The successful missions from the newly formed Special Forces operating in the western sector during WWII prompted a call for the US Army to form another group - to become known as Merrill’s Marauders - to be utilized in the Far East. This new group would formally be known as the 5307th Composite Unit; their nickname Merrill’s Marauders was dubbed based on their commanding officer, Brigadier General Frank Merrill. (pictured left)
Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum. Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and feel the power of destruction housed throughout this extensive gallery. Authentic weapons (including some used by Special Forces) from around the world dating throughout history can be witnessed in this astonishing collection. The oldest piece on display is a very rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.
Highlights of the Marauders Training and Missions
Roughly 3,000 men, most of them battle veterans, responded to the call despite knowing they were being trained for a mission that was dangerous and hazardous. The group secretly trained in the jungles of India. Once training was completed, they were broken into six teams of 400 each and began their march across the Himalayas to Burma. As with many Special Forces, the Marauders travelled light. Despite no artillery or tank support, they were able to successfully engage in what was known as “hit and run” tactics, which contributed to deteriorating the morale of the Japanese forces in Burma. The Marauders would sometimes operate for months behind enemy line with only the assistance of air-dropped supplies.
The Marauder’s main target was the Japanese unit that captured Singapore - the 18th Division. The Japanese greatly outnumbered the Marauders, but after five major battles, along with a number of smaller skirmishes, the supplies and communication line of the 18th Division were greatly compromised, weakening this Japanese unit.
The Marauders received the Distinguished Unit Citation in July of 1944, an honor which would later be changed 22 years later to the Presidential Unit Citation. Just prior to the end of WWII, this Special Forces unit known as Merrill’s Marauders would become a part of the 475th Infantry.
The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has several galleries dedicated to World War II. They include the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which includes a display of scale models of Japanese ships used in the filming of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! The WWII US Marine Corps Gallery has an incredible oral history as told by US Marine John Residence, who witnessed the raising of the American Flag on Iwo Jima and the museum’s WWII US Naval Gallery has an authentic naval periscope for viewing and WWII Mark 14 torpedoes on display. The AFHM is also proud to have on display the uniform of Colonel Leonard Schroeder, the first soldier to set foot on Normandy during the D-Day landings.