Several important days in the history and lineage of the 3rd Ranger Battalion happened on October 3rd.
The U.S. Army Rangers date back to the Colonial Days before the American Revolution when the British raised a company of New Hampshire woodsmen who became an independent Ranger Company under Major Robert Rogers.
“Rogers’ Rangers” were greatly valued by the British during the French and Indian War for their skills at reconnaissance and at conducting light infantry operations. The British then expanded the Rangers into 14 different companies that took part in 14 different engagements during the war. Rogers’s writing on his 28 “Rules of Ranging” is still in use today by Army Rangers.
Rangers appeared briefly in other American wars during the 19th century. Yet, it wasn’t until World War II that the Rangers began forming the Ranger Battalions we’re used to today. Following the lead of the British Commandos, the United States formed the 1st Ranger Battalion in England under the command of William O. Darby. The 1st Battalion fought with distinction in North Africa.
Because of their success, Darby quickly formed the 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions. Combined with the 1st they made up the Ranger Force. The Rangers fought in Sicily and later in mainland Italy in early 1944. The 3rd Ranger Battalion was wiped out at the bloody battle of Cisterna.
But in 1943, another unit, which would be indelibly tied to the Rangers and the 75th Ranger Regiment, was born. That was the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), better known as “Merrill’s Marauders.” They were formed in late September and shipped to Burma.
During the fighting there, the Marauders had to deal with the Japanese, a 1,100-mile trek to their objective, and tropical diseases that decimated their ranks. For their accomplishments in Burma, the Marauders were awarded the “Presidential Unit Citation.” The award is still worn by members of the follow-on units on their uniforms. The Marauders also have the extremely rare distinction of having every member of the unit receive the “Bronze Star.”
The unit was disbanded and consolidated with the 475th Infantry on August 10, 1944. On June 21, 1954, the 475th was redesignated as the 75th Infantry. It is from the redesignation of Merrill’s Marauders into the 75th Infantry Regiment that the modern-day 75th Ranger Regiment traces its current unit designation.
Ranger Companies were formed in the Korean War, as well as in Vietnam where Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP), known as “Lurps” were designated as part of the 75th Infantry. In 1974, the 1st Ranger Battalion was formed and stationed at Hunter Army Airfield. Several months later, on October 1, 1974, the 2nd Ranger Battalion was formed at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
The current 3rd Ranger Battalion was formed a decade later, on October 3, 1984, at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
In December 1989, the battalion was called upon during the invasion of Panama for “Operation Just Cause.” Two companies of 3rd Battalion were tasked with seizing the airfield of Rio Hato, west of Panama City. Another company was part of the Ranger force that seized the airfield at Torrijos/Tocumen.
However, the 3rd Ranger Battalion would be forever linked with the Battle of Mogadishu which took place on October 3, 1993, exactly nine years to the day after the forming of the battalion.
B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion under the command of Captain Michael Steele, along with C Squadron, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), aircraft and aircrews from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and Air Force Pararescuemen and Combat Controllers from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, as well as troops from the 10th Mountain Division, were after two high-ranking officers of the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid who were in Mogadishu.
There they took part in a bloody 18-hour running gun battle with a numerically far superior force of Somali fighters under Aidid. Overall, 19 Americans as well as hundreds of Somalis would die. Among the Americans killed were six Rangers from 3rd Battalion: Corporal James “Jamie” E. Smith, Specialist James M. Cavaco, Sergeant James Casey Joyce, Corporal Richard “Alphabet” W. Kowalewski Jr., Sergeant Dominick M. Pilla, and Sergeant Lorenzo M. Ruiz.
The battle was famously depicted in the “Black Hawk Down” film.
It should be noted that when the filming of “Black Hawk Down” began in 2001 in Morocco, several members of B Co. 3rd Battalion were sent to film the fast-roping scenes into the objective area.
The 3rd Ranger Battalion has continued to serve in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria during the ongoing wars on terror.
On October 3rd, the 3rd Ranger Battalion not only celebrates its birthday but also remembers its fallen.
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