Ranger History

The history of the American Ranger is a long and colorful saga of courage, daring and outstanding leadership. It is a story of men whose skills in the art of fighting have seldom been surpassed. Only the highlights of their numerous exploits are told here. Rangers primarily performed defensive missions until Benjamin Church's Company of Independent Rangers from Plymouth Colony proved successful in raiding hostile Indians during King Phillip's War in 1675. In 1756 Major Robert Rogers, a native of New Hampshire , recruited nine companies of American colonists to fight for the British during the French and Indian War. Ranger techniques and methods of operation were an inherent characteristic of the American frontiersmen; however, Major Rogers was the first to capitalize on them and incorporate them into the fighting doctrine of a permanently organized fighting force.

The method of fighting used by the first Rangers was further developed during the Revolutionary War by Colonel Daniel Morgan, who organized a unit known as “Morgan's Riflemen”. According to General Burgoyne, Morgan's men were “….the most famous corps of the Continental Army, all of them crack shots.” Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox”, organized another famous Revolutionary War Ranger element known as “ Marion 's Partisans”. Marion 's Partisans, numbering anywhere from a handful to several hundred, operated both with and independent of other elements of General Washington's Army. Operating out of the Carolina swamps, they disrupted British communications and prevented the organization of loyalists to support the British cause, substantially contributing to the American victory.

The American Civil War was again the occasion for the creation of special units such as Rangers. John S. Mosby, a master of the prompt and skillful use of cavalry, was one of the most outstanding Confederate Rangers.He believed that by resorting to aggressive action he could compel his enemies to guard 100 points. He would then attack one of the weakest points and be assured numerical superiority.

With America 's entry into the Second World War, Rangers came forth to add to the pages of history. Major William O. Darby organized and activated the 1st Ranger Battalion on June19, 1942 at Carrickfergus, North Ireland . The members were all handpicked volunteers; 50 participated in the gallant Dieppe Raid on the northern coast of France with British and Canadian commandos. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Ranger Battalions participated with distinction in the North African, Sicilian and Italian campaigns. Darby's Ranger Battalions spearheaded the Seventh Army landing at Gela and Licata during the Sicilian invasion and played a key role in the subsequent campaign, which culminated in the capture of Messina. They infiltrated German lines and mounted an attack against Cisterna, where they virtually annihilated an entire German parachute regiment during close in, night, bayonet and hand-to-hand fighting. The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions participated in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach, Normandy; it was during the bitter fighting along the beach that the Rangers gained their official motto. As the situation became critical on Omaha Beach , the division commander of the 29th Infantry Division stated that the entire force must clear the beach and advance inland. He then turned to Lieutenant Colonel Max Schneider, Commander of the 5th Ranger Battalion, and said, “Rangers, lead the way.” The 5th Ranger Battalion spearheaded the breakthrough and thus enabled the allies to drive inland away from the invasion beaches.

The 6th Ranger Battalion, operating in the Pacific, conducted Ranger type missions behind enemy lines which involved reconnaissance and hard-hitting, long-range raids. They were the first American contingent to return to the Philippines, destroying key coastal installations prior to the invasion. A reinforced company from the 6th Ranger Battalion formed the rescue force which liberated American and allied prisoners of war from the Japanese prison camp at Cabanatuan.

Another Ranger-type unit was the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), organized and trained as a long-range penetration unit for employment behind enemy lines in Japanese occupied Burma. The unit commander was Brigadier General (later Major General) Frank D. Merrill, its 2,997 officers and men became popularly known as “Merrill's Marauders”.

The men composing Merrill's Marauders were volunteers from the 5th, 154th, and 33rd Infantry Regiments and from other Infantry regiments engaged in combat in the southwest and South Pacific. These men responded to a call from then Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, for volunteers for a hazardous mission. These volunteers were to have a high state of physical ruggedness and stamina and were to come from jungle-trained and jungle-tested units.

Prior to their entry into the Northern Burma Campaign, Merrill's Marauders trained in India under the overall supervision of Major General Orde C. Wingate, British Army. There, they were trained from February to June 1943 in long-range penetration tactics and techniques of the type developed and first employed by General Wingate. The operations of the Marauders were closely coordinated with those of the Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions in a drive to recover northern Burma and clear the way for the construction of Ledo Road , which was to link the Indian railhead at Ledo with the old Burma Road to China . The Marauders marched and fought through jungle and over mountains from Hukwang Valley in northwest Burma to Myitkyina and the Irrawaddy River. In 5 major and 30 minor engagements, they met and defeated the veteran soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division. Operating in the rear of the main force of the Japanese, they prepared the way for the southward advances of the Chinese by disorganizing supply lines and communications. The climax of the Marauder's operations was the capture of Myitkyina Airfield, the only all-weather strip in northern Burma. This was the final victory of “Merrill's Marauders” which was disbanded in August 1944. Remaining personnel were consolidated into the 475th Infantry Regiment, which fought its last battle February 3-4,1945 at Loi-Kang Ridge, China. This Infantry Regiment would serve as the forefather of today's 75th Ranger Regiment.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the 8th Army Ranger Company was formed of volunteers from American units in Japan. The Company was trained in Korea and distinguished itself in combat during the drive to the Yalu River, performing task force and spearhead operations. In November 1950 during the massive Chinese intervention, this small unit, though vastly outnumbered, withstood five enemy assaults on its position.

In September 1950, a Department of the Army message called for volunteers to be trained as Airborne Rangers. In the 82nd Airborne Division, five thousand regular Army paratroopers volunteered, and from that number nine hundred men were selected to form the initial eight Airborne Ranger Companies. An additional nine companies were formed from volunteers of regular Army and National Guard Infantry Divisions. These seventeen Airborne Ranger companies were activated and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, with most receiving additional training in the mountains of Colorado.

In 1950 and 1951, some 700 men of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th Airborne Ranger companies fought to the front of every American Infantry Division in Korea. Attacking by land, water, and air, these six Ranger companies conducted raids, deep penetrations and ambush operations against North Korean and Chinese forces. They were the first Rangers in history to make a combat jump. After the Chinese intervention, these Rangers were the first Americans to re-cross the 38th parallel. The 2nd Airborne Ranger Company was the only African American Ranger unit in the history of the American Army. The men of the six Ranger companies who fought in Korea paid the bloody price of freedom. One in nine of this gallant brotherhood died on the battlefields of Korea. Other Airborne Ranger companies led the way while serving with infantry divisions in the United States, Germany and Japan. Men of these companies volunteered and fought as members of line infantry units in Korea. One Ranger, Donn Porter, would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Fourteen Korean War Rangers became general officers and dozens became colonels, senior noncommissioned officers and leaders in civilian life. They volunteered for the Army, the Airborne, the Rangers and for combat. The first men to earn and wear the coveted Ranger Tab, these men are the original Airborne Rangers.

In October 1951, the Army Chief of Staff, General J. Lawton Collins directed, “Ranger training be extended to all combat units in the Army.” The Commandant of the Infantry School was directed to establish a Ranger Department for the purpose of conducting a Ranger course of instruction. The overall objective of Ranger training was to raise the standard of training in all combat units. This program was built upon what had been learned from the Ranger Battalions of World War II and the Airborne Ranger companies of the Korean conflict.

During the Vietnam Conflict, fourteen Ranger companies consisting of highly motivated volunteers served with distinction from the Mekong Delta to the DMZ. Assigned to separate brigade, division and field force units, they conducted long-range reconnaissance and exploitation operations into enemy-held areas providing valuable combat intelligence. Initially designated at LRRP, then LRP companies, these units were later designated as C, D,E,F,G,H,I,K,L,M,N,O and P (Ranger) 75th Infantry. Following Vietnam, recognizing the need for a highly trained and highly mobile reaction force, the Army Chief of Staff, General Abrams directed the activation of the first battalion-sized Ranger units since World War II, the 1st and 2nd Battalions (Ranger), 75th Infantry. The 1st Battalion was trained at Fort Benning, Ga., and was activated February 8, 1974 at Fort Stewart, Ga., with the 2nd Battalion being activated on October 3, 1974. The 1st Battalion is now located at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., and the 2nd Battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash.

The farsightedness of General Abrams' decision, as well as the combat effectiveness of the Ranger battalions, was proven during the United States ' invasion of the island of Grenada in October 1983 to protect American citizens there, and to restore democracy. As expected, Rangers led the way! During this operation, code named “Urgent Fury,” the Ranger battalions conducted a daring, low level airborne assault (from 500 feet) to seize the airfield at Point Salines, and then continued operations for several days to eliminate pockets of resistance, and rescue American medical students.

As a result of the demonstrated effectiveness of the Ranger battalions, the Department of the Army announced in 1984, that it was increasing the strength of Ranger units to its highest level in 40 years by activating another Ranger battalion, as well as a Ranger Regimental Headquarters. These new units, the 3rd Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, and Headquarters Company (Ranger) 75th Infantry, have increased the Ranger strength of the Army to over 2,000 soldiers actually assigned to Ranger units. On February 3, 1986, the 75th Infantry was re-designated the 75th Ranger Regiment.

On December 20,1989, the 75th Ranger Regiment was once again called upon to demonstrate its effectiveness in combat. For the first time since its reorganization in 1984, the Regimental Headquarters and all three Ranger battalions were deployed on Operation “Just Cause” in Panama. During this operation, the 75th Ranger Regiment spearheaded the assault into Panama by conducting airborne assaults onto Torrijos/Tocumen Airport and Rio Hato Airfield to facilitate the restoration of democracy in Panama, and protect the lives of American citizens. Between December 20, 1989 and January 7, 1990 , numerous follow-on missions were performed in Panama by the Regiment.

Early in 1991, elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm.

In August 1993 elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment deployed to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope, and returned November 1993. The performance of these Rangers significantly contributed to the overall success of these operations and upheld the Ranger tradition. As in the past, the Regiment stands ready to execute its mission to conduct special operations in support of the United States ' policies and objectives.

Ranger Medal Of Honor Recipients

Millett, Lewis L. Sr Captain Feb 7 1951 Co. E 2/27th Infantry
* Porter, Donn F. Sergeant Sept 7 1952 Co. G 2/14th Infantry
Mize, Ola L. Sergeant June 10-11 1953 Co. K 3/15th Infantry
Dolby, David C. Staff Sergeant May 21 1966 Co. B 1/8th (ABN) Calvary
Foley, Robert F. Captain Nov 5 1966 Co. A 2/27th Infantry
Zabitosky, Fred M. Staff Sergeant Feb 19 1968 5th Special Forces
Bucha, Paul W. Captain May 16-19 1968 Co. D 3/187 Infantry
* Rabel, Laszlo Staff Sergeant Nov 13 1968 74th Infantry (LRRP)
Howard, Robert L. Sergeant First Class Dec 30 1968 5th Special Forces
* Law, Robert D. Specialist 4 Feb 22 1969 Co. I 75th Infantry (Ranger)
Kerrey, J. Robert Lieutenant Mar 14 1969 Seal Team 1
* Doane, Stephen H. 1st Lieutenant Mar 25 1969 Co. B 1/5th Infantry
* Pruden, Robert J. Staff Sergeant Nov 22 1969 Co. G 75th Infantry (Ranger)
Littrell, Gary L. Sergeant First Class April 4-8 1970 Advisory Team 21 (Ranger)
* Lucas, Andre C. Lt Colonel Jul 1-23 1970 HHC 2/506 Infantry
* Gordon, Gary I. Master Sergeant Oct 3 1993 Task Force Ranger
* Shughart, Randall D. Sergeant First Class Oct 3 1993 Task Force Ranger

Standing Orders of Roger's Rangers

  1. Don't forget nothing.
  2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute's warning.
  3. When you're on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
  4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don't never lie to a Ranger or officer.
  5. Don't never take a chance you don't have to.
  6. When we're on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can't go through two men.
  7. If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it's hard to track us.
  8. When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
  9. When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
  10. If we take prisoners, we keep 'em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can't cook up a story between 'em.
  11. Don't ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won't be ambushed.
  12. No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on each flank, and 20 yards in the rear so the main body can't be surprised and wiped out.
  13. Every night you'll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
  14. Don't sit down to eat without posting sentries.
  15. Don't sleep beyond dawn. Dawn's when the French and Indians attack.
  16. Don't cross a river by a regular ford.
  17. If somebody's trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
  18. Don't stand up when the enemy's coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, hide behind a tree.
  19. Let the enemy come till he's almost close enough to touch, then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with your hatchet.

Major Robert Rogers 1759


The Ranger Course was conceived during the Korean War and was known as the Ranger Training Command. On 10 October 1951, the Ranger Training Command was inactivated and became the Ranger Department, a branch of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. Its purpose was, and still is, to develop combat skills of selected officers and enlisted men by requiring them to perform effectively as small unit leaders in a realistic tactical environment, under mental and physical stress approaching that found in actual combat. Emphasis is placed on the development of individual combat skills and abilities through the application of the principles of leadership while further developing military skills in the planning and conduct of dismounted infantry, airborne, airmobile, and amphibious independent squad and platoon-size operations. Graduates return to their units to pass on these skills.

From 1954 to the early 1970's, the Army's goal, though seldom achieved, was to have one Ranger qualified NCO per infantry platoon and one officer per company. In an effort to better achieve this goal, in 1954 the Army required all combat arms officers to become Ranger/ Airborne qualified.

The Ranger course has changed little since its inception. Until recently, it was an eight-week course divided into three phases. The course is now 61 days in duration and divided into three phases as follows:

BENNING PHASE (4th Ranger Training Battalion) – Designed to develop the military skills, physical and mental endurance, stamina, and confidence a small unit combat leader must have to successfully accomplish a mission. It also teaches the Ranger student to properly maintain himself, his subordinates and his equipment under difficult field conditions.

MOUNTAIN PHASE (5th Ranger Training Battalion) – The Ranger student gains proficiency in the fundamentals, principles and techniques of employing small combat units in a mountainous environment. He develops his ability to lead squad-sized units and to exercise control through planning, preparation, and execution phases of all types of combat operations, including ambushes and raids, plus environmental and survival techniques.

FLORIDA PHASE (6th Ranger Training Battalion) – Emphasis during this phase is to continue the development of combat leaders, capable of operating effectively under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress. The training further develops the student's ability to plan and lead small units on independent and coordinated airborne, air assault, amphibious, small boat, and dismounted combat operations in a mid-intensity combat environment against a well-trained, sophisticated enemy.


On 2 December 1987, on York Field, Fort Benning, Ga. , the Ranger Department, in accordance with permanent orders number 214-26, became the Ranger Training Brigade with an effective date of 1 November 1987. After 40 years and 23 Directors and Commanders, the Ranger Course is still dedicated to producing the finest trained soldier in the world…the United States Army Ranger!

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