Senate Clears Bill Cosponsored by Shaheen & Hassan to Award Congressional Gold Medal to WWII U.S. Army Special Operators

December 06, 2019

(Washington, DC) – Bipartisan legislation backed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the U.S. Army’s 5307th Composite Unit, more commonly known as “Merrill’s Marauder’s,” unanimously passed the Senate last night. The Unit became known as “Merrill’s Marauder’s” in reference to its leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill, who later served as New Hampshire’s Highway Commissioner. The Merrill’s Marauder’s Congressional Gold Medal Act recognizes the extraordinary service of nearly 3,000 U.S. Army Special Forces volunteers whose successful efforts to drive a much larger Japanese force out of Myanmar, then called Burma, in World War II proved critical to Allied success in the theater. 

“Merrill’s Marauder’s fought in some of the most intense jungle combat operations of World War II and were critical to Allied success in the region,” said Senator Shaheen. “Their service and sacrifice embodies the highest tenets of our service members throughout history. This bipartisan bill awards the highest honor Congress can bestow to a unit of courageous volunteers, who are so deserving of such recognition. Our nation is forever in their debt.” 

“As U.S. service members fought for our country in World War II, President Roosevelt asked for volunteers to join a special operations unit – and brave men stepped up to serve, training in the Himalayan mountains and fighting five major battles in just over five months in some of the most dangerous circumstances. These members of ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ exemplify the best of what it means to serve, putting your life on the line to keep our country safe, secure, and free,” said Senator Hassan. “‘Merrill’s Marauders’ is named for its first commander, Brigadier General Frank Merrill, who went on to become the New Hampshire Highway Commissioner after he retired from the military. I am particularly proud to honor General Merrill’s legacy and all who served with him, and I urge our colleagues in the House to pass this bill and send it to the President’s desk without delay.” 

The 5307th Composite Unit was formed in August 1943 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Allied leaders proposed the creation of a ground unit of the Armed Forces to engage in a long-range penetration mission in Japanese-occupied Burma to cut off Japanese communications and supply lines and to capture critical points held by Japanese forces. Despite intense secrecy surrounding the mission, approximately 3,000 American soldiers volunteered to join the force, not knowing where the mission would take them or whether they would return. By August of the following year, the Unit successfully completed their mission with only 130 of the original force remaining fit for duty. The Unit’s legacy is honored by the U.S. Army through the modern day 75th Ranger Regiment, which traces its lineage directly to the 5307th Composite Unit. 

Text of the legislation is available here.