Lieutenant Colonel Henry Mucci was the man chosen to train a Ranger
outfit that would participate in the Pacific Theater of World War
II. Like Darby before him, Mucci was a West Point graduate with the
ability to win the respect, admiration, and love of those who served
under him. With the need for an outfit in the Pacific to be trained
to conduct the now trademark suicide missions of the famed Army
Rangers, Mucci was the man assigned this task.
The men Mucci started with were from the
98th. They were boys from farms and ranches of middle America --
big, strong men known as "mule skinners." Like the Original 1st
Ranger Battalion whose ranks boasted two-thirds from the upper
mid-west, the 6th Battalion was also predominantly from the same
part of the United States. They had been recruited to train in the
mountains of New Guinea with heavy artillery carried on the backs of
pack animals. By 1944, the Army considered the mule skinners
obsolete, and when General Krueger went looking to train a new
special unit, he looked to the strength in the 98th mule skinners
for volunteers. Mucci was the man assigned the job of training them
and the initiation of the last Ranger Battalion to participate in
World War II commenced.
Training was conducted under the extreme
tropic heat and humidity in the snake infested jungles of New
Guinea. He took on the unit of Army mule skinners in the 98th,
offered any who felt they couldn’t handle the stress of training and
active duty as a Ranger the opportunity to be reassigned, because
the role of a Ranger was strictly volunteer.
Mucci personally taught all aspects of
fighting: hand to hand combat, knifing, bayoneting and marksmanship.
He led them on torturous marches across the tropical jungles,
through treacherous rivers, and up mountainsides in ferocious heat.
Jungle combat, night combat, amphibious combat: Mucci taught and
reveled in it all. For one year, Mucci worked with his men in the
tradition of the Army Ranger units that came before them.
John Richardson, 6th Army Ranger,
recalled: "I thought he was going to kill us. He called us rats, he
called us everything but a child of God. And he told us, “I'm going
to make you so d----- mean, you will kill your own grandmother…” I
wondered why he was putting us through so much, but before it was
over, there was no question about it, I knew why. And once he got us
trained and picked out, he loved us to death. And there wasn't
anything too good for us. He knew what he was doing when he was
Bob Anderson, 6th Army Ranger
remembered, "He worked us so hard that sometimes I'd think
I hate that man and I'd
double-time back to my camp and say, 'You can't kill me, I can do
more. You can't give me enough, I can do more than you can give me.'
So he had us in shape and once he got us trained he was the nicest
man you ever saw. But he
knew how to train men."
No doubt, Mucci got his men in peak physical condition. They were
ready for anything.
Robert Prince said, "He made a Ranger battalion out of a bunch of
mule skinners, and he inspired us and trained us -- and any success
we had, belongs to Colonel Mucci."
When General Walter Krueger (Alamo
Scout) and one of his top men, Horton White, were approached to
conduct a raid on the POW camp at Cabanatuan, he needed the muscle
of another highly trained unit. They chose Mucci and the 6th Ranger
Battalion to lead the raid on Cabanatuan, which was now home to
survivors of the famed Bataan Death March.
As Krueger considered the raid, he
knew they would need an elite force of special operations to
accomplish this mission. Hampton Sides, author of
writes: "[They] would need a group of men trained in stealth
techniques and the tactics of lightning assault. The expeditioners
must be in exceptional physical condition, as they would have to
walk some 30 miles on foot in each direction, marching around the
clock. They would have to be versatile, self-reliant, and extremely
proficient with light arms, as the odds were better than good that
they would encounter major enemy resistance along the trek."
The rest is history. Mucci's actions and
decisions on the raid were flawless. General Douglas MacArthur
awarded Mucci the Distinguished Service Cross and said that the raid
was " magnificent and reflected extraordinary credit to all
concerned. "The military promoted Mucci to a full colonel as a
result of his leadership in the success of the Cabanatuan Raid.
Upon his return home, Mucci was treated
as a national hero in his home town of Bridgeport, Connecticut. He
became an oil representative for a Canadian firm in Bangkok.
Demonstrating the Ranger spirit that lived on in all Rangers, Mucci
died at age 86 in Florida from injuries related to swimming in rough