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Last 12 surviving WWII Army Rangers to receive Congress’ highest honor

U.S. Army Rangers rest atop the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they stormed in support of landings on D-Day, 6 June 1944. (U.S. Navy photo, Released)
July 06, 2022

Only 12 U.S. Army Rangers who fought in World War II are still alive today and in honor of their service, the veterans are set to receive the Congressional Gold Medal — the legislative body’s highest honor for distinguished achievements and contributions to the country.

In October, a bill to honor the U.S. Army Rangers of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medals passed in the U.S. Senate with unanimous consent. The House of Representatives passed the bill with the unanimous support of all 418 members present at the time, and on June 7, Biden signed the bill into law.

A date has not yet been set for the 12 remaining World War II Rangers to receive the medals, but U.S. House of Representatives has updated its records to reflect the award. The medals for the 12 remaining Rangers will “collectively honor the United States Army Rangers veterans of World War II” for their service and sacrifices throughout the war.

Ahead of the bill signing on June 7, Biden said, “the Congressional Medal — Gold Medal is going to go to U.S. Army Ranger veterans of World War Two — Rangers who played a crucial role in the D-Day invasion in Normandy, which began 78 years ago yesterday.”

Rangers played a key role during the Normandy Invasion by scaling the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc to knock out German artillery emplacements that were firing on the landing beaches. Rangers fought in both the European and Pacific theaters of the war and a unit of Rangers, Alamo Scouts and Filipino guerrillas liberated a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Raid at Cabanatuan on Jan. 30, 1945.

“This elite group once numbered 7,000, but now it’s down to 12,” Biden added in his June 7 remarks. “A dozen left. On behalf of our nation, we want to thank them for their heroism and their service.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) co-sponsored the bill honoring the World War II Army Rangers and led the multi-year effort to get it passed. Ernst served as an officer in the Iowa National Guard and Duckworth served as an officer in the Illinois National Guard.

“Our Army Rangers risked life and limb to defend our nation and protect freedom around the world,” Ernst said on June 7, the day after the 78th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy. “As we mark the 78th anniversary of D-Day, it is only fitting that we recognize the valor and extraordinary courage of the Greatest Generation. I am thrilled to see our long-anticipated efforts come to fruition and for these men to receive the recognition they deserve.”

Last year, Duckworth said, “U.S. Army Rangers bravely wore the uniform of this great nation and participated in some of the most important battles of World War II. The impact and influence of these elite soldiers and the sacrifices they made to protect their fellow Americans cannot be overstated.”