|United States Army Rangers|
|Active||17th century – present|
|Country||United States of America|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Branch||United States Army|
|Motto(s)||Sua Sponte (Of Their Own Accord): (75th Ranger Regiment)|
Rangers Lead the Way: (Army Ranger-qualified soldiers)
|NATO Map Symbol|
|NATO Map Symbol|
United States Army Rangers, according to the US Army's definition, are personnel, past or present, in any unit that has the official designation "Ranger". The term is commonly used to include graduates of the US Army Ranger School, even if they never served in a "Ranger" unit. The vast majority of Ranger school graduates never serve in Ranger units and are considered "Ranger qualified".
In a broader and less formal sense, the term "ranger" has been used, officially and unofficially, in North America since the 17th century, to describe light infantry in small, independent units—usually companies. The first units to be officially designated Rangers were companies recruited in the colonies of New England by the colonial militia to fight in King Philip's War (1676). Following that time, the term became more common in official usage, during the French and Indian Wars of the 18th century. The US military has had "Ranger" companies since the American Revolution. British units later called "Rangers" have often also had historical links of some kind to British North America.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is an elite airborne light infantry combat formation within the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). The six battalions of the modern Rangers have been deployed in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and saw action in several conflicts, such as those in Panama and Grenada. The Ranger Regiment traces its lineage to three of six battalions raised in World War II, and to the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)—known as "Merrill's Marauders", and then reflagged as the 475th Infantry, then later as the 75th Infantry.
The Ranger Training Brigade (RTB)—headquartered at Fort Benning—is an organization under the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and is separate from the 75th Ranger Regiment. It has been in service in various forms since World War II. The Ranger Training Brigade administers Ranger School, the satisfactory completion of which is required to become Ranger qualified and to wear the Ranger Tab.
Rangers served in the 17th and 18th-century wars between American colonists and Native American tribes. British regulars were unaccustomed to frontier warfare and so Ranger companies were developed. Rangers were full-time soldiers employed by colonial governments to patrol between fixed frontier fortifications in reconnaissance providing early warning of raids. In offensive operations, they were scouts and guides, locating villages and other targets for taskforces drawn from the militia or other colonial troops.
In Colonial America, "The earliest mention of Ranger operations comes from Capt. John "Samuel" Smith," who wrote in 1622, "When I had ten men able to go abroad, our common wealth was very strong: with such a number I ranged that unknown country 14 weeks." Robert Black also stated that,
In 1622, after the Berkeley Plantation Massacre ... grim-faced men went forth to search out the Indian enemy. They were militia—citizen soldiers—but they were learning to blend the methods of Indian and European warfare ... As they went in search of the enemy, the words range, ranging and Ranger were frequently used ... The American Ranger had been born.
The father of American ranging is Colonel Benjamin Church (c. 1639–1718). He was the captain of the first Ranger force in America (1676).: 33 Church was commissioned by the Governor of the Plymouth Colony Josiah Winslow to form the first ranger company for King Philip's War. He later employed the company to raid Acadia during King William's War and Queen Anne's War.
Benjamin Church designed his force primarily to emulate Native American patterns of war. Toward this end, Church endeavored to learn to fight like Native Americans from Native Americans.: 35 Americans became rangers exclusively under the tutelage of the Native American allies. (Until the end of the colonial period, rangers depended on Native Americans as both allies and teachers.): 34–35
Church developed a special full-time unit mixing white colonists selected for frontier skills with friendly Native Americans to carry out offensive strikes against hostile Native Americans in terrain where normal militia units were ineffective. His memoirs Entertaining Passages relating to Philip's War is considered the first American military manual, which was published in 1716.
Under Church served the father and grandfather of two famous rangers of the eighteenth century: John Lovewell and John Gorham respectively.: 38 John Lovewell served during Dummer's War (also known as Lovewell's War). He lived in present-day Nashua, New Hampshire. He fought in Dummer's War as a militia captain, leading three expeditions against the Abenaki tribe. John Lovewell became the most famous Ranger of the eighteenth century.: 50
During King George's War, John Gorham established "Gorham's Rangers". Gorham's company fought on the frontier at Acadia and Nova Scotia. Gorham was commissioned a captain in the British Army in recognition of his outstanding service. He was the first of three prominent American rangers–himself, his younger brother Joseph Gorham and Robert Rogers—to earn such commissions in the British Army. (Many others, such as George Washington, were unsuccessful in their attempts to achieve a British rank.): 76
Rogers' Rangers was established in 1751 by Major Robert Rogers, who organized nine Ranger companies in the American colonies. Roger's Island, in Modern Day Fort Edward, NY, is considered the "spiritual home" of the United States Special Operations Forces, particularly the United States Army Rangers. These early American light infantry units, organized during the French and Indian War, bore the name "Rangers" and were the forerunners of the modern Army Rangers. Major Rogers drafted the first currently-known set of standard orders for rangers. These rules, Robert Rogers' 28 "Rules of Ranging", are still provided to all new Army Rangers upon graduation from training, and served as one of the first modern manuals for asymmetric warfare.
When the American Revolution began, Major Robert Rogers allegedly offered his services to General George Washington. Fearing that Rogers was a spy, Washington refused. An incensed Rogers instead joined forces with the Loyalists, raised the Queen's Rangers, and fought for the Crown. While serving with the British, Col. Rogers was responsible for capturing America's most famous spy in Nathan Hale.
After Colonel Robert Rogers left the Queen's Rangers, he travelled to Nova Scotia, where he raised King's Rangers, in 1779. The regiment was disbanded in 1783.
Not all Rogers' Rangers went with him, however, including such notable figures as Israel Putnam and John Stark. Later on during the war, General Washington ordered Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton to select an elite group of men for reconnaissance missions. This unit was known as Knowlton's Rangers, and is credited as the first official Ranger unit (by name) for the United States. This unit carried out intelligence functions rather than combat functions in most cases, and as such are not generally considered the historical parent of the modern day Army Rangers. Instead, Knowlton's Rangers gave rise to the modern Military Intelligence branch (although it was not a distinct branch until the 20th century).
In June 1775 Ethan Allen and Seth Warner had the Continental Congress create a Continental Ranger Regiment including many of the famed Green Mountain Boys. Warner was elected the Regiment's Colonel with the Rangers forming part of the Continental Army's Invasion of Quebec in 1775. The Regiment was disbanded in 1779.
Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" Revolutionary commander of South Carolina, developed irregular methods of warfare during his guerrilla period in South Carolina. He is credited in the lineage of the Army Rangers, as is George Rogers Clark who led an irregular force of Kentucky/Virginia militiamen to capture the British forts at Vincennes, Indiana and Kaskaskia, Illinois.
In January 1812 the United States authorized six companies of United States Rangers who were mounted infantry with the function of protecting the Western frontier. Five of these companies were raised in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. A sixth was in Middle Tennessee, organized by Capt. David Mason. The next year, 10 new companies were raised. By December 1813 the Army Register listed officers of 12 companies of Rangers. The Ranger companies were discharged in June 1815.
During the Black Hawk War, in 1832, the Battalion of Mounted Rangers, an early version of the cavalry in the U.S. Army was created out of frontiersmen who enlisted for one year and provided their own rifles and horses. The battalion was organized into six companies of 100 men each that was led by Major Henry Dodge. After their enlistment expired there was no creation of a second battalion. Instead, the battalion was reorganized into the 1st Dragoon Regiment.
Several units that were named and functioned similarly to Rangers fought in the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865, such as the Loudoun Rangers that consisted of Quaker and German farmers from northern Loudoun County. They were founded by Captain Samuel C. Means, a Virginian refugee who was approached by Washington to form two detachments on 20 June 1862. The Loudoun Rangers conducted periodic raids in Loudoun, Clarke and Jefferson counties. Military historian Darl L. Stephenson stated that a unit called the Blazer's Scouts were also a precursor to Army Rangers during the Civil War. Aside from conducting similar irregular warfare on Confederate forces in Richmond, Mississippi and Tennessee, its members were also descendants of the first ranger groups, organized by Robert Rogers in the French and Indian War. The Blazer's Scouts were instrumental in fighting off other irregular forces such as partisan bushwhackers and Mosby's Rangers, another unit of Rangers that fought for the Confederacy.
Major General Lucian Truscott of the U.S. Army was a liaison officer with the British General Staff. In 1942 he submitted a proposal to General George Marshall that an American unit be set up "along the lines of the British Commandos". Five Ranger Battalions would be organized in the European Theatre including the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th; the 6th would be organized in the Pacific Theatre. The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Ranger Battalions were "Ghost" formations, which were part of the deception plan known as "Operation Quicksilver."
On 19 June 1942 the 1st Ranger Battalion was sanctioned, recruited, and began training in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. Eighty percent of the original Rangers came from the 34th Infantry Division.
A select fifty or so of the first U.S. Rangers were dispersed through the British Commandos for the Dieppe Raid in August 1942; these were the first American soldiers to see ground combat in the European theater.
Together with the ensuing 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions they fought in North Africa and Italy commanded by Colonel William Orlando Darby until the Battle of Cisterna (29 January 1944) when most of the Rangers of the 1st and 3rd Battalions were captured. Of the 767 men in the battalions 761 were killed or captured. The remaining Rangers were absorbed into the Canadian-American First Special Service Force under Brigadier General Robert T. Frederick. They were then instrumental in operations in and around the Anzio beachhead that followed Operation Shingle.
The 29th Ranger Battalion was a temporary unit made of selected volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division that was in existence from December 1942 to November 1943.
Before the 5th Ranger Battalion landing on Dog White sector on Omaha Beach, during the Invasion of Normandy, the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaled the 90-foot (27 m) cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, a few miles to the west, to destroy a five-gun battery of captured French Canon de 155 mm GPF guns. The gun positions were empty on the day and the weapons had been removed some time before to allow the construction of casements in their place. (One of the gun positions was destroyed by the RAF in May—prior to D-day—leaving five missing guns). Under constant fire during their climb, they encountered only a small company of Germans on the cliffs and subsequently discovered a group of field artillery weapons in trees some 1,000 yards (910 m) to the rear. The guns were disabled and destroyed,[by whom?] and the Rangers then cut and held the main road for two days before being relieved. All whilst being reinforced by members of the 5th Ranger Battalion who arrived at 6pm on 6 June from Omaha Beach. More 5th Ranger units arrived by sea on 7 June when some of their wounded along with German prisoners were taken away to the waiting ships.
Two separate Ranger units fought the war in the Pacific Theater. The 98th Field Artillery Battalion was formed on 16 December 1940 and activated at Fort Lewis in January 1941. On 26 September 1944, they were converted from field artillery to light infantry and became 6th Ranger Battalion. 6th Ranger Battalion led the invasion of the Philippines and executed the raid on the Cabanatuan POW camp. They continued fighting in the Philippines until they were deactivated on 30 December 1945, in Japan.
After the first Quebec Conference, the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) was formed with Frank Merrill as the commander, its 2,997 officers and men became popularly known as Merrill's Marauders. They began training in India on 31 October 1943. Much of the Marauders training was based on Major General Orde Wingate of the British Army who specialized in deep penetration raids behind Japanese lines. The 5307th Composite Group was composed of the six color-coded combat teams that would become part of modern Ranger heraldry, they fought against the Japanese during the Burma Campaign. In February 1944, the Marauders began a 1,000-mile (1,600 km) march over the Himalayan mountain range and through the Burmese jungle to strike behind the Japanese lines. By March, they had managed to cut off Japanese forces in Maingkwan and cut their supply lines in the Hukawng Valley. On 17 May, the Marauders and Chinese forces captured the Myitkyina airfield, the only all-weather airfield in Burma. For their actions, every member of the unit received the Bronze Star.
On 6 June 1944, during the assault landing on Dog White sector of Omaha Beach as part of the invasion of Normandy, then-Brigadier General Norman Cota (assistant division commander of the 29th Infantry Division) approached Major Max Schneider, CO of the 5th Ranger Battalion and asked "What outfit is this?", Schneider answered "5th Rangers, Sir!" To this, Cota replied "Well, goddamnit, if you're Rangers, lead the way!" From this, the Ranger motto—"Rangers lead the way!"—was born.
Main article: Korean War Ranger Companies
At the outbreak of the Korean War, a unique Ranger unit was formed. Led by Second Lieutenant Ralph Puckett, the Eighth Army Ranger Company was created in August 1950. It served as the role model for the rest of the soon to be formed Ranger units. Instead of being organized into self-contained battalions, the Ranger units of the Korean and Vietnam eras were organized into companies and then attached to larger units, to serve as organic special operations units.
In total, sixteen additional Ranger companies were formed in the next seven months: Eighth Army Raider Company and First through Fifteenth Ranger Company. The Army Chief of Staff assigned the Ranger training program at Fort Benning to Colonel John Gibson Van Houten. The program eventually split to include a training program located in Korea. 3rd Ranger Company and the 7th Ranger Company were tasked to train new Rangers.
The next four Ranger companies were formed 28 October 1950. Soldiers from the 505th Airborne Regiment and the 82nd Airborne's 80th Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion volunteered and, after initially being designated the 4th Ranger Company, became the 2nd Ranger Company—the only all-black Ranger unit in United States history. After the four companies had begun their training, they were joined by the 5th–8th Ranger companies on 20 November 1950.
During the course of the war, the Rangers patrolled and probed, scouted and destroyed, attacked and ambushed the Communist Chinese and North Korean enemy. The 1st Rangers destroyed the 12th North Korean Division headquarters in a daring night raid. The 2nd and 4th Rangers made a combat airborne assault near Munsan where Life Magazine reported that Allied troops were now patrolling north of the 38th Parallel. Crucially, the 2nd Rangers plugged the gap made by the retreating Allied forces, the 5th Ranger Company helped stop the Chinese 5th Phase Offensive. As in World War II, after the Korean War, the Rangers were disbanded.
Main article: 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment (Airborne)
Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) and Long Range Patrol companies (commonly known as Lurps) were formed by the U.S. Army in the early 1960s in West Germany to provide small, heavily armed reconnaissance teams to patrol deep in enemy-held territory in case of war with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies.
In Vietnam LRRP platoons and companies were attached to every brigade and division where they perfected the art of long-range patrolling. Since satellite communications were a thing of the future, one of the most daring long-range penetration operations of the Vietnam War was launched on 19 April 1968, by members of the 1st Air Cavalry Division's, Company E, 52nd Infantry (LRP), (redesignated Co. H, Ranger), against the NVA when they seized "Signal Hill" the name attributed to the peak of Dong Re Lao Mountain, a densely forested 4,879-foot (1,487 m) mountain, midway in A Shau Valley, so the 1st and 3rd Brigades, slugging it out hidden deep behind the towering wall of mountains, could communicate with Camp Evans near the coast or with approaching aircraft.
On 1 January 1969, under the new U.S. Army Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS), these units were redesignated "Ranger" in South Vietnam within the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) and all replacement personnel were mandatory airborne qualified. Fifteen companies of Rangers were raised from LRRP units, which had been performing missions in Europe since the early 1960s and in Vietnam since 1966. The genealogy of this new Regiment was linked to Merrill's Marauders. The Rangers were organized as independent companies: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O and P, with one notable exception, since 1816, U.S. Army units have not included a Juliet or "J" company, (the reason for this is because the letter 'J' looked too similar to the letter 'I' in Old English script). Companies A and B were respectively assigned to V Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, and VII Corps at Fort Lewis, Washington.
In addition to scouting and reconnoitering roles for their parent formations, Ranger units provided terrain-assessment and tactical or special security missions; undertook recovery operations to locate and retrieve prisoners of war; captured enemy soldiers for interrogation and intelligence-gathering purposes; tapped North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong wire communications lines in their established base areas along the Ho Chi Minh trail; and mined enemy trails as well as motor-vehicle transport routes. To provide tactical skills and patrol expertise all LRRP/Ranger team leaders and most assistant team leaders were graduates of the 5th Special Forces Group Recondo School at Nha Trang Vietnam.
Main article: 75th Ranger Regiment
After the Vietnam War, division and brigade commanders determined that the U.S. Army needed an elite, rapidly deployable light infantry, so on 31 January 1974 General Creighton Abrams asked General Kenneth C. Leuer to activate, organize, train and command the first battalion sized Ranger unit since World War II. Initially, the 1st Ranger Battalion was constituted; because of its success, eight months later, 1 October 1974, the 2nd Ranger Battalion was constituted, and in 1984 the 3rd Ranger Battalion and their regimental headquarters were created. In 1986, the 75th Ranger Regiment was formed and their military lineage formally authorized. The 75th Ranger Regiment, comprising three battalions, is the premier light-infantry of the U.S. Army, a combination of special operations and elite airborne light infantry. The regiment is a flexible, highly trained and rapid light infantry unit specialized to be employed against any special operations targets. All Rangers—whether they are in the 75th Ranger Regiment, or Ranger School, or both—are taught to live by the Ranger Creed. 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.
The 4th, 5th, and 6th Ranger Battalions were re-activated as the Ranger Training Brigade, the cadre of instructors of the contemporary Ranger School; moreover, because they are parts of a TRADOC school, the 4th, 5th, and 6th battalions are not a part of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
The Rangers have participated in numerous operations throughout modern history. In 1980, the Rangers were involved with Operation Eagle Claw, the 1980 second rescue attempt of American hostages in Tehran, Iran. In 1983, the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions conducted Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. All three Ranger battalions, with a headquarters element, participated in the U.S. invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989. In 1991 Bravo Company, the first platoon and Anti-Tank section from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion was deployed in the Persian Gulf War (Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield). Bravo Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion was the base unit of Task Force Ranger in Operation Gothic Serpent, in Somalia in 1993, concurrent with Operation Restore Hope. In 1994, soldiers from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ranger Battalions deployed to Haiti (before the operation's cancellation. The force was recalled 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Haitian coast.). The 3rd Ranger Battalion supported the initial war effort in Afghanistan, in 2001. The Ranger Regiment has been involved in multiple deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since 2003.
In response to the 11 September terrorist strikes, the United States launched the War on Terror with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. Special operations units such as the Rangers, along with some CIA officers and Navy SEALs were the first U.S. forces on Afghan soil during Operation Enduring Freedom. This was the first large Ranger operation since the Battle of Mogadishu. The Rangers met with success during the invasion and, along with the other U.S. Special Operations forces, played an integral part in overthrowing the Taliban government. They also participated in the biggest firefight of Operation Anaconda in 2002 at Takur Ghar.
In 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, the Rangers were among those sent in. During the beginning of the war, they faced some of Iraq's elite Republican Guard units. Rangers were also involved in the rescue of American prisoner of war POW Private First Class Jessica Lynch. The 75th Ranger Regiment has been one of the few units to have members continuously deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Main article: Ranger School
Ranger training began in September 1950 at Fort Benning, Georgia "with the formation and training of 17 Airborne Companies by the Ranger Training Command". The first class graduated from Ranger training in November 1950." The United States Army's Infantry School officially established the Ranger Department in December 1951. Under the Ranger Department, the first Ranger School Class was conducted in January–March 1952, with a graduation date of 1 March 1952. Its duration was 59 days.: 28–29 At the time, Ranger training was voluntary.
In 1966, a panel headed by General Ralph E. Haines, Jr. recommended making Ranger training mandatory for all Regular Army officers upon commissioning. "On 16 August 1966, the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Harold K. Johnson, directed it so." This policy was implemented in July 1967. It was rescinded on 21 June 1972 by General William Westmoreland. Once again, Ranger training was voluntary.: 28–29 In August 1987, the Ranger Department was split from the Infantry School and the Ranger Training Brigade was established, commanded by Brigadier General (R) James Emory Mace.
The Ranger Companies that made up the Ranger Department became the current training units—the 4th, 5th and 6th Ranger Training Battalions.: 29 These units conduct the United States Army's Ranger School at various locations at Fort Benning, Georgia, Camp Frank Merrill, near Dahlonega, Georgia, and Camp James Rudder at Eglin Air Force Base's Auxiliary Field No. 6/Biancur Field, in northwest Florida. As of 2011, the school is 61 days in duration.
In August 2015, two women graduated from Ranger School; they were the "first females to successfully complete the notoriously gruelling program".
See also: Ranger Creed
Organizations both use and define the term "Ranger" in different ways. For example, the annual Best Ranger Competition, hosted by the Ranger Training Brigade, the title "Best Ranger" can be won by any Ranger qualified entrants from any unit in the U.S. military. For an individual to be inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Association's "Ranger Hall of Fame" they "must have served in a Ranger unit in combat or be a successful graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School." The Ranger Association further clarifies the type of unit: "A Ranger unit is defined as those Army units recognized in Ranger lineage or history." Acceptance into the U.S. Army Ranger Association is limited to "Rangers that have earned the U.S. Army Ranger tab, WWII Rangers, Korean War Rangers, Vietnam War Rangers, all Rangers that participated in Operations Urgent Fury, Just Cause, Desert Storm, Restore Hope, Enduring Freedom, and all Rangers who have served honorably for at least one year in a recognized Ranger unit."
The U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Honor was established in 1952. It is hosted at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, which also hosts the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Honor.
The Ranger of Hall of Fame features a digital kiosk with over 200 biographies and portraits of inductees.
The 75th Ranger Regiment has been credited with numerous campaigns from World War II onwards. In World War II, they participated in 16 major campaigns, spearheading the campaigns in French Morocco, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio and Leyte. During the Vietnam War, they received campaign participation streamers for every campaign in the war.
In modern times, the regiment received streamers with arrowheads (denoting conflicts they spearheaded) for Grenada and Panama.
To date, the Rangers have earned six Presidential Unit Citations, nine Valorous Unit Awards, and four Meritorious Unit Commendations, the most recent of which were earned in Vietnam and Haditha, Iraq.