US Army Ranger History

Ranger History


The foundation of principles upon which being a Ranger is built, its very roots, can be readily comprehended from the history of the United States Army Ranger.

It is that history, that lineage, that tradition constructed by those generations past and present, whose dedication, honor, courage, perseverance, blood, and ultimate personal sacrifice to which we owe so much. For those desiring to understand what a Ranger is, read on; for those who are Rangers, read the heritage of which you are part.

The Early Years

The early lineage of the United States Army Ranger is over two hundred years old and can be said to have “unofficially” begun with the implementation of Rogers’ Rangers of the French and Indian War. When one reviews the history of the Rangers, it can be noted that the lineage falls into two distinct periods of time. The early years encompass the pre-American Revolution period with Robert Rogers, the American Revolution with Francis Marion, and the American Civil War with John S. Mosby. Though not “formally” trained in accordance with the standards prescribed by today’s prestigious U.S. Army Ranger School, the early deeds of Rogers, Marion, and Mosby easily meet the standards and intent of today’s modern Ranger. In actuality, they do more than meet the standard. They are the standard. Consequently, no history of the United States Army Ranger can be complete without them.

1622 Pre-American Revolution

The Ranger lineage predates the very birth of this great nation. The term “Ranger” evolved as far back as thirteenth century England, when it was used to describe a far-ranging forester or borderer. By the seventeenth century, the term emerged to serve as a title for irregular and unique military organizations, such as the “Border Rangers” who defended the troubled border frontier between England and Scotland. The term crossed the Atlantic to the North American continent with England’s early settlers.

Learn more about the early day Rangers, who protected the American Frontier in the first years of our country.

1776 American Revolution

On the brink of war, the Continental Congress passed a resolution on 14 June 1775, on what is known as Flag Day, that “six companies of expert riflemen be immediately raised in Pennsylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia.” From these beginnings of the Continental Army, a group of expert riflemen composed of hardy frontiersmen were formed in 1777 into an organization George Washington referred to as The Corps of Rangers.

Learn more about the Rangers who served during the American Revolution.

1812 Post-Revolutionary War Years

At the war’s end, most of the Continental Army was disbanded, including all of the Ranger style forces. But the early years of this nation’s existence still saw continued unrest along its frontier. In due course, the states and eventually the federal government began to raise Ranger units again, in the style and tradition of those raised during the early colonial years.

Texas ‘Rangers’

In January 1812, six companies of Rangers were raised to protect frontier settlers. General Andrew Jackson, himself, raised a Ranger company in 1818. In 1832, a mounted Ranger battalion was formed as a show of force against the Indians. Also during the 1830s, the Texas Rangers were established and employed along the Texas frontier.
Eventually more than twenty Ranger companies would be serving in Texas during the 1850s. And, though General Zachary Taylor held a poor opinion of Ranger units, he found them to be vital as scouts during the Mexican War.

1863 American Civil War

Officially designated the 43rd Battalion of Virginia Cavalry, Mosby’s partisan Rangers were lead by John Singleton Mosby, who believed that by resorting to aggressive action, he could compel his enemies to guard a hundred points and thus expend valuable troops and resources needed elsewhere. These Rangers were particularly active in Virginia and Maryland for a twenty-eight month period from 1863 to 1865 and maintained an excellent reputation within the Confederate army.

Read more of the details about Rangers who taught the conventionally minded forces a lesson during the Civil War.

The Modern Era

The second historical period can be referred to as that of the “Modern” Ranger, which began with the formation of Darby’s Rangers during the Second World War. This more conventional view of the Rangers, if one can refer to them as being “conventional” at all, encompasses not only World War II but also the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam Conflict, Desert One (Iran), Grenada, Panama, Somalia and Afghanistan.

1942 World War II: European Theater

Wanting a unit similar in capability as the British Commandos, General Marshall authorized the formation and activation of a U.S. Army commando-type organization. The selection criteria for volunteers specified that only fully trained soldiers of the best type were to be accepted. Organized in Northern Ireland, the battalion-sized unit would be attached to the British Special Services Brigade for tactical control and training. It was decided, in honor of Rogers’ Rangers, the official designation of the unit would be the 1st Ranger Battalion.

Learn more about the first Ranger unit of the 20th Century.

1944 World War II: Pacific Theater

In the Pacific Theater of Operations, the 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion had its beginning in the 98th Field Artillery Battalion. Activated in January 1941 at Ft. Lewis, Washington, the 98th served in New Guinea and was at Port Moresby as part of the Sixth Army under the command of Lieutenant General Walter Krueger. Deciding to create a larger force to accomplish the same type missions as the Alamo Scouts but on a grander scale, Krueger decided that the new unit would be created from the 98th Field Artillery Battalion…thus making the 6th Rangers the only World War II Ranger Infantry Battalion to carry the lineage of a previous unit.

Read more about the 6th Ranger Bn and the one of the most successful behind the lines missions ever conducted.

1944 World War II: Merrill’s Marauders

A seventh Ranger-style unit was never officially designated a Ranger Infantry Battalion but it certainly had the earmarks of one. In September 1943, as the result of the Quebec Conference of August 1943, the United States agreed to the formation of a long-range penetration unit to spearhead the Chinese Army in the Burma area of operation. Activated on 8 January 1944 as 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)…code name Galahad…the unit, better known as Merrill’s Marauders in honor of its commander, Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill, was a regimental-sized unit organized and trained for operations deep behind enemy lines in Japanese-held Burma. They were the first U.S. ground combat force to meet the enemy on the Asian continent in the Second World War.

Read more about the Marauders and the deep-penetration, strategic mission they conducted to seize the airfield in Mytiknia, Burma, thereby defeating the Japanese Forces they opposed.

1950 Korean War

Needing a unique small unit of its own to patrol a small salient north of the Pusan Perimeter called the Pohang Pocket…a re-entrant into the perimeter…the Eighth Army assigned the task of organizing a commando-style unit to its G3 who passed it along to Colonel John H. McGee, head of G3 Miscellaneous Division. Afforded only seven weeks to select the personnel, organize and train the unit, and armed only with a copy of the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E;) used by Ranger companies near the end of World War II, Colonel McGee flew from Korea to Camp Drake, Japan, on 8 August 1950 to begin soliciting and interviewing potential candidates for the new unit.
When informed that the only officer slot left to fill was that of commander…a captain’s position, Puckett answered that he would “take a squad leader’s or rifleman’s job” if it would secure his assignment to the unit. Not only did this warrior spirit get him assigned to the Ranger unit, it also earned him that commander’s position.

Read more about the Ranger Companies formed during the Korean War.

1950 Ranger Training Command

The Ranger Training Center began operating on 2 October 1950, when it initiated training for the first four Airborne Ranger Companies to be trained there. The Ranger recruits were placed through an intense and extensive training cycle that included small unit tactics, demolition training, cold weather training, mountaineering, low-level parachute jumps, and river-crossing operations. To replicate realistic combat conditions, the training was designed to be extremely stressful by limiting food and sleep and by conducting continuous operations, normally at night.

Read more about the early history of the Ranger Training Brigade.

1969 Vietnam War

As the Cold War lengthened in the late 1950s, NATO nations felt there was a need for small units to conduct passive, deep penetration intelligence gathering missions at corps levels and higher. From this need was born the Long Range Patrol (LRP) or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) unit…both LRP and LRRP designations were used similarly and considered interchangeable, trained and equipped to infiltrate enemy lines by ground, air, or water. From well-concealed observation posts or as a function of point, area, or route reconnaissance, they were intended to report enemy movements. Stealth and reconnaissance were the mission of the LRRP, not direct combat. Ultimately, these LRRPs would lead directly to the Ranger companies of Vietnam.

Learn more about the LRRPs, LRPs and Ranger Companies who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

1974 The 75th Ranger Regiment

Upon the completion of the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War in 1973, the Pentagon grew concerned about the United State’s strategic ability to quickly move well-trained infantry forces to any spot in the world. In the fall of 1973, General Creighton Abrams, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, issued a charter for the formation of the 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry Regiment.

Read more about the 75th Ranger Regiment, which as served our nation in a number of significant conflicts.

1980 Operation Eagle Claw: Iran

On 11 April 1980, President Carter authorized the rescue mission to be conducted thirteen days later, on the 24th. The mission called for a group of 130 Delta, Rangers, drivers, and translators to be inserted into the Iranian desert by a support force of fifty pilots and air crewmen. Six C-130 Hercules transports were to lift the men, their equipment, and helicopter aviation fuel from the Egyptian air base at Qena to the island airfield of Masirah off the coast of Oman for a refueling stop…

Read more about the 1st Ranger Bn’s role in the operation to liberate our embassy staff and citizens being held hostage in Teheran.

1983 Operation Urgent Fury: Grenada

From both Ranger Battalions, 600 Rangers would land or drop, depending on the conditions encountered at the airfield on Salines. 1st Battalion, in addition to securing the airfield and True Blue, would also reinforce the sixty Special Operations soldiers in the St. George area of operations with fifty to sixty Rangers while the 2nd Battalion would attack the PRA base at Calivigny. H-Hour was set for 0200 on 25 October though this would be changed the very next day to 0500 on 25 October…

Learn more about Operation Urgent Fury, the ‘Invasion of Grenada’.

1989 Operation Just Cause: Panama

President George Bush authorized the invasion of Panama by U.S. forces shortly after midnight on 20 December 1989 in an effort to capture General Manuel Antonio Noriega, the Panamanian dictator, and bring him back to the U.S. to face drug-smuggling charges. Among a vast number of other missions to be conducted throughout Panama on the morning of the invasion, OPLAN 90-2 directed “Task Force Red,” the 75th Ranger Regiment, to conduct an airborne assault on the Omar Torrijos International Airport and Tocumen Military Airfield complex with the 1st Ranger Battalion and C Company of the 3rd Ranger Battalion…designated as Task Force Red-Tango…simultaneously with a jump by the remainder of the regiment against the Rio Hato base camp…designated as Task Force Red-Romeo.

Learn more about Operation Just Cause and the Ranger’s role in it.

1991 Operation Desert Storm: Iraq

On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait in the Persian Gulf. The “liberation of Kuwait” began at 1840 EST on 16 January 1991. Following thirty-seven days of intense, high-tech air bombardment, Desert Saber, as the ground phase was termed, was launched on 23 February. In support of this operation, B Company and 1st Platoon of A Company…with a section from their weapons platoon…deployed from the 1st Ranger Battalion on 12 February 1991 to conduct pinpoint raids and quick reaction force missions behind enemy lines, searching for SCUD, surface-to-surface, missile sites, destroying communications sites, and submitting reports on enemy troop movements. The team redeployed to their home station on 6 April 1991.

1993 Task Force Ranger: Somalia

The U.S. deployed Task Force Ranger, a 450-man force composed of approximately sixty men from the one-hundred-and-fifty-man Squadron C of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta; B Company (Reinforced), 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from; and support helicopters from the Army’s 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)…the world’s finest night fliers known as the “Night Stalkers.” The Mission: Capture and Arrest Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid to aid in the restoration of order to the country of Somalia, and to determine his role in the slaughter of 24 Pakistani peacekeepers.

To read more about the Rangers deployment to Mogadishu, Somalia and the intense 18 hour firefight, called by many military experts, the “most intense and prolonged firefight involving American forces since the Vietnam War”, with the irregular fighters belonging to Aidid’s clan, click here.

2001 Operation Enduring Freedom: Afghanistan

Among the many missions Rangers have thus far participated in during Operation Enduring Freedom was a small bur fierce combat action to recover a US Navy SEAL and capture a hill known as Takur Ghar.

Read the US DOD’s Executive Summary of the Battle.

Ranger history © John D. Lock. Used with permission.


Please help support ARMi a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization supporting Rangers past, present and future.