Buffalo Rangers of the Korean War

 In History

The 2nd Ranger Infantry Company Airborne, also known as the “Buffalo Rangers,” were the first and only all black unit in the Korean War.  The volunteer, segregated unit lasted ten months, which included selection, training and 7 months of combat deployment. Though President Truman ordered integration of the US Military in 1948, the 2nd Airborne Rangers still faced much of the rejection prevalent in the services at that time. They served honorably and sacrificed much during their 10 month existence.

The Korean War

“On Sunday, 24 June 1950 at 0400 hours, the North Korean People’s Army
(NKPA) and Border Constabulary began the invasion of the Republic of Korea (ROK).
The invading force numbered about 135,000 men in seven infantry divisions, a tank
brigade, an independent infantry regiment, a motorcycle regiment, three reserve
divisions, and five border constabulary brigades. The defending force numbered 98,000 men in eight infantry divisions.13 The NKPA overwhelmed the ROK defenses and were able to infiltrate positions, surround them, and destroy isolated units. The NKPA continued this tactic as they advanced towards the south with the retreating ROK forces.”  LTC Victor J. Bond, thesis on the History of the 2nd Airborne Ranger Company

The men of the “Buffalo Rangers” endured brutal weather conditions in the mountains of Korea with only their overcoats and pup tents.

“When we got off the plane, it was 20-below zero, and we had to ride in open trucks, with no canvas over (them)…We had put up our pup tents, we’re muddy, there’s snow on the ground. We had to use our overcoat to put it on the ground and sleep on that. We slept in our clothes.” Cpl Richard Briscoe, unit member

The Buffalo Rangers were known for capturing and holding Hill 581 during the Battle of the Soyang River. They inflicted hundreds of casualties on the Chinese without any Rangers being killed in that battle, according to accounts.

There came a time when 13 members were killed, and enough others were wounded that the unit was down to just 65 men. When the Army replaced the injured or killed soldiers, many of them did not have Ranger or Airborne certification and had to be trained as they went.

“The soldiers were not ranger or airborne qualified and many did not have an Infantry Military Occupational Specialty. There were infantrymen, cooks, mechanics, and artillerymen represented in this group. The Rangers’ new mission required them to train these men in infantry tactics. The mission was a surprise to the leadership of the Ranger Company. They did not receive any advanced warning or provided preparation time to develop a training program.” LTC Victor Bond

The Rangers fought for 205 days facing “death, capture, injury, and disease.” Thirteen men were killed in action. The men of the company received over 100 purple hearts.  Nine of them received the Silver Star and 13 received the Bronze Star with V Device. The small unit was officially disbanded August 1, 1951.

The valor shown by the men of the 2nd Airborne Rangers was exceptional. Men who had to fight both at home and in war.

Their story is written in the book “The U.S. Army’s first, last, and only all black Rangers: 2nd Airborne Ranger Company,” available on Amazon.

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