"Rangers Lead the way!"

The History of the U.S. Army Rangers

"Rangers Lead the Way!" -- the motto of the United States Army Ranger, a special breed of soldier who has done just that from the 17th Century in colonial America until today. From the start, the Ranger has been a soldier who combined daring with great skill at warfare to accomplish his mission. This proud tradition still exists as an integral part of the Ranger Regiment.

The Rangers trace their origin back to the frontiersmen of the new world. The settlers there encountered stiff resistance from some of the native Indian tribes, who practiced a form of warfare alien to the settlers. Using concealment, long range scouting, and swift savage raids, the Indians inflicted a heavy toll on colonists and their property.

 The Americans responded by adopting these tactics, and applied them effectively against the marauding parties of the East Coast tribes. Bands of men would often leave their settlement to search for approaching Indian raiding parties; upon completing their mission, they would report that they had "ranged" or patrolled a certain distance from their homes. The use of "ranged" led to naming these scouts, rangers.

 The first organized Ranger unit was activated in 1670 to combat a hostile tribe under the leadership of Metocomet, also called King Phillip. The Rangers, commanded by Captain Benjamin Church, crushed the attacks and ended King Phillip's War in 1675.


Little more than a decade later the Continental Congress called for ten companies of "expert riflemen" from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Called the "Corps of Rangers" by General George Washington, this group of 500 men would also be known as Morgan's Riflemen for their commanding officer, Colonel Daniel Morgan. The Rangers caused great losses to British troops at the battles of Freeman's Farm in September 1777 and Cowpens in January 1781. English General John Burgoyne stated that Morgan's Riflemen were "the most famous corps of the Continental Army, all crack shots."

Also active during the Revolutionary War were Thomas Knowlton's Connecticut Rangers. This force of less than 150 hand-picked men were used primarily for reconnaissance. Knowlton was killed leading his men in action at Harlem Heights.

Another Ranger unit of the Revolutionary War operated from the swamps of South Carolina. Here Colonel Francis C. Marion raised a group called Marion's Partisans. The Partisans were all volunteers with little or no military training but were experts in handling horses and rifles. They ranged in number from a handful to several hundred at one time. Normally working separately from the Continental Army, the Partisans carried out frequent attacks against the British camps and outposts, severely disrupting lines of communication and supply. Marions men would often capture or kill colonists sympathetic to Great Britain; this deprived the King's Army of an efficient intelligence network in the Carolinas.

 While the Partisans chiefly fought a guerrilla war from their island base deep in the marshes, they also took part in the capture of three forts and fought on the first line in the Battle of Eutaw Springs, a crucial engagement of the war. Rogers' standing orders were used by them in many of their actions.

 The fighters from South Carolina finally established themselves as such a threat to British plans for conquest that a detachment led by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was assigned to wipe them out. They failed. Tarleton once chased Marion's band through 25 miles of swamp and brush; upon reaching a section that seemed impossible to navigate, Tarelton cursed Marion, crying "the damned swamp fox, the devil himself could not catch him." Marion was named the "Swamp Fox" from then on.

 Ranger tactics weren't used only by Americans during the War for Independence. John Simcoe's Queen's Rangers, Patrick Ferguson's Rangers and Thomas Browne's King's Carolina Rangers all applied their scouting and weapons skills in support of the crown.


In the time period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, American Ranger units saw more action against the British in the War of 1812. At least 12 companies were active during this time, according to the Army Register for December 28, 1813. Rangers would also continue their familiar role of patrolling in search of Indian parties in several states. The Texas Congress mobilized a ranging company in the mid-1830's. These volunteers, issued only ammunition by the state, would soon become the celebrated Texas Rangers.


When war broke out between the union and the secessionist states, it was the Confederacy that employed Ranger tactics more widely and with greater success. The prominent rebel Rangers were groups led by Colonel John Singleton Mosby, General John Hunt Morgan, and Colonel Turner Ashby.

 Colonel John S. Mosby organized his Rangers in north central Virginia in January 1863. From a three-man scout unit in 1862, Mosby's force grew to an operation of eight companies of Rangers by 1865. Heavily influenced by Francis Marion, Mosby adopted a similar style of hit-and-run operations that plagued Union officers and left them bewildered and wondering where he would strike next. The Rangers encouraged this confusion, since it led wary Federal units to reinforce too many points and drained needed soldiers away from the front lines. Mosby's force would then select a weaker target and deal another strong blow to their enemies.

 Mosby's Rangers were proficient riflemen and horsemen who knew the stretch of Virginia in detail. They were so confident of their mastery of the terrain that they would even carry out night operations, a first at that time.

 Mosby's most well-known mission didn't result in a fire fight or a single Ranger casualty. A Union colonel named Percy Wyndham once insulted Mosby and his group by calling them criminals. Mosby resolved to make Wyndham pay for his words by kidnapping him. Wyndham was located at Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia, which was a union Army post deep behind the lines. Mosby moved out at night with 29 men. They first cut the telegraph wires running between Centerville and Fairfax. They moved past light sentry patrols and arrived at what was supposed to be Wyndham's house. Their information was wrong, it was mot his house. Mosby learned from one of his prisoners that Colonel Wyndham had recently left the camp. He also discovered that a General Edwin H. Stoughton was in Fairfax. Mosby set out to capture the Union commander instead. Posing as Federal messengers, Mosby and his men gained entry to the general's home, grabbed him and returned to a Confederate camp. That night the Rangers succeeded in seizing a Union general, several other officers and enlisted men, and numerous horses while in enemy territory and had come home without a scratch.

 Mosby's unit contributed greatly to the Southern cause. Their deeds would win their Virginia home the name "Mosby's Confederacy." General Sheridan considered him the South's most annoying guerrilla. General Ulysses S. Grant once ordered that family members of Mosby's Rangers be captured and even called for their summary execution of known Rangers without benefit of trial.

 Confederate general John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry unit began their work in December 1861. Their greatest effort started in July 1863. Morgan and his Rangers attacked at Green River Bridge, Kentucky. Forced to withdraw, they passed through Lebanon, Kentucky, where they captured the town's garrison. Morgan's men then stole two streamer ships; crossed the Ohio River; moved to Corydon, Indiana and seized the town. Union troops and gunboats were scrambled to stop them. While Federal soldiers pursued them and civilians panicked, Morgan's Rangers kept moving and came within a days ride of Lake Erie -- the deepest Rebel penetration northward in the Civil War. The group was finally forced to surrender near East Liverpool. Ohio, near the close of July after causing widespread hysteria and diverting Federal soldiers from the approaching Battle of Chickamauga.

 Colonel Ashby's Rangers also played their part in fighting for an independent South, using the same methods as Mosby and Morgan.

 The union's only notable employment of Rangers was the capture of General Longstreet's ammunition train by Mean's Rangers. Mean's band never accomplished their original mission: the elimination of Mosby's Rangers.

 After the close of the Civil War, recognized Army Ranger units would disappear for more than 70 years.


The time -- June 19, 1942. the place -- Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. 2,000 hand-picked volunteers led by Major William O. Darby endure rigorous training at the hands of British Commandos. By the end of the program, 500 men were left. They became the 1st Ranger Battalion. 50 of these Rangers took part in the raid on Dieppe on France's northern coast along with Canadian and British commandos.

 The 1st Ranger Battalion participated in the initial landing at Arzeu, Algeria. They carried out crucial night operations in Tunisia and took part in the Battle of El Guettar. Their valor was recognized with a Presidential Unit Citation, the equivalent of awarding each man in the battalion the Distinguished Service Cross.

 Two more battalions, the 3rd and 4th, were created by Major Darby towards the end of the campaign in Tunisia. These battalions, along with the 1st, would be called "Darby's Rangers" or the Ranger Force. They would spearhead the invasion of Sicily at Gela and Licata and play a part in the conquest of Messina. At Salerno they would fight off eight Nazis counterattacks for 18 days to hold the Chunzi Pass. The Rangers experienced fierce winter and mountain combat in clearing the entrance to the narrow pass leading to Cassino. At Anzio they would defeat the beach defenses and secure the town.

Darby's Rangers suffered a severe setback on January 30, 1944, when the three groups were discovered infiltrating near Cisterna and were virtually wiped out by German armor and infantry. Of the 767 men in the Ranger Force, 761 were killed or captured. The survivors were sent back to the United States and transferred to the Special Service Force, a joint Canadian-American special operations unit.

Colonel James Rudder formed the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Camp Forrest, Tennessee on April 1, 1943. The men of 2nd Battalion, along with those from 5th Battalion, activated at Camp Forrest in September 1943, participated in the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, Normandy. D, E, and F companies of the 2nd Battalion were assigned to neutralize a German artillery battery located on Pointe Du Hoc. Two hundred and twenty men scaled the sheer face of the cliff through a storm of weapons fire and mortar and grenade explosions. Though only 90 were able to fight when they reached the top of the Point, the gun emplacements were silenced.

 During the initial assault on Omaha Beach, brigadier General Norman D. Cota, assistant division commander of the 29th infantry Division, realized that the invasion force must push on past the beach or suffer intolerable losses. He chose the Rangers of the 5th Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Max Schneider, to make a way through the murderous fire with the command "Rangers, lead the way off this beach!" General Cota's order has become the familiar motto, "Rangers lead the way."

 The 6th Battalion was formed in September 1944 in the Pacific theater. The commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mace. The 6th was unique among the Ranger Battalions -- it was the only one to conduct special operations. The soldiers of the 6th were among the first American unit to return to the Philippines. All of their missions were usually a task force, company, or platoon size element that operated behind enemy lines, and involved long-range reconnaissance and hard-hitting long-range combat patrols.

 A reinforced company would later make a daring rescue mission in January 1945. The Rangers made a 29 mile forced march past enemy lines in search of the Japanese prison camp at Cabanatuan, Philippines, where American and Allied prisoners of war were held. After finding the camp, they crawled almost a mile over flat, exposed terrain and attacked Japanese positions. over 200 enemy soldiers were slain. The Rangers had two men killed and ten others wounded. More than 500 prisoners of war were liberated, all within 20 minutes of the start of the siege.

 The 6th would later prepare the way for the 14th Airborne to make a jump onto Camalugian Airfield and bring an end to the fighting in the Philippines. All the Japanese prisoners of war taken during this operation were captured by one platoon from the battalion.

 Though not called Rangers, the servicemen in the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) carried out Ranger-type missions in northern Burma from February to August 1944.

 Activated on October 3, 1943, the 5307th drew from seasoned combat veterans throughout the Southwest Pacific. Two battalions headed by Colonel Charles Hunter sailed from San Fransico on the Lurline to Noumea, New Caledonia, then to Brisbane, Australia; a short stop at Perth and finally connected with a third battalion in Bombay, India on October 31, 1943. Each battalion was composed of two combat teams. Each team was identified by a different color for airdrop/ resupply purposes. (red, white, blue, orange, green, khaki)

 Trained to perform long range patrols and function in the enemy's rear area, the 5307th disrupted Japanese supplies and communication. Their mission was to pave the way for the construction of the Ledo Road, a connection between the Indian railway and the old Burma road to China and possess Myitkyina Airfield, the only all-weather landing strip in north Burma.

 The 2,997 man force, then under the command of Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill, would endure Burma's harsh climate, dense terrain, along with fatigue and the diseases native to the tropics, and still soundly defeat veteran Japanese soldiers in 35 engagements. To the American public, the 5307th became "Merrill's Marauders" for their stamina and professionalism deep in enemy territory.

The Marauders would end their successful campaign at Myitkyina Airfield. Suffering heavy losses from exhaustion and illness, they nevertheless overcame the Japanese and seized the strip. The 5307th would be redesignated the 475th "Mars Task Force" after this action.


When World War II ended, the Rangers were disbanded, just as they had been after other conflicts in America's past. In 1950, the Army Chief of Staff selected Colonel John Gibson Van Houton to create a Ranger training program at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The goal of the training was to create a headquarters company and four Ranger infantry companies (airborne).

 As many as 5,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division alone volunteered for the 6 weeks long course. Teaching amphibious and airborne infiltration, sabotage, demolition's, and familiarization with U.S. and foreign weapons, the program was intended to create highly skilled soldiers capable of moving "40-50 miles, cross country, in 12 to 18 hours, depending on the terrain."

 The graduates of the school were organized into eight companies, each of which was attached to a conventional infantry division. The 1st, 2nd, and 4th Ranger companies finished the first cycle on November 13, 1950. 3rd company remained at Ft. Benning to train the remaining 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th companies. The 2nd Ranger company was made up entirely of black volunteers who were experienced troopers from the 555th (Triple Nickel) Infantry Regiment (Airborne).

 Throughout the winter of 1950 and the spring of 1951, the Rangers went into battle. They were nomadic warriors, attached first to one regiment, then another. they performed "out front" work: scouting, patrols, raids, ambushes, spearheading assaults, and as counterattack forces to restore lost positions. The 1st Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) once went nine miles behind enemy lines and destroyed the headquarters of the 12th North Korean Division. Two North Korean Regiments fled from the area as a result. The 2nd and 4th Ranger Companies made a combat jump at Munsan-ni and were seen moving north of the 38th parallel by reporters for Life magazine. The Rangers of the 4th company executed a daring over-water raid at Hwachon Dam. The 3rd Ranger company had the motto; "die, bastard, die." The 5th Ranger company performed brilliantly during the Chinese "5th Phase offensive." The Ranger company commander held the line with Ranger sergeants commanding other line infantry units. The 8th Ranger Company (known as the "Devils") would kill 70 Chinese soldiers in an encounter with two Chinese reconnaissance companies. The 6th Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) would later be moved to Europe because of growing concern over Communist Bloc interest in expanding to the west. There those Rangers would be the first Army unit to conduct a mass, tactical, free-fall jump.

 On October 22, 1951 the Chief of Army Field Forces would change the emphasis of Fort Benning's Ranger program from training airborne companies to teaching individuals. The last of the Ranger Companies were inactivated less than a month later.


In Vietnam the LRRPs (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols) would inherit the Ranger lineage. Thirteen companies (charlie - papa, minus juliet) were assigned to brigades, divisions, and field units to act as eyes and ears inside land claimed by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army. They would work in small groups and rely on stealth to evade enemy observation. LRRP teams would also attack the enemy using hit-and-run raids and ambushes. The LRRPs would be redesignated the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) on June 1, 1969. One Ranger, Staff Sergeant James A. Champion of Lima Company, is still missing in action today. The LRRP/ Rangers were disbanded at the end of the Vietnam War. Many of them transferred to the 82nd Airborne Division.


The frustrating pattern of activating then deactivating Ranger units after the current crisis had past came to a halt in 1973. Army Chief of Staff General Abrams called for the establishment of a permanent Ranger presence in the Army - the 1st Ranger Battalion was activated on February 8, 1974 at Fort Stewart, Georgia after originally forming at Fort Benning. The 2nd Ranger Battalion would be formed on October 1, 1974. The 1st Battalion would establish headquarters at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, while 2nd Battalion would settle at Fort Lewis, Washington.

 The ill-fated attempt to rescue the American Embassy personnel held hostage in Teheran, Iran, code-named Desert One, was primarily a Special Forces Operation. It is not generally known that Rangers were also to take part. While 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta was to perform the actual rescue, Company C, 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger), was to provide security for the men and equipment.

The rescue force assembled in Egypt on 21 April 1980. Three days later, a fleet of C-141s carried the 120 man force to Masirah Island, off the coast of Oman, where they transferred to three MC-130s accompanied by three fuel bearing EC-130s. They landed 200 miles southeast of Teheran at 2200 hours and waited for the arrival of eight RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters from the aircraft carrier Nimitz. A twelve man road watch team, composed primarily of Rangers, was along to secure the site while the helicopters refueled. the team would return to Egypt on one of the MC-130s.

Delta was to be flown to a hide site before dawn on 25 April by the RH-53Ds, which would remain at their own hide site until the assault on the compound where the hostages were held. The plan was to use the helicopters to ferry the hostages to waiting transport.

 The task of C 1/75, was to secure a landing area for the transports. The Rangers were to fly from Egypt to Manazariyeh, Iran, and take the airfield there. They would land, if possible, or jump if resistance was offered. Once the airfield, which was thirty-five miles south of Teheran, was secure, the Rangers would hold it while C-141s arrived to airlift the hostages and their rescuers back to Egypt. The Rangers would then "dry up," or remove all signs of their presence, render the field useless, and be airlifted out themselves.

 Taking and securing a hostile airfield within enemy territory is one of the primary components of the Ranger mission. They were prepared to hold the field as long as necessary if there were not enough transports to take everyone out in one trip. During training, the Rangers worked out all probable scenarios on a mock-up of the type of airfield in Iran.

 Desert One was aborted at the first stage when two Sea Stallions crashed into each other on landing, killing the crews. One helicopter had aborted before leaving the carrier. it had been determined that at least six helicopters were necessary for the mission to succeed fewer than six automatically canceled the rescue attempt. C 1/75 never left Egypt. The Rangers in the road watch team returned with Delta.


The Rangers had little time to prepare for their role in Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. Within hours of receiving orders to move, Ranger units were marshaling at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, prepared to board C-130s and MC-130s for the ride to Grenada. Their first objective was Point Salines airfield, located on the island's most southwestern point. While securing the airfield, Rangers were to secure the True Blue Campus at Salines, where American medical students were in residence. As quickly as possible, Ranger units were then to take the army camp at Calivigny.

 Things started to go wrong as the operation began. A Navy SEAL team was unable to get ashore; they were to have provided intelligence on the airfield at Salines. H-hour, originally scheduled during darkness, was moved several times until morning twilight. In the lead MC-130s there were problems with the inertial navigation equipment. Since there were no hatch mount antennas on the cargo doors of the aircraft, communications to Ranger units were delayed while passing through Air Force communications.

 While in the air, the Rangers were notified of photographic intelligence indicating obstructions on the field. Instead of landing, the majority of transport would have to drop all the Rangers at Salines so the runway could be cleared.

 In some aircraft the men were told to remove their harness, rucksack, and main and reserve parachutes. These items were placed in kit bags and moved forward to facilitate off-loading troops and cargo. before long, the loadmasters were yelling, "Only thirty minutes fuel left. Rangers are fighting. Jump in Twenty minutes."

 These Rangers now had to re-rig for the drop, unpacking nonessential equipment and pulling on parachutes. Rucksacks had to be hooked under the reserve pack and weapons strapped to the left side. Under these conditions it was not possible for the jumpmaster to check each man, so buddy rigging was employed.

 Aboard the lead MC-130, navigation equipment failed and the pilot reported he could not guarantee finding the landing zone. Rain squalls made it impossible to employ a lead change, so both lead aircraft pulled away to the south. As the Rangers approached the target, the aircraft were out of assigned order and the planned order of arrival was no longer possible. This meant that the runway clearing team would not be the first on the field. The Rangers then requested a mass parachute assault, a contingency previously planned, so that only the order of exit from the aircraft would be affected, but the Air Force would not conduct a mass drop.

 On October 25, 1983, at 0534 the first Rangers began dropping at Salines: a platoon of B 1/75 and the Battalion Tactical Operations Center (TOC), followed almost 25 minutes later by part of A 1/75. Over a half hour later the rest of A 1/75, minus seven men were over Salines. It was now 0634, but the remaining men of 1/75 would not be on the ground until 07:05.

 Men of 1/75 assembled on the east end of the runway. They were short C 1/75, which had been sent with sixty Special Operations Forces troops to take the Richmond Hill prison. The Ranger battalions were already operating below strength. One reason for this seems to have been the fact that a limited number of aircraft and aircrews were trained for night operations.

Over one and a half hours elapsed from the first drop of 1/75 until the last unit was on the ground shortly after seven in the morning. These men jumped from 500 feet so they would be in the air between 12 and 15 seconds. Their drop zone was very narrow because there was water on the north and south sides only a few meters from the runway.

At 07:07 the 2nd Battalion began to drop. For several hours their aircraft had orbited, waiting to unload and refuel. They dropped in a much shorter period, and all but one man was safely on the ground. One Ranger broke his leg, and one Ranger's static line became tangled as he exited the aircraft, dragging him against the tail of the plane before he was hauled back aboard. 2/75 assembled on the western end of the runway.

 Once on the ground, 1/75 was not under effective fire, and thus could begin to clear the runway of blocking trucks and bulldozers. Some of the vehicles had keys in them; others were hot-wired and removed. A Cuban bulldozer was used to flatten the stakes that had been driven into the ground with wires between them, and to push aside the drums placed on the runway. For fifteen minutes there was no enemy fire, and the Rangers worked without interruption.

 By 10:00, 1/75 had its second platoon at the True Blue Campus and its first and third platoons had moved north of the runway. In the center, B1/75, had moved north and was holding the high ground not far from the Cuban headquarters. Units of 2/75 had cleared the area west of the airfield as well as the area north of their drop zone to Canoe Bay. The airfield was secure, and the C-130s, which had gone to Barbados to refuel, returned to unload equipment not dropped - which included jeeps, motorcycles, and Hughes 500 Defender helicopters.

 Eight hours after landing, the commander of B 2/75, was notified that two Rangers were missing near their positions. The company commander decide the missing men must be near a building which lay between B Company and the Cuban positions. A Cuban construction worker was sent forward with an eleven-man Ranger squad under a flag of truce. While the Rangers remained outside, the Cuban entered and spoke with those inside, who agreed to a truce if the Rangers would treat the Cuban wounded. Two Rangers and seventeen wounded Cubans were evacuated. Afterward, the Ranger commander called for the Cubans to surrender, and 80 to 100 did so. The remainder surrendered later, after a brief fight, to the 82nd Airborne.

 At 15:30 that afternoon, a counterattack was launched toward A 1/75, consisting of three BTR-60s, which moved through 2nd platoons firing positions, firing toward the runway. The Rangers countered with rifles, M-60s, LAWs, and a recoilless rifle. Two of the BTRs hit each other when the first one halted. Both were disabled. The third began a hasty retreat and was hit in the rear. It was finally destroyed by an AC-130 Spectre gunship.

 The last action of the first day took place east of True Blue Campus, where Rangers came under fire from a house on top of a prominent hill, 1,000 meters east of the runway. No Spectre gunship was available, so an A-7 attack plane finally destroyed the house, but only after several duds landed alarmingly near the Rangers.

 At the end of the first day in Grenada, the Rangers had secured the airfield and True Blue Campus at a cost of five dead and six wounded. Unfortunately, C 1/75, had run into a more difficult situation. When their Black Hawk helicopters arrived at the prison, the local defenses were active. Perched on a high ridge whose sides were almost vertical and covered by dense foliage, the prison was surrounded by walls twenty feet high and topped with barbed wire and watchtowers covering the area. Intelligence had failed to report the presence of two antiaircraft guns on a ridge some 150 feet higher then the prison, which brought the Black Hawks under fire. It was impossible to use ropes to lower the Rangers. The helicopters had to remain steady during this operation, making the Rangers and crews easy targets. No air support was possible at this time, since all small aircraft were engaged at Salines.

 At least two attempts were made to bring the Black Hawks in to unload troops, but antiaircraft fire hit pilots, crew, and the attacking troops. Suppressive fire from the Black Hawks was ineffective because of their violent maneuvers Although some Rangers walked away from the crashed Black Hawks, others were badly hurt and were not immediately evacuated. Part of the evacuation problem seems to have been that Army pilots could not land aboard Navy ships because they were not qualified to do so, although this was eventually waived.

 Intelligence failed at the prison and also when the Rangers were not informed until 1030 on the morning of the 25 October that there were still students at the second campus at Grand Anse. Students reported guards in the area, but the Rangers thought that they could bring the students out. A heliborne operation with Marine airlift from the Guam was planned. Marine helicopter squadron 261 was to provide the helicopters, with supporting fire from C-130 gunships, ships off the coast, and the Marines two remaining Cobra attack helicopters. American suppressive fire would continue until 20 seconds before the Rangers were committed.

 The Rangers would fly to the objective in three waves, each composed of three CH-46s. Each wave of three would carry a company of Rangers, about 50 men. A 1/75 would go in first, followed by B 1/75, which was to cordon off the campus to prevent outside intervention. C 1/75 would then arrive, its mission to locate the students and pack them into four CH-53s waiting offshore.

 During lift-off the order of aircraft somehow became confused. Instead of the lead flight having three CH-46s carrying A 1/75, the first load had one from A co. and two from B co. Consequently, the second wave had two from A co. and one from B co. The first three aircraft missed the designated beach in front of the campus. There was sporadic small arms fire, but the only serious damage came from overhanging trees. One helicopter shut down and was abandoned in the surf, but the Rangers scrambled out as water poured in. Later a second machine was damaged by a tree.

 The orbiting Sea Stallions were now brought in to remove the students. The Ch-46s returned and extracted the Rangers, completing the entire operation in 26 minutes. After leaving the beach, they realized that eleven men sent up as a flank guard had not returned. By radio these men were told to move toward positions held by the 82nd Airborne. the Rangers were not sure they could safely enter those lines, so they decided to use one of the inflatable boats from the disabled helicopter. However, the rafts had been damaged during the air assault. The Rangers soon had to swim alongside their damaged boat. having battled surf and tides for some time, they were spotted, picked up at 2300, and brought to the USS Caron lying off the coast.

 One of the Rangers' initial D-day objectives, Calivigny barracks, had not been secured. Lying about 5 kilometers from the airfield, the barracks reportedly housed and trained troops. On 27 October, under the command of a Brigade Headquarters from the 82nd Airborne Division, a full scale attack was carried out by 2/75 and reinforced by C 1/75.

 Four waves of four Black Hawks, each carrying a company to assault the camp, were to fly out to sea before heading to the beach, flying low over the water at about 100 knots. Support was furnished by Spectre gunships and Navy A-7s. At Salines the Army had seventeen 105mm howitzers, and at sea the USS Caron would supply fire support. A 2/75 was to land at the southern end of the compound, on the left and right C 2/75 was to set down. B 2/75 was to land in the southeast, assault suspected antiaircraft guns, and rejoin the other companies in the north. In reserve was C 1/75, which would also hold the southern end of the perimeter.

 The Black Hawks came in over the waves, climbing sharply to the top of the cliffs. Quickly the pilots slowed down in order to find the exact landing zone inside the perimeter. Each Black Hawk came in rapidly, one behind the other. The first helicopter put down safely, near the southern boundary of the camp, and was followed by the second. The third Black Hawk suffered some damage, and spun forward, smashing into the second machine. In the fourth Black Hawk, the crew saw what was happening and veered hard right; the aircraft landed in a ditch, damaging its tail rotor. Apparently not realizing that the helicopters rotor was damaged, the pilot attempted to move the Black Hawk, which rose sharply, seemed to spin forward, and crashed. In twenty seconds three machines were down. Debris and rotor blades flew through the air, badly wounding four Rangers and killing three who, sadly, were the only deaths in 2/75.

 A 2/75 regrouped as C 2/75 landed on large concrete pads on the edge of the compound. B 2/75 also landed safely, and moved on its objective. C 1/75 also landed without incident. Contrary to expectations, the barracks were deserted. The Rangers found nothing. That night they slept in the rubble caused by the intense bombardment. this was their last action before returning to the United States.


On October 3, 1984, the Department of the Army announced the activation of the 3rd Ranger Battalion and on February 3, 1986, the 75th Ranger Regimental Headquarters at Fort Benning. This historic event marked a new era for the Rangers; with over 2000 soldiers, the modern battalions had a number of men unseen since World War II.

 The entire Regiment would participate in the invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989. The Rangers were to secure Torrijos-Tocumen International Airport, Rio Hato Military Airfield, and then Noriega's beach house. Rangers who dropped at Torillos later moved into Panama City, where they took the military headquarters of the Panamanian Defense Forces. Conducting simultaneous low level parachute jumps, 1/75, C company 3/75, and Team Gold from RHQ would capture Torrijos-Tocumen International Airport, while 2/75, A and B 3/75, and Team Black of RHQ would take over Rio Hato Airfield. At Rio Hato heavy antiaircraft fire was encountered and one Ranger was hit in the back of the head while still in the airplane. He survived, but five Rangers were killed in the operation. the Rangers secured the perimeter of the field before the Panamanians began to test the defenses. At Rio Hato the Rangers were supported by AC-130 Spectre gunships, whose target acquisition cameras found targets in the dark. Two hours after the drop at Rio Hato, the airfield was secure enough for transport aircraft to begin landing with supplies and additional equipment for the Rangers.

 Once the airfields were secure, the Rangers then carried out special operations in support of Joint Task Force (South). They moved against the Panamanian special forces called the Mountain Troops. Rangers moved from house to house in the compound, and the village where the families of the soldiers lived. Many of the Mountain Troops were caught trying to shave off their distinctive beards. On the fifth day of the operation the Rangers were sent to secure Calle Diez, an area some twenty to twenty-five miles from Panama City, held by the "Dignity Battalions."

 Rangers took many pictures of Panamanian and foreign property, aircraft, shops, and houses to show that property was still intact and protected by the U.S. Army. This prevented false claims and probably saved the United States many hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rangers also guarded buildings- such as the Vatican embassy where President Noriega took refuge- to see that no damage was done. Sustaining five killed in action and 42 wounded, the Rangers captured 1014 prisoners of war and over 18000 Panamanian arms. They accomplished the mission given to the for operation Just Cause: the removal of Manuel Noriega and members of the Panamanian Defense Force loyal to him. The Rangers returned home on January 7, 1990.


The Rangers fought again in Operation Desert Storm. Bravo Company and 1st platoon with weapons platoon attachments of Alpha company, 1st Ranger Battalion, deployed from February 12, 1991 to April 6, 1991. they conducted pin-point raids and quick reaction force missions in cooperation with Allied Forces. No casualties were sustained by the Rangers. In December 1991, 1/75 and the Regimental headquarters Company deployed to Kuwait in a routine training exercise as a show of force. The Rangers jumped into Kuwait during daylight hours.


The next deployment of the Rangers occurred in Somalia in 1993. B 3/75 was deployed from August 26, 1993 to October 21, 1993 to assist United Nations Forces in bringing order to a desperately chaotic and starving nation. The Rangers took part in seven missions trying to capture Mohammed Aidid and his top lieutenants in order to end Aidid's guerrilla war against the U.N.'s efforts to feed the Somali people.

 On October 3, 1993 (exactly nine years after the reactivation of 3rd Battalion), B company and members of Special Force Operational Detachment- Delta set out to capture two of Aidid's officers in the Olympic Hotel, one of the most dangerous parts of the city. After moving to the objective, the team assigned to grab the two followers of Aidid succeeded in their task and called for extraction within twenty minutes of the first assault. The Humvees were dispatched to evacuate the prisoners and the assault force. After being ambushed at the K-4 traffic circle the Humvees would reach the Olympic Hotel, and begin extracting. Then a UH-60 Black Hawk was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade, and the Rangers would begin a courageous rescue operation that would grow into the most intense firefight since the Vietnam War.

The Rangers then moved to and secured the downed UH-60. Then another Black Hawk was shot down. Under severe fire from machine guns, and hand and rocket propelled grenades, the Rangers grouped together and established a perimeter inside buildings to treat their wounded and wait for extraction. The relief column, composed of cooks and other Rangers received heavy fire enroute to their fellow Rangers. They would be reinforced with elements of the 10th Mountain, Pakistani and Malaysian armored vehicles to help extract the wounded and fallen Rangers. The Rangers would return to the airfield early in the morning on October 4th.

 The Rangers lost 6 men and had numerous wounded. The Somalis fared far worse- the Rangers delivered devastating firepower at them and killed approximately 300 of their forces, not including wounded. A 3/75 would deploy to Somalia from October 5, 1993 to 23 October 1993 in support of United Nations operations.

 The Rangers have led the way in battle from the era of the flintlock to the age of the night vision device and the M-16A2. Stealth, speed, bravery, and a commitment to duty have been the attributes of the men who have borne the title "Ranger." A look into the Ranger past is no dead history exercise, but a glimpse at what Rangers have always been and remain as to this day.