Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol

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Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) soldiers conducted highly dangerous special reconnaissance missions in enemy-held territory, primarily during the Vietnam War.

Pre-Vietnam

LRRP teams materialized during the Cold War. U.S. commanders in Europe experimented with long-range patrols during the late 1950s and early 1960s to acquire high-value Soviet targets for artillery and air strikes, and even tactical nuclear weapons without causing excess collateral damage to the civilian population in Europe. At least four long-range patrol units stood up following the trials: a reconnaissance platoon in the Army's Southern European Task Force in northern Italy, two corps-level provisional LRRP units in the Seventh Army in Germany, and a division-level LRRP detachment in the 3d Infantry Division of V Corps in Germany.[1]

Commanders realized that LRRP units required advanced training standards. A multi-phase, five-week training course was established, culminating with a 69-hour, 77-mile exercise on land navigation, evasion and escape exercise. Those who met the high standards were permitted to wear a black beret.

In September 1960, Seventh Army directed V and VII Corps to form provisional 80-man reconnaissance units. Following an exercise that confirmed the effectiveness of long-range reconnaissance patrols, two corps-level LRRP companies were formed in March 1961.

V Corps LRRP

Note: Much of the following is from http://www.75thrra.com/history/a75-his.php and is currently being edited.

V Corps Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol Company, later Co. A, 75th Infantry (Ranger), was the longest serving DA authorized LRRP/Ranger Company in the US Army. LRRP Co (Abn) 3779 was activated at Wildflecken, Germany by 7th Army on July 15, 1961 to serve as V Corps' LRRP Company in Germany.

It was deactivated on December 19, 1974 at Ft Hood as Company A, 75th Infantry (Ranger) where it was performing Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol work for the 1st Cavalry Division.

The company was initially assigned to the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment for administration and court-martial jurisdiction. At that time the company wore the 7th Army shoulder patch with blue and white Airborne tab and was the only unit near the East German border on jump status.

The first Commanding Officer was Maj. Reese Jones and the 1st Sergeant was Gilberto M. Martinez.

V Corps was deployed across the West German states of Hesse and the Bayern (Bavaria), facing four of the six most likely Soviet penetration corridors into West Germany. Company field training exercises included extensive patrols in the Bad Heisfeld-Giessen, Fulda-Hanau, Bad Kissingen -- Wurzburg and Coburg - Bamburg corridors to include rehearsals for deep penetration missions against Thuringian targets typically including Soviet Weimer - Nobra air installation and Army facilities around Ohrdruf and Jena. The company would be used also for special missions of infiltration that included team placement of T-4 Atomic Demolition Munitions and locating enemy battlefield targets for Army tactical nuclear delivery systems.

In autumn 1962 LRRP Lt. Robert C. Murphy flew to England and purchased maroon berets for the company from his own funds. They were authorized for wear by the CG of 7th Army for both V and VII Corps LRRP Companies.

The company crest was designed at that time by then Sgt Mike Martin and the motto "Cum Animus Et Successus" (Through Courage, Success) added by Murphy.

Long-range radio communications received a major boost with the issue of the AN/TRC-77 CW Radio to the Company in 1962. Civilian technicians from Sylvania trained LRRPs to use the new radios, which served both V & VII Corps LRRPs faithfully until mid-1968. Few LRRPs knew there were six "burst coders" for the TRC-77s locked up in the company EDP (Emergency Defence Plan) safe with other classified equipment.

The company moved to Edwards Kaserne outside of Frankfurt with Captain William Guinn assuming command from Major Edward Porter in January 1963. The shoulder patch was changed from 7th Army to V Corps with blue and white airborne tab.

The company moved yet again on 9 MAY 63 to Gibbs Kaserne in Frankfurt and became part of the V Corps Special Troops (Provisional) working directly for V Corps G-2.

General Creighton Abrams assumed command of V Corps in 1963 and revoked the company's maroon berets when he found out they had not been authorized by Department of the Army.

1964 saw the issue of AN/PRC-25s FM voice radios to replace the AN/PRC-10s with their infamously poor German-made batteries. Those batteries were so weak that it was often necessary to keep the radios in sleeping bags to keep them from going dead in cold weather. The change to PRC-25s was a major improvement and made it possible to communicate properly with both Army and Air Force aircraft for the first time.

The company also traded in its M-14 rifles for the new "XM16E1" 5.56mm rifle in the autumn of 1964 (Yes, they had a high malfunction rate even when new in Europe, as well as RVN).

The company was often assigned to Honor Guard duties in garrison during this period. It was chosen as an Honor Guard to represent the US Army Airborne at the 20th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion in France on 6 JUN 64, which it did with 122 enlisted men and four officers. C.O. Capt Norm Carlton even paid for the non-issue white gloves for the Honor Guard out of his own pocket on that occasion.

Under Captains Guinn and Carlton, the V Corps LRRPs developed and perfected aspects of Long Range Patrol operations that resulted in the issue of the first LRRP TO&E (Table of Organization & Equipment) 7-157E and the publication of the first Long Range Reconnaissance Company Field Manual, FM 31-16.

The issue of the TO&E in 1965 saw the end of Provisional status for V and VII Corps LRRPs and the re-designation of both companies. The V Corps LRRP company was redesignated as Company D (LRP), 17th Infantry (Airborne) on 15 May 1965, moving from Frankfurt, Germany to Fort Benning, Ga. in June 1968. The company was renamed A Company (Ranger), 75th Infantry (Airborne) in February 1969 and moved to Fort Hood, Texas in February 1970, where it was deactivated in December 1974 after the formation of 1st and 2d Battalions, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning and Fort Lewis, Wash.[1] The company continued with the same personnel, mission, barracks, and continued to wear its unique crest.

But the TO&E did result in an increase of authorized strength to 208 men, 24 five man patrols (formerly four man), and a new transportation section (the company formerly used 2.5 ton trucks from the 35th Transportation Company located in the same barracks at Gibbs Kaserne. Who could forget "Romeo" the bespectacled truck driver who fell hopelessly in love with everything in a skirt and once got hypnotized by the windshield wipers on his own truck and had to be brought to by the LRRP riding shotgun as he started to run off the road?).

The TO&E also formalized the trend towards Ranger status with a requirement for 24 Patrol Leaders, three "Killer" Platoon Leaders, the Ops Officer, Exec Officer, C.O. and 1st Sergeant to be Ranger qualified. All 208 LRRPs had to be parachute qualified.

The company continued its constant training cycles of Soviet Order of Battle, camouflage, CW radio operator training, and frequent FTXs, most of them in winter but big changes were happening in the Army as the Vietnam war escalated.

In 1967 popular C.O. Charlie Wertenberger announced a "levy" of the company for Vietnam. Carl Mancini recalls, "When Khe Sanh got hit (Marines and 173rd) they had a levy come down for airborne personnel. The C.O. got the entire unit down to the theater and told us what was going on. He made the married personnel and the people who were short leave. That left about 60 guys and they need 50 so he asked for volunteers. He got killed after about three weeks in country but to me he was a great guy. I looked him up at the wall."

In 1968, the Army began a massive pullout from Europe as part of Operation REFORGER (Redeployment of Forces Germany), a mutual reduction of forces with the Warsaw Pact, and the company relocated from Frankfurt, Germany to Fort Benning Georgia in July, with Captain Harry W. Nieubar as the company commander.

The Ft. Benning barracks was on Kelley Hill and the company was the only active duty Airborne unit on the post. They still wore the V Corps patch with airborne tab and were used as Aggressors at all three Ranger training sites. "Our patrols used to make life miserable for the students", Terry Roderick recalls. "And we had leg outfits all around us on Kelley Hill and we thought we owned the place." Commanding Officers there included Thomas P Meyer and Dennis Foley. About half of the company consisted of Vietnam combat veterans at that time, most of them from the 101st and the 173rd.

The company also ran the RVN Orientation at Ft Benning. Walter Buchanan says the Orientation gave the troops opportunities to run obstacle courses including a rope bridge built by another LRRP, Daniel Pope. Half of the troops would fall off the bridge and the Captain would say, "Congratulations. You've just passed the Orientation", and tell them to always remain on their toes in 'Nam and expect the unexpected, never drop their guard. Then they would all get in the back of their trucks and head for the barracks. "We used to ambush them on the way home in the back of the deuce and a halfs", Walter says. "We used a LOT of det cord and artillery simulators on them." Walter and Daniel later did a 'Nam tour together in C/75.

The company also assisted Indiana National Guard LRP Company D/151 to get ready for Vietnam in 1968. Calvin Everhart remembers about a dozen who were short timers or otherwise ineligible to go who stayed in D/17 when D/151 left for 'Nam.

The company had left its long range AN/TRC-77 Morse Code radios behind in Germany and carried only AN/PRC-25s in the field. CW capability rapidly atrophied until 10 LRRPs were sent to Ft. Jackson for CW training at the end of 1968.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Eyes Behind the Lines: US Army Long-Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Units. Maj. James F. Gebhardt, US Army (ret.). 2005, Combat Studies Institute Press http://victoryinstitute.net/2012/01/21/eyes-behind-the-lines-us-army-long-range-reconnaissance-and-surveillance-units/
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