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Tracing my 1st Ranger dad - Gela to Nice to Oslo

Discussion in 'Italy, Sicily & Greece' started by wooley12, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/70-42/70-422.htm

    "Casualties mounted when the Rangers served as line infantry in the offensive against the German Winter Line. Lacking troops on the Venafro front, General Mark Clark used the Rangers to fill gaps in Fifth Army's line from early November to mid-December. Attached to divisions, the battalions engaged in bitter mountain fighting at close quarters. Although reinforced by a cannon company of four 75-mm. guns on half-tracks, they still lacked the firepower and manpower for protracted combat. By mid-December the continuous fighting and the cold, wet weather had taken a heavy toll. In one month of action, for example, the 1st Ranger Battalion lost 350 men, including nearly 200 casualties from exposure. Moreover, the quality of the battalions declined as veterans were replaced by enthusiastic, but inadequately trained, replacements"
     
  2. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Time for Operation Husky. John got patched up, rejoined his unit and boarded the USS Dickman for transport to the invasion. I have read that due to the boarding explosion, it was decided to collect all of the munitions carried by the Rangers and load them on another ship for transport to the staging area off the coast of Sicily.
    USS Dickman.jpg
     
  3. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    There a number of good accounts of Operation Husky on line. The Allies won by throwing the most ships, troops and air support of any invasion against a demotivated and under supplied Italian army controlled by occupying German troops far, far, from Berlin and supplies. Company "C" was tasked with landing 3/4 of a mile west of the city pier, crossing the beach, climb 150' of cliff and knocking out some guns spotted prior to the invasion. As John's luck continued, the spot where "C" Company landed was unguarded. The paths through the mine fields were designated with signs in German. The shore guns were missing the breech blocks.There were no casualties in Johs platoon that day. It was different story at the pier at sea and in the air. Here is what John Hummer wrote about it on the back of the USS Dickman picture.
    USS Dickman back.jpg
     
    CAC likes this.
  4. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    On D+1, the city of Gela was secure and masses of surrendering Italian soldiers and starving civilians were the biggest issue to deal with. The ranges moved into the hills outside of the town to regroup and rearm. The fortress like town of Butera was 10 miles inland and 395 meters(1295.9 feet) up a winding dirt road. and "C" Co., 1st Ranger Btn was sent to take the town at night. John's platoon was chosen to lead the way in!! And his section (10 men) was chosen to lead the platoon!! And since John was one of the a rifleman in the platoon, he and his rifleman buddy Olesen got the be the first Rangers past the wall and into the town!! The Life Magazine issue of August,9 1943 had an article on the mission. John had this part of a page in his memorabilia. I was able buy an uncirculated copy of the issue.
    4 copy.jpg
     
  5. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Here is another story dad told that I'll put here in Sicily. It might have been somewhere else in the campaign but if I was writing a movie..........

    Dad and Olesen moved into position on a night operation and were waiting for the signal to pounce. Olesen started to cough. John took out his knife and whispered "One more cough and I'll kill ya". Decades later at a reunion Ole asked dad if he really was going to kill him that night and dad said "Yeah, I think I would have".
     
  6. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    reminds me of the crying baby in the cave, hiding from the Japanese...the mother was told to shut the baby up or they will...she ended up holding the baby so close to shush her, it suffocated...A few sneezing stories out there too...
     
  7. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    In the memoires that I have read of hardened combat soldiers I have seen a commonality in that a civilian or worse, child casualty of war left them deeply touched. My father never told me but he told my son that his saddest experience of the war was on a rainy mountain road in the Italian mountains. I would guess winter of 1943 when he was with the Ranger HQ as a driver in the medical attachment. Or maybe 1944 when he had the same job in the FSSF. Another date I need to research. He was driving blacked out lights at night in the rain and struck an adult male civilian as he walked down the road. John put the fellow in the rear bed of the truck and headed for medical help. By the time he got to the "hospital" there was a 6 inches of water in the truck bed. The injured guy had drowned.
     
  8. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Another bed time story from dad. Somewhere in Sicily, summer time, 1943. "I was sitting around in the evening and someone came by and asked if I would like to go and get some Germans. I knew we had been taking prisoners and figured I'd help move them with the guy so I volunteered. It turned out that I went out at night with a small group to capture some Germans by sneaking up on them in their fox holes and pill boxes with knives,,45's and grenades. Never volunteer for something until you know what the deal is."
     
  9. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Sometimes in your research you come across information that changes the color of a story and the descendants parties involved would prefer that the truth remain in the fog of the past. The issue involved does not debase the soldier but takes his actions from heroic to mundane. What should I do? Record the alternative and unvetted record from an old news clipping or let alternative of the action stand?
     
  10. KMZgirl

    KMZgirl Member

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    I would tell both. Perhaps his death was mundane, but previous actions heroic. Just being there makes a man a hero in my eyes.
     
  11. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Moral dilemmas like this have cropped up from time to time in my research. I have always erred towards caution as real living people's emotions are involved. I think that there is nothing to gain in a public post, even in this small corner of the digital universe. The details are recorded in my research documents for posterity. I'll send you a PM.
     
  12. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    The Ranger campaign through Sicily was probably the best time to be in the Rangers. The entire force was fresh, fully trained and fully manned. They were given an assignment to do what they were trained and equipped to do. Protect the flank of the major force while conducting night time recon behind enemy lines to locate and kill the enemy. Resistance was minimal. The local population saw them as saviors. The German Command was more interested in evacuating Sicily than reinforcing and the Italian soldier just wanted to stay alive. The story would be very different in Italy when the many new replacements were being rushed through training. Fitness declined.. Corners were cut. And they began to be used as a regular infantry regiment but without the firepower of an infantry regiment on the battle field or just as important, at HQ where battle planning decisions were made.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  13. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    Sicily was no cake walk as I may have inferred with my previous post. Some records that I have seen recently indicate that the 1st Btn had the highest number of KIA at 30 in Sicily. I need to do more research on the KIA during Operation Husky to the end.The Germans were successful in evacuating the majority of their men and material. The stalling defense must have been fierce and effective.

    Anyway, the Ranger 75th Anniversary book came last week and has a number of great first hand recollections of battles, pow camps and escapes in the words of those who were there. KIMG1162.jpg
     
  14. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    July 9th 2018 soon. The 75th Anniversary of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. It was the largest invasion of WWII. I'll be posting as much a I can on the 75th anniversary of each action by the 1st Ranger Btn. as it's anniversary date comes up.

    June 21, 1943. The 1st Ranger Btn was fully manned, better trained than the men of the Original 1st who fought through Africa before being divided and remanned into the 1st, 3rd and 4th Btns. fully trained and resting at a bivouac outside of Zeralda. Live ammo drills. Hand to hand, bayonet and knife combat skills were honed by practice. The CO, Shunstrom, orders passes into town to be given only to Rangers injured while practicing. Passes were earned. At least one earned a trip home with a million dollar wound. About this time an original Ranger, most likely Sgt Saam, is showing some of the newer guys how to shorten the timing fuse on a mortar round. Someone didn't do it correctly.
    saam.jpg
     
  15. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    On July 29th 1943 as the 1st Ranger Btn was marching in a column of two's while boarding the USS Dickman a mortar round exploded in a rangers back pack. He was killed instantly and 20 others were wounded, including my father who got some shrapnel in his hand. Small world. The nurse in the hospital where he got patched up was a young lady from just around the corner back home. Gorski-Goark meet.jpg
     
  16. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    7-10-1943 3:30 a.m. The landing craft with the 1st Ranger Btn head for the beach at Gela. "C" Company was tasked with climbing a bluff a few hundred yards to the right of this webcam.

    Gela (Gela, Italy)

    Gela 330am7172018.png
     
  17. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

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    July 12, 1943 - 75 years ago today,1st Ranger Btn "C"Company was given the mission of leading the attack to capture the town of Butera. According to my dad's memories, dad and Oleson as riflemen were the first to enter the walled town. Tactically, to me It makes sense to send in a couple of new guys first to see how "hot" the place was rather than risk a more valuable seasoned Ranger. Life Magazine wrote the story. A good read.

    https://books.google.com/books?id=T1AEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA82...
     

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