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Frank Merrill, left, with General Joseph Stilwell
December 4, 1903|
|Died||December 11, 1955
Fernandina Beach, Florida
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1922 - 1948|
|Commands held||Merrill's Marauders|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Frank Dow Merrill (December 4, 1903 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts – December 11, 1955 in Fernandina Beach, Florida) is best remembered for his command of Merrill's Marauders, officially the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), in the Burma Campaign of World War II. Merrill's Marauders came under General Joseph Stilwell's Northern Combat Area Command. It was a special forces unit modelled on the Chindits' long range penetration groups trained to operate from bases deep behind Japanese lines.
Background and early career
Merrill lived with his family in Amesbury, Massachusetts and graduated from Amesbury High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1922 and earned the rank of sergeant before attending West Point where he graduated in 1929. Merrill also earned a B.S. in military engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1932. In 1938, Merrill became the Military Attaché in Tokyo where he studied the Japanese language. He joined General Douglas MacArthur's staff in the Philippines in 1941 as a military intelligence officer. Merrill was on a mission in Rangoon, Burma at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and remained in Burma after the Japanese invasion. In 1942, Col. Merrill was promoted to Brigadier General.
In 1943, General Merrill was appointed to command a new volunteer U.S. Army special forces unit patterned after the Long Range Jungle Penetration groups formed by the British to harass Japanese forces in Burma (the Chindits). The U.S. Army's official name for the unit was the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional). (The title provisional means the unit is formed for a special mission or operation and will be disbanded afterwards). Visiting war correspondents, after viewing the 5307th's performance on the firing ranges, promptly dubbed the unit Merrill's Marauders. General Merrill oversaw the training and deployment of the three battalions of the 5307th into Burma in February 1944.
In slightly more than five months of combat behind Japanese lines in Burma, the Marauders, who supported the X Force, advanced 750 miles through some of the harshest jungle terrain in the world, fought in 5 major engagements (Walawbum, Shaduzup, Inkangahtawng, Nhpum Ga, and Myitkyina) and engaged in combat with the Japanese Army on thirty-two separate occasions. Battling Japanese soldiers, hunger, and disease, they had traversed more jungle on their long-range patrols than any other U.S. Army unit of the war.
On March 29, Merrill suffered his first heart attack and command returned to then executive officer, Colonel Charles N. Hunter. In their final mission against the Japanese base at Myitkyina, the Marauders suffered 272 killed, 955 wounded, and 980 evacuated for illness and disease. By the time the town of Myitkyina was taken, only about 200 surviving members of the original Marauders were present.
On August 10, 1944, a week after the town's fall to U.S. and Chinese forces, the 5307th was disbanded with a final total of only 130 combat-effective officers and men (out of the original 2,997).
Awards and decorations
After World War II and service in the post war Philippines, Merrill became the New Hampshire Commissioner of Highways. He was elected President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials but died two days later. The Everett Turnpike bridge over New Hampshire's Souhegan River was a favorite of Merrill's, and is dedicated to Merrill's Marauders.
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