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  Home > Activities& Events > Critter Cookout > 2003 > Dahlonega Nugget Article > Ranger History

What follows is the information submitted to the Georgia Historical Commission:

The History of the United States Army Mountain Ranger Camp in Dahlonega Georgia begins in 1951[1]. However, the history and events that brought Rangers to train in the Mountains of North Georgia began many years prior, throughout Georgia and the North American Continent, before the United States was formed.

In the fledgling years of Colonial America, the colonist found themselves in a strange new land that to them seemed vast, overwhelming, uncharted and unknown. These early Americans chose the bravest of their numbers to “Range” out into the new frontier and explore, map and report what they found. These were the first Rangers.
[2]

In the early military the Rangers were full-time soldiers who would range between fixed fortification to provide early warnings and act as guides. In 1622, as America grew and the native Indians were forced from their lands, hostilities erupted. These early Rangers were militia that protected early settlers.

From 1670 to 1675, Benjamin Church’s Rangers were involved in fighting with distinction in the King Phillip’s War with frontier Indians.
[3]

In 1747, John Gorham was tasked by the British Army to form the first Ranger Unit assigned to British forces. These Rangers were called “His Majesty’s First Independent Company of American Rangers”.
[4]

The Colony of Georgia also had it’s own Rangers. Georgia’s founder, General James Oglethorpe, established several Ranger Units among his militia. In 1733 General Oglethorpe, settled in Georgia and saw the need for a militia to protect the colonies against the native Indians and the Spanish. He sought the wood-wise and unconventional fighters to form The Georgia Coastal Rangers and Highland Mounted Rangers.

In July of 1742, Spanish forces sailed from St. Augustine and landed near St. Simons Island. General Oglethorpe quickly led his militia consisting of British troops and Rangers and friendly Indians. On July 7th 1742, the Georgia Rangers were guarding the town of Frederica on St. Simons and spotted a force of more than one hundred Spanish troops approaching. General Oglethorpe led a force composed of Highlander Rangers, Coastal Rangers and Indians against the Spaniards in a battle at Gully Hole Creek. The Georgia force was victorious after a fierce one-hour fight, leaving the Spaniards with losses of over one-third of their men and all the officers’ corp. killed or captured. The Ranger lost one man to heat exhaustion.

Later in the day the Spanish landed two hundred elite Grenadiers and crossed the open marsh, to the battle known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh. After two hours of expending ammunition at men that would hide and shoot the Spanish withdrew, not knowing that they severely outnumbered the Georgia Militia. After this encounter, the Spanish would completely withdraw from Georgia never to invade again.
[5]

During the French and Indian War Major Robert Rogers formed nine companies of Rangers to fight for the British from 1754 to 1763. Major Rogers wrote 28 Standing Orders that are just as important to Rangers of today as they were to the Rangers of that time. These standing Orders are taught to each Ranger as part of his training.
[6]

In 1775, the Continental Congress authorized 10 companies of expert riflemen to be organized and equipped. These men were placed under the command of Daniel Morgan and designated as “The Corps of Rangers”. Additionally, a Connecticut Lieutenant Colonel, named Thomas Knowlton formed a Ranger unit of 150 hand picked men that fought at the battle of Harlem Heights in New York City on 16 September 1776. South Carolina and Georgia both established mounted Ranger units in 1775-1776. Sometimes referred to as partisans, these Rangers performed well in battle. The legendary Francis Marion, also known as the “Swamp Fox”, led South Carolina Units. In 1777, the Continental Congress authorized the formation of additional partisans, one of these all American units was formed and led by “Light Horse Harry” Lee (the Father of Robert E. Lee).
[7]

During the War of 1812, Rangers were again used to protect frontier towns and citizens. These Rangers were deployed to the western frontier to battle the Indians and provide law and order to these fledgling settlements. These Rangers were the forefathers to such legendary law enforcement agencies as the Texas Rangers and Arizona Rangers.

During the American Civil war, both the North and South Armies deployed Ranger units. The Union Army had Mean’s Rangers who exploits included the raid on the ammunition trains of Southern General Longstreet. While the Southern Rangers led by Mosby raided Union supply depots as far north as Pennsylvania. After the Civil War, Rangers returned to the Western frontier to continue their law enforcement roles and protection of settlers.

On May 26th 1942 Major General Lucien Truscott convinced the Army that a force of Commandos were needed. An order was given and the 1st Ranger Battalion, Commanded by Major William Orlando Darby was formed and trained in Scotland. Rangers were attached to the multi-national force of men that landed at the French Port of Dieppe. Although 3 Rangers were killed and 5 captured, it was the Rangers of the United States Army that drew first blood for the American in the European theater. The Rangers performed brilliantly in North Africa, leading several assaults and capturing key terrain, towns and objectives. In fact they performed so well that 2n Battalion was formed. Later the 3rd and 4th were filled with volunteers and trained. The Rangers helped the American and British sweep across Sicily and then into Italy. American Generals wanted an end-around operation to cut off the Germans and decided to land at Anzio. It was here that the 1st, 3rd and 4th Rangers were sent to an objective that was defended heavily and where many Rangers were killed or captured. This one battle cost the Army three Ranger Battalions. However, elsewhere in the world other Rangers were being formed to handle additional hazardous missions. The 29th Infantry was also training a Ranger Unit and just before they were to be activated they were melted back into the 29th Infantry. However, these were Rangers
[8] The newly formed 2nd Battalion and the 5th Battalion that trained in Tennessee were to play major roles for the Allies in the invasion of Fortress Europe, during Operation Overlord and the June 6th 1944, D-DAY invasion.

The 2nd Battalion was given the mission of scaling 100-foot cliffs that overlooked and controlled the Beaches of Utah and Omaha beaches. The Germans had placed 155 mm guns in reinforced bunkers at this location and they would surly devastate the beaches and take untold lives of American, if the Rangers could not scale the cliffs and silence those guns. With ropes, rope ladders and shear strength, the Rangers scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoe and completed their assigned mission. Although no guns were placed in the bunkers, the Rangers scaled the cliffs under intense enemy fire with determination and courage. While the 2nd Battalion scaled the cliffs, the 5th Battalion landed with infantry on Omaha Beach, While most of the men were pinned down on the beaches by intense fire, the Commanding General of the Landing Forces yelled to the Rangers, “Lead the Way” and from this statement, came the motto of the modern day Rangers. The 2nd and 5th Battalions continued to march across France and into Germany, contributing to final victory over the Axis powers.

Part of Ranger History is the formation of the 1st Special Services Force; a joint American/Canadian unit developed and trained to fight in the rugged mountains of Europe. The 1st SSF was comprised of the remnants of the 1st, 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions. It was an all-volunteer unit, whose members included mountain climbers, skiers, lumberjacks and game wardens. They mainly worked behind enemy line keeping the Germans off balance, keeping German troops in the rear to find and fight the 1st SSF and keeping those troops from enforcing Rommell’s Atlantic Wall. Although this was a precursor to the Modern day Special Forces (Green Berets), their history and lineage comes from the Rangers. And it is this reason that the Special Forces history and lineage is the same as the modern Rangers.

While the Rangers were making history in Europe two other Ranger Units were operating in the Pacific. When General Macarthur returned to the Philippines, as he had promised, Rangers of the 6th Ranger Battalion were the spear headers of that invasion. Clearing islands that were in the path of invasion was their main responsibilities. However, a forgotten saga of Ranger History is the dynamic raid on the Cabanatuan Prisoner of War Compound near the Philippine City of Cabu. In this Prisoner of War compound over 500 Americans; British and other nationalities lay in waste from starvation, disease and brutality from their Japanese capturers. These were the remaining men from the Death March of Bataan. The 6th Ranger Battalion marched over 30 miles behind enemy lines and made a daring raid on the camp. All prisoners were saved, two Rangers lost their lives and 600 Japanese Soldiers died at the hands of the Rangers and their partisan allies. The raid itself was heroic enough but the Rangers then had to bring the former prisoners back through enemy territory to safety.
[9]

Deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia, another Ranger Unit was marking the pages of History Books for future generations of Rangers to build on. This all-volunteer unit was designated the 5307th Composite (Provisional). But reporters of that time dubbed them Merrill’s Marauders, named after their leader Frank D. Merrill. (The current Mountain Ranger Training Camp is named in his honor) The Marauders, code named Galahad, moved men and supplies along the Ledo road in Burma and fought the Japanese the entire time. Involved in 30 minor battles and 5 major battles, the Marauders were trained in deep penetration missions and kept the Japanese busy in that sector of the war. The final battle for most Marauders took place at Mytchkina Airfield. This was the only all weather airfield in the region and crucial to further Allied operations in CBI theater. The 5307th was reassigned as the 475th MARS unit after the final battle. These men began the lineage of the current 75th Ranger Regiment.
[10]

Prior to 1950, their own instructors or the instructors of the British Army trained all Rangers. As new men filled the ranks the veterans trained them. Each unit trained differently but usually had the same goals. It was the desire of Gen Truscott, in the beginning that the training received by the Rangers from their British and Scottish instructors would serve as role model for future training. The initial beliefs were that after training, these men would return to their individual units and train the men in those units how to better operate as light infantry. The 29th Infantry men did just that, however, because of the heroics and efforts of the 1st Ranger Battalion in North Africa, it was decided to allow these men to remain as a unit for special operations. At one time there was an overall command unit commanded by Col. William O. Darby, just prior to the attack on Selerno.
[11]

Now in the 1950s the Army saw that the need for this specialized training was needed again and this time they developed a course of instruction that would follow the beliefs of Gen Truscott. The US Army Ranger School was developed to train Officers and NCOs and send them back to their units to spread the training, esprit-de-corps. and attitude of the US Army Ranger.

Ranger Units at that time had been disbanded and the school served its intended purpose because there was no solely Ranger Units to train. However, the hostilities of the Korean Conflict would change that. The Ranger Companies that were formed for this conflict added to the proud history. Although there were no great frontal assaults in Korea such as the assault on the Point-du-hoe, the Rangers, never the less made a name for themselves. Most of the actions by the Rangers were behind the lines actions or specialized missions.

The 1st Ranger Company, on one night raid, marched 9 miles in pitch darkness and destroyed the Headquarter of the 12th North Korean Division killing it’s commander and most of his staff. 112 Rangers forced two North Korean Regiments to retreat that night. These Korean Rangers were the first Airborne Rangers and the combined companies of the 2nd and 4th made a combat jump at Munsan-Ni along the 38 parallel. Once on the ground the 2nd Ranger Company plugged gaps in the lines while the 4th Ranger Company made an over-water raid to secure the Hwachon Dam from the North Koreans. The 2nd Ranger Company was an all black Company in the Segregated Army of that time. However, the Rangers knew of no color differences, they only knew the 2nd Ranger Company as fellow Rangers. The 8th Ranger Company in Korea began another chapter of Ranger history. In a battle that raged for hours, 33 Rangers, while on patrol, discovered two Chinese Reconnaissance Companies. The Ranger fought their way back to friendly lines killing over 70 Chinese soldiers and wounding many more. Two Rangers were killed and three wounded but the Rangers returned to the lines with those wounded and killed men. Not beginning the tradition but certainly enhancing the Ranger tradition of “Never Shall I leave a Fallen Ranger”.
[12],[13],[14]

After Korea the Rangers were designated as the 75th Infantry, on Okinawa in 1954. Its ranks were filled by the Korean War veteran Rangers and the remnants of the 475th.

After the Korean Conflict Ranger School continued to train Officers and NCOs to fill the ranks of regular infantry and combat arms branches of the services. All active duty Ranger Units were disbanded or delegated to the National Guard or Reserve status, such as D Company 151st Infantry Indiana National Guard. Rangers would not fight again as units until the Vietnam War. On February 1st 1969, 13 Ranger Companies of the 75th Infantry began their operations in Vietnam. These Rangers worked in small teams being the eyes and ears for the Divisions spread throughout Vietnam. When these Rangers were not watching the enemy they were conducting raids and ambushes disrupting their operations. These Rangers were so successful in their operations that the Secretary of Army dubbed them the Neo Marauders.
[15] It was the veterans of these units that became the nucleus of the first every peacetime Ranger unit in American History, and they were designated as the 75th Infantry (Ranger).

General Creighton Abrams saw the need for light mobile force capable of deploying anywhere in the world on a moments notice and signed the order, (No. 131), to Activate the 1st Bn (Ranger) 75th. On January 31st 1974 the 1st Battalion was formed and trained then moved to it’s new home at Ft. Stewart Georgia. On October 1st 1974 the 2nd Bn (Ranger) 75th Inf. was formed in Fort Lewis Washington.

Now the US Army Ranger School had two full time Ranger Units to train men for. Not only were men from the Ranger Battalions being trained but also the School still trained other combat arms branches and MOSs for the entire service. Many foreign countries sent their Officers and NCOs to the US Army Ranger School.

Members of the Charlie Company 1st Bn (Ranger) 75th Inf. were involved in the rescue of American Hostages being held in Tehran Iran in 1980. Operation Eagle Claw would be the first test in combat for the newly formed Ranger Battalions. These Rangers were to secure the landing field for the Special Forces teams going in for the rescue. Other Rangers were to secure the airfield south of Tehran so that when the hostages and rescuers flew from Tehran in helicopters they could be whisked away to safety from the airfield. Although the mission was aborted the Rangers proved that they could move to any location on the globe within hours and be prepared for combat.
[16]

In October of 1983 again Rangers were called upon to strike for the United States. This time both Ranger Battalions operated on the tiny island of Grenada. Parachuting from 500 feet, these Rangers secured Salinas Airfield and paved the way for additional units from the United States.

Operation Urgent Fury was a success but showed the military that planning, communications and command between sister services needed to greatly enhanced.

The Army authorized the formation of the 3rd Ranger Battalion shortly after Operation Urgent Fury. Along with the 3rd Battalion, Ranger Regimental Headquarters was formed to command and control these three highly mobile forces. This force was tested in December of 1989 when over 2000 Rangers descended on several airfields, by parachute, in the Country of Panama. During this operation 5 Rangers were killed, 42 wounded, and they captured over 1000 POWs and 18,000 enemy weapons.
[17]

Companies A and B of the 1st Battalion deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm and provided reconnaissance patrols into Kuwait to determine Iraqi positions and strengths. They also served as a reaction force if needed. The Rangers sustained no casualties during this operation. They redeployed to Kuwait in December of 1991 in response to renewed aggression by Iraq. Again proving that Rangers can deploy anywhere, anytime and faster that any other soldier.

On October 3rd 1993 members of B Company 3rd Ranger Battalion conducted a daytime raid to capture Mohammed Aidid in Mogadishu Somalia in support of the U.S. Mission there. After two helicopters were lost to enemy fire and the Rangers unwilling to leave a fallen comrade, the Rangers fought in the longest sustained firefight since Vietnam. 13 hours of fighting had left them with 16 killed, and 57 wounded. But the Somalis paid a heavy price with loses of over 300 people. The courage and tenacity and their devotion to the Ranger Creed was a hallmark of this action.
[18]

Currently our country is fighting another enemy, Terrorism, and the Rangers are again leading the way. To seek out and destroy Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network, the Rangers assisted the Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan. On October 7th 100 Rangers parachuted into an area near Khandahar conducting intel gather operations and raids.

THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY RANGER IS STILL BEING WRITTEN AS THIS IS BEING TYPED. SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD RANGERS ARE SUPPORTING THE FREEDOM OF AMERICANS.

Since 1951 the training of these highly motivated and courageous Rangers has been tasked to the U.S. Army Ranger School. The Ranger Department was established in 1950 and designed the training course for Rangers. It was broken into three phases. The first was conducted at Fort Benning. The second phase was to be a mountain environment and situated north of Atlanta was the best training area in the United States. Phase three is in the swamps of northern Florida.

The first Mountain Ranger Training Camp was established at what is now Pine Valley recreational Area of the North Georgia College and State University. Just off of Georgia Highway 19 south of Dahlonega there is a small encampment of tall pines surrounded on three sides by the flowing waters of the Etowah River. Across the river are the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was here that the Mountain Ranger Training Camp set up their tents to begin another proud chapter in Ranger history. Mountaineering skills were a vital part of this training and the Ranger students traveled above Dahlonega to an old rock quarry where they were taught the basics of military mountaineering. Patrolling training was conducted in the lush woodland surrounding the Pine Valley Camp and along the banks of the Etowah.
[19]

The first class of Rangers to attend the training in the mountains was 11 strong. How many continued on to the next phase is unknown. Since that first class thousands of American Rangers have come to North Georgia to receive training from the Mountain Ranger Training Camp. After the first year the Training camp was moved to Camp Wahsega, in the National Forrest then a short time later to it’s present site.

The training of Rangers is akin to the making of a fine knife. They come to phase one as a raw piece of material. In phase one the material is tested and shaped. They arrive in Dahlonega as a rough shaped article. Here they continued to be tested and formed into a fight tool. When they leave for phase three they are in a form that can be distinguished and again they are tested and finalized in Florida. Ranger School does not make the final tool. The knife is honed to a razors edge when these young warriors return to their units. But with out the shaping and testing, they would surly break under pressure. It is apparent from history that the testing and shaping done at the Mountain Ranger Camp is instrumental in the making of a Ranger. History has shown that each graduate of the most demanding school in the world, has the strength and shape to “Fight on to the Ranger Objective”
[20]

Pine Valley represents the beginning of an era. It is not the beginning of Ranger History but a significant part, it is not the end of history, for as long as the United States has freedom it will need young men to obtain it and guard it. And as long as the United States need highly trained Young Rangers the Mountain Ranger Camp will continue to train them.

Pine Valley is a part of the heritage of Rangers and significant part of the History of the Great State of Georgia

Rangers Lead the Way


[1] History of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, http://www.5thrtb.org/history.htm

[2] The First American Soldier, His Majesty’s First Independent Company of American Rangers, http://www.tekawiz.com/1stRanger.html

[3] History of the US Army Rangers, http://www.grunts.net/army/rangers.html

[4] The First American Soldier, His Majesty’s First Independent Company of American Rangers, http://www.tekawiz.com/1stRanger.html

[5] 250 YEAR LATER, Bloody Marsh Revisited, Gordon Elwell, http://www.hsgng.org/pages/marsh.htm

[6] History of the US Army Rangers, http://www.grunts.net/army/rangers.html, and authors own memory of Ranger training 1974-1983 (Steven H. Hawk)

[7] Rangers in Colonial and Revolutionary America, http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/documents/revwar/revra.htm.

[8] RANGERS IN WORLD WAR II, Robert Black

[9] Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides

[10] Author Steven H. Hawk ‘s training on the History and Lineage of the 75th circ. 1974

[11] Robert Black, Rangers In World War II

[12] CSM Neil Gentry, Ranger Creed, 1974

[13] Robert Black, Rangers in Korea

[14] History of the US Army Rangers, http://www.grunts.net/army/ranger/html

[15] The History of the US Army Rangers, http://www.grunts.net/army/rangers.html

[16] Eric Haney, Inside Delta

[17] History of the US Army Rangers

[18] Blackhawk Down

[19] Memories of remaining original cadre

[20] Ranger Creed

 
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