Army Rangers—Of Their Own Accord

Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion breach a hill during a training exercise in California. SPC. STEVEN HITCHCOCK/U.S. ARMY. INSET: STATE ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA

Since WWII, the Army Rangers have been among the least secretive of America's covert operatives—and often the most lethal. The 75th Regiment's rangers, who deploy more often than any other Special Ops force, have proven shrewd warriors, invaluable in raids and seizures. This article, and others that present an intimate portrait of America's most elite fighting forces, is included in a Newsweek Special Edition, Special Ops.

In 1775, the Continental Congress approved the creation of 10 companies—made up of the young nation's most expert riflemen and hardiest frontiersmen—to engage the British by any means necessary. Using a rifle instead of a musket, a tactic considered unfair by the British, one of these skilled marksman could pick off British soldiers at 300 yards. Their first mission was to support the siege of Boston; it ended in victory and the British evacuation of the city. Commanded by Captain Daniel Morgan, these elite riflemen were the first incarnation of the U.S. Army Ranger Corps.

The Ranger Corps were re-established in the U.K. during WWII as troops trained for invasions in Europe and North Africa. A Ranger battalion of 500 men participated in the landing at Arzew, Algeria, the Tunisian Battles and the critical Battle of El Guettar; which marked the first time a U.S. tank commander outfought his German counterpart. During the initial assault on Omaha Beach, Rangers of the 5th Battalion were commanded, "Rangers, lead the way off this beach!" That order morphed into the now-familiar troop tenet "Rangers lead the way."

Since WWII, the Rangers have been among the least secretive of America's covert operatives, because their role is often more traditional: Clear the way for the Special Ops forces behind them. Rangers have been invaluable assets in raids and seizures in Korea, Iran, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Today's Army Rangers are deployed—in companies of 80 to 250 men—more often than any other Special Ops force. The 75th Ranger Regiment, consisting of four battalions and approximately 3,400 troops, is the only U.S. military outfit that has been in constant deployment since September 11, 2001. Purposeful words taken from the Army Ranger creed summarize their philosophy: "Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to the hands of the enemy, and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country. Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on…though I be the lone survivor."

This article is appears in Newsweek's Special Edition, Special Ops, by Issue Editor Johnna Rizzo.

SpecOps Reprint Cover
A U.S. Navy Riverine security team member checks a perimeter in 2012. Working along coasts, these MARSOC members infiltrate an enemy’s waterways, as they did during Operation Iraqi Freedom. MILpictures by Tom Weber/ImageBank/Getty Images
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