generation

A History Lesson for The Ones Who Forgot

The current generation might not be taught why things were done the way they were. June 6, 1984 was the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. On that day, President Ronald Reagan and a crowd of veterans watched sixty-something year old Ranger veteran Herman Stein and a dozen Green Berets decades younger reenact the toughest mission that day. German machine guns were targeted on the beach. They needed disabling.

 

The current generation is distracted

Stein easily did the assignment. He joked about the younger men, “All these younger guys will be all right if they just stick with it. They hug the cliff too much.”

In 1944, 225 Rangers including Dog Company were assigned to land on the tiny beach and scale 90 foot cliffs to disable the German weapons, all while being fired upon. It was considered a suicide mission.

Casualties were predicted to be 70%. One intelligence officer was heard to say, “It can’t be done. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing that cliff.”

That killed a generation

It turns out only 90 out of those 225 would succeed. The Germans were engineering masters. This fortress was impenetrable to attacks from the sea because of those cliffs. There were even artillery shells suspended by wires as an added defense.

Artillery could hit the beach where any unfriendly aircraft would be forced to land. Overland attack was equally difficult with landmines, machine gun nests and barbed wire. The only attack is straight on in front.

The Pointe du Hoc defenses guarded six 155 artillery pieces with a range of 25,000 yards or 14 miles focused on where the Americans would land. Destroying them was “the most dangerous mission of D-Day”.

The generation that needed to do it

It started at 7:15 am. Some soldiers went in the water over their heads. German soldiers relentlessly fired on them.

One Ranger remembered the MG-42s, “I thought I was kicking up pebbles and dirt. But they were actually bullets that were hitting the sand and kicking up the dirt around me.” Some struggled. Sigurd Sundby of Dog Company said, “The rope was wet and kind of muddy; my hands just couldn’t hold. They were like grease, and I came sliding back down. I wrapped my foot around the rope and slowed myself up as much as I could, but my hands still burned.”

Among the stories of heroism was First Sergeant Leonard Lomell. He took a bullet in his side but kept going. Climbing next to him was 2nd Platoon’s radio operator, Sergeant Robert Fruhling. Lomell crested Pointe du Hoc but Fruhling needed help. Lomell couldn’t get to him but Sergeant Leonard Rubin could and grabbed him by the nape of the neck to pull him up.

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