Colonel Robert Black’s The Battalion: The Dramatic Story of the 2nd Ranger Battalion in World War II is a fascinating account of the unit that was made famous by the assault on Pointe du Hoc during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Black interweaves the individual experiences of the men with the operations of the battalion.
The book more or less covers the exploits of the battalion from its formation, April 1, 1943, to its deactivation on October 23, 1945. The book’s primary focus is on the battalion’s training and assault of Pointe du Hoc. It covers the battalion’s march to Germany and the end of the war with a special emphasis on a crucial battle in early December 1944 – Castle Hill – where the battalion captured the hill and fought off five German counterattacks.
I think Black does an excellent job in providing the history of a storied unit in the U.S. Army. He is able to get across the history of the battalion with personal touches. For example, he describes how the battalion really came into its own when Lt. Col. James Rudder took command in June 1943. As a result of his training regimen and leadership, the battalion was able to successfully complete its conquest and destruction of the guns at Pointe du Hoc.
Black has clearly done his research on the battalion by providing minute details of the battalion’s history. It is obvious he drew from numerous sources: interviews, unit histories, and memoirs. He smoothly blends all of these sources into a well-written book that keeps the attention of the reader throughout.
This book is an excellent memorial to an elite unit and the men who served in it.