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Bombing Pointe du Hoc edu Hoc

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The assault by men of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day is very well documented. The site today is one of the most visited in Normandy.
A tale of tremendous courage, tenacity, mixed fortune and ultimate success, it is one of the most enthralling episodes of the many that make up the story of D-Day, 6th June 1944.

On the morning of 6th June, prior to the Rangers' landing, a large force of 114 Lancasters was scheduled to bomb the position at Pointe du Hoc at around 05h00. Each aircraft was to carry eleven 1000lb and four 500lb bombs. The Rangers landing was scheduled to be at 06h30 -this heavy raid would be followed by another with medium bombers and also naval bombardment in an attempt to nullify the defences and defenders as much as possible.

Naturally the Germans had prepared anti aircraft defence of the site, primarily in the form of two 3.7cm Flak37 guns, each installed in it's own bunker. 

In the spring of 1944, the Germans occupying France saw an increase in activity from the Allies, particularly in the form of ever more frequent air-raids. Not just Normandy but the whole of western and northern France was targeted. The Germans however also launched their own raids against England. Operation Steinbock had begun in January but the Luftwaffe also launched small scale intruder raids against the London and the south, often using Focke-Wulf 190s , adapted slightly by removing the guns from the nose and with a bomb rack beneath the fuselage and drop tanks beneath each wing.

3./Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 was operating in this role from near Abbeville before moving to Tours. The unit was also used in a variety of other roles, such as reconnaisance and general "fighter" duties. On the morning of D-Day, as reports of airborne landings started to filter through the German communication system, a handful of aircraft were scrambled to investigate, as much as counter, what turned out to be the invasion.

Hauptmann Helmut Eberspächer was one of these pilots who in the darkness made their way north towards the Normandy coast.

Flying over the invasion armada must have been both incredible and daunting. Eberspächer passed low over a battleship, surprised that the ships anti-aircraft defences didn't open up on him. With fuel beginning to run out, Eberspächer turned back towards the south for the flight home.
As he did so, he noticed the silhouette of a Lancaster above him. Being in a "favourable position", he attacked this, and two other 'planes, shooting down all three in three minutes, before reverting back to his southerly course towards the Loire valley.

In addition to ND874, the other two Lancasters lost, both from 97 Sqn, were ND739 and  ND815. Of these, the former was carrying an eight man crew, S/L M Bryan-Smith joining as Gunnery Leader.

One of Eberspächer's colleagues, Feldwebel Kurt Eisele also claimed one bomber shot down. Pointe du Hoc wasn't the only target that night, naturally, and the battery at Longues sur Mer was also hit by Lancasters, one of which, that of Squadron Leader Arthuer William Raybould, was lost. The circumstances of this particular aircraft's demise are still unknown as yet, as conflicting information exists.
It seems likely that Eberspächer was responsible for the Pointe du Hoc Lancasters and Eisele for the Longues sur Mer 'plane, although this is by no means certain.
Attempting to plot the order in which the 'planes were shot down is somewhat dependant on several factors (Eberspächer's direction, the flight path of the bombing force after the raid, and taking into account any evasive action performed by the pilots and the path of the out-of-control aircraft as they descended). The crash sites run roughly east-west, with the easterly most being Formigny (ND874), then Osmanville (ND815) and finally Brucheville (ND739) and it is likely this is the order in which they were shot down.


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