196th LRRP-E/51st LRP-G/75th Rangers
by Company Historian John "Gunner" Starnes
The first Long Range Patrol (LRP) Unit was called Long-ranging
Patrols Company lead by Captain Knowlton. They were also called
"Knowlton's Rangers" the year was 1776.
In the Cold War Era, four(Provisional) elements were formed to perform missions normally done by Ranger patrols. The first was the SETAF LRRP Company. The official army story was: there were no active Ranger units in the army. However, during 1958-1964 four "secret" HALO Parachute LRRP Company/Detachments were on active duty. At any case, LRRP was dubbed "Ranger-Type" for this era and no other unit was given the title by the US Army. The only other unit called Ranger is the Ranger Department at the US Army Infantry Branch at Ft. Benning, GA. The Department produced Ranger qualified individuals. Even though Rangers were produced, it was not for the sole purpose of filling LRRP Detachments. They were produced to elevate unit professionalism with small unit leaders geared down from Battalion down to the squad. Thus, influencing a positive role model throughout the Army.
The LRRPs were comprised of Paratroopers and Rangers including Special Service Force personnel, as it was when it was a part of the Office of Strategic Sevice (OSS). The army's combat arms system then allowed such provisional elements to have this grouping of elite patrollers due to its requirements to gather the needed information for Corps and Army level commands who were overseeing the Iron Curtain dilemma as well as areas of strategic interest to the United States. This question of Ranger Units being on active duty to perform these missions was considered by Congress but was rejected for a smaller sized "Ranger-Type Patrol" similar to the Alamo Scout Teams. From the study of small British Commando Teams and the small patrol teams of the Airborne Ranger Companies of Korea including the US DOD Special Service Force, the US Government gave birth in the late 1950s to Special Reconnaissance elements such as Provisional Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Teams, US Army Special Forces Operational Detachment A and B Teams,USMC Force Recon Companies and US Navy Frogmen (Seal Teams)and the USAF Parachute Rescue Teams. Most, if not all branches of the armed services' elite atttended the Ranger, Airborne, or Special Warfare Schools to give needed capabilities to the teams to allow them access into a target site by air, land or sea.
By late 1967, the LRRP soldiers were performing reconnaissance patrols which were turning into combat patrols. The patrols accomplished missions that made the army leaders take notice of their successes as small, deadly, undetected teams. As a result of their deeds, their provisional status and the Reconnaissance "R" from LRRP was dropped and the LRRP companies were officially called Department of the Army (DA) Long Range Patrol (LRP) Companies. Both LRRP and LRP worked the system to help bring back the Ranger title and unit following in the footsteps of the Ranger Infantry companies Airborne (RICA) of the Korean War.
LRRP was an invention of the bureaucracy during the absences of traditional small patrollers: such as the Rangers. The inactive Airborne Rangers of the 1950-1952 Korean War Era started the initial push to reinstate Ranger units into the Regular Army. The Airborne Rangers could not maintain the task due to political control over them and their deactivation after Korea. The army was satisfied with the Paratroopers and the small Special Service Force (later known as Special Forces or Green Berets). The Rangers of WWII had the title and the backing of generals and world class commandos. However, it was not enough to keep Ranger units on active duty status. During the late 1950s and 1960s, the LRRP Units were the new type Rangers. Where the Korean War Rangers left off, the (Provisional) LRRPs in Europe picked up. This lot came from an idea stemming from the British Commando small patrol concept/studies and the Ode Wingate Long Range Penetration (LRP) Course.
The 5307th (Provisional) Army Unit "Merrill's Marauders" was a part of this struggle by attending the Special LRP Commando training. The six week Long Range Penetration (LRP) Course was designed to teach how to strike deep behind enemy lines and sustain limited combat operations with limited support. However, the Marauders went beyond their training by performing light Infantry direct combat action due to their status as the only US Infantry Regiment in the Theater of Operations.
Many Rangers of WWII felt that traditional Ranger ways of the past were being carried forward by the Ranger Course, its graduates and the Department of Defense (DOD) Special Forces and paid no attention to LRRP Units in Vietnam. In the beginning of the Vietnam War, LRRP missions were being performed by Special Forces OD-B52 the Delta Project. By mid 1965 the formation of Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) Detachments/Companies were instituted and authorized down to separate Brigades on a "Provisional" basis relieving the Special Forces to perform other missions such as foreign intediction (FID), giving way to the perfect patroller, the US Army Long Range Patrols (LRP). The men were the same, the mission the same, but they were now a legal unit from the US Army.
In 1967 the Merrill's Marauders Association was looking to find a way to have the 75th Infantry back on active duty. They saw the opportunity on a four page document addressed to Colonel Harold R. Arron, the Commander of the 5th Special Forces Group in Nha Trang, Vietnam. The proposal of the formation of the 1ST Battalion and 2ND Battalion (LRP), 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces got the attention of the Marauders. This move was discussed in the spring of 1968. The Marauders Association was convinced the LRP is the organization that could afford them active duty status once again. By being the parent regiment to all the LRRP/LRPs, the LRPs were returned to a more traditional role as RANGERS rather than Ranger-type, as they were. The Marauders could not pick just any unit - it had to be comparable to the spirit of their unit and the men had to be like themselves. When the deal was struck, the Cold War and Vietnam War Lurps was their choice.
The guiding instrument of the Marauders Association was an active duty Department of the Army (TDA) Staffing Officer, LTC BJ Sutton. His behind the picture efforts and maneuvering indeed created parents for the LRRPs as Rangers and returned the 75th Ranger Infantry Regiment to active duty in January 1969.
Comments: Many of my comrades fail to make the connection as their rightful title as Rangers. This is because during their time, they were called Lurps. Being a Lurp is a good thing. However, the troops that filled the boots of the Lurps today are from our Regiment. They see us Lurps as RANGERS and see LRRP as a mission. As I looked at the Ranger troops today, I see code names like "Bubbles", "Jolly", "Crazy Willie", "Mother", "Buffalo", "Tower", "Limp", "Sour", "Babysan", "Gunner", etc.
We, the LRRPs of 1958-1969 were there. We were volunteers. We were not afforded Ranger School at Fort Benning, GA. We did the job as best we knew from experimentation, the Ranger Handbook, careful practice, lessons learned with a little help from our instructors from the 5th Special Forces and dumb luck while being watched over by God. We lived up to the 75th Motto "OF OUR OWN ACCORD - SUA SPONTE". From historical documents and communiques from the Ranger Department and Army bureaucrats, we, the LRRPs (later called Rangers), were passed over to be fully recognized as earning the Ranger tab while performing Ranger duty and missions in a hostile environment called combat. Even Ranger units in the past received the training tab.
We were discriminated against judging from these discovered communiques from Colonel Phillips (RTB) and in agreement was LTC Sutton. Since then we have just looked back to the substandard troops they produces and sent to Ranger-type LRRP units during Vietnam. Case in point: very few Ranger School qualified troops could hit the ground and pull a patrol with experienced LRRPs/Rangers in combat. Many, if not all, had to be helped along to be functional. This was the secret that was kept by the combat LRRP/Ranger veterans. After a few patrols, the Ranger qualified sergeant gained the confidence needed to lead a patrol, yet his trainer, a local in country Recondo School graduate who was a Specialist Four Patrol Leader. In political circles, a 3-week course was shadowing an 8-week course. In the next big war, are we going to keep the course three months long or are we going back to teaching in-combat courses like that of Vietnam, CBI, Britain, or Korea?
Ranger John "Gunner" Starnes
196th LRRP, E-51st LRP, G-75th Ranger