Friday, March 4, 2016
Fascinating Interview for the Veteran History Project at the Library of Congress today
Ron Alexander I just had a great interview with the last Merrill Marauder - 95 yr. old Jim White at an assisted living center in Conway. A delightful old man who had terrible experiences including malaria in an almost unknown part of WW11 in Burma. It took him years to recover and captured my heart when he let me know that he built a sailboat to help recover and sailed around his homeport of Gloucester, where his Father was a Lobsterman!
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.
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.
SUCCESSFUL MISSION HOWEVER AT GREAT COST
In their final mission, the Marauders suffered 272 killed, 955 wounded, and 980 evacuated for illness and disease; some men later died from cerebral malaria, amoebic dysentery, and/or scrub typhus. Somewhat ironically, Marauders evacuated from the front lines were given jungle hammocks with protective sandfly netting and rain covers in which to sleep, equipment which might have prevented various diseases and illnesses had they been issued earlier in the campaign. The casualties included General Merrill himself, who had suffered a second heart attack before going down with malaria. He was replaced by his second-in-command, Colonel Charles N. Hunter, who later prepared a scathing report on General Stilwell's medical evacuation policies (eventually prompting an Army Inspector General investigation and congressional hearings). By the time the town of Myitkyina was taken, only about 200 surviving members of the original Marauders were present. A week after Myitkyina fell, on 10 August 1944, the 5307th was disbanded with a final total of 130 combat-effective officers and men (out of the original 2,997). Of the 2,750 to enter Burma, only two were left alive who had never been hospitalized with wounds or major illness. None of the horses and only 41 mules survived.
Clay Dolan Wow...you have the most interesting job Ron!!! Need to have lunch and catch up buddy. Has to hear some of these stories. Your catching the last glimpse "first hand" of America's heroes fighting our biggest battles!!! Thats insane and incredible!!!