1st Ranger Infantry Battalion – Operation Shingle – Anzio, Italy 1944 recreation

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The U.S. Army Rangers have become extremely famous over the years. From Long Range Recon Patrols in Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan. In recent times most people have become aware of Ranger exploits during WWII from the famous film Saving Private Ryan. In Ryan the movie follows men from the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

The history of the Ranger Battalion begins with the formation of the 1st Battalion, also come to be know as Darby’s Rangers. Named in honor of their leader, Colonel William Orlando Darby, the 1st was stood up in England with the majority coming for the British based U.S. 34th Infantry Division (Red Bull division). These volunteers were put through a rigorous Commando course in Scotland under the careful, watchful eye of experience British Commandos. The Rangers got their first action during early raids in Norway and the ill-fated Dieppe landing. After those operations, a new insignia was created to set the Rangers apart from regular units – the Ranger scroll.

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Designed by Ranger First Sergeant Anthony Rada, the colors of the Nazi “blood flag” were used, designed to taunt the Germans.

The Rangers started their first operations in North Africa with Operation Torch and later the Invasion of Sicily. It was only during the Landing at Anzio, Italy 1944 in which the 1st Ranger battalion suffered a catastrophic attack in Cisterna against an overwhelming force of tanks with the Herman Goering division. The Rangers held on until most of them were killed or forced to surrender along with remnants of the 3rd, and 4th Ranger Battalions. The only Rangers to be used in future assaults in Europe would be the famous 2nd, and 5th Ranger Battalions.

This recreation focuses on the immediate post-landing setup commonly seen on Rangers.

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Rangers were sometimes seen hanging their Tanker jackets over their pack.

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Notice the cut down leggings and Polaroid goggles. Also notice the Cold Weather Combat jacket, also known as the Tanker jacket. These were mass issued to Rangers during the campaign.

The Rangers were issued some of the latest uniforms and equipment of the time. Most men wore the “M1942, Special” shirt which included a gass flap behind the opening to shield the wearer from gas attacks, when the uniform was impregnated with CC-2. Another piece of issue that was widely used by the Rangers was the Cold weather combat suit, also known as Tanker overalls and the Tanker jacket.

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This shows off the M1942 “Special” field shirt. Notice the gas flap behind the open collar.

According to photographic sources, the Rangers had specific SOP’s when it came to wearing of the issued equipment. Most of the ordnance was carried in the M1910/M1928 haversack “Meatcan”. Normally designed to hold the users mess ten, the Rangers used it for various grenades and attached them to their belts using haversack metal clips designed for the pistol belt..

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The Ranger helmet has the company identification marking “T” on the back of his helmet for identifying units quickly during assault landings. Also notice the “Meat can” pouch, which normally goes on the M1928 pack, is worn on the belt to hold MKII, Thermite, smoke and other grenades & ordnance.

Also seen is the unique way of marking helmets with paint or white medical tape. The helmet was marked company wide, to hasten assembly and recognition during frenzied special assaults. This seems to have come up for the Invasion of Anzio and the Italian campaign only.

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Rangers excelled at small unit tactics and reconnaissance. Notice the light scouting load, cartridge belt only.

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Rangers endured grueling speed marches during their training, and helped combat exhaustion and fatigue during sustained fighting.

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Often Rangers were called to the front of regular Infantry formations to diagnose and handle certain situations – snipers, sentries or other special matters.

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The M1a1 gas mask, widely issued early in the war were commonly emptied of their gas mask and filled with essentials of combat, ammunition and rations. These bags were then rigged onto the back of their M1910/M1928 packs. Also of note, are the larger M1905 Long type bayonet.

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