1st Ranger Battalion
In January 1942, American entered World War II. Major William Orlando Darby, the founder of the modern rangers, was assigned to duty in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Darby, frustrated with his lack of hands on experience as General Russell Hartle’s aide, was put in charge of a new unit. General George C. Marshall envisioned an elite unit of 50 men selected voluntarily from the 34th division. He believed Darby was the man to head the job. It was therefore on June 8th 1942, that Darby was officially put in charge of the 1st Ranger’s battalion under General Hartle.
In November 1942, the 1st Rangers received their first feel of combat as a battalion, when they were sent out to the shores of North Africa, or more specifically Arzew, Algeria. The 1st were split into two groups in hopes of assaulting French-Vichy batteries and fortifications before the 1st infantry division would land on the beach. The operation was a success with both minimal casualties and wounded.
On February 11th the Rangers took a 32-mile journey, 12 on foot, for their first raid on an Italian camp at Sened Station. Using the cloak of night, the Rangers slipped in 50 yards of the Italian outpost and began their attack. It took the battalion only 20 minutes to achieve area control. Fifty enemy were killed and an additional 10 were taken prisoner. Darby, along with fellow commanders, was awarded the Silver Star for this victory and the battalion itself gained the nickname the “Black Death” by the Italians.
At the time, the Italians still held the pass at Djebel El Ank, situated at the far edge of east El Guettar. Linked up with engineers and the 26th Regimental Combat Team, the Rangers were ordered to take the area, which remained for some time now at a standstill. The 1sr Rangers were ordered to take a 12-mile dangerous gorge route in hopes of flanking the enemy. They arrived moments before zero hour, to an unguarded flank. In eight hours of fighting the Americans cleared the area; the 1st Rangers had taken 200 prisoners.