THE FIRST AND THE LAST: A SHORT HISTORY OF V CORPS LRRP
V Corps Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Company, later Co. A, 75th Infantry (Ranger), was the longest serving DA authorized LRRP/Ranger Company in the US Army.
The USA LRRP Co (Abn) 3779 was activated at Wildflecken, Germany by 7th Army on 15 JUL 61 to serve as V Corps LRRP Company in Germany.
It was deactivated on 19 DEC 74 at Ft Hood as Company A, 75th Infantry (Ranger) where it was performing Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol work for the 1st Cavalry Division.
The company was initially assigned to the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment for administration and court-martial jurisdiction. At that time the company wore the 7th Army shoulder patch with blue and white Airborne tab and was the only unit near the East German border on jump status.
The first Commanding Officer was Major Reese Jones and first 1st Sergeant was Gilberto M. Martinez.
V Corps was deployed across the West German states of Hesse and the Bayern (Bavaria), facing four of the six most likely Soviet penetration corridors into West Germany. Company field training exercises included extensive patrols in the Bad Heisfeld-Giessen, Fulda-Hanau, Bad Kissingen -- Wurzburg and Coburg - Bamburg corridors to include rehearsals for deep penetration missions against Thuringian targets typically including Soviet Weimer - Nobra air installation and Army facilities around Ohrdruf and Jena. The Company would be used also for special missions of infiltration that included team placement of T-4 Atomic Demolition Munitions and locating enemy battlefield targets for Army tactical nuclear delivery systems.
In autumn 1962 LRRP LT Robert C Murphy flew to England and purchased maroon berets for the company from his own funds. They were authorized for wear by the CG of 7th Army for both V and VII Corps LRRP Companies.
The company crest was designed at that time by then Sgt Mike Martin and the motto "Cum Animus Et Successus" (Through Courage, Success) added by Murphy.
Long-range radio communications received a major boost with the issue of the AN/TRC-77 CW Radio to the Company in 1962. Civilian technicians from Sylvania trained LRRPs to use the new radios, which served both V & VII Corps LRRPs faithfully until mid-1968. Few LRRPs knew there were six "burst coders" for the TRC-77s locked up in the company EDP (Emergency Defence Plan) safe with other classified equipment.
The company moved to Edwards Kaserne outside of Frankfurt with Captain William Guinn assuming command from Major Edward Porter in January 1963. The shoulder patch was changed from 7th Army to V Corps with blue and white airborne tab.
The company moved yet again on 9 MAY 63 to Gibbs Kaserne in Frankfurt and became part of the V Corps Special Troops (Provisional) working directly for V Corps G-2.
General Creighton Abrams assumed command of V Corps in 1963 and revoked the company's maroon berets when he found out they had not been authorized by Department of the Army.
1964 saw the issue of AN/PRC-25s FM voice radios to replace the AN/PRC-10s with their infamously poor German-made batteries. Those batteries were so weak that it was often necessary to keep the radios in sleeping bags to keep them from going dead in cold weather. The change to PRC-25s was a major improvement and made it possible to communicate properly with both Army and Air Force aircraft for the first time.
The company also traded in its M-14 rifles for the new "XM16E1" 5.56mm rifle in the autumn of 1964 (Yes, they had a high malfunction rate even when new in Europe, as well as RVN).
The company was often assigned to Honor Guard duties in garrison during this period. It was chosen as an Honor Guard to represent the US Army Airborne at the 20th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion in France on 6 JUN 64, which it did with 122 enlisted men and four officers. C.O. Capt Norm Carlton even paid for the non-issue white gloves for the Honor Guard out of his own pocket on that occasion.
Under Captains Guinn and Carlton, the V Corps LRRP's developed and perfected aspects of Long Range Patrol operations that resulted in the issue of the first LRRP TO&E (Table of Organisation & Equipment) 7-157E and the publication of the first Long Range Reconnaissance Company Field Manual, FM 31-16.
The issue of the TO&E in 1965 saw the end of Provisional status for V and VII Corps LRRPs and the re-designation of both companies.
The company name was officially changed to Company D, (LRP), 17th Infantry on 15 MAY 65 with the issue of the new TO&E. The company continued with the same personnel, mission, barracks, and continued to wear its unique crest.
But the TO&E did result in an increase of authorized strength to 208 men, 24 five man patrols (formerly four man), and a new transportation section (the company formerly used 2.5 ton trucks from the 35th Transportation Company located in the same barracks at Gibbs Kaserne. Who could forget "Romeo" the bespectacled truck driver who fell hopelessly in love with everything in a skirt and once got hypnotized by the windshield wipers on his own truck and had to be brought to by the LRRP riding shotgun as he started to run off the road?).
The TO&E also formalized the trend towards Ranger status with a requirement for 24 Patrol Leaders, three "Killer" Platoon Leaders, the Ops Officer, Exec Officer, C.O. and 1st Sergeant to be Ranger qualified. All 208 LRRPs had to be parachute qualified.
The company continued its constant training cycles of Soviet Order of Battle, camouflage, CW radio operator training, and frequent FTXs, most of them in winter but big changes were happening in the Army as the Vietnam war escalated.
In 1967 popular C.O. Charlie Wertenberger announced a "levy" of the company for Vietnam. Carl Mancini recalls, "When Khe Sanh got hit (Marines and 173rd) they had a levy come down for airborne personnel. The C.O. got the entire unit down to the theater and told us what was going on. He made the married personnel and the people who were short leave. That left about 60 guys and they need 50 so he asked for volunteers. He got killed after about three weeks in country but to me he was a great guy. I looked him up at the wall."
In 1968, the Army began a massive pullout from Europe as part of a mutual reduction of forces with the Warsaw Pact. It was code named " OPERATION REFORGER ". (Redeployment of Forces Germany) and the company relocated from Frankfurt, Germany to Fort Benning Georgia in July, with Captain Harry W. Nieubar as the company commander.
The Ft Benning barracks was on Kelley Hill and the company was the only active duty Airborne unit on the post. They still wore the V Corps patch with airborne tab and were used as Aggressors at all three Ranger Training sites. "Our patrols used to make life miserable for the students", Terry Roderick recalls. "And we had legg outfits all around us on Kelley Hill and we thought we owned the place." Commanding Officers there included Thomas P Meyer and Dennis Foley. About half of the company consisted of Vietnam combat veterans at that time, most of them from the 101st and the 173rd.
The company also ran the RVN Orientation at Ft Benning. Walter Buchanan says the Orientation gave the troops opportunities to run obstacle courses including a rope bridge built by another LRRP, Daniel Pope. Half of the troops would fall off the bridge and the Captain would say, "Congratulations. You've just passed the Orientation", and tell them to always remain on their toes in 'Nam and expect the unexpected, never drop their guard. Then they would all get in the back of their trucks and head for the barracks. "We used to ambush them on the way home in the back of the deuce and a halfs", Walter says. "We used a LOT of det cord and artillery simulators on them." Walter and Daniel later did a 'Nam tour together in C/75.
The company also assisted Indiana National Guard LRP Company D/151 to get ready for Vietnam in 1968. Calvin Everhart remembers about a dozen who were short timers or otherwise ineligible to go who stayed in D/17 when D/151 left for 'Nam.
The company had left its long range AN/TRC-77 Morse Code radios behind in Germany and carried only AN/PRC-25s in the field. CW capability rapidly atrophied until 10 LRRPs were sent to Ft Jackson for CW training at the end of 1968.
By that time, D/17 was training for both European and RVN operations and then the Army added Riot Training. The latter caused some spectacular events which made the Army re-think LRRP suitability for crowd control and that task was dropped.
FTXs supported the RVN mission and in 1969 the company began sending trained LRPs to other LRP Companies in Vietnam weekly. By this time the company was fielding six man teams as had become standard practice in RVN.
Co D, LRP, 17th Inf underwent a name change to A/75 Rangers on 1 FEB 69 with Captain Thomas P. Meyer as Commanding Officer. There was no ceremony according to several people who were there. Ranger unit crests were issued and the company was required to adopt a 197th Infantry Brigade shoulder patch with Airborne tab and a new jump wings background.
Despite those changes, the company retained its REFORGER mission as V Corps LRRP and that is the main reason why it was never deployed to Vietnam.
A/75 was now a Ranger company but it had very few tabbed Rangers and it stayed that way. "It was a sore spot, but the company just could not get the training slots", Terry Roderick remembers. "Here we were, the big Ranger Company at Ft Benning, but we weren't Rangers, we were LRPs. It was a crock and we knew it."
One benefit of being at Ft Benning was proximity to the jump and Pathfinder schools and many A/75 people made "recreational jumps" at the schools.
But most of the guys who had served in Vietnam had not jumped in more than a year. Many had never even made their cherry jump. Richard McClung was assigned to the company after his Vietnam tour and recalls that when he reported in July 1970; he was pencilled in for a jump on Rapido DZ. He asked when his refresher course was and 1st Sgt Vick replied, "When make your jump, Stud."
A/75 transferred from Ft Benning to Ft Hood early in 1970, arriving on February 3 under the Command of Captain Johnathan Henkel and was assigned to the 1st Armored Division. The primary mission until June 1972 was to support MASSTAR (Mobile Army Sensor Systems Test, Evaluation, and Review ). The program dealt with surveillance, target acquisition, seismic intrusion detector and night observation equipment which paved the way and benefited the Army in its performance in the Gulf War twenty years later. The job wasn't as dull as it sounds because the company was mostly used in an Aggressor capacity against troops using the test devices.
The mission changed again in July 1972, to provide Long Range Reconnaissance capability for the First Cavalry Division. The secondary mission was to stay in a high state of training for the original mission of V Corps LRRP. A/75 did, in fact, deploy to Germany on an annual Reforger exercise in 1973 to do exactly the same work as their predecessors did in the early and mid 60s. By that time more than 80 percent of A/75 personnel were Vietnam Veterans.
1974 was the beginning of the end for A/75 with the new Ranger battalions forming around a nucleus of key people, many of them former A/75 members. The 1st Ranger Battalion sent former A/75 CO Captain Clark and former A/75 1st Sergeant Romo to the company and they recruited a lot of company personnel who left in mid-1974.
Second Battalion CO LTC A.J. Baker also came to Ft Hood with his CSM and recruited another 2 or 3 dozen guys.
The company was deactivated and its guideon cased for the last time at a fixed bayonet parade on 19 DEC 74.
The last A/75 Commanding Officer was Captain James P. Fitter and last 1st Sergeant was Gary Carpenter (later to become the first Regimental Sergeant-Major of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Alan Campbell who was in A/75 at its deactivation and then went to 2nd Ranger Battalion sums up: "A/75 was a great unit. Times were wild. I still can't believe some of the stuff we did. I'm amazed that no one went to jail. Even some of the officers would have qualified as brigands. Still, we did our jobs better than anyone on Ft Hood.