- Commandos and Rangers: D-Day Operations by Tim Saunders (NEW Hardback) | eBay
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- U.S. Rangers at D-Day
British special forces trained and equipped for hit and run operations were called commandos, after the irregular militia organizations of the Boers in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century. The need for elite raiders arose early in World War II, when the British army was ejected from the European continent.
Faced with the prospect of German invasion, Britain needed a means of keeping some offensive capability, and the commandos were born. Organized in July , the first commandos were volunteer officers and soldiers, mostly from infantry units. The organizational structure called for a headquarters and ten troops, each with five hundred or more personnel.
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The first two troops largely contained men who had previously served in unattached or independent infantry companies and thus were accustomed to working on their own. In November the commandos were organized into a special service brigade under Brig.
Commandos and Rangers: D-Day Operations by Tim Saunders (NEW Hardback) | eBay
Haydon was succeeded by Col. Laycock, who as a major general oversaw combined operations. Organization evolved during the war, and by a man commando battalion was composed of a headquarters, five troops companies , and a heavy weapons troop. Much like airborne operations , commandos were essentially light infantry who fought without benefit of armor or artillery.
Consequently, they relied on speed, surprise, and heavy firepower. Commando troops possessed proportionately greater automatic weapons than did infantry companies, especially Bren guns and submachine guns. Because so much commando activity involved assault from the sea, a special boat section was formed, in part with the assistance of the Royal Marines.
Also, because by necessity many commando operations occurred in Occupied Europe, various Allied nations were represented. The open pits were vulnerable to air attack and because of Allied bombing, the Germans withdrew the guns yards to the rear in an apple orchard early in April By the time of the invasion, two casemates would remain unfinished. The 2 nd and 5 th Ranger Battalions were tasked with the assignment. The 2 nd with an assault force of Companies D, E, and F Force A was to land on the beach, scale the cliffs, using a combination of ropes, ladders, and grapples, secure the high ground while the remainder of the 2 nd Bn.
There they would push through and bolster the three companies at the top of the cliffs, block the Germans from using the road and then attack the Maisy Battery which was located back behind the cliffs. Maisy battery consisted of four mm captured French guns, four mm artillery pieces and four additional mm pieces that were destroyed by Allied naval bombardment.
The Rangers had been rehearsing for this mission at the Isle of Wight under the watchful eyes of the British Commandos. Bradley later remarked that assigning Rudder that task was the most difficult decision he had to make in the war.
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Rudder had recruited, trained, and led the Rangers and believed them to be ready for the job. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing those cliffs. Just prior to the invasion Rudder and Major Cleveland Lytle, the commander of Force A, got into an argument over the assigned task. According to some reports, Lytle thought the focus of the attack should be on Battery Maisy rather than Pointe du Hoc and that the Rangers were attacking in the wrong place. Other reports had Lytle in an alcoholic stupor loudly proclaiming that the mission was suicide.
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And that the Free French forces reporting that the guns had already been moved from Pointe du Hoc. Either way, Rudder felt that Lytle was unfit for command, relieved him on the spot and took personal charge of the assault on Pointe du Hoc. The naval bombardment began at hrs. The assault force was squeezed into ten landing craft. Immediately things began to go awry. One landing craft sank, drowning all but one soldier. A DUKW was hit by artillery fire and sank. A third was swamped. Both landing craft with supplies were swamped, one sank and the other had to jettison all of its equipment to stay afloat.
Worse, the new radar that was to guide the landing craft into shore was inoperable and some of the landing craft were miles off from their intended landing spots at Pointe du Hoc. When they finally realized their error, they had to turn and go an additional two miles to the right beach.
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This error would change the course of history. Omaha Beach: The follow-on force of the remainder of 2 nd Bn.
U.S. Rangers at D-Day
There they met Asst. Pointe du Hoc: The plan was for the naval bombardment to cease at and the Rangers landing craft to hit the beach shortly after. But the mixup had caused them to hit the beach at where the Germans had plenty of time to recover and they poured murderous fire on the Rangers still on the landing craft and on the beaches below. The landing craft were getting swamped with water and the men were all seasick, so they bailed brackish water and vomit over the sides as they approached the beach.
The men finally reached the beaches only to find that the foot ladders were too short to reach the top of the cliffs. But the grappling hooks fired by the landing craft had reached the top and the Rangers began making the deadly climb by ones and twos to the top. By the Rangers had reached the top and were clearing the Germans out of the battery positions. There they found the casemates empty.