Honoring Merrill’s Marauders

There is a passing member of Merrill’s Marauders in the Farewell Salutes today.   This post is an attempt to honor their contributions.

James E. Richardson

“If they can walk and carry a gun,” Major General Joseph Stillwell presciently told Brigadier General Frank Merrill in 1943, “they can fight!”

After being run out of the Burmese jungle by the Japanese in May of 1942, Stillwell had, according to one war correspondent, appeared “like the wrath of God and cursing like a fallen angel.”

The general didn’t mince his words either, telling reporters that the joint expedition between a small contingent of American, British, and Chinese troops “got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake it.”

Gen. Stillwell

The following year a determined Stillwell took a major step toward getting his wish, as allied leaders, many who sought to rectify the previous campaign’s novice display of jungle fighting, mapped out a plan for a ground unit trained and equipped to engage in “long-range penetration” missions.

In what was to be the forerunner for today’s special forces units, 3,000 American men volunteered for the newly formed 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) — code name: Galahad.

Dubbed Merrill’s Marauders after their commander, the men were tasked with a “dangerous and hazardous mission” behind Japanese lines in Burma, where the fall of the country’s capital of Rangoon had severely threatened the Allied supply line to China.  The Marauders were tasked with cutting off Japanese communications and supply lines and pushing enemy forces north out of the town of Myitkyina, the only city with an all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma.

Merrill’s Marauders

Although operational for only a few months, Merrill’s Marauders gained a fierce reputation for hard fighting and tenacity as the first American infantry force to see ground action in Asia.

“Highly trained infantrymen whom we regard today as heroes, such as the Special Forces, look to Merrill’s Marauders as role models,” Eames said in a press release. “The unimaginable conditions these men successfully fought through changed the understanding of the limits of human endurance in armed conflict. The Congressional Gold Medal brings them the public recognition they deserve. We are honored to have assisted in getting it across the finish line.”

2 Aug. ’44, 75 yards from enemy positions, US Army Signal Corps, Merrill’s Marauders. named 5307th Composite Unit

Reached by email, Eames said he became involved after a colleague and fellow attorney, Scott Stone, met Marauders Bob Passanisi and Gilbert Howland in the cafeteria of the Senate Dirksen Building.

“When he found out why they were there, he immediately offered to help,” Eames said. “One of the first things he did was call us, and I agreed to get a team involved.”

For the other surviving Marauders, the acknowledgement is somewhat bittersweet.

2 of the survivors of Merrill’s Marauders

“This recognition means so much to me and the other survivors and our families,” Passanisi, Merrill’s Marauders Association’s spokesperson, said in the release. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”  (now only 7 remain).

Passanisi was luckier than most. Traversing nearly 1,000 miles behind enemy lines, the Marauders marched over some of the most treacherous terrain in the world, combating not only a determined enemy, but fighting off myriad diseases, scorching heat, venomous snakes, and bloodsucking leeches.

The exploits of the Marauders and their daring mission to recapture the vital town and airstrip at Myitkyina made headlines throughout the United States in 1944 — but at a steep cost.

movie poster, Merrill’s Marauders

After five months of combat, 95 percent of the Marauders were dead, wounded, or deemed no longer medically fit for combat. By the time the force was deactivated in August 1944, many, including Congress, wondered whether Stillwell had sacrificed the Marauders due to poor planning and his own dreams of glory and revenge.  Still, despite the unit’s staggering losses — fighting in five major battles and over 30 other engagements — the Marauders became one of the most renowned units to come out of World War II, carrying with them a legacy of bravery and the fortitude of the human spirit.

Seventy-six years later, the recognition by Congress shines “a light on that forgotten theater in the Pacific that was so crucial in defeating the Japanese,” said Gilbert Howland, a Marauder veteran.

“We did it because our country needed us.”

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

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Military Humor – 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Fay (Fotini) Argy – Camden, NJ; Civilian, Bud Manufacturing, WWII, bombs

Mary ‘Lorraine’ Bromley – Rock Island, IL; US Navy WAVE, WWII

Frank DeNoia – New haven, CT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Canberra

Kenneth Fenton – Paraparaumu, NZ; NZ Army # 30202, WWII, ETO & PTO / Vietnam, Colonel (Ret. 32 y.)

William J. LaVigne II – USA; US Army, Afghanistan & Iraq, MSgt., HQ Co/Special Operation Command, 2 Bronze Stars

Anna McNett – Grand Rapids, MI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

Richard Nowers – Atkinson, IL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 507th Fighter Group, 3 Bronze Stars

Anthony Polizzi – NY; US Air Force, Captain, 15th Maintenance Group, Wing Comdr.

James E. Richardson – Knoxville, TN; US Army, WWII, CBI, Merrill’s Marauder

William Salley – Springfield, SC; US Army, Korea & Vietnam, Lt. Colonel (Ret.), Purple Heart

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About GP

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GP is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on January 4, 2021, in Post WWII, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 116 Comments.

  1. The 75th Ranger Regiment had a great reputation

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful recognition and remembrance, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Merrill’s Marauders is one of my favorite WW II movies

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “Unimaginable conditions” is an understatement. I am glad to hear the last survivors were able to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. The other men who fought know it too, and appreciate it from afar, beyond sight, but only a thought away. They are not on the front lines of life with us anymore, but I salute them just the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “We did it because our country needed us.” That tells you about the character of the Greatest Generation! They deserve the Congressional Gold Medal for all that they did!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such incredible raiders

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another great post GP! It’s worth noting today’s 75th Ranger Regiment patterned their badge, or crest, after the Marauders’ shoulder patch, and that 14 Japanese-American (Nisei) Military Intelligence Service translators were also assigned to the unit. Unlike the Navy, Marine Corps and Army Air Forces, the Army used hundreds of willing Japanese-American men as front-line translators and interrogators in the China-Burma-India and Southwest Pacific theaters. But for them to go behind enemy lines, that was really gutsy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Army Air Corps did indeed have Nisei translators. They were not always included on the roster, but a number of them were assigned to the 11th Airborne Division. .

      Like

  8. These guys plus Darby’s Rangers are two of my favorites!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Happy New Year, GP. You always have interesting stories to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think that the attrition rate of 95% says it all, G. So hard to imagine. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello and happy new year
    This post about the Marauders seems like this wouod make a good mini series and it is too bad the recognition came so late
    But what’s powerful for the Marauders were!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. A very interesting post, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The Marauders had a great reputation but with 95% dead or severely wounded I’m not sure I call that a success. Yes, they did their part in defeating the Japanese but at a great cost of lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I hadn’t heard of Merrill’s Marauders. Thank you for shining the spotlight on their bravery and service to country.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Merrill’s Marauders before now – I can’t believe why!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hoping you and your’s a Very Good and Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This unit and its soldiers have accomplished stuff of which legends are made.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Imagine the horror scenes they have been through!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Wonderful post,GP. I had heard of Merrill’s Marauders, a lot from the Hollywood movie of the same name. I really enjoyed learning more about the unit .

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Wow, GP. Thanks for shining the light on these brave men.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A great tribute to a hard-fighting group of brave men, GP. I enjoyed that film with Jeff Chandler too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. American warriors are an annoying bunch, aren’t they? They just won’t quit.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Brave, patriotic volunteers. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I remember as a child seeing a movie about this group of soldiers, called, “Merrill’s Marauders.” Wonderful bravery and immensely inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Their efforts SHOULD be recognized, their heavy losses contemplated. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The daring exploits of Merrill’s Marauders have been well documented in books and at least one movie. I’m glad they finally received long overdue official recognition from Congress. Thanks for letting us know.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Recognition well past due.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Thanks for this. I’m familiar with the name, but I wasn’t aware of the scope and nature of the mission. Like so many other stories from WWII, this never seemed as costly as it was.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. “We did it because our country needed us.” May we never forget their service and sacrifice.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I loved reading about Merrill’s Marauders as a teen ager reading about the War in the Pacific.

    Liked by 2 people

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