www.DarbyRangers.Com | Follow Me
World War II Veterans...The Greatest Generation
Going Home! Publication of the War and Navy Department 1945; 'going back to civilian life'
US Government Printing Office: 1945 ---O----662387; F.R. Price Collection
A Not for Profit Site dedicated to the Spirit of the American Adventure and America's Elite Ranger Forces
1 Timothy 2:5 "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
Darby Ranger Advisor/Contributing Editor
Darby Ranger; Allen G. Bradbury 1st Ranger Battalion ETO / FSSF Norway
The First Special Service Force (FSSF). The FSSF was organized as a joint U.S.-Canadian unit under the command of the brilliant Colonel (later Major General) Robert T. Frederick. It was designed and equipped for employment in a proposed Allied mission to knock out the hydroelectric power stations of Norway. The Force's men were all volunteers and underwent training for operations in cold climates, snow, and mountains. All became accomplished skiers and mountaineers, and all were extremely physically fit. It acquired a deserved reputation as the toughest and most effective force of its size in the Allied armies, and was, quite possibly, simply one of the best light infantry units ever created.
The Force was organized into three small 600-man strong combat regiments and a 600-man strong Service Battalion. Each regiment contained two small three-company battalions. Each company consisted of three platoons, each with two twelve-man sections led by a sergeant. Each section was equipped with a Browning automatic rifle (BAR), a Johnson light machine gun (not an Army issue weapon, Frederick traded two tons of a new demolition explosive [RS] to the United States Marine Corps for 125 of them), and a Bazooka. Section leaders carried a submachine gun, officers carried carbines, and infantrymen the standard M1 rifle. The companies also each had a 60mm mortar, which were usually allotted one each per platoon. It also appears that some sections were issued flamethrowers. Usually, one man in each section was trained as a sniper. The Service Battalion included an H&H Company, Maintenance Company, Service Company, and Medical Detachment.
Theoretically, the Force included 600 T24 Weasel tracked supply carriers and 1,190 motor vehicles. In practice, the Force only had about 100 Weasels and a few hundred Jeeps (include stolen ones) at any one time. - Editor/Source/http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/usarmy/infantry.htm
Contributing Editor Darby Ranger Advisor -Ranger Allen G. Bradbury WWII
Computer Technology - Consultant - John Walter Vaughn
Editor/Web Master - Bob Price
About this Research:
by Bob Price
This research project of mine began so many years ago; that I would miss its date by any stretch of the imagination. Let it suffice to say that this idea has been on the back burners of my mind since I can remember. I will give it a date of 1962; but, I can tell you there were thoughts and ideas as early as I can remember; and that would be into the 1950's.
My mission; (if I have one at all); is to hopefully entertain, honor, and possibly inspire YOU my fellow citizen of the world to work on your own history; preserve history and find the peace of mind and the creativity I have enjoyed working on this subject for so many years.
This story and this site has very little to do with me or my service in the military...My time in the military was much like what 'Lonesome George Goebel' once said;
"...because of my service in the military," said Goebel, "the enemy never got past Tulsa."
This project instead is concerned with Family history; United States Military History and real Hero's; Some historical perspective pages and especially; The Elite Ranger Battalions of WWII; Darby's Rangers!
One of those Darby Rangers happened to be my uncle Robert Lyle Cunningham; he was one of the men whom I am named for. And Lyle's story is much like that of his peers. His participation and membership in the Rangers is a compelling tale of American History, Self Sacrifice, Honor, Loyalty and Devotion to a cause greater than one's self.
These wholly American ideals are what separates us from a barbaric world; and advances the cause of Liberty, Justice and Freedom. Lyle believed in those ideals; and I have always been devoted to his memory, though I never knew him.
For those of us in the family who are veterans; we have a special understanding of the cost of Freedom, and Free Speech.
It is only right that each of us within the family step back; put our personal interests aside; and Honor Lyle Cunningham's life; and the people with whom he served.
A solitary soldier like Lyle is the point man for Freedom; they are our protectors and we should pay homage to all these Rangers of World War II. These are the men who placed their lives up-front so that those of the future could have a better life. This is what soldiers do. It is their job; their mission and their calling; and with leadership like Colonel William Orlando Darby they become highly skilled in their trade.
Darby prepared himself and his men in the art of warfare in the best traditions of his West Point background. He did not ask any man to do something he himself was not willing to do. He selected the most athletic and only held onto the most capable individuals.
No one was better prepared for combat than the Ranger Battalions under Darby's care.
Darby and men like him advanced the Rangers and the Special Forces to the point that the units became 'the' most formidable forces in the world. During World War II the mention of the name Darby Rangers brought awe and admiration from friend and foe alike.
Darby's Rangers were 'Americas' Team'; long before there ever was a Dallas Cowboy.
Americans were proud then and are still very proud of Special Forces units of all our military periods; the public kept up with the Rangers' progress and held high hopes...
America knew the war could be won. And they knew; where-ever the action was; the Rangers could and would 'Lead the Way'. Had the Ranger Units be utilized to their full effectiveness; the history of the war could have been changed.
But, for those who go first in the best traditions of the Rangers...there always is a risk...and usually a high-risk against overwhelming odds.
That risk caught up with the 1st & 3rd Ranger Battalions in Italy during World War II after they had won the Presidential Unit Citation following the Battle of Salerno and Chiunzi Pass; and after they had captured the Cassino Area and cleared the beachhead for the invasion of Anzio.
The 1st & 3rd Battalion were sent into an untenable situation; for weeks these elite forces had been used in line combat infantry situations; something they neither specialized in or were trained for.
The Rangers prided themselves in accomplishing their mission with few friendly casualties and causing a great number amongst the enemy. But, in Italy they had suffered a serious reduction due to combat casualties in the last few weeks and months. Valuable lead and key men in Ranger operations were lost in Combat. Their primary use as a strike force was ignored on higher levels than Darby himself.
The value of the Rangers was their ability to strike swiftly and secretly and create the most damage by getting in and getting out. Their skills were highly specialized in explosive and demolition work and by killing by night behind enemy lines. They were never intended to be used as a 'frontal assault unit' or as combat line troops. Their specialized training did not allow their use as 'expendable/and acceptable casualties'. To be effective the units needed to stay in-tact.
When Darby learned that the Rangers were to be used in the questionable operations of taking the railhead at Cisterna; fellow Rangers recall that he went to his tent and wept;
he is said to have commented; that '...Shouldn't it be better to stop the operation now; than to wait until it was too late..."
When the Rangers were surrounded at Cisterna and put up a heroic fight and were ultimately overwhelmed by superior numbers of tanks, artillery, self propelled guns, paratroopers and infantry; America held its breath. Darby's worst fears were realized
and the Allied forces could not support the 1st & 3rd.
Darby and forces including the 4th Ranger Battalion made attempt after attempt to break-through the German lines to rescue the 1st & 3rd. They heroically faced an impossible situation.
Back home the matter was made worse when the Rangers just simply disappeared; and the military was not forthcoming about their fate for strategic reasons. And when information did filter out the matter was just as grave. Two Battalions of Rangers; the 1st and 3rd...were numbered among the 'Lost Battalions'...their members carried on the rolls as missing in action. Reports from survivors who managed to disentangle themselves were grim. Out of 767 men; only 6 managed to get back to friendly lines.
For months families at home languished with no knowledge of their loved-ones fate. Letters were received from the government with pleadings for patience and perseverance. And Missing in Action was an equated name for 'some hope...any hope'. But, hope was soon replaced with fear and anguish by mothers and fathers dear.
The remaining Rangers who battled on at Cisterna languished as well that January 1944.
During the battle they ran out of ammunition, destroyed their radios and were rolled up by the German onslaught. The remnants of the 1st and 3rd were captured. Some of the men were summarily shot by the Germans. The men were subjected to being paraded before the fascist mobs of Rome; and were loaded onto trains and shipped to POW Camps to suffer at the hands of the Germans.
The Rangers did not give-out without putting up a terrible fire-fight that some have called a 'battle on the same scale and intensity as other historic Last Stands'...
The two American Battalions made the Germans pay dearly in casualties and destruction.
The Germans resorted to driving their American prisoners before them as they advanced on other Ranger positions; a violation of humanity and the rules of warfare. The Rangers battled heroically; but, to no avail as small pockets of Ranger resistance was overwhelmed.
Their heroic stand earned them a distinguished place in Ranger history.
Lyle was one these hero's and he belonged to my family. That made him doubly important to me. Unfortunately and tragically he died in a car wreck near home shortly after being released from German hands. All I had of Lyle were the stories relived over and over while the family gathered around the kitchen table of my Grandfathers house.
My historical interest came from some of these people, my family; and boy...could they could tell stories. This is a talent.
The ability to weave a tale is a western tradition.
In early times before radio; this was a cultural standard in all Southern families and because education was usually limited along the frontier states; this was (and continues today) to be the way most families get their history understandings and are indoctrinated into the family group. The stories are repeated over and over and added to and taken away from until there is a 'comfortable' version.
From a sociological standpoint the story itself is rather unimportant; and the building of pride in family and the interaction between the family group is the main purpose of the family reunions and the story telling. It is entertainment; as experienced around the boiling pots and campfires in the days of old. Verbal history is one of the most important ways that families bond.
The problem with verbal history from a historical standpoint, is; verbal history alone is the most unreliable information; but is the most colorful.
In truth all stories written or spoken hold a little bit of color and a little bit of truth.
The most reliable history has more documentation than editorial content and that is why some people find history dull. Many of these people tend to be auditory learners and their interest leans more in the directions of entertainment and occupation with media which appeals to the senses; movies, TV, music and verbal history.
The problem comes to light because the senses are the only things which can be fooled, manipulated, and bent. This kind of History or Journalism never appealed to me.
My interest in research came from proving some of these family stories wrong...(sure to make you popular the next time you visit!). But, this is a fact. That is exactly what inspired my life-long passion in historical research.
But, as I have found...there usually is a basis for all stories...you just have to sort through the buffalo patties 'til you find some that will burn and not just smoke...if you get my drift.
In the case of Lyle I didn't have far to go to disprove the 'titled bard' when there was an insistence on my uncles participation in the Kassarine Pass actions in North Africa. He wasn't here to defend himself. And he wasn't at Kassarine, either. Just that fact alone was enough to tell me; if there was one inconsistancy then there were more; and put end to end you might wind up with a documented article of fact. Any history is useless if it is based on flattery and half-truths.
I found Lyle was indeed sent to North Africa; but after the Kassarine Pass combat; and I later discovered the Pass was actually Chiunzi Pass during the battles around Salerno; where the Rangers fought bravely and received the Presidential Unit Citation; other family members verified Lyle's comments on the action; but, had accepted the traditional family story; when in-fact they were partially right and wrong at the same time.
That is why all verbal histories of any family are suspect. You have to look beyond the story...and find the grain of 'fact'. This is not a personal 'attack' on anyone...that is how historic works are written.
Good story tellers do not necessarily make good historians; and seldom do. But, they are precious in spreading the enthusiasm to read, write and research. Whopper-bendors are forgiven for geographical mistakes; but never for intentional malice; and there are people out there in the world who want to re-shape history. You will find that in any area of historical research, family or otherwise.
Research takes on a different twist and has a life of its own once the story begins to get unraveled. And that is what I dedicated much of my life to doing. At one time this was my vocation and always it has been my hobby.
The Facts and Nothing but The Facts
It seems that I was the only one of my generation in my immediate family who was truly interested in unraveling the family carpets; emptying the skeletons from the closets and venturing into foul smelling basements. Basements were great places to play anyway.
Located in one of those basements was a pile of discarded clothes, some old detective novels, a heap of military uniforms...and papers...
I tossed the novels back; wrinkling my nose at FICTION, put on a Khaki Shirt which came from the common pile (a shirt I hardly parted with for the next few years)...I sat aside some World War II Navy Uniforms of my uncle Basil's (which I would later use in Sea Explorers; with his permission)...and positioned myself amid the dank odor to read the scatterings of discarded history by a bare bulb dangling menacingly above...I was 10 years old. Those items I thought were important I took upstairs and gave to my grandmother. She put up with me.
Treasure has different meanings to different people. For those who love history this was treasure...
Even at 10 years old I knew I had come across a treasure-trove of memories of a missing loved one. These discoveries are always moving experiences; whether it is the discovery of a family members name after 34 years of searching or in finding documentation which can be used to pursue further historical evidence; it sometimes holds a mystical quality.
I set the documents aside in piles'...a spelling bee award, a diploma, a picture of a girl, a soldiers picture, a name tag, unit patches...next to that some military looking papers, and Western Union telegrams, a high school letterman's award with the letter 'G' never sown on a jacket or worn proudly for the effort spent to achieve it...and another pile with an old Army Green Red Cross Ditty Bag...full of more stuff and letters from Stalags; and V-Mail and things that had meant something to someone...
I read enough of the material to know that this was Lyle's memory. All the memory that the family had left of a son loved and cherished and lost too young.
I dashed up the plank stairs and found my Grandmother...
Grand Dad was dead by a year or more; and I knew that she was leaving this place; eventually...and I asked her for the papers and the uniforms and whatever else I found...
"Son, you can have whatever you want down there, those are Basil's uniforms and you need to ask him about that; but, anything that is left when I move is going to the dump," she said.
I gathered up my treasures and showed her what I wanted without objection.
Family members have reminded me that she didn't wind-up moving until many years later; so some of the material in this site must have been given to me by my mother at some point. All I remember is I have been lugging this stuff around since the 60's; and it was kept safely in my room or like now; in a safety deposit box.
The worst thing that could happen to any family records were for them to be destroyed thru neglect. My Grandmother entrusted these documents and I did not fail in my family obligation. And that is important to me.
I wore the army shirt in a play in grade-school where I stared at the clock in the back of the room and gave the worst rendition of "Ballad of the Green Beret" you ever heard so I know I had some of the material before 1966 and I had been in possession of the shirt for many years at that point. And, I wore the Navy uniforms in 1967-68 in Sea Explorers.
What else was overlooked in that basement; we'll never know; much of the material had already been destroyed by children playing in the basement long before I ever saw it. The family photo album was destroyed thru neglect many years later. But, anything I saved is still with us...though most of it has traveled many many miles. That basement was a vault of history.
Kids love basements. And they can be great destroyers of things they do not understand.
I heard a story from some of the other family members...a story about my Granddad going to the basement; sometimes for lengths at a time and that some of the family had all searched the walls wading thru scattered papers and dreams lying on the floor of this red dirt cellar looking for the treasure Granddad had supposedly buried down there; Sometimes people are blinded by greed....it was a mystery though...
I know now what I didn't know then...I had solved the family mystery without knowing it. (at least to my satisfaction). But, I was only ten...had never raised children of my own...and could not imagine the pain of a fathers burden.
But, I knew that there in my hands was the hidden wealth...these scattered and discarded papers...my Grandfathers treasure...worth more than gold or silver coin. An inheritance that can never be bought or sold.
The inheritance I carried were the memories of a loved child; and the treasure of an old and tired man...the tearful and weary memory of Our Robert Lyle who suffered too much in his short lifetime as a Prisoner of War and was taken away too soon.
Here was the memory hidden away from prying eyes in a dank and dark basement, bare bulb dangling overhead where a father could find a sanctity of silence, a place to cry and grieve over the death of his first born son...
Americas' son; and one of Darby's Rangers; Robert Lyle Cunningham, Sgt., 3rd Battalion, Company F...
Within this site are those papers and those memories; gathered not for my own use; but saved for the generations of Cunningham/Price and the extended families to cherish and share; I know now their value...and only wish I had gathered up more material...but, I was only 10.
I do know that a great deal of information that I did not personally save was discarded or destroyed. My reputation as a pack-rat helped me as I have been used as a depository of all sorts of information on different subjects by many of the Cunningham family members; and much of this material was provided by my mother who also was entrusted with the care and preservation of the family records; and she passed that information to me in the 1960's.
It was my mothers desire; and the wishes of my Grand-Mother Zadia Cunningham; that, I work on this history and eventually pass it along. I spent the first twenty years of my life exploring every avenue of research and taking advantage of every opportunity to visit with the older members of the family; travel to family re-unions, and spend the summers in Oklahoma with my mothers people; many of whom passed away before 1974 and before I went into the Army; my military time was spent in service of the Army Security Agency Southeast Asian Theatre of Operations and the Southern CONUS Command Ft. Huachuca Arizona.
Since that time I have been very busy either pursuing my college career or making a living for my family.
My business travels have taken me to all 48 continental United States on a regular basis and all the Provinces of Canada. This has allowed me to take advantage of Museums, Universities, Resources, Archives, Human Resources, and Libraries which would have been impossible to visit in an average lifetime. And special note needs to be made for the Mormon Church.
I am not a member of the Mormon Church but I owe a great debt to the LDS resources.
I especially owe great credit to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; The Mormons in Salt Lake City Utah. I had the honor of spending several hundred hours in their Genealogy Library over a period of seven years. The Mormons affectionately call their library 'The Root Cellar'. For anyone interested in serious family research this is the only place to begin your research.
The free resources of the Latter-Day Saints has been provided to hundreds of thousands if not millions of researchers world wide. Their interest in family genealogy follows the cannons of their faith. For more information about the LDS Family Research contact any local 'Stake' as their Churches are called; and they will direct you to the nearest LDS Genealogy Library or resources without any preaching and at no cost to you.
I especially owe a great debt to Allen G. Bradbury; 1st Bn Darby Ranger. Bradbury has been my source of encouragement and enlightenment throughout the course of this sites design and publication. He embodies for me the truth in the statement that Rangers do indeed lead the way.
In 2001 I was joined in this research by my Nephew Bruce Dale White. Bruce has shared my passion for history throughout his life. Bruce's accomplishments include a Masters in Business Administration and he is an Accomplished Web Development Administrator. His docmentation and research skills are on an unequaled plane with any member of the family; and his participation is greatly welcomed.
My occasional research assistant has Been Brian Kent Patterson. He accompanied me in research projects in Virginia and in one fell swoop helped locate information I had searched for going on more than 10 years. His constant companionship and sense of humor have seen me thru tough times since the mid 80's.
I hope you enjoy this site as it was intended - Bob Price
* * *
F.R. 'Bob' Price & Tiger 1962
Editors Note: Throughout this and all of our web sites we have gone out of our way to credit all sources where appropriate and to include links where applicable. Like all good journalists we have leaned on more than one source where it was possible; and we have tried to make use of Public Domain Resources; such as government reports, photos, and museum material paid for by taxpayer dollars; This is a not-for-profit site; intended for non-profit purposes & education; any affiliate programs are added for the connivence of our visitors.
Some Historical information of note:
In every case where I have been able to correct the record; I have changed the site of the battle to its proper name...Cisterna di Latina...despite the fact that many government records and newspaper articles have used the 'incorrect' name in official documents, decorations and reports, (calling it Cisterna di Littoria). The Army Airforce used better mapping and location identification techniques than the ground forces. And they always identified the area as Cisterna di Latina. This fact has been a hindrance to researchers for more than 55 years and we hope to set the record straight and make it easier for those who follow.
Stalag IIB was located in Hammerstein Germany. That area is now under Polish control; and was renamed; Czema Poland by the Russian Occupying Government.
Memorial Page: Gail Lynn Strickland/KIA in Cambodia/Helicopter shot down by an RPG Round/1st Cousin/Extended Price Family