BIRTH OF THE
With the onset of World War Two,
Ranger battalions were being formed
and were to have the same specialized
training as British Commandos in
guerrilla warfare. The task of training
these new men fell on Major General
Lucian Truscott. Truscott felt that this
new unit deserved a name different
from that of the British "commandos".
He chose Rangers after the famous
Roger's Rangers of the French and
Indian War in 1756. Rogers Rangers
were skilled frontiersmen and excellent
As would be Darby's Rangers.
|Information collected and reviewed for accuracy by 2ndRangerBattalion.org 2010
|"These are the
Pointe du Hoc.
the men who
took the cliffs.
These are the
who helped free
These are the
helped end a
William Orlando Darby (9 February 1911 - 30 April
1945) was an officer in the United States Army during
World War II. Darby led the famous Darby's Rangers
which evolved into the US Army Rangers.
Arkansas on 9 February 1911. He graduated from the
United States Military Academy in 1933 as a cadet
company commander ranking 177 out of 346, and was
commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in Field Artillery.
Lieutenant Darby was assigned to the 1st Battalion,
82nd Field Artillery of the 1st Cavalry Division - the only
horse mounted artillery unit remaining in the Army.
Darby Was promoted to the rank of captain on 1
October 1940. He received Amphibious Training
Assignment, and in early 1941 he participated in
amphibious training in Puerto Rico and North Carolina.
In late November, Darby received orders to ship out to
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, but the Japanese Attack on the
Hawaiian Islands changed his assignment to personal
aide for Major General Russell P. Hartle.
Lt Colonel Darby was in charge of training the newly established 1st Ranger Battalion, and
would later oversee the formation of the 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions as well. Having
completed their training, these new Rangers were originally intended to be folded back into
regular Army units. The idea being, these new breed of men would share their training and
knowledge among the regular GIs for the anticipated invasion of occupied France. The
Rangers were never used in this way, and were instead formed into independent combat
Darby was eventually promoted to the rank of colonel, and led the 1st Ranger Battalion into
combat in North Africa, Sicily, and Anzio. Darby returned to the US after the destruction of the
1st and 3rd battalions at Cisterna.
Darby was killed by an 88mm artillery fragment on 30
April 1945 while attached to the US 10th Mountain
Division near Torbole, Italy. Darby was posthumously
awarded the rank of Brigadier General and is buried at
Fort Smith National Cemetery. Only days short of V-E
(Victory in Europe) Day, the timing of his death was
The day before Darby was killed, Mussolini had been
slain by Italian partisans in Milan and Generaloberst
Heinrich Gottfried von Vietinghoff had agreed to
surrender unconditionally all German forces in Italy
effective at noon on 2 May. Furthermore, on the day of
Darby's death, his name appeared on a list of
nominees for promotion to brigadier general being
submitted to President Truman. On 2 May, Secretary of
War Henry L. Stimson recommended to the President
that, in view of Darby's outstanding combat record, his
name remain on the list and that he be promoted
posthumously. Truman agreed and on 15 May 1945,
slightly more than three months after his thirty-fourth
birthday, Darby was promoted to brigadier general.
He was the only US Army officer to be posthumously
promoted to star rank during the war.
The 2nd Ranger Battalion was formed on 1 April 1943
at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. In command would be
Major James Earl Rudder.
Along with the 5th Ranger Battalion, the 2nd Rangers participated in the D-Day assault
on 6 June 1944, as well as the campaigns in Northern France, the Rhineland, Central
Europe, and Ardennes-Alsace. The 2nd Rangers Battalion earned a Presidential Unit
Citation and French Croix de Guerre with Silver-Gilt Star for the assault of Pointe du Hoc
and on Omaha Beach.
2nd RANGER BATTALION
James Earl Rudder (May 6, 1910 – March 23, 1970)
was a United States Army Major General, Texas Land
Commissioner, and President of Texas A&M University.
Rudder, holding the rank of Major, was the hero of
D-Day as Commander of the United States Army's
2nd Ranger Battalion.
Rudder himself was wounded twice during the course of the fighting. In spite of this, they
dug in and fought off German counter-attacks for two days until relieved. He and his men
helped to successfully establish a beachhead for the Allied forces.
Six months later, Rudder was assigned to command the 109th Infantry Regiment, which
saw key service in the Battle of the Bulge. Rudder became one of the most decorated
soldiers of the war, with honors that included the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of
Merit, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf
Cluster, French Legion of Honor with Croix de Guerre and Palm, and Belgian Order of
Leopold with Croix de Guerre and Palm. By the end of the war, he was a full Colonel and
was promoted to Brigadier General of the United States Army Reserves in 1954 and Major
General in 1957.
On June 6, 1944 Dog, Easy and Fox companies were landed at Pointe du Hoc
from Landing craft operated by the Royal Navy. During the attack, 225 men scaled
the cliffs, however only 90 of them were still standing after two days of relentless
fighting. They managed to disable the German artillery, paving the way for the
invasion of France.
Meanwhile Able, Baker and Charlie companies landed along with the 5th
Rangers, the 1st Infantry Division and the 29th Infantry Division at Omaha Beach.
They suffered heavy casualties but were still able to complete their D-Day
Pointe du Hoc (often spelled as its Parisian French name "Pointe du Hoe" in
official Army documents) is best known for the assault made on it by the US Army
Rangers during the World War II Normandy landings, June 6, 1944. The
Germans had built, as part of the Atlantic Wall, six casements to house a battery
of captured French 155mm guns. With Pointe Du Hoc situated between Utah
Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east, these guns threatened Allied
landings on both beaches, risking heavy casualties in the landing forces.
Although there were several bombardments, which consisted of more total
firepower than the atomic bomb Little Boy, from the air and by naval guns,
intelligence reports assumed that the fortifications were too strong, and would
also require attack by ground forces. The US 2nd Ranger Battalion was therefore
given the task of destroying the strongpoint early on D-Day.
Prior to the attack the guns were moved approximately 1 mile away. However, the
concrete fortification was intact and would still present a major threat to the
landings if they were occupied by artillery forward observers. The Ranger
Battalion commanders and executive officers knew the guns had moved, but the
rest of the Rangers were not informed prior to the attack. The myth that the guns
were 'missing' on D-Day may be attributed to this decision not to inform the
troops prior to the attack.
The plan called for Companies Dog, Easy, and Fox of the 2nd Rangers to be
landed by sea in British LCAs (they had trained with these instead of Higgins
boats). The companies were to land at the foot of the cliffs, scale them using
ropes, ladders, and grapples under enemy fire, and engage the enemy at the top
of the cliff. This was to be carried out before the main landings. The Rangers
trained for the cliff assault on the Isle of Wight, under the direction of British
Commandos, and participated in Fabius-7, the full scale pre-invasion exercise
in May 1944 off the English coast.
Ten British LCA's would be sufficient to boat the three small Ranger companies
and HQ party, including signal and medical personnel, with an average of 21-22
men on a craft. Two supply boats (LCA's) would come in a few minutes after the
assault wave, with packs, extra rations and ammunition, two 81 -mm mortars,
demolitions, and equipment for hauling supplies up the cliff. Eight miles off
shore LCA 860, carrying Capt. Harold K. Slater and 20 men of Company D,
swamped in the 4-foot choppy waves. They were picked up by rescue craft and
carried to England, eventually to rejoin their unit. Ten minutes later one of the
supply craft sank, with only one survivor. The other supply craft was soon in
trouble and had to jettison all the packs of Companies D and E in order to stay
afloat. Therefore, nine LCAs and one supply LCA made it ashore, with packs only
for F Company.
H-Hour was 0630 hours on the morning of June 6, 1944. Companies D, E, and F
due to navigation error, landed at 0710 hours. By 0700, if no message or signal
had come, Colonel Schneider's 5th Ranger force was scheduled to adopt the
alternate plan of action and land at the Vierville beach. They waited ten minutes
beyond the time limit and then received by radio the code word TILT, prearranged
signal to follow the alternative plan. So Colonel Schneider turned in toward
Vierville, where the 5th Rangers and A and B of the 2nd Rangers landed at 0745.
Pending the outcome at Omaha Beach, and the success of Colonel Schneider's
force in fighting cross country to the Point, Colonel Rudder's three companies
would fight alone.
Despite initial setbacks due to weather and navigational problems, resulting in a
40-minute delay and loss of surprise, the cliffs were scaled and the strongpoint
was assaulted successfully within ten minutes, with relatively light casualties.
Fire support was provided during the attack by several nearby Allied destroyers.
Upon reaching the fortifications, most of the Rangers learned for the first time
that the main objective of the assault, the artillery battery, had been moved out of
position, possibly as a result of air attacks during the buildup to the invasion. It is
said that German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel himself gave the order to move
the battery as he had recently been placed in charge of the coastal defenses of
Removal of the guns had actually been completed on June 4, 1944, and poor
weather conditions prior to the invasion limited a final reconnaissance effort
which would have revealed the guns' removal, and the cannons and their initial
placements were replaced with wooden beams and camouflage nets to fool
reconnaissance. The Rangers regrouped at the top of the cliffs, and a small
patrol went off in search of the guns. This patrol found the guns in a nearby grove
and destroyed five 155 coastal guns by 0830 hours with thermite grenades. The
new battery location inland was sighted solely for Utah beach.
The costliest part of the battle for the Rangers came after the cliff assault.
Determined to hold the vital ground, yet isolated from other assault forces, they
fended off several German counterattacks over the next two days, until reinforced
from Omaha Beach. The original plans called for an additional, larger Ranger
force of eight companies to follow the first attack, if successful. Flares from the
clifftops were to signal this second wave to join the attack, but because of the
delayed landing, the signal came too late, and the 2nd Ranger Companies A, B,
and C, along with most of the US 5th Ranger Battalion, landed on Omaha
instead of Pointe du Hoc.
At the end of the 2-day action, the landing force of 225+ was reduced to about 90
men who could still fight.
In September 1944, the 2nd Rangers were attached to the 8th Infantry Division to assist in clearing
out the German resistance on the Crozon Peninsula. After accomplishing other objectives and
rescuing 400 American prisoners, the battalion left for Landerneau, France
Battle of the Huertgen Forest
In November, 1944 the 2nd Rangers were moved into the Huertgen Forest and on into
Germany's Brandenburg area. When Rudder complained to higher headquarters about
the misuse of his Rangers as a regular infantry force, he received orders to move the
battalion to the outskirts of Bergstein and assault Hill 400, also known as Castle Hill.
Troops and tanks of the 5th Armored Division clung to a tenuous position in Bergstein
under heavy fire directed from Castle Hill, which commanded the village and
surrounding region. The hill was an icy, slippery hill 1,322 feet high and steep, laden with
numerous pill boxes and had the highest observation point in the Roer Valley for miles
around. Several attacks against the German offensive on the hill had resulted in many
losses to the allied forces.
The Rangers were told to attack and hold Hill 400 for 24 hours or until duely relieved.
On December 7th, D and F Companies launched an assault on Hill 400 at 0730. After
a Ranger patrol reconnoitered the height in the predawn darkness, one company took
position to provide fire support, while two others charged up the slope. Catching the
Germans by surprise, the Rangers seized control of the crest and captured twenty-eight
prisoners with only light losses. Almost immediately, however, they were hit by enemy
shellfire and two counterattacks. By late afternoon only twenty-five Rangers remained on
top of the hill. A bloody battle with heavy casualties proceeded, but on December 9th the
2nd Rangers, still fighting, were successfully relieved.
The Rangers did not rest long after Hill 400, as they were immediately sent to defensive
positions on the left flank during the "Battle of the Bulge". Here they maintained a front
line until Mid January 1945, at which time the Allied forces penetrated the German
Offensive. Replacements for the Rangers arrived soon after and were trained by
veterans amidst snow and below-freezing temperatures.
The Ardennes Offensive was completely halted by mid-January 1945, and in early
February, American forces attacked through the Huertgen Forest for the final time. On 10
February, the Schwammenauel Dam was taken by American forces, removing the threat
of the Germans flooding the forest. This marked the end of the Battle of Huertgen Forest.
The 2nd Ranger Battalion was inactivated on October 23, 1945 at Camp Patrick Henry in
The entire history of the 2nd Rangers of World War Two is far too extensive to be covered
here in these pages. A highly recommended source for additional information
concerning all of the Ranger units are the books written by Robert W. Black, Rangers In
World War II, and the Battalion. The books are published by Ballantine Publishing
Group. For a detailed account of the original Rangers, we recommend the
Spearheaders by James Altieri. And for 2nd Ranger Battalion specifically, we suggest
Ronald L. Lane's Rudder's Rangers .