Governors from throughout the United States honored WW II Merrill’s Marauders on the 70th Anniversary of their unit disbanding by proclaiming August 10, 2014, National WW II Merrill’s Marauder Day.
That is the day in 1944 when the short-lived unit from the “forgotten” theater of WW II, the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI,) dissolved in Burma after defeating the Japanese 18th Imperial Division, which vastly outnumbered them, in five major battles and 30 minor engagements.
Anne Marie Powarzynski, of Gates, is the daughter of a Merrill’s Marauder Charles J. Plumeri, who was also from Gates.
“I recently discovered through extensive research, mainly with the Merrill’s Marauders Association and the National Archives that my father served with the legendary Merrill’s Marauders, said Powarzynski. “My father never revealed to anyone in our family that he was a member of Merrill’s Marauders and the MARS Task Force. He spoke only once briefly of his experiences in Burma and India with me and my brothers, without telling us with whom he served with. We believe he may have been the only one from the Rochester area to have served with Merrill’s Marauders.”
There are only about 50 original Merrill’s Marauders still living out of almost 3,000 volunteers who answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call in 1943 for a secret, “dangerous and hazardous” mission, not knowing their destination or objective.
Merrill’s Marauders were the first American combat troops to fight the Japanese on the ground in Asia. Modern-day Army Rangers, the 75th Ranger Regiment, honor their legacy by wearing the Marauder patch as their crest. Camp Frank D. Merrill, where the rigorous mountain phase of Ranger training is conducted in north Georgia, is named in honor of the unit’s commander.
For their accomplishments, Merrill’s Marauders were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and have the extremely rare distinction of every member receiving the Bronze Star Medal. There were six Distinguished Service Crosses, four Legions of Merit and 44 Silver Star Medals awarded. Twenty-five Merrill’s Marauders have been inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
“The involvement of U.S. ground troops in Burma has been largely overlooked in histories of WW II,” explained Gavin Mortimer, an English author whose book on Merrill’s Marauders was released in November 2013. “But the Marauders are testament to the significant and important role that the U.S. Infantry played in the re-conquest of Burma. It was also one of the most unforgiving campaigns ever seen in modern warfare.”