Rangers Lead The Way-US Army Ranger Hall of Fame Inductee

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Rangers Lead The Way-US Army Ranger Hall of Fame Inductee

MONDAY JUNE 16, 2008by John M. Galer

"Rangers lead the way," an Army motto since World War II, could still best describe an elite group of men inducted into the US Army Ranger Hall of Fame, Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Col. Leo Strausbaugh, 88, formerly of Hillsboro, now of Charleston, was one of 14 individuals to be so honored.

He was accompanied by his son Mark, and daughter Andrea Buchanan, and his four grandchildren, Craig and Scott Spinner and Nichole and Jayma Strausbaugh, and family friend John Galer.

Leo was presented with a specially cast bronze Army Ranger Hall of Fame medallion, suspended from a red, white and blue ribbon at the ceremony.The medallion signifies selfless sacrifice, professional excellence, and remarkable accomplishment in the defense of the United States and to the highest ideals of service.

Strausbaugh becomes one of only 258 persons to be inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. His biography and picture will be on display at the Ranger Hall of Fame, and his name will be engraved in the back wall of the Ranger Monument at Fort Benning, in Georgia.

He is only the fourth member of the World War II, 6th Ranger Battalion to be honored with induction to the Hall of Fame. His initial company commander Col. Arthur D. "Bull" Simons was inducted in 1992. Battalion commander Col. Henry Mucci was inducted in 1998, and Major Robert Prince, leader of the famous raid on a Japanese prisoner of war camp that liberated 500 allied POW's was honored in 1999.

Strausbaugh's Remarks
Acceptance speeches were made by all fourteen recipients and Strausbaugh's concluded the ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

He stated that one of the reputations he got in the service was not worrying too much about what those above you say. "I don't mean to refuse to take orders, but you can distort them a little bit," he said to the laughs of many of the high level officers and members of the audience present for the ceremony.

He continued, explaining that he was ordered once to scout the town of Aparri and wait for support from the paratroopers before taking the town. "The paratroopers found us grinning at them when they entered the town, after we'd taken it," he stated.

In a later operation, he had concluded his mission and needed to get back to his home area several hundred miles away. He related how he "secured" several C-47 aircraft at an airfield for the hair raising flight.

"We arrived safely or I wouldn't be here," Strausbaugh laughed. He reported to the battalion commander upon arrival and was asked "how did you get here?" Strausbaugh reported that he had flown. "Who told you to fly?" the Colonel asked.

"Well you know Colonel, it was like this, I figured that was the best way to get back," he related. He was then informed "you're not supposed to make your own decisions."

"I asked what do you want me to do, just sit around waiting for orders?" Strausbaugh asked.
He then related that the Colonel told him, "Son, you did one hell of a good job."

Military Service
Strausbaugh was nominated to the Army Ranger Hall of Fame for his outstanding leadership as an officer in Company B, 6th Ranger Battalion, during World War II, during the campaign to retake the Philippines.

He joined the Army in March 1942 and was selected for Officer Candidate School while still in basic training. He was promoted to 2nd Lt. following OCS, and assigned to the 98th Field Artillery Battalion. The 98th was shipped overseas in 1943 and Strausbaugh was assigned to B Battery led by Captain Arthur "Bull" Simons.

In February 1944, Lt. Col. Mucci took over the 98th with the purpose of turning those who volunteered into a Ranger Battalion. Strausbaugh was one of the first to volunteer.

He was promoted to 1st Lt. in July 1944. Capt. Simons chose Leo to be his second in command, and the group trained and then spearheaded the invasion of the Philippines.

Two days prior to the main invasion, Strausbaugh and B Company landed on Homohon Island, then moved to Suluan to take out a Japanese held lighthouse used to signal enemy ships and send radio messages.

Capt. Simons made the initial assault on the lighthouse, but he and his men became trapped in the lighthouse and were surrounded by Japanese. Strausbaugh led thirty five Rangers to the lighthouse, eliminated the Japanese threat and rescued Capt. Simons.

In January 1945 Ranger Companies B and E secured the island of Santiago, then moved onto Luzon. In May 1945, Strausbaugh was promoted to Captain and made B Company commander. Soon thereafter he was awarded the Bronze Star for leading B Company thirty miles beyond the front lines, to seek and locate Japanese positions. He located the Japanese positions in the vicinity of the IPO Dam and provided the intelligence for the 6th Divisions attack.

During June 1945 his B Company was chosen to become a third segment of a task force to take the town of Aparri from the Japanese.

Strausbaugh's Army Rangers, traveled over 400 miles on this 30 day mission, and positioned themselves on the Cagayan River, gathered intelligence and on June 21st, took Aparri.
B Company proceeded to and secured the air strip south of Aparri just prior to a jump by a battalion of paratroopers from the 11th Airborne.

Strausbaugh's Rangers pushed south and made contact with elements of the 37th Division which closed the gap dividing the Japanese forces, giving the Americans control of the west side of the valley.

The Aparri operation sealed the fate of the Japanese in the Philippines and ended combat operations for the 6th Army Rangers. The Battalion was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended in Sept. 1945.

Following the war, Strausbaugh spent 28 years in the US Army Reserve and rose to the rank of Colonel in 1969. He served as Director of Instruction for the 5038th USAR School, 102nd Ozark Division for five years. In 1973 he was inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame at Ft. Sill, OK, and he retired from the Army in 1974.

After retiring he ran the newsstand in Hillsboro and then worked as a circulation manager for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

He was active in Ranger Battalion Associations, Retired Officers Assn., and the American Legion. He makes himself available for speaking engagements and addressing public school and college students.

He is a lifetime member of St. Agnes Catholic Church, and the Knights of Columbus.
 
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