The 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional)
3000 VOLUNTEERS – HEROES ALL
In 1943, a presidential call went out for 3000 men to form a special unit for a dangerous mission. And the volunteers came — from stateside units — from the jungle training areas like Panama and Trinidad — and from the combat zones of the Pacific Theater — Guadalcanal and others. Some volunteered out of patriotism, some just to get away from the unit they were in, and some were volunteered or pressed into service. They were from all walks of life — from city boys who had never seen the country, to country boys who had never left their home county — until they entered the service.
It seemed the unit was almost doomed from the start. The name of the unit stands alone in military history. Never before and never afterward was there ever a “Composite Unit (Provisional)”. Coming together in the fall of 1943, they began training in India. They were placed under the command of British General Orde C. Wingate, who reorganized them from the traditional battalion organization into combat teams, forming 2 combat teams from each battalion, with each combat team being composed of the infantrymen, communications men, and medical support personnel. And then, as the jungle trek was about to begin, they were placed back under American command and control. Initially formed as a regiment, they would have had a unit affiliation with a division, and would have had regimental colors, crests, and other unit identification. But when placed under the command of General Merrill, it was determined that a general officer could not command a regiment, and so the designation was changed to unit.
But these 3000 heroes did not falter when it came to doing their job. They fought the enemy, the jungle, disease, leeches, malnutrition, weakness, and whatever else came in their way. One Japanese soldier who fought the Marauders has said that for a long time, they (the Japanese) thought they were fighting ghosts. The Marauders never left their wounded or their dead behind them. On those rare occasions when the Japanese occupied an area which had been held by the Marauders, they found no evidence of the pitched battle which had just transpired, other than their own dead and wounded.
In its short lifespan of just over 7 months — constituted on 1 January 1944 and disbanded on 8 August 1944 — Merrill’s Marauders marched nearly 1000 miles, engaging the enemy nearly every step of the way. They encountered terrain so rugged that at times they had to unload their pack mules, lead them over the most difficult part, and carry the pack loads themselves. Dependent on air drops for food and supplies, they existed on rations never meant for continued consumption. Even at that, there were occasions where the weather prevented air drops, or the drops went into areas where the rations and supplies could not be recovered, and so they might go for several days without rations.
In August 1944 this 3000-man unit, now less than one-third of that strength, despite having 2000 men as replacements in June 1944, was disbanded and replaced by the MARS Task Force consisting of over 10,000 men. Each man of the unit was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and was later awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
Their memories live on. We, as proud descendants of these heroes, will strive to keep these memories alive for generations to come.
Information supplied and prepared by Merrill’s Marauders
Proud Descendant Historian Hansel L. Haycox.
For additional information on the history of the Marauders,
visit the official Merrill’s Marauders Association website.