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Great Adventures: Merrill’s Marauders

Pat Kinsella meets an extraordinary unit of military misfits sent on an against-all-odds World War II mission deep behind enemy lines

MERRILL’S MARAUDERS

FAR FROM HOME MAIN: Merrill’s Marauders patrol a Burmese jungle. They were the first US ground troops on the Asian mainland
RIGHT: Troops on the Ledo Road to China, built under the direction of General Stilwell
ALAMY X1, GETTY X1, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS X1, REX/SHUTTERSTOCK X1 CREDIT INFORMATION HERE

“The most beat upon, and yet the most unrewarded regiment-sized unit in World War II” Colonel Charles Hunter on the 5307th Unit

WORN WITH PRIDE The sun on the unit’s insignia commemorates its companion, the Chinese Expeditionary Force; the lightning bolt signifies the swiftness of their strikes; and the star signifies the Star of Burma.

In the latter stages of World War II, amid intense fighting in South East Asia, a special squadron of rapidly assembled warriors was assigned a highly unusual, extremely dangerous mission. Trained and quickly blooded in jungle-based guerrilla warfare, the provisional 5307th Unit operated under the codename Galahad. But they became better known as Merrill’s Marauders, after their first officer.

The composite, highly irregular unit was comprised entirely of volunteers from other regiments, including men released from military stockades – Dirty Dozen style. Numbering nearly 3,000, they were arguably the biggest bunch of military misfits ever assembled, but in 1944, after three months of intensive training, the Marauders spent five months hacking through miles of dense and dangerous jungle to fight five major engagements and 32 separate skirmishes against well-armed, numerically superior and hyper-committed Imperial Japanese combat forces.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

Discover the real King Arthur with our exclusive article from archaeologist Miles Russell, who believes that the legendary figure was in fact a Dark Age warlord. Elsewhere, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell go head to head, take a look at life on the Thames in the Victorian era, and learn about the forgotten storyteller who wrote one of our most-loved fairytales.