Rangers in all-black unit remember Korean service
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. (Army News Service, July 1, 2014) -- Soldiers with the Army's only all-black Ranger company fought bravely, endured extreme conditions, and served with distinction during the Korean War, according to the veterans and the Army's top NCO.
Four members of the elite, segregated outfit -- the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) -- were guests of Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III at a Twilight Tattoo here, June 25 that honored non-commissioned officers.
The four men -- Donald Allen, Richard Briscoe, Herculano Dias, and Winston Jackson -- proudly served in this historic company, Chandler said.
"I was fascinated by their incredible stories of heroism and danger in wartime and their continued service as mentors and trainers of young Soldiers at home stations," he said.
Dias, a sergeant who served in the Army four years, noted the company was the "first and only all-black Airborne Ranger outfit" in the whole Army.
"We were the only all-black Ranger outfit to make a combat jump. We jumped March 23, 1951, in a place called Munsan-Ni, Korea," Dias said.
He recalled losing fellow members, seeing intense combat, and enduring the brutal winter. When he and his fellow Rangers arrived in Korea, in December 1950, snowfall accumulations were high and temperatures were sub-zero, Dias said.
"A lot of guys were evacuated for frostbitten feet because the equipment we had was not sufficient," he said.
Conditions were indeed brutal, Briscoe said.
"It was colder than hell, man. It was real cold," he said.
"When we got off the plane, it was 20-below zero, and we had to ride in open trucks, with no canvas over (them)," Briscoe said.
Soldiers made do with what they had to stay warm.
"We had put up our pup tents, we're muddy, there's snow on the ground," he said. "We had to use our overcoat to put it on the ground and sleep on that. We slept in our clothes."
The men saw a lot of combat and had many casualties, Dias said. At one point, before replacements arrived, the outfit was down to 65 men, from 110, he said.
"By the time we left there, we had lost 13 men and we saw a lot of action," Dias said. "We had nine guys receive Silver Stars, and 13 received the Bronze Star with the 'V' for valor."
Being an Airborne Soldier takes dedication, said Allen, who retired from the Army in 1967. Working hard, giving it your all and being considered the best are things Soldiers today should strive for, he said.
"The Airborne Soldier is the best thing out there because you're going to have to do a little bit more to be a paratrooper," he said, recalling that hearing his men say he was the best first sergeant made him feel great.
"When you work hard and you hear one of the people who you are responsible for say that you're the best, you are the best. Try your best," Allen said.
Jackson said he was in the first cycle of Soldiers to integrate at Fort Jackson, S.C. He recalled going into the Army on Oct. 4, 1950.
"For me, I moved up kind of fast," he said. "I came out a staff sergeant and wasn't in the service for (but) 23 months. You never know who is watching you."
Jackson said he would like to see military service be mandatory for all Americans -- it will "make you or break you," he said.
Briscoe, who was a corporal during the war, remembers when he volunteered to be in the company after hearing that Ranger sign-ups were taking place a few blocks away at battalion headquarters.
"I jumped up off the bunk and went up there," he said. In a few days he was on his way to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Ranger training. Before long, he was in Korea.
The 2nd Rangers were officially inactivated Aug. 1, 1951.
The men displayed exemplary courage and leadership; their service and sacrifice to the nation is impressive, Chandler said.
"It reminded me that our Army has changed in many ways over the past 64 years, but some things have not changed; NCOs know that readiness is always our top priority," he said.