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.
But now Maisy is known to exist… it puts all previous works to one side. They are incomplete and in most cases – they have based their theories and statements on what they knew about. 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 2,700 new documents relating to D-day and perhaps now the mystery comes a little closer to being explained.
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 Secrecy Act.
In a sense I was 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.
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, 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 known to exist (for over 63 years) 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 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 gunner 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.
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 before – one assumes by Rommel himself after his very public visit.
So all of these statements are basically untrue and just supposition by the writers at the time and 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 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 1 and half miles to the west of Pointe du Hoc.
As 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 the 6 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.
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.
Below…it 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 people have it 100% correct.
And, this is the thing which 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, clearly shows one of the gun pits which is half buried under the unfinished casement. (note the 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 certainly 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 the 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 built over. And thats what they put on their maps for the men who were going to attack the place.
Inside of the 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 study the remaining 3 pits and one has a casement being built right in front of it – which restricts its field of fire… thus leaving only two possible pits for the guns to have been positioned upon. So were the Rangers sent to attack 2 guns which “might have been in open pits” – they were not obviously.
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 at all… and more to the point, why was Maisy not a target ?
In future posts – I will expand on this and produce the evidence to show who did know about Maisy and perhaps why they didn’t want it known about.