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Jim Cooney was inducted into the US Army on October 23, 1941. He was sent to Camp Walters, Texas, for basic infantry training and then on to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for more training and assignment to the 34th Infantry Division.
On April 29, 1942, Cooney shipped over to the British Isles arriving in Ireland on May 13, 1942, and more infantry training.
On June 14th he volunteered for and was accepted for training with the Rangers under command of Lt. Col. Orlando B. Darby, (forever after called "Darby’s Rangers") were activated on June 19, 1942, with just over 500 men.
On July 2nd the Rangers were placed under the British Special Service Brigade at the Commando Training Depot at Achnacarry, Scotland. After months of intense training Jim, now a member of Company C 1st Ranger Battalion, was in a convoy headed for North Africa.
On November 8, 1942, Companies A thru D made a silent landing near Arzew, Algeria. Cooney was assigned as a 60 mm mortar gunner and saw his first action there at Arzew.
On March 21, 1943, during the Battle of El Guettar where Cooney again acted as a mortar gunner.
In May of 1943 replacements began to arrive and it was now possible to expand the Rangers to three Battalions, the 1st, 3rd, and 4th. The 2nd Battalion was already in training in the states.
On June 30, 1943, the Rangers boarded ships for the invasion of Sicily. Jim Cooney and Company C were to attack the enemy stronghold at Butera on a steep mountain and they took the position by scaling the hills.
The Rangers were relieved on October 11, 1943, and went to San Lazzaro for more training. On the 12th of October 1st Sergeant Jim Cooney was battlefield promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. There followed a quite time until January 22, 1944, when the Rangers landed unopposed at Anzio.
On January 30, 1944, the 1st and 3rd Rangers Battalions with the 4th in reserve were to take the town of Cisterna in a daring night action behind the German lines. The Rangers were discovered and found themselves in a furious battle with a superior force of SS and paratroopers.
The 1st and 3rd Battalions were surrounded and under murderous machine-gun and mortar fire.
The 4th Battalion, on the road leading to town, weren't doing much better. Without much protection the Rangers were decimated. German reinforcements were arriving hourly and now German tanks and artillery were attacking from the rear.
Though the exact figures were not known, it is estimated that of the nine hundred Rangers that went into the pocket, fifty percent were killed or wounded and fifty percent were captured. Lt. Cooney, badly wounded, was taken unconscious from the battlefield by the Germans. He was a POW for one year of which seven months were spent in the hospital. Jim was liberated by Russian troops on January 22, 1945. (1)
Used with Permission: Northwestern University Library
(1) Source: http://michigansown.org/jamescooney.htm
Michigan's Own Military & Space Museum; http://michigansown.org/
History of the 4th Battalion with Donald S. Frederick S&D Website