Merrill's Marauders

Merrill’s Marauders officially (5307th Composite Unit (provisional) ) was a US commando unit in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II who fought in the Burma Campaign.

In the Quebec Conference in August 1943 Allied leaders decided to form a US deep penetration unit that would attack Japanese troops in Burma. It was partially modelled on the Chindits. A call for volunteers attracted about 2900 men in USA from veterans to stateside units.

Unit was officially designated as 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) with a code name Galahad. They were sent to India arriving in Bombay on October 31 1943 to train and were reinforced with Air Corps and Signal Corps personnel.

The Galahad troops trained in long-range penetration tactics under the direction of brigadier general Charles Orde Wingate, commander of the Chindits. At Deolali, 125 miles outside Bombay, the troops endured both physical conditioning and close-order drill. After moving to Deogarh in central India, they received instruction in scouting and patrolling, stream crossings, weapons, demolitions, camouflage, small-unit attacks on entrenchments, evacuation of wounded, and the novel technique of supply by airdrop. In December the Galahad troops conducted a weeklong maneuver with the Chindits.

American General Joseph Stilwell was determined that the only U.S. combat troops in the theatre would not serve under Windgate who was a British officer. Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten the supreme Allied commander of the South East Asia Command (SEAC) was persuaded by Stilwell who was 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 correspondents to dub the unit "Merrill’s Marauders".

The Marauders were organized into two combat teams per battalion. In February 1944 six combat teams - coded Blue, Green, Khaki, Orange, Red and White - began a 1000-mile march over the Himalayas and through jungle to Burma. 600 men remained in India as the headquarters unit.

In Burma they were outnumbered by the men of the Japanese 18th division but caused heavy casualties. They harassed supply and communication lines and cut off the Japanese rear at Maingkwan. At March they severed Japanese supply lines in Hukawng Valley. In May 17 they helped Chinese troops to capture Myitkina airfield; the town surrendered August 4.

The Mauraders had advanced 750 miles and fought in 5 major engagements (Walawbum, Shaduzup, Inkangahtawng, Nhpum Ga, and Myitkyina) and 32 skirmishes with the Japanese Army. They lost 700 men, only 1,300 Marauders remained at capture of Myitkina and of these, 679 had to be hospitalized. This included General Merrill who had suffered a second-heart attack before going down with malaria.

The Marauders have the extremely rare distinction of having every member of the unit receive the Bronze Star Medal and in June 1944 the unit was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation

The unit must display such gallantry, determination, and esprit de corps in accomplishing its mission under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions as to set it apart and above other units participating in the same campaign.

The Marauders were consolidated with the 475th Infantry on August 10, 1944. On June 21, 1954, the 475th was redesignated the 75th Infantry. It is from the redesignation of Merrill's Marauders into the 75th Infantry Regiment that the modern-day 75th Ranger Regiment traces its current unit designation

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