1st Ranger Battalion – Djebel el Ank – Operation Torch – 1942


The 1st Ranger Battalion went into action as a unit for the first time on November 8 1942, when it landed in the French North Africa while participating in Operation Torch. The Rangers made a surprise night landing in and north of Arzew, Algeria, neutralized its main coastal defenses, and captured its docks. Due largely to rigorous training and thorough planning, they accomplished their mission with the loss of only one Ranger life [Subject letter ‘Commando Organization’ from Maj Gen James W. Chaney to CG-USANIF, June 1 1942, SF-INBN 72-37, roll 1, frames 4-6]. Before and after Arzew, however, the Rangers began to evolve from a lightly armed unit organized to conduct special operations into a more heavily armed force organized for conventional combat. This was the result of two tendencies that reinforced one another throughout the existence of Darby’s Rangers.

Colonel William Orlando Darby (February 1911 8 – April 30 1945) was a career US Army officer who fought in World War II, where he was killed in action in Italy. He was posthumously promoted to brigadier general. Darby led the famous Darby’s Rangers, which evolved into the US Army Rangers.

Darby’s first assignment was as assistant executive and supply officer with the 82nd Field Artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas. In July 1934, he transferred to Cloudcroft, New Mexico, where he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division detachment. He received intensive artillery training from September 1937 to June 1938 while attending Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. On September 9 1940, he was promoted to captain and subsequently served with the 80th Division at Camp Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Benning, Georgia; Camp Beauregard, Louisiana and Fort Des Moines, Iowa.

As World War II progressed, Darby saw rapid promotion to the grade of lieutenant colonel. He was with the first US troops sent to Northern Ireland after the US entry into war, and during his stay there, he became interested in the British Commandos. On June 19 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was sanctioned, recruited, and began training in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. When the US Army decided to establish its Ranger units, Darby gained a desired assignment to direct their organization and training. Many of the original Rangers were volunteers from the Red Bull Division (34th Infantry Division), a National Guard Division and the first ground combat troops to arrive in Europe. Darby’s Rangers trained with their British counterparts in Scotland.

In 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion made its first assault at Arzew, North Africa. Darby was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions on March 21–25 during that operation (Torch). The citation stated : Lt Col Darby struck with his force with complete surprise at dawn in the rear of a strongly fortified enemy position. Always conspicuously at the head of his troops, he personally led assaults against the enemy line in the face of heavy machine gun and artillery fire, establishing the fury of the Ranger attack by his skillful employment of hand grenades in close quarter fighting. On March 22, Lt Col Darby directed his battalion in advance on Bon Hamean, capturing prisoners and destroying a battery of self propelled artillery. The 1st Ranger Battalion saw further action in the Italian Campaign. Darby received a second award (oak leaf cluster) of the DSC for extraordinary heroism in July 1943, in Sicily : Lt Col Darby, with the use of one 37-MM gun, which he personally manned, managed not only to repulse an enemy attack, but succeeded with this weapon in destroying one tank, while two others were accounted for by well directed hand grenade fire.

Darby was also awarded the Silver Star for his actions in North Africa on February 12 1943 : Without regard for his personal safety, the day previous to a raid, he reconnoitered enemy positions and planned the attack which he led the following morning. The thorough organization and successful attack led by Lt Col Darby revealed his initiative, courage, and devotion to duty which is a credit to the Armed Forces of the United States.

Darby took part in the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943 and was promoted to full colonel on December 11 1943. He commanded the 179th Infantry Regiment, part of the 45th Thunderbirds Infantry Division during the Rome-Arno and Anzio campaigns in the Italian Campaign from February 18 to April 2 1944. He was ordered to Washington DC for duty with the Army Ground Forces and later with the War Department General Staff at The Pentagon. In March 1945, he returned to Italy for an observation tour with General Henry H. Hap Arnold.

On April 23 1945, Bri Gen Robinson E. Duff, ADC (Assistant Division Commander) of the US 10th Mountain Division, was wounded; Darby took over for Duff. Task Force Darby spearheaded the breakout of the American Fifth Army from the Po River valley bridgehead during the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy and reached Torbole at the head of Lake Garda. On April 30 1945, while Darby was issuing orders for the attack on Trento to cut off a German retreat, an artillery shell burst in the middle of the assembled officers and NCOs, killing Darby and a sergeant and wounding several others. Task Force Darby continued with their mission. Two days later, on May 2 1945, all German forces in Italy surrendered. Darby, aged 34 at the time of his death, was posthumously promoted to brigadier general on May 15 1945. He was buried in Cisterna, Italy and later re-interred at Fort Smith National Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas on March 11 1949. (Wikipedia)

The first tendency was the adoption of heavier weapons than were specified in the Rangers’ original Table of Equipment (TOE) because of the occasional need for more firepower.
The second tendency was the use of the Rangers in conventional operations when necessary or expedient. Ironically, the more the Rangers were used as conventional infantry, the more firepower they needed; and the more firepower they got, the more likely it became that the headquarters that controlled them would use them conventionally.

Col William O. Darby accommodated this evolution. He had been commissioned into the field artillery when he graduated from West Point in 1933 and had served only with artillery units until he became Hartle’s aide-de-camp in January 1942. After he took command of the 1st Ranger Battalion, he retained such a strong, appreciation of artillery that the battalion executive officer, Maj Herman Dammer, would later say that Darby had a fetish for firepower. The transition began during the planning for Operation Torch, when Darby temporarily replaced the battalion’s 60-MM mortars with 81-MM tubes because he believed the latter would be more effective against the fortified positions that guarded Arzew. It proved to be a wise decision, as the French defenders of the ‘Batterie Superieure’, one of Arzew’s major forts, resisted, and it was necessary for the Rangers to use the mortars against it.

Although the Rangers accomplished their mission quickly and smoothly, troops advancing inland did not have the advantage of surprise and encountered more determined French resistance, Maj Gen Terry de la Mesa Allen, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division, to which the 1st Rangers were attached, called upon the battalion to assist in conventional operations. During November 9 and November 10, Easy Co and elements of the 16th Infantry Regiment captured the town of La Macta (Sidi Bel Abbès), and on November 10, Charlie Co helped the 18th Infantry Regiment take Saint Cloud.

Three Rangers were killed in the fight for the latter town. The use of the Rangers in conventional infantry operations only fourteen and one-half hours after they had set foot in North Africa bothered some of the men. What was the purpose in organizing and training Rangers for Commando-type operations if they are going to be frittered away in mass battles, thought Ranger James Altieri. Dammer, however, sensed no resentment by Darby over the La Macta and Saint Cloud battles. He seemed to believe that there had been a job to do and that the Rangers had done it.

The Rangers were not used in combat for almost three months following Arzew but trained near the city and were then assigned to Gen Mark Wayne Clark’s Fifth Army Invasion Training Center (ITC) as demonstration and experimental troops. Many men transferred out of the battalion during this period, believing that the war was passing them by and Darby found it necessary to recruit new volunteers.

On January 31 1943, 7 officer and 101 enlisted replacements reported for duty and were formed into a seventh company that Darby had established for training purposes. No longer attached to the British, the Rangers now had to train themselves. Quite naturally, many of the training techniques introduced by the British were kept by Darby, and speed marching, cliff climbing, rappelling, and night amphibious landings continued to be integral parts of the Rangers Regiment. Darby strongly emphasized the buddy system, or working in pairs. The men chose their own buddies from within their own platoons and then ate, performed details, and trained as a team. In what was called the Bullet and Bayonet course, the men negotiated obstacles and reacted to surprise targets in buddy teams. Each team going through the course advanced using fire and maneuver and fire and movement. Another course, called Me and My Pal, was similar in concept but served as a street-fighting exercise.

Darby and Terry Allen – Combat Report

En route to Arzew, the Rangers continuously reviewed their plans. Every platoon and section reviewed their missions. Plaster of Paris models, maps and intelligence reports were analyzed to find any flaws in their assault plans. The Dieppe raid was a vivid reminder that proper planning depended on timely intelligence and reconnaissance reports.

There were two coastal batteries at Arzew, and the Rangers decided that a simultaneous attack was the best way to execute their mission. The Dammer Force, named after Darby’s right-hand man Capt Herman Dammer, consisted of Able and Baker Cos and seized the smaller gun battery at the Fort de la Pointe. The rest of the Rangers, code-named the Darby Force, landed 4 miles northwest, infiltrated and attacked from the rear and secured the larger gun emplacements of the Batterie du Nord. These operations were executed with few casualties on November 8 1942, a tribute to the Rangers’ meticulous planning and training.

After the successful attacks on Arzew, some Ranger companies assisted in mop-up operations of nearby towns. Training continued to keep the men sharp. They were attached to the 5th Infantry Training Center at Arzew to act as a demonstration unit for the newly founded amphibious-assault depot. January 1943 saw the formation of George Co which was to train 106 replacements for the Rangers. Dog Co, which had been reorganized temporarily as an 81-MM mortar unit in Dundee, returned to its original function as an assault company.

On February 11 1943, Able, Easy and Fox Cos, 1st Rangers set out to raid Italian positions at Station de Sened, Tunisia, which was defended by the Italian Centauro Division and the elite Bersaglieri Mountain troops. With eight miles of rough terrain to cover, the Rangers carried only a canteen of water, a C ration and a shelter-half each. The raid was carefully planned and exceeded all expectations. After closely fought combat, it resulted in at least 50 Italian dead and 12 prisoners from the famed 10th Bersaglieri Regiment. Five officers and nine enlisted men were awarded the Silver Star for their part in the Sened raid.

As in Northern Ireland and Scotland, realism was achieved through the use of live ammunition. Men simulating the enemy used captured German and Italian weapons so the new Rangers would learn to distinguish between the sounds of American and enemy guns. Thus, if a training problem required the taking of a machine-gun nest, a captured enemy machine gun would be set up to fire live ammunition in a fixed direction.

After the new men completed their initial hardening, most training was done at night. When tactical problems were conducted during darkness, Rangers simulating the enemy added to the realism by using flares. The Rangers also experimented with techniques of controlling tactical formations at night. Darby favored moving the battalion to an objective in column for ease of control. Once the objective was reached and the companies went abreast in preparation for the assault, dim, shielded, colored lights were used to maintain formation. Each company used a different colored light. When a company reached a predetermined location, it would signal its position to the rear. Company commanders would signal with uninterrupted beams, while platoon leaders would signal with dots and dashes. Darby, who would temporarily be to the rear where he could see the lights, could then be certain that his men were where they were supposed to be when beginning an assault.

The 1st Ranger Battalion took part in several major actions during the month of February and March of 1943. On February 11, Darby led Able, Easy, Fox Cos and a headquarters element on a night raid against Italian front line positions near the city of Sened located in the triangle Majoura, A Sanad, Gafsa, in central Tunisia. The attacking Rangers, carrying out a mission appropriate to their training and organization, killed or wounded an estimated seventy-five Italians, destroyed one antitank gun and five machine guns, and captured eleven members of the 10th Bersaglieri Regiment at the cost of one of their own men killed and twenty wounded.

The TOE authorized the battalion 441 enlisted men. The figure 488 includes a small over strength in each grade to offset attrition anticipated during training. The 1st Ranger Battalion withdrew with II Corps prior to the battle of the Kasserine Pass, February 19/22, and remained in defensive positions south of Bou Chebka until March. From February 16 through March 1, the Rangers were involved in several clashes in which they killed six Italians, captured eight Italians and eight Germans, and destroyed three wheeled vehicles and captured another three. One Ranger was killed or captured while on patrol during this period. With the end of the Axis’ February offensive, the Allies began to prepare for the next phase of the Tunisian campaign, Montgomery’s Eighth Army would attack northward along Tunisia’s east coast, while the II Corps and the British First Army would threaten the enemy from the west and draw his reserves away toward the west.

By mid-March, the British Eighth Army had driven the Axis forces westward until the latter took up defensive positions along the Mareth Line. The line was about twenty-five miles long and extended northeast from the vicinity of Cheguimu in the Matmata Hills toward the Wadi Zigzauo, and along the wadi to the Gulf of Gabes. The Eighth Army was to begin an attack on the line during the night of March 16.

The II Corps, over which Patton had recently assumed command, would play a supporting role in the attack. Operation Wop, as the II Corps’ role was named, called for the corps to capture and hold Gafsa, which would then serve as a logistical base for the Eighth Army. After taking Gafsa, the II Corps would conduct operations toward Maknassy to threaten Axis lines of communication and supply. This plan would require the 9th and 34th Infantry Divisions to defend the approaches to Rohia, Sbeitla, Kasserine, and Bou Chebka while the 1st Infantry Division took Gafsa. The 1st Armored Division (Reinforced) would then advance on Maknassy. On the evening of March 13, the 1st Ranger Battalion, which had been in corps reserve, was attached to the 1st Infantry Division. At 1000 on March 17, CTs 16 and 18 attacked Gafsa with the Rangers, found the town lightly defended, and quickly captured it. No Rangers were killed or wounded in the attack.

Djebel el Ank

The ease with which Gafsa fell revealed that the enemy had almost completely withdrawn from the area. Allied intelligence reported that about two thousand Axis troops were at El Guettar and that they were also organized in strength at Djebel el Ank. Although Patton did not intend to continue the attack toward El Guettar immediately, it was necessary to reestablish contact with the enemy and maintain the initiative.

On March 17, Maj Gen Allen (1st Infantry Division) sent Darby a memo ordering him to move the Rangers toward El Guettar after dark; reestablish contact with the enemy; determine enemy strength, dispositions, and unit designation; and maintain his unit in the area. Allen considered Darby’s mission crucial because the requested information was essential to planning an attack on El Guettar. Darby was directed to act aggressively but cautioned not to commit the Rangers to any action from which they could not disengage.

Darby received Allen’s memo at 0200 the following morning and immediately began moving his men through Gafsa toward El Guettar. In spite of intelligence reports that there were Italians in the area, the Rangers found El Guettar undefended, occupied it, and extended their search for the enemy farther to the east. By means of patrols and surveillance, they found troops of the Italian Centauro Division astride the Gafsa-Gabes road at the Djebel el Ank Pass. This was about four miles east of El Guettar and three miles west of Bou Hamran. It was to be the site of the Rangers’ first real battle since the Station de Sened raid. With the capture of Gafsa and El Guettar, the II Corps’ attack entered a second phase.

At 1630 on March 20, the 1st Infantry Division received a warning. Order from corps to prepare to attack along the Gafsa-Gabes road and to take the high ground east of El Guettar about eighteen miles southeast of Gafsa. The Gafsa-Gabes road split into two branches less than a mile east of El Guettar. The southern branch was a continuation of the main road and led into Gabes, The northern branch, dubbed Gumtree Road, passed through Djebel el Ank Pass and south of Bou Hamran to Mahares on the sea.

The plan developed by the division required the 18th Infantry to attack along the south branch of the Gafsa-Gabes road and for the Rangers and the 26th Infantry to attack along the north branch. The 16th Infantry would be held in division reserve. Djebel el Ank Pass opened to the west like a funnel with rocky heights on both sides, and the Italians had barred its entrance with mines, barbed wire, and roadblocks and had covered its approaches with automatic weapons and antitank guns. An unsupported frontal attack on the pass would risk heavy casualties and a high likelihood of failure, but a frontal attack combined with a surprise Ranger attack from the rear would be more likely to succeed with fewer losses. The plan thus developed required the Rangers to infiltrate enemy lines and attack the Italians defending the pass from behind. With the start of the Ranger attack, the 26th Infantry would make a frontal attack into the pass and, after securing it, continue on to Bou Hamran.

The Rangers, as ordered, remained in the Djebel el Ank area after locating the enemy and conducted reconnaissance patrols against the Italian positions. Darby made a personal daylight reconnaissance against the north wall of the pass, and Lt Walter Wojcik led two night patrols into the mountains behind the enemy. The Italians knew that Americans were to their front and brought the Rangers under artillery fire on the 18 and the 19 March but did not realize that the Rangers were operating to their rear. During these reconnaissances, the Rangers mapped a tortuous ten-mile-long route among fissures, cliffs, and saddles to an unguarded rocky plateau that overlooked the Italian positions from behind. The Italians, believing themselves safe in their naturally strong position, had not established effective local security.

At 1800, on 20 March, the 1st Infantry Division received the order from the II Corps to attack along the Gafsa-Gabes road and seize the high ground east of El Guettar. The 26th Infantry held a meeting of unit commanders at 2165 to issue the regimental order. The regiment would attack Djebel el Ank Pass along the axis of Gumtree Road with the 3d Battalion on the left, the 1st Battalion on the right and astride the road, and the 2d Battalion in reserve at El Guettar. The 3d Battalion would attack the north wall after the Rangers struck it from behind. Bou Hamran, the first objective beyond the pass, was to be attacked only on division order. On the night of March 20, Darby led the 1st Ranger Battalion and an attached 4.2-inch mortar company along the previously reconnoitered the route to the plateau behind the Italians. There, with their faces blackened with camouflage, the Rangers awaited the dawn. The mortar company, impeded by the weight of its weapons and the ruggedness of the terrain, had fallen behind and was still en route to the plateau.

Shortly after 0600, as first light brightened the sky to the east, waiting troops of the 26th Infantry heard the sound of battle burst forth suddenly from the north wall of the pass. The Rangers had taken the unsuspecting Italians completely by surprise. With machine-gun and rifle fire, a Ranger support element sent the Italians on the south side of the pass scurrying for cover, while the rest of the Ranger battalion swarmed down on the stunned defenders of the north wall.

With the sound of a bugle, the assault element jumped from rock to rock shouting Indian war cries and formed into skirmish lines to close with the Italians. They rushed forward firing their weapons, throwing grenades, and bayoneting as Darby repeatedly shouted, give them some steell. The first twenty minutes of the battle all but broke enemy resistance on the north wall. Dead Italians sprawled next to their unfired weapons while many of the living frantically waved white flags from their dugouts and trenches. The Rangers gathered prisoners while their mortars fired on those Italians who were still fighting from the other side of the road. By 0830, the Rangers held the most important positions on the pass, and the attached 4.2-inch mortars, which had only recently arrived, were adding their fire to the bombardment of the south wall. With the north side of the pass cleared, Darby sent one company to silence the several machine guns that could still fire on the entrance of the pass from the south wall. The attacking Rangers descended to the floor of the pass using a spur for cover and concealment, dashed across an open area to the base of the south wall, and slowly fought their way up the ridge in a rough skirmish line. The south side of the pass thus fell into Ranger hands. Casualties were limited during this final mop-up thanks to the Rangers Italian-speaking British Chaplain, Father Albert E. Basil, who talked an Italian officer into surrendering his men.

While the Rangers were overrunning the heights, the 26th Infantry began moving into the pass. Because of the natural strength of the Italian position, the infantry could advance only slowly. A wadi cut across the mouth of the pass, and even with Rangers to guide them and with no opposition, each company took forty-five minutes to cross it31 At 1120, the division G3 felt confident enough of the situation to direct Darby and the 26th Infantry to clean up what little resistance remained in the pass and take the high ground beyond Bou Hamran. Although Darby would only claim taking about two hundred Italian prisoners in his after action report, the Rangers and infantry together took more than a thousand prisoners by 1215. [II Corps, G-3 Journal and File, Telephone conversation, Capt Lord to Major Chase, 1215 21 March 1943]. The need for the Rangers passed as American forces continued their attack to the east, and the battalion was returned to its bivouac and division reserve at El Guettar at 1610. The taking of Djebel el Ank Pass was conducted in the successful tradition of Arzew and the raid at Station de Sened. Ranger losses in the operation amounted to only one officer wounded.


At Djebel el Ank Pass, the 1st Ranger Battalion, well-led, well-trained, and knowing where the Italians were and how best to attack them, gained a one-sided victory over an enemy who chose the battlefield and enjoyed the advantages of knowing the terrain. There were several factors in addition to Darby”s personal magnetism and leadership that contributed to the Rangers’ success in the battle. The first of these was their superb state of training. Although a large number of men had been transferred out of the battalion while it was assigned to Fifth Army ITC, the majority had been with the unit since its inception and early training under the British. They not only possessed the knowledge and ability which that training gave them as individuals but also the cohesion to use that training effectively as a team. In terms of training, the Rangers were at their peak in North Africa. The conduct of reconnaissance patrols to the pass was a second factor contributing to the Rangers’ success. By means of these patrols, Darby and Wojcik mapped out a route to the objective, determined how long it would take to travel the route, placed the objective under surveillance, and found a secure place from which to launch the attack. Consequently, they were able to gain complete surprise and immediate fire superiority over the Italians, neutralizing any advantage the Italians may have enjoyed by occupying highly defensible terrain. The relatively poor quality of the enemy troops, as demonstrated by their indifferent attention to security, was a third factor that made Ranger success likely. Although the Italians had not yet begun to show the extreme symptoms of demoralization they would in Sicily, it was generally true that they were a less formidable foe than the Germans.

Subsequent Developments

The taking of Djebel el Ank Pass was the last use of the 1st Ranger Battalion in an authentic Ranger operation in North Africa. Ironically, the gains made in that action were given up within forty-eight hours when the Germans launched a counterattack that culminated in the battle of El Guettar. The Rangers were once again called upon to fight as conventional infantry in an emergency and lost three killed and eighteen wounded in defensive actions near Djebel Berda during 23-27 March. That was one more than had been killed, and almost as many as had been wounded, in the Ranger-style operations at Arzew, Station de Sened, and Djebel el Ank combined. For the actions at Gafsa, Djebel el Ank, and El Guettar, the 1st Ranger Battalion was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation. The Rangers remained in North Africa until early July when they took part in the invasion of Sicily.

During that time, they underwent two major changes in force structure. These changes, which were brought about as a result of Darby’s wishes, were their expansion into a force of three battalions and the attachment of a 4.2 inch mortar battalion. On April 14, Darby wrote Eisenhower a recommendation that 52 officer and 1000 enlisted volunteers be made available for the formation of two additional Ranger battalions in time for the invasion of Sicily. Darby’s
recommendations were approved and forwarded to Marshall, and on April 19, Marshall’s authorization to activate the 3d and 4th Ranger Battalions arrived at Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ). However, the authorization contained the suggestion that after the need for the battalions had passed, their personnel might be returned to their former organizations. It was, therefore, likely that the Ranger battalions would be provisional rather than permanent. This was, in large part, a result of a manpower shortage that would remain critical until summer. The three battalions would be called Ranger Force.

On April 22, Headquarters, North African Theater of Operations, authorized Darby to visit any or any replacement depots in the theater to recruit volunteers for the Rangers. Darby could accept anyone he found suitable and have the volunteers assigned to the Rangers on the condition that his battalions did not exceed their authorized strengths. On May 17, Headquarters, Atlantic Base Section, announced that qualified enlisted volunteers were being sought. The volunteers had to be white, at least five feet six inches tall, of normal weight, in excellent physical condition, and not over thirty-five years old. They also had to have character ratings of excellent and no records of trial by court-martial. Although previous infantry training was desirable, volunteers did not have to be infantrymen. Except for technicians, volunteers were not to be higher in grade than private first class. This final stipulation was to ensure that enlisted leadership positions would be controlled by seasoned men who had trained with the Rangers in the British Isles and served with them in combat.

Darby used the original 1st Ranger Battalion as cadre for Ranger Force. He made Maj Herman W. Dammer, who had been his executive officer, commanding officer of the 3d Ranger Battalion and gave him A and B Companies to help build the new unit. Capt Roy A. Murray, the former commander of F Company, became commanding officer of the 4th Ranger Battalion and was given E and F Companies. Darby retained command of the 1st Ranger Battalion, which kept C and D Companies. Darby’s continued command of the 1st Ranger Battalion was necessary because Ranger Force had not been authorized a headquarters due to its provisional nature. Instead, the 3d and 4th Ranger Battalions were simply attached to the 1st. Darby remained a battalion commander, but his duties approximated those of a regimental commander, inasmuch as he was responsible for organizing, training, and controlling three battalions. He asked the War Department to authorize a headquarters for Ranger Force, but on April 29, he was notified without further comment that his request had been disapproved. The creation of Ranger Force led to a change in organizational structure that went far beyond a mere increase in the number of Ranger battalions. This was the virtually permanent attachment of the 4.2-inch mortar battalion, which was a direct consequence of Darby’s artillery background. Just prior to his assignment as Hartle’s aide, Darby had been a battery commander with the 99th Field Artillery (Pack) at Fort Hoyle, Maryland. While there, he had taken part in a comparison firing of his unit’s 75-MM pack howitzers and the 4.2-inch mortar and had been favorably impressed with the latter because of its greater range and bursting radius.

In mid-May 1943, Darby accidentally met Lt Col Ken Cunin on the streets of Oran. Cunin was a 1934 graduate of West Point and had been a friend of Darby’s since the two had served together in the 82d Field Artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas, in the mid-1930s. He was now commanding officer of the 83d Chemical Battalion, a 4.2-inch mortar unit. When Cunin told Darby that several chemical battalions were scheduled to land in Sicily, Darby requested and got Cunin’s battalion attached to the Ranger Force. This arrangement would bind the two units for most of the rest of the Rangers’ existence. The evolution, which had begun before Arzew when Darby temporarily replaced his 60-MM mortars with 81-MM tubes continued, gradually transforming the Rangers from a light, commando-like strike force into a more heavily and conventionally armed unit.

For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Francorchamps 4970
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be

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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)

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