U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., reintroduced the bipartisan Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Act, S.743, this week with the support of 21 Senate cosponsors. The bill would bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) in recognition of the heroic unit’s extraordinary efforts and sacrifices during World War II.
The Fort Benning, Ga.-based 75th Ranger Regiment traces its history to this unit, which was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Sept. 18, 1943, when he called for an American Long Range Penetration Special Operations Jungle Warfare Unit. Nearly 3,000 soldiers serving stateside and around the world volunteered as special operations soldiers. Named “Merrill’s Marauders” after the unit’s first commander, Brigadier General Frank Merrill, the unit fought Japanese forces deep in the mountains and forests of Burma during World War II to secure victory for the United States in Southeast Asia.
“The bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers who volunteered to be a part of this elite group of warriors should be honored and remembered,” said Isakson, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I’m proud that the legacy of Merrill’s Marauders lives on today at Fort Benning with the 75th Ranger Regiment, and I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation to honor Merrill’s Marauders with the Congressional Gold Medal.”
After months of training in the Himalayan Mountains, Merrill’s Marauders began combat operations in February 1944, and in just over five months, marched more than 1,000 miles, participated in five major battles and fought the Japanese army 32 times. At the time the unit was relieved from duty, there were only 130 original members left who were fit to fight, and only two had not been seriously injured or grievously ill throughout the campaign. The unit received the Presidential Unit Citation, and every member of Merrill’s Marauders received the Bronze Star.
The Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Act was cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., John Boozman, R-Ark., Chris Coons, D-Del., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Doug Jones, D-Ala., John Kennedy, R-La., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, David Perdue, R-Ga., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Additional background on the 75th Ranger Regiment:
The 75th Ranger Regiment, better known as “Army Rangers,” is a special operations force, specializing in direct action, airfield seizure, and special reconnaissance operations.
The regiment falls under the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The 1st Ranger Battalion is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., the 2nd Ranger Battalion is stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash., and the 3rd Ranger Battalion is stationed at Fort Benning, Ga.
Additionally, the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, which conducts Mountain Phase of Ranger School, is located at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga.