U.S. Army Rangers 75th Anniversary

U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, stand in formation during an award ceremony hosted by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., Oct. 26, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

U.S. Army Rangers

75th Anniversary

June 19, 2017

Jack E. Phelps

The first U.S. Army Ranger Battalion was activated on June 19, 1942. Six hundred volunteers, led by Major William O. Darby, entered training at a British Commando camp at Achnacarry, Scotland. By the end of training, only 500 men remained in the battalion. Of the 100 dropped from training, one man died, others were injured and the remainder were unable to complete the rigorous training regimen.

The first American combat soldiers to see action in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) during WWII were men of the First Ranger Battalion. These men, consisting of 6 officers and 44 enlisted men, participated with UK forces in the raid on Dieppe, France, beginning on August 19, 1942. The raid was primarily carried out by Canadian infantry, but included among the raiders were about 1,000 British Commandos, 15 Free French soldiers and the 50 American Rangers.

A Ranger, Second Lieutenant Edward V. Loustalot, was the first American combat infantry fatality of the war in Europe. He died from machine gun fire on the first day of the raid, while leading his men in the attack. Prior to his death, he had already suffered three wounds but continued to spearhead the assault on an artillery battery near Berneval. Lt. Loustalot was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism. He currently rests in his grave at Belgium’s Ardennes American Cemetery.

The First Battalion played a key role in the battle for North Africa. This led to the creation of two more battalions of Rangers, the 3d and 4thRangers. All three battalions participated in the invasions of Sicily and of Italy at Anzio after training in North Africa. During the struggle for Italy in a battle near a town called Cisterna, the 1st and 3d Rangers were decimated and combat losses in the 4th Battalion reduced the unit to ineffective status. This effectively ended the combat involvement of “Darby’s Rangers.”

However, the 2d and 5th Rangers participated effectively in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, in June, 1944. Moreover, the 6thRangers were committed to the war in the Pacific. They made significant contributions to the Philippine Campaign, which began at Leyte in October, 1944.

Although not officially designated as a “Ranger” unit, a parallel development occurred in the China/Burma/India theater of operations. Merrill’s Marauders, officially called the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), were formed in October, 1943. This unit’s purpose was to serve in long range penetration jungle warfare activity. This is noteworthy in Ranger history because it became the philosophical basis for the activation of Ranger units during the Vietnam Conflict, as will be noted later. In early August, 1944, the 5307th became the 475thInfantry. It was inactivated on the 1st of July, 1945. On November 20, 1954, it was reactivated as the 75th Infantry, but inactivated once again on March 21, 1956.

Ranger units have distinguished themselves in subsequent American actions since World War II. The 8th Army Ranger Company was formed in August, 1950. The Army’s intent was to use Ranger Companies as Special Operations Units within larger infantry battalions. By the end of February, 1951, eighteen Army Ranger Companies had been created, and some saw important action in Korea, notably the 1st, 2d, 4th and 5th Ranger Companies. However, by the end of the year 1951, all Ranger Companies had been inactivated.

By 1966, it had become apparent to the Army command, that units similar to Merrill’s Marauders were needed for the jungle warfare being conducted in Vietnam. Pursuant to orders from General Westmoreland, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs) were in use in Southeast Asia as unique detachments within various regiments. The Army, however, desired a more coordinated approach. Hence, on February 1, 1969, the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) was activated, consolidating all LRRP units into a single independent regiment. The regiment consisted of 15 Ranger Companies, 13 of which were in-country and available for assignment to MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) operations. Two companies were held in reserve in the United States for deployment elsewhere if needed. The companies in Vietnam would be given assignments to work under the operational control of other divisions or brigades, as needed. For example, Company H, 75th Infantry (Ranger) was assigned to the 1stCavalry Division (Airmobile). Company L was assigned to the 101stAirborne Division.

Rangers in Vietnam functioned primarily in the LRRP role. Duties included intelligence gathering, surveillance, ambush patrols and bomb damage assessment. At times, they also participated in cross-border activities, particularly into Laos, where surveillance of the Ho Chi Minh trail was crucially important to the war effort. Their assignments were among the most difficult and dangerous of any units serving in Vietnam. Casualty rates were, of course, high, and the Rangers commanded great respect among their fellow soldiers. All were volunteers.

In February, 1986, Ranger units were once again reorganized and amalgamated into the 75th Ranger Regiment, under which they continue to operate today. The 75th is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Beginning in late 1989, the 75th Ranger Regiment played a key role in the military action in Panama, known as Operation Just Cause, which eventuated in the deposition of Dictator Manuel Noriega. More than 1,000 Panamanian Defense Forces soldiers reportedly were captured by the Rangers.

Ranger units have participated in Middle East operations. For example, the 1st Battalion participated in Desert Storm from February to April, 1991. Rangers were also deployed to Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) in the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation for its role in the 2011 operations in Afghanistan against the surge of enemy forces during that summer. Rangers of the 75thcontinue to serve in Afghanistan in support of Afghani forces and United States units.

The 3d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, is reportedly now serving in Iraq, although the Army will not confirm this for security reasons.

As the U.S. Army Rangers celebrate the completion of 75 years of service to the United States and her citizens, there is much in their history of which they may be justly proud. Americans should remember and give thanks for these brave soldiers who have repeatedly put their lives on the line on behalf of their countrymen and to assist oppressed people around the world.

This article originally appeared on The American History Club website.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

2 Comments:

  • Vale: Thank you for a great article to honor these brave men!
  • JP@AK: Thank you for publishing this, Vale. I hope many people will remember the contributions of our Ranger forces to the freedom of many people around the world. We, the citizens of the United States, owe them our thanks.
    Jack

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