Original WWII U.S. Army 1st Ranger Battalion “Darby’s Rangers” Uniform Coat with Documentation attributed to PFC Robert Allen
Original Item: One of a kind: We have available the uniform of Private First Class Robert Allen, who served as a member of the 1st Ranger Battalion (aka Darby’s Rangers”) in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations during the Second World War. Some of the most sought after material in the field of World War Two collectibles are those associated with elite forces, be it American, German, British, and so on. Within the field of U.S. collecting, items attributed to U.S. Army Rangers are certainly some of the most sought after, and surprisingly the lesser found, of America’s elite forces of WWII.
Allen’s uniform coat, or “A-Blouse” as they were often referred to, features a U.S. Made 1st Ranger Battalion Scroll on the left shoulder sleeve. Below is a 5th Army Shoulder Sleeve Insignia. Private First Class Chevrons adorn each sleeve. A pinback “U.S.” and a screwback Infantry Branch insignia adorn the collar. His ribbons are individual, as opposed to a ribbon rack bar. The ribbons include the Purple Heart, European Campaign with two Battle Stars, and a WWII Victory Medal. Allen’s Purple Heart Ribbon is slightly more worn than the other two, most likely due to the fact that the medal was awarded while in the field, and therefore carried on campaign, whereas the ETO Ribbon and Victory Medal Ribbons were awarded later. Interestingly, the laundry number of another GI is written inside the coat, which should not be alarming to a seasoned collector, as this was not too terribly uncommon with GI Uniforms as they were often reissued, or simply switched while being laundered, or traded for (or “liberated”) after losing one’s own. The uniform in its entirety is exactly the way it came from the estate of Bob Allen not long after he passed away in 2006. It has been in a private collection ever since.
It should be noted that Allen is listed on the roster of the 1st Ranger Battalion in Robert W. Black’s Book Rangers in World War II. Accompanying the uniform is a copy of Allen’s obituary, a copy of his title page off his National Archives Personnel File, and photographs of his name on an undisclosed memorial.
Collar to shoulder: 9”
Shoulder to sleeve: 24”
Shoulder to shoulder: 17”
Chest width: 18”
Waist width: 16”
Hip width: 20”
Front length: 31"
“Darby’s Rangers” in World War Two:
The 1st Ranger Battalion was originally formed shortly after the United States' entry into World War II and was modeled after the British Commandos during the war. Members from the unit were the first American soldiers to see combat in the European theater when they participated in the failed raid on Dieppe in France in 1942, during which three Rangers were killed and several more were captured. Later, the 1st Ranger Battalion was sent to North Africa where they participated in the landings in Algeria and the fighting in Tunisia in 1943. Also in 1943 the unit provided training cadre to train up two more Ranger battalions between the campaigns in Sicily and Italy. After World War II, the 1st Ranger Battalion went through a number of changes of name and composition as it has been activated, deactivated, and reorganized on a number of occasions. However, the unit has lived on in one form or another since then, serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars before being consolidated into the 75th Ranger Regiment of which it is a part today. Deployments have included operations in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan as part of the wider global war on terrorism.
Major General Lucian Truscott, U.S. Army, in liaison with the British General Staff, submitted proposals to General George Marshall that "we undertake immediately an American unit along the lines of the British Commandos" in 1942. A subsequent cable from the U.S. Department of War authorized the activation of the 1st U.S. Army Ranger Battalion.
After much deliberation, Company A, 1st Ranger Battalion was constituted on 27 May 1942. Captain William Orlando Darby, 31-year-old graduate of West Point with amphibious training, was chosen as its commanding officer. Within weeks he was promoted to major for his efforts in organizing the unit. Of the 1,500 men to volunteer for the original Ranger Battalion, only 600 were chosen. Eighty percent of these original Rangers came from the Red Bulls U.S. 34th Infantry Division On 19 June 1942, Company A, 1st Ranger Battalion, was officially activated in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.
A select team of four officers toured the existing commando training camps and selected the center at Achnacarry, Scotland for the Rangers. Here they underwent intense training. Coached by the battle-seasoned commando instructors (commanded by Lt. Col. Charles Vaughan),the Rangers learned the basics of commando warfare. Five hundred of the 600 volunteers (83.33%) that Darby brought with him to Achnacarry completed the commando training. Many could not endure the exercises; one Ranger was killed, while several others were wounded in realistic training executed under live fire.
The first Americans to see active combat in the European theater of World War II were forty-four enlisted men and five officers from the 1st Ranger Battalion. Dispersed among the Canadians and the British commandos, these men were the first American ground soldiers to see action against the Germans in the disastrous Dieppe Raid, officially known as Operation Jubilee. Three Rangers were killed, including Lieutenant E. V. Loustalot (the first American soldier killed in Europe in World War II), and several captured. During the mission, the British Captain leading the assault was killed. Loustalot took command and, with his men, attacked a clifftop machine gun nest. Scaling the steep cliff, Loustalot was wounded three times before being killed by enemy crossfire.
Attempting to prevent German occupation of seaports in North Africa, the 1st Ranger Battalion spearheaded an invasion at the Port of Arzew in Algeria. This was accomplished by executing a surprise night amphibious landing, silencing two gun batteries, and opening the way for the capture of Oran.
In Tunisia in 1943, the 1st Battalion executed the first Ranger behind-enemy-lines night raid for the purpose of gaining information and terrorizing the enemy. On 11 February, 12 Rangers crossed 32-mile (51 km) on foot for their first raid at an Italian camp at Sened Station. Using the cloak of night, the Rangers slipped to within 50 yards (46 m) 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. Later, in March, American units were being decimated time and again while trying to break through the critical mountain pass at Djbel Ank. Given this mission, the 1st Rangers undertook a twelve-mile (19 km) night march through rugged terrain to reach the heights of Djbel Ank where, at dawn, the Rangers surprised the enemy from the rear, capturing two hundred prisoners and giving General Patton an opening though which he began the final and victorious battle in North Africa. Rangers played a crucial role in the battle of El Guettar which immediately followed, for which the First Ranger Battalion won its first Presidential Unit Citation (US).
The early success of the 1st Ranger Battalion brought about the creation of the 3rd and 4th Battalions. The original 1st Battalion was divided into thirds. One third of the headquarters and one company were placed in each of the Battalions 1-3-4. 3rd Ranger Battalion was activated on 21 May 1943 at Nemours, Morocco, while 4th Ranger Battalion was activated on 29 May 1943 in Tunisia. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Battalions were known as Darby's Rangers. To provide command and control for these three Ranger Battalions, the 6615th Ranger Force (Provisional) was established. This force was rounded out with the addition of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and the 2/509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The battle seasoned 1st Battalion moved into their newly assigned positions and trained their Ranger colleagues. The 1-3-4 Battalions were trained under Darby in Nemours, Morocco and prepared for the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Following the 1st Ranger Battalion success at the Amphibious Battle of Gela, all four of the initial Ranger Battalions were redesignated as Ranger Infantry Battalions on 1 August 1943.
Had it not been for the accomplishments of the 1st Ranger Battalion in the early entry of WWII, there would be no Rangers today. Their successful invasions in North Africa opened the sea and its ports for the Allied forces. The Allies were then able to move ships and equipment to support subsequent campaigns, enabling the later forces to successfully infiltrate enemy lines along the African coast, in Sicily, and up into Italy.
The Ranger Force attacked Salerno on 9 September 1943, and participated in the Naples-Foggia Campaign. They then moved on to Anzio on 22 January 1944. The entire 6615th Ranger Force (Provisional) was destroyed behind enemy lines in a heavily outnumbered encounter at Cisterna, Italy on 30 January 1944, and was officially disbanded on 15 August 1944. The 4th Ranger Battalion suffered some casualties while attempting to break through enemy lines to rescue their comrades in the 1st and 3rd Battalions.
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