The 2nd Ranger Battalion was activated on April 1, 1943 at Camp Forrest, Tullahoma, Tennessee. Notices calling for volunteers to serve in an elite fighting force went out to all branches of the army. The call was answered by brave and daring men like Henry S. Golas and Ralph Goranson who wanted to challenge themselves by serving in the best military units.
The most physically and mentally fit soldiers were selected to become part of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and were to be trained and made ready for the invasion on D-Day of the European Continent. Combat-proven officers from the 1st Ranger Battalion commanded by Col. William O. Darby provided the training.
From 11 April– 5 July 1943, the Rangers were stationed in “Tent City” about one mile north-east of Camp Forrest in Tennessee. During this period the Rangers, under command of Major James E. Rudder , focused on developing physical stamina. The men were required to complete a five mile march in one hour and a nine mile march in two hours. The policy mandated that, “If a man fell out on a hike, he would be considered physically unfit for Ranger service and would be transferred. This policy would remain in force throughout training. The soldiers also started their training in small unit actions. These activities included: scouting, patrolling, village fighting, infiltration, bayonet, hand-to-hand, and “rugged” group games to help create unit cohesion. Training continued with the Rangers moving to Fort Pierce, Florida in September 1943 to practice amphibious landings.
Completing the training early, the Rangers were moved next to Fort Dix New Jersey where they remained until they left for England. Early in December 1943, the Rangers arrived in Grenach, Scotland. They were soon to learn about the vigorous training and fighting techniques of the British Commandos. Christmas was spent in Bude, Cornwall on the western coast of England. Bude furnished the steep cliffs for training.
On June 6, 1944 Ranger Companies F, D, and E were assigned the task of seizing the cliff bound Pointe du Hoc and destroying the heavy guns positioned there. The guns were positioned in such a manner that they could disrupt landings at both Omaha and Utah Beaches. Due to a navigation error, the Rangers landed almost an hour behind schedule at 7:10 a.m. on Pointe du Hoc. Taking away the element of surprise, the delay had dire consequences. Nevertheless, the Rangers successfully scaled the 100-foot cliffs using grappling hooks and ropes. Although the guns were found about a mile away in their alternate positions, Ranger sergeants Len Lomell and Jack Kuhn were able to destroy five 155mm guns.
Meanwhile Company C landed at H-Hour on Omaha Beach. Their mission was to clear the enemy from the top of Ponte et Raz de la Percee to prevent them from firing on Omaha Beach where the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions were to also land. At 6:30 a.m. on June 6, Company C arrived on English landing crafts amidst intense fire. Almost half their men, including 1st Sergeant Henry S. Golas, were killed crossing the beach under horrific heavy fire. Using their fighting knives and bayonets, three men - Lt. William Moody, Sgt. Julius Belcher, and Pfc. Otto Stevens scaled the 100 foot cliffs and dropped the toggle ropes to the remaining Rangers below to enable them to more easily climb the cliffs and successfully put out of action this very important and deadly German defensive position.
Companies A, B, part of Headquarters and the rest of the Rangers provisional group landed at H-plus 30 minutes. After blowing up a section of the sea wall on Omaha Beach, the Rangers led the way off the beach and fought their way westward to join their comrades at Pointe du Hoc.
The 2nd Rangers were later involved in the Battle for Brest and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest before fighting their way into Germany The battalion was deactivated after the war together with the 5th and 6th Battalion.
"These units accepted only volunteers and men were selected for their mental and physical stamina and their motivation to get the job done. Sometimes we were called a suicide groups, but not at all we were simply spirited young people who took the view that if you were going to be combat soldier you may as well be the very best. Also we were anxious to get on with the war so as to bring things to a close and get home to our loved ones as soon as possible. "
"To get into the Rangers, you had to volunteer. At any time during training, you could volunteer out, because of physical requirements, mental requirement, or just the fact that you just didn’t fit. We had a high turnover at the beginning, but as we got ready to leave in early September of ‘43, we had a pretty tight crew put together in each of our Ranger companies."
"We arrived at Bude Cornwall on December 2, 1943. 500 rangers were greeted with 500 pairs of boxing gloves and a few miles of rope for our training on the cliffs of Cornwall. We climbed the cliffs along the Cornish coast and hike the hills inland, just for conditioning."
Owen Brown, Headquarters Company
"Some men were trying to crawl forward; others were absolutely still as pools of blood soaked into the French soil. They saw First Sergeant Henry Golas, who had formerly been Saloman’s platoon sergeant, encouraging the first platoon men forward, many of whom had been wounded on the boat and in the water. Sergeant 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, a look of determination mixed with pain on his face. The German machine gunner continued to fire, hitting Sergeant Golas with every step he took. Finally, the strapping, well-liked sergeant was completely stopped. 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.”
Ronald Lane, Rudder's Rangers