Hero­ism that turned the tide on D-Day

Earl Rud­der’s cliff climb at Pointe du Hoc se­cured the Al­lied in­va­sion

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Bucky Fox By Richard Ber­man Bucky Fox is an au­thor and editor in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

We all know Gen. Dwight Eisen­hower’s com­mand per­for­mance on D-Day. With his firm grip on the tiller of strat­egy and se­crecy, the Al­lies stormed France on June 6, 1944, on the way to vic­tory over the Nazis 11 months later.

What many of us don’t know is a mighty hero in Ike’s ranks. His name was Earl Rud­der, an Army lieu­tenant colonel whose scal­ing of the Pointe du Hoc cliffs helped turn the tide of the big­gest am­phibi­ous in­va­sion in his­tory.

Omar Bradley, Ike’s top gen­eral at Nor­mandy, knew ex­actly Rud­der’s cru­cial role, writ­ing: “No sol­dier in my com­mand has ever been wished a more dif­fi­cult task than that which be­fell the 34-year-old com­man­der of the Pro­vi­sional Ranger Force.”

Rud­der’s tri­umph high above the north­west coast of France was an up­per­cut to the Ger­mans from the west as the Rus­sians rushed from the east.

Pa­trick O’Don­nell, au­thor of the Ranger-filled “Dog Com­pany,” is in awe of Rud­der: “Pure lead­er­ship. He was a leader of men. He had men­tal tough­ness. He was de­ter­mined. It was in his DNA. And to think the whole op­er­a­tion might not have suc­ceeded if he had not been there.”

Dou­glas Brink­ley, au­thor of “The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc,” put it this way: “James Rud­der was the best of the U.S. mil­i­tary tra­di­tion. As an of­fi­cer, he was one with his men. He was the per­fect leader. This was a man who went on a sui­cide mis­sion, and it’s one of the most re­mark­able sto­ries of World War II. He told his men they had a 50 per­cent chance of mak­ing it alive. And when his su­pe­ri­ors told him not to go him­self, he in­sisted. No way would he send them on that mis­sion and not put his own life on the line.”

Thomas Hat­field, au­thor of “Rud­der: From Leader to Le­gend,” also raves: “He was one of the great­est cit­i­zen sol­diers. The great­est, of course, was Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, who left the Army after the Rev­o­lu­tion and re­turned to farm­ing.

De­spite Repub­li­cans try­ing to ad­dress un­sus­tain­able debt and deficits through the Trump bud­get, the Demo­cratic Party and its echo-cham­ber al­lies are in high dud­geon over its pro­posed cuts. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi called it “lit­er­ally a killer.” It’s mes­sage by bumper sticker.

The Demo­cratic Party and its sup­port­ers will speak to their fears and Repub­li­can moral­ity deficits. Vi­sions of star­va­tion, dis­ease and death be­come their nar­ra­tive. The Repub­li­can mes­sage sub­sti­tutes math for moral­ity. Logic and not emo­tion is con­sid­ered the best path to travel. How­ever, time has proven that mes­sage strat­egy want­ing.

Boiled down to its ba­sics, we are fac­ing a math prob­lem. But the so­lu­tion must be found in­side a po­lit­i­cal frame­work. Not enough politi­cians will sup­port a “take your bit­ter-tast­ing medicine” un­less the pub­lic fears the al­ter­na­tive. And that medicine is a com­bi­na­tion of spend­ing cuts to ex­pen­sive en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams or higher tax rates. Tax­ing the mid­dle class is un­pop­u­lar. (You can’t get enough re­lief out of the top 1 per­cent even if you took all their in­come. And chan­nel­ing Ayn Rand, what would you take in Year Two?)

If taxes are not the an­swer, you have got to cut spend­ing. If that is the op­tion for Repub­li­can of­fense, then the pro­mo­tion of an aus­ter­ity bud­get must be pre­ceded with hor­ror sto­ries of the short-term per­sonal con­se­quences from ser­vic­ing a grow­ing $20 tril­lion debt. There are sto­ries of hor­ri­ble even­tual out­comes that will come with in­sen­si­tive and mas­sive ad­just­ments to life­styles. Seen many? Any?

The Repub­li­can Party is not very good at drama. How of­ten have you seen lame ref­er­ences to ev­ery man, woman and child own­ing and ow­ing some enor­mous por­tion of the na­tional debt? Does any­one Rud­der was a re­servist. He didn’t make the Army a ca­reer. He wanted to re­turn to civil­ian life for two rea­sons: an at­tach­ment to his mother and an at­tach­ment to Texas, to ranch­ing. He was a man of the soil.”

When Rud­der re­tired from the Army Re­serve in 1967, while pres­i­dent of Texas A&M Univer­sity, he was a ma­jor gen­eral whose top dec­o­ra­tion was the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Cross, a mil­i­tary award sec­ond only to the Medal of Honor.

Rud­der al­most died on that Long­est Day 73 years ago. He was wounded twice at the Pointe, once by a bul­let in his calf, and min­utes later when an ex­plo­sion fired ce­ment frag­ments into his chest and arm.

Mean­while, as Rud­der’s Rangers ran into a Nazi gant­let above the English Chan­nel, “he had to cope with the un­known,” said Hat­field. “He and his men were cut off, iso­lated. They had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion with com­man­ders at sea. They didn’t know the out­come of the in­va­sion. Yet Rud­der was stead­fast with­out know­ing when re­lief was com­ing. He re­mained calm, a ded­i­cated leader. Some of his men told me they were bet­ter sol­diers with him than at other times. That’s be­cause he was con­sis­tent, what­ever the cir­cum­stances. He was al­ways the same, au­then­tic leader — and with him, his men knew the mis­sion came first.”

James Earl Rud­der (1910-70) de­vel­oped his traits grow­ing up poor in tiny Eden in cen­tral Texas.

By early 1944, Rud­der was in Eng­land and re­ceived de­tails of the mis­sion, wrote Brink­ley: “The Rangers’ task: climb the cliffs and de­stroy the Nazi con­crete bunkers 4 miles west of Omaha Beach on the Nor­mandy coast. … From their jut­ting crow’s nest, the Ger­mans could in­flict great dam­age to the Al­lies’ armada of over 5,000 ships.

“To neu­tral­ize these en­emy guns, this elite group of about 225 2nd Ranger Bat­tal­ion vol­un­teers — Rud­der’s Rangers — had to sur­prise the en­emy by scal­ing the 100-foot­tall promon­tory, even while un­der a bar­rage of Nazi fire com­ing from a con­crete ob­ser­va­tion post. It was a daunt­ing as­sign­ment.”

To say the least. One naval of­fi­cer said flatly, “It can’t be done. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climb­ing those cliffs.”

The Nazis had some­thing much dead­lier: the MG 42, a sav­age ma­chine gun called the Bone­saw. Rud­der and his men still climbed with rope hung from hooks shot up the Pointe.

“By June 8,” wrote Brink­ley, “the Amer­i­cans were vic­to­ri­ous at the Bat­tle of Pointe du Hoc, rais­ing the Stars and Stripes on the promon­tory. They had suf­fered 70 per­cent ca­su­al­ties. Yet their mis­sion had been a mil­i­tary suc­cess.”

Thanks much to Earl Rud­der, the Ti­tanic Texan. Makes you proud to be an Amer­i­can.

Rud­der al­most died on that Long­est Day 73 years ago. He was wounded twice at the Pointe, once by a bul­let in his calf, and min­utes later when an ex­plo­sion fired ce­ment frag­ments into his chest and arm.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY GREG GROESCH

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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