FORT BENNING, Ga. (WRBL) — You’ve probably heard of the U.S. Army Rangers, the elite fighting force trained for decades at Fort Benning.
You’ve also no doubt heard of the Korean War. But what you probably haven’t heard about is the story of the first, the last, and the only all black Ranger unit–the hidden heroes of war.
WRLB’s Laporsche Thomas takes us into the heart of the last few living soldiers of this special unit, their fierce battles overseas, and their long fight for equal justice here at home.
Sixty-eight years ago 126 men joined one of the most elite combat units in the world.
They were strong. They were fearless. They were “The 2nd Airborne Ranger Company.”
And one parachute jump at a time, these men set out to prove that as the first and only black Army Rangers they were up for the job.
“You want to prove that you’re just as good as any other man,” says Ranger Small.
No matter what anyone thought, “You had to be twice as good to get half as far,” says Officer Albert Cliette.
Cliette is the only living officer from the company. He served as Ranger Boatwright’s platoon leader. The two men fought with 124 other men in Korea from Christmas day 1950 until the fall of 1951. It was a dangerous duty.
“We were fighting two battles. One out there and another one at home,” Cliette adds.
Ranger Small says, “We was invited to Alabama regimes to speak about how we operated in Korea. In the hall they had murals on the wall of Korean ranger companies. We look up there for 2nd Ranger company, it was damn near white. We told him you gone have to darken those pictures up. The 2nd Ranger company was all black.”
That’s when when Wheeler, Boatwright, and Cliette decided to write their story. The book is titled, “The U.S. Army’s first, last, and only all black Rangers: 2nd Airborne Ranger Company.”
Today Wheeler, 88, Boatwright, 90, do what they can so that today’s young black men and women know about the battles of the past.
Today, they have a friend willing to help them do keep their story alive, and perhaps achieve some of the awards and honors other units have received.
Georgia State Senator Ed Harbison is a man who also served his country in the military and faced some of the same challenges.
“Ironically on the home front you had John Lewis being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and that kind of thing and that atmosphere couldn’t just be isolated in the Alabama area. It filtered into the troops and Marines and so forth in Vietnam as well.”
Now Senator Harbison fights for veterans across the state. He wants to see these men honored for their service so many years ago.
“I intend to introduce a resolution and if there is anyone surviving we can bring here to the Georgia general assembly. I certainly intend to recognize them during black history month and afterwards.”