Today, February 1, 2015, is the 46th anniversary of the reactivation of what would eventually become today’s 75th Ranger Regiment.
I wrote this a while back ...but figured it bears repeating.
The first provisional long-range patrol (LRP) units were formed in 1965 and 1966 at the divisional level, but it was in 1967 that the LRRP organizations flourished and became formally established. The acronyms LRP (long range patrol) and LRRP (long-range reconnaissance patrols) soon were interchangeable, though most orders of battle refer to the units as LRPs. Every integral Army group in-country, whether brigade or division level, had its own LRRP unit.
On January 1, 1969, General Westmoreland brought the 13 different LRRP units under the umbrella of the 75th Infantry Rangers (Airborne), linking them to the 75th Infantry of 1954 and the 475th Infantry of 1944 and that unit’s 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) – Merrill’s Marauders — whose regimental patch the Rangers would wear. The LRP/LRRP companies would be designated from then on as companies C through I and K through P, 75th Infantry Rangers. The reactivation became official on February 1, 1969.
The units operated in a silent netherworld of dark green shadows where error could mean death and where the extraordinary was commonplace. Traveling in small groups — some companies used three or four man, some eight and more — far from friendly forces, we strove to look, smell, move and act as much as possible like the enemy we sought in the depths of the jungle. We were hunters and trackers, and our elusive prey was the NVA and VC.
We were adept at the art of ambush, the quiet kill, unseen movement and survival, wafting through the jungle like a solitary breeze, briefly felt, quickly gone. We were the eyes and ears of our parent units.
We were a small, unheralded, elite force of specialists in guerrilla warfare, an all-volunteer group of soldiers with a minimum of formal training in the skills of covert counterinsurgency operations. Nevertheless, we had an effect on the overall military operations in Vietnam that was completely out of proportion to our number.
Major General William R. Peers, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, noted in 1967: “Every major battle the 4th Infantry Division got itself into was initiated by the action of a Long Range Patrol; every single one of them. That included the Battle of Dak To, for the Long Range Patrols completely uncovered the enemy movement. We knew exactly where he was coming from through our Long Range Patrol action.”
Lieutenant General John H. Hays, Jr., who commanded the 1st Infantry Division from February 1967 to March 1968 and went on to become the deputy commanding general of II Field Force, serving until August 1968, said that the LRRPs were “generally considered to have the most uncomfortable and dangerous job in Vietnam,” but also noted that “the way in which the long range patrols were used was one of the most significant innovations of the war.”
I remain proud to have been a member of E Company, 58th Infantry LRRP and Company K, 75th Infantry Rangers (Airborne) in Viet Nam (attached to the 4th Infantry Division).
So here’s to all the LRPs, LRRPs and Rangers out there from yesterday, today and tomorrow.