THE TEXAS RANGERS HELPED WIN WW II
story came to me from an old friend, James Earl Rudder, Jr., known as 'Buddy'
when we were in O. Henry Junior High in Austin at the same time. We became acquainted
because at one time we dated girls who were best friends.|
when he retired, was MG James Earl Rudder, Sr., USAR, President of and Commandant
of Cadets at Texas A&M University. He was a decorated WW II veteran and one of
the first Army Rangers. Then-CPT Rudder went through the very first cycle of Ranger
training at Fort Benning, Georgia, graduated with honors, was promoted to LTC-skipping
'the Major's corner' entirely-and took a battalion of Ranger hopefuls through
the school. He commanded that battalion when it was sent to England for training
prior to Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944.
To understand what happened,
you have to be aware of a man known as 'The German Zane Grey.' His name was Karl
May (pronounce it 'my'). He was a German writer in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, and he wrote Westerns. Herr May had never been to the United States,
let alone to the American West. That didn't keep him from writing stories set
there. At least at first he didn't really know much about the subject. In one
of his early novels he had a coyote 'winging its way across the prairie.'
Herr May had a thing about Texas Rangers. Once the Rangers showed up in a May
novel, it was time to bring out the shovels, because a whole bunch of bad guys
were going to need graves very shortly. According to Herr May, one Ranger was
a match for a platoon of badmen, two could handle a company, and three could take
on a regiment without breaking sweat.
Karl May's novels were, to several
generations of German children-and still are, to some extent-what Zane Grey's
and Clarence E. Mulford's novels were to several generations of American kids.
Everybody read Karl May novels. Even Adolf Hitler, in his youth, was a Karl May
fan, devouring his 'Old Shatterhand' mountain-man novels voraciously. In fact,
after becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler quietly purchased about 40,000
acres in western Colorado, where the Old Shatterhand novels are set.
US Army Rangers, including LTC Rudder's battalion, were assigned the toughest
job on D-Day. They were to scale the cliffs facing Omaha Beach and silence the
resistance at the top. The tops of those cliffs were heavily fortified, with dug-in
machinegun nests, heavy artillery in reinforced-concrete bunkers, and pillboxes
for infantry to fight from. The Rangers were light infantry, equipped with M-1
Garand rifles, M-1 carbines, Thompson submachineguns, and pistols. Their task
of climbing the cliffs with ropes and scaling ladders under fire pretty much mitigated
against carrying anything heavier-like the best light machinegun of the war, the
Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR, which weighed over 20 lbs. Carrying a 10 lb Tommygun
was about as heavy a piece as a man could manage on a rope ladder. At least one
sixshooter, a Colt New Service model 1917, in .45 ACP caliber, went up the cliffs.
It was in LTC Rudder's shoulder holster.
Resistance, at first, was murderous.
It continued to be heavy as the Rangers reached the base of the cliffs. However,
as Rudder's men went up the cliffs, resistance faded. By the time his men reached
the top they found the bunkers and pillboxes deserted.
Being good Rangers
they didn't stop to scratch their heads and wonder where the Germans went. They
fanned out to the sides and attacked the other positions from the flanks, disrupting
organized resistance at the clifftop and assisting other Ranger battalions in
taking the objective.
It was several weeks before LTC Rudder found out
what happened to the troops facing his men. A wehrmacht feldwebel-a sort of 'first
corporal'-who had been in the unit facing Rudder's men was captured. It seems
that the Abwehr, the German intelligence service, was very efficient. Perhaps
a little too efficient. It identified the unit as a battalion of Rangers. It also
identified their commander-LTC James Earl Rudder. It also identified his home.
He was from Texas! Every German there grew up on Karl May novels. They added it
up: Battalion of Rangers + commander from Texas = Battalion of Texas Rangers!
The Germans were brave men, but they weren't foolish. They knew from Karl
May what they were facing. They executed a strategic withdrawal rather than face
the men May painted as the most ferocious fighters on the face of the earth, men
who took no prisoners and gave no quarter. And that's how the Texas Rangers helped
win WW II.
C. F. Eckhardt
"Charley Eckhardt's Texas" >