Who were William Petty’s Bastards? And why were the Germans so afraid of them? Well—with very good reason. Not for nothing did this band of tough-nut American Rangers refer to themselves as the bastards.
Welcome to Season 3 of Unknown History: D-Day Stories. I’m your host, Giles Milton, and today we’re talking about the mission of the American Rangers to capture the big German guns at Pointe du Hoc.
Pointe du Hoc on the coast of Normandy is a vertical cliff that looms skywards to the height of a nine-story building. From here, there is a spectacular view across the Normandy beaches.
In the spring of 1944, the Germans were quick to realize that if you placed big guns on top of these cliffs, you could cause absolute mayhem by firing down on men attempting to land on those beaches.
To this end, they had installed six 155mm cannon that could lob huge shells a distance of 25,000 meters. They could hit both Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, as well as the cruisers and destroyers at anchor in the coastal waters. It was clear to the Allied planners of D-Day that the big guns of Pointe du Hoc had to be taken out.
But how? And by who?
Giles Milton is a writer and journalist. He has contributed articles to most of the British national newspapers as well as many foreign publications, and specializes in the history of travel and exploration. In the course of his researches, he has traveled extensively in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. He has written four previous books of nonfiction, including the bestselling Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, and has been translated into fifteen languages worldwide. Edward Trencom’s Nose is his first novel.