Seeing the success of the British Commando units, in January 1942 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the creation of American ‘commando style’ units.
Not liking the name of the British unit, Roosevelt named the new units ‘Rangers’ after the scouts of the American frontier days. Initially the new ‘Rangers’ were trained with the British Commandos at Achnacarry Castle, north of Fort William in the Scotish Highlands.
The 2nd Rangers on D-Day scaled the 150 feet tall cliffs to attack the gun German heavy artillery guns at Pointe Du Hoc. It was discovered that the guns had been moved, but the Rangers held the position until relieved. The 5th Rangers on D-Day landed on Dog White Sector of Omaha Beach breaking through the defences and moved to reinforce the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc. Rangers also assaulted the battery at Grandcamp Maisey.
Ranger Assault Vest
A piece of kit instantly recognisable as ‘Ranger kit’ was the Assault Vest.
Issued to NCOs and Officers, the vest provided a lot more carrying capacity than other equipment carrying webbing issued to US assault troops. The vest replaced the other webbing items, except for (in some cases) the M1936 pistol belt and belt order accessories, such as pistol holster and Carlise pouch.
The Assault Vest was made of a thick canvas material with four large pouches on the front, and two large pouches on the rear. There was also a slotted pocket on the left shoulder to house the bayonet. The entrenching tool fastened on eyelets on the top rear pouch.
The Assault Vest was fastened by two quick release straps, so it could be abandoned quickly. This was seen in the movie Saving Private Ryan (1998), when the squad removed their jackets to attack the machine gun post at the radar station.
The jackets weren`t well liked, and most were discarded shortly after D-Day. A reproduction Ranger Assault Vest costs between £30 and £100, while an original is around £400.
The other type of webbing used by Rangers was the traditional M1928 ‘Doughboy Pack’ ( not shown.)
An improvement of the WW1 M1910 version, this haversack required the kit inside to be packed around the blanket, which formed the mainstay of the load. It had integral suspenders for fiing to a cartridge belt or M1936 pistol belt.
Strapped to the chest was the waterproof M7 Gas Mask carrier ( see also D-Day US Paratrooper page), carrying the M5 Assault gas Mask. A reproduction case will cost around £20.
Choice of jackets, trousers & boots
Rangers were issued with the M41 ‘Parsons jacket’, although the ‘tankers jacket’, which was issued to tank crews, was often acquired.
This type of jacket was worn by Tech Sgt Mike Horath in Saving Private Ryan.
The tankers jacket is warmer than the Parsons jacket, so when worn with the Assault Vest it can get quiet uncomfortable in warm weather.
A reproduction M41 jacket costs around £40, while a repro trankers jacket costs around £60.
Wool 1937 pattern trousers were generally worn, although a suitable alternative are the ‘Herringbone Twill’ (HBT) trousers, as these are considerably cheaper.
The standard ‘Roughout’ boot was worn with leg gaiters, although some photos show Rangers wearing Corcoran Jump Boots. ( see also D-Day US Paratrooper page)
Helmets and other bits
Weapons and helmets were standard Government Issue, although an orange diamond was painted on the rear of the M1 helmet, with the number of the Ranger unit stencilled onto this in black.
For D-Day this was either ‘2’ ( for 2nd Rangers) or ‘5’ (for 5th Rangers). It is possible to buy helmets with this pre-stencilled.
The World War II GI. ISBN 978-1-84797-033-6
Government Issue. Volume 1. ISBN: 978-2-35250-080-3
Osprey. US Army Combat Equipments. ISBN 0-85045-842-0
Pointe du Hoc: by Peter Howard. ISBN: 0-7110-3095-2
G.I. Collectors Guide, Vol 1. ISBN 978-2-35250-080-3