|Branch United States Army|
|Role Special operations|
|Active 1942–44, 1948–51, 1974–present|
Country United States of America
Type Specialized Light infantry
The 1st Ranger Battalion, currently based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, United States, is the first of three ranger battalions belonging to the United States Army's 75th Ranger Regiment.
- 1st Battalion goes active
- North Africa
- Sicily and Italy
- World War II
- Korean War
- Armed Forces Expeditions
- Global War on Terror
It was originally formed shortly after the United States' entry into World War II and was modeled after the British Commandos during the war. Members from the unit were the first American soldiers to see combat in the European theater when they participated in the failed raid on Dieppe in France in 1942, during which three Rangers were killed and several more were captured. Later, the 1st Ranger Battalion was sent to North Africa where they participated in the landings in Algeria and the fighting in Tunisia in 1943. Also in 1943 the unit provided cadre for two more Ranger battalions created between the campaigns in Sicily and Italy. After World War II, the 1st Ranger Battalion has gone through a number of changes of name and composition as it has been activated, deactivated and reorganized on a number of occasions. However, the unit has lived on in one form or another since then, serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars before being consolidated into the 75th Ranger Regiment of which it is a part today. Recent deployments have included operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the wider global war on terrorism.
Major General Lucian Truscott, U.S. Army, in 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" in 1942. A subsequent cable from the U.S. Department of War authorized the activation of the 1st U.S. Army Ranger Battalion.
After much deliberation, Company A, 1st Ranger Battalion was constituted on 27 May 1942. Captain William Orlando Darby, 31-year-old graduate of West Point with amphibious training, was chosen as its commanding officer. Within weeks he was promoted to major for his efforts in organizing the unit. Of the 1,500 men to volunteer for the original Ranger Battalion, only 600 were chosen. Eighty percent of these original Rangers came from the Red Bulls U.S. 34th Infantry Division. On 19 June 1942, Company A, 1st Ranger Battalion, was officially activated in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.
A select team of four officers toured the existing commando training camps and selected the center at Achnacarry, Scotland for the Rangers. Here they underwent intense training. Coached by the battle-seasoned commando instructors (commanded by Lt. Col. Charles Vaughan), the Rangers learned the basics of commando warfare. Five hundred of the 600 volunteers (83.33%) that Darby brought with him to Achnacarry completed the commando training. Many could not endure the exercises; one Ranger was killed, while several others were wounded in training so realistic that it was executed under live fire.
1st Battalion goes active
The first Americans to see active combat in the European theater of World War II were forty-four enlisted men and five officers from the 1st Ranger Battalion. Dispersed among the Canadians and the British commandos, these men were the first American ground soldiers to see action against the Germans in the disastrous Dieppe Raid, officially known as Operation Rutter. Three Rangers were killed and several captured. The first American soldier killed in Europe in World War II was part of the Dieppe Raid, Ranger Lieutenant E. V. Loustalot. During the mission, the British Captain leading the assault was killed. Loustalot took command and with his men attacked a clifftop machine gun nest. Scaling the steep cliff, Loustalot was wounded three times and then was killed by enemy crossfire.
The first efforts to stop the German infiltration of Europe were by the 1st Ranger Battalion. Attempting to prevent German occupation of seaports in North Africa, the 1st Ranger Battalion spearheaded an invasion at the Port of Arzew in Algeria. This was accomplished by executing a surprise night landing, silencing two gun batteries, and opening the way for the capture of Oran.
In Tunisia in 1943, the 1st Battalion executed the first Ranger behind-the-lines night raid for the purpose of gaining information and terrorizing the enemy. On 11 February the Rangers took a 32-mile (51 km) journey, 12 on foot, for their first raid on an Italian camp at Sened Station. Using the cloak of night, the Rangers slipped in 50 yards (46 m) of the Italian outpost and began their attack. It took the battalion only 20 minutes to achieve area control. Fifty enemy were killed and an additional 10 were taken prisoner. Darby, along with fellow commanders, was awarded the Silver Star for this victory and the battalion itself gained the nickname the "Black Death" by the Italians. Later, in March, American units were decimated time and again while trying to break through the critical mountain pass at Djbel Ank. Given this mission, the 1st Rangers undertook a twelve-mile (19 km) night march through rugged terrain to reach the heights of Djbel Ank where, at dawn, the Rangers surprised the enemy from the rear, capturing two hundred prisoners and giving General Patton an opening though which he began the final and victorious battle in North Africa. Rangers played a crucial role in the battle of El Guettar which immediately followed, for which the First Ranger Battalion won its first Presidential Unit Citation (US).
Sicily and Italy
The early success of the 1st Ranger Battalion brought about the creation of the 3rd and 4th Battalions. The original 1st Battalion was divided into thirds. One third of the Headquarters and each company was placed in each of the Battalions 1-3-4. 3rd Ranger Battalion was Activated on 21 May 1943 at Nemours, Morocco, while 4th Ranger Battalion was activated on 29 May 1943 in Tunisia. To provide command and control for these three Ranger Battalions, the 6615th Ranger Force (Provisional) was established. This force was rounded out with the addition of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and the 2/509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The battle seasoned 1st Battalion moved into their newly assigned positions and trained their Ranger colleagues. The 1-3-4 Battalions were trained under Darby in Nemours, Morocco and prepared for the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Following the 1st Ranger Battalion success at the Amphibious Battle of Gela, all four of the initial Ranger Battalions were redesignated as Ranger Infantry Battalions on 1 August 1943
Had it not been for the accomplishments of the 1st Ranger Battalion in the early entry of WWII, there would be no Rangers today. Their successful invasions in North Africa opened the sea and its ports for the Allied forces. The Allies were now able to move ships and equipment to support subsequent campaigns, enabling the later forces to successfully infiltrate enemy lines along the African coast, in Sicily, and up into Italy.
The Ranger Force targeted Salerno on 9 September 1943, and participated in the Naples-Foggia Campaign. Then they moved on to Anzio on 22 January 1944. The entire 6615th Ranger Force (Provisional) was destroyed behind enemy lines in a heavily outnumbered encounter at Cisterna, Italy on 31 January 1944, and was officially disbanded on 15 August 1944. The 4th Ranger Battalion suffered some casualties while attempting to break through enemy lines to rescue their comrades in the 1st and 3rd Battalions. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Battalions were known as Darby's Rangers.
The 1st Ranger Infantry Battalion, in response to parallel missions in Berlin, was reconstituted on 1 September 1948 as Company A, 1st Infantry Battalion, and activated in the Canal Zone. It served there until it was inactivated on 4 January 1950.
The outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950 again signaled the need for Rangers. Colonel John Gibson Van Houten was selected by the Army Chief of Staff to head the Ranger training program at Ft. Benning, Georgia. 1st Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) departed from Ft. Benning, Georgia on 15 November 1950, and arrived in Korea on 17 December 1950, where it was attached to the 2nd Infantry Division. The 1st Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) opened with an extraordinary example of land navigation, then executed a daring night raid 9 miles (14 km) behind enemy lines destroying an enemy complex. The enemy installation was later identified by a prisoner as the Headquarters of the 12th North Korean Division. Caught by surprise and unaware of the size of the American force, two North Korean Regiments hastily withdrew from the area. The 1st Company was in the middle of the major battle of Chipyong-Ni and the "May Massacre." It was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations.
As a result of budgetary considerations, the US Army spent much of the 1950s and 1960s consolidating and redesignating units that were on inactive status.
This unit was redesignated 24 November 1952 as Company A, 1st Ranger Infantry Battalion, in inactive status and was consolidated on 15 April 1960 with the A Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, 1st Special Service Force, and the consolidated unit was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 7th Special Forces Group(SFG), 1st Special Forces Group. The unit was further consolidated 6 June 1960 with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 77th Special Forces Group, and the consolidated unit was designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 7th SFG, 1st SFG (organic elements constituted 20 May 1960 and activated 6 June 1960).
On 1 January 1969, under the new U.S. Army Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS), U.S. Army Rangers were re-formed in South Vietnam as the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger). Fifteen companies of Rangers, two of which (A-75 & B-75) were based in the USA, were raised from units that had been performing missions in Europe since the late 1950s and in Vietnam since 1966 as Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and Long Range Patrol companies.
After the Vietnam conflict, division and brigade commanders determined that the U.S. Army needed an elite, rapid deployment, light infantry, so in 1974 General Creighton Abrams charged General Kenneth C. Leuer with the task of activating, organizing, training and leading the first battalion sized Ranger unit since World War II. Because of the success of the 1st Ranger Battalion; eight months later, the 2nd Ranger Battalion was constituted, and in 1984 the 3rd Ranger Battalion and their regimental headquarters were created.
The 1st Ranger Battalion have participated in the following operations: the 1980 rescue attempt of American hostages, Tehran, Iran in (Operation Eagle Claw); Operation Urgent Fury on Grenada in 1983; the U.S. invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989; Bravo Company, 1st Battalion was deployed in the First Persian Gulf War (Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield) in 1991; soldiers from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ranger Battalions deployed to Haiti in 1994 (before operation's cancellation; recalled 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Haitian coast); the entire Ranger Regiment is on deployment since the start of the Iraq War, in 2003.
Since December 2001, after the events of 9/11, elements of Headquarters Company and Company A deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2002, the entire battalion returned to Afghanistan to support the continuing war on terrorism, members of the battalion were involved the Battle of Takur Ghar during Operation Anaconda. In 2003, 1st Battalion participated in combat operations in support of Iraq War, conducting missions across the entire country of Iraq. The battalion distinguished itself during the successful rescue of the prisoner-of-war, Pfc. Jessica Lynch. The battalion currently supports the Global War on Terrorism, regularly rotating elements to Afghanistan continuing to successfully dismantle terrorist networks; For actions between November 14–16, 2010, Charlie Company received the Valorous Unit Award for extraordinary heroism, combat achievement and conspicuous gallantry while executing combat operations in support of a named operation. With ISAFs surge in Afghanistan at its peak in summer 2011, for actions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom between May 15 - August 28, 2011 that included: conducting continuous combat operations, including time sensitive raids and deliberate movement to contact operations while in enemy held terrain out of reach by other friendly forces, in places like Khost, Paktika and Nangarhar Province, the battalion received the Meritorious Unit Citation in particular its Bravo Company received the Valorous Unit Award; 2 Rangers from the battalion were killed during this time.
Primary tasks include: direct action, national and international emergency crisis response, airfield seizure, airborne & air assault operations, special reconnaissance, intelligence & counter intelligence, combat search and rescue, personnel recovery & hostage rescue, joint special operations, and counter terrorism.
Peter Kassig, a former Ranger who was with the 1st Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, later became an aid worker in Syria. He was taken hostage by The Islamic State, and ultimately beheaded.