One of the biggest WWII mysteries is the fate of the missing guns at Pointe du Hoc… or so authors and historians would have you believe.
Now Maisy is known to exist… it puts many previous works to one side and will make you think again. Many other works have based their theories and statements upon what happened – based on Maisy not existing. Now that is all changed.
So – here is a little more meat on the bone of the Pointe du Hoc “missing guns mystery”.
The one overriding question which has always remained was why was nobody briefed to attack Maisy on D-day… and why did the battery at Pointe du Hoc have no guns – yet it was attacked in such a spectacular way.
The Washington US National Archives have recently released 27,700 new documents relating to D-day and perhaps now the mystery comes a little closer to being explained.
Many visitors to Maisy cannot understand why such a huge site had remained undiscovered for 63 years and there are / were a number of factors to that.
Firstly, the Top Secrecy act which restricts the outflow of sensitive information for 60+ years, had stopped D-day information being fully available. Therefore books on the subject of the invasion had to be written from veterans testimonies and period accounts to fill their pages. Much of the secret information could not be included, because it was not known to exist. This was the case with a lot of Maisy related information. The Naval shelling reports, the RAF and other airforces bombing missions to Maisy – as well as the Allied Intelligence maps and documents were included in the Top Secrecy Act.
In a sense we were fortunate that the site was found and dug up in the years surrounding the first batch of papers being released. There was a lot of debate with historians at the time, some of whom suggested that there was nothing there, no battle took place, it was insignificant etc. etc….beforehand – but once the papers came out and they saw the size of the place, it was obvious to all that Maisy was the battery protecting the western end of Omaha beach and the southern end of Utah Beach. And we simply did not have all the answers at the time.
Interviewer had a tendancy to ask lost of speculative questions – to which we could only offer suggestions… and a number of these appeared as “direct quotes” from me. In a lot of cases they were not direct quotes, only speculation as a result of speculative questioning… and that is how journalists make “sensational” articles. So on that front, do not always believe what you read. Please use your intelligence when reading things that quote us… if you want a specific and direct answer then just email us. Beyond that, then please don’t believe everything you read in the press.
We were fortunate enough to meet some of the surviving Ranger veterans and their own stories came out, that told more of the story. But at the beginning of this process – probably the biggest mystery surrounding the Maisy Batteries (plural) – was one of their actual role on the 6th of June 1944. And the fact that all of the surviving Rangers did not know about Maisy in advance. Before being ordered to attack the site on the morning of the 9th of June.
If you look at the Pointe du Hoc battery, the men of the 2nd and 5th Rangers trained to attack the cliff top site for many months before D-day. It was to be the equivalent of the British Merville Battery or Pegasus Bridge Raids. All pre-dawn attacks to stop the positions remaining operational or used during the invasion.
Pointe du Hoc was considered to be – as Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower said “the most important target in the whole invasion area”… so you would think that the intelligence information available at the time, which we can see now – would agree with that statement.
But 70 years later, with the release of more wartime papers the suggestion that Pointe du Hoc was a threat is looking more and more questionable.
The Pointe du Hoc site was certainly a big obstacle prior to its guns being moved away, but to suggest now that it was a threat on D-day is a real stretch given the new evidence…. unless of course the Rangers were sent to attack the observation post ?
So lets go back to the time. Anyone who watches the History Channel often enough will be familiar with the clips of Fieldmarshall Rommel walking around Pointe du Hoc with his generals prior to D-day, and you can see the camera pan its way around the area – showing the large 155mm French guns installed. No question they are there in February 1944.
However, a little while later when the cameras had been switched, some of the guns were ordered to be removed and casements – (bombproof blockhouses for 10.5cm guns) – were ordered to be built on the same site. That is the part of history which has had historians and authors puzzled over the years. Indeed before Maisy was commonly known to exist, the site at Pointe du Hoc was logically thought – no, it was KNOWN – to have had big guns there….if it didn’t, then the Germans would have left a 20 mile long gap in their coastal defences… which would be inconceivable… and would make no sense to any author writing the history of D-day.
So the guns must be “around the area” somewhere – if they were missing on the day… which accounts for why in all the books written until recently, you will see that they say things like this….
1 • ”Pointe du Hoc’s guns were moved a few days before D-day to protect them”… or they say
2 • “the officer commanding Pointe du Hoc ordered his guns to be moved to protect them from bombing”
3 • “German high command told them to move the guns because they were being bombed” etc. etc.
The list goes on and on with varying excuses – but not one of these suggested situations is actually correct.
The guns as we know, had already been moved prior to D-day to facilitate the building of a different type of weapons platform.
So what about those other arguments as to where the guns went…
To answer No 1..… we know that the guns were moved some months before D-day. Or in a couple of cases the foundations for the casements could not have been built on top of the emplacements the guns previously occupied.
No 2… There was no officer who ordered the removal of his guns to the rear. Otherwise the high command would have strung him up on D-day for not manning his post and getting his guns operational. Also there is radio traffic for Longues sur Mer, Maisy and Crisbecq batteries on D-day – but nothing from the German HQ in St. Lo asking Pointe du Hoc’s gunners what was happening with their guns, what were they firing at etc. The reason.. they knew there were no operational guns there – and if there were – they would have been asking for them to fire at the invasion fleet and wanting answers. Remember the Germans were aware from early on (before dawn) that the invasion was coming. They captured a Lt. from the Airborne at Pointe du Hoc who told them everything. (source: German telephone records 352nd Inf. Div.).
No 3… There are no records in the German army orders or radio traffic that can be found ordering the removal of the PdH guns in the days prior to D-day – so it must have been done verbally some time well before – one could presume perhaps by Rommel himself after his very public visit. Someone had to order the construction of new casements.
So all of these earlier statements are basically untrue and just supposition by the writers at the time – yet they still appear in many books today… but it was the world in which I too grew up with – and that was what was said in the books I was reading – if it had been said and not challenged by historians before – then it must be true.
If I was to prove Maisy had a role in D-day in the early days, I had to seek a connection between the invasion and the operational use of Maisy – only a few miles to the west of Pointe du Hoc.
We know 7 years after it was first re-discovered Maisy was operational, it was attacked by the Rangers and did fire at the invasion fleet and beaches for 3 days… but lets start with the newly released evidence and firstly the intelligence maps. Here is a section of GSGS British Intelligence Map dated February 1944. At which time – correctly – Pointe du Hoc is marked as having 6 guns. (see the symbol and number above the battery).
Below the GSGS Inteligence map for May 1944 – once again intelligence had been gathered by Aerial reconnaissance and from the French resistance. You will notice that on this map the gun numbers are marked as 4 guns U/C – (Under Construction). So this clearly shows that guns were known to have been removed by then and the 4 new casements for guns were being built. Which easily explains why there were no guns at PdH on D-day. This was known about well before D-day as this map is dated May 1944… it was in the intelligence briefings from then on that the guns had been removed. This will be covered in detail in my next book.
So we can say without a shadow of a doubt the guns were known to have been removed. There are now not 6 individual guns marked on this map – but 4.
The fact that the four casements are marked as “under construction” ties in with the intelligence information available from other sources. In 1944 the mayor of Grandcamp was a man called Jean Marion. He was also the head of the resistance in the area. In a 1953 interview with writer Cornelius Ryan (The Longest Day) he stated that ‘The mystery of the Pointe du Hoc guns is this. They had never been mounted. Guns were immobile; had never been installed.’ In fact, this is information Marion also reported to London by radio on two occasions before D-Day.
This is borne out by the site at Pointe du Hoc today when you go. Take a look at the two casements near completion – but note they have not yet been fitted with the mounting rings for the deck mounted guns. And the other two casements – which would have made 4 in total – have not yet been built – only their foundations have been started. There are two unfinished gun positions and two just started – exactly as the intelligence maps suggest.
The map shows 4 guns… under-construction – NOT 6 as is always reported. The box around the letter H indicates that they are casements. Not gun pits. The single guns have been removed from these intelligence maps – because these weapons were not there. The intelligence analysts had it 100% correct.
And, this is the thing which nearly all books and internet sites get wrong. As Pointe du Hoc was EMPTY on D-day. Nobody can say it was a battery of 6 x 155mm guns – but bizarrely all books do ? Why we have to ask. Well, simply because they repeat the mistakes of others.
Next any study on the ground at Pointe du Hoc will confirm that the guns were not on the pits. This photograph above, shows one of the gun pits which is half buried under the unfinished casement. (note the buried outer concrete ring of the old gun pit).
As the casement took some months to build – then it is certain that no gun was operational on this pit anywhere near D-day – there would not have been room to have it there…. and it was not just removed a “few days before D-day.” You can see the gun pit running under the casement – again a common and very obvious mistake in most books.
Below a photograph taken of a US serviceman standing next to a pile of logs – used in an attempt to try and make the Allies think the guns were still on the remaining pits. But we know from the intelligence briefings and the intelligence GSGS maps – that they had dismissed these as being fake. Indeed they don’t even warrant a mention on some intelligence maps.
Any many other authors have suggested “the Allies had to attack the site because they didn’t know for sure”… thats just incorrect. The Allies knew perfectly well the gun pits at PdH were empty – remember they had the French resistance telling them this regularly – and they could fly over and see for themselves that the pits were empty or being built over. And thats what they put on their maps for the men who were going to attack the place.
Inside of the 2 casements… they are not finished – nor yet fitted for the deck mounted guns.
If you study the gun pits…
One pit was completely destroyed by an air raid prior to D-day – which left 5 pits operational.
Another, as we have seen was being built over – which leaves 4 pits which could have been operational before D-day…
One of those remaining pits has the foundations of another casement started on top of it… leaving 3 pits which could have been operational…
Then you look at the remaining 3 pits – one has a casement being built right in front of it – which restricts its field of fire… thus perhaps leaving only two possible pits for the guns to have been positioned upon.
Are we to assume that the Rangers sent to attack 2 guns which “might have been in open pits” …… they were not – obviously.
I agree there is a certain amount of latitude in these deductions and documentary evidence might emerge in the years to come to challenge it – however, this is not too far of the mark for now.
Pointe du Hoc was not an operational gun battery on D-day and it had not been so for some time. The Allied Intelligence maps and briefings state clearly that it was a site under construction and therefore we have to question why the battery was targeted so often… and more to the point, why was Maisy not a target ? Or was it.?
In future posts – I will expand on this. And in a new work due out in early 2017 will lift the lid on what was known about the batteries at Maisy – by whom and importantly what was done about it.
It is already set to be one of the most historically enlightening WW2 books ever written.
All photographs and information are © Gary Sterne and may not be reproduced or quoted without written consent.
Do you want the full and previously never told story about the Omaha Beach attack on D-day, the Pointe du Hoc battle and the assault by the Rangers on Maisy Battery ? …. then read on.
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The Cover-Up at Omaha Beach: D-Day, the US Rangers, and the Untold Story of Maisy Battery
The Rangers’ mission on D-day was clear. They were to lead the assault on Omaha Beach and break out inland. Simultaneously, other Ranger units would scale the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc to destroy the ostensibly huge gun battery there and thus protect the invasion fleet from being targeted. But was the Pointe du Hoc mission actually necessary? Why did the Allies plan and execute an attack on a gun battery that they knew in advance contained no field guns? And more importantly, why did they ignore the position at Maisy that did – and then bury it afterwards?
Using personal interviews with the surviving Rangers who fought on Omaha Beach, Maisy and at Pointe du Hoc, this book presents exceptionally detailed new research and it takes the reader into the middle of the action with the Rangers. It is a gritty first hand – yard by yard account of what combat was like in those early days for the liberation of Europe.
From the moment the Landing Craft ramp went down, the Rangers in their own words tell of the three days of hell at Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc and then onto the assault on the Maisy Battery.
This book is also a painstaking study of what the Allies actually knew in advance of D-Day, including what was known about Maisy Battery. Maps, orders, and assault plans have been found in US, UK and German archives, many of which have only been recently released after having been classified for more than sixty years. Radio communications of the Rangers as they advanced inland have been uncovered, and Royal Air Force intelligence evaluations of bombing missions directed at the site have now been released. All these combine to make this book one of the most up-to-date references on the subject.
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