The Last Reunion for Merrill’s Marauders

| August 29, 2018

Military Times reports:

It’s the last reunion for members of the famed U.S. Army jungle fighters called Merrill’s Marauders. Three thousand volunteered for a dangerous secret mission during World War II — a mission so secret they weren’t told even where they were going.

They hacked their way through nearly 1,000 miles (1600 kilometers) of jungle behind enemy lines in Myanmar, then called Burma, fighting in five major and 30 minor actions against veteran Japanese troops.

“This is the last of the outfit,” said David Allen of Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The unit won a Presidential Unit Citation, six Distinguished Service Crosses, four Legions of Merit, 44 Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for every man in the regiment. Their shoulder patch was adopted by the 1st Battalion of the 75th Infantry Ranger Regiment. And their families are pushing a pair of bills to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Merrill’s Marauders.

A war correspondent created the nickname, after Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, because the formal name was a mouthful, according to the 2013 history “Merrill’s Marauders: The Untold Story of Unit Galahad and the Toughest Special Forces Mission of World War II.”

If you find time, read the whole article HERE. 

There are several good documentaries about them.

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Category: Historical, Military issues

Comments (30)

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  1. Wilted Willy says:

    These guys were truly heroes of the greatest generation! We are sadly losing too many of them as the years roll bye. May God Bless all of you!

    • desert says:

      We met a lady in Tucson Arizona whose husband was one of Merrills Mauraders..but unfortunately he had died earlier and I didn’t get to meet him…Her name was Ann and a sweet, tough little old lady, I liked her a lot!

  2. Combat Historian says:

    People today remember the “Merrill’s Marauders” because of the name given to them, but has completely forgotten its follow-on successor unit: MARS Force, which was activated 6 months later to complete the liberation of northern Burma.

    MARS Force, composed of the U.S. 475th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 124th Cavalry Regiment, and Chinese 1st Regiment, made its way in early 1945 into the final large stretch of the Burma Road in northern Burma that was still controlled by the Japanese and throttled it, forcing the Japanese to retreat southward and thus opening the way for the completion of the Ledo Road to supply China in April 1945.

    http://www.cbi-theater.com/mars/marstaskforce.html

    • Wilted Willy says:

      CH, my dad was in the 475th, he never talked much about what they had to do, just how much he hated the locals!

    • T1B says:

      I started my Army career as a 2LT in 1-124 CAV. The unit was very proud of it’s history in the Mars Force, having added the symbol for Mars to the unit crest following WWII.

  3. AW1Ed says:

    Damn. Jungle warfare at its harshest; amazing story from a mostly forgotten part of WW-2. Thanks for posting, Dave.

  4. Mick says:

    This comment is not intended to disparage Merrill’s Marauders in any way.

    This comment is aimed at the reporter who wrote the linked article. In the article, she writes:

    ‘[…]

    Still others, some of them joining when the unit was training in India, were like the “Dirty Dozen,” leaving the stockade for danger and a pardon.

    […].’

    Now maybe that actually happened, and maybe it didn’t (it probably didn’t happen; prisoners in the stockade/brig typically aren’t stellar performers who could be trusted to be effective in the harsh jungle combat environment that was experienced by Merrill’s Marauders).

    However, an unnecessarily dramatic statement like that rings of Hollywood fantasy (along the lines of the oft-repeated poser claim of ‘the judge told me that it was either prison or the military for me’), and it potentially casts doubt on the veracity of this article when it clearly shouldn’t.

    The true story of Merrill’s Marauders is dramatic enough as it is. There’s no need for the reporter to try to enhance the drama by bringing in a potentially bogus ‘Dirty Dozen’ aspect to the story.

    Rant complete.

    • Combat Historian says:

      Same thing happened in the 1968 movie “Devil’s Brigade” about the elite combined American-Canadian 1st Special Service Force.

      In the movie, the Canadians were portrayed as the cream of the Canadian Army crop, while the Americans were portrayed as criminal goofballs and losers cleaned out from various U.S. military prisons and stockades.

      The real truth was that BOTH the Americans and Canadians who volunteered for the 1st SSF were intelligent highly-motivated volunteers who wanted to serve in an elite outfit. The American veterans of the Devil’s Brigade never forgave Hollywood for this horribly false portrayal of them in the movie…

      • rgr769 says:

        According to what I have seen of the history of the 1st SSF, the American volunteers were primarily hunters, skiiers, and other flavors of outdoorsmen, not yard-birds from Army stockades. But then we can’t expect millennial “jornolisters” to know history or the truth, because they have been indoctrinated to become minions and spokesholes in a Ministry of Truth a la George Orwell’s “1984.”

        • Hondo says:

          millennial “jornolisters”

          .

          I think you misspelled the term, rgr769. Today, I believe the correct spelling is journalistas – as in “good little Left-leaning journalistas” (and yes, the quoted phrase is repetitive by design, for emphasis).

    • desert says:

      Actually…isn’t “BOGUS’ the byline of ALL reporters anymore? Maybe always was!

  5. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    “A war correspondent created the nickname, after Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, because [Frank’s Jap F..kers was a bit much for the public to handle.]”

  6. Ex-PH2 says:

    We are coming down to the last of this generation. I see obits in the Sunday paper with “WWII/or/Korean War vet” included, sometimes with very little information about where they were or what they did.

    I’m sorry to see any of them go.

    • rgr769 says:

      I was in Columbus, GA once about 20 years ago when they were having a reunion. Had a drink in the bar with several of them. They appeared to be some interesting characters. They clearly enjoyed their Class VI supplies.

    • desert says:

      Amen Ex-ph….they were unique, honorable, beyond brave, they truly were the “Greatest Generation” imho

  7. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    I heard that the Marauders learned how to survive in the Jungle like the Japanese or was it the Chindits or maybe both.

  8. rgr769 says:

    For those unaware of it, the patch of the Merrill’s Marauders was incorporated into the DUI (regimental crest) of the 75th Infantry Regiment (RANGER), as they are part of the regiment’s ancestry and lineage.

  9. Green Thumb says:

    Hardcore Motherfuckers.

    RLTW!

  10. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Some bad assed MOFOS!

  11. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    A number of years ago at our Saturday breakfast at the bagel tree, I noticed a car with a Marine Raider plate on the cars rear. Saw the Vet once or twice then haven’t seen him since. We are losing the Greatest Generation Vets at a fast rate. Related to this are the number of golf courses going down the tubes and condos being built. Two in my area a couple of miles apart, and one of them next door to my development. Golf was a big thing to that generation and the kids growing up are into their phones and computers and could give a shit about golf. Not all of them but enough to shut down these courses.

  12. HMC Ret says:

    Warriors all

  13. 5th/77thFA says:

    They wrote the corrections to the original book on how to be a Warrior.

  14. PSYOP SGM says:

    Always wondered if the General was any relation to me (same last name, same spelling) never been able to find out.

  15. Ken.T. says:

    true Hero’s and proud men of a thank full nation and world.

  16. Burma Bob says:

    I work in Kachin State. Back in the 1990’s we had a few OSS Det 101 and Merillls Marauders vets visit the embassy. The OSS vets did the most for the Kachin Rangers they worked with during the war, supporting schools and even getting U of Oklahoma to send out agricultural experts.

    The troops in Merills Marauders were not the pick of the litter, as GEN Stilwell could not get the Army to support the CBI theater with any actual combat units. The rest of the Army did pretty much what they usually do when told to cough up bodies for a provisional unit: seize the opportunity to offload deadbeats. Additionally they were at the very ass-end of a long logistics tail. Building the Stilwell road from India to China was the priority.

    I have spent several months in the field in the Hugawng valley doing mobile phone tower construction. Most of the population of the valley lives in villages along the old Stilwell road. The rest of the valley running north of the road is a nasty flat swampy area, with creeks and rivers to cross about every KM or so. Malaria and scrub typhus are universal there; everybody has it, just got over it, or is about to get it.

    To the east of the valley are mountains that are in the line of march heading into Myitkyina. These were the last obstacles to the objective.

    All-in-all, GEN Stilwell was asking way too much for the unit to make a long approach march and then expect them to be combat effective for a 6-week campaign against a larger and well fed and rested Japanese division. Had Merrills Marauders not managed to get an airfield early on, they would have been toast. As it was, when they hit town 4/5ths of the unit was not exactly combat effective due to disease, and malaria and scrub typhus killed as many as combat.

    Without the OSS and Kachin Rangers for support and intelligence, I have no idea how they would have done it. Everyone I’ve talked to, including some of the last surviving Kachin Rangers, say that they enjoyed nearly perfect situational awareness coming and going, so at least there were no surprises.

    The American embassy here takes no effort to reach out or maintain contact with any of the Kachins (even though the new embassy has a statue in the courtyard of an OSS guy and a Kachin Ranger). To its credit, the OSS Det 101 did a fabulous job of paying off and properly discharging each Ranger when the unit was abruptly disbanded, to include awards and decorations. The surviving Kachins still remark on the novelty of getting paid on time, and all of the swell training they got, and how they were treated on par with American troops (this was different from how the British treated their native troops).

    There is not much left of the battlefield. Myitkyina was pretty much flattened and rebuilt. Once in a great while I ride across old Bailey bridges that are somehow still in one piece, and of course there are a number of the original M35’s and Dodge 5/4 tons on the road (I contracted several to haul tower parts).

    I’ve been able to get a few Americans to come to Kachin State, But it’s usually older guys like myself who are looking for a challenge.

    See: http://www.snowland-agarwood.com. This company we set up in Putao, where OSS had its first detachment (“Knothead”)

    • 2/17 Air Cav says:

      It’s funny about their not being the pick of the litter, as you say, and I’m assuming you know what you’re talking about. What’s funny is that time and again, the military’s extreme badasses have been very bad boys, marauders (small m) in their own right. I’m not talking Hollywood, with the choir boy turned soldier turned hero. I’m talking tear-it-up, disappear-for-a-day-or-two, detest-authority bad boys who, when the shit hits the fan, are front and center.

      • Burma Bob says:

        “Not pick of the litter” in the words of Stilwell, Merrill and others refer to poor physical fitness, discipline problems, low IQ’s, etc. Even Merrill himself was not in good shape and I believe had a heart attack in the field. The situation was not helped by Stilwell himself, who never quite got around to flagging the unit with some permanent lineage & honors. It apparently had an effect on morale. The Chindits had much more time to train before they deployed, and were composed of cohesive standing British and Indian Army units, to include Ghurka battalions. (They deployed to the south of Merrill’s Marauders’ AO).

        • 2/17 Air Cav says:

          “low IQ’s”…Since you are an expert, or appear to be, please provide some support for that. Sounds like you’re a big fan of the Burmese Rangers.

          • Burma Bob says:

            There are several more recent books out on the OSS, and in the 1950’s the Army did a series on problems of command in the CBI theater (reports like these were done for every theater).
            With Merrill’s Marauders the problem was that by and large it was not a hand-picked unit of volunteers, and unlike 1st SSF, 10th Mountain, or the Ranger BN, it did not have the benefit of a long specialized training period in CONUS or the UK before deploying.
            The other troop problem was the engineer battalions building the road; these were segregated units with white officers, and discipline problems and desertions were common.

            The Kachin Rangers were a good unit. America’s first experience with contracting local troops, and the contracts were honored. OSS Det 101 is an interesting study in itself, if for nothing in its legal efficiency and its ability to overcome logistical hurdles to make good on contracts with the Kachins (who weren’t asking much at all). Working up in Kachin State, the locals expect a certain level of honesty from their American employers, but they give a lot for what they get.