Frank Merrill

Frank Merrill

Frank Merrill was born in the United States on 4th December, 1903. He joined the US Army and reached the rank of sergeant before attending West Point Military Academy. Merrill graduated in 1929 (147/299) and was commissioned in the cavalry.

Merrill continued to study and obtained a BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also spent a year studying weapons and was a language student in Tokyo.

In October 1941 Merrill was promoted to the rank of major and was posted to join the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Merrill was transferred to Burma where he served under General Joseph Stilwell.

In August 1943 it was decided to form a US military unit that specialized in guerrilla warfare and long-range penetration tactics. Merrill was placed in charge of the group that was based on those formed by Orde Wingate, Evans Carlson and Merritt Edson.

Recruits to Merrill's Marauders were from the United States and the Caribbean. Colonel Charles Hunter was second in command to Merrill and was responsible for jungle training that was held at Deogarth.

Merrill led his men on their first campaign on 24th February 1944 when they attacked the 18th Japanese Division in Burma. This action enabled General Joseph Stilwell to gain control of the Hakawing Valley.

On the unit's second campaign in March 1944, Merrill had a severe heart-attack at Hsamshingyang and had to be evacuated to Ledo.

Merrill returned to duty on 17th May and took part in the advance to Myitkyina. By this time the Marauders had lost 700 men and had to be reinforced with Chinese troops.

Major General Frank Merrill and General Joseph Stilwell (1943)
Major General Frank Merrill and General Joseph Stilwell (1943)

On the way to Myitkyina the Marauders marched for 750 miles and fought in 5 major engagements and 32 skirmishes with the Japanese Army. Casualties were high and only 1,300 Marauders reached their objective and of these, 679 had to be hospitalized. This included Merrill who had suffered a second-heart attack before going down with malaria. The rest of the Marauders had to wait for reinforcements before Myitkyina was taken on 3rd August 1944.

Merrill was promoted to major general on 5th September 1944 and placed in charge of the Allied Liaison Group. The following year Merrill became deputy US Commander in Burma and went with General Joseph Stilwell and the 10th Army to Okinawa.

After retiring from the US Army in 1948 Merrill was appointed Commissioner of Public Works in New Hampshire. Frank Merrill continued to suffer from poor health and died aged fifty-two on 11th December 1955. The movie Merrill's Marauders was released in 1962.