Military Organization > United States > U.S. Army Ranger Battalion (1942-45)

 

U.S. Army Ranger Battalion (1942-45)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following is an overview of the organization of the U.S. Army Ranger Battalion from May 1942 to December 1945. The basic organization of the battalion, with 1 HQ & HQ Company and 6 Ranger Companies, maintained the same throughout the war, although the composition of these subunits changed from year to year.

Ranger Battalions were independent battalions, meant to be used for special raiding operations (particularly amphibious for the Army) sometimes put under the purview of division, corps and army command.

Contents:

  1. Organization

  2. Discussion

  3. Sources

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Organization (June 1942-Feb. 1944)

  • Type: Light Infantry Battalion

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Personnel: 26 Officers (including 1 attached medical) and 462 Enlisted (including 6 attached medical)

1× Headquarters and Headquarters Company (8 Officers, 69 Enlisted)

  • 1× Battalion Headquarters

  • 1× Headquarters​ Company

    • 1× Staff Platoon

    • 1× Communication Platoon

  • 1× Medical Detachment

 

6× Ranger Companies (3 Officers, 63 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Company Headquarters

  • 2× Ranger Platoon​s

    • 1× Platoon Headquarters​

    • 2× Assault Sections

    • 1× Special Weapons Section

 

Organization (Feb. 1944-Aug. 1945)

  • Type: Light Infantry Battalion

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Personnel: 27 Officers (including 1 attached medical) and 489 Enlisted (including 11 attached medical)

Below is the basic organization of the Battalion. For the in-depth details about the personnel, their ranks and equipment, and discussion on the subunits, click the blue links to the company-level pages.

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1× Headquarters and Headquarters Company (8 Officers, 99 Enlisted)

  • 1× Battalion Headquarters

  • 1× Headquarters​ Company

    • 1× Staff Platoon

    • 1× Communication Platoon

  • 1× Medical Detachment

 

6× Ranger Companies (3 Officers, 65 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Company Headquarters

  • 2× Ranger Platoon​s

    • 1× Platoon Headquarters​

    • 2× Assault Sections

    • 1× Special Weapons Section

 

Organization (Aug. 1945-Dec. 1945)

  • Type: Light Infantry Battalion

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Personnel: 27 Officers (including 1 attached medical) and 547 Enlisted (including 11 attached medical)

1× Headquarters and Headquarters Company (9 Officers, 103 Enlisted)

  • 1× Battalion Headquarters

  • 1× Headquarters​ Company

    • 1× Staff Platoon

    • 1× Communication Platoon

  • 1× Medical Detachment

 

6× Ranger Companies (3 Officers, 74 Enlisted each)

  • 1× Company Headquarters

  • 2× Ranger Platoon​s

    • 1× Platoon Headquarters​

    • 2× Assault Sections

    • 1× Special Weapons Section

 
 

Discussion

The Army Ranger Battalion was a independent light infantry battalion within the U.S. Army formed for the purpose of raiding and more sensitive amphibious operations, although they were employed under the one-off regiment-sized 6615th Ranger Force during the Battle of Anzio. Inspired by the successes of the British Army Commandos at the onset of World War II, the U.S. government demanded similar units that could act as special forces delivered amphibiously. The Marine Corps' answer were the Marine Raiders, while the U.S. Army's were the Rangers. In addition to the Commando mission of raiding, the Rangers could and would be employed in support of larger amphibious operations. Key examples were during Operation Torch and Operation Overlord where Ranger Battalions were used to destroy shore batteries that threatened main landing forces. Additionally, the Rangers gave the Army an opportunity to develop its amphibious doctrine—a tactic typically associated with the Marines who the Army wanted to keep out of Europe.

The structure of the Ranger Battalion closely mirrored the Army Commando, a battalion-sized formation. The British Commando had 5 Assault Troops (company-sized) while the Rangers had 6 Ranger Companies. Both the Commando Assault Troop and Ranger Company had 2 platoon-sized units, the Section and Ranger Platoon respectively. Each company was designed to be brought to shore in 2 LCAs (Landing Craft Assault), explaining the Ranger Company's incredibly bare Company HQ stripped of most non-combat personnel. Even down to the squad-level the Rangers had similar structures to the Commando with American flavor. The Ranger rifle squad-equivalent was the "Assault Section" made up of a Rifle Squad and Light Machine Gun Squad serving an M1919A4 or M1918A2. The personnel involved would be familiar to a regular infantryman, but the organization of those personnel was more similar in structure to the British Commando Sub-Section which consisted of a Rifle Group and Gun Group. The Ranger Battalion did not have a 3-inch mortar company like their British counterparts, but rather had 81mm mortars and 60mm mortars held in a battalion weapons pool to issue to Ranger Companies themselves depending on mission requirements. This both made the Ranger Companies more flexible while also not having to furnish permanent heavy weapons platoons that could hamper mobility and either made companies larger or siphoned personnel from assaulting platoons. The weapons pool concept was also a decidedly British practice at the time.

The Ranger Battalion was very "lean", with its maneuver elements—the Ranger Companies—being made up almost entirely of combat personnel. Each Ranger Company Headquarters only had 1 officer and 3 enlisted men versus the 2 officers and 33 enlisted men of a regular infantry Rifle Company by 1944. Company Executive Officers were in charge of the company's rear echelon, so without a rear echelon there was no needed for an Executive Officer in the Ranger Company. The Ranger Battalion Headquarters Company had its own allotment of support personnel—including a supply staff officer that was typically seen at the regimental level in the regular infantry—but most of the rear echelon would not be brought on assaults. They were essentially a ground echelon in a similar vein to that seen in airborne units. With this structure, Ranger Companies would not be weighed down by a rear echelon they wouldn't need for short assaults or raids, while the battalion headquarters company would support the Ranger Companies if the entire battalion was landing to set up a garrison or for battalion-sized maneuvers. The Ranger Company itself wasn't meant for sustained operations and the fact that Ranger Battalions were often used in a similar manner to a regular Infantry Battalion, especially in Europe, is most likely why they took heavy casualties.

 

However, they proved to be very effective at their original mission. Rangers were successful at taking Vichy French batteries overlooking landing beaches at Oran, Algeria before the 1st Infantry Division landing during Operation Torch. Half of the 2nd Ranger Battalion successfully destroyed their objectives after scaling the cliffs of Pointe-du-Hoc on D-Day despite Ranger reinforcements being diverted to Omaha, and another 2nd Rangers company was the first unit to break through at Omaha Beach while the 29th Infantry was pinned down on their left flank. However, as the German forces were pushed back in the months following, the Rangers were left without a mission and were thus misused. Their capabilities seem to have been exploited for follow-up operations more effectively in the Pacific where the 6th Ranger Battalion famously rescued prisoners of war from a camp near Manila during the Cabanatuan Raid.

 

The Rangers would ultimately be stood down in late 1945 after the war's end, only to return when the Korean War broke out.

Sources

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

      - Marcus Aurelius

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