Merrill’s Marauders and the 6th Battalion

6TH RANGER BATTALION6th

The 6th Ranger Battalion was organized on September 25, 1944, when the 98th Field Artillery Battalion was redesignated while stationed in New Guinea. The 6th Ranger Battalion, operating in the Pacific, was the only Ranger unit fortunate enough to have been assigned only those missions applicable for Rangers. All of its missions, usually of task force, company, or platoon size, were behind enemy lines, and involved long range reconnaissance and hard hitting, long range combat patrols. The three most noteworthy were during the campaign on the Philippines.

The first American contingent to return to the Philippines was the 6th Ranger Battalion with the mission of knocking out the coastal defense guns, radio stations, radar stations, and other means of defense and communications in Leyte Harbor. On A-Day minus three, October 17, 1944, the 6th Ranger Battalion was landed from fast attack-type converted destroyers, in the midst of a storm, on Dinagat, Suluan, and Homonohan Islands in Leyte Bay. The three islands are located at the eastern entrance of Leyte Gulf and were secured to deny their use by the Japanese and to provide locations for signal lights to guide the two Leyte invasion Task Forces. Through November 14, the Rangers remained on the island searching out and destroying enemy troops while guarding against any attempted Japanese reoccupation.

After moving to Leyte, the battalion established defensive positions in the Tanuan-Tibosda area and began aggressive patrol actions that continued until January 2, 1945, when Rangers loaded up for the Lingayen Gulf invasion. The advance elements began landing at noon on January 10, and were followed by the remainder of the battalion, which landed in the Dagupan Barrio area the following day.

After establishing defensive lines, the Rangers were given the mission of defending the Sixth Army Headquarters, and two companies were sent to occupy Santiago Island and help establish a radar station there. The Rangers also sent patrols into the mountainous area of mainland Luzon and discovered large quantities of abandoned Japanese equipment which was turned over to Philippine guerrilla forces.

After a move to Calasio, a reinforced company from the 6th Ranger Battalion formed the entire rescue force which liberated American and Allied prisoners of war from the Japanese Prison Camp at Cabanatuan, the Philippines in January 1945. On January 28, they made a 29-mile forced march into enemy territory, obtained full support of local civilians and guerrillas, and determined accurately the enemy’s dispositions. They crawled nearly a mile through flat open terrain to assault positions, destroyed a Japanese Garrison nearly double the size of the 121 man attacking force, and in the dark, assembled 513 prisoners of war. The prisoners were evacuated from the stockade area within twenty minutes after the assault began. In this action, more than 200 enemy troops were killed. Ranger losses were two killed and ten wounded.6thcaba

During the first part of February, elements of the battalion cleared the Cabaruan Hill area of enemy forces, and then moved to San Fernando where the Rangers continued to provide guards for the Sixth Army Headquarters. From March 10 to April 14, half of the Ranger force was assigned to penetrate enemy lines and reconnoiter enemy strongpoints and lines of communication deep in the mountains of Baguio, Trinidad, Atok, Ambuclao, and Boakad. Contact was often made with the Japanese in a series of small battles which usually resulted in the destruction of the enemy forces, as Rangers employed shoot and scoot tactics and refused to be where the Japanese expected them.

On April 15, a company of Rangers was sent to Dingalan Bay Area on the eastern coast of Luzon, to block Japanese troops attempting to withdraw from the Baguio area. Ten days later, a patrol of Rangers wiped out an enemy pillbox and strongpoint in five minutes of fighting, and found the bodies of 17 officers killed in the fighting.

The Rangers’ last mission was the 250-mile trek behind enemy lines, by Company B, to the City of Aparri on the northern tip of Luzon. Aparri was the last seaport and major city held by the Japanese forces. For twenty-eight days behind the lines, they successfully infiltrated and reconnoitered the Japanese defenses at Aparri. They prepared the landing facilities at Camalugian Airfield for the 11th Airborne to make one of the major airdrops of the Pacific Campaign. Following the successful airdrop, the Rangers initially supplied point and later flank security for the 11th Airborne Task Force driving southward along the Cagayan River to link up with the 32nd Infantry Division and thus, end the Philippine campaign.

It is noteworthy that all of the Japanese prisoners captured during this operation and turned over to the 11th Airborne Division were captured by one platoon from the 6th Ranger Battalion. On July 1, the battalion was relieved of further combat operations, after having participated in three campaigns and one combat assault. On September 15, 1945, the battalion embarked for occupation duties in Japan, and was stationed in the Kyoto area when it was inactivated on December 30, 1945. The scroll worn by the 6th Ranger Battalion is similar in design to those worn by the other Ranger units.

MERRILL’S MARAUDERSmm

The 75th Infantry Regiment was first organized in the China-Burma-India Theater on October 3, 1943 as Task Force Galahad. Also known as Shipments 1688 A, B, C, 5307th Composite Regiment and as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the unit served until July 1, 1945, when it was deactivated in China.

The 75th infantry Regiment (5307th Composite Unit) was the first United States ground combat force to meet the enemy on the Continent of Asia during World War II. It was during the campaigns in the China-Burma-India Theater that it became known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” after its commander, Major General Frank D. Merrill.

The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was organized to participate in the Burma operations as a result of a decision made at the Quebec Conferences in August 1943. On September 1, 1943, when the size of the unit’s battalions had been fixed at 1,000, the War Department began recruiting personnel from jungle-trained and jungle-tested troops, primarily infantrymen. General George C. Marshall requested 300 volunteers in a high state of physical readiness and stamina from the Southwest Pacific, 700 from the South Pacific and 1,000 each from the Caribbean Defense Command and the Army Ground Forces in the United States. These latter 2,000 volunteers were assembled in San Francisco where they were formed into two battalions under the command of Colonel Charles N. Hunter.

On September 21, 1943, the two battalions sailed from San Francisco on the S.S. Lurline. The majority of their equipment was loaded on the S.S. Lurline with the remainder sent directly to Bombay. Colonel Hunter was ordered to prepare his men while enroute for the performance of a long-range penetration mission and to report to General Stillwell upon arrival in the Theater. The S.S. Lurline proceeded to Noumea, New Caledonia, where 650 officers and men from the South Pacific Theater came aboard. The volunteers from the Southwest Pacific Theater came aboard at Brisbane, Australia. After a short stop at Perth, the ship sailed across the Indian Ocean and up the Arabian Sea to Bombay. The three battalions disembarked on October 31, 1943.

The men composing Merrill’s Marauders were volunteers from the 33rd Infantry Regiment, the 14th Infantry Regiment, the 5th Infantry Regiment, and from infantry regiments engaged in combat in the Southwest and South Pacific. Prior to their entry into the Northern Burma Campaign, Merrill’s Marauders trained in India under the overall supervision of Major General Orde C. Wingate, British Army. Here they were trained in long-range tactics and techniques of the type developed and first employed by General Wingate in the operations of the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade in Burma from February to June 1943.

The intensive training continued until the end of January 1944. At that time, the unit was fully trained and organized into three battalions consisting of two combat teams each, Color-coded Orange, Khaki, White, Red, Green and Blue. The Headquarters was divided into a Command Post Group and a Rear Supply Base. General Merrill was placed in command on January 4, 1944, and the unit was assigned to General Stillwell’s field command in Northern Burma.mmmules

The Marauders were ready to go, and their operations throughout the spring and summer of 1944 were closely coordinated with those of the Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions. They were employed in the drive to recover North Burma and clear the way for construction of the Ledo Road, which was to link the Indian railhead at Ledo with the Old Burma Train to China.

The Marauders were foot soldiers who marched and fought through the jungles and over mountains from Hukawng Valley in Northwestern Burma to Myitkyina on the Irrawaddy River. With no tanks or heavy artillery to support them, they patrolled more than 1,000 miles through extremely dense and almost impenetrable jungles.

In five major and thirty minor engagements between February and August 1944, the Marauders met and defeated the veteran soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division. Operating in the rear of the main forces of the Japanese, they prepared the way for the southward advance of the Chinese by disorganizing supply lines and communications. Always moving to the rear of the main forces of the Japanese, they completely disrupted enemy supply lines and communications and climaxed their behind-the-lines operations with the capture of Myitkyina Airfield, the only all-weather airfield in Northern Burma. Compounding their difficulties during these maneuvers, was the difficulty the Marauders had in securing supplies as they moved stealthily through the jungles. The supplies they did receive were airdropped and their wounded were picked up one at a time at predetermined rendezvous points by Piper Cub planes and flown back to ‘Evac’ hospitals.

Getting the wounded Marauders out of the jungles of Burma was an extraordinary feat in itself. Each of the wounded Marauders was borne on a bamboo stretcher by his comrades or lashed to horse until a rendezvous point was reached. Generally an area around a small jungle village was selected because of the rice paddies that could be found nearby. The Marauders would then set to work chopping an airstrip through the rice paddy and radio the rear echelon to send in one of the Piper Cub planes. These planes were usually stripped of all equipment except a compass and a single stretcher for a lone passenger – the wounded Marauder. Despite hazardous takeoff and landing conditions in this densest of jungles, these valiant sergeant-pilots managed to evacuate every seriously wounded Marauder to safety. It cost this air-rescue unit, however. Two of its pilots were fatally injured in crashes into the jungles beneath them.

The Marauders were the first American troops to fight on the Asian continent in WWII, and they did it in some of the world’s worst jungles. They were only one special regiment of less than 3,000 men; yet they so disrupted the enemy communication and supply lines that the Japanese high command was later to remark that their impression was that the Marauders were a force of at least Division strength – or over 15,000 men.

For their accomplishments in Burma the Marauders were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and Commendation. In addition every one of the Marauders was awarded the Bronze Star decoration.

The 5307th was redesignated the 475th Infantry Regiment on August 10, 1944, and was reorganized. At that time, the Regiment became part of the 5332nd Brigade (Provisional) which had been activated on July 26, 1944, in India. The Brigade was also known as the “Mars Task Force” and was designated as the long-range penetration force for operations in Burma. In addition to the 475th, the Brigade consisted of the 124th Cavalry Regiment, dismounted and functioning as infantry; the 612th and 613th Field Artillery Battalions (Pack); and the 1st Chinese Regiment, Separate.

In the third week of November, the brigade moved south along Ledo Road from the vicinity of Myitkyina. The 475th Infantry Regiment was committed in the Tongwa-Mo Hlaing Sector in December, and broke up Japanese opposition in that area. Upon completion of the action at Tongwa-Mo in January 1945, the Brigade turned eastward and thrust deep into enemy territory to strike the Nahmkam-Lashio Burma road axis at Nahmpakka.

Combat activity reached its peak during February 2 through February 4, with fighting in the vicinity of Nahmpakka, Boi-Kang, Hpa-Hpen, and Mong-Noils. On February 8, 1945, contact was severed by the retreat of the last elements of the Japanese to the South. At the end of the month, the Mars Task Force moved south to the Lashio area, where it remained in garrison for about a month before going to China by air. The Task Force was relieved from assignment to the Indian-Burma Theater and assigned to Headquarters, Chinese Combat Command (Provisional), United States Forces, China Theater. Its mission was to assist and advise in the training and equipping of thirty-six United States sponsored Chinese Divisions.

As an example of its employment, in March 1945, the 1st Battalion, 475th Infantry Regiment was attached to Headquarters, Reserve Command, Chinese Combat Command, which was responsible for training and equipping four Chinese Armies. Therefore, Company A, 475th Infantry, came to serve in a liaison role with three divisions (of which the Honorable 1st Division was one) of the Eighth Chinese Army.

The 475th Infantry Regiment was finally inactivated on July 1, 1945, in China, and remained on the inactive list of Regular Army units until 1954. It was redesignated the 75th Infantry Regiment on June 21, 1954.