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WORLD WAR TWO RANGER BATTALIONS:

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th & 6th


With America's entry into the Second World War, Rangers came forth to add to the pages of history. Major General Lucian K. Truscott, U.S. Army Liaison with the British General Staff, submitted proposals to General George Marshall that "we undertake immediately an American unit along the lines of the British Commandos" on May 26, 1942. A cable from the War Department quickly followed to Truscott and Major General Russell P. Hartle, commanding all Army Forces in Northern Ireland, authorizing the activation of the First U.S. Army Ranger Battalion. The name RANGER was selected by General Truscott "because the name Commandos rightfully belonged to the British, and we sought a name more typically American. It was therefore fit that the organization that was destined to be the first of the American Ground Forces to battle Germans on the European continent should be called Rangers in compliment to those in American history who exemplified the high standards of courage, initiative, determination and ruggedness, fighting ability and achievement."

After much deliberation, General Hartle decided that his own aid-de-camp Captain William Orlando Darby, a graduate of West Point with amphibious training was the ideal choice. This decision was highly approved by General Truscott who rated Darby as "outstanding in appearance, possessed of a most attractive personality....and filled with enthusiasm."

Promoted to Major, Darby performed a near miracle in organizing the unit within a few weeks after receiving his challenging assignment. Thousands of applicants from the 1st Armored Division and the 34th Infantry Division and other units in Northern Ireland were interviewed by his hand-picked officers, and after a strenuous weeding-out program at Carrickfergus, the First Ranger Battalion was officially activated there on June 19, 1942.

But more rugged and realistic training with live ammunition was in store for the Rangers at the famed Commando Training Center at Achnacarry, Scotland. Coached, prodded and challenged by the battle-seasoned Commando instructors, commanded by Colonel Charles Vaughan, the Rangers learned the rudiments of Commando warfare. Five hundred of the six hundred volunteers that Darby brought with him to Achnacarry survived the Commando training with flying colors, although one Ranger was killed and several wounded by live fire.

Meanwhile 44 enlisted men and five officers took part in the Dieppe Raid sprinkled among the Canadians and the British Commandos—the first American ground Soldiers to see action against the Germans in occupied Europe. Three Rangers were killed, several captured and all won the commendation and esteem of the Commandos. Under the inspired leadership of Darby, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, the 1st Ranger Battalion spearheaded the North African Invasion at the Port of Arzew, Algeria by a silent night landing, silenced two gun batteries and opened the way for the First Infantry Division to capture Oran. Later in Tunisia the 1st Battalion executed the first Ranger behind-the-lines night raid at Sened, killing a large number of defenders and taking 10 prisoners with only one Ranger killed and 10 wounded. On March 31, 1943 the 1st Ranger Battalion led General Patton's drive to capture the heights of El Guettar with a 12-mile night march across mountainous terrain, surprising the enemy positions from the rear. By dawn the Rangers swooped down on the surprised Italians, cleared the El Guettar Pass and captured two hundred prisoners. For this action the Battalion won its first Presidential Citation and Darby won his first DSC.

After Tunisia, the 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions with the 1st Battalion as cadre were activated and trained by Darby for the invasion of Sicily at Nemours, Algeria in April 1943. Major Herman Dammer assumed command of the 3rd, Major Roy Murray the 4th, and Darby remained CO of the 1st but in effect was in command of what became known as the Darby Rangers force. The three Ranger units spearheaded the Seventh Army landing at Gela and Licata and played a key role in the Sicilian campaign that culminated in the capture of Messina.

The three Battalions were the first Fifth Army troops to land during the Italian Invasion near Salerno. They quickly seized the strategic heights on both sides of Chinuzi Pass and fought off eight German counterattacks, winning two Distinguished Unit Citations. It was here that Colonel Darby commanded a force of over 10,000 troops, elements of the 36th Division, several companies of the 82nd Airborne Division and artillery elements, and it was here that the Fifth Army advance against Naples was launched with the British 10th Corps.

All three Ranger units later fought in the bitter winter mountain fighting near San Pietro, Venafro and Cassino. Then after a short period of rest, reorganizing and recruiting new volunteers, the three Ranger Battalions, reinforced with the 509 Parachute Battalion, the 83rd Chemical Warfare, 4.2 Mortar Battalion and 36th Combat Engineers, were designated as the 6615 Ranger Force under the command of Darby who was finally promoted to Colonel. This Force spearheaded the surprise night landings at the Port of Anzio, captured two gun batteries, seized the city and struck out to enlarge the beachhead before dawn—a classic Ranger operation.

On the night of January 30, 1944, the 1st and 3rd Battalions infiltrated five miles behind the German Lines while the 4th Battalion fought to clear the road toward Cisterna, a key 5th Army objective. But preparing for a massive counterattack, the Germans had reinforced their lines the night before, and both the 1st and 3rd were surrounded and greatly outnumbered. The beleaguered Rangers fought bravely, inflicting many casualties but ammunition and time ran out, and all along the beachhead front supporting troops could not break through the strong German positions. Among the killed in action was the 3rd Battalion CO, Major Alvah Miller, and the 1st Battalion CO, Major John Dobson, was wounded. The tragic loss of the 1st and 3rd Battalions combined with the heavy casualties the 4th Battalion sustained, however, was not entirely in vain, for later intelligence revealed that the Ranger-led attack on Cisterna had helped spike the planned German counterattack and thwarted Hitler's order to "Push the Allies into the sea."

But other Ranger units proudly carried on and enhanced the Ranger standards and traditions in the European Theater Operations. The 2nd Ranger Battalion, activated on April 1, 1943, at Camp Forrest, Tennessee trained and led by Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder, carried out the most desperate and dangerous mission of the entire Omaha Beach landings - in Normandy, June 6, 1944. General Bradley said of Colonel Rudder, "Never has any commander been given a more desperate mission."

Three companies, D, E, and F assaulted the perpendicular cliffs of Point Du Hoc under intense machine-gun, mortar and artillery fire and destroyed a large gun battery that would have wreaked havoc on the Allied fleets offshore. For two days and nights they fought without relief until the 5th Ranger Battalion linked up with them. Later with the 5th Battalion, the 2nd played a key role in the attacks against the German fortifications around Brest in the La Coquet Peninsular. This unit fought through the bitter Central Europe campaign and won commendations for its heroic actions in the battle of Hill 400. The 2nd Ranger Battalion earned the Distinguished Unit Citation and the Croix de Guerre and was inactivated at Camp Patrick Henry on October 23, 1945.

The Fifth Ranger Battalion activated September 1, 1943 at Camp Forrest, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Max Schneider, former executive officer of the 4th Ranger Battalion, was part of the provisional Ranger Assault Force commanded by Colonel Rudder. It landed on Omaha Beach with three companies of the 2nd Battaloin, A, B and C, where elements of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Inf. Division were pinned down by murderous cross fire and mortars from the heights above. It was there that the situation was so critical that General Omar Bradley was seriously considering redirecting reinforcements to other areas of the beachhead. And it was then and there that General Norman D. Cota, Assistant Division Commander of the 29th Division, gave the now famous order that has become the Motto of the 75th Ranger Regiment: "Rangers, Lead The Way!"

The Fifth Battalion Rangers broke across the sea wall and barbed wire entanglements, and up the pillbox-rimmed heights under intense enemy machine-gun and mortar fire and with A and B Companies of the 2nd Battalion and some elements of the 116th Infantry Regiment, advanced four miles to the key town of Vierville, thus opening the breach for supporting troops to follow-up and expand the beachhead. Meanwhile C Company of the 2nd Battalion, due to rough seas, landed west of the Vierville draw and suffered 50 percent casualties during the landing, but still scaled a 90-foot cliff using ropes and bayonets to knock out a formidable enemy position that was sweeping the beach with deadly fire.


The Fifth Battalion with elements of the 116th Regiment finally linked up with the beleaguered 2nd Battalion on D+3, although Lieutenant Charles Parker of A Company, 5th Battalion, had penetrated deep behind enemy lines on D Day and reached the 2nd Battalion with 20 prisoners. Later, with the 2nd Battalion the unit distinguished itself in the hard-fought battle of Brest. Under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Sullivan the Fifth Ranger Battalion took part in the Battle of the Bulge, Huertgen Forest and other tough battles throughout central Europe, winning two Distinguished Unit Citations and the French Croix de Guerre. The outfit was deactivated October 2 at Camp Miles Standish, Mass

 

Above, Ranger Henry Glassman of HQ Company 5th Rangers

 

For more information on the 5th Rangers and their combat history please visit the official Ranger Family Sons and Daughters website here.

The Sixth Ranger Battalion, commanded by Colonel Henry (Hank) Mucci, was the first American force to return to the Philippines with the mission of destroying coastal defense guns, radio and radar stations on the islands of Dinegat, Suluan offshore Leyte. This was the first mission for the 6th Battalion that was activated at Port Moresby, New Guinea in September 1944. Landing three days in advance of the main Sixth Army Invasion Force on October 17 and 18, 1944, they swiftly killed and captured some of the Japanese defenders and destroyed all enemy communications.

The unit took part in the landings of U.S. forces in Luzon, and several behind the lines patrols, penetrations and small unit raids, that served to prime the Rangers for what to become universally known as the greatest and most daring raid in American military history. On January 30, 1944, C Company, supported by a platoon from F Company, struck 30 miles behind enemy lines and rescued five hundred emaciated and sickly POWs, survivors of the Bataan Death March. Carrying many of the prisoners on their backs, the Rangers, aided by Filipino guerrillas, killed over two hundred of the garrison, evaded two Japanese regiments, and reached the safety of American lines the following day. Intelligence reports had indicated the Japanese were planning to kill the prisoners as they withdrew toward Manila. Good recon work by the Alamo Scouts also contributed to the success of the Cabanatuan Raid led by Colonel Mucci.

The unit later commanded by Colonel Robert Garrett played and important role in the capture of Manila and Appari, and was preparing to spearhead the invasion of Japan when news flashed the war with that nation was ended. It received the Presidential Unit Citation and the Philippine Presidential Citation. It was inactivated on December 30, 1945 in the Philippines.

MERRILL'S MARAUDERS

5307 COMPOSITE UNIT CBI THEATER WWII

Merrill's Marauders, a Ranger type outfit, came into existence as a result of the Quebec Conference of August 1943. During this conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England, and other allied leaders conceived the idea of having an American ground unit spearhead the Chinese Army with a Long Range Penetration Mission behind enemy lines in Burma. Its goal would be the destruction of Japanese communications and supply lines and generally to play havoc with enemy forces while an attempt was made to reopen the Burma Road.

A Presidential call for volunteers for "A Dangerous and Hazardous Mission" was issued, and approximately 2,900 American Soldiers responded to the call. Officially designated as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) code name "GALAHAD" the unit later became popularly known as MERRILL'S MARAUDERS, named after its leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill. Organized into combat teams, two to each battalion, the Marauder volunteers came from a variety of theaters of operation. Some came from stateside cadres; some from the jungles of Panama and Trinidad; and the remainder were battle-scarred veterans of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and New Guinea campaigns. In India some Signal Corps and Air Corps personnel were added, as well as pack troops with mules.

After preliminary training operations undertaken in great secrecy in the jungles of India, about 600 men were detached as a rear echelon headquarters to remain in India to handle the soon-to-be vital air-drop link between the six Marauder combat teams (400 to a team) and the Air Transport Command. Color-coded Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange and Khaki, the remaining 2,400 Marauders began their March up the Ledo Road and over the outlying ranges of the Himalayan Mountains into Burma. The Marauders, with no tanks or heavy artillery to support them, walked over 1,000 miles throughout extremely dense and almost impenetrable jungles and came out with glory. In five major and 30 minor engagements, they defeated the veteran Soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division (conquerors of Singapore and Malaya) who vastly outnumbered them. Always moving to the rear of the main forces of the Japanese, they completely disrupted enemy supply and communication lines, and climaxed their behind-the-lines operations with the capture of Myitkina Airfield, the only all-weather airfield in Burma.

For their accomplishments in Burma, the Marauders were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation in July 1944. However, in November 1966, this was redesignated as the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION which is awarded by the President in the name of Congress.

The unit was consolidated with the 475th Infantry on August 10, 1944. On June 21, 1954, the 475th was redesignated the 75th Infantry. It is from the redesignation of Merrill's Marauders into the 75th Infantry Regiment that the modern-day 75th Ranger Regiment traces its current unit designation.

 

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regarding the 5th Rangers; e-mail Tim Torey, Battalion Commander.
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