The History of the Ranger Scroll

The scroll worn by the Ranger battalions was not approved by the War Department and was authorized for local wear only.1st

A History of the Ranger Scroll by William D. Linn II

Ranger insignia of World War II has a history with characteristics much like the men who wore it. Ranger insignia was born out of personal initiative and unit pride; sometimes manufactured locally in the foreign lands where Rangers trained, fought, and died. The following history summarizes my research on the subject over the course of the past year. I have obtained my information from primary source documents as well as correspondence and personal interviews with Rangers of that era.

Fifty American Rangers of the 1st Battalion participated in the Dieppe Raid of August 1942; an unsuccessful but highly publicized first allied aggression against “Fortress Europe.” American soldiers in England, attempting to capitalize on raid publicity, bragged in the pubs that they were Rangers in order to win favor with local women. Fights ensued with such frequency between Rangers and the imposters that something had to be done. Captain Roy Murray, the senior Ranger at Dieppe, recommended that Rangers be authorized their own shoulder insignia. Colonel William O. Darby requested authorization for a patch through BG Lucian Truscott and MG Clark on 28 August 1942 based on the following reasons:

  1. Tremendous boost to morale.
  2. Soldiers all over UK are spreading stories about the recent raid and pretending to be Rangers.

radaOnce approved, October 8, 1942, Colonel Darby organized a battalion-wide contest for the best design and a prize for the winner. Sergeant Anthony Rada of HHC, a native of Flint, Michigan, won with his design of a red, white, and blue scroll patch that resembled the British commando insignia worn by the Ranger training cadre. Due to wartime shortages of blue dye, black wool became the background of the final product.The Army officially recognized the new scroll on 8 October 1942 and a supply of them were made locally in England. Though General Truscott intended them only to be worn on the service coat (dress uniform), 1st Battalion Rangers wore them proudly into battle.

In May and June of 1943, 3rd and 4th Battalions formed in Africa from men selected out of Darby’s original battalion. Soon after the three-battalion task force arrived to take part in the fighting in Italy, Rangers obtained crude scrolls from local Italian sources. These examples had no uniform composition, being made of remnant cloth, wire bullion thread, and sometimes featuring irregular and reversed letters. As American Rangers and other allied units made their way up the Italian peninsula, Axis Sally began to broadcast threats to the Rangers over Radio Berlin. Glenn Hirchert, a sniper in C Co, 1st Ranger BN recalls that every Ranger believed German policy dictated no quarter be given to Rangers who surrendered in combat. Once surrounded at Cisterna and with capture imminent, Hirchert watched Rangers draw their fighting knives and quickly remove and destroy their scrolls in hopes that they would be spared execution. The brutal German policy proved to be just effective propaganda.

Ed Furru, a 1st Battalion Ranger wounded at Dieppe, was captured together with several members of the British 3 Commando. Since Rangers had no insignia at the time, he spent the whole war erroneously segregated as a British POW. As the war progressed and Rangers from other Battalions were captured and brought to camp, Furru learned about the ranger scroll. None were available in the camp, so he wore a crude 3 Commando tab made from bed ticking given to him by a member of that unit. He eventually purchased a scroll in the US after being repatriated. He could not find a 1st BN scroll in the PX so he converted a 4th by removing thread from the “4th” to make a “1.”

Task Force Ranger and its three battalions were disbanded following the disaster at Cisterna just about the time 2nd Battalion formed at Camp Forrest, Tennessee. During their train-up period, the Army approved a shoulder sleeve insignia for all Ranger units based on the design submitted by a 2nd Battalion Ranger. On July 16, 1943 the blue diamond patch with the word “RANGERS” in gold became the official Ranger insignia. The patch was not well received by the men and soon earned the nickname “Sunoco” since the patch resembled the logo of the Sun Oil Company. The 2nd Battalion received their diamond patches in September or October of 1943 at Fort Dix, New Jersey while they were enroute to England. Prior to D-Day, as recalled by 1SG Len Lomell (D Co) and Captain Frank Kennard (HQ), all patches were removed for operational security. By midsummer of 1944, however, the men were again wearing the patch. Kennard recalls that in early August of 1944, during the siege of Brest, men of the 2nd heard of a scroll patch being worn by other Ranger units. William Kennard, Frank’s father, was in the textile business in New York City and agreed to help secure insignia for his son’s battalion. Captain Kennard drafted a purchase order, which Colonel Rudder signed, and the document was received 24 August along with a 1st Ranger scroll to use as a pattern. William Kennard had 2,500 scrolls made for the Battalion but found he could not send bulk commercial property through the military mail. Fifty men from the 2nd battalion had to write individual letters to MR Kennard whom, in return, could send them a set limit of fifty scrolls. All 2,500 examples arrived piecemeal to the Battalion while in the field in Arlon, Belgium in late September of 1944. This allowed each man to receive two to four examples of the new insignia and the rest to remain in supply to outfit replacements as they arrived.

The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion arrived at Camp Forrest, Tennessee just as the 2nd Battalion were on their way out. It was during their stay at Camp Forrest that they learned of the approved diamond patch from an Army manual containing only a brief description, but no illustration. No Rangers from 5th had ever seen one of the new patches and Army supply channels failed to yield diamond patches for the 5th, so the Battalion took measures to have them locally made. Major General John Raaen, then Commander of Headquarters Company, remembers having approximately 3,000 patches made and issued to the men.

When the 5th arrived in England, they saw the approved patch for the first time being worn by their Ranger brothers in the 2nd Battalion. They found that their version of the patch was considerably smaller, lacked a single gold border, and featured the word “RANGER” not “RANGERS.” They quickly discarded this version and acquired what they needed through supply channels in the UK. Unlike 2nd, the 5th Battalion wore diamond Ranger patches ashore at Normandy. They continued to wear their patches until they saw the 2nd Rangers wearing their new US-made scrolls.

The first man to acquire a scroll for the 5th battalion was General Raaen who had returned to the US after sustaining injuries in a jeep accident. In November of 1944 he went to see an old family friend, Morrie Luxembourg, a prominent haberdasher in New York City. Luxembourg made twelve scrolls for General Raaen as a favor at no charge and then another modest batch not long afterwards. Some of these scrolls made their way back to the European Theater of Operations and to the men of the 5th Rangers. When the Battalion found itself in Germany, some Rangers procured a batch of scrolls locally made by Bavarian nuns that were almost too large to wear on the uniform sleeve. These over-sized scrolls were similar in construction to previously made examples. They paid for the insignia using funds taken from a German Army paymaster.

The 6th Ranger Battalion had known from the beginning of their existence that their brother Rangers in Europe wore a unique scroll insignia. The scroll design had been a symbol used on letterheads and signposts since the 6th Battalion formed in September of 1944. However, due to the primitive conditions in the Pacific Theater, insignia was difficult to come by. Private First Class Alvie Robbins (C Co) recalls that it was not until after the successful raid at Cabanatuan in January of 1945 that 6th Rangers wore scrolls. The 6th acquired local-made examples while in the Philippines but they tended to be crude in design. Another design that was common in the Battalion area was a crest that featured a trench knife, lightning bolt, and sunset topped by the word “Rangers.”

In rare cases this design was embroidered onto scarves or worn as an unofficial pocket patch. In December of 1945, most of the “high points” men shipped from the Philippines to California while the rest sailed for Japan to serve as an honor guard. As the men rotated home, they received a new uniform issue and are thought to have also received some US made 6th scrolls. Certainly there were sources for all types of military insignia in San Francisco where the men came into port. American insignia manufacturers nationwide catered their huge stocks to the demands of patch collectors and returning veterans.

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that the Army abolished the blue diamond Ranger patches in 1947 leaving no authorized insignia for Ranger units who fought in the Korean or Vietnam conflicts. Not until 1983, when the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions participated in the invasion of Grenada did the Army finally approve the red, white, and black scroll.

 

Rangers Lead The Way!