Ranger James J. Altieri
Born: 4 March 1920 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: 18 April 2008 in Newport Beach, California
Army Serial Number: 331011404
Ranger Battalion/Company: 1/F & 4/F
Rank: 1ST LT
Battles/Campaigns/Significants: N. Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily and Italy
Medals/Awards: CIB, BSM/OLC, PH/OLC, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, EAME Campaign Medal 6 battle stars and 4 arrowheads, PUC
James (Jim) Altieri was born in Philadelphia and raised by his aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Pasqual Altieri in Parkesburg, PA.
Jim entered the Army in November, 1941. While in Northern Ireland as a Corporal (T/5) in the First Armored Division, he was informed that Major William O. Darby was seeking volunteers for a newly formed unit to be the American equivalent of the British Commandoes. This unit would be known as the lst Ranger Battalion and would be trained by the famed Achnacarry, Scotland Commando Training Depot under the master Commando leader Col. Charles Vaghan. Jim promptly volunteered for, and was accepted by, Major William O. Darby into the lst Ranger Battalion, and assigned to Company F. The Rangers trained by and with the British Commandoes in Achnacarry, Scotland followed by amphibious training in Van Crippsdale and Dundee, Scotland in preparation for the invasion into North Africa.
Jim first saw action during the invasion of Arzew, Algeria during which he participated in seizing the French artillery battery guarding the landing beaches and paving the way for the 1st Infantry Division to land unchallenged. This action seems to be the probable basis for the title of his first book, The Spearheaders.
Following the invasion at Arzew the 1st Rangers continued fighting in Algeria and in Tunisia in February made the rather spectacular night raid on the Italian positions at Sened Station in which he participated. Following this they made a very successful attack on an Italian strong position at El Guettar on 20 March, 1943. The 1st Ranger Bn was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in recognition of these actions.
The next month it was decided to divide the 1st Ranger Bn into three cadres to form new Ranger Battalions, the 1st, , 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions Jim became a Platoon Sergeant in F Co., 4th Ranger Bn and participated heavily in training the new volunteers in Africa.
The African missions being accomplished, it was now time for the invasion of Sicily at Gala with the Rangers again spearheading the effort on 9 July, 1943. Jim distinguished himself in terms both of fighting and leadership, earning him a promotion to First Sergeant of F Co.
Italy being next, the 4th Rangers were assigned to lead the amphibious attack on the small town of Maiori north of Sorrento on 3 September, 1943. Operating from the mountainous area the Ranger Battalions were able to visit considerable damage on the German forces. The Rangers continued fighting in the Venefro region (near Monte Casino) through out November. Acting on the recommendations of the Ranger Force, Jim received a Battlefield Commission from General Mark Clark, Commanding General 5th U.S. Army.
Following the amphibious landing at Anzio (22 January) the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions were given the task of infiltrating the German lines and taking the town of Cisterna which was situate on high ground. The 4th Bn was well to their left near another town, Feminamorta. Overwhelmed by well-fortified positions, tanks and German reinforcements the 1st and 3rd were trapped. The 4th Ranger Bn tried valiantly to come to their relief. Lt. Altieri was given command of F Co. and led it in their attempt to break through to the other two battalions. Taking heavy casualties the attempt failed. Sadly the mission failed and the surviving men of the 1st and 3rd were taken prisoner. Following this he was promoted to 1st Lt. He was wounded twice during these encounters.
Following the disbanded of the 4th Ranger Battalion at Camp Butner, NC in October, 1944, Jim was appointed as a Public Relations Officer for the Tennessee Military Authority and promoted to Captain. Released from the Army in 1946, he was recalled for duty for the Joint Services at the Pentagon (1948-1950), serving in the Office of the Chief of Information, and then as Chief of the Army Pictorial Branch. During this latter assignment he wrote and supervised the U.S. Army film, This is Your Army. Following the war Jim remained in the reserves, eventually attaining the rank of Major. His service assignment complete, he remained in the Army Reserve retiring as a Major where he continued to perpetuate the Ranger Creed.
Altieri left the military only to be called back into service during the Korean War where he served in the Office of the Chief of Information, as Chief of the Army Pictorial Branch. His obligation complete, he remained in the Army Reserve retiring as a Major where he continued to perpetuate the Ranger Creed.
Altieri’s Ranger experience created such a passion, it inspired him to write two best selling books on the history of Darby Rangers, and a screen play which became the feature motion picture “Darby’s Rangers”. He visited Ft. Benning often to motivate and mentor Rangers through his personal example and was requested by Gen. Downing, among others, to be the Guest Speaker at numerous Ranger School graduations. His dedication to Rangers further was evident in being responsible for the WWII Monument at Sacrifice Field dedicated to those Rangers who gave the ultimate price for freedom and acknowledged by Gen. Downing. Letter Attached.
Altieri served as President of the WWII Ranger Battalions Association (RBA) and spoke at formal functions perpetuating the history and successes of Rangers and enriching the moral of each Ranger in attendance. He was given the General Darby Award by the RBA for his contributions made to the furtherance of Ranger history and his continued work on behalf of Rangers in the Ranger Community at civilian organization functions.
As members of the RBA began to pass on and their numbers dwindle, Altieri had a vision to unite Ranger families and insure the Ranger history would not die, became reality when he created and founded the organization, Sons & Daughters of WWII Rangers (S&D). This organization with its new and younger Ranger family members has found and linked many Rangers who had not seen one another since the War; help in research for family members requesting information of their Ranger’s service and others from around the world, assist Rangers in keeping their chapters active and in planning and coordinating the RBA National reunions. Others living outside the United States now have a place to go to honor those Rangers who liberated their countries and many have joined the S&D as Honorary Members. Insofar as the Ranger Battalions Association of WWII is proud of is Altieir’s significant contribution through his conceiving and formation of the Sons & Daughters of WWII Rangers, bringing together Ranger families and Ranger history across America and throughout Europe, Great Britain and Asia.