joined the Rangers on June
6, 1942. I had to go through preliminary training that lasted three weeks. Out of
about 3,000 volunteers, I was one of a couple hundred that made it. Prior to
joining, I was in Ireland at the time with the 34th Division and there
were a goodly number of men from the 34th who volunteered with me. About every
American unit that was in Ireland, and there werent many, had men that volunteered
for the Rangers.
What was the initial training like?
Pretty darn tough! There was physical and psychological training. They wanted to know
that you were worthy of being a Ranger. It wasnt just a matter of someone trying to
get out of their regiment. You had to have it deep in your heart to be a Ranger. You had
to put up with a lot. I had a small hernia at the time and I had been hiding it throughout
my service in the Army. I was afraid to go and have an operation but during the
examination for the Rangers, the Doctor found out about it. He said to me, "You know
you have a hernia." And I said to him "Yes sir!" He told me I was not fit
for service. I said, "Let me prove it to you that I am." So I did a couple of
strenuous exercises where I bent over to touching my hands to the floor to prove that it
wouldnt affect me and I did this a couple of times until finally the doctor said,
"Fine! You dont have a problem!" You had show that kind of spirit you
really want to be a Ranger. When the rough got going you had to keep going.
Next we had to go through the Commando School (at the time I was just a Buck Private,
not even a Private First Class). During Commando School I was chosen to go on the Dieppe
Raid. I really dont know how I was chosen to go on the Raid, I guess some people
observed me or something
I really dont know. I had a company commander that I
thought was pretty good. I realized that anybody who was over me was trying to train me
for combat. No matter what they poured on to me I worked that much harder.
We got on the ship in the evening on the 18th of August and I noticed Lord
Moutbatten who had come on board. He said "boys this is the real thing. As you know
they tried this once before but it was called off." The code name for this operation
was "Jubilee." He said "we are on and everything is go." Of course you
must remember that there was 5,000 Canadians and about 1,000 other allied troops who were
going to be on the raid also. There were only 50 American Rangers that were interspersed
with all these other troops. Four of us, me, Bill Bradley, Alex Szima, and Stetson, were
attached to a platoon of Commandos.
I fell asleep in the boat trip over. I didnt wake up until a spray of water came
up over the side of the landing craft and hit me in the face. It was a salutary summer
morning on the 19th of August when we landed. There were tracers going up all
over the place and there were planes coming over. I began to think "Hey this is
really World War II." I had been reading about the war since I was in sixth grade and
now I was really in it! The landing was fairly uneventful; we didnt draw any fire
until we started moving inland and it started getting hotter. I landed with the No. 4
Commando at St. Margaret, it was a few miles from the town of Dieppe.
Our unit was on the complete right flank of the entire operation. Our primary mission
was to knock out several big coastal guns and a radar station. The town itself was a kind
of resort area where Europeans would go on vacation. We had to go about a mile inland; it
was a fairly short distance from the beach. Resistance wasnt very organized by the
Germans because they werent expecting us. We were with a group of British Commandos
who where doing an excellent job. We were moving along with them, doing the best we could
since we hadnt had time to train with them. We didnt really see that many
Germans up close; they were off in the distance. If you do see them up close its
either "youre gone or theyre gone!"
I never assaulted the coastal guns but I supplied supporting fire for the men attacking
the coastal guns. I was in a barn with men armed with a Boyz Anti-tank rifle which fires a
50-caliber bullet. We were providing supporting fire to the men attacking the guns. This
attack was pretty well rehearsed. Everyone one had good timing. This was the best combat I
had ever been in. We were on shore for a total of 4 hours from between 5:00 and 9:00 and
successfully went back to the boats after the guns and radar station was destroyed.