Ranger Infantry Companies (Airborne) of the Korean War

Korean War RangersThe outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June of 1950 again signaled the need for Rangers. Colonel John Gibson Van Houten was selected by the Army Chief of Staff to head the Ranger training program at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

On September 15, 1950, Colonel Van Houten reported to the Chief of Staff, Office of the Chief of Army Field Forces, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was informed that training of Ranger-type units was to begin at Ft. Benning at the earliest possible date. The target date was October 1, 1950 with a tentative training period of 6 weeks.

The implementing orders called for formation of a headquarters detachment and four Ranger infantry companies (airborne). Requests went out for volunteers who were willing to accept "extremely Hazardous" duty in the combat zone in the Far East.

In the 82nd Airborne Division, the results of the call for volunteers was astounding. Some estimates were as high as 5,000 men (experienced Regular Army Paratroopers). The ruthless sorting out process began. Where possible, selection of the men was accomplished by the officers who would command the companies, similar to colonial days when Robert Rogers was recruiting.

Orders were issued and those selected shipped to Ft. Benning. The First group arrived on September 20. Training began on Monday, October 9, 1950, with three companies of airborne qualified personnel. On October 9, 1950 another company began training. These were former members of the 505th Airborne Infantry Regiment and the 80th Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division. Initially designated the 4th Ranger Company, they would soon be redesignated the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne), the only Department of the Army authorized, all-black Ranger Unit in the history of the United States.

All volunteers were professional soldiers with many skills who often taught each other. Some of the men had fought with the original Ranger Battalions, The First Special Service Force, or the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Many of the instructors were drawn from this same group. The faces of this select group may have appeared youthful, but these were men highly trained and experienced in Ranger operations during World War II.

The training was extremely rigorous. Training consisted of amphibious and airborne (including low-level night jumps) operations, demolitions, sabotage, close combat, and the use of foreign maps. All American small arms, as well as those used by the enemy, were mastered. Communications, as well as the control of artillery, naval, and aerial fires, were stressed. Much of the training was at night.

The 1st Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) departed from Ft. Benning, Georgia on November 15, 1950, and arrived in Korea on December 17, 1950, where it was attached to the 2nd Infantry Division. It was soon followed by the 2nd and 4th Ranger Companies, who arrived on December 29. The 2nd Ranger Company was attached to the 7th Infantry Division. The 4th Ranger company served both Headquarters, Eighth US Army, and the 1st Cavalry Division.

Throughout the Winter of 1950 and the Spring of 1951, the Rangers went into battle. They were nomadic warriors, attached first to one regiment and then another. They performed "out-front" work: scouting, patrolling, raids, ambushes, spearheading assaults, and as counterattack forces to regain lost positions.

Attached on the basis of one 112 man company per 18,000 man infantry division, the Rangers compiled an incredible record. Nowhere in American military history is the volunteer spirit better expressed. They were volunteers for the Army, for airborne training, for the Rangers and for combat.

The Rangers went into battle by air, land and water. The 1st Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) opened with an extraordinary example of land navigation, then executed a daring night raid 9 miles behind enemy lines destroying an enemy complex. The enemy installation was later identified by a prisoner as the Headquarters of the 12th North Korean Division. Caught by surprise and unaware of the size of the American force, two North Korean Regiments hastily withdrew from the area. The 1st Company was in the middle of the major battle of Chipyong-Ni and the "May Massacre." It was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations. The 2nd and 4th Ranger Companies made a combat jump at Munsan-Ni where Life magazine reported patrols operating North of the 38th parallel. The 2nd Ranger Company plugged a critical gap left by a retreating allied force. The 4th Ranger Company executed a daring over-water raid at the Hwachon Dam. The 3rd Ranger Company (attached to the 3rd Infantry Division) had the motto "Die Bastard, Die!" The 5th Ranger Company, fighting as an attachment to the 25th Infantry Division, performed brilliantly during the Chinese "5th Phase Offensive." Gathering up every soldier he could find, the Ranger company commander held the line with Ranger Sergeants commanding line infantry units. In the Eastern sector, the Rangers were the first unit to cross the 38th parallel on the second drive North.

The 8th Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) was attached to the 24th Infantry Division. They were known as the "Devils." A 33 man platoon from the 8th Ranger Company fought a between-the-lines battle with two Chinese reconnaissance companies. Seventy Chinese were killed. The Rangers suffered two dead and three wounded, all of whom were brought back to friendly lines..

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