Once the United States became involved in WWII, US Army Officials in Great Britain realized a need for a unit similar to the British Commandos and submitted a proposal that would eventually lead to the birth of the Special Forces – US Rangers.
Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum. Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and feel the power of destruction housed throughout this extensive gallery. Authentic weapons (including some used by Special Forces) from around the world dating throughout history can be witnessed in this astonishing collection. The oldest piece on display is a very rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.
Newly Formed US Rangers
Captain Orlando Darby, who graduated from the West Point Academy, was the first commander appointed. Applications for this new unit poured in, but of the thousands received, only few met the stringent standards required. Captain Darby only had a few weeks to get the few who were accepted organized and ready. On June 19, 1942, the US Rangers became sanctioned and were ready for their first Special Forces mission.
Over the next few years, this World War II newly formed unit would embark upon several missions. Some were more successful than others, but in all of them, the US Rangers played a pivotal role. Their most difficult task would be issued during the infamous D-Day Landings in Normandy. They were given one of the most difficult landing targets – Point du Hoc. This area was heavily guarded by the Germans, who had built their defenses on top the cliffs. These fortifications were unlike any of the other ones found at any of the other landing sites. Referencing the mission, Lt. Col. James Rudder said, “Never has any commander been given a more desperate mission.”
The US Rangers received a huge set-back even before they landed. The Duplex tanks they had planned to use for cover fire sunk at sea. This forced the US Rangers to climb the cliffs at Point du Hoc without the use of armored support. Despite the high casualties suffered during this mission, the US Rangers successfully captured Point du Hoc. It was during this mission their motto – “Rangers Lead the Way” – was born.
After Normandy, the US Rangers successfully engaged in various theaters throughout the war continuing to achieve the impossible. The final assault for the WWII Special Forces US Rangers – planned for mainland Japan – was halted when they learned of the bombing of Hiroshima.