Legendary Army Ranger, who fought in three wars, dies at 97

Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr., center, is presented the Iron Mike Statue by Maj. Gen. John. W. Nicholson, Jr. (Pfc. Nguyen Christophe/Army)

Legendary Army Ranger, who fought in three wars, dies at 97 (militarytimes.com)

The soldier for whom the Army’s Best Ranger Competition is named passed away Sept. 11 at age 97.

Retired Lt. Gen. David E. Grange, Jr. served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He enlisted in 1943 and commissioned in 1950 after attending Officer Candidate School.

During World War II, Grange served as a paratrooper with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He played a role in the Rome-Arno, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe campaigns. When the war ended, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division before going to OCS.

Upon commission as a 2nd lieutenant, Grange was sent to Korea as a rifle platoon leader with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. After Korea, he was a Ranger instructor and served as an Army staff officer, according to the Association of the U.S. Army.

In 1963, he entered his third war as an adviser in Vietnam on his first of three tours to the country. Grange’s second and third tours were spent with the 506th Infantry Regiment and 101st Airborne Division, respectively. His last post was as commanding general of the Sixth U.S. Army.

He retired in 1984 with 41 years of service.

Grange is highly decorated, with awards including the “Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Army Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters; Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster; Distinguished Flying Cross; Soldier’s Medal; 28 awards of the Air Medal with V; Bronze Star Medal with V and four Oak Leaf Clusters; Joint Service Commendation Medal with V; United States Army Commendation Medal with V and four Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; and the Purple Heart,” reads the 506th Infantry’s unit history.

“France has awarded him the Legion of Honor in the degree of Officer,” the history adds. “Korea has awarded General Grange the Wharang Medal with Gold Star, the Kuksun Medal and the Cheonsu Medal. Vietnam awarded him the Gallantry Cross with two palms and Silver Star, and the Military Honor Medal, First Class.”

In 1984, the “LTG David E. Grange, Jr. Best Ranger Competition” was named in his honor.

About Sarah Sicard

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

(Rooiplaas comment: Thank you for your service, Sir. Ex Alto Vincimus)

44th Anniversary of Cassinga day 04 May 1978

The 44th anniversary of Cassinga took place on 8 May 2022 at the SA Museum of Military in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, organised by LAARSA (Legion of Associated Airborne of South Africa).

Although the day was overcast and the wind bitterly cold, the threat of rain could not damper the spirit of the Paratrooper veterans that attended, who looked rather handsome and dapper in their blazers and berets! Approximately 90 people (veterans and families) attended, with Rooiplaas members well represented.


Standing proud … the paratrooper veterans looking handsome!


We were seated in front of the impressive black granite airborne memorial wall, inscribed with “IN MEMORY OF THE SOLDIERS WHO SOARED LIKE EAGLES AND FOUGHT LIKE LIONS”. Engraved in three coloms are the names of the paratroopers who was either killed in battle, died in active service or died post service. The names are engraved by Manie Grove whose life mission is to honour the fallen paratroopers.

Brandon Morris, chairman of LAARSA welcomed everyone as the banner sergeants carried various airborne flags and planted them on opposite sides of the memorial wall. The paratrooper veterans stood in unison as the Paratrooper’s Prayer was read by Tommy Lamprecht. As we stood with our heads bowed for a minute of silence, Mr Rees Davies masterfully played the Last Post and the Reveille on a trumpet, and I dare say, many thoughts were remembering those who had gone before. A solemn, sacred moment indeed. Wreaths were laid by various individuals and paratrooper organisations remembering their loved ones. A special moment was when a message from Col Jan Breytenbach’s wife was read on his behalf, honouring the paratrooper’s heroism and commitment during the battle of Cassinga and the everlasting brotherhood between them.

Wreaths were laid by veterans and family members

We walked around the Museum grounds afterwards, with an excellent display of aircraft, such as the Mirage, Dakota, helicopters, tanks etc.

According to the Museum’s website, The South African National War Museum was officially opened on 29 August 1947 by the then Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal J.C. Smuts PC, CM, OM, DTD, KC. At the opening ceremony, Smuts stated the following: “… We are gathered here today to open what may not unfairly be looked upon as a memorial to the greatest united effort our country has been called upon to produce. Memorials, of course, have more than one use. They serve to remind us of what is past, of great deeds of heroism and sacrifice; they also serve as a pointer, and sometimes as a warning to the future. In 1999, following the restructuring process of national museums, the Museum was amalgamated together with the Transvaal Museum of Natural History and the National Cultural History Museum into the Northern Flagship Institution. This institution was renamed DITSONG: Museums of South Africa in 2009, and the Museum is now called the DITSONG: National Museum of Military History. The mission of the Museum is To be a memorial for all South Africans who have died in or as a result of military actions and to preserve our nation’s military history for future generations. The Museum of Military History is also regarded as the spiritual and symbolic home for all soldiers and veterans in South Africa. As a result, a number of veterans’ organisations use the Museum as their headquarters. The South African Military History Society, the South African Arms and Ammunition Collectors Association, the South African Arms and Armour Society, the Gold Reef Scale Modelers and the Warsaw Flights Commemoration Committee use the Museum for monthly and annual meetings and are considered to be part of the 20 organisations that are stakeholders1. The paratrooper brotherhood is honoured to be part of the veterans organisations that use the Museum as their headquarters and for the memorial wall where we can honour our fallen brothers.

We are grateful to LAARSA, who organises the annual Paratrooper Remembrance Day Parade and Service at the Museum of Military History.

Cassinga veterans



What do a fort, a ‘skouerskuur’, a shell hole, and a canopy have in common? ROOIPLAAS successfully established its newest Canopy on Saturday, 29 January 2022. Veterans from the Parachute Battalion, 61 Meg, Dogs-of-War, 32 Battalion, and local various MOTH clubs joined and supported us at the Maritime Club in Port Elizabeth. Most of whom were operational during the ’70s and ’80s, these brothers-in-arms celebrated their collective brotherhood, shared similar experiences, and swopped war stories starting with, “Do you remember”?

We showcased some typical paratrooper paraphernalia in the form of an exhibition. The green “pampoen” and camo net were hung from the top windowsill and covered part of a wall. Other items included packed parachutes (main and emergency), a pair of jumper boots, webbing, HALO equipment including the oxygen bottles, helmet and mask, staaldak, etc. Many non-paratrooper veterans were intrigued by the infamous and notorious marble and “tested” their strength, much to others’ laughter.  

Derrick welcomed the 60+ attendees, and opened the proceedings, requesting all to stand honouring a paratrooper tradition, that of the reading of the paratrooper’s prayer. A special word of welcome was extended to one of the legends of 1 Parachute Battalion, RSM Kitching, with over 530 static line jumps – the most ever. He further acknowledged and thanked those men in the “less glamorous” jobs such as drivers, mechanics, pilots, chefs, etc. The success of the paratroopers depended on these gentlemen.

Nico gave a superb overview of the history of 1 Parachute Battalion and 44 Parachute Brigade, and the symbolism and significance behind the eagles on the 1Bin and 44’s flags that were exhibited. Furthermore, he explained Rooiplaas’ focus and mission, what we offer, and what we stand for. Our holistic vision is not to have an organization for paratrooper veterans only, but other military veteran groups and their families can join as associate members. Much humour was around as Nico referred to a surprise contact with FAPLA in 1978 where 61-MEG were supposed to provide safety cover as they withdrew from Angola, but they had left before the time.

A few special moments and people were celebrated:

  • Samajoor Kitching (Kitcha) received a special Rooiplaas member certificate for his service to the paratrooper fraternity.
  • Samajoor Chris Schutte paid us a surprise visit. He was given a particular word of welcome by Nico, reminiscing about the old times and run-ins with Fapla and PLAN.
  • Johan (Mick) de Jager, a veteran of Alpha Company in 1979, currently wheelchair-bound was fetched and we made him part of this big day. #LeaveNoBrotherBehind!
  • Mark Hume (61MEG) played an important role in bringing everyone together. He was given a framed  Associate certificate honouring him for his commitment to the paratrooper brotherhood.

Derrick van Zyl, Lee van Schalkwyk, and George Cronje are the current Rooiplaas representatives for the Port Elizabeth Canopy.

Nico and Samajoor Kitcha successfully dispatched the paratroopers from a “C-130”. Their memories weren’t that rusty, and the gents completed their “stand-up and hook-up” procedures and successfully exited the aircraft, much to their laughter. Some even did a successful “roll “on the grass as they came in for a “landing”. After that Nico gave a brief training session to the non-paratrooper veterans on the workings of a parachute. He explained where to push, when to pull and when to pray when nothing works! They were shown to ‘stand-up & hook-up’ and shuffle-step to the ‘door’ and were successfully dispatched with big grins abounding. At the end of a toast, the veterans were requested to shout their unit’s motto … a special moment indeed.  

A special word of thanks to Pierre and Gordon from the Maritime Club for their hospitality and “behind the scenes” hard work, contributing to a successful Rooiplaas Canopy launch. New friendships were formed, and old friendships were strengthened around the fire. We are looking forward to taking hands with our fellow paratrooper veterans and those who served in other units, building on a lasting legacy of respect, honor, and brotherhood.

Ex Alto Vincimus

For Rooiplaas, Nico & Naomi

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