U.S. Army Ranger Battalion HQ/HQ Company (1944-45) 

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

 

The following was the organization of the Ranger Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters 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, 5th and 6th Ranger Battalions, as the 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalions were destroyed at Anzio.

 

The next level up was the Ranger Battalion, which consisted of an HQ and HQ Company (this), attached Medical, and 6 Ranger Companies.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Battalion Headquarters​

    • 1 Headquarters Company

    • 1 Medical Detachment

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

us army ranger battalion hhc-01.png

Organization (Feb. 1944 to Aug. 1945)

  • Type: Light Infantry Battalion HQ

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

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

  • Personnel: 8 Officers and 88 Enlisted + 12 Attached Medical

-------------------

Battalion Headquarters (7 Officers)

  • 1× Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Battalion Executive Officer/S-3 (Operations), Major (OF-3), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Assistant Battalion S-3 (Operations), First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Battalion S-2 (Intelligence), Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Battalion S-4 (Logistics), Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Battalion S-1 (Personnel), First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Communication Officer, First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

Headquarters Company (1 Officer, 88 Enlisted)

 

1× Staff Platoon (1 Officer, 66 Enlisted)

​→ Administrative and Personnel Section (1 Officer, 28 Enlisted)

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain (OF-1), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Battalion Sergeant Major, Master Sergeant (OR-8), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Company First Sergeant, First Sergeant (OR-8), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Mess Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Personnel Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Clerk, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Personnel Clerk, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Clerk-Typists, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Clerk-Typists, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Mail Clerk, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 5× Cooks, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 5× Cooks, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 5× Cooks, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Messengers, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

​→ Intelligence and Operations Section (7 Enlisted)

  • 1× Intelligence Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Operations Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Draftsman, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Clerk-Typists, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Messengers, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol
     

  • Additional Equipment:

    • 2× Bazookas (after July 1944) or 1× Bazooka (before July 1944)

    • 1× Boys .55 cal Anti-Tank Rifle (before July 1944 only)

​→ Supply and Maintenance Section (31 Enlisted)

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Motor Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Ammunition Supply Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Ration Supply Sergeant, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Motorcycle Messenger, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Motorcycle Messenger, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Motorcycle Messengers, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 3× Motorcycle Messengers, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Armorers, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Auto Mechanic, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Clerk-Typist, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Mail Clerk, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 4× Light Truck Drivers, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol

  • 10× Light Truck Drivers, Private (OR-1) or Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Rifle and M1911A1 Pistol
     

  • Additional Equipment:

    • 2× Bazookas (after July 1944) or 1× Bazooka (before July 1944)

    • 1× Boys .55 cal Anti-Tank Rifle (before July 1944 only)

  • Vehicles:

    • 1× 3/4-ton 4x4 C&R truck (e.g. Dodge WC series)*

    • 4× 3/4-ton 4x4 WC trucks (e.g. Dodge WC series)**

    • 9× 1/4-ton truck (Jeeps)***

    • 7× Motorcycles
      * Battalion Commander rode in the 3/4-ton C&R truck
      ** One WC truck carries ammo/spare weapons; one carries gas/oil; and two carry rations and the field kitchen
      *** One Jeep supports each company (1 for HQ Company and 6 Ranger Companies). Two Jeeps were in reserve

  • Battalion Spare Weapons Pool:

    • 6× Bazookas (after July 1944 only)

    • 6× Boys .55 cal Anti-Tank Rifles (before July 1944 only)

    • 6× 60mm Mortars

    • 6× 81mm Mortars

    • 20× Thompson Submachine Guns

1× Communication Platoon (22 Enlisted)

  • 1× Communication Chief, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 2× Communication Assistants, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 1× Radio Repairman, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 6× Radio Operators, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

  • 12× Radio Operators, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1911A1 Pistol

Medical Detachment, Attached (1 Officer, 11 Enlisted)

  • 1× Medical Officer, Captain (OF-2) or First Lieutenant (OF-1)

  • 1× Medical Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6)

  • 1× Medical Corporal, Corporal (OR-5)

  • 1× Medical Technician, Private First Class (OR-2)

  • 1× Surgical Technician, Technician 3rd Grade (OR-6)

  • 1× Surgical Technician/Company Aidman*, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5)

  • 3× Surgical Technician/Company Aidmen*, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4)

  • 3× Surgical Technician/Company Aidmen*, Private First Class (OR-2)

* One aidman per company (HQ Company + 6 Ranger Companies)

 
 

Discussion

The Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the Ranger Battalion contained all of the battalion's administrative and support personnel. The Rangers were envisioned as an elite amphibious raiding force in the same vein as the British Army Commandos. They would land ahead of the main body of an amphibious assault to seize objectives or destroy key infrastructure in support of amphibious operations or as independent missions. Take Operation Torch where the 1st Rangers took out Vichy French batteries at Arzew, Algeria bearing down on the landing beaches at Oran or Operation Overlord where the 2nd Rangers scaled the cliffs at Pointe-du-Hoc to eliminate artillery batteries that could have targeted Omaha Beach.

 

The Ranger Companies themselves were very lean outfits with no support/rear echelon personnel other than a company clerk and the company leadership. The battalion, whose size was determined by how many LCAs (Landing Craft, Assault) it'd take to ferry them to shore (about 12-15 for the entire battalion or 2 per company), kept a pretty lean battalion HQ in kind. It lacked the Anti-Tank Platoon of the conventional Infantry Battalion that was outfitted with 57mm anti-tank guns, although 75mm self-propelled guns were sometimes used by the battalions in Italy before the purview of this article. For the most part, the personnel of the administrative, supply and motor transport sections of the Headquarters Company would not land with the battalion during operations. These men would either be follow on forces or left back at garrison. Ideally the only men who would see combat would be the Company Aidmen in the battalion's Medical Detachment, although the intelligence/operations and supply/maintenance sections were armed with a Bazooka and Anti-Tank Rifle (just 2 Bazookas after July 1944) for self-defense.

Another difference was every man in the Rangers' HQ and HQ Company, aside from attached medical, were authorized pistols even if they were also authorized rifles. Elsewhere in the infantry the carbine had replaced the pistol for most applications other than for field grade officers, but not in the Rangers officially, although in practice the carbine did replace some pistols.

The Battalion Headquarters was the command element of the battalion, consisting of the commanding officer—a Lieutenant Colonel—and 6 staff officers. The Rangers were distinct from the regular infantry battalion in that the Rangers had a Battalion S-4 (Logistics), whereas the infantry battalion did not. The Infantry Regiment had a Regimental S-4 housed in its Service Company, but as the Ranger Battalions were essentially independent light infantry battalions, independent logistics staff was necessary.

The Staff Platoon housed the personnel, mess, intelligence, supply and motor transport sections of the battalion as a subunit of the Headquarters Company. The Company Commander along with the Battalion Sergeant Major (a Master Sergeant, as opposed to the typical Technical Sergeant of the Infantry Battalion) and the company's First Sergeant were housed in the Administrative and Personnel Section of this platoon. The Supply and Motor Transport Section of the platoon maintained the battalion's allotment of vehicles and its spare weapons tool. Among its vehicles there was a 3/4-ton C&R truck for the Battalion Commander's use and four 3/4-ton WC trucks for ammunition, fuel, rations and the field kitchen. One Jeep was allotted to each company (1 for the Headquarters Company and 6 for the Ranger Companies) with an additional 2 in reserve. These Jeeps were presumably used by the companies' respective Company Commanders. There were also 7 motorcycles for the section's motorcycle messengers—enough for the battalion commander to send a motorcycle messenger to every company simultaneously.

In terms of spare weapons, the Supply and Motor Transport section had a variety of anti-tank, specialist and indirect fire weapons that could be issued to Ranger Companies as needed depending on mission requirements. This was perhaps to compensate for the leanness of the organization and to give the battalion commander the flexibility of armaments that was becoming of a special force. The battalion had six 81mm mortars (what would be in an Infantry Battalion's Weapons Company), six 60mm mortars (what would be in an Infantry Rifle Company's Weapons Platoon), 6 Boys .55 cal Anti-Tank Rifles (before July 1944) or 6 Bazooka Rocket Launchers (after July 1944) for anti-tank defense, and 20 submachine guns. After D-day the Bazooka completely replaced the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle, which by that point was not effective in the anti-armor role. Although the 81mm mortars in particular were probably too heavy to be used in speedy raiding operations, the added firepower was useful if the battalion was involved in prolonged ground fighting, which happened as they were often misused as light infantry during follow-up operations. In some cases a Ranger Company would be used to man the 81mm mortars in support of other companies that were assaulting fortified positions. Additionally, if the M1919A4 light machine guns authorized to each of the Ranger Companies' Assault Sections were substituted with M1918A2 BARs, as they often were, it would be likely that the M1919A4s were added to the weapons pool.

The Communication Platoon was the signals element for the battalion housed in the Headquarters Company, providing a long-range radio capability to the battalion via 6 SCR-284 radios meant for use from fixed ground positions or vehicles and 2 SCR-536 "handie-talkie" radios per company. The platoon would also operate any telephone switchboards as needed. The platoon was led by the Communication Chief, a Technical Sergeant—a rank typically belonging to platoon sergeants—and incorporated 2 Communication Assistants (Corporals), a Radio Repairman and 18 Radio Operators.

The Medical Detachment provided the battalion with a small aid station and a complement of one company aidman (combat medics) per company. 

This is the organization that would have been effective from February 1944 to August 1945, including D-Day. There was a TO&E change in August 1945 shortly before the Ranger Battalions were disbanded entirely in December 1945.

 

Sources

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

      - Marcus Aurelius

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