Today I am featuring the legendary Ranger Battalions when they were fighting long before the iconic landing in Normandy, France. This portrait of the small, elite raiding force based on British Commandos is focused on their fighting in the mountains of Italy, just after their landing at Salerno.
The Landing at Salerno was a hotly contested landing in which the Allied forces failed to cut off the retreating forces on Sicily during that invasion. When the Germans were able to escape Sicily, they knew an invasion of mainland Italy would be soon behind. Many Germans were waiting at Salerno, the optimal landing area for the region. The landing conducted by the newly formed 5th Army was very costly, and nearly fought back into the sea. After the initial fighting near the beachhead, units would move out into the mountains to begin the treacherous fighting ‘up the boot’ slogging along in some of the roughest terrain encountered.
The Rangers landed along with H Company of the 504th PIR at Maiori, near Salerno, on 9 September 1943. The town as told to me by veterans was a ‘resort city’ and the men ‘never even unslung rifles’ or ‘got their feet wet’ during the night time incursion.
This portrait is focusing on the Rangers in the Santa Maria sector of Italy. They fought near an old building dubbed “Fort Schuster” along with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division and 36th Infantry Division (Texas National Guard). Some of the interesting items to note are the wool flannel coat shirt pockets that were sewn to the trousers to give extra storage space in the pants, and occasionally mimicking the British Battle-Dress pocket style on the front of the leg. Other things to note are the cleated commando soles screwed (in this case) on the bottom of Type I service shoes procured during their stay in Scotland. Many members of the 1st Ranger Battalion who were transferred to cadre other new Ranger Battalions can occasionally be spotted in these iconic boots throughout Italy.