The Spearheaders: A Personal History of Darby’s Rangers by James J. Altieri with a new introduction by MIr Bahmanyar and Colonel (retired) Mike Kershaw

James J. Altieri was born in Philadelphia, PA on March 4, 1920 and passed away on April 18, 2008 in Newport Beach, CA. A former steelworker at Lukens Steel Company near Philadelphia, he enlisted on October 8, 1941 and joined the 68th Field Artillery of the First Armored Division. While serving with the 1st AD in Northern Ireland, he volunteered for the 1st Ranger Battalion, which had been officially activated on June 19, 1942. 

Altieri was promoted from First Sergeant to Second Lieutenant with the 4th Ranger Battalion on November 21, 1943 and to First Lieutenant on February 25, 1944. He participated in six campaigns, 17 battles and four assault landings through North Africa, Sicily and Italy and was wounded twice during the Volturno-Venafro Campaign.  The 4th Ranger Battalion was deactivated in October 1944 at Camp Buckner, North Carolina. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Jim Altieri also served as a Public Relations Officer for the Tennessee Military Authority.  He was honorably discharged in 1946 as a Captain.

After the Second World War Jim ran an unsuccessful campaign as the independent Democratic candidate for Mayor in Philadelphia.

Jim stayed in touch with many Darby veterans and he even managed to seal the records of the criminal trial in Los Angeles County of Ranger Captain Charles M. “Chuck” Shunstrom who had brazenly robbed a gas station at gunpoint in 1946.

Recalled to active duty in 1951 Jim served with the Army’s Office of Information coordinating the production of Hollywood movies. In this position he supervised the feature long color documentary, This is Your Army.  He was promoted to Major.

After his service Jim continued his career as an author, having written Darby’s Rangers (1945) which inspired the 1958 Warner Brothers film Darby’s Rangers starring the iconic actor James Garner, with his subsequent memoir The Spearheaders (1960) and several screenplays. He served as military technical advisor on films such as Force of Arm (1951) and Darby’s Rangers (1958).

Jim continued his service to the Ranger community as a civilian, becoming President and Chairman of numerous WWII Ranger associations.  Jim spearheaded the creation of the WWII Ranger Monument at Fort Benning, Georgia.

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