6 April 1944
War at Sea
German submarine U-302 sunk with all hands off the Azores
U.S. special operations history: Milestones and missions
1750s: Maj. Robert Rogers of New Hampshire organized and led a company of colonists known as Rogers’ Rangers against the French in Canada during the French and Indian War. Rogers’ 28 Rules of Ranging became a blueprint for Ranger fighting tactics.
Rogers’ 1759 raid on the Abenaki Village of St. Francis in Quebec inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel, “The Last of the Mohicans.”
SPECIAL SECTION: INSIDE AMERICA’S ELITE FORCES
1775: Notable Ranger companies fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, including “Morgan’s Riflemen” led by Capt. Daniel Morgan of Virginia and the South Carolina company led by Capt. Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox.”
1805: During the Barbary Coast War, Marine 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon led seven Marines and a band of mercenaries in a successful attack on the port city of Derna, Tripoli, in what is now eastern Libya, to rescue the crew of the American frigate Philadelphia who had been captured by pirates.
O’Bannon and his men are immortalized in the Marines’ Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.” Like later special operations troops, these early Marines were an elite force operating behind enemy lines against overwhelming odds.
1860s: During the Civil War, the Union fielded the 1st and 2nd Regiments of United States Sharpshooters organized by Hiram C. Berdan of New York. The best-known Rangers were led by the Confederate Col. John S. Mosby.
1866: One year after the Civil War ended, Congress authorized the president to enlist a limited number of American Indians as Army Scouts. In the 1890s, the Army enlisted scouts in units attached to the regular Army infantry and cavalry.
1890: Army Scouts were authorized to wear the branch of service insignia of crossed arrows. During World War II, crossed arrows were worn by officers and enlisted personnel assigned to the First Special Service Force. The crossed arrows became part of the insignia of the Army Special Forces in 1984.
March 1937: Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion activated at Quantico, Va. The 1st Recon was deployed to the Caribbean and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1940.
1942: The Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. special operations, was created to run guerrilla campaigns behind enemy lines during World War II. Elite military units modeled on British Commandos — including Marine Raiders and reconnaissance companies, Army Rangers, Special Reconnaissance Units (Scouts), Air Commandos, Amphibious Scouts and Raiders and Naval Demolition Units (“frogmen”) — were activated throughout the war.
February 1942: Marine Corps 1st Raider Battalion activated under Lt. Col. Merritt Edson followed by the 2nd Raider Battalion under Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, earning them the nicknames Edson’s Raiders and Carlson’s Raiders. The four Marine Raider battalions created during the war were disbanded by February 1944.
April 18, 1942: Airmen of the Army Air Forces, led by Lt. Col. James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle, conducted a daring bombing raid on Japan. Doolittle’s Raiders boosted American morale following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
June 1942: United States’ 1st Army Ranger Battalion activated in Northern Ireland under Maj. William O. Darby. Six Ranger battalions were formed for war service.
Soldiers who completed the rigorous British training won the right to wear the British Commando green beret, although it did not become the official headgear worn by Army Special Forces until 1961.
July 1942: Formation of 1st Special Service Force, a joint American-Canadian commando unit established under Lt. Col Robert T. Frederick. The Devil’s Brigade was a precursor to modern U.S. and Canadian special forces.
August 1942: Selected Army, Navy and Marine Corps personnel began exercises at the Amphibious Training Base in Little Creek, Va. The Army and Navy jointly established the Amphibious Scout and Raider School at Fort Pierce, Fla.
Phil H. Bucklew, known as the “Father of Naval Special Warfare,” led the first group of amphibious Scouts and Raiders. He was a professional football player before joining the Navy.
August 1942: Carlson’s Raiders lost 30 men in an assault on Makin Island that was intended to keep Japanese reinforcements from reaching Guadalcanal.
September 1942: In a pivotal special operations battle during the Guadalcanal campaign, Edson’s Raiders and Marines of the 1st Parachute Battalion defended a ridge overlooking a critical airfield against a much larger Japanese force.
Sept. 25, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, establishing a large-scale ground training facility for Marine island-hopping operations in the Pacific.
November 1942: Amphibious Scouts and Raiders were first deployed in Operation Torch, an invasion of North Africa.
January 1943: Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance company activated at Camp Elliott in the Kearny Mesa area. Training also took place at Camp Pendleton.
February 1943: Raider Training Center established at Camp Pendleton to train qualified replacements for battalions overseas.
June 1943: Lt. Cmdr. Draper Kauffman established Naval Combat Demolition Unit training at Fort Pierce. That same month, the secretary of the Navy authorized the establishment of an amphibious training base in the San Diego area.
Kauffman, who was born in San Diego, is given credit for “hell week,” a grueling one-week training course meant to eliminate all but the best candidates.
August 1943: Army Air Force Lt. Col. Donald Flickinger, Sgt. Harold Passey and Cpl. William McKenzie parachuted into the dense jungle of Burma to rescue a group of men, including CBS reporter Eric Sevareid, who had bailed out of a stricken C-46. That jump led to the birth of Air Force pararescue.
November 1943: Heavy losses during the amphibious assault at Tarawa emphasized the need for a combat force that could clear water hazards ahead of landings. Shortly afterward, 30 officers and 150 enlisted men began training as Underwater Demolition Teams, also called “frogmen,” at Hawaii.
Jan. 30, 1944: The Army Ranger force lost two battalions at the Battle of Cisterna in Italy.
Jan. 31, 1944: Frogmen saw their first combat during Operation Flintlock in the Marshall Islands.
Feb. 24, 1944: Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill’s commando force, nicknamed “Merrill’s Marauders,” began an arduous campaign through the jungles of northern Burma. In five major and 30 minor engagements, the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) disrupted Japanese supply and communications lines before being disbanded Aug. 10, 1944. Every member of the unit received the Bronze Star.
March 29, 1944: The first American air commandos, along with British “Chindit” commandos, launched a dramatic aerial invasion of Burma as part of a successful attempt to push back Japanese forces and re-establish the land route between India and China. The 1st Air Commando Group provided fighter cover, airstrikes and transportation for “Wingate’s Raiders,” a British force operating behind enemy lines.
June 6, 1944: Special forces units played key roles in the Normandy landings. Naval demolition units cleared obstacles from the beaches and Rangers scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. At Omaha Beach, Maj. Gen. Norman Cota yelled, “Rangers, lead the way!” to soldiers of the 5th Battalion, coining the Rangers’ future motto.
During the assault, 37 men from the Naval Combat Demolition Unit were killed and 71 wounded, making D-Day the single deadliest day in the history of Naval Special Warfare.
June 14, 1944: Navy divers scouted and cleared planned landing beaches for the invasion of Saipan. Following the success at Saipan, the Navy’s underwater demolition teams were involved in most of the major amphibious landings in the Pacific during World War II.
Jan. 30, 1945: In one of the most daring raids of the war in the Pacific, Army Rangers, Scouts and Filipino guerrillas liberated more than 500 Allied prisoners of war from a Japanese POW camp near Cabanatuan.
May 1946: The Army Air Force established the Air Rescue Service, known at the time as para-jumpers or PJs, the highly trained combat medics of the Air Force Special Operations community.
1950: Army Ranger Training school established at Fort Benning, Ga. Fifteen Ranger companies were formed during the Korean War.
September 1950: Underwater demolition teams scouted landing sites and cleared the harbor of mines before the surprise amphibious assault on the port of Inchon on Korea’s west coast.
June 20, 1952: The Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was formed at Fort Bragg, N.C. under Col. Aaron Bank, who was called “the father of the Green Berets.”
June 1957: Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company activated at Camp Pendleton under the command of Maj. Bruce F. Meyers. In 1958, half of the company transferred to Camp Lejeune to form the 2nd Force Recon Company.
May 1961: President John F. Kennedy sent 400 Green Beret special advisers to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers.
April 1962: U.S. Air Force re-established and activated the 1st Air Commando Group.
January 1962: Two Navy Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) operating teams were established. SEAL Team 1 formed in Coronado to support the Pacific Fleet under the command of Navy Lt. David Del Giudice. SEAL Team 2 was established in Little Creek, Va., to support the Atlantic Fleet, under the command of Navy Lt. John Callahan.
One of the first missions was a reconnaissance of the Havana Harbor. SEAL units were deployed extensively to conduct training and counter-guerrilla operations during the Vietnam War.
June 6, 1962: Speaking to the graduating class at West Point, Kennedy outlined his strategic vision for special forces in unconventional warfare.
“This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origins: won by subversives, insurgents, assassins, won by ambush instead of combat, by infiltration instead of aggression,” the president said.
July 1963: Special operations teams began organizing and training tribesman in the Central Highlands of Vietnam into the Civilian Irregular Defense Group.
July 6 1964: In the Battle of Nam Dong, Capt. Roger C. Donlon, commander of a 12-man Army Special Forces team of Green Berets, led a successful defense against a much-larger Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army attack. Donlon was awarded the war’s first Medal of Honor for his actions.
1966: Marine Force Recon, operating under the code name “Sting Ray,” began conducting clandestine patrols behind enemy lines near the Laotian, Cambodian and North Vietnamese borders.
March 1966: “The Ballad of the Green Berets,” written by Robin Moore and Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, topped the U.S. music charts and enshrined a patriotic image of the special forces soldier in popular culture.
The lyrics included: “Fighting soldiers from the sky / Fearless men who jump and die / Men who mean just what they say / The brave men of the Green Beret.”
Feb. 7, 1968: Vietnamese tanks overran the U.S. Army Special Forces camp at Lang Vei, near Khe Sanh.
July 4, 1968: “The Green Berets,” a film loosely based on a book by Robin Moore, was released starring John Wayne as a colonel in Vietnam and David Janssen as a newspaper correspondent who questioned the war’s wisdom.
1969: Army Col. Robert B. Rheault and five of his men were accused of murder and conspiracy in the death of a suspected South Vietnamese double agent in what became known as the Green Beret Affair. Although charges were dismissed, the case was used as a discrediting tactic against special operations forces.
Nov. 21, 1970: Special operations troops conducted a rescue operation to free Americans from captivity at Son Tay in North Vietnam, only to find the POWs had been moved from the camp. Despite rescuing no prisoners, the raid was considered a tactical success.
1978: Delta Force, a full-time Army counterterrorism unit, was formed by Col. Charlie Beckwith after numerous, well-publicized terrorist incidents in the 1970s.
1979: In Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now,” Martin Sheen played an Army captain sent upriver in Vietnam to assassinate a renegade special forces colonel played by Marlon Brando. In the film, the overt patriotism and adulation of the special forces reflected in “The Green Berets” is replaced by a stark moral ambiguity.
April 1980: A desperate mission to rescue 53 American hostages from Iran ended in failure and the deaths of eight servicemen, but was a turning point for U.S. special forces after a decline in the 1970s.
October 1980: In the wake of the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt, SEAL Team Six was created as a maritime counterterrorism unit under Cmdr. Richard Marcinko. (In 1987, SEAL Team Six was dissolved and U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU, took its place.)
October 1981: Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion, also known as Night Stalkers, was officially created at Fort Campbell, Ky. Today’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) was activated in June 1990.
1982: “First Blood,” a film based on the David Morrell novel, starred Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. The film spawned thee sequels.
March 1983: All Air Force Special Operations were transferred from the 23rd Air Force in Illinois and based at Hurlburt Field, Fla., as the 1st Special Operations Wing.
Oct. 25, 1983: Special operations units suffered comparatively heavy casualties as part the U.S. invasion of Grenada. The mixed outcome highlighted command and control problems in the special forces.
January 1984: Department of Defense created the Joint Special Operations Agency to coordinate counterterrorist military units in each of the armed services.
June 1985: After Lebanese hijackers seized TWA Flight 847 en route from Cairo to San Diego and murdered U.S. Navy diver Robert Stetham, anti-terrorist Delta Force units were dispatched to the Mediterranean but never engaged the hijackers, who shuttled the aircraft between Beirut and Algeria over 17 days before releasing the hostages.
April 16, 1987: U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, was established at MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Fla., to provide a uniform command for Air Force, Army and Navy special operations resources. Naval Special Warfare Command was established in Coronado.
September 1987: SOCOM’s first tactical operation involving Navy SEALs and Army Special Operations aviators working together took place during the Iran-Iraq War while the American military was protecting Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. On Sept. 21, the Iran Ajr, an Iranian ship, was disabled by Army special operations helicopters and boarded by SEALs after it was caught laying mines.
Dec. 1, 1989: Army established the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Dec. 20, 1989: Shortly before the U.S. invasion of Panama, members of Delta Force freed American Kurt Muse from a heavily guarded prison near Gen. Manuel Noriega’s headquarters. During Operation Just Cause, four SEALs were killed and eight wounded at Paitilla airfield trying to capture Noriega’s personal jet.
May 22, 1990: Air Force Special Operations Command was established.
1991: During Desert Storm, the first war with Iraq, special operations forces participated in search-and-rescue and missions and combat operations including the capture of oil platforms used by Iraqi soldiers as anti-aircraft positions and efforts to stop Scud missile attacks on Israel by tracking the mobile missile launchers and calling in airstrikes behind enemy lines.
Jan. 21, 1991: An American Navy pilot was rescued in the Iraqi desert by an Air Force team after an Iraqi missile brought down his F-14 60 miles northwest of Baghdad. Two days later, SEALs jumped into the water and rescued an Air Force F-16 pilot who had bailed out over the gulf.
Jan. 31, 1991: Air Force SpecOps AC-130 Spectre gunship shot down in the Persian Gulf, killing all 14 aboard, including Sgt. Damon Kanuha, 28, of San Diego.
Oct. 3, 1993: A failed operation to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu, Somalia, led to the deaths of 18 Army Rangers and Delta Force special operations soldiers, an incident recounted in the book and movie “Blackhawk Down.”
1997: In the Ridley Scott film “G.I. Jane,” Demi Moore played a female naval intelligence officer assigned to train for a spot as a SEAL.
1999: During the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia and Kosovo, Air Force commandos rescued an F-117A pilot who was shot down near Belgrade on March 27 and an F-16 pilot shot down in western Serbia on May 2.
November 2001: U.S. Green Berets linked up with Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum to capture Mazar-e Sharif, the first major victory for the U.S.-led coalition in the war in Afghanistan.
December 2001: Afghan forces under the coordination of U.S. special operations teams overran the Taliban mountain stronghold known as Tora Bora, but top al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, escaped.
March 4, 2002: Seven Americans were killed and 11 were wounded when Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and pilots and Air Force combat controllers and pararescuemen fought against entrenched al-Qaeda fighters atop a 10,000-foot Afghan mountain called Takur Ghar at the outset of Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan.
August 2002: Sony released the video game “SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs,” which was partially created at Sony’s San Diego offices using a Navy SEAL from Coronado.
March 2003: Unlike in Operation Desert Storm 12 years earlier, special operations forces played an integral role in the invasion of Iraq. Attack helicopters from the Air Force 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Night Stalkers) struck Iraqi positions along the southern and western borders. The 352nd helped open the northern front, flying in elements of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group to Kurdish-held locations while the 5th Group was on the ground in western Iraq. Naval Special Warfare secured offshore oil terminals and infrastructure and cleared Iraqi waterways.
April 2003: Army Rangers and other special operations troops rescued 19-year-old Pfc. Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital.
Dec. 13, 2003: A covert joint special operations team captured former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole at a farmhouse in Adwar, Iraq, near his hometown of Tikrit.
2004: Journalist Evan Wright published “Generation Kill,” a book based on the experiences of Marines from the 1st Recon Battalion during the U.S. military’s invasion of Iraq the year before. It was adapted as an HBO miniseries in 2008.
September 2004: Nine SEALs and another sailor were accused of beating an Iraqi detainee who died in CIA custody in 2003 at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. One officer was charged with a crime, and later acquitted.
June 28, 2005: Three Navy SEALs — Lt. Michael Murphy and Petty Officers Danny Dietz and Matt Axelson — were killed during a covert mission in Afghanistan. Eight SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers also died when their rescue helicopter was shot down. The events of the ill-fated mission were chronicled in the book “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell, which was adapted into a film of the same name and in the e-book “Operation Red Wings: The Rescue Story Behind Lone Survivor” by Peter Nealen.
Feb. 24, 2006: Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was officially activated at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
June 2006: Special operations forces led the hunt ending in the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
April 12, 2009: SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and rescued an American cargo-ship captain, ending a five-day standoff. The event was dramatized in the 2013 film “Captain Phillips.”
Feb. 21, 2010: Hellfire missiles launched by U.S. special operations helicopters killed as many as 27 civilians in three trucks in Uruzgan Province, central Afghanistan, after Predator drone operators mistook them for the Taliban.
Nov. 9, 2010: The “Call of Duty: Black Ops” video game sold more than 5.6 million copies worldwide within 24 hours of going on sale.
May 2, 2011: SEALs stormed a fortified compound in Pakistan and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Aug. 6, 2011: Eight Afghans and 30 Americans, including 22 Navy SEALs, died when their helicopter was shot down in the United States’ single deadliest day of the decade-long war in Afghanistan. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.
Jan. 25, 2012: SEALs parachuted into Somalia and rescued two aid workers being held hostage.
February 2012: “Act of Valor” movie premiered, featuring active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs as actors.
September 2012: Ex-SEAL Matt Bissonnette published “No Easy Day” under the pen name Mark Owen. It was a military memoir about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
December 2012: “Zero Dark Thirty” premiered, depicting the epic manhunt for Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and his death at the hands of Navy SEALs.
February 2013: A former Navy SEAL anonymously detailed the bin Laden raid in Esquire magazine.
February 2013: Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered all U.S. special operations forces to leave a province west of Kabul, alleging that they had been involved in the torture and murder of innocent people.
Oct. 5, 2013: U.S. special operations forces launched raids in Libya and Somalia. Members of Delta Force seized the militant known as Abu Anas al-Libi outside his home in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Hours earlier, a Navy SEAL team swam ashore and raided the villa of an al-Shabab commander in a predawn firefight on the coast of Somalia.
March 2014: Navy SEALs seized a rogue oil tanker controlled by armed Libyan militiamen.
June 2014: Delta Force operatives, supported by FBI agents, captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, in a secret raid in Libya.
Sept. 1, 2014: U.S. special operations forces in Somalia killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, leader of the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab. Godane had claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21, 2013, attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 67 people.
November 2014: The movie “American Sniper” was released it was based on former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s book of the same name.
SPECIAL SECTION: INSIDE AMERICA’S ELITE FORCES
Nov. 16, 2014: The militant group Islamic State beheaded Peter Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger turned aid worker who had been captured while delivering relief supplies to refugees in Syria.
Dec. 6, 2014: American photojournalist Luke Somers and a South African teacher were killed during a U.S.-led raid to free them from al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Yemen. On Nov. 25, U.S. special operations forces and Yemeni soldiers had freed eight hostages in a raid near the Saudi border, but Somers was not at that location.
June 19, 2015: Marine Corps holds ceremony to add “Raider” to the formal names of its special operations units, resurrecting a moniker made famous by World War II units that carried out high-risk amphibious and guerrilla operations.
Sources: News reports, Department of Defense, official histories published by the U.S. Special Operations Command, Air Force Historical Research Agency, U.S. Army Special Forces Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, “U.S. Special Forces: A Guide to America’s Special Operations Units — The World’s Most Elite Fighting Force” by Samuel A. Southworth and “Elite Warriors: 300 Years of America’s Best Fighting Troops” by Lance Q. Zedric and Michael F. Dilley.
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D-DAY AND THE AERIAL BATTLE FOR NORMANDY
Before June 1944, Allied military strategy had been focused on the Mediterranean. It was here, as Anglo-American armies advanced in North Africa, Sicily and Italy that Allied ‘tactical’ air forces rose to dominance over the battlefield. Fighter-bombers proved to be the most effective in this vital ground support role, able to respond quickly and decisively against hidden and fleeting targets when called in by forward controllers. Light and medium bombers also proved their worth striking at enemy troop positions and communications behind the lines.
Attention now turned to the coming invasion of France, for which a new Allied Expeditionary Air Force (AEAF) was set up, commanded by Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. This formation would support the Allied armies invading Europe, and later deploy to the continent and keep pace with the advance. But while the role of the AEAF’s fighters and tactical bombers was clear, there was less certainty over how best to employ the ‘heavies’ of RAF Bomber Command and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), which represented the most powerful air striking force of all.
At the beginning of 1944, with preparations for the invasion of Europe (Operation ‘Overlord’) well underway, Allied planners sought to identify suitable objectives for the heavy bomber force. These included the German air force (Luftwaffe) in the west, particularly its fighter aircraft, the rail transport network along which German reinforcements would have to pass, and the enemy’s defences on the shores of ‘Fortress Europe’. It was surmised that later on, with the troops ashore, the bombers could be called upon by army commanders for use against battlefield objectives.
None of this found favour with Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, the man in charge of RAF Bomber Command. Harris had his own view on what his bombers should be doing, namely ‘area attacks’ on German industrial cities. This had been his mantra since taking command in February 1942. The Americans, already committed to precision daylight attacks against key German industries like U-boats, ball-bearings and oil, were also hostile to a diversion of effort, although in their case the Luftwaffe was already a key objective.
COMBINED BOMBER OFFENSIVE
COMBINED BOMBER OFFENSIVE
RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF Eighth Air Force were supposed to be co-operating closely. The ‘Pointblank’ directive, issued after the conference of Allied leaders at Casablanca at the beginning of 1943, had instructed the RAF and USAAF strategic bomber forces to co-ordinate their efforts in an air campaign intended to fatally weaken Germany’s military, industrial and economic structure prior to an Allied invasion.
Destruction of the Luftwaffe fighter force and its manufacturing base was the most important element. Bombing attacks would be too costly, and D-Day itself would fail, unless Allied air superiority was achieved. But Harris paid only lip-service to the plan, choosing to concentrate on city attacks as before, and ‘Pointblank’ became in effect an American project. Unescorted raids in 1943 saw hundreds of bombers shot down, but by the beginning of 1944 the Americans had been reinforced, and were now protected by long-range P-51 fighters. The tide was about to turn in their favour.
In February 1944 the USAAF launched Operation ‘Argument’, or as it became known, ‘Big Week’. This was a series of systematic attacks on aircraft assembly plants. The factories proved more resilient than expected and production was only partially affected, but results in the air were better. The Luftwaffe, already pulled back from France and other fronts to defend Reich airspace, was now being decimated by free-ranging US fighters.
6 April 1944 - History
The 16th Infantry Regiment has a very rich history. Few, if any, other regiments in the United States Army can match the number and variety of campaigns in which this regiment’s Soldiers have fought and served or the number of honors they have won. The regiment has fought in 20 different countries and its Soldiers have served peacefully in many others. Its leaders are the men who have led these great Soldiers through those events and helped make the larger history of the U.S. Army the amazing story that it is. Within these pages you will find many of the stories, images, and details that compose that history.
Major Delancey Floyd-Jones led the regiment through its battles from Gaines Mill to Gettysburg.
During the spring and summer of 1864, the regiment participated in General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign and fought at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Jericho Mills, Cold Harbor, and finally in the Siege of Petersburg. In November the regiment was once again sent to New York for a short period, then after short stints at Lafayette Barracks in Baltimore and Camp Parole at Annapolis in Maryland, it was returned to the Army of the Potomac to perform duties as part of the Army of the Potomac’s Provost Guard in February 1865. By the spring of 1865, only a few of those soldiers sworn in at Fort Independence in 1861 were still present to participate in the regiment’s last wartime task—to help disarm General Robert E. Lee’s weary Confederates at Appomattox that April. During its Civil War actions, the regiment earned 12 campaign streamers and 3 of the regiment’s members, Captain Henry C. Wood, Forst Lieutenant John H. Patterson and Captain James M. Cutts, earned the regiment’s first Medals of Honor.
16th Infantry Regimental Band at Fort Riley, Kansas, circa 1877.
The 16th Infantry remained in the South at various locations performing Reconstruction duties until 1877 when it was called farther west to participate in various Indian campaigns. Westward expansion continued to cause friction and conflict with the Indians, so the regiment was initially sent to posts in Kansas and Oklahoma. The headquarters was established for the first time at Fort Riley with which the regiment was to later establish a long-term association. During this period several companies served in the campaigns against the Ute and Cheyenne Indians and but experienced little actual combat. The regiment then moved down to Texas in 1880. While in the Lone Star State, soldiers of the 16th Infantry served in the campaigns against Victorio’s Apaches in New Mexico and guarded various posts and patrol stations throughout west Texas. In 1886, Company K provided the guards to escort Geronimo into captivity at Fort Pickens, Florida. At Pine Ridge in 1890-91, the regiment participated in the “Wounded Knee” campaign and helped to bring to an end the Indian wars in the American West. Finally, the US Army’s long and arduous task of keeping open the westward roads to America’s expansion across the continent was complete. The 16th Infantry’s participation in the Indian wars of the west garnered the regiment another 3 campaign streamers.
After brief stays at Camp Wheeler, Alabama, Fort Crook, Nebraska, and Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, the 16th Infantry then received orders to go to the Philippines to help put down the ongoing insurrection there. The regiment arrived in Manila on 26 June 1899 and was initially assigned the duty of guarding the Manila and Dagupan Rail Road. Over the next 6 months, troops of the regiment participated in numerous small skirmishes somewhat reminiscent of those in which it would later engage in Vietnam. In December 1899, the regimental headquarters and several companies participated in a small campaign designed to retake the city of San Ildefonso back from a large insurgent force. Soon after this excursion, the regiment was redeployed to Nueva Viscaya Province to pacify and administer the area. The singular incident of note during that effort was the repulse of a force of over 300 insurgents on 14 September 1900 at Carig by a detachment consisting of 24 men from L and D Companies commanded by Sergeant Henry F. Schroeder. Schroeder was later awarded the regiment’s fourth Medal of Honor for that feat. By the fall of 1900, the regiment had administered the province so well that it was considered the most orderly area on Luzon.
The 16th Infantry returned to the United States at San Francisco on 8 July 1901 and from there was posted, less the 1st Battalion, to Fort McPherson, Georgia. The 1st Battalion was concurrently assigned station at Fort Slocum, New York, to provide support to the recruit training operations there. After a few years of routine garrison duty, the regiment was once again ordered to the Philippines in the spring of 1905. Stationed predominantly at Fort McKinley near Manila, this tour in the islands was much calmer than the previous. The only incident of note was a small expedition to Leyte Island to put down a minor uprising of the Pulajane tribesmen there. On return to Fort McKinley, the regiment discovered that the Philippine Division now had a new commander, Brigadier General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. This brief association with the general was the start of an on again-off again relationship that would continue through World War I.
The 16th Infantry once again arrived home to America at San Francisco on 16 September 1907. This time it was split between Fort Crook, where most of the regiment was stationed, and Fort Logan H. Root, Arkansas, to which the 1st Battalion was posted. The command remained at these posts conducting routine garrison duty for the next 3 and a half years. The only noteworthy incident during this period was the deployment of 4 companies sent to help quell disturbances by the White River Utes at the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.
The men of the 16th Infantry trudge into the depths of central Mexico, 1916.
In the fall of 1909, the regiment received orders once again for another overseas move, this time to Alaska. Arriving in July 1910, the regiment was widely distributed in little posts across the huge Alaskan Territory. In July 1912, the 16th Infantry arrived back home once again at San Francisco, but this time it remained there for duty at the Presidio, and assigned to the 8th Brigade. Less than 2 years later, the brigade received a new commanding general who was none other than “Black Jack” Pershing. Within two months, Pershing was ordered by the War Department to move his brigade to the Mexican Border to help secure it from depredations by Mexican bandits and paramilitary forces commanded by Francisco “Pancho” Villa. On arrival in April 1914, the regiment was posted to Camp Cotton in the city of El Paso. For the next two years, in addition to the normal garrison duties, the troops conducted foot patrols along the dusty Mexican border, showing the flag, and attempting to keep the area under some semblance of control. In January 1916, disturbances by Mexican citizens, ostensibly fomented by Villa organizers, caused Pershing to deploy the regiment into the city to restore calm and order. Two months later, Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, which, in turn, caused President Woodrow Wilson to order Pershing to take an expedition into Mexico to find and punish the Mexican bandit.
Assembling a largely cavalry force, Pershing selected two infantry formations to accompany the expedition, the 16th and 6th Infantry Regiments. The long march into the interior of Mexico was hot and dusty. After several weeks of movement between Colonia Dublan and El Valle, the 16th Infantry finally settled in the latter place in June. There the soldiers built mud brick huts for quarters and began to return to what amounted to a garrison routine, except for the occasional patrols into the nearby mountains and valleys to hunt for rumored Villistas. Though the cavalry had several clashes with Villista and Federali forces, the infantry maintaining a dull and boring existence for the next 8 months. In February 1917, Wilson recalled Pershing’s expedition from Mexico.
During the period between 1898 and 1917, the 16th Infantry participated in three small conflicts in foreign lands. In each, the regiment ably performed all tasks and missions with its usual efficiency. For its work in these conflicts the regiment added another 3 campaign streamers to its colors. It would soon have the chance to add more. The war in Europe was heating up and within two more months, America would be at war again, this time with Germany.
B Company macrhes to Easter services on Governors Island circa 1936.
Two years later, the division was transferred once again, but this time, the brigades, regiments, and smaller units were sent to garrison small posts all over the northeastern US. The 16th Infantry was posted to Fort Jay, New York, on Governors Island in the middle of New York harbor. The regiment would remain there until 1941, during which time it became known as, “New York’s Own” and adopted as its regimental song, “The Sidewalks of New York.” During this period the regiment engaged in the normal peacetime training routine of the 1920s and 30s which consisted of troop schools and individual, squad, and platoon training in the winter and spring, followed by the training of the Organized Reserve, R.O.T.C., and C.M.T.C. during the summer at Camp Dix. The fall was reserved mainly for maneuver and marksmanship training which were also usually held at Camp Dix. The regiment, along with the rest of the 1st Division, also participated in the First Army maneuvers of 1935 and 1939. After the latter maneuver, the entire division was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, to participate in a corps-level maneuver experiment designed to improve the employment of the new “triangular” division structure. The regiment returned to Fort Jay that summer in time to participate in the next First Army maneuver in upstate New York in September 1940. The following January, the 1st Division was assembled at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, where it was brought to full war strength and conducted the training requirements of the US Army’s Protective Mobilization Plan. The regiment, along with the rest of the Big Red One, also conducted a number of amphibious training exercises which provided an indicator of how the division was to be used in any impending conflict.
The 2nd Battalion parades through Paris, 4 July 1917. USASC
Prior to being committed to battle, the 16th Infantry Regiment, began training in July 1917 in the Gondrecourt area with the French 47th Division, Chasseaurs d’Alpines, nicknamed the “Blue Devils.” Throughout the summer and fall the training went apace and soon it was time for exposure to actual combat. On 3 November 1917, while occupying a section of trenches near Bathlémont, the 16th Infantry became the first U.S. regiment to fight and suffer casualties in the trenches during World War I when it repelled a German night raid. The French government later erected a monument at Meurthe-et-Moselle, France, honoring the first three 16th Infantry Regiment soldiers killed during the fight with the inscription: “Here lie the first soldiers of the Great American Republic fallen on French soil for Justice and Liberty.”
In the months that followed, the 16th Infantry would sustain even more casualties in defensive battles in eastern France at Ansauville, Cantigny, and Coullemelle. The regiment’s first major attack was made during the bloody three-day drive near Soissons in July 1918. Along with the rest of the Big Red One, it relentlessly attacked until the German rail line that supplied their front line troops was severed forcing a major withdrawal of the enemy’s forces. The regiment also participated in the US First Army’s huge offensive to reduce the St. Mihiel salient in September. Arguably the regiment’s most gallant action was the grueling drive that liberated the little village of Fléville in the Argonne forest region on 4 October 1918. This feat was significant in that the 16th Infantry was the only regiment in the entire First U.S. Army to take its main objective on the first day of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. To this day that action is celebrated annually during the 16th Infantry Regiment’s Organization Day. The 16th Infantry also participated in the 1st Division’s final drive of the war when the division attacked to seize the city of Sedan. Though the division was stopped short of that objective by international politics, the verve and vigor of that drive demonstrated the regiment lived up to the division’s new motto, “No mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great—Duty First!”
During the Great War, the 16th Infantry suffered its greatest number of wartime casualties to date, all in a single year of combat. It sustained 1,037 soldiers killed in action or mortally wounded, and 3,389 wounded. In addition to the 7 campaign streamers earned by the regiment and the 2 Croix de Guerre granted by the French government, its soldiers were awarded at least 97 Distinguished Service Crosses, and thousands were cited for “gallantry in action” in General Orders which was the equivalent of today’s Silver Star. In recognition of the regiment’s service in France, Brigadier General Frank Parker paid the following tribute:
There is to my thinking, nothing finer in this world than the self-effacing role of the true private soldier of infantry, and nowhere in this war has the private soldier of infantry been truer to his Country’s expectations of him than in the Sixteenth Infantry. All Honor, then, to these men, and to those gallant officers and non-commissioned officers, who have taught, inspired and led these private Great Hearts in the van of the American Expeditionary Forces.
The 16th Infantry, along with the rest of the 1st Division, marched into the Coblenz Bridgehead in late 1918 to perform occupation duty there for the next 9 months. In August 1919, the division received orders to come home and boarded ships at Brest, France, later that month.
Next came Sicily. Shortly before 0100 hours on 10 July 1943, the first wave of the 16th Infantry boarded landing craft for the assault on that island. After achieving a relatively bloodless hold on the beachhead in the darkness, the regiment pushed into the hills beyond. There the regiment was soon hit hard with an armored counterattack by German tanks. Despite numerous enemy tanks and reinforcements, the 16th Infantry desperately held on by receiving assistance from the heavy guns of the U.S. Navy and the timely arrival of the regiment’s Cannon Company. By 14 July 1943, the regiment had moved through Pictroperzia, Enna, and Villarosa. Fighting against snipers and well-fortified positions, the regiment moved forward by a series of flanking movements and by 29 July had taken the high ground west of the Cerami River. In early August, the regiment reached the town of Troina in eastern Sicily. At Troina the regiment experienced some of the most bitter fighting it would see during the war. After a four-day brawl with the battle-hardened troops of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, the men of the 16th Infantry finally captured the town and soon after the Sicily campaign ended.
Subsequently, the regiment sailed to Liverpool, England, and from there entrained on 16 October 1943 for Dorchester, to carry out seven months of grueling training in preparation for the Allied invasion of Europe. On 1 June 1944, the men of the 16th Infantry departed their D-Camps in southwestern England and embarked on amphibious assault ships at the port of Weymouth. Units of the 16th Infantry boarded the USS Samuel Chase, the USS Henrico, and the HMS Empire Anvil, preparatory to their third—and most important—amphibious assault mission. Late on the afternoon of 5 June 1944, the troop-laden ships slipped out of Weymouth harbor and headed for the beaches of Normandy.
Succinctly stated, the 16th Infantry’s mission on D-Day was “To assault Omaha Beach and reduce the beach defenses in its zone of action, proceed with all possible speed to the D-Day Phase Line, and seize and secure it two hours before dark on D-Day.” The long awaited assault on “Fortress Europe” began in the early hours of 6 June 1944 as the 16th Infantry Regiment moved toward Omaha Beach. About 600 yards offshore, the regiment’s landing craft began to encounter intense antitank and small arms fire. As the lead elements, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, approached the beach, it became readily apparent that many of the enemy’s strong points had not been eliminated by the pre-invasion bombardment. Many landing craft, and their occupants, were hit as they plowed through the heavy seas toward shore. As landing craft dropped their ramps, men were killed and wounded as they attempted to get out of the boats. Others were hit as they struggled through the surf or tried to run across the sand weighted down with water-logged equipment.
The survivors of the first wave slowly built up a firing line along the low pile of shale. As more units arrived, they found the now disorganized lead troops pinned down and congested. Still, here and there men attempted to move forward. Many were shot down, but others made it in close to the base of the bluff where they found the area mined and criss-crossed with concertina wire. In a few places, small organized bodies of troops made efforts to get through the enemy defenses. Eventually, an assault section of E Company under First Lieutenant John Spalding and Staff Sergeant Philip Streczyk managed to cross a minefield, breach the enemy wire, and struggle their way to the bluff. Colonel George Taylor, the regimental commander, noting the small breakthrough stood to his feet and yelled at his troops, “The only men who remain on this beach are the dead and those who are about to die! Let’s get moving!” Soon other troops began making their way up the bluffs along Spaulding’s route while other gaps were blown through the wire and mines. By vicious fighting, some hand-to-hand, other sections, platoons, and eventually companies made it to the top and began pushing toward Colleville-Sur-Mer.
By noon of that bloody day, the 16th Infantry had broken through the beach defenses and established a foothold that allowed follow-on units to land and move through. The evening of D-Day plus 1 found all of the units of the regiment ashore, many of them well inland by that time, but some were combat ineffective due to casualties. A few weeks later, at an awards ceremony on 2 July 1944, Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Gerow came to praise the troops of the regiment for their heroic efforts and to present the Distinguished Service Cross to a number of the regiment’s officers and men. At the ceremony, Eisenhower told the members of the regiment:
I’m not going to make a long speech, but this simple little ceremony gives me an opportunity to come over here, and through you, say thanks. You are the finest regiment in our army. I know your record from the day you landed in North Africa, and through Sicily. I am beginning to think that your Regiment is a sort of Praetorian Guard, which goes along with me and gives me luck.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
2 July 1944
After D-Day, the 16th Infantry became the division reserve, and after a brief rest, continued moving inland. In late July, the regiment was still in division reserve when it was ordered to be prepared to assist in a breakout through the German line near St. Lo. After the saturation bombing of the Panzer Lehr Division on 25 July, the Big Red One closely followed the 9th Infantry Division in the breakout attempt. Two days later the 16th Infantry was launched on an attack through a break in the lines near Marigny and drove on the city of Coutance where it established battle positions on 29 July. By this time, the Germans were in headlong retreat and attempting to establish a new line well to the east. Their efforts would fail and the German Seventh Army would be largely destroyed as it attempted to escape via the Falaise Gap. Meanwhile, in an effort to keep up with the retreating Germans, the men of the 16th Infantry piled on trucks, tanks, and anything else they could find to move eastward as quickly as possible. After motoring south past Paris, the regiment caught up with the enemy again near Mons, Belgium, where it helped the 1st Infantry Division destroyed six German divisions in August and early September.
From Mons, the regiment pushed on with the Big Red One toward Aachen, Germany, just across the German frontier. For the next three months, the men of the 16th Infantry would experience some of the most grueling fighting of the war in the infamous Hürtgen Forest near Aachen, Stolberg, and Hamich, Germany. After sustaining very heavy casualties from enemy artillery fire and the cold dreary weather, the entire division was sent to a rest camp on 12 December 1944. The stay was short, because Hitler launched Operation Wacht am Rhein four days later and the Battle of the Bulge was on. The division was sent to bolster the northern shoulder of the bulge near Camp Elsenborn. The regiment was ordered to positions near Waywertz. For the next month, the men of the 16th Infantry held defensive positions there, conducted heavy patrolling toward the German positions near Faymonville, and engaged in a number of firefights with troops of the 1st SS Panzer and 3rd Fallshirmjaeger Divisions. All of this was conducted in heavy snows during one of the coldest European winters on record.
On 15 January 1945, the Big Red One launched its part of the Allied counteroffensive to reduce the Bulge. Over the next seven weeks, the regiment conducted numerous operations in western Germany culminating in the capture of Bonn on 8 March 1945. From there the Big Red One moved north to the Harz Mountains to eliminate a German force cut off there by the rapid advance of the First and Ninth US Armies. For a week the regiment conducted several attacks against die-hard enemy troops. On 22 April, the Big Red One finished clearing the Harz Mountains and soon received orders to once again head south. This time, the division was reassigned to the Third Army for its drive into Czechoslovakia.
On 28 April, the regiment arrived near Selb, Czechoslovakia, and began advancing east. For the next ten days the 16th Infantry pushed into that country arriving near Falkenau by 7 May. At 0800 that day, a net call went out to the entire regiment to cease all forward movement. The war was over. In 443 days of combat, the 16th Infantry had sustained 1,250 officers and men killed in combat. An additional 6,278 were wounded or missing in action. Its men had earned four Medals of Honor, 87 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 1,926 Silver Stars. Additionally, the regiment, or its subordinate units, was awarded five presidential unit citations and two distinguished unit citations from the United States, two Croix de Guerre and the Medaille Militaire from the government of France, and the Belgian Fourragerre and two citations from the government of Belgium. Once again the regiment had fought with valor and courage to help win a war against the nation’s enemies. It would spend the next ten years trying to win the peace in the country of its vanquished foe.
The regiment provided guards at the Nuremburg trials in 1948.
In July 1948, the regiment was reformed in Frankfurt, Germany, by reflagging the newly formed 7892nd Infantry Regiment. The regiment was then almost immediately railed to Grafenwöhr for a series of intensive training exercises designed to bring the 16th Infantry to wartime fighting proficiency. Unlike the previous three years during which the regiment was predominantly preoccupied with what were essentially Military Police duties, the regiment was now going to focus on staving off the Red threat to central Europe. To ensure they were ready, the regiment participated with the Big Red One in numerous European Command training events such as Exercises WINTERPRIME II, HARVEST, JUNIPER, COMBINE, and FERRYBOAT. The regiment maintained its sharp edges by conducting no-notice alerts at monthly, or even more frequent, intervals. The urgency of the mission increased in July 1950 when the Korean War erupted. Fear of a second communist front caused the disbandment of the U.S. Constabulary and the reinforcement of Germany with an armored division and three more infantry divisions in 1951. The defense of the Fulda Gap became the 1st Infantry Division’s area of responsibility and also the 16th Infantry Regiment’s primary focus.
Given the initial restrictions placed on U.S. Army soldiers regarding fraternization with German citizens (especially females) and the consumption of alcohol, The leaders of the 1st Infantry Division, as well as the European Command as a whole, looked for ways to keep soldiers busy and out of trouble when not on duty. One of the primary ways was a vigorous sports program. Just after the 16th Infantry was reorganized in Germany in 1948, the regiment needed to come up with a name for its various sports teams. Its soldiers chose the name “Rangers” due to the fact that the Germans had mistakenly reported the regiment as Rangers on D-day. The regiment has maintained that tradition to this this day, with modifications to the basic moniker by the various battalions over the years.
After the 1948 Grafenwöhr training exercises, the regiment had been posted to Monteith Barracks in Furth, Germany, and surrounding communities. It was during this period that the Security Platoon (also known as the Honor Guard) provided guards for the famous Nuremburg trials. In August 1952, the 16th’s headquarters was transferred to Conn Barracks in Schweinfurt, Germany, while the most of the regiment’s subordinate units were assigned to Ledworth Barracks in that city. Schweinfurt was to be the regiment’s last station in Germany before returning home.
In 1955, the army tested a system of rotating units to Europe which became known as Operation GYROSCOPE. In June 1955, the 16th Infantry Regiment became the first Big Red One unit to return to the United States via GYROSCOPE when it was replaced by the 86th Infantry, 10th Infantry Division at Conn Barracks. The new duty station for the regiment, as well as for the rest of the Big Red One was Fort Riley, Kansas.
MG Chauncey Merrill presents the colors of the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battle Group, 16th Infantry to Colonel Irving Yeosock in May 1959.
After spending 2 years at Fort Riley, participating in a number of various exercises and conducting an iteration of Basic Combat training, in March 1959, the 1st Battle Group was transferred to Baumholder, Germany, and assigned to the 8th Infantry Division. Over the next three years, the battle group function as part of the US Army Europe’s first line of defense against potential Soviet aggression against Europe. It participated in Exercises such as WINTERSHIELD and B Company was sent to France in 1961 to act as soldiers in the movie, The Longest Day.
The next element of the regiment to actually organize under the Pentomic concept was the 3rd Battle Group, 16th Infantry. In May 1959, the battle group was activated at Worcester, Massachusetts, and assigned to the 94th Infantry Division. The unit spent the next four years conducting the normal drill and summer camps of a reserve unit. On 7 January 1963, it was reorganized and redesignated as the 3rd Battalion, 16th Infantry and reassigned to the 187th Infantry Brigade (Separate). It was the first unit of the regiment to reorganize under what was known as the Reorganization of Army Divisions (ROAD) that eliminated the Pentomic structure of five battle groups. The infantry division was returned to a structure that included nine battalions that were now organized into three brigades.
The 1st Battle Group remained at Baumholder until 1 April 1963 when it was reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry and reassigned to the Big Red One at Fort Riley. The 1st Battle Group remained at Baumholder until 1 April 1963 when it was reorganized and redesignated as the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry and reassigned to the Big Red One . At Fort Riley, on 2 March 1964, the 1st Battalion was more or less split in two and the 2nd Battle Group was reactivated with the 1st Battalion’s excess personnel and concurrently reorganized and redesignated as the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry. The two active battalions of the regiment participated in supporting R.O.T.C. summer camp and Fort Riley and Exercise GOLD FIRE 1 before receiving warning orders for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam in the spring of 1965.
The 2nd Battalion in Vietnam
In 1965, the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment became the first element of the regiment to deploy to South Vietnam. The battalion arrived on the USNS Gordon on 14 July 1965 as a part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and debarked at Vung Tau. This event marked the first time since the Philippine Insurrection that the Rangers had set foot on Asian soil. The troops were initially sent to Long Binh north of Saigon and there the battalion immediately began building a base camp appropriately named Camp Ranger. Even while the construction was going on, the battalion began conducting platoon-size missions around the camp. In late July, a patrol from Company A was surprised by a small group of Viet Cong in a clearing southeast of the camp. In the brief firefight that ensued, one Viet Cong was killed which marked the first confirmed VC killed by soldiers of the 2nd Brigade. There would be many more in the years that followed.
In the many ensuing operations, the Rangers found themselves fighting in some of the most difficult conditions known to an infantryman. The elusive enemy had to be found before he could be destroyed and to find him the troops had to remain almost constantly in the field on search missions. “Search and Destroy” operations such as those conducted during Operations MASTIFF, BUSHMASTER, ABILENE, BIRMINGHAM, EL PASO, ATTLEBORO, CEDAR FALLS, and JUNCTION CITY usually found the battalion operating far from its base camp area throughout the III Corps Tactical Zone. The sites of these missions included many areas that were to be come well-known to many U.S. infantrymen during the Vietnam years: the impenetrable jungles of Tay Ninh near Cambodia Hobo Woods the “Iron Triangle” near Lai Khe the Michelin Rubber Plantation the Trapezoid, and War Zones C and D. In all these places, the 2nd Rangers inflicted heavy losses on enemy manpower and supplies.
After a series of patrols and search and destroy missions largely in the areas around Camp Ranger, the battalion participated in Operations BUSHMASTER I and II in and near the Michelin Rubber Plantation. The 2nd Rangers participated in these missions in November and December 1965 along with the 1st Battalion and the regiment’s old chums from World War I, the battalions of the 18th Infantry. This mission was followed by SMASH II in mid-December and MALLETs I and II in late January and early February. In late February the 2nd Rangers operated once again with their brother battalion when the Big Red One’s 2nd and 3rd Brigades deployed to the vicinity of Ben Suc to clear out a notorious VC support zone and bring the 272nd People’s Liberation Army Front (PLAF) Regiment to battle. The operation ended in late February with little damage to the 272nd Regiment, but with vast quantities of enemy supplies and equipment located and destroyed or confiscated.
A machine gun team from C Company, 2-16 Infantry sometime before the battle at Courtenay Plantation.
In March, the 2nd Battalion moved to a new home at Camp Bear Cat. Once settled into its new location, the battalion received a warning order for the next operation, ABILENE. ABILENE was a division-level effort to find and destroy several enemy formations operating due east of Saigon. The major incident during this huge mission took place near the village of Xã Cam My and the Courtenay Plantation. On the afternoon of Easter Sunday, 11 April 1966, C Company became engaged in one of the toughest battles of the war. Encountering the D800 Battalion set up in a well-fortified base camp, the 2nd Rangers fought fiercely, often hand to hand, for hours into the night. Although the company suffered heavy casualties, over 30 KIA, its Soldiers held their own until a relief force arrived the following morning. The VC battalion, however, had paid heavy toll for its attempt to overrun C Company. With over 100 killed in action and its base camp destroyed, the remnants of the enemy unit were forced to flee to avoid complete destruction as the rest of the battalion continued the search.
ABILENE was followed by Operation BIRMINGHAM which took place on the Cambodian Border west of Tay Ninh. During BIRMINGHAM, A Company, and elements of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry, took on the 3rd Battalion 70th Security Guards Regiment at Lo Go on 30 April. This severe five-hour battle resulted in at least 54 confirmed KIAs and perhaps as many as another 50 enemy dead.
Throughout the rest of 1966, the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry participated a series of pacification operations. The overall mission of these operations was to move into a semi-populated area and conduct extended operations to find and destroy enemy troops and support areas. These consisted of Operations EL PASO I, II, and II, ALLENTOWN, and FAIRFAX. In the latter mission, the 2nd Rangers inflicted numerous losses among the local VC guerrillas by setting up night ambushes along the Saigon River in the Thu Duc District just northeast of Saigon.
Shortly after the beginning of the new year, the 2nd Rangers participated in Operation LAM SON in the Phu Loi area. This pacification operation had been continuously maintained on a rotational basis by several infantry battalions for over six months prior to the arrival of the 2nd Battalion. The operation made use of practically all infantry tactics used in counterinsurgency operations, including day and night ambushes, village seal and search missions, heliborne assault, search and clear, and search and destroy operations. During LAM SON, the battalion compiled an impressive record and it was reported that the 2nd Rangers were the most successful infantry battalion to conduct such operations since the start of the mission.
In late February, the 2nd Battalion was pulled out of LAM SON to join in Operation JUNCTION CITY, the largest single mission of the war. Though a huge effort, the 2nd Rangers’ own experience was largely uneventful. It conducted numerous, but fruitless, search and destroy sweeps near the Cambodian Border in an attempt to find the Central Office of South Vietnam (COSVN), the controlling headquarters for VC units in the III Tactical Zone. During most of the rest of 1967, the battalion continued to conduct pacification efforts with 5th Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Division partner units and conduct patrols, ambushes, and search and destroy missions near Ben Cat.
2LT Harry Smith and SFC Joe Shine develop plans during Operation Plumb Bob.
The end of January 1968 saw the beginning of the infamous Tet Offensive, the VC effort to overrun and win the war in South Vietnam. Both battalions of the regiment were intimately involved in the US Army’s own counteroffensive operations during this period. On the second day of the offensive, the 2nd Battalion, operating in conjunction with the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, took on the 9th PLAF Division’s 273rd Regiment. Over the next two days, the infantry/ cavalry team killed at least 372 enemy soldiers, including the regimental commander and staff, and destroyed a supporting a artillery battery. During the rest of the month the battalion kept parts of Highway 15 open, guarded bridges, and conducted countless patrols and ambushes in the An My—Di An—Phu Loi area. By March, the VC effort was thoroughly defeated and the enemy had sustained over 45,000 KIA.
Flush on the heels of what was a significant US-RVN victory, the 2nd Rangers partook in Operations QUYET THANG and TOAN THANG. These were pacification operations designed to consolidate gains made during Tet as well as start moving U.S. Army efforts more toward working with ARVN units to provide local security for key hamlets in villages in the hinterlands. As part of TOAN THANG, the battalion conducted a seal operation at Chanh Luu, a village east of Ben Cat, and succeeded in capturing 268 VC soldiers that were hiding there after their defeat during Tet. In September while conducting pacification efforts near “Claymore Corners,” the 2nd Battalion was suddenly redeployed by air to the vicinity of Loc Ninh to help hunt for the 7th People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) Division’s 141st Regiment. In a classic meeting engagement on 12 September, the battalion battled and pursued the 141st Regiment over the next two days inflicting hundreds of casualties and over fifty known KIA.
After the operations around Loc Ninh, the battalion was assigned to the “Accelerated Pacification Campaign” in November and continued on this effort into the new year as part of the LAM SON mission in the Phu Loi area north of Di An. Throughout 1969, the 2nd Rangers performed numerous and varied missions in support of the pacification campaign. In April it joined in Operation PLAINSFIELD WARRIOR in the “Trapezoid,” and in numerous search and destroy missions in June and July around Ben Cat and Lai Khe. Later in July the battalion was assigned the road security mission along a section of the highway to Song Be. Known as the “Thunder Run,” the route was so-named due to the many mortars, rockets, and mines the enemy used to interdict US and ARVN traffic along the road. The battalion remained engaged in that mission until September 1969 when it was transferred permanently to Lai Khe where it joined the 1st Battalion under the Big Red One’s 3rd Brigade, an assignment that held for the remainder of the war.
Late in September, the 3rd Brigade participated in Operation IRON DANGER, the first division-level mission of the year. While the 1st Battalion was sent to find and destroy elements of the Dong Nai Regiment near Bau Bang, the 2nd Rangers deployed to the “Rocket Belt” to engage the C-61 Local Force Unit. The battalion initially provided security for the construction of Fire Support Base (FSB) Lorraine and then conducted sweeps through the Rocket Belt, the “Deadman,” and the T-Ten stream complex looking for the C-61 until December. Both battalions experienced few contacts and discovered that their respective enemy forces were starving due to the success of the pacification campaign. The enemy at this point was far more interested in findng food than in fighting the Americans.
The remaining three months in Vietnam for the 2nd Battalion were busy in terms of patrolling operations and work with ARVN units. The battalion’s work changed in early March when it was ordered to pack up its equipment and prepare to depart Vietnam. Although its personnel were transferred home individually to be assigned to other commands, or be released from service, the battalion remained active while its colors and records were transported to Fort Riley where it would be reorganized as a mechanized infantry battalion in April 1970.
The 1st Battalion in Vietnam
The 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry arrived at Vung Tau, Vietnam, on 10 October 1965 with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The battalion was initially moved to Camp Ben Cat in Phuoc Vinh Province north of Saigon. The division wasted no time getting this newly arrived brigade into the fight and in early November the battalion air assaulted into the field to participate in Operation BUSHMASTER I. This mission was designed to clear a zone along Highway 13 between Lai Khe and Ben Cat in Phouc Vinh Province to prevent VC interception of convoys moving along its length. The unit conducted numerous air assaults during BUSHMASTER and earned a reputation for flexibility, mobility, and aggressiveness. This was followed closely by BUSHMASTER II where both battalions of the regiment were both employed under the 3rd Brigade in “search and destroy” missions in late November and early December. The brigade’s operations centered around the Michelin Rubber Plantation, an area with which both battalions would become intimately familiar over the next four years. In the first two months of operations, the 1st Battalion had killed or captured over 1600 NVA or VC soldiers.
A 1st Battalion Soldier carries a Vietnamese boy to safety. AP-Faas
The BUSHMASTER operations were followed by MASTIFF in February 1966. This mission took the battalion to the vicinity of Dau Tiang where this time it operated with its brother battalion under the 2nd Brigade. MASTIFF was a fairly intense operation that focused on clearing out a notorious VC support zone between Dau Tiang and Saigon. In April , the 1st Rangers were sent east of Saigon to participate in the division-level ABILENE mission to find and destroy the 5th PLAF Division. On this operation the battalion operated in and around the Nui Ba Quon mountain complex in the southern sector of the mission area. ABILENE was followed in rapid succession by Operations BIRMINGHAM and EL PASO I, II, and III. On 9 July during EL PASO II, the 1st Rangers participated in the Battle of Minh Thanh Road. This effort was designed to entice the 9th PLAF Division’s 272nd Regiment into spring an ambush on the division’s 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and a preplanned stretch of that route. Once the enemy showed himself, the 1st Battalion, along with three other battalions, would pile on the regiment and destroy it. Though the effort failed to destroy the regiment, the 1st Rangers help to kill over 300 VC Regulars and an untold number of WIAs.
After he EL PASO missions, the battalion next took part in Operation AMARILLO in August near Lai Khe, and Operations TULSA/SHENANDOAH in October and November. The latter mission was designed to bring the 9th PLAF Division to battle in War Zone C, but the enemy declined to take the bait. Operation ATTLEBORO once again saw the regiment’s two battalions operating on the same mission to find and destroy the 9th PLAF Division, this time northwest of Dau Tiang. This mission failed to develop any significant skirmishes because it was soon discovered that the enemy formation was fleeing for the Cambodian border after having over 1,100 troops KIA since the summer. The last mission for the battalion for 1966 was Operation HEALDSBURG near Lai Khe in December. The mission ended with about 2 dozen enemy casualties, but no significant battles.
In January 1967, the 1st Battalion next joined in Operation CEDAR FALLS. a major effort conducted by the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. The intent for CEDAR FALLS was to imposed severe casualties on VC units in Military Region 4, known as the “Iron Triangle” and the Thanh Dien Forest. This mission ended about mid-January and resulted in over 700 enemy casualties and huge amounts of rice and military supplies captured in various base camps in the area. CEDAR FALLs was followed by the enormous and extended Operation JUNCTION CITY. The 1st Rangers participated in two major fights during JUNCTION CITY: Prek Klok and Ap Gu. In the former battle, Platoon Sergeant Matthew Leonard from B Company was mortally wounded while demonstrating indomitable courage and superb leadership. For his actions he was awarded the regiment’s tenth Medal of Honor. The battalion next experienced two additional significant firefights during Operation BILLINGS north of Phuoc Vinh in June. These were the battles of Landing Zone (LZ) Rufe and LZ X-Ray. During the latter action, the Reconnaissance Platoon of the 1st Battalion heroically withstood an attack by a battalion of the 271st PLAF Regiment and prevented the battalion perimeter from being overrun. BILLINGS was followed by Operation SHENANDOAH II north of Lai Khe in October which once included both Ranger battalions and culminated the major operations of both for 1967.
The troops of A Company, 1st Battalion, board choppers during operations near the Michelin Rubber Plantation in August 1966. AP-Faas
The year 1968 was an eventful one for the 1st Battalion. Starting in late January, the battalion, along with almost the entire combat force of U.S. Army, Vietnam (USARV), engaged in the Tet Counteroffensive designed to defeat the massive Tet Offensive of 1968. After Tet, the battalion successively partook in Operations QUYET THANG and TOAN THANG. These operations held the battalion’s attention most of the year until October when the 1st Rangers underwent a major change. That month the battalion and the 5th Battalion, 60th Infantry swapped colors and divisions and the 1st Battalion became a mechanized infantry unit which it has remained ever since. Because of this change, the battalion soon adopted the nickname “Iron Rangers.”
Throughout 1969, the Iron Rangers were involved the Vietnamization process which was designed to start turning over the planning and conduct of the war to the ARVN. Even so, the battalion joined in a number of combat operations such as BEAR TRAP, FRIENDSHIP, KENTUCKY COUGAR, IRON DANGER, and TOAN THANG IV. During KENTUCKY COUGAR in August, the Iron Rangers ran into a battalion of the 272nd PLAF Regiment near An Loc in Long Binh Province and in an afternoon of hot fighting, accounted for 29 enemy KIA and an unknown number of wounded. During the year, the battalion accounted for an additional 426 enemy soldiers killed or captured even though the ARVN were supposed to take the lead for operations.
The last months in Vietnam saw the battalion working closely with its ARVN counterparts as it concurrently prepared to end its mission and redeploy to Fort Riley. Combat activity did not abate, however, as the Iron Rangers still conducted 690 ambush patrols in January and 803 in February. The cessation of combat activities in the Republic of Vietnam for the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry ended on 3 March 1970. Soon after, the battalion stood down and all personnel headed home. As with the 2nd Battalion, the Iron Ranger battalion remained nominally active as its colors and records were shipped to Germany for its postwar mission.
The two battalions of the 16th Infantry fought in almost every campaign of the Vietnam War. As with the regiment’s other conflicts, it sustained a high number of casualties to include over 560 men who nobly sacrificed their lives in their country’s service. These men, and tens of thousands of others, did as their country asked to the end, even though the war’s level of support was eroded over time by political bickering back home. During the almost five years of combat the regiment’s soldiers were awarded 2 Medals of Honor (both posthumous), 10 Distinguished Service Crosses, and hundreds of Silver and Bronze Star Medals. The regiment was awarded 11 campaign streamers, as well as 2 Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry (with Palm) Streamers for 1965-1968 and 1969 and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal (First Class) Streamer for 1965-1970. In addition, C Company, 2nd Battalion was awarded the Valorous Unit Award Streamer for its actions at the battle of Courtenay Plantation.
In the mechanized configuration, the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) assumed a new mission. With the exception of the 3rd Brigade, the division was now part of the heavy forces maintained in the United States that were tagged for deployment to Germany to reinforce NATO forces there in the event of an invasion by the Soviet Union. The 3rd Brigade, being stationed in Germany already, was an integral part of the existing NATO defenses. To prepare the bulk of the 1st Infantry Division for its wartime mission focus for the next twenty years, the division’s training largely focused on two frequently recurring exercises. One was Exercise REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) which was designed to prepare the division for rapid deployment to Europe. The second major training event started in 1983 and consisted of rotations to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California about every 18 months for each brigade.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion board a C-141 during REFORGER II in October 1970.
REFORGER II in October 1970.
While the 2nd Battalion at Fort Riley focused on those major exercises, it also participated in a number of other important training events during this period. These included things such as training assistance to the National Guard, support to the annual R.O.T.C. summer camps at Fort Riley, and occasional “adventure training,” not to mention the usual weapons range periods, maneuver training on post, and the annual Army Readiness and Training Evaluation (ARTEP) tests. It also participated in various annual division exercises such a CASUS BELLI, an annual command post exercise (CPX) that focused on one of several NATO war plans, and MANHATTAN, a division-level movements exercise that often placed the division’s vehicles on long marches over vast stretches of Kansas countryside.
In Germany, the 1st Battalion also conducted training events similar to those of the 2nd Battalion, less assistance to the National Guard and R.O.T.C. summer camps. Added to the Iron Rangers’ list of tasks however were things such as frequent rail operations to training areas at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels and frequent trips out to the battalion’s General Defense Plan (GDP) positions to recon and evaluate how it would defend the ground. The battalion also participated in the various REFORGER exercises and occasionally trained at locations like the urban combat site in Berlin.
By the early 1970s, the Army Reserve’s 3rd Battalion was struggling to maintain its personnel strength due to the draw down in Vietnam and the US Army’s changeover to an All Volunteer force. As a result, in a major reorganization of U.S. Army Reserve units in 1976, the battalion was transferred to Maine with headquarters at Saco, and the subordinate companies located throughout that state and with its Combat Support Company in New Hampshire. The move was designed to lessen the competition for personnel with other battalions still in Massachusetts. Now known as the “Maine Rangers” the battalion headquarters was subsequently relocated to Portland, Maine, in 1977, and finally to Scarborough, Maine, in 1978. By this time the battalion had assumed a wartime mission of the reinforcement of Iceland as part of the 187th Infantry Brigade (Separate). To prepare for this mission, the battalion performed its annual active duty training in the 1970s at Fort Devens initially, then went to Fort Drum, New York and at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, in later years. The trips to Camp Edwards in the 1980s were typically conducted in the winter months to better replicate the kind of conditions the brigade might encounter in Iceland during much of the year.
In 1983, the US Army underwent a major reorganization that encompassed a new division TOE (i.e., “Division 86” or the “J-Series” TOE) and something called the US Army Regimental System (USARS). Under USARS, the regiment was expanded by two additional active infantry battalions: the 4th Battalion (nicknamed the “Blue Devils”), stationed at Göppingen, Germany, as part of the 1st Infantry Division (Forward) and the 5th Battalion (nicknamed the “Devil Rangers”), assigned to the 1st Brigade at Fort Riley. These new battalions were activated to support the USARS and a new manning system called COHORT (Cohesion, Operational Readiness Training). Under the COHORT concept entire companies would go through basic and advanced individual training together, transfer to their new battalion, and spend the rest of the “life cycle” of the company training together until replaced by another COHORT company at the end of 3 years. Additionally, the program’s intent was that a Soldier would spend his entire career, except for non-divisional assignments such as recruiting, R.O.T.C., or Reserve Component advisory duty, in the same regiment, transferring to Germany and back again to Fort Riley, in the case of the units in the 1st Infantry Division. Although neither COHORT or USARS were successful programs, they were still nominally in effect in 1990 when the regiment was once again called to war.
In the initial stages of the operation, that is just before, during, and after the breach made in the 2nd Brigade’s sector, the major problem faced by the Rangers of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry was not so much enemy fire (though that was a hindrance) as it as the large number of Iraqi soldiers surrendering to the troops of the battalion. By darkness of the 24th, the Rangers had not only conducted a major breach into the Iraqi defensive zone, they had also penetrated 30 kilometers to Phase Line Colorado and captured some 600 enemy troops. The following morning, the 2nd Battalion pushed on with the 2nd Brigade and quickly battled through the Iraqi 48th Infantry Division capturing its commander and destroying its command post. By the end of that day, the brigade had cut through and destroyed the Iraqi 25th Division as well and had reached Phase Line Utah where it took up a temporary defensive position.
SPC Allen C. Smith, C Company, 2nd Battalion, and GEN Norman Schwartzkopf upon the successful conclusion of Operation DESERT STORM, February 1991.
After its breaching operations, the Big Red One’s 1st Brigade, consisting in part of the 5th Battalion, 16th Infantry and the 2nd Battalion 34th Armor, turned east and drove deep into enemy territory toward Phase Line Utah. En route on the 25th, the Devil Rangers also encountered a number of enemy formations, most notably the 110th Infantry Brigade. In a brief skirmish, that brigade’s commander was scooped up by soldiers of the battalion. Like its brother battalion, the 5th Battalion was rounding up hundreds of enemy prisoners who had no fight left in them by this time. Ahead however, was the much vaunted Republican Guard known to be positioned at a place on the map called Objective NORFOLK. On the night of 26 February 1991, the 1st Brigade next collided with the Republican Guard’s Tawalakana Division and the 37th Brigade, 12th Armored Division. The fight developed into a division-level battle and before dawn the Big Red One had destroyed both enemy formations. Enemy losses included more than 40 tanks and 40 infantry fighting vehicles. The 1st Infantry Division continued to exploit its success on the 27th by capturing and pursuing the demoralized Iraqi forces for the rest of the day.
Following the Battle of Objective NORFOLK, the 5th Battalion raced ahead to assist in cutting the Iraqi lines of retreat from Kuwait City. As it approached the highway moving north out of Kuwait City and into southern Iraq, the Big Red One destroyed scores of enemy vehicles and took thousands more prisoners as the division’s units advanced. About 2000, 27 February, the division’s 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, seized the main highway leading north out of Kuwait and barred the Iraqis’ escape. By the next morning, the rest of the division had taken up positions along the highway completely blocking any further movement north by the Iraqi Army. The cease fire was announced at 0800 on 28 February and the war was essentially over. While the Rangers of the 2nd Battalion were ordered to move over the ground just taken and destroy any remaining Iraqi vehicles and equipment that could be located in the rear, the 5th Battalion was ordered to the vicinity of Safwan Airfield in Iraq. There, the Devil Rangers were tasked with securing the site where on 3 March 1991 the negotiations were held between coalition forces and Iraqi leaders to finalize the cease-fire agreements. In this conflict the regiment earned 4 campaign streamers and each of the 2nd and 5th Battalions earned a Valorous Unit Award Streamer embroidered IRAQ-KUWAIT.
As with the rest of the US Army at this time, the division, and its subordinate units, groped for just what it was preparing for in the way of potential future conflicts and enemies now that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact had imploded. Much of the division’s training continued to focus on fighting a Warsaw Pact kind of enemy even though no such threat existed even on the horizon. Still, in the increasingly unstable environment of Third World Countries, there soon developed other real-world missions for which the US Army would be called upon to be the arbiter and honest broker, or to provide support to other forces attempting to provide stability in troubled areas. In the Fall of 1991, elements of the 3rd Battalion were called to active duty to support drug surveillance operations by the US Customs border patrol in Arizona. This mission was also supported from time to time by the active battalions of the regiment as well.
Most of the activities of the regiment’s battalions remained centered on conventional mid- to high intensity warfare and Cold War type missions. For example, in 1992 the 3rd Battalion conducted annual training on its Iceland mission at Gagetown, Canada, with the rest of the 187th Infantry Brigade. That fall, the 1st Infantry Division once again deployed to Germany on REFORGER, albeit only one reduced brigade drew vehicles from POMCUS stocks to exercise that part of the mission. Most of the exercise consisted of an electronically distributed wargame conducted as a command post exercise. In addition to these kinds of training events, the two active battalions continued to participate in rotations to the National Training Center (NTC) in California and the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) at Hohenfels to fight against a Soviet equipped opposing force.
An Iron Ranger of the 1st Battalion on guard duty at Camp Dobol, Bosnia.
The new Clinton administration which came to office in 1993, wanted to cut the military defense budget further so that the country might enjoy a so-called “Peace Dividend.” The result of this effort was a dramatically reduced US military. These cuts also hit the regiment very hard. Like other Soldiers of the 16th Infantry, the Army Reservists of the 3rd Battalion were immensely proud of their membership in a unit with such an outstanding record. It was with great sadness then when the battalion’s colors were furled at Fort Devens on 15 April 1994. Two years later, in April 1996, the 2nd Battalion was also inactivated, leaving the Iron Rangers as the only active element remaining in the regiment.
In the mid-1990s, civil war broke out in the former Yugoslavian states of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result, US and other NATO forces were sent in to separate the warring factions and provide stability to the region. Therefore, in August 1999, the 1st Battalion deployed to Bosnia on Operation JOINT FORGE from August 1999 to April 2000 with the 1st Brigade for peacekeeping operations as part of the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) 6 rotation. The battalion was deployed to Camp Dobol, but had elements located at Camps McGovern, Demi and Comanche, as well.
(This section to be continued)
1-16 IN on Patrol in Ramadi, 2003
Within a few months after the initial invasion of Iraq, the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry made its first deployment in the Global War on Terrorism. In August 2003, the Iron Rangers, equipped as a standard Bradley Fighting Vehicle-equipped battalion, deployed with the 1st Brigade to Ramadi, Anbar Province, in western Iraq. The brigade was initially attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and took over Area of Operations (AO) Topeka on 26 September. Over the next year the Iron Rangers had numerous skirmishes with Sunni insurgents in and around the provincial capital city of Ramadi. Most notably, during 6-10 April 2004 when operating with elements of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the battalion fought a protracted battle with insurgents in the city. When a stranded Marine platoon was ambushed and pinned down by insurgents trying to distract US forces from the concurrent operations in Fallujah, the battalion was ordered into the city on line to take on the insurgents fighting there. Between the Marines and Iron Rangers, the insurgents in Ramadi suffered about 250 KIA by the time the battalion rumbled to the far side of the city. For the rest of the month the battalion, along with other Marine and Army units, killed between 800 and 1000 insurgents in running battles in the corridor between Ramadi and Fallujah. In addition to combat operations, during this tour the Iron Rangers trained elements of the new Iraqi Army as well as assisted with the implementation of numerous civil support projects. The battalion returned to Fort Riley in September 2004.
In 2006, as part of the 1st Brigade, the 1st Battalion was given a new mission to train Military Transition Teams (“MiTTs”) which would deploy to Iraq to advise and assist the units of the fledgling Iraqi Army. The battalion, however, was still required to maintain its ability to participate in overseas contingency operations. As a result, the battalion was reorganized into three deployable line companies (A, B, and C) and six MiTT training companies (D, I, K, L, M, and N). Between 2006 and 2008, the three deployable companies were sent on GWOT missions overseas: A Company was deployed to the Horn of Africa and B and C Companies each served in Iraq. Concurrently, the the MiTT training companies conducted one of the Army’s most important training missions back at Fort Riley. This mission was carried on by the battalion until 2009 when the responsibility was handed over to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana. For its performance in training the Army’s MiTTs, the battalion was awarded the Army Superior Unit streamer for 2006-2009. Additionally, B Company was awarded the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer for its work in Iraq in 2006-2007.
PFC Robert Wimegar, left, and SSGT Troy Bearden, A Company, 2nd Battalion, pull security at the District Council Hall in the Mashtal area, East Baghdad, Iraq, in March 2007. US Army
In January 2006, the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry was reactivated at Fort Riley as a part of the newly organized 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Infantry Division. The 2nd Rangers were reformed as a light infantry battalion under the Army’s new modular concept. Just over a year later, in February 2007, the battalion deployed to eastern Baghdad as part of President’s George W. Bush’s Surge in Iraq. Initially the battalion was attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, then later attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. It was assigned the mission of providing security in the southern area of the Tisa Nissan Qada (district) in southeastern Baghdad. The battalion’s desired endstate was to pacify four of the most violent neighborhoods in Baghdad—Rustamiyah, Fedaliyah, Al Amin, and Kamaliyah—which had been dominated by Al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents, as well as Jaysh Al-Mahdi (JAM), a Shia militia group. The battalion aggressively went to work partnering with local Iraqi Army units and police to find and eliminate any local insurgent groups in the AO. The Rangers succeeded in significantly reducing the insurgent threat by focusing on heavy local patrolling using small teams and unconventional tactics. In addition to the combat missions, however, the battalion also assisted in the creation of literacy programs, the refurbishment of schools, and the installation of sewage systems. By the time the battalion departed in 2008, its areas of the Tisa Nissan Qada had become one of the most secure areas in Baghdad.
On 1 September 2009, the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry returned to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 09-11. This time the battalion operated under its parent unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in the vicinity of Bayji in north central Iraq. At Bayji, the battalion was assigned an advise and assist role with elements of the Iraqi 4th Infantry Division as well as with the local Iraqi Police forces which supported the local governments in its area of operations. Units of the battalion conducted several unusual operations during the tour to include an air assault operation with the Iraqi 48th Brigade to remote island near Aitha, Iraq in October as well as conducting cache search patrols in the Makhul Mountains. After a more calm, though still dangerous tour this time around, the battalion returned to Fort Riley in late April and early May 2010, with the exception of A Company, which remained until that August.
After performing the MiTT training mission for three years, the 1st Battalion began the process of reorganizing and training as one of the Army’s new Combined Arms Battalions (CAB) in 2009. As a CAB, the battalion would retain the capabilities of a mechanized infantry battalion, but two companies (C and D) would be reorganized as tank companies. In this configuration, the battalion would be reorganized into a permanent company combat team which was the standard doctrine for how such a battalion would normally fight anyway. The opportunity to adequately train in this configuration was short lived and the Iron Rangers were not even fully equipped before they came down on orders for overseas movement as a standard infantry battalion.
In August 2011, the 1st Battalion was deployed once again, this time on a unique mission to Afghanistan. For this deployment, the battalion was attached to the Combined Joint Special Operations Command-Afghanistan (CJSOCC-A) and assigned to support a new effort known as the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program. This program required that the battalion be broken down into squads and sometimes fire teams and distributed to selected villages throughout Regional Commands East, South, West, and North. The squads and teams worked with Special Forces Teams and other special operations forces to help the villagers raise detachments of Afghan Local Police (ALP) who would then provide security to the villages. Dubious initially that a conventional infantry unit could do this type of mission, the CJSOCC-A was so satisfied with the battalion’s performance that within 6 months a second infantry battalion was assigned to the mission and took over the battalion’s VSO villages in RCs South and West. This non-conventional/conventional team has remained the staple of the VSO program up to the time of this writing. The Iron Rangers returned to Fort Riley in April and May 2012 having performed an outstanding service in furtherance toward peace and security in Afghanistan.
Even as the 1st Battalion was returning home, the 2nd Battalion was deploying on its third overseas tour of the GWOT. As with its brother battalion, the 2nd Rangers were sent to Afghanistan for this tour, this time to the eastern sections of Ghazni Province. In April the Rangers assumed responsibility for 2 districts and 2 Afghan National Army (ANA) kandaks (battalions). The battalion conducted daily combat patrols side by side with their Afghan partner units to influence and secure the local population throughout the districts. At one location, Combat Outpost Muqor, the battalion’s D Company experienced double the number of firefights due to a strong local insurgency there, than the rest of the battalion did combined for the tour. Firefights there resulted in the loss of two company commanders, one of whom was KIA in the early stages of the tour.
Rangers of the 2nd Battalion take cover during a patrol in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan in 2012.
In August 2012, the 2nd Battalion underwent its first of several expansions to its AO when it assumed responsibility for a third district and a third ANA Kandak as the Surge forces in the country were being withdrawn. The new district brought new challenges, as the Rangers began patrolling the vital Highway 1 route between Kabul and Kandahar to ensure it remained open for commercial and military traffic. With reduced forces and additional ANA partners, the Rangers began to place the Afghans in the lead militarily. ANA units readily assumed responsibility for their own districts, demonstrating the sound tactical knowledge and hard-fought experience they had gained through years of fighting and US Army mentorship.
As the ANA took over the tactical fight, the Rangers’ efforts at local governance and development tasks became even more important in November as the battalion assumed responsibility for 2 more districts, 5 additional installations, and a Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) battalion. This action further necessitated the ANA taking the lead for more operations and governance needs at the district level. A separate but extremely important development during the deployment was the emergence of the Anti-Taliban Movements (ATMs) throughout Afghanistan. Somewhat similar to the “Sunni Awakening” in Iraq, the ATMs began in Ghazni in the Andar District as a popular uprising against the Taliban’s totalitarian control. The population began to vote against the Taliban for the first time in many areas and reached out to their local government and security forces to fill the security and governance void.
With Afghans in the lead for all aspects of the fight, and local Afghans actively resisting the Taliban and other insurgent forces, the stage appeared set for the ISAF mission to soon come to a close within Afghanistan as the battalion ended its own tour. The 2nd Battalion arrived home recently in February 2013 to begin the transition from a Counterinsurgency force to whatever focus the Army needs to confront its future challenges.
Concurrently, since May 2012, the 1st Battalion has been steadily acquiring the skills once again to enable it to be employed as a full fledged CAB, capable of taking on any enemy heavy force. The training of infantry squads on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and crew training and weapons firing for both Bradleys and M1A2 Abrams tanks on Fort Riley’s Multiple Purpose Range Complex are the order of the day.
In short, the operations of both battalions during the GWOT are typical of the aggressiveness, flexibility, drive, and competence demonstrated by the 16th Infantry throughout its history. Today, just like they have since the organization of the regiment over 150 years ago, the Rangers continue to be one of the finest units in the United States Army. As always, the Rangers of the 16th Infantry Regiment stand ready to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies and fight under “Old Glory” when their nation calls.
OTD in 1944: 228 innocent Greeks were killed by Nazis in the Distomo massacre
During the occupation of Greece by the Nazi Germans during World War II, they not only looted the country of all its physical wealth but committed numerous war crimes and massacres of the Greek population throughout the country.
The cost of the damage caused by Nazi Germany in Greece during the war has been estimated at €289 billion ($339 billion) by a Greek parliamentary commission. That amount includes a loan that Greece was forced to grant the German central bank.
Under the occupation of Nazi Germany, 300,000 Greek nationals were killed from April 1941 to September 1944. The Nazis committed numerous massacres in parts of the country, including Lyngiades, Distomo, Kalavryta, Kandanos or Viannos.
After suffering a defeat to the Greeks at Katavothra, leaving 15 German soldiers dead and as many wounded, the Germans took revenge on the innocent residents of Distomo.
Ordered by German Lieutenant Hans Zambel, Distomo was set upon and set on fire.
Regarded as one of the most heinous crimes committed by the Nazis in occupied Greece, 228 residents (114 women and 104 men, 53 of those were children were executed inhumanely in the Greek town of Distomo on June 10, 1944.
According to survivors, SS forces “bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest.”
In August 1949, he confessed to the extent of the German atrocities in Distomo.
A film about the tragic massacre, titled ‘A Song For Argyrishas’ , has since been made and follows the perspective of four-year-old survivor Argyris Sfountouris.
6 April 1944 - History
On June 6, 1944 the Allied Forces of Britain, America, Canada, and France attacked German forces on the coast of Normandy, France. With a huge force of over 150,000 soldiers, the Allies attacked and gained a victory that became the turning point for World War II in Europe. This famous battle is sometimes called D-Day or the Invasion of Normandy.
US troops landing during the Invasion of Normandy
by Robert F. Sargent
Leading up to the Battle
Germany had invaded France and was trying to take over all of Europe including Britain. However, Britain and the United States had managed to slow down the expanding German forces. They were now able to turn on the offensive.
To prepare for the invasion, the Allies amassed troops and equipment in Britain. They also increased the number of air strikes and bombings in German territory. Right before the invasion, over 1000 bombers a day were hitting German targets. They bombed railroads, bridges, airfields, and other strategic places in order to slow down and hinder the German army.
The Germans knew that an invasion was coming. They could tell by all the forces that were gathering in Britain as well as by the additional air strikes. What they didn't know was where the Allies would strike. In order to confuse the Germans, the Allies tried to make it look like they were going to attack north of Normandy at Pas de Calais.
Although the D-Day invasion had been planned for months, it was almost cancelled due to bad weather. General Eisenhower finally agreed to attack despite the overcast skies. Although the weather did have some affect and on the Allies ability to attack, it also caused the Germans to think that no attack was coming. They were less prepared as a result.
The first wave of the attack began with the paratroopers. These were men who jumped out of planes using parachutes. They jumped at night in the pitch dark and landed behind enemy lines. Their job was to destroy key targets and capture bridges in order for the main invasion force to land on the beach. Thousands of dummies were also dropped in order to draw fire and confuse the enemy.
In the next stage of the battle thousands of planes dropped bombs on German defenses. Soon after, warships began to bomb the beaches from the water. While the bombing was going on, underground members of the French Resistance sabotaged the Germans by cutting telephone lines and destroying railroads.
Soon the main invasion force of over 6,000 ships carrying troops, weapons, tanks, and equipment approached the beaches of Normandy.
Omaha and Utah Beaches
American troops landed at Omaha and Utah beaches. The Utah landing was successful, but the fighting at Omaha beach was fierce. Many US soldiers lost their lives at Omaha, but they were finally able to take the beach.
Troops and supplies coming to shore at Normandy
Source: US Coast Guard
By the end of D-Day over 150,000 troops had landed in Normandy. They pushed their way inland allowing more troops to land over the next several days. By June 17th over half a million Allied troops had arrived and they began to push the Germans out of France.
The Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces was Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States. Other Allied generals included Omar Bradley from the United States as well as Bernard Montgomery and Trafford Leigh-Mallory from Britain. The Germans were led by Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Rundstedt.
Jay Winik’s ‘1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History’
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In 2001, Jay Winik scored a commercial and critical success with his best seller “April 1865,” a vivid account of the final month of the Civil War, which Winik convincingly argued was a crucial turning point in American history. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, among others, play major roles in “April 1865,” but Abraham Lincoln towers above all of them.
In “1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History,” Winik has turned his attention to another president, war and pivotal moment. This time, his thesis is more difficult to decipher and less persuasive. Reading “1944,” I was reminded of “Where’s Waldo?,” the classic picture book series whose brightly colored illustrations challenge young readers to find the title character, hidden in huge crowds. Similarly, the key points in “1944” are surrounded by vast amounts of information about Franklin Roosevelt and World War II, much of it irrelevant to the main story. “Why this book?” I wrote on Page 78. A dozen or so pages later, the answer began to emerge.
In the spring of 1944, as the Allies prepared for D-Day and the beginning of their final showdown with Germany, the Nazis embarked on an endgame of their own — finishing off the Jews of Europe. Having already killed some five million Jews, the Holocaust’s overseers worked overtime at Auschwitz to exterminate the last large Jewish population on the Continent — the 750,000 in Hungary.
Two months before D-Day, two young Slovak Jews escaped from Auschwitz, determined to warn Roosevelt and the other Allied leaders about “the impending massacre . . . and rally the forces of rescue and rebellion.” Winik frames their escape as a race against time. Would their eyewitness report reach the Allies before all European Jews were annihilated? Would it prompt Roosevelt to expand his focus beyond the invasion of Europe and ultimate victory — and strive to save the Jews still alive?
The president, already well aware of Auschwitz and the other Nazi extermination camps, failed to do so and thus missed his chance to claim what Winik calls his “Emancipation Proclamation moment.” In Winik’s view, Roosevelt should have emulated Lincoln, whose 1863 order freeing the slaves in Confederate states made abolition an explicit Union goal in winning the Civil War. In the same vein, Winik contends that Roosevelt should have imbued World War II with a higher moral purpose, making it not only a fight against the Axis but also “a war against the Final Solution.” He adds, “In 1944 he had his chances.”
Such arguments sidestep certain realities, beginning with the emphasis on 1944 as a potentially pivotal year for Jewish rescue. By then, the opportunity to save a sizable percentage of Jews had long since vanished. Before the war and during its first two years, Nazi Germany had been open to the idea of Jewish emigration. But the United States and Britain, among other countries, closed their borders to all but a handful of Jewish refugees, and in early 1942 the Nazis began implementing the Final Solution in death camps deep inside occupied Poland. By the time of D-Day, a vast majority of European Jews were dead. Winik argues that many thousands of Jews in Hungary could have been saved if the Allies had bombed Auschwitz in 1944, but whether such raids could have had a significant effect is still hotly debated.
Unlike slavery and its abolition, which were at the heart of the Civil War, rescuing Jews in World War II was always regarded as an extraneous issue by the United States and its allies. In the 1930s and early 1940s, overt anti-Semitism was a fixture in American society. According to public opinion polls, most people opposed admitting more Jewish refugees into the United States. The State Department, rife with anti-Jewish bigotry, not only sought to keep out Jewish immigrants but also worked to suppress information about the Holocaust and blocked private efforts to save European Jews who had not yet been ensnared in the Nazi web. Although Roosevelt expressed sympathy for the Jews’ plight and promised postwar retribution for their executioners, he did little or nothing to encourage their rescue or to check the State Department’s obstructionism.
In January 1944, however, Roosevelt did an abrupt about-face. Bowing to intense pressure from elsewhere in his administration, he agreed to create a federal agency called the War Refugee Board, whose sole purpose was to save the last remnants of European Jewry. The pressure came from a group of young lawyers in the Treasury Department, one of whom had learned of the State Department’s sabotage of rescue efforts. After investigating, he and his colleagues presented an explosive memo to their boss, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., titled “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews.” They urged Morgenthau to show Roosevelt their findings and demand that a government agency be formed to focus exclusively on Jewish rescue.
Morgenthau, the sole Jew in Roosevelt’s cabinet, was faced with a torturous dilemma. Having played down his Jewishness all his life, he was being asked to confront Roosevelt, whose friendship he treasured, on an issue he had worked hard to avoid. After agonizing for two days, he followed his conscience.
The only way to win Roosevelt’s agreement, he told his subordinates, was to frame the argument as a political rather than a moral necessity. In a presidential election year, the last thing Roosevelt needed was a scandal over allegations of government efforts to prevent the rescue of Jews. To bolster his case, Morgenthau could point to a recent groundswell of congressional support for a rescue agency — the result of an intensive public relations campaign sponsored by Jewish activists.
The Treasury report, Morgenthau noted, gave him the leverage to tell Roosevelt that the State Department’s obstructionism could no longer be kept secret: “It is going to pop, and you have either got to move very fast, or the Congress of the United States will do it for you.” On Jan. 16, he made exactly that point to Roosevelt, who halfheartedly defended the State Department, then gave in and signed off on the plan.
This gripping, little-known story appears late in Winik’s book, and he tells it well. Thanks to the War Refugee Board, 1944 did indeed mark a transformation in America’s response to the Holocaust, although not in the climactic fashion suggested by Winik’s subtitle. The board did not change history, nor did Roosevelt engineer its creation. Nonetheless, according to one of its agents, it “injected new life and hope into . . . refugees throughout the European continent.”
Run by the Treasury Department lawyers, the board financed operations that smuggled more than 50,000 Bulgarian and Romanian Jews to safety. Its agents also managed to keep alive thousands of Jewish children hiding in France. Although most Jews in Hungary had been deported to Auschwitz by the time the board became operational there, its emissary in Budapest, the Swedish businessman Raoul Wallenberg, managed to save tens of thousands of lives.
In all, the War Refugee Board and its operatives were credited with rescuing more than 200,000 Jews from the Holocaust — an impressive feat, to be sure, but only a tiny fraction of the millions murdered by the Nazis. The success of the board’s 11th-hour effort underscores the haunting question that runs through Winik’s book: How many more could have been saved had America acted sooner?
Today in World War II History—April 15, 1944
Brig. Gen. Jesse Auton, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz (commander US Strategic Air Forces in Europe), Maj. Gen. James Doolittle (commander US Eighth Air Force), Maj. Gen. William Kepner (commander US VIII Fighter Command), Col. Donald Blakeslee, at presentation of Distinguished Service Cross to Blakeslee, Debden Airfield, England, 11 April 1944 (US National Archives)
75 Years Ago—April 15, 1944: Countdown to D-day: Allied Expeditionary Air Force issues Operation Neptune Overall Air Plan for D-day, temporarily suspends attacks on oil and industrial targets in favor of transportation targets.
Marshal Nikolai Vatutin, commander of Soviet Voronezh Front, dies after being wounded in ambush by Ukrainian insurgents on February 28.
History: April 03, 1944 Canadian led attack cripples Tirpitz, out of the war
It was designed as a daring dive-bomber attack against the huge German battleship Tirpitz, sister to the Bismarck. Leading the dive bombers was a young Canadian.
A Fairey Barracuda II of 814 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm flying over HMS Venerable and an attendant destroyer. The Barracuda had a three man crew but was not a popular plane. Early versions had hydraulic leaks which sprayed ether directly into the pilot’s face causing fatal crashes. However dive brakes and flaps and good pilot visibility made for easier landings on carriers. © RN photo-Imperial War Museum A-28847
With its massive guns, Tirpitz posed an extremely dangerous threat to Allies shipping, capable of hitting a ship with an 800kg shell from 36 km away. It was a threat that the Allies could not ignore.
Tirptiz firing it’s 15in guns. Each gun could fire an 800kg shell 3 times per minute and hit a target up to 36km away.
In late 1943 with the D-day landings being planned, it was deemed necessary to eliminate Tirpitz and the danger it posed. The decision was to send carrier-borne dive bombers in two waves, protected from German aircraft by fighters which would also strafe anti-aircraft gun positions.
A book about Canadian Roy Baker-falkner showing a Fairey Barracuda torpedo and dive bomber.
The dive bombers would be led by Lt Cdr Roy Baker-Falkner of Victoria, British Columbia. A superb pilot and leader, he survived numerous very dangerous operations in Swordfish to become, at just 27, a Lt Commander and the Wing Leader of two squadrons of Fairey-Barracudas operating off Norway.
Lt Commander Roy Baker-Falkner,age 27, was a Canadian born in England where his Canadian soldier was serving. As a child he returned with his family to British Columbia where he grew up. He was lost at sea only months after leading the successful attack on Tirpitz
The attack against the German battleship would involve two waves of bombers and fighter escorts. Early in the morning of April 03 the first wave arrived over the fjord
As the fighters strafed the ship and AA guns, the Barracudas dove on Tirpitz hitting it with three 500lb bombs, two 1,600lb bombs and a general purpose bomb with several other strikes also causing damage.
The three Canucks of the 47th Naval Fighter Wing: Sub-Lieutenants Barry Hayter, Don ‘Pappy’ MacLeod and Don Sheppard of Toronto beside their Corsair fighters. A book about Canada’s Corsair ace, Don Sheppard was called “Navy Blue fighter Pilot”
A second wave of fighters and dive bombers then made their run, inflicting further damage, with a total of 14 hits on the ship..
While the Tirpitz was not destroyed, the raid was a success as damage kept the ship out of action and any possibility of participation against the D-Day landings.
The men and machines of HMS FURIOUS which took part in the Fleet Air Arm attack on SMS TIRPITZ in Alten Fjord, Norway. Here Bob Cotcher, of Chelsea, chalks his message on a 1600 pound bomb just before the attack. Comment : The aircraft is a Fairey Barracuda © Lt FA Hudson – IWM- collection 4700-01- wiki
Alas the hero of Tungsten, the Canadian who led his wing on the two successful raids against Tirpitz was lost in the summer of 1944 when he failed to return to Furious from an anti-submarine patrol.
As for Tirpitz, the April raid, would prevent it from sailing again as later raids by heavy bombers caused further damage, eventually sinking it in another fjord in November 1944.
Fall of Berlin - WW2 Timeline (April 16th - May 2nd, 1945)
The Fall of Berlin was a bloody affair from any angle - military or civilian. As the Red Army noose placed a stranglehold on those unfortunate enough to still reside in the German capital. Some 200,000 German soldiers remained, along with some 2,000,000 German civilians. The Red Army was poised to handle Germany a terrible defeat and the German Army was ready to fight to the last man and woman.
Hitler had already retreated to his underground bunker with his closest associates including propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and soon-to-be-wife, Eva Braun. From this poetic perch, Hitler orchestrated the last days of his renewed German Empire but not before celebrating his 56th, and final, birthday in the Chancellery Gardens by decorating some Hitler Youth - seemingly unaware of the war raging around him.
By this time in the war, the Germany Army was a shell of its former self. Within its ranks of the disciplined were now pensioners, children, criminals and the mentally ill-fit. Such was Hitler's grand army, whom, after some short years, owned half of Europe and portions of Africa before turning his attention on the Red Army and Stalin.
The Allies to the West had made superb progress since Operation Torch in Africa. From there, it was the conquest of Italy and the Normandy beach invasions. Paris fell to the invaders, freeing France. Then came the liberation of Belgium, Holland and The Netherlands, all wrestled away from Hitler's grasp through blood and valor. The Allies repelled the final German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge and now Berlin was ripe for the taking.
Out East, the Soviet Army, after some early setbacks, began steamrolling the aggressive Germans with a taste of their own medicine. Such was the push from an awakened war machine that the Soviet nation represented. Her troops could finally receive the guns, ammunition and mortars that they needed. This along with large stockpiles of tanks, artillery and aircraft. While the Soviet military grew is stature, the German military seemingly shrank in its shadow.
Stalin was convinced of an Allied plan to take Berlin and saw to it that his two top generals felt his anguish - these being Marshals Georgi Zhukov and Ivan Koniev. In a meeting in Moscow, the plan was laid down to march on Berlin in April of 1945 in an attempt to beat the Western Allies to the prize. The offensive was launched in the morning hours of April 16th with a stellar barrage of artillery followed by air attacks, tanks and men. Competition between the two Soviet generals drove them through the German defenses though fighting was bitter and earned in blood.
Soviet forces pushed into the German suburbs before eventually breaking through the final German defenses in Berlin, ultimately capturing the iconic Reichstag administration building.
Hitler preceded to wed Braun and then poisoned both his dog and Braun before committing suicide himself. A day later, Goebbels murdered his six children and wife in similar fashion before taking his own life. With predetermined orders from Hitler, his body and that of Braun were taken to the Chancellery Gardens to be burned. Admiral Doenitz was given Hitler's authority of what was left of Germany. Soviet Army forces came across the burning heaps in the closing hours of the battle.
A fitting end for a man who sought to raise Germany up from the ashes, only to bring her back down and beneath them in little over a decade.
On May 1st, German Generaloberst Hans Krebs approached Soviet General Chuikov with the flag of surrender, formally declaring the unconditional intentions of the German military. The official surrender occurred the following day with General Jodl signing for Germany and Generals Bedell Smith and Suslaparov for the victors.
The war in Europe was over - marked by VE Day on May 8th - but the war in the Pacific against the Empire of Japan would rage on a few more terrible months.
There are a total of (31) Fall of Berlin - WW2 Timeline (April 16th - May 2nd, 1945) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.
The Soviet Army begins its Berlin campaign with spectacular display of artillery, exploding targets throughout Berlin and its surrounding areas. The bombardment signals the beginning of the offensive to take the German capital.
Soviet Army groups advance against German defenses at the Oder River.
Adolf Hitler celebrates his final (56th) birthday, seemingly unaware of the fate to befall him and his Germany.
General Zhukov and his 1st Belorussian army break into the Berlin suburbs.
Wednesday, April 22nd, 1945
Soviet leader Stalin sends his final assault orders to generals Zhukov and Koniev.
The Berlin suburbs gradually fall under Soviet control as fighting rages on everywhere.
German General Wenck of the 12th Army launches a futile counter-offensive against the Soviet onslaught.
The British Royal Air Force slow down the 12th Army offensive through intense bombing.
The 1st Belorussian Front meets up with the st Ukranian Front, formally encircling Berlin.
All access points west of the German capital are cutt off by Soviet forces.
Over 2 million Berlin civilians hunker down for the violent fighting ahead.
Some 30,000 German soldiers ready themselves for the bloody business of the day.
Elements of the 5th Guards Army reach the Elbe River at Torgau and celebrate with the arriving US 1st Army.
Twin Soviet offensives break the final defensive fronts of the Germans.
Soviet forces advance across the Spree River.
Soviet forces advance towards Unter den Linden.
General Wenck's 12th Army is halted by the Soviet Army.
The Soviet Army remains just 15 miles from the center of Berlin.
German soldiers set up defensive areas across a small 10 mile long front for their ultimate "last stand".
The Soviets capture the Reichstag.
German leader Adolf Hitler weds his mistress, Eva Braun, in his underground bunker under Berlin. After giving a final speech to his remaining supporters, he poisons his dog, then Braun and ultimately takes his own life. In his will, he leaves his authority to Admiral Doenitz.
The bodies of Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun are taken to the Chancellery Gardens and incinerated under previous orders from Hitler, this to avoid capture and ultimate humiliation at the hands of the progressing Soviet Army.
Soviet artillery opens up once again, this time in a massive barrage against the Chancellery and surrounding areas.
German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels murders his wife and six children before taking his own life.
General Chuikov makes his way into the center of Berlin.
German Generaloberst Hans Krebs approaches Chuikov with the formal German surrender.
Berlin formally and unconditionally surrenders to the Soviet legions and Western Allies. General Jodl signs for the defeated Germans and Generals Bedell Smith and Suslaparov for the Allies.
German forces across Berlin begin surrendering.
The Fall of Berlin is complete - Soviet forces occupy all major sections of the German capital.
The war in Europe officially comes to a close.
This day is formally announced as "VE Day" and celebrations break out across the world, though fighting in the Pacific against the Japanese Empire is ongoing.