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Merrill's Marauders Dangerous Missions History Channel

It is remembrance day here in Canada. We remember Merrill's Marauders. The Burma campaign was not as well known, but one hell of a fight. Pray for the souls of the lost lest we have to do it again. 


Merrill’s Marauders (named after Frank Merrill) or Unit Galahad, officially named the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), was a United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, which fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II, or China-Burma-India Theater (CBI). The unit became famous for its deep-penetration missions behind Japanese lines, often engaging Japanese forces superior in number.

In the Quebec Conference (QUADRANT) of August 1943, Allied leaders decided to form a U.S. deep penetration unit that would attack Japanese troops in Burma. The new U.S. force was directly inspired by, and partially modeled on Orde Wingate's Chindits Long Range Penetration Force. A call for volunteers attracted around 3,000 men.

Merrill and Stilwell in Burma

A Memorandum from the Operations Division (OPD) of the War Department dated 18 September 1943 (OPD 320.2) listed the proposed composition of the new American long-range penetration force, which would be an all-volunteer unit. The Caribbean Defense Command provided 960 jungle-trained officers and men, 970 jungle-trained officers and men came from Army Ground Forces (based in the Continental United States) and a further 674 "battle-tested" jungle troops from the South Pacific Command (Army veterans of the Guadalcanal and Solomon Islands campaigns), with all troops to assemble at Noumea, New Caledonia. General Douglas MacArthur was also directed to transfer 274 Army combat-experienced volunteers from the Southwest Pacific Command, veterans of the New Guinea and Bougainville campaigns. A few Pacific veteran volunteers came from stockades where volunteering earned them their freedom. They were sprinkled throughout the unit and called "The Dead End Kids" after the Hollywood film series featuring juvenile delinquents. The unit was officially designated as 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) with the code name Galahad. The men were first sent to India arriving in Bombay on 31 October 1943 to train. Here they were reinforced with Air Corps and Signal Corps personnel, as well as an animal transport company with mules and experienced muledrivers. 

The 5307th was originally destined to train in long-range penetration tactics under the direction of Brigadier Charles Orde Wingate, commander of the Chindits. At Deolali, 200 km (125 miles) outside Bombay, the troops endured both physical conditioning and close-order drill, before entraining for Deogarh, Madhya Pradesh.

Marauders rest during a break along a jungle trail near Nhpum Ga.

The unit was to have 700 animals that included 360 mules. There were to be as many more but the ship that was carrying them was torpedoed in the Arabian Sea. They were replaced by 360 Australian Waler horses that had originally been with the 112th Cavalry in New Caledonia who were deemed unfit for jungle warfare. They had traveled to India where they served with the Chinese Army before being assigned to the 5307th.

From the end of November 1943 to the end of January 1944, the 5307th remained at Deogarh and trained intensively. All officers and men received instruction in scouting and patrolling, stream crossings, weapons, navigation, demolitions, camouflage, small-unit attacks on entrenchments, evacuation of wounded personnel, and the then-novel technique of supply by airdrop. Special emphasis was placed on "jungle lane" marksmanship at pop-up and moving targets using small arms. In December the 5307th conducted a weeklong maneuver in coordination with Chindit forces.

U.S. General Joseph Stilwell was determined that the only U.S. combat troops available in the theater would not serve under British command. As the only Allied ground commander without a subordinate contingent of infantry forces from his own army, Stilwell was aware that he would have minimal influence upon Allied ground strategy in Burma unless he could gain command of the Marauders. Admiral Lord Mountbatten, the supreme Allied commander of the South East Asia Command (SEAC), was persuaded by Stilwell, deputy supreme Allied commander, that they should serve under the Northern Combat Area Command (NCAC). Stilwell appointed brigadier general Frank Merrill to command them, leading American war correspondents to dub the unit "Merrill’s Marauders".


Posted by George Freund on November 11, 2016 at 2:14 AM 644 Views