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Stories of the Ranger Battalions

This tour visits the graves of seven individuals from the Ranger Battalions.

This tour tells the story of the Rangers who are commemorated at the Normandy American Cemetery.

The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions participated in the Normandy landings. D, E, and F Companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion mounted the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, while A and B Company of the 2nd Rangers alongside the 5th Ranger Battalion landed on Omaha Beach.

However, this was not the first time that the Rangers had landed in France: the first individual on this tour, T/4 Howard M. Henry, participated in the failed Dieppe Raid of August 19, 1942 on the German-occupied French port.

Howard M. Henry

Howard M. Henry

1st Ranger Battalion

Technician Fourth Class, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Kentucky

Died:

8/19/1942

Grave Location:

Plot B, Row 18, Grave 5

Commando Basic Training Centre, Achnacarry, Inverness-shire, 1942.

Technician 4thClass Howard M. Henry served in the 1stRanger Battalion during the beginning of World War II.

Assault landing under 'enemy' fire, Commando Basic Training Centre, Achnacarry, Inverness-shire, 1942.

The first Americans to see active combat in the European Theater of Operations were 44 enlisted men and five officers from the 1stRanger Battalion who served in  Operation Jubilee, also known as the Dieppe Raid, in August 1942. This small group of Americans was attached to a larger force of 5,000 Canadians and 1,000 British troops in an amphibious assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France. The Allied operation consisted of several goals. The first was to seize and hold the port in order to gather intelligence. Then, Allied forces would destroy enemy coastal defenses and strategic buildings upon retreat and ultimately boost morale.

A landing craft taking part in Operation Jubilee, during the raid on Dieppe.

Despite these intentions, the operation was disastrous. The raid took place on the northern coast of France along the English Channel on August 19, 1942. The assault began at 5:00 a.m. and by 10:50 a.m. the Allied commanders were forced to call a retreat. The Allies had found themselves trapped on the beach by German fire and obstacles, and severely underequipped for the mission. Henry and two other American Rangers were killed during the landing. Almost 60 percent of the men who made it to shore that day were killed, wounded, or captured.

Memorial for those Rangers killed during the Raid on Dieppe, making them the first US soldiers to die for the Liberation of France. T/4 Howard M. Henry is the last name on the list.

Awards: Purple Heart

Howard M. Henry is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot B, Row 18, Grave 5.

Frederick D. Smith

Frederick D. Smith

2nd Ranger Battalion

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Connecticut

Died:

6/6/1944

Grave Location:

Plot H, Row 21, Grave 8

Frederick D. Smith was born on November 27, 1921 in Trenton, NJ. In 1941 Smith joined the local Connecticut National Guard. When the United States entered the war, Smith’s National Guard unit became mobilized, and he became a member of the 1st Battalion of the 102nd Infantry. Before leaving for his first tour of duty overseas, Frederick became engaged to a young woman named Kathleen, who was a student nurse at St. Mary's Hospital. 

On January 30, 1942, his unit was deployed to the Christmas Islands and fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal. There he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in action.

Following his service with the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater, Smith enlisted with the 2ndRanger Battalion.  He began his training in 1943 at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  Smith and the other 2ndRangers continued their preparation for Operation Overlord in England in 1943 and 1944.  During his time as a 2ndRanger, he earned the rank of staff sergeant.  

Men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion pack into their LCA, preparing to move to the HMS Prince Charles.

The morning of June 6th, Smith and the rest of Company ‘A’ landed on Omaha Beach at the Dog Green Sector.  Their objective was to exit the beach at the Vierville Draw,  and to capture Pointe du Hoc via the overland route. The scene at Dog Green Beach was a slaughterhouse.  ‘A’ Company of the 116thInfantry, 29thInfantry Division had a 92 percent casualty rate.  Almost all in the unit were killed, wounded or missing in the landings. 

Smith survived the initial landing of the beach and safely climbed to the bluffs above Omaha Beach. But while clearing out a German strong point, he was shot and killed by enemy machine gun fire.

Awards: Silver Star, Purple Heart

Frederick D. Smith is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot H, Row 21, Grave 8.

Henry S. Golas

Henry S. Golas

2nd Ranger Battalion

First Sergeant, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Rhode Island

Died:

6/6/1944

Grave Location:

Plot J, Row 6, Grave 4

Specially marked 2nd Ranger Battalion helmet that was not 1st Sgt. Henry S. Golas but was similar to a helmet that he would have worn with other defining markers.

1stSgt. Henry S. Golas was a member of the 2ndRanger Battalion that was assigned the mission of mounting the cliffs and attacking the guns of Pointe du Hoc.

Golas and Lt. Saloman, with the rest of the 2nd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Ranger Battalion.

After marrying his wife, Genevieve, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Golas volunteered for the 2ndRanger Battalion, a  group of men known for their incredible physical and mental fitness. Golas advanced through the ranks and was soon promoted to first sergeant of Company ‘C’.

In preparation for D-Day, the men of the 2ndRanger Battalion were trained to scale the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and at Pointe de la Percée. It was a dangerous but necessary mission to be carried out. He trained with his men for a year before heading to Normandy.

The 2nd Ranger Battalion marches in Weymouth, Dorset, England to the embarkation area for Normandy on June 1, 1944.
Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, the objective of the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day.

The 2ndBattalion landed at Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6. Witnesses confirm that Golas never made it to the cliffs. He paused at the water’s edge to help and encourage his men. As Ronald Lane describes in his book Rudder’s Rangers, “Golas was still at the water’s edge when suddenly he was hit by machine gun bullets. He raised his rifle and started charging across the sand, determined and in pain. The German machine gunner continued to fire, hitting Golas with every step he took. He fell to his knees, tried to raise his rifle but couldn’t, and then he fell forward as though with his last breath he wanted to continue the charge.”

2nd Ranger Battalion helmet marking a fallen Ranger after the Battle of Pointe du Hoc.

Awards: Purple Heart

Henry S. Golas is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot J, Row 6, Grave 4.

Lawrence M. Johnson

Lawrence M. Johnson

2nd Ranger Battalion

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

New Jersey

Died:

6/7/1944

Grave Location:

Plot J, Row 6, Grave 28

SSgt. Lawrence M. Johnson was born in 1911 and resided in Middlesex County, N.J. prior to enlisting in the Army. In 1942, at the age of 31, Johnson was married and working as a semi-skilled mechanic and repairman on motor vehicles when he enlisted.

Staff Sgt. Lawrence M. Johnson on leave in Bude, England, 1944.

Serving in the 2ndRanger Battalion, Johnson was stationed in Bude, England for training. The objective of the 225 Rangers who assaulted Pointe du Hoc during the early morning hours of D-Day was to eliminate a battery of six 155mm guns of the German 726th Infantry Regiment. The German artillery, which had a 10-mile range, had the potential to hit the landing fleet on both American invasion beaches, Utah and Omaha, with high explosives and shrapnel. 

Johnson on leave with his close friend, Rosemary Constance Bruce Tuckett in Bude, England, 1944.
Johnson in Bude, Cornwall, England, before the invasion, 1944.

After successfully climbing the cliffs on June 6, Johnson was part of a two-man patrol sent out from ‘D’ Company to try and find and destroy the 155mm guns.  The guns were eventually found and destroyed by Sgt. Len Lomell and Staff Sgt. Jack Kuhn, the other patrol from ‘D’ Company. As night fell, ‘D’ Company took up defensive positions, before facing several waves of nighttime attacks by the Germans attempting to dislodge them from their grip on the Pointe du Hoc. Johnson was killed by German machinegun fire in one of these attacks.

Johnson on leave in Bude, England, 1944.
Normandy American Cemetery

Awards: Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Lawrence M. Johnson is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot J, Row 6, Grave 28.

Robert M. Brice

Robert M. Brice

2nd Ranger Battalion

First Lieutenant, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Virginia

Died:

6/6/1944

Grave Location:

Plot J, Row 11, Grave 16

1stLt. Robert M. Brice graduated from the Citadel, the famed military college in Charleston, South Carolina, and then began studying law at the University of Arkansas. However, his studies were interrupted by the war. After officer infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga., Brice said good-bye to his wife and travelled to England in October 1943 as part of the 2ndRanger Battalion. He participated in specialized training in Scotland with British commandos for the planned D-Day assault on the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc.

2nd Ranger Battalion in Weymouth, Dorset, England, ready to load into their landing craft for D-Day departure. June 3, 1944.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, the 22-year old Brice climbed into an LCA (Landing Craft Assault) in Weymouth harbor as part of the Pointe du Hoc assault team. Brice’s LCA was diverted along with others from the intended landing point of Pointe du Hoc to Omaha Beach. He was commanding the 1st Platoon of B Company when the LCA carrying the 2nd Platoon of B Company hit a mine, destroying the bow landing ramp and sinking the LCA. The men on board were thrown into deep water, but most made it to shore though they lost their weapons and equipment in the process.

The last roll call for the 2nd Ranger Battalion before they embark for the D-Day invasion. Weymouth, Dorset, England. June 3, 1944.

The 1stPlatoon LCA carrying Brice and his men started dropping its landing ramp but got hung up on steel cables below water level. Brice ordered the ramp lowered anyway and jumped into the water ahead of the platoon. He was the first man from his landing craft to reach the beach. In true Ranger style, Brice motioned to the others and called out “Let’s go.” At that moment he was shot and killed by German machine-gun fire.

Awards: Purple Heart

Robert M. Brice is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot J, Row 11, Grave 16.

Joseph A. Rafferty

Joseph A. Rafferty

2nd Ranger Battalion

Captain, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Pennsylvania

Died:

6/6/1944

Grave Location:

Plot I, Row 7, Grave 3

Entering the service from Pennsylvania, Capt. Joseph Rafferty was promoted to that rank on June 5, 1944 – the day before D-Day.  He served as the commanding officer for A Company of the 2ndRanger Battalion during the Normandy landings.

Joseph A. Rafferty with Company A of the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey. October 1943.
A Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, boarding LCA, Weymouth, Dorset, England, June 1, 1944. Standing at the extreme right is A Company Commanding Officer Capt. Joseph A. Rafferty.

On June 6, Rafferty and A Company landed near Vierville on Omaha Beach. After successfully crossing the beach, Rafferty crossed back to the water to urge his men forward, shouting, “For God’s sake men, get off this beach!” It was at that point that he was hit in the legs by enemy fire. Falling forward to his knees in the water he continued, “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry or everybody’s going to get killed.” Another bullet struck Rafferty in the head. Medic Robert Lambert came to his assistance, sitting with him in the water until he passed away. 

Led by Able Company, the 2nd Ranger Battalion marches on the Esplanade in Weymouth, Dorset, England, to embarkation area, June 1, 1944. On the left is Capt. Harvey Cook, the intelligence officer. To his right is A Company commander Capt. Joseph A. Rafferty. Lt. Colonel James Earl Rudder is on the extreme right.

Awards: Purple Heart

Joseph A. Rafferty is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot I, Row 7, Grave 3.

Elmo E. Banning

Elmo E. Banning

5th Ranger Battalion

Technician Fifth Class, U.S. Army

Entered the Service from:

Kansas

Died:

6/6/1944

Grave Location:

Plot I, Row 20, Grave 14

Technician 5thClass Elmo E. Banning was only 22 years old when he waded ashore on Omaha Beach with the 5thRanger Battalion on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Inducted into service in 1943, he landed in Liverpool, England with B Company and the rest of the 5thRanger Battalion for intense training.  They trained with the British commandos for five tough months at various locations in Northern England and Scotland.

5th Ranger Battalion in Weymouth, Dorset, England loading onto LCAs on June 1, 1944.

Banning was in Ranger Force C, which was made up of A and B companies of the 2ndRanger Battalion and the entire 5thRanger Battalion.  Their mission was to land behind three companies of 2nd Rangers who would climb and capture Pointe du Hoc, and then destroy the 155mm guns positioned there by the Germans.  Because of a storm, smoke and confusion, the 5thRanger Battalion and Banning were diverted to Dog Red sector of Omaha Beach. Terrified, wet and exhausted,Banning, B Company and the rest of the 5thRangers came into the view of legendary Brig. Gen. Norman Cota of the 29thDivision, who was strolling on the beach seemingly unaffected by the mortal danger around him. Cota exhorted the Rangers amidst the machine gun fire, exploding mortar rounds and artillery barrage. He asked the young men, “What outfit is this?” When given the reply “Rangers” he said, “Well, goddammit, if you’re Rangers, get up and lead the way!” “Lead the Way” later became the motto of the Rangers. They climbed the bluffs, fought hand-to-hand and captured the German defensive positions opening the way for the 29thDivision.

Banning was killed in action during an artillery barrage that day, and just a few months later, his brother Lyle died in the war. 

Awards: Purple Heart

Elmo E. Banning is buried in Normandy American Cemetery Plot I, Row 20, Grave 14.