Landing at Normandy
were used in amphibious assaults by the Rangers
Day in and day out,
Rangers from all six battalions watched Ranger Brothers killed, or wounded. To
better understand the situation present each and everyday in
combat for these Rangers, one need only look as far as the
tributes from commanders.
rifleman fights without promise of either reward or relief. Behind every river
there's another hill, and behind that hill, another river.
After weeks or months in the line only a wound can offer him the comfort of
safety, shelter and a bed. Those who are left to
fight, fight on, evading death, but knowing that with each day
of evasion, they
have exhausted one more chance for survival. Sooner
or later, unless victory comes, this chase must end on the litter or in the
the 5th Ranger Battalion
the Way Rangers
Museum United Kingdom
links to Ranger recommended book lists:
Ranger Reading List
excellent comprehensive account of all six Battalions:
In World War II
Ranger Robert W. Black
5th Ranger Infantry Battalion was activated on 1 September 1943
at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. Thirty-four officers and 563
enlisted men joined the battalion over the next three days.
Major Owen H. Carter was the battalion commander and Captain
Richard P. Sullivan, the executive officer.
four months of strenuous training in the States, the battalion
shipped out of the Port of New York on 8 January, 1944 aboard
the HMS Mauretania, arriving in Liverpool, England on the 18th.
resumed at Leominster, England, but there was some free time and
the pubs got a lot of business. And, no, the 5th Rangers had
nothing to do with the midnight raid on the QM truck company
located just outside town in a tent city. Two months later to
Scotland where the battalion endured Commando training. From
Scotland to the Assault Training Center where Major Schneider
joined us as the new battalion commander. Then to Swanage for
cliff training. The final examinations on our training came in
late April during the Fabius II landing exercise.
1 June, the battalion moved to Portland Harbor and boarded its
invasion ships, the HMS Prince Leopold (Battalion Headquarters,
"C", "D", and "F" Companies). At
last, the maps, aerial photos, and sand tables had names on
them: Vierville-sur-Mer, Point du Hoc, Grandcamp-les-Bains and
H-Hour, 0630 hours, we circled offshore waiting for a signal
form the 2nd Ranger Battalion. Had they been successful in their
assault of the cliffs at Point du Huc? No word. Circle. No word.
At 0710, ten minutes beyond his deadline, Colonel Schneider
ordered the three waves of eighteen Ranger boats under his
command to divert to Omaha Beach,
landing at Vierville-sur-Mer.
Colonel Schneider's first wave, Companies "A" and
"B" of the 2nd Rangers landed at Vierville, they were
cut to pieces by massive German machine gun, mortar, and
artillery fire. Colonel Schneider diverted his remaining forces,
the entire 5th Rangers, to the east. Approximately one mile and
ten minutes later, the 5th Infantry Battalion landed intact
astride the boundary between Omaha Dog White and Red Beaches.
immediately ordered the battalion to proceed to rallying points
by platoon infiltration. Four holes were blown in the wire that
trapped the American forces on the beach. Rangers poured through
those gaps in the wire and stormed the crest of the smoke
covered bluffs, taking the German defenders by surprise. At this
point, the 29th Division ordered the battalion to assist in
establishing the beachhead rather than relieve the 2nd Rangers
at Point du Huc. By late afternoon, the 5th Rangers had occupied
Vierville, securing the right flank of a beachhead about a mile
deep. Plans to push on to Pointe du Huc were vetoed by the 29th
Division and the 5th Rangers remained in Vierville overnight
defending the right flank of the beachhead.
D+1, most of the battalion remained in and around Vierville,
mopping up German resistance and defending the beachhead against
counterattacks. Two companies, "C" and "D",
were part of an Infantry and Tank task force attacking toward
Grandcamp-les-Bains. This force advanced through the German
defenses to a point about a mile past Point du Huc when heavy
artillery fire and extensive anti-tank defenses drove it back to
St. Pierre du Mont, just short of the Pointe. When the tanks
were recalled to Vierville to help defend the beachhead for the
night, the task force dug in at St. Pierre, sending out patrols
that were able to contact the forces at Pointe du Huc.
D+2, the 2nd Rangers at Pointe du Huc were relieved in an early
morning attack by the Rangers at St. Pierre du Mont.
Simultaneously, Companies "B" and "E" of the
5th Rangers led the attack on Grandcamp-les-Bains with the 116th
Infantry and 743rd Tank Battalion putting the finishing touches
on the capture of the town.
on D+3, "A", "C", and "F" attacked
and captured the German artillery and infantry strong points
surrounding the German Headquarters complex at Maisy.
of the Invasion Operations 23 KIA, 89 WIA, and 2 MIA. Total 114
next few weeks brought a brief respite to the 5th Rangers.
Training occupied most of the time. However, part of the time
was occupied guarding prisoners of war at Foucarville and part
guarding the west coast beaches against possible German landing
operations from their forces on the Channel Islands.
29 August, Companies "A", "C", and
"E" relieved elements of the 2nd Infantry Division
northwest of Brest. Patrolling and sporadic fighting occurred
over the next few days.
1 September, the rest of the battalion was attached to the 29th
Division with a mission "to straighten out the lines".
Heavy fighting erupted the following day when the battalion
attacked Ft. Toulbrouch, the first of many forts defending Brest
that were captured by the 5th Rangers. Fighting was so violent
that the battalion reserve had to be committed to stop a
counterattack and Headquarters Company had to be reorganized into
a Ranger Company and placed in reserve.
attack on the fort continued the next day with artillery and air
support. "B" Company following 20 yards behind the
strafing P-47s ricocheting bullets, captured the fort in 6
minutes after the last P-47 strafing pass.
next day was notable when the battalion attacked another fort
south of Kernies. Headquarters Company and "D" Company
made the final assault, taking more than 300 prisoners.
5 September, Companies "A","C", and
"E" rejoined the battalion as it began an attack on
Fort de Mengant. In this see-saw battle, "F" took the
fort with a bayonet charge.
fighting continued as the battalion moved to the Le Conquet
Peninsula, west of Brest. On 17 September, Lieutenant Green led
an "E" Company patrol to attack a pillbox that had
resisted many attempts to capture it. One hundred thirty pounds
of C-2 were placed against the pill box and lit the skies for 40
surrendered the next day and many believe Greene's patrol did
the trick. Casualties for the Brittany Campaign: 25 KIA, 130 WIA,
2MIA. Total 156 or 37.5%.
5th Rangers moved into Belgium and Luxembourg, mostly by rail,
finally ending up in and around a Marist Seminary at Differt,
Belgium. Although the training cycle began all over again, there
was free time to visit Arlon and Differt, where the Belgian
populace were truly appreciative of their recent liberation by
the Americans. There were banquets and home cooked meals. In
their spare time some of the Rangers organized a soccer team
which played the local championship team. We lost. All good
things must come to an end, and no, it wasn't because someone
stole the seminary's communion wine. On November 7, 1944, the
5th Rangers moved back into France and danger.
5th Rangers were attached to the 6th Cavalry Group, part of
General Patton's battlefield eyes and ears. First to Toul, then
Nancy, with minor patrol actions. Back into high casualty combat
during the first week of December, with heavy fighting erupting
in the L'Hopital, Carling, Aspenhubel and Ludweiler areas. In
Lauterbach, "F" Company carried on a running battle
with a Tiger tank proving conclusively that a bazooka round will
not penetrate the frontal armor of the Tiger.
with occasional bloody firefights followed for the next few days
as enemy patrols grew more aggressive. And then on 21 December,
following feints by "C" and "D" Companies,
two battalions of artillery laid a box barrage around an
objective. A raiding party from "B" Company rushed
into the objective area, killed 28 enemy, wounded 25 and took
one prisoner, a German officer needed for questioning by higher
24 December, the battalion was relieved and moved to Metz for
Christmas celebrations. Casualties for the Saar Campaign: 18 KIA,
106 WIA, 5MIA. Total 129 or 25%.
Avold to Weiten
respite lasted three days and back into combat. The Battle of
the Bulge was still in full swing and the 5th Rangers' mission
was a defensive one at St. Avold. The German attack on St. Avold
never materialized and the battalion moved back into a training
mode in early February, the battalion was attached to the 94th
Division. Heavy fighting ensued as the battalion fought through
Wehingen, Oberleuken, Hellendorf, and Weiten. At Weiten, the
battalion received a new 48-hour mission to seize high ground
behind the German lines near Zerf, this to prevent the enemy
from using the road network around Zerf to counter-attack the
10th Armored Division as it crossed the Saar. By this time, 22
February, replacements had brought the battalion up to a
strength of 398, 108 below TOE strength.
following night, under cover of darkness, the battalion crossed
the Saar River on a footbridge. Just prior to midnight, the
battalion passed through the 302nd Infantry and began to move in
two columns into enemy territory. Night movement by compass
azimuth was difficult over the rugged, heavily wooded terrain.
The columns were constantly harassed by enemy artillery fire and
infantry firefights. Many prisoners were taken and these soon
became a severe burden, but the advance kept on through thick
woods that obscured any terrain features. Reaching the edge of
the woods, the real fighting began. Pill boxes and buildings were
captured. More prisoners taken. Enemy infantry blundering upon
the Rangers attacked violently, but still the German command did
not seem to realize the Rangers were behind their lines.
Unfortunately, escaping prisoners brought artillery fire on the
battalion. The battalion continued to move toward its objective
throughout the night.
0800 hours on the 25th, advanced elements of the battalion
reached the objective with the rest of the battalion closing
soon after. German counter-attacks began immediately. Rockets,
artillery, and infantry smashed at the battalion positions.
Ammunition, water, food, and medical supplies ran low. Aerial re-supply efforts managed to drop some supplies within the
perimeter. On the 28th, during a lull in the enemy attacks, the
battalion fought its way to a better defensive position, higher
ground to the south. And the Germans counter-attacked again and
again. Finally, on March 3 it was over. The two-day mission had
taken nine days and bled the battalion dry. Casualties for the
Irsch-Zerf Campaign: 34 KIA, 140 WIA, 12 MIA. Total 186 or 47%.
6 March, the battalion moved to Schwebsingen, Luxembourg to
rebuild with 191 replacements and a nucleus of the 180 who
survived the Irsch-Zerf action. Two weeks later, the 5th Rangers
entered into a new profession, that of Military Government, at
first for Freidberg and then for Erfurt, Gotha, Apolda, Weimaar,
by John C. Raaen, Jr.
The Ranger diamond worn on the uniform of
the WWII 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions.