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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.”

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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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OSS in the C.B.I. – 1945

In the book, “A COVERT AFFAIR”, Jennet Conant follows the OSS detachments that operated in the CBI Theater.  These members of the forerunner of the CIA included Elizabeth (Betty) MacDonald, her future husband Frederick MacIntosh, Julia McWilliams and her future husband Paul Child, and many others.

From time to time, the OSS teams would report armed clashes in the area (China) as local factions jockeyed for position, “The warlords were always shooting at each other,” recalled Betty, “But we never really felt scared.  We had pretty good protection, and the Flying Tigers kept the Japanese at bay.”

Betty MacDonald w/ colleagues in the doorway of the flooded MO print shop during the 1945 flood in Kumming. The fortified walls around the outpost made the OSS compound a lagoon.

Betty also reported, “the Chinese never followed the rules.  Smuggling was a way of life.  They brazenly peddle state secrets and are equally overt about trading everything from information to arms with  the Japanese.  Everything is for sale.”

Chiang’s people had to approve any proposed OSS operation.  Paul Child said, “The warp and woof of war in China is complex beyond belief.  The inner workings, the who-influences-who, the deals, the sleights of hand, the incredible chicaneries, the artistic venalities, the machinations and the briberies.

Julia Child & others of the OSS

“Some facts are so incredibly romantic and sinister that only hearing hundreds of verbal reports from the mouths of horses themselves finally convinces me of the dreadful reality of the under-the-sea war – the war of back alleys, back rooms, big parties, magnificent whores and equally magnificent blackmails.  It almost becomes the “real” war of which the news-war is only the surface expression.”

American officers of OSS Detachment 101

The chances for honest-to-God peace in China seemed almost impossible.  Even with the European part of the war officially over, the action in the CBI seemed to be amplifying.  Paul Child wrote home to his twin brother Charles in dismay, “Building up, plans for months ahead, materials and personnel being striven for and allocated, and anticipated dangers faced.  Perhaps you will never know what it is to feel profoundly lonely.  Well, you become empty, unbased and bereft.”

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

Roundup’s staff cartoonist, Sgt. Ralph J. Somerville, was so overjoyed on V-E Day that he sat right down and drew up this cartoon of the situation in which Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito find themselves. Of course, as nay fool can plainly see, there isn’t but one title for this: Two off their War Horses and One on His Ass.

Bulletin Board: “There will be absolutely no more experiments in jet propulsion with company vehicles!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Elmer Brown – Orlando, FL; US Navy, WWII, Lt.Commander (Ret. 30 y.)

Arthur Kelm-Gelien (Tab Hunter) – San Francisco, CA; US Coast Guard, (actor)

Saman Kunan – Roi Et, THAI; Thai Navy SEAL, Cave rescue

Cidon Long – Anson, TX; US Army, WWII, homefront German POW guard

Joseph Maciel – South Gate, CA; US Army, Afghanistan, Cpl., 1/28/3rd Infantry Division, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, KIA

Helen Miller – St. Paul, MN; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO

George Ritter – Toledo, OH; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Robert Sutcliffe – Lynbrook, NY; US Navy, WWII

Deisel Tykeson – Ross, ND; US Army, WWII, PTO

Harrison Ward – Lenoir, NC; US Army, WWII, Bronze Star

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PERSONAL NOTE:  My internet was cut-off this morning, hence the late post and lack of visits to your sites.  I will make every attempt this afternoon to correct this.  I thank you in advance for your patience.

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Japanese Blitzkrieg (1)

Japan's plan

Japan’s plan

 

The Japanese-style blitzkrieg offensive continued to spread throughout the Pacific carefully designed to weaken the Anglo and US strength in the Asia-Pacific zones and give Tokyo the time to seize strategic bases and economic resources.  The colonial outposts from Hong Kong to Manila and Malaya to Singapore were attacked while the US Naval Fleet lay crippled at Pearl Harbor.

Japanese troops in Johore, Malaya

Japanese troops in Johore, Malaya

Churchill, elated over the American attack, also saw the “terrible forfeits in the East” due to his misjudgment of Japan’s military power.  There would be little in the Pacific remaining between Japan and the virtually undefended Australia and New Zealand.

Malaya and Thailand had been invaded by the Japanese 5th and 18th divisions, along with the Imperial Guards, with the missions to capture Singapore, her port and the British troops surrounding it.  Let it be noted that the Malaya/Thailand and Singapore campaigns were designed as 2 separate strategies and were considered by the Japanese to be the most vital.  Pearl Harbor was merely meant to render the US fleet incapable of interfering with these operations.

Canadian troops training in Hong Kong, December 1941

Canadian troops training in Hong Kong, December 1941

The Japanese 15th Army on the Kra Isthmus of Burma were to sever the supply routes of supplies to China and secure the Burmese oil.  The British on  mainland China were pushed back due to the assault by 3 enemy regiments opposite Hong Kong.

Japanese Blitz in action

Japanese Blitz in action

8 December, in the Philippines, the Japanese infantry units went in to occupy Bataan while other units landed at Vigan and Aparri in the north portion of Luzon.  /  Wake Island began to receive heavy naval and aerial enemy bombardment.

FDR gives the "Infamy" speech

FDR gives the “Infamy” speech

FDR gave his “a day that will live in infamy” speech to Congress and they immediately passed the resolution to declare war on Japan. (NOT Germany).  Thirty-three minutes later, the president cabled Churchill_____

“…TODAY ALL OF US ARE IN THE SAME BOAT WITH YOU AND THE PEOPLE OF THE EMPIRE AND IT IS A SHIP WHICH WILL NOT AND CANNOT BE SUNK.”

Click on to images to enlarge.

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Humor – and the training shall begin…..

instructor.jpg Muscleheaded

 

armylife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postcards are courtesy of http://muscleheaded.wordpress.com/

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John Borowski – Port Allegany, PA; US Army, WWII, SSgt., Europe/Africa/Middle East Theater

WWII Memorial poem at Arlington Cemetery

WWII Memorial poem at Arlington Cemetery

Donald Chapman – Redding, CA; US Army, Korea, 64th FAR/25th Division

Alex Giblin – Richmond, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 436608, Flt. Sgt., WWII

Raymond Hatfield – Cythniana, KY; US Navy, WWII

Joseph McEntee – Washington DC; US Army, WWII & US Air Force, Korea, LtCol. (Ret.)

Kenneth Rankin – Ottawa, CAN; RAF/RCAF, WWII, (Ret.)

Floyd “Flip” Soden – WPalm Beach, FL; US Navy,  USS Rowe 564

Robert Van Buren – WPalm Beach, FL; US Army, WWII

Adlophus “Ross” Wright  Jr. (89) – Columbia, MO; US Air Force, POW

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