Support Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal bill The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have reintroduced legislation to award the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), “Merrill’s Marauders,” the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service in the jungles of Burma during World War II.
The Senate bill is S. 743 and its companion bill in the House is H.R. 906. This 116th Congressional session marks the third consecutive session the bills have been introduced.
You can be a part of Merrill’s Marauders receipt of the nation’s highest honor awarded to a military unit. Please take the following action to make sure that this year – the 75th anniversary of the Merrill’s Marauder missions in the China Burma-India-Theater – is the year the Marauders are recognized for their gallantry in battle.
Act now, only 14 Merrill’s Marauders are alive today.
1. Send the attached support letter to your Congressional representatives in both the House and Senate. Mailed letters are instrumental to the passage of Congressional bills since staffers who read them report on priorities of their constituents. Marauder – 2017 CGMJMC ltr 2aa
2. Go to the following link, on Countable to send your Congressional representatives an online message of support for S. 743 and H.R. 906.
The Darby Project is honored to help Merrill’s Marauders obtain the Congressional Gold Medal this year by funding portions mailing and printing costs, and actively advocating with other organizations on our social media platforms.
A team effort by active and retired Rangers and their families can help make this a reality.
“We are really pushing for Merrill’s Marauders to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2019 since it’s the 75th anniversary of their mission,” said Jonnie Melillo Clasen, daughter of Merrill’s Marauder Vincent Melillo. “We are extremely grateful The Darby Project is helping us make that happen.”
“Last month a 75th Merrill’s Marauder anniversary plaque was created by Tennessee graphic designer Tom Walker with some input from Merrill’s Marauder Gilbert Howland’s son, Bob, and me,” said Clasen. “The very first plaque was presented by Gilbert Howland to the director of California’s Pittsburg Historical Museum after he was the guest speaker there on February 27. It’s a beautiful tribute to Merrill’s Marauders.”
The History of Merrill’s Marauders
In August 1943 at the Quebec Conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided an American long-range penetration mission behind Japanese lines in Burma was needed. That Marauders would disrupt enemy supply and communication links while fighting toward their ultimate goal of seizing northern Burma’s Myitkyina airfield, which would enable a critical land route to be forged into Allied China.
President Roosevelt’s call for volunteers for a “dangerous and hazardous mission” was answered by approximately 3,000 American Infantrymen. The volunteers came from the jungles of Panama and Trinidad, the campaigns of Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Georgia, and state-side units. Some were battle-scarred, others were new to the ways of war, but each answered the call.
The volunteer unit was officially designated as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), code-named GALAHAD. Later, the unit became known as “Merrill’s Marauders”, after its leader, Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill.
The Marauders were formed into six combat teams with roughly 400 men per team. Each combat team was color-coded; red, white, blue, green, orange and khaki. Two teams formed one of the Marauders’ three battalions, and the remainder formed the unit’s headquarters and the Air Transport Commands.
After preliminary training operations were undertaken in great secrecy in central India, the Marauders began the long march up the Ledo Road and over the Himalayan Mountains into Burma. They had to carry all their equipment and supplies on their backs and the backs of pack mules. With no tanks or heavy artillery to support them, the Marauders walked nearly 1,000 miles through almost impenetrable jungles. They were kept alive by supply air drops from C-47 aircraft.
In five major battles – WALAWBUM, SHADUZUP, INKANGAHTAWNG, NPHUM GA and MYITKYINA – and thirty minor engagements, the Marauders defeated the veteran soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division, the “Conquerors of Singapore and Malaysia,” who vastly outnumbered them.
No other American force except the First Marine Division, which took and held Guadalcanal for four months, had as much uninterrupted jungle fighting as Merrill’s Marauders.
Every wounded Marauder was evacuated, an extraordinary “feat in itself.” Makeshift stretchers, usually from bamboo, field jackets or shirts, were used to reach an evacuation point. Some wounded were literally carried in the arms of another Marauder. Makeshift bamboo rafts were used to ferry others to evacuation points.
Those evacuation points were small landing strips the Marauders hacked out to make a clearing for a small, stripped-down Piper Cub plane to land. There was room for only the pilot and one wounded Marauder on a stretcher. The brave sergeant-pilots, with only a compass to guide them, would then land and take off in these very hazardous conditions, removing wounded Marauders one at a time.
At the end of their campaign, most of the small number of remaining Marauders had been evacuated to hospitals for tropical diseases, exhaustion and malnutrition, or as the tags on their battered uniforms said “A.O.E.,” accumulation of everything.
The even smaller number considered “still fit for combat” after the 5307th CUP disbanded Aug. 10, 1944, became part of the 475th which later became the Mars Task Force. Three of the 14 surviving Merrill’s Marauders were part of that “even smaller” group: Bob Passanisi, 94, Dominic Baracani, 96, and Lester Hollenback, 96. For their accomplishments in Burma, the Marauders received the Presidential Unit Citation, which is awarded by the President in the name of Congress. The Marauders also have the extremely rare distinction of every member of the unit being awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
RANGERS LEAD THE WAY! Let’s get moving– follow the links below!
1. Send the attached support letter to your Congressional representatives in both the House and Senate. Mailed letters are instrumental to the passage of Congressional bills since staffers who read them report on priorities of their constituents.Marauder – 2017 CGMJMC ltr 2aa
2. Go to the following link, be heard here to send your Congressional representatives an online message of support for S. 743 and H.R. 906.
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