5th Ranger battalion would encounter, would you, as a soldier want to know about the weapons of destruction setup to kill you or would you rather enter the battlefield blindly and with higher motivation and strive for survival?

Works Cited:
Goldstein, Richard. America at D-Day: A Book of Rememberance. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. 1994.

Miller, Russell. Nothing Less Than Victory: The Oral History of D-Day. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc. 1993.