Discusses ongoing efforts to award WWII unit with Congressional Gold Medal

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, met with Gilbert Howland and Bob Passanisi Wednesday, two of the last 14 living Merrill’s Marauders, to discuss Isakson’s ongoing efforts to award the unit with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Merrill’s Marauders, officially known as the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the unit’s mission, where they 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 Fort Benning, Ga.-based 75th Ranger Regiment traces its history to this unit, and Howland and Passanisi will be placing a wreath at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., later this afternoon.

“The bravery and sacrifice these men demonstrated when they volunteered to be a part of this elite group of warriors is remarkable,” said Isakson. “I’m proud that the legacy of Merrill’s Marauders lives on today at Fort Benning with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, and I’m proud to reintroduce legislation to honor Merrill’s Marauders with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

Isakson reintroduced the bipartisan Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Act, S.743, in March 2019. 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 unit, nicknamed “Merrill’s Marauders” after the unit’s first commander, Brigadier General Frank Merrill, 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.

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.

You can read more about Isakson’s legislation to honor Merrill’s Marauders here.

This is a press release from the Office of Senator Johnny Isakson.

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