Anyone know what the oldest unit still in the U.S. military is? I think at least two answers would be appropriate, active and reserve or guard. I am sure there are a few that go back to 1776 but how about before that?
Mark Conley said:The oldest unit in the active Army is the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, which perpetuates the Alexander Hamilton Battery of the Revolutionary War.
Colonial Era During the 17th century small units called Rangers came into existence in colonial America. Ranger units were comprised mostly of woodsmen who adopted and integrated Native American fighting techniques. Captain Benjamin Church's Rangers successfully defeated the Wampanoag Indians during the King Philip's War in 1675-76.
While the Seven Years War (1756-63) was being waged in Europe, pitting traditional armies against each other, American frontiersmen under Robert Rogers fought alongside British troops against the French and their Indian allies. Rogers' Rangers were organized into companies and provided scouting and raiding parties for the British. Robert Rogers wrote several treaties on irregular warfare; the Standing Orders and Rules of Discipline. The most famous action involving Rogers' Rangers was a deep raid on the Abenaki Indian tribe at St. Francis in 1759.
Revolutionary War Era
The Revolutionary War (1775-1783) saw the creation of numerous Ranger companies. The most famous American Ranger leaders were Colonels Daniel Morgan and Francis Marion. Their tactics were modeled after earlier colonial Ranger units.
The Continental Congress ordered the creation of 10 companies of Rangers on June 14th, 1775. These units were founded in Pennsylvania (6), Maryland (2) and Virginia (2). Each state formed companies of expert riflemen and Indian fighters. Morgan's Rangers fought famous engagements against the British at Freeman Farm in 1777 and Cowpen in 1781. The primary mission of these Rangers was scouting and harassing enemy troops.
Colonel Marion created his own unique company of Rangers which operated independently of the conventional American army. Their primary mission was the interruption of British lines of communications in the swamps of Carolina. In addition, Colonel Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion suppressed colonists who sided with the British Empire. Robert Rogers fought alongside the British army.
World War II
At the beginning of its participation in World War II, the United States was unprepared for the largest conflict in the history of western civilization. Allied armies were on the brink of collapse and positive offensive military actions were necessary to restore the morale of the troops and civilian populations. Recognizing this, the U.S. Army created several Ranger battalions to serve in Europe and the Pacific Theaters of War.
The 1st, 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions were founded in Europe and North Africa, under the leadership of Major William O. Darby, and were modeled after the British Commandos. Although initially trained to raid German held coastal areas, Darby's Ranger Force was used to spearhead campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. In 1944, the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions ceased to exist as fighting units when they were surrounded and captured by German forces at Cisterna, Italy. This combat operation resulted in the end of Darby's Ranger Force.
In the United States, the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were founded in preparation for an Allied invasion in Europe. These two battalions were commanded by Colonels James E. Rudder and Max Schneider respectively. Second Battalion's most famous action occurred in June 1944 when the unit scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoe as part of the Normandy Invasion, while the 5th Ranger Battalion led the assault off the beaches.
The 29th Ranger Battalion, which was founded in December 1942 and deactivated in October of 1943, conducted raids with British Commandos against German-held Norwegian areas.
In the Pacific Theater, the 6th Ranger Battalion was formed in January of 1944. Their most successful mission was a raid on a prisoner of war camp at Cabanatuan in the Philippines. This action in January 1945 rescued over 500 prisoners of war.
It was in the China-Burma-India Theater where one of the most successful and colorful fighting forces in the world was created. The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was founded on October 3rd, 1943. This unit was code-named Galahad and was later dubbed by the press "Merrill's Marauders". This unit was modeled after and trained similarly to that of British Long Range Penetration Groups, which were created and commanded by Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate.
Galahad was composed of three battalions, each approximately 1000 volunteers in strength and each consisting of two equal teams. The 5307th was transferred from British to American command and was led by General Frank D. Merrill. The unit's mission was long range patrolling, supported only via air dropped supplies. Merrill's Marauders participated in five major, and thirty minor engagements, the most famous operation being the capture of the Myitkyina Airfield in 1944. By this time the 5307th had suffered eighty percent casualties, including several of its commanders. Several months later, in August 1944, after being designated the 475th Infantry Regiment and made part of the Mars Task Force, the unit captured the town of Myitkyina itself.
The Vietnam War
The U.S. Army's Long Range Recon Patrols evolved in Germany from NATOs development of the concept in the late 1950s. This concept was influenced by the British Special Air Service's (SAS) successful use of small, independently operating, deep reconnaissance patrols.
This model was quickly adopted for use in southeast Asia in the Vietnam War (1965-73) with 4-6 man LRRP/LRP teams. These teams were continuously deployed during the longest war in American military history. During this conflict, American volunteers would recon deep within enemy-held territory. Their missions soon expanded to include ambushes, prisoner snatches, and BDAs (bomb damage assessments). Equipped with communications gear, helicopter gunships and artillery, these teams dealt some stunning blows to large-scale NVA/VC units. But their small size and distance from friendly forces also left them vulnerable to enemy attacks.
In 1969 the LRRP/LRP companies were redesignated as Ranger companies of the 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment, and inherited the lineage of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), and the 475th Infantry. To many of the soldiers who had already been fighting in the jungles, mountains and swampy delta areas of Vietnam, the change meant very little at the time. They just continued performing the same mission they had been for the previous four to five years.
There were also Vietnamese Rangers (1960-75) during this conflict, trained and advised by American Rangers. These BDQ (Biet-Dong-Quan), commonly known as ARVN Rangers, fought in larger-sized units.
Like the Marauders and the 475th Infantry Regiment in W.W. II, albeit in much smaller teams, these Ranger and predecessor LRRP/LRP units had the mission of working deep within an enemy's areas of operation. The tenacity and excellence of the Ranger tradition was clearly demonstrated by the heroism of these volunteers. A total of four Medals of Honor were bestowed (three posthumously) on men who had fought in these units.
Modern Era History
Of the Ranger Companies developed to conduct combat operations in the Republic of Vietnam only two were retained. The two companies, A/75 and B/75, were deactivated in 1974 in order to provide an experienced base of soldiers to form two new Ranger Battalions. The traditional missions in Vietnam were primarily raids, ambushes, and reconnaissance. Due to changes in war fighting scenarios, the modern Rangers trained for and conducted more direct-action missions and less reconnaissance work, while the Army created other LRRP units to focus on reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.
Rangers participated as a supporting force for the attempted rescue of American hostages in Iran in 1980. In October 1983, 1st and 2nd Battalions, 75th Infantry (Ranger), led the invasion of Grenada with a combat parachute jump in Operation Urgent Fury.
One year later, a third Ranger Battalion and Regimental Headquarters was created and in April 1986, the 75th Infantry Regiment (Ranger) was redesignated the 75th Ranger Regiment. The lineage, honors, awards and campaign credits of W.W. II and Korean Ranger units were added to the 75th Ranger Regiment, which had originally drawn its lineage from the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional). Not since Darby's W.W. II Ranger Force have so many Rangers been assembled into a single fighting unit.
The 75th Ranger Regiment led the way with two combat jumps into Panama in 1989 during Operation Just Cause. Rangers participated in Desert Storm in 1991 with the duties of conducting raids and providing a reaction force. Alpha and Bravo Companies of the 3rd Ranger Battalion participated in the United Nations' missions in Somalia in 1993. Their actions in Mogadishu, Somalia clearly demonstrated the superiority of Ranger training and adaptability on the field of battle. Six Rangers paid the supreme sacrifice in accomplishing their mission. Their courage and selfless service epitomized the values espoused in the Ranger Creed, and are indicative of the Ranger spirit of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
The modern Ranger has to volunteer three times, first for the Army, second for Airborne School, and finally for the Ranger Regiment. Training, for these volunteers, includes a selection course called the Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP), which follows the successful completion of Airborne School. After graduating from RIP, the volunteer is assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment.
The training of the modern Ranger is year-round and extremely arduous. It is not uncommon for deaths to occur due to live fire exercises and the extreme environmental conditions used to replicate the stressful conditions of war. This physical and mental conditioning not only earns the privilege of wearing the coveted Black Beret, but also the responsibility of deploying to any location in the world with only a few hours notice. Rangers enjoy a bond the average person cannot understand. The satisfaction of serving with other like-minded and dedicated individuals is an experience which very few units enjoy. The modern Ranger must live up to the standards created by Rangers who have killed, and died fighting, for over 300 years on the world's battlefields.