Merrill's Marauders

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ISBN: 978 1 84603 403 9
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Merrill's Marauders, formally the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) of the US Army, was nicknamed after its commanding officer, Frank Merrill. Its mission was born out of Allied leadership's wish to repeat the success achieved by the "Chindits", formally known as the Long Range Penetration Groups of the British and Indian Armies, raiding far behind Japanese lines in Burma. As a kid, and even until today, 5307th's shoulder sleeve insignia had always brought a smile to my face, as it featured the blue-sky-white-sun from the flag of the Republic of China and the star from the flag of the United States, suggesting the close cooperation that the two forces, representing the two countries in which I call home, that was achieved which contributed to the final defeat of the Japanese in Burma.

Edward Young's Merrill's Marauders, the 141st title in Osprey's "Warrior" series, is one of many books since the end of WW2 that attempted to tell the unit's history. The first half of the 64-page book introduced the unit via its recruitment, training, equipment, and the basics of their methods of communications and logistics. The final and slightly larger half was dedicated to its operational history, which was characterized by the tough conditions of the dense jungles of Burma. The narrative was well written, enjoyingly readable, and shed the feeling that the author had done his share of research through various official unit histories and reports. One complaint I had while reading the book, was that the author's presentation was very much a US-centric one, evidenced by his inclusion of American junior officers and non-commissioned officers (eg. Lieutenant Logan Weston and Sergeant Roy Matsumo) and small units (eg. platoons and even down to squad-sized patrols), meanwhile the Japanese were referred to in large formations, generally lacking individual names, and thus impersonal and depriving them of human qualities. This was perhaps an intentional oversight due to the size constraint of the small book, but this unintentional dehumanization of the Japanese meant that the author missed the chance to convey the important moral lesson that war should never be glorified, a responsibility of every military historian and military history enthusiast.

Overall, I found the time I spent with Edward Young's Merrill's Marauders to be worthwhile, and I would recommend it to those interested in the fighting in Burma or those seeking a companion or small reference piece to the 5307th Composite Unit.



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