On this date in Ranger History: February 17, 2012
America loses one of her finest sons, George Francis Kerchner, a highly decorated Army Ranger, who on D-Day, successfully led an attack on enemy gun positions and earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, died at his home in Midlothian, Virginia. He was 93.
Ranger Kerchner enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, and after completing infantry training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, he received his commission at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1943.
The next month, he joined 2D Ranger Battalion and began training in England for the D-Day Invasion. On the morning of June 6, 1944, Ranger Kerchner and his fellow Rangers of Dog Company landed at Point Du Hoc.
As the landing craft stopped on the beach, Ranger Kerchner, eager to be first off, stepped into a crater and water swirled over his head, which caused him to lose his rifle.
Ranger Kerchner later remembered thinking, "how could anybody really be alive on the beaches with all of the fire that was landing there?" Ranger Kerchner became angry when two of his men were hit by German machine gun fire, he figured they were shooting at him as well and he had nothing but his pistol. After all of his fellow officers were killed or wounded on the beach, he assumed command of Dog Company.
After scaling the 100 foot cliffs on ropes attached to grapnels, the objective was to destroy the 155mm guns that if in action, could bring devastating fire on the landings on Utah and Omaha beaches.
At one point, Ranger Kerchner and 15 of his fellow Rangers were cut off from the main body of Rangers atop of the Pointe, and for two and one half days, they would fight tenaciously to hold their positions against counter attacking Germans.
In one of Ranger Kerchner's wartime diary entries, he wrote, "...June 11, 1944, went to mass, thanked God. First chance to count noses. D Co., has 8 dead, 13 wounded and 32 missing. 15 present ... ate good, shaved at last, made out report."
Ranger Kerchner would continue to serve the U.S. Army after World War II and retired in 1962 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
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