71 years ago today, March 23rd 1951, the first Ranger combat jump took place. It was also the last jump of the Korean War. Dubbed Operation Tomahawk the plan was to have an airborne unit drop at Munsan-ni to trap Chinese and North Korean forces retreating from the ground elements of Operation Courageous. For the jump the 2nd and 4th Ranger companies were attached to the 187th Regimental Combat Team.
A lot of the rangers that made up the companies were WWII veterans of various airborne units. Notably the 2nd Ranger Company was a segregated unit so many of the volunteers came from the 555th PIR and jumped (no pun intended) at the chance to finally be able to have a combat jump after spending the war stateside.
Following the lead of the 187th PRCT the 2nd Rangers painted their helmets with large parachute badges on the sides of their steel helmets. The silver “jump wings” were painted on a black oval background with a thin gold border—the black and gold of the Army Ranger shoulder tab insignia.
I had originally planned to recreate this helmet but events kept conspiring to prevent it from happening. So you’ll have to suffice with excerpts from sources. I still want to try to put something together about the 187th and Korea jumps but I will have to postpone.
With most men being veterans of WWII they jumped with a substantial load. Private Billy Thrasher, a 4th Ranger BAR man, carried eighteen magazines of .30 caliber ammunition, four fragmentation grenades, and two 57 mm antitank rounds.
The paratroopers and 2nd Rangers initially only met light opposition once on the ground as the area had been plastered with surrender leaflets in the days leading up to the operation. The 4th Ranger Company was not as lucky though and had stiff resistance right off the bat.
Gear wise the paratroopers and rangers were little changed from the last war. The paratroopers still had M1943 uniforms with modified trousers. The rangers had much the same minus the rigger added pants pockets it seems. The old HBT uniforms were also a common sight. Web gear was mostly the green OD7 variety but there were still plenty of items in the older OD3 or “khaki.” Particular canteen covers and M1937 BAR belts.
If this piqued your interest ARSOF History has a pretty solid article on it and I recommend reading the whole thing as that ended up being my primary source for this.
Sources and further reading
Some footage of the 187th in the drop zone