The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders

Congress finds that--
        (1) in August 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other 
    Allied leaders proposed the creation of a ground unit of the Armed 
    Forces that would engage in a ``long-range penetration mission'' in 
    Japanese-occupied Burma to--
            (A) cut off Japanese communications and supply lines; and
            (B) capture the town of Myitkyina and the Myitkyina 
        airstrip, both of which were held by the Japanese;
        (2) President Roosevelt issued a call for volunteers for ``a 
    dangerous and hazardous mission'' and the call was answered by 
    approximately 3,000 soldiers from the United States;
        (3) the Army unit composed of the soldiers described in 
    paragraph (2)--
            (A) was officially designated as the ``5307th Composite 
        Unit (Provisional)'' with the code name ``Galahad''; and
            (B) later became known as ``Merrill's Marauders'' (referred 
        to in this section as the ``Marauders'') in reference to its 
        leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill;
        (4) in February 1944, the Marauders began their approximately 
    1,000-mile trek through the dense Burmese jungle with no artillery 
    support, carrying their supplies on their backs or the pack saddles 
    of mules;
        (5) over the course of their 5-month trek to Myitkyina, the 
    Marauders fought victoriously against larger Japanese forces 
    through 5 major and 30 minor engagements;
        (6) during their march to Myitkyina, the Marauders faced hunger 
    and disease that were exacerbated by inadequate aerial resupply 
    drops;
        (7) malaria, typhus, and dysentery inflicted more casualties on 
    the Marauders than the Japanese;
        (8) by August 1944, the Marauders had accomplished their 
    mission, successfully disrupting Japanese supply and communication 
    lines and taking the town of Myitkyina and the Myitkyina airstrip, 
    the only all-weather airstrip in Northern Burma;
        (9) after taking Myitkyina, only 130 Marauders out of the 
    original 2,750 were fit for duty and all remaining Marauders still 
    in action were evacuated to hospitals due to tropical diseases, 
    exhaustion, and malnutrition;
        (10) for their bravery and accomplishments, the Marauders were 
    awarded the ``Distinguished Unit Citation'', later redesignated as 
    the ``Presidential Unit Citation'', and a Bronze Star; and
        (11) though the Marauders were operational for only a few 
    months, the legacy of their bravery is honored by the Army through 
    the modern day 75th Ranger Regiment, which traces its lineage 
    directly to the 5307th Composite Unit.

From the Act of Congress in 2019 which awarded Merrill’s Marauders a unit Congressional Gold Medal

 

 

A sad reminder above of the ticking clock on the last day of this year of punishment as one of the last survivors of Merrill’s Marauders departs this Vale of Tears.

 

Released in 1945, The Stilwell Road, narrated by Ronald Reagan while he was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, tells the story of the forgotten theater of the War, the China-Burma-India theater where the Allies, fighting over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, wrested victory from the Japanese.  The Stilwell Road refers to a section of the Burma Road by which Nationalist China was supplied by the United States and Great Britain during the War.

The unit known as Merrill’s Marauders is mentioned in the film.  Officially designated by the uninspiring title of 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the press tagged them as Merrill’s Marauders and thus they have come down through history. Three thousand volunteers, most of them veterans of the fighting in the Pacific, including some veterans who volunteered from military stockades and who were known as The Dead End Kids, the Marauders were organized to fight behind Japanese lines.  Led by Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the Marauders were trained in the deep penetration tactics, supported by air drops, pioneered by British General Orde Wingate, with Merrill throwing in some American touches, for example the importance of marksmanship, as old as Roger’s Rangers, wilderness fighters of the French and Indian War, famed for their long distance raids.

The Marauders went into action in northern Burma in February 1944.  Between February and May they marched 750 miles over some of the most rugged, and disease infested, terrain on Earth.  Always outnumbered, they were never defeated and invariably inflicted many more casualties on the Japanese than they sustained.  They engaged in combat with the Japanese on thirty two separate occasions including five major engagements.  At the end they took Myitkyina airfield, a military objective that in retrospect still looks impossible for them to have taken.  The unit was disbanded in August 1944 with only 130 men and officers still on their feet.  As a tribute to their heroism, the Marauders had the unprecedented honor of every man in their ranks awarded a Bronze Star, along with a Presidential Unit Citation for the Marauders as a whole.  The Marauders are looked upon as an ancestral unit by American Ranger, Special Ops and LERP (Long Range Reconnaissance and Patrol) units.  Colonel George A. McGee (1992), who took over command of the Marauders after Frank Merrill had to be evacuated on March 29, 1944 due to a heart attack, and three Nisei interpreters,  Roy H. Matsumoto (1993), Henry Gosho (1997), and Grant Hirabayashi, are inductees into the Ranger Hall of Fame.

November 9, 1989

 

 

Thirty-one years ago today my wife and I arrived home from buying software for our Commodore 64  (Yeah, it is that long ago.) and watched stunned after we turned on the tv as we saw East Germans dancing on top of the Berlin War, tearing into it with sledge hammers.   It is hard to convey to people who did not live through the Cold War how wonderful a sight this was.  Most people at the time thought the Cold War was a permanent state of things.  Not Ronald Wilson Reagan.  He knew that Communism would end up on the losing side of history and throughout his career strove to bring that day ever closer.  His becoming President so soon after John Paul II became Pope set the stage for the magnificent decade of the Eighties when Communism passed from being a deadly threat to the globe to a belief held only by a handful of benighted tyrannical regimes around the world, and crazed American professors.  In most of his movies, the good guys won in the end, and Reagan helped give us a very happy ending to a menace that started in 1917 and died in 1989.

Here is an interview Sam Donaldson did with Reagan immediately after the fall of the wall:

 

(more…)

Published in: on November 9, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 9, 1989  
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The Ball Player Named After One President and Portrayed By Another

 

 

 

Published in: on October 28, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Ball Player Named After One President and Portrayed By Another  
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The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders

Released in 1945, The Stilwell Road, narrated by Ronald Reagan while he was a Captain in the Army Air Corps, tells the story of the forgotten theater of the War, the China-Burma-India theater where the Allies, fighting over some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, wrested victory from the Japanese.  The Stilwell Road refers to a section of the Burma Road by which Nationalist China was supplied by the United States and Great Britain during the War.

The unit known as Merrill’s Marauders is mentioned in the film.  Officially designated by the uninspiring title of 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the press tagged them as Merrill’s Marauders and thus they have come down through history. 3000 volunteers, most of them veterans of the fighting in the Pacific, including some veterans who volunteered from military stockades and who were known as The Dead End Kids, the Marauders were trained to fight behind Japanese lines.  Led by Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the Marauders were trained in the deep penetration tactics supported by air drops pioneered by British General Orde Wingate, with Merrill throwing in some American touches, for example the importance of marksmanship, as old as Roger’s Rangers, wilderness fighters of the French and Indian War, famed for their long distance raids. (more…)

Published in: on February 21, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Stilwell Road and Merrill’s Mauraders  
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Reagan on FDR

(I posted this at The American Catholic on January 30, 2015, and I thought the History mavens of Almost Chosen People would enjoy it.)

Today is my bride’s birthday, a birthday she shares with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  On this day, I think the remarks of President Reagan on the centennial of FDR’s birth need to be recalled.  Reagan of course supported FDR when Reagan was a New Deal Democrat.  As a Republican he attempted to correct the mistakes of the New Deal, but he never lost his admiration for the leadership shown by Roosevelt, many aspects of which Reagan during his Presidency shared.  Here are an excerpt of Reagan’s remarks:

 

We’re all here today to mark the centennial of one of history’s truly monumental figures, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Historians still debate the details of his intentions, his policies and their impact. But all agree that, like the Founding Fathers before him, F. D. R. was an American giant, a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times. He meant many different things to many different people. He could reach out to men and women of diverse races and backgrounds and inspire them with new hope and new confidence in war and peace.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first President I ever saw. I remember the moment vividly. It was in 1936, a campaign parade in Des Moines, Iowa. What a wave of affection and pride swept through that crowd as he passed by in an open car—which we haven’t seen a President able to do for a long time—a familiar smile on his lips, jaunty and confident, drawing from us reservoirs of confidence and enthusiasm some of us had forgotten we had during those hard years. Maybe that was F. D. R.’s greatest gift to us. He really did convince us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. (more…)

Published in: on January 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reagan on FDR  
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October 27, 1964: A Time For Choosing

Ronald Reagan launched his political career with this speech 55 years ago on behalf of Republican Presidential Nominee Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater went on to be clobbered in November by Lyndon Johnson, but the reaction to Reagan’s speech by conservatives was overwhelmingly positive.  In 1966 Reagan ran for and won the Governorship of California.  14 years later he was elected President of the United States.  Reagan had a relatively brief political career, and it all started with The Speech as this address has gone down in history.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)

Published in: on October 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 27, 1964: A Time For Choosing  
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October 5, 1945: Battle of Burbank

One of the major factors in transforming Ronald Reagan from a New Deal Democrat into a conservative Republican was his confrontation with Herb Sorrell in 1946-47 Hollywood.  Head of the Conference of Studio Unions, Sorrell was a veteran union organizer.  He was also a secret member of the Communist Party and a frequent contact for Soviet intelligence agents.

Sorrell in 1945 launched a strike to ensure that his union dominated Hollywood labor.  Sorrell had no problem using physical intimidation  to reach his goals.  This was demonstrated at what has been called the Battle of Burbank on October 5, 1945 when 800 members of the Conference of Studio Unions battle with police of the Los Angeles Police Department, using knives, bats, chains and pipes to shut Warner Brothers down.  The violence shocked Hollywood and attracted nationwide attention and led to a negotiated settlement of the strike. (more…)

Published in: on October 5, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 5, 1945: Battle of Burbank  
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Ronald Reagan: The Happy Warrior

“The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

GK Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

Today is my sixtieth birthday.  As faithful readers of this blog know, I share a birthday with Ronald Wilson Reagan.  I have long admired Reagan, the greatest President of my lifetime.  Of Irish ancestry, Reagan had the Irish habit of smiling in a fight.  A man of strong convictions, Reagan never forgot that his domestic adversaries were political opponents and  not enemies.  His humor was never mean spirited, and much of it was directed against himself.  Completely comfortable in his own skin, he never took himself seriously while taking very seriously what he believed in and fought for.  Happy birthday Mr. Reagan, and may there be plenty of good humor in the life to come for you to add to.

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Published in: on February 6, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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January 11, 1989: Reagan Farewell Address

My fellow Americans, this is the 34th time I’ll speak to you from the Oval Office, and the last. We’ve been together eight years now, and soon it’ll be time for me to go. But before I do, I wanted to share some thoughts, some of which I have been saving for a long time.

It’s been the honor of my life to be your President. So many of you have written the past few weeks to say thanks, but I could say as much to you. Nancy and I are grateful for the opportunity you gave us to serve.

One of the things about the Presidency is that you’re always somewhat apart. You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass – the parents holding up a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn’t return. And so many times I wanted to stop, and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. Well, maybe I can do a little of that tonight. (more…)

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Remember Them

 

“I never moved into combat without having the feeling of a cold hand reaching into my guts and twisting them both into knots.”

Audie Murphy, most decorated American soldier of World War II

Something for the weekend.  A section of a speech of Ronald Reagan from 1964, known in Reagan lore as The Speech, set to the song Arrival to Earth.  The weather is quite nice around where I live this Memorial Day weekend and it is easy to forget why we have this three day weekend, and, indeed, to forget why we have our freedom.  The video is a nice reminder. (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Remember Them  
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