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17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 182
Joined: 2008
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/29/2022 12:31:43 AM
When looking at the U.S. elite battalions in World War II it seems like their use was weighted heavily to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations & Pacific versus the European Theater of Operations.

Note, Italy is obviously in Europe. The U.S. used Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) to describe Italy and North Africa. This differentiates from forces that were in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany that were European Theater of Operations (ETO). When I refer to the Pacific I am including China and Burma.

My nomenclature Elite U.S. forces includes:

U.S. Army's Ranger Battalions

The U.S. Army's contribution to the First Special Service Force

U.S. Army's Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit)

USMC Raider Battalions.

The U.S. Army in the MTO at one time or another had the 1st, 3rd & 4th Ranger Battalions plus the joint U.S. Canadian First Special Service Force. Looking at the First Special Service Force's TOE it looks like there was around two battalions worth of U.S. troops. That would be FIVE battalions of U.S. elite troops in the MTO.

In the Pacific the U.S. had the U.S. Army's Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit) & U.S Army 6th Ranger Battalion, the 4 USMC Raider Battalions. The U.S. Army's Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit) would be the equal to around 3 battalions. EIGHT battalions in the Pacific.

In the ETO 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions. ETO TWO battalions. There was the 29th Ranger Battalion, but from what I've read they were disbanded prior to ever seeing action as a Unit.

It is debatable how many battalion equivalents the First Special Service Force and Merrill's Marauders should count for:

The First Special Service Force per the net had three regiments. But they were small, about the size of a ranger battalion so I would count them as three battalions. I'm not sure if it was two U.S. and one Canadian regiment or if the regiments were mixed Canadian and U.S.

The net says Merrill's Marauders was "regimental size". So I'll assume three battalions. It looks like they had a good sized support element, which makes sense because of the detached nature of their service.

Undoubtedly the U.S. Army's Ranger Battalions, the First Special Service Force and USMC Raiders were elite formations. Some would argue whether Merrill's Marauders were.

The Marauders appeared to draw off of men who had been trained in Jungle warfare or had experience in Jungle campaigns,. Were volunteers and received additional training for their mission. So I would call them elite.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 689
Joined: 2004
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/29/2022 12:47:52 AM
Quote:

When looking at the U.S. elite battalions in World War II it seems like their use was weighted heavily to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations & Pacific versus the European Theater of Operations.

Note, Italy is obviously in Europe. The U.S. used Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) to describe Italy and North Africa. This differentiates from forces that were in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany that were European Theater of Operations (ETO). When I refer to the Pacific I am including China and Burma.


The MTOUSA was designated 26 October 1944. Prior to that it was NATOUSA - North African Theater of Operations US Army.

Quote:
My nomenclature Elite U.S. forces includes:

U.S. Army's Ranger Battalions

The U.S. Army's contribution to the First Special Service Force

U.S. Army's Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit)

USMC Raider Battalions.


Those may or may not have been "elite" but then the definition of "elite" seems to be flexible. The Rangers were organized as the US Army counterpart to the British Commandos because, well, they were cool. The original Rangers were mostly drawn from volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division and other units in Britain that went to the Commando School.

The FSSF was organized to conduct glider-borne raider operations in Norway but never did. So they were sent to Italy since they had training in mountainous terrain.

The 5307th Composite Unit was formed mostly from service forces in Burma as a counterpart to the Chindits and was nearly as unsuccessful as they were.

The two (not FOUR) Marine Raider Battalions and the single Marine Parachute Battalion served for a few months in the SWPA in the Solomons and in the Makin Island Raid and then were used to form a regular Marine infantry regiment because there was no real use for them otherwise.

Quote:
The U.S. Army in the MTO at one time or another had the 1st, 3rd & 4th Ranger Battalions plus the joint U.S. Canadian First Special Service Force. Looking at the First Special Service Force's TOE it looks like there was around two battalions worth of U.S. troops. That would be FIVE battalions of U.S. elite troops in the MTO.

In the Pacific the U.S. had the U.S. Army's Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit) & U.S Army 6th Ranger Battalion, the 4 USMC Raider Battalions. The U.S. Army's Merrill's Marauders (5307 Composite Unit) would be the equal to around 3 battalions. EIGHT battalions in the Pacific.

In the ETO 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions. ETO TWO battalions. There was the 29th Ranger Battalion, but from what I've read they were disbanded prior to ever seeing action as a Unit.

It is debatable how many battalion equivalents the First Special Service Force and Merrill's Marauders should count for:

The First Special Service Force per the net had three regiments. But they were small, about the size of a ranger battalion so I would count them as three battalions. I'm not sure if it was two U.S. and one Canadian regiment or if the regiments were mixed Canadian and U.S.

The net says Merrill's Marauders was "regimental size". So I'll assume three battalions. It looks like they had a good sized support element, which makes sense because of the detached nature of their service.

Undoubtedly the U.S. Army's Ranger Battalions, the First Special Service Force and USMC Raiders were elite formations. Some would argue whether Merrill's Marauders were.

The Marauders appeared to draw off of men who had been trained in Jungle warfare or had experience in Jungle campaigns,. Were volunteers and received additional training for their mission. So I would call them elite.


Not really but its late and I'm tired and don't quite see the point you're trying to make. Sorry.
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 182
Joined: 2008
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/29/2022 1:56:42 AM
Quote:


The MTOUSA was designated 26 October 1944. Prior to that it was NATOUSA - North African Theater of Operations US Army.

Not really but its late and I'm tired and don't quite see the point you're trying to make. Sorry.


I used MTO to simplify North Africa and Italy versus France and other areas of Northern West Europe.

My point is that it seems there was more of a use by the U.S. of "special forces" in Africa & Italy and the Pacific versus France and the rest of Europe.

Part of this may have been due to the time line.

Per this article there were four Marine Raider Battalions. I had thought there were only 2. Per the article all four were in combat.

https://www.usmcu.edu/Research/Marine-Corps-History-Division/Brief-Histories/Marines-in-World-War-II/Marine-Corps-Raiders/

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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 689
Joined: 2004
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/29/2022 1:09:35 PM
Quote:
I used MTO to simplify North Africa and Italy versus France and other areas of Northern West Europe.


Yes, just being clear but also pointing out the reason the 1st Rangers were there was because they were part of TORCH. They were available and used.

Quote:

My point is that it seems there was more of a use by the U.S. of "special forces" in Africa & Italy and the Pacific versus France and the rest of Europe.


The 1st Rangers were committed early to the Med and then the 3d and 4th Rangers were organized there because they were seen as valuable. The 2d and 5th Rangers were organized in the States specifically for commitment to Northwest Europe and the 6th Rangers were formed in New Guinea for commitment in that theater. When the 3d was annihilated along with much of the 1st Rangers at Cisterna, the rest were eventually disbanded and sent to the FSSF as replacements.

Much the same happened to the 2d and 5th Rangers after its losses on D-Day; the commitment in the Huertgen Forest pretty much ended their existence.

The FSSF as I mentioned were created for a specific mission they never went on and were available when Fifth Army requested mountain-trained troops. When they were used up the remnants were used to fill up existing regular infantry units. Basically, keeping units of highly trained volunteers up to strength was impossible, which meant they simply bled out in combat.

GALAHAD and the 5307th were only marginally "special forces" and its utility and effectiveness beyond a regular infantry unit is questionable.

Quote:
Part of this may have been due to the time line.


It was also due to geographical requirements, troop availability, campaign requirements, and other issues. To a degree, like Topsy, they just growed.

Quote:
Per this article there were four Marine Raider Battalions. I had thought there were only 2. Per the article all four were in combat.


My bad, I had forgotten about those. However, the point was the Marines did not keep commando-type units long as they did not see a strong requirement for them.
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 182
Joined: 2008
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/29/2022 7:09:15 PM
Quote:

Quote:
Per this article there were four Marine Raider Battalions. I had thought there were only 2. Per the article all four were in combat.


My bad, I had forgotten about those. However, the point was the Marines did not keep commando-type units long as they did not see a strong requirement for them.


From my reading it looks like a "change in management" at USMC e.g. a new commandant and other key generals who were opposed to the idea of the raiders was part of the reason for their demise.
----------------------------------
Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 689
Joined: 2004
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/30/2022 1:15:02 AM
Actually, before Vandegrift became Commandant and made Clarence Thomas Chief of Plans and Policies, HQ Marine Corps had already decided to end the Raider program and fold the exiting Raider manpower into the 4th Marines and 5th Marine Division. It was about manpower and capability nor about opposition to the raider idea. Thomas has actually worked closely with Edson on Guadalcanal.
Emanon
Gibsonia PA USA
Posts: 38
Joined: 2014
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/30/2022 2:34:33 AM
The bane of light elite infantry in WWII was armored divisions. The US had Rangers fighting at Anzio that sustained heavy losses from Panzers. The British paratroopers at Arnhem were dropped almost on top of an armored division, and they lost most of their men and failed to achieve their objective. It made sense to deploy special forces against softer targets or behind hard targets, such as the paratroopers dropping behind the beaches at Normandy. Putting them in direct contact with armored divisions was a misapplication of force. The Vichy French, Italians, and Japanese had relatively few and relatively weak armored divisions, as those nations either were banned from operating tanks by the Nazis (Vichy) or had a weak industrial base that could make only limited numbers of light tanks. The special battalions were useful in the Med and Pacific but not so much in Europe, with a few exceptions such as D-Day.

It is a military axiom that the proper deployment of forces is critical to success. The special battalions were good at raiding or surprise attacks against normal infantry, but were not well matched for the grinding attrition warfare that was required to force the Germans back once the Allies had the strategic initiative.
RichTO90
Bremerton WA USA
Posts: 689
Joined: 2004
U.S. Special battalions ETO use vs. MTO & Pacific
11/30/2022 11:45:27 AM
Quote:
The bane of light elite infantry in WWII was armored divisions. The US had Rangers fighting at Anzio that sustained heavy losses from Panzers. The British paratroopers at Arnhem were dropped almost on top of an armored division, and they lost most of their men and failed to achieve their objective. It made sense to deploy special forces against softer targets or behind hard targets, such as the paratroopers dropping behind the beaches at Normandy. Putting them in direct contact with armored divisions was a misapplication of force. The Vichy French, Italians, and Japanese had relatively few and relatively weak armored divisions, as those nations either were banned from operating tanks by the Nazis (Vichy) or had a weak industrial base that could make only limited numbers of light tanks. The special battalions were useful in the Med and Pacific but not so much in Europe, with a few exceptions such as D-Day.


Yes. Sort of.

The Rangers at Anzio sustained heavy losses because they were unable to infiltrate the force as planned due to lack of training and capability in the new men. The "Panzers" there were a few tanks and assault guns but otherwise it was the poor position they found themselves in at dawn that was the key.

No, the 1st Airborne Division did not drop almost on top of an armored division; they were over 25kilometers away and most of their equipment was loaded on flatcars...it took hours to get them into action. It wasn't the German Panzers that defeated the British airborne at Arnhem; it was a horribly bad plan and execution of the landing that did.

Quote:
It is a military axiom that the proper deployment of forces is critical to success. The special battalions were good at raiding or surprise attacks against normal infantry, but were not well matched for the grinding attrition warfare that was required to force the Germans back once the Allies had the strategic initiative.


I question just how good battalion-sized forces were at "raiding" but in any case except for small Commando raids and the isolated cases like the raid on Cabnatuan (which had no actual military importance) there were relatively few "raids: done by "raider" units. Nor did they always work the way it was intended...look at "Carlson's Patrol", which was really a classic raid behind enemy lines. They recorded killing 488 Japanese for a loss of just 16 dead and 18 wounded...except 225 Raiders had to be evacuated due to severe illness due to the severe terrain, heat, and lack of food. Of the two Raider companies that spent the entire period of the patrol in combat, they went from a strength of 133 officers and men to just 57 on their feet.

Arguably, most of the Allied special forces were deployed improperly or at least contrary to what they were supposedly organized, trained, and equipped to do.

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