US rangers Rome ?

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CHACAL
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US rangers Rome ?

Post by CHACAL » 20 May 2005 18:14

I have been told that during the fighting south of Rome a whole battalion of US rangers gave themselves up without a fight,the Germans then marched them through Rome in disgust.
Is this true....?i cant find out anything about it,is there any photographic evidence...?
Thanks G

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Post by David Thompson » 20 May 2005 19:09

From American Forces in Action: Anzio Beachhead (22 January-25 May 1944), pp. 28-30
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA ... index.html
On 30 January the 3d Division launched its drive to cut Highway No. 7 at Cisterna. To spearhead the attack, General Truscott picked Col. William O. Darby's Rangers, veterans of Tunisia, Sicily, and Salerno. The 1st and 3d Ranger Battalions were to jump off one hour before the main attack and infiltrate under cover of darkness four miles across the fields to seize Cisterna by surprise and hold it until the main attack came up. The 4th Rangers and the 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, were to follow an hour later up the Conca-Cisterna road. Patrol reports and a careful reconnaissance of approach routes indicated that the enemy had not yet been able to consolidate his defenses in front of Cisterna; Colonel Darby believed his men could sift through. Then at H Hour, 0200, the 7th and 15th infantry would launch the main attack. On the left, the 7th infantry was to pass through the 30th infantry and drive northeast to get astride Highway No. 7 above Cisterna, while the 15th Infantry would thrust north behind the Rangers to cut Highway No. 7 below the town. At the same time the 504th Parachute Infantry was to make a diversionary attack along the Mussolini Canal to protect the division's right flank.

Men of the 1st and 3d Rangers, each with two bandoleers of ammunition slung over his shoulders and with pockets stuffed with grenades, slipped across the west branch of the Mussolini Canal at 0130 on their mission to Cisterna. In column of battalions they crept silently forward along the narrow Pantano ditch, which runs northwest across the fields to the right of the Conca-Cisterna road, Concealed beneath a moonless cloudy sky, the long snake-like column moved past numerous German positions which they could see and hear on all sides. Several times Rangers hugged the sides of the ditch as German sentries walked by on its bank. By dawn the head of the leading battalion bad come out of the ditch where it crossed the road and was within 800 yards of Cisterna. The 3d followed directly behind, the tail of the column just clearing the road running east from Isola Bella.

When dawn revealed the head of the column moving down the road to Cisterna, a strong German force led by three self-propelled guns suddenly opened fire. The Rangers deployed quickly and knocked out the three guns. But as the light improved, German machine guns, mortars, and snipers, concealed in houses and haystacks or dug in all around them, trapped the Rangers in a hail of fire. Caught without cover in the open treeless fields, and with their chance for surprise completely lost, the Rangers scrambled for the ditches and houses, firing back at a hidden enemy. The Germans, anticipating a renewal of the attack on Cisterna, had brought in veteran troops the night before to stiffen the defense. Evidently the enemy had also detected the Rangers' approach through their lines and had had time to prepare an ambush.

The Rangers fought desperately all through the morning against intrenched Germans all about them, At 0730 the 1st Battalion broke radio silence to report the situation in its struggle to get a foothold in Cisterna. An hour later a handful of Rangers had inched forward to take a few buildings near the railroad station at the edge of the town, but most of the men were still pinned down in the open fields.

The 4th Rangers and 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, jumping off an hour later than the 1st and 3d Rangers, made every effort to respond to their appeals for help. The 4th Rangers advanced up the Conca-Cisterna road but were stopped by heavy enemy machine-gun fire from a group of farm houses below Isola Bella. Lt. Col. Roy A. Murray, battalion commander, sought to outflank this island


--28--

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of resistance and pushed to within a mile of Isola Bella before dawn broke. As soon as the Germans could locate the attackers accurately, they kept the battalion under well-aimed fire in the open fields. Stopped in their first effort to relieve the trapped battalions, the 4th Rangers attempted a breakthrough with two tank destroyers and two halftracks, but two of the vehicles ran afoul of a mine field below Isola Bella. A second attempt also failed. All day the Germans held the 4th Rangers, who suffered heavy casualties in exchanging fire with an enemy only 200 yards away.

Meanwhile along the road below Cisterna the 1st and 3d Rangers were almost at the end of their strength. About noon enemy tanks came down from Highway No. 7 and raced back and forth through the Ranger positions. Firing up and down the ditches, they forced the Rangers into the open

--29--

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and split them into small groups. Lacking antitank guns or heavy weapons, the Rangers fought back with bazookas and sticky grenades. One enemy tank was quickly set aflame. As a second tank rumbled down on a squad commanded by Sgt. Thomas B. Fergen, he hit it with a sticky grenade. One of his men blasted it with a bazooka and another finished the tank off by climbing up on it and dropping a grenade down the turret.

As the tanks closed in, the shattered companies attempted to withdraw. It was too late. The Germans had surrounded them and they were unable to break through. As a last resort the few remaining officers ordered the troops to scatter through the fields and escape. At 1230, 1st Sgt. Robert E. Ehalt of the 3d Battalion sent a final message from the battalion command post. Only ten men were left around him, he was out of contact with all the companies, and he was destroying his radio as the tanks approached. Of 767 men in the Ranger attack only six escaped. Most of the men were captured by the Germans.

A platoon of forty-three men of the 3d Reconnaissance Troop, which had followed the road behind the Rangers to outpost their line, also was trapped. The men tried to escape down the road in their jeeps but piled up on a German road block. Only one man got back.

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Two Litre
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Post by Two Litre » 20 May 2005 19:09

Film footage and in colour. 2,000 were paraded through.

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CHACAL
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Post by CHACAL » 20 May 2005 19:27

Two Litre wrote:Film footage and in colour. 2,000 were paraded through.
Thanks for the input guys,do you know where i can get this footage ?Or download some stills from it..?

Thanks G

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Post by Two Litre » 20 May 2005 21:14

It was on English Tv a few years ago. They will have it in there archives. I'm not sure if it were the BBC or ITV.

The Americans just looked as if they were on the wrong end of the stick. They didn't look angry but more like "Is this actually happening?"

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Rangers

Post by GEB » 25 May 2005 00:09

Do a web search on Ranger Battalions of WWII. They have a very strong veterans organization. And surprisingly many of the Rangers involved in the action before Cisterna on Jan. 29-30, 1944 are still alive. The 1& 3rd Ranger Btns. were in fact virtually wiped out that day. The earlier narative is accurate as far as it goes. US military intellegence really missed the call on this plan. Members of the 4th German Parachute Regiment and significant elements of the Herman Goering Panzer division had been moved into the line of infiltration in the 24 hours prior to the incident. Some elements of the Ranger force were actually within the perimiter of the FJ bivoack when the fighting broke out. Some historians had suggested that this was a set ambush. Nothing could be furter from the truth. It was poor intellegence & poor luck ( for the Americans anyway) that pitted elite special forces from two waring nations against one another that day. Unfortunately the Rangers were lightly armed and the Germans were well armed, well supplied, and well rested.

There has been some criticism of the behavior of some Rangers during the incident. The Ranger Btns had been used (and abused) extensively as regular infantry in and following the Salerno action. Many of the men in the Ranger force at Anzio were new transfers from other army units. These replacements (for Rangers killed and wounded at Salerno) had in many cases none of the specialized ranger training. Some had not even had infantry training and few had had any combat experience as they had transfered from armour and quartermaster corps. Some of the more experienced Rangers blame these new recruits as slowing the process of infiltration down to the point that they were still on open ground when the sun came up.

It is well documented that some of these "new" men gave up fairly early in the fight. (In fairness, the fight was overwhelmingly one sided.) The more experienced Rangers had in contrast, completed "commando training" in Scottland and fought across north Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and had been the first troops to land on the beach at Anzio. (Of course that particular landing had been almost entirely unopposed!)

Some of these early surrenders before Cisterna were marched by their captors in front of a tank, back into the Ranger perimeter with an English speaking German demanding the surrender of the remaining fighters. When the Germans were fired upon, a number of the prisoners were immediately shot down. Similarly, shortly after the fighting ended a doctor with the Rangers was shot & killed for refusing to "surrender" as he tended a wounded Ranger.

Survivors of the 1st & 3rd Btn were indeed marched through Rome. There is a copy of a photograph in Robert Blacks book on Rangers in WWII. Several of those Rangers later escaped from trains as they were transported to POW camps in Germany. Several others escaped from POW camps.

The 4th Ranger Btn was also at Anzio but they were held in reserve that day and were unable to break through the heavy line of German forces that surrounded the 1st & 3rd. There was also a Ranger HQ Btn that was organized with the HQ Co.s from each Btn. Most of the HQ and 4th Btn survived and were folded into the 1ST Special Services Force (Canadian & USA) in mid February. Some "old" Rangers in the HQ & 4th were sent to the US to help organize the 5th Btn which would go on to the Pacific and a few were sent to join the 2nd Btn for the invasion at Normandy.

My mothers cousin was one of the Rangers killed at Anzio. Remarkably, he survived the Cisterna Infiltration on January 29, only to be killed by an artillery blast two weeks later. He died the day before the Rangers force in Italy was officially disbanded. Col. Darby was slightly wounded by artillery fire that same day.

But Darby did not survive the war. He was killed by a piece of shrapnel from a 88 mm gun in the last week of the war in northern Italy. After his death he was promoted to General. He was very hightly regarded by his soldiers. War is hell. GEB

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Post by Delta Tank » 25 May 2005 13:36

To all,
Film footage and in colour. 2,000 were paraded through.
I am at work so I don't have any reference materials with me, but Ranger Battalions were very small. IIRC there are 65 men in a company and there are 6 companies in a battalion. So with that information we can calculate how many Rangers there were: 390 in a battalion x 2= 780. Subtracting the dead and wounded the figure must be somewhere below 2,000. So 2,000 being paraded through would be virtually impossible, could of been a propaganda film, na, the Germans would never do that! :)

Mike

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Post by Michael Emrys » 25 May 2005 14:33

Could it have been that the prisoners being paraded were all those taken during some given period of which only a small proportion were Rangers?

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Post by Michael Emrys » 25 May 2005 14:39

Mike,

Did the Ranger companies only have two platoons? ISTR that a normal inf. coy. had about three times that many men and a battalion would have had over 800. Even though a Ranger unit would be traveling "light" 65 men still sounds skimpy.

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Post by Delta Tank » 25 May 2005 14:52

Grease-Spot,
Could it have been that the prisoners being paraded were all those taken during some given period of which only a small proportion were Rangers?
Yep that is possible don't know.
Did the Ranger companies only have two platoons? ISTR that a normal inf. coy. had about three times that many men and a battalion would have had over 800. Even though a Ranger unit would be traveling "light" 65 men still sounds skimpy.
Can't remember how many platoons were in the Rangers in World War II. The regular US infantry company in WWII had about 186 men or so at full strength. I am almost positive that the number was 65 men in a company. The idea IIRC, was that with more leadership and less men you could accomplish more due to the increase leader to led ratio. I think the Germans found late in the war that a 100 man German Infantry company could accomplish as much as the much larger German Infantry company that they started the war with. Can't remember where I read that, possibly Perspectives on Infantry by Major John English (Canadian Army)

Mike

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Post by GEB » 25 May 2005 15:05

There were approximately approx. 760 casualties (killed or captured) amongst the 1st & 3rd Ranger Btn. in the Cisterna action. It is possible that there were other POWs paraded in Rome who were from other American forces as well as English & Canadian. Remember at this time, (late January '44) the Anzio Beachhead was still relativly small compared to the line of combat that zig-zaged all the way across Italy from the Mediteranian to the Adriatic. And Rome was less than an hours drive from Anzio. (And unlike five months later in Normandy, there was little close air support for American forces in Italy.)

The largest majority of Ranger losses consisted of unwounded prisoners. They simply ran out of ammunition in an action where the shooting began about 0600 and ended (for the 1st & 3rd) by 1130. As an interesting aside, the 4th Btn actually had more KIA while trying to break through to the 1st & 3rd than the 1st & 3rd suffered in the entire action. Of course the 4th was constantly resupplied through the day and only broke contact close to midnight. After action reports on file in the national archives establish that the 4th collected the identity papers of 19 Germans killed and 161 German prisoners. (the material Ive seen does not establish the units of those German KIA or POWs) Gary

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Post by Andreas » 25 May 2005 15:22

Delta Tank wrote:The idea IIRC, was that with more leadership and less men you could accomplish more due to the increase leader to led ratio. I think the Germans found late in the war that a 100 man German Infantry company could accomplish as much as the much larger German Infantry company that they started the war with. Can't remember where I read that, possibly Perspectives on Infantry by Major John English (Canadian Army)

Mike
Sorry to go OT, but would that not rather be a consequence of the increased firepower these companies could bring to bear? Introduction of the MG42 in 1942, and of the MP44 in 1944, as well as added captured weapons such as PPSh would lead to less manpower being able to have a similar effect, right? An additional effect would be the higher ratio of support weapons to frontline companies achieved in 1942 by the elimination of the third battalions, and the more effective 120mm mortars being introduced as regimental weapons.

That's before we get into issues such as experience and skills of the leaders (better at war's end?) and that of the led (worse at war's end?).

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Post by Delta Tank » 25 May 2005 15:31

Andreas,
Sorry to go OT, but would that not rather be a consequence of the increased firepower these companies could bring to bear? Introduction of the MG42 in 1942, and of the MP44 in 1944, as well as added captured weapons such as PPSh would lead to less manpower being able to have a similar effect, right? An additional effect would be the higher ratio of support weapons to frontline companies achieved in 1942 by the elimination of the third battalions, and the more effective 120mm mortars being introduced as regimental weapons.

That's before we get into issues such as experience and skills of the leaders (better at war's end?) and that of the led (worse at war's end?).
What does to go OT mean? I am not up on all these acronyms. I am sure that all your points are valid. I believe that another benefit from a smaller company (talking German) was that because they had less men, they also suffered less casualties. Will try to find this in a book, I think it is in Perspectives on Infantry, but have not read it in hmmm 15 years or so :D !!

Mike

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Post by Andreas » 25 May 2005 15:45

OT = Off Topic - I thought you were in the military, acronyms must be like oxygen to you. No life without them. ;)

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Post by Delta Tank » 25 May 2005 16:47

Andreas,

Normal every day military acronyms no problem, but this stuff on the net, just not familiar with yet. Normally in the US Army you write out the words and then in parenthsis you put the acronym. This is so that everyone knows what you are talking about. My favorite one was Joint Air Attack Team (JAAT), then there was another one that was something like Joint Air Transport Team (JATT). But when spoken they are pronounced the same and it used to drive me a little insane. JAAT means field arty suppressing enemy air defenses while fighter bombers and helicopters attack the target. The other one (JAAT) means getting on an air force transport for a ride! :lol:


Mike

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