5th Ranger Battalion Member Restored to History after 70 years

Every once in a awhile we are granted an opportunity to share exceptional stories......

By: Noel F. Mehlo, Jr.

 The U.S. Army Ranger Creed states: “I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy.”  What if the enemy is time? 

Staff Sergeant (S/Sgt) Herbert Hull was in the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion in World War II.  He was wounded in France at Fort de Toulbroc’h on September 2, 1944.  On this date, the battalion 

had been split into two groups for combat operations around the Brest area.  Companies B, D, F and Headquarters of the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion were engaged at Fort de Toulbroc’h.  The 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, B Company, 2nd Platoon, was under the command 1st Lt. Louis J. Gombosi.  The platoon moved to the south down a long and deep ravine as part of an ordered reconnaissance in force.  Upon reaching the sea, the platoon separated into two Sections, the first led by Gombosi, the second by Hull.  Hull’s section moved back slightly to the north and then east up a secondary ravine toward the outer perimeter defenses of the northwestern edge of the objective.  This fortification has stood sentinel over the port of Brest, France since at least 1884.  Under German occupation, it acted as one of the formidable coastal defenses to the west of the German fortress of Brest as part of the vaunted German “Atlantikwall.”  Within it were many pieces of artillery capable of firing into the flanks and rear of the rapidly advancing 29th Infantry Division to the north of the fort who were closing in on the Port of Brest which lie to the east.  The capture or elimination of this important strong point was just the sort of mission that the 5th Ranger Battalion was created for. 

Army Rangers cross a stream on a toggle-rope bridge under simulated battle conditions.  Demonstration at Camp Forrest, Tennessee in 1943.

Army Rangers cross a stream on a toggle-rope bridge under simulated battle conditions.  Demonstration at Camp Forrest, Tennessee in 1943.

 During the recon by 2nd Platoon, 2nd Section of the fort’s perimeter, one of the men in the section to the left of Hull tripped a landmine.  Hull warned his men to drop to the ground with hand motions, but it was too late.  The mine went off sending shrapnel into his right hand, back and most importantly impaling his left knee rendering him unable to walk.  Moments after Hull was wounded, Lt Gombosi was in position just outside the fort.  He requested permission to attack, having observed no enemy within.  The permission to attack was granted and the 2nd Platoon advanced into the base going slowly from dugout to dugout.  It was nearly half an hour before they struck any enemy, but when they did, the 2nd Platoon found themselves outnumbered more than ten to one and were forced to withdraw to the northwest.  The dead and wounded soldiers were pinned down under intense fire.  By 2007 hours the report to the Company Headquarters that soldiers were tied down and unable to be reached resulted in orders being issued for every available man in the Battalion to bear arms and join the fight.  

 The thoughts of “Am I going to die?” must have passed through his mind as a fierce firefight waged all around him for several hours while his fellow Rangers were unable to rescue him.  I never had the chance to ask if these thoughts were accurate of this particular soldier, my grandfather, but I am confident that these thoughts crossed his mind while under heavy enemy fire as he lay wounded on the battlefield.  The thought of one’s own mortality is one that is not often heard voiced from one of this extremely special generation of Americans.  As warriors, they exhibit a quiet dignity of men who simply did what their nation asked of them in order to help secure freedom for the world.  The quiet demeanor and dignity of such men would not let them boast of their role in World War II in such grandiose terms. 

S/Sgt Herbert Stanton Hull, 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, B Company, 2nd Platoon

S/Sgt Herbert Stanton Hull, 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, B Company, 2nd Platoon

 S/Sgt Hull was rescued and his life saved after lying pinned down for several hours by his fellow Rangers.  He was sent to the rear for medical treatment, and eventually to the United States for advanced care.  In an ironic twist of fate, he was lost.  He was physically lost to the unit with whom he had spilled blood in France.  He was lost administratively to the official records of the unit compiled throughout the remainder of the war and beyond.  S/Sgt Hull then tragically died ten years after the war as a young father of four.  When he died, all detailed knowledge of his service died with him.  He was lost to history for nearly seventy years, he became a lost Ranger.

 A new book, The Lost Ranger: A Soldier’s Story, takes a journey to rediscover this lost veteran and learn about one of the most elite units of World War II.  The story begins with the conscription of this soldier and what it meant to become an infantry soldier as part of the 35th Infantry Division.  It then contains a complete analysis of the history of the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion from 1943 until September 1944.  Each chapter of the book is devoted to every location the unit went and their activities.  The 5th Rangers were formed at Camp Forrest, near Tullahoma, Tennessee.  They then went on to the combined U.S. Army / U.S. Navy Amphibious Scout and Raider School at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base (USNATB) in Fort Pierce Florida.  The unit then went to Fort Dix for tactical problems and weapons training.  After surviving a near disastrous collision in New York Harbor aboard the HMS Mauretania II, they arrived in England for specialized training that prepared them for their mission on Omaha Beach and as the back-up unit for the assault of Point du Hoc.  They went from Liverpool to Leominster, England and on to Tignabruaich in Scotland.  Next the unit made its way to the U.S. Assault Training Centre in Braunton to train alongside the 29th Infantry Division, culminating in Exercise Fabius 1.  After this they went on to the white cliffs of southern England at a village called Swanage and the surrounding areas.  Finally they were marshaled near Dorchester to embark in Weymouth. 

A fresh take of D-Day is presented with an in depth look at the platoon level from the time they left England until they completed their assault on Grandcamp, France on June 9, 1944.  Then the story of the Rangers actions during the summer of 1944 is presented culminating in the assault of Fort de Toulbroc’h near Brest, France.

The journey to investigate S/Sgt Hull involved several of the remaining veterans of the battalion.  Their accounts offer fresh perspectives to this famous unit.  The Lost Ranger: A Soldier’s Story tells the story of one final mission for several of these remaining veterans of the 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion to “not leave a fallen comrade behind”.  More importantly, it examines how S/Sgt Hull was restored to history and brought home to a family who never really knew him.

Endorsements:

"This book is a wonderful example of what an author can accomplish by good research. Starting with a short note from his mother, and his grandfather's discharge papers and uniform, through diligent research, Mehlo has produced a marvel of detail and a complete, thoroughly engrossing story. The book is a must for anyone interested in the World War II Rangers or D-Day, or in the training that Infantry units were exposed to in their development into the fighting units that won the war."

Major General (r) John C. Raaen, Jr.

Author of Intact: A First-Hand Account of the D-Day Invasion From a 5th Rangers Company Commander

"A remarkable work. Loaded with maps, photographs and detail. This book is a treasure of information, a tribute to a man, an elite American fighting force and a precious gift to American Military History. For those who want to learn how it was for brave Rangers in World War II, the answer is here.”

Col (r) Robert W. Black

Author of "The Battalion, The Ranger Force. Ranger Dawn and other works"

"A remarkable work. Loaded with maps, photographs and detail. This book is a treasure of information, a tribute to a man, an elite American fighting force and a precious gift to American Military History. For those who want to learn how it was for brave Rangers in World War II, the answer is here.”

Col (r) Robert W. Black

Author of "The Battalion, The Ranger Force. Ranger Dawn and other works"

"It was a great honor and privilege to collaborate with Noel in creating this important piece of American History. It gave me the opportunity to provide a first hand account of the lives, struggles, hardships, and victories those in the US Army Rangers experienced. This book documents the life of a hero who was never recognized for his deeds until recently; a man I was proudly able to call comrade and friend."

Randall Ching

5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, veteran


https://www.createspace.com/4813488

ISBN-10: 1500421464

Also available on Amazon and Kindle edition through Amazon

Kindle edition is free with purchase of print copy