Military Organization > United States > ​U.S. Army Ranger Company (1944-1945)

U.S. Army Ranger Company (1944-1945)

 

The following was the organization of the Ranger Company of the U.S. Army from February 1944 to August 1945. This is the organization that would have been effective during D-Day and through the end of the fighting during World War II. This primarily applied to the newer 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions, as the 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalions (Darby's Rangers) were destroyed at Anzio.

 

The next level up was the Ranger Battalion, which consisted of an HQ and HQ Company, attached Medical, and 6 of these Ranger Companies (albeit at a much lower overall size each than a standard infantry rifle company).

Contents:

  1. Organization

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

Organization (Feb. 1944 to Aug. 1945)

  • Type: Light Infantry Company

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Time Frame (Battles): Normandy, Brest, Hurtgen Forest

  • Personnel: 3 Officers and 65 Enlisted

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Company Headquarters (1 Officer and 3 Enlisted)

  • 1× Commanding Officer, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 M1A1 submachine gun*

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant (OR-8), armed with 1 M1A1 submachine gun*and 1 M1911 pistol

  • 1× Clerk, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Messenger, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

*One of the company headquarters' submachine guns were to be replaced with an M1 Carbine.

2× Ranger Platoons (1 Officer and 30 Enlisted each) 

​→ Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer and 3 Enlisted)

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second or First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1A1 submachine gun*

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1A1 submachine gun* and 1 M1911 pistol

  • 1× Messenger, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Sniper, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1903A4 sniper rifle
     

​→ 2× Assault Sections (11 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Section Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Rifle Squad

    • 1× Squad Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • 4× Riflemen, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

  • 1× Light Machine Gun Squad

    • 1× Squad Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

    • 1× Gunner, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1919A4 machine gun** and 1 M1911 pistol

    • 1× Assistant Gunner, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1911 pistol

    • 2× Ammo Carriers, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

​→ 1× Special Weapons Section (6 Enlisted)

  • 1× Section Leader, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Rifle

  • 1× Assistant Section Leader, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 Boys .55 cal anti-tank rifle or 1 Bazooka (only Bazooka after July 1944)*** and 1 M1911 pistol

  • 1× Mortar Gunner, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 60mm mortar and 1 M1911 pistol

  • 1× Assistant Mortar Gunner, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1911 pistol

  • 2× Ammo Carriers, Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle each

*One of the platoon headquarters' submachine guns were to be replaced with an M1 Carbine.

**Flexible. In the field, the M1919A4 was sometimes substituted with the BAR.

***As of February 1944, the special weapons section had 1 Bazooka and 1 Anti-Tank Rifle. After July 1944, the Anti-Tank Rifle was replaced by a second bazooka. The Anti-Tank Rifle or second Bazooka would have been considered a spare weapon available to the platoon.

 
 

Discussion

The U.S. Army Rangers were, at least in theory, intended to be a special amphibious raiding force in the same vein as the British Commandos and U.S. Marine Raiders. On the western front, this speciality was rarely exploited after the D-Day landings, although the 6th Rangers were more properly used in the Philippines. This organization applies to a newer cadre of Rangers formed in 1943, taking effect in February 1944 after Darby's Rangers (1st, 3rd and 4th Rangers) were destroyed in Italy.

The Ranger Company was significantly leaner than the standard infantry Rifle Company at 28% the size (as of mid-1945). The Company Headquarters lacked the mess section, basic duty riflemen and supply/maintenance personnel. Rather, it had perhaps the minimum a Company Headquarters could have: the company commander (with no executive officer), first sergeant, clerk and single messenger. Like in the parachute infantry Rifle Companies, the rangers did not have a dedicated weapons platoon. Rather, weapons like the M1919A4 machine gun, 60mm mortars, Bazooka and, before July 1944, the Boys anti-tank rifle were issued at the platoon level.

 

The Ranger Platoons had a slightly unconventional 2 Assault Section and 1 Special Weapons Section set up. At a glance this was significantly different from the 3 Rifle Squads of a standard infantry Rifle Platoon. However, the Assault Sections were more or less similar to the standard rifle squads except with the M1919 (like the paratroopers) and dedicated assault (Rifle Squad) and elements (LMG Squad) leaders. This method of command and control was superior to that of the standard rifle squad which, despite also having 1 automatic weapon on paper, was more of a single blob of soldiers rather than 2 distinct teams. Towards the end of the war the Able, Baker, Charley team system came around for the regular infantry, but the 1946 Infantry Conference found that these types of squad subdivisions were not often used and when they were, they were ineffective.

Albeit heftier than the standard M1918A2 BAR (and with a more awkward means of carrying the ammo supply, if not lighter overall per round) the M1919A4 provided a squad with much more firepower than a BAR which was probably one of the least capable automatic rifles of the war among the major powers. Even so, M1919s were still sometimes substituted with BARs in the field and there is photographic evidence that this occurred. But, if this was done, the Ranger Company's overall automatic firepower would decrease substantially as it did not have a dedicated weapons platoon with M1919A4s as the regular infantry companies had. At the same time, and this is mostly conjecture on our part, a BAR would probably be easier to sling and hump when scaling the cliffs and buffs on D-Day.

Like the paratroopers, Ranger Platoons had their own mortar in the Special Weapons Section. However, the paratroopers who held their Bazookas in their platoon headquarters, the Rangers had a Bazooka carried by the assistant section leader as well, in addition to a spare Bazooka. Prior to July 1944, the Special Weapons Section had 1 Bazooka and 1 Boys Anti-Tank Rifle. After July 1944, the anti-tank rifle was replaced with another Bazooka. One of these 2 anti-tank weapons would have been considered a spare weapon held in reserve.

 

The assistant section leader of the Special Weapons Section, mortar gunner, assistant mortar gunner, machine gunner, assistant machine gunner, first sergeant, and platoon sergeants were were all armed with pistols. Although not explicitly stated in the TO&E, officers were in practice often be armed with pistols, as well as other Rangers in the company.

Another difference was the presence of a dedicated sniper the platoon headquarters of Ranger Platoons. In standard infantry and the airborne, the Platoon HQ held an M1903A4 (although ideally an M1C) that could be issued out to the best shot in the platoon. In the Rangers, the sniper was a fixed billet.

The Rangers retained this company organization through the end of the war in Europe shortly before the end of the war in the Pacific. There were minor changes in August 1944, but the basic structure of the company and platoons remained the same. The Ranger Company organization would not change substantially until October 1950 during the Korean War.

On D-Day

Each Ranger Battalion had 6 Ranger Companies, compared to standard infantry battalions which had 3 of the much larger rifle companies. On D-Day, Companies D, E and F of the 2nd Rangers came ashore at Point-du-Hoc as part of Task Force A. Company C of the 2nd Rangers came ashore at Charlie Sector of Omaha Beach as Task Force B and was the first unit to break through at Omaha (albeit after taking 50% casualties). Company A and B of the 2nd Rangers and the entirety of the 5th Rangers landed at Omaha Beach later as Task Force C under their contingency plan. Task Force C was intended to land at Point-du-Hoc when they received the codeword "Tilt" from Task Force A. Although this codeword was actually sent, it was not received, and Task Force C landed at Omaha with the intention of proceeding overland to Point-du-Hoc.

 

One Ranger Company could be carried to shore by 2 Landing Craft Assault (LCAs), each with a capacity of about 36 men. Charlie Company of the 2nd Ranger Battalion came ashore at Charlie Sector on the right flank of Dog Green—where Able Company, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division was destroyed in the first wave—in LCA 418 and LCA 1038.

Summary of Changes (from Sep. 1942)

  • In the Company Headquarters, the Messenger (SMG armed) was rearmed with a rifle. The company clerk was reduced from a Sergeant to a Corporal. The Company Commander and First Sergeant were rearmed with submachine guns.

  • In line with the rest of the Army, Section Leaders were increased in rank from Sergeants to Staff Sergeants. Assistant Section Leaders (and Squad Leaders) were increased in rank from Corporal to Sergeant.

  • The Mortar Section in the Company Headquarters was dissolved with the mortars being moved to the Special Weapons Sections of the Assault Platoons.

  • The Platoon Leaders and Platoon Sergeants were rearmed with submachine guns.

  • The M1918A2 BAR in the Light Machine Gun Squad was replaced by an M1919A4 machine gun.

 
 
 

Sources
 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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