Operations of the 5307 (Composite) Regiment (Provisional), Merrill’s Marauders (Galahad) in North Burma. Period : April – May 1944, (LRPG) Long Range Penetration Mission, Personal Experience of the Counter Intelligence Corps Officer, Maj Farris Hardin.
This archive covers the operations of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), Merrill’s Marauders (Galahad), in North Burma, from April 27 to May 27 1944, during the China, Burma, India Campaign. In January 1942, the Japanese invaded Burma with two divisions which they had concentrated in Southern Thailand. Moulmein was taken on January 30 1942, and although the Salween River and the Sittang River crossing were bitterly contested by the Indian and Burmese Air Forces aided by the British Royal Air Force, as well as the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers), these forces were quickly overwhelmed by Japanese superiority bu Japanese planes, men and equipment. Rangoon, the capital and principal port fell on March 8, and the Japanese division pushed up the Sittang River where Maj gen Joseph W. ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell was deploying his Chinese forces for defense of the Burma Road. The other Japanese division pushed up the Irrawaddy River, driving the Burmese and Indian defenders before it. Toungoo on the Sittang River, and Prome on the Irrawaddy River were seized early in April. From Prome, the Japanese pushed north yo Yenangyaung, then west, and on May 4 1942, occupied the port of Akyab on the Bay of Bengal.
The Japanese landed two additional divisions at Rangoon and drove rapidly north into the upper Salween valley, where they occupied Lashio, junction of the rail and highway sections of the Burma Road. Mandalay was evacuated by Chinese troops on May 1. from Lashio, the enemy pushed up the Salween valley well into China. In north central Burma they proceeded north along the Irrawaddy River almost to Fort Hertz, and occupied Kalewa on the Chindwin River. British, Burmese and Indian survivors retreated up the Chindwin valley and across the Chin Hills, while the decimated remnants of the Chinese forces retired to India via Schingbwiyang. As no motor road or railroad connected India with Burma, the withdrawal was made entirely but foot. The monsoon rains of June found the Japanese holding all of Burma except for the undesirable fringes of mountains, jungle and swamps on the north and west. The Japanese continued pressure along the coast from Akyab and by October 1942, despite stubborn British resistance, had reached the frontier of Bengal, a province of India. In February 1943, the enemy launched an offensive northwest from Myitkyina, closing the Sumprabum, thus threatening to destroy the British-led Kachin Levies operating in the area.
The Kachins inhabit North Burma and are active traders; and in addition mine amber and jade found in the area around Myitkyina. They practice nature worship, in contrast to Buddism of the more civilized Burmese to the south. When organized by British and Americans, the Kachins were extremely helpful as guides and auxiliary troops in the campaign against the Japanese.
The Japanese conquest of Burma seriously menaced India and cut the last land route of supplies to China. In addition to its strategic value, the seizure of Burma by the Japanese was well worth the effort. The paddy fields of the valley and delta of the Irrawaddy River normally yielded seven million tons of rice. This crop solved a major supply for the rice-eating Japanese garrison; while any large scale Allied offensive in Burma would necessitate the Allied being supplied from far away Indian bases. In their withdrawal, the British had destroyed the field, demolished the refinery of the rich oilfield area near Yenangyaung. This denied the petroleum to the enemy, but it would have been a great asset to the Allied mobility had they been able to retain it, as these field normally produced 250.000.000 gallons per year. In addition, the wolfram mines on the Salween River, the largest single source of Tungsten in the world, were in the hands of the enemy. The occupation of the inner basin of Burma gave the Japanese two distinct advantages for future military operations. First, they were occupying areas least affected by either monsoon or malaria, both of which are major factors to be considered when planning campaigns in affected areas. Secondly, the Japanese enjoyed a better system of land communications than did the Allies.
(Above : (1) The Yenangyaung Oil Wells (Photo from 1910); (2) A Chinese woman breaking stones for repairs to the Burma Road, Burma 1942. (3) Japanese troops in Burma.
At the Quebec Conference in August 1943, Lord Louis Mountbatten was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Southeast Asia Command, which included the China – Burma – India Theater of Operations. As a result of a decision made at this conference, the 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional) was to be organized to participate in the Burma operations. This decision was made upon the request of Brig Order C. Wingate for 3000 jungle trained American Infantrymen to be organized under his direction into LRPGs (Long Range Penetration Groups). Wingate had already enjoyed marked success with LRPGs of the British Army in Burma. By January 1944, the three battalions comprising the provisional unit had been transported to India, organized, trained and equipped for employment, and on January 8, was assigned to Vinegar Joe Stilwell’s field command on North Burma. He expected to use it to facilitate the seizure of key points by his main Chinese forces which were beginning their drive against the 18th Japanese Division.
In 1944, the British began offensive operations in the Akyab and Imphal area, while Chinese troops attacked astride the Burma Road, along the Salween River in southwestern China. Chinese troops under the command of Gen Stilwell began offensive operations in the area of Ledo. Five different Japanese Divisions were in Burma, and they also were ready to resume the offense. The 55th Division on the Akyab front was extremely aggressive, while on the Chindwin River, the 15th, 31st and the 33rd, were organizing for a strong offensive. The 18th Division, the conquerors of Singapore stood ready to oppose any advance in North Burma. The American-trained Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions, began their offensive to clear the Ledo Road. The Ledo Road is the key to an understanding of the 1944 campaign in Northern Burma. The Combined Chiefs of Staff had recognized the importance of giving China sufficient support to keep her in the war; and accordingly, as a result of a decision made at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the Combined Chiefs directed that surface communications be re-established with China and the flow of air supply over the Hump be increased.
The resumption of land communications with China had become a main aim of Allied strategy, but only a complete defeat of the Japanese in Burma would give the Allies the old route from Rangoon to China. The Ledo Road was a daring effort to build a new road from Northeast India across North Burma, linking up with the Burma Road at the frontier of China. The base of departure in India had rail and water communications with the larger ports of India, as well as several large air fields. Included in the plans for the Ledo Road was the construction of a pipeline consisting of two 4-inch lines to carry gasoline pumped from India to China, thereby relieving the road and air traffic. This pipeline was to parallel the road as much as practicable. By early February the Allied offensive was making good progress, and the highway had been extended some 100 miles from Ledo, although the main Japanese defenses had not been reached. The 5037 Composite arrived at Ledo, and Gen Stilwell sent it on a wide envelopment across the mountains to reach the rear of the Japanese opposing the advance of his Chinese troops.
The terrain on North Burma is a veritable mass of large rivers and small streams, dense jungles, and sharp hills and mountains. The main routes of communications are native footpaths and narrow cart tracks, throughout 95% of the entire area. The climate is a tropical monsoon area with extremely heavy rainfall; average rainfall in North Burma is 75 to 100 inches per years. During the period from March to June the weather is excessively hot and humid. The Marauders crossed mountains 8000 feet high and moved over extremely difficult terrain in their efforts to gain access to the enemy’s rear. Pack mules were used and in addition to all supplies being received by air, all casualties were evacuated by air, which in many cases necessitated the construction of air strips in the jungle so that light liaison aircraft could land to pick up their patients. After penetrating to the enemy rear areas the Marauders established road blocks, ambushed supply trains and groups of enemy reinforcements, and generally harassed the Japanese 18th Division forces opposing the advance of the Chinese.
By April 27 1944, the Marauders had at least reached striking distance of Myitkyina, and it’s adjacent airfield, which was the only hard-surfaced airdrome in North Burma. The Marauders were nearly exhausted however, having fought for almost three months and could not go much longer without rest and reinforcement. Stilwell’s 22nd and 38th Chinese Divisions were fighting toward Kamaing, while in the Irrawaddy valley, north of Myitkyina, the British-led Kachin and Gurkha forces were fighting south toward a large Japanese supply base at Nsopzup, after having recaptured Sumprabum. Myitkyina, utilized by the Japanese as their principal base for defense of Burma from the north, is situated 170 air miles southeast of Ledo, and is the northernmost point of a railroad from Rangoon, as well as the head of navigation of the Irrawaddy River. It lay in the proposed path of the Ledo Road, approximately 170 air miles from the Burma Road junction at Lashio. The capture of the town and its airfield would dispose of the principal air base from which the Japanese aircraft had harassed American transport planes flying supplies into China. In addition, the capture of Myitkyina by the Allies would quickly paralyze Japanese operations in North Burma.
The Gurkhas inhabit the Nepal province in India and are extremely warlike. They have served Great Britain for many years in organized Infantry Regiments, and are noted for their ferocity aggressiveness, amenability to orders and discipline, and their adaptability to rigors of hard campaigning.
The Chindits, known officially as the Long Range Penetration Groups, were special operations units of the British and Indian armies, which saw action in 1943–1944, during the Burma Campaign. The creation of British Brigadier Orde Charles Wingate, the Chindits were formed for raiding operations against the Japanese Army, especially long-range penetration: attacking Japanese troops, facilities and lines of communication, deep behind Japanese lines.
The Marauders were physically worn out, having marched and fought through several hundred miles of exceedingly difficult terrain since February 9 1944, and during most of that 80-day period they had lived exclusively on K-Rations, in addition nearly all of the men had suffered in some extend from dysentery and fevers. The unit had lost some 700 men killed, wounded, and sick, from their original strength of approximately 3000. All supply and evacuation had been carried out satisfactorily by air, however there were no American replacements in the theater to refill the Marauder ranks. Joseph Stilwell was forced to reinforce the three battalions of Marauders with elements of the 88th and 150th Chinese Regiments and approximately 300 Kachins to provide sufficient strength for the mission. The Marauders were organized into three groups : (1) (H-Force) CO, Colonel Charles N. Hunter and composed of the 1/5307 and the 150th Chinese Regiment; (2) (M-Force) CO, Lt Col George A. McGee, composed of the 2/5307 and the 88th Chinese Regiment; (3) (K-Force) CO, Col Henry L. Kinnison, composted of the 3/5307 and 300 Kachins. The Artillery support consisted of one Battery 75-MM Pack Howitzer (22nd Chinese Division) attached to H-Force, while the 5307 Organic 75-MM Pack Howitzer Battery was attached to K-Force for the mission.
Moving out on April 28, they established several road blocks behind the enemy lines to screen the main effort and directed a strong column toward Myitkyina. The column crossed the Kumon Range, which rose in this area to over 6000 feet (1850-M). The trail selected for use has been reported impassable and had not been used in ten years. Capt William A. Laffin and 2/Lt Paul A. Dunlap with a group 30 Kachin Levies and 30 coolies were assigned the mission of preceding the main column and repairing the worst places along the route. In spite of extreme difficulty caused by the monsoon rains and low clouds, air drops were carried out successfully. Rain fell daily, and the damp heat was stifling. Footholds had to be cut in some places where the train was so step that pack animals could not negotiate it otherwise. In places, not path of any sort could be found despite the work of of Capt Laffin’s advance group. Twenty packs animals with their loads of ammunition and weapons slipped on the uncertain footing of the hillsides and plunged to their death in the valleys far below.
OSS 101 (Office of the Strategic Services Detachment 101) furnished the force a Kachin guide who led them on a circuitous route through jungle and paddy fields in order to reach Myitkyina unobserved by either Japanese or natives. The guide, (Nauiyand Nau), was bitten by a poisonous snake at 2030, May 15, just as the force reached the upper Namkwi River, about 15 miles from the objective. he attempted to go on, but within a short time he was unable to walk on his badly swollen foot. Without his guidance the Marauders were practically immobilized. Capt Laffin and Lt Dunlap decided to make an incision at the spot where the snake’s fangs had penetrated Nau’s foot and for two hours sucked poison from the wound. By 0230, the Kachin had recovered sufficiently to mount Col Hunter’s horse and continue leading the column toward its objective for the night.
H-Force resumed its march at noon on May 16 and crossed the Namkwi River, near the village of Namkwi. K-Force was feinting toward the enemy supply base at Nsopzup, some twenty miles to the north, while M-Force was blocking roads, trails and screening the maneuver some thirty miles to the northwest. The only two natives who had observed the column had been taken along with the force to prevent their alerting the Japanese garrison in Myitkyina. In view of the fact that this force was now only some four miles from the air strip in Myitkyina, Col Hunter took more precautions to keep the movement of his force un known. The Kachin guerrillas assisted his men in rounding up all the inhabitants of Namkwi, some of whom were known to be pro-Japanese, and confined them within H-Force’s lines until morning. In order to maintain secrecy of the Marauders’ arrival so close the the airfield, neither railroad nor telegraph line was cut.
Plan for the Attack on the Myitkyina Air Strip
Col Hunter selected the time of the attack on the airstrip as 1000, May 17. His plan called for the 1/5307 (Col Osborne), to lead the Chinese 150th Regiment southwest en of the field and leave them attack the air strip at that point. Osborne and his men were to move southwest and secure the ferry terminal at Pamati. By controlling this terminal, the Marauders had possession of the nearest crossing of the Irrawaddy River. The plan for the attack on the air strip was based on information brought back by a six-man patrol under Sgt Clarence E. Branscomb which enable Col Hunter to accurately estimate the number of Japanese troops and Burmese workmen on the airstrip, as well as the fact that the Japanese habitually withdrew during daylight to the thick scrub and bamboo clumps at some distance from the airstrip in order to avoid strafing of the field by Allied aircraft.
Attack on Myitkyina Air Strip
The attack went off as scheduled. The Chinese 150th Regiment was led to the southwest end of the field and launched their attack from that point. The air strip was not strongly defended and the attack came as a complete surprise to the Japanese. Sporadic fighting occurred the morning, but by 1200, the air strip was in Allied hands. Osborne pushed to Pamati, and by 1100, he had secured the village and ferry terminal. One Company of Marauders, reinforced with Machine Guns, was instructed to hold the ferry site, while the remainder of the Battalion returned to the air strip, were Col Hunter ordered the Battalion to seize Zigyun, the main ferry terminal from Myitkyina. The Battalion left the air strip at 1700 and moved southeast to the Irrawaddy River near Rampur, bivouacking there for the night, prepared to move on Zigyun in the morning.
Immediately after seizure of the air strip, Col Hunter radioed Gen Merrill asking for reinforcements and supplies. The air strip could handle transport planes delivering larger cargoes than could be profitably air dropped. Supplies which had been too bulky or too heavy for parachute drops could now be brought in, and light motor transportation could also be made available. The evacuation of casualties could also be carried out much easier now that larger aircraft could be used. Previously the light liaison aircraft had been required for landings or sandbars, rice paddys, or cleared jungle areas, but now larger aircraft could be used on the airstrip. The Chinese 89th Regiment, waiting on rears fields was ordered to Myitkyina and one Battalion arrived at Ledo late this afternoon. Col Hunter also radioed M and K-Forces, requesting their assistance and both Forces immediately began forced march for Myitkyina.
When it became apparent that the Japanese were not attempting to reinforce their troops near the air strip on May 17, Col Hunter concluded that the enemy did not hold Myitkyina in strength. Intelligence reports confirmed his assumption, and although the Marauders were not organized nor equipped for and assault of prepared Japanese positions; he decided to take maximum advantage of his surprise assault by attempting to seize the city. The question confronting Col Hunter was whether he or the enemy could build up strength the quicker.
Plan for the Attack of Myitkyina City
Gen Frank D. Merrill (CO Galahad) flew in and established his headquarters ordering Col Hunter to attack Myitkyina with the disengaged portion of the H-Force. Two battalions of the Chinese 150th Regiment were to attack Myitkyina, while the one battalion of the Chinese 89th Regiment, which was flown from Ledo and had just arrived, would protect the air strip. The third battalion of the 150th Chinese Regiment was to remain in reserve at the air strip. The 1/5307 would continue to hold the ferry terminal on the Irrawaddy River at Pamati, with one company reinforced, and the remainder of the battalion would continue toward Zigyun to secure the other ferry crossing south of Myitkyina. If done this way, the H-Force would then control two of the approaches to Myitkyina from the south.
Attack on Myitkyina City
On May 18, the 1/5307 (-) seized Rampur where they captured several warehouse of clothing and other supplies. They occupied Zigyun without opposition by 1000 and took several Burmese prisoners. While defensive positions were were being prepared, the battalion was informed that a company of Chinese was on their to relieve them and that they were to return to the airfield. This relied was considerably delayed as the Chinese unit engaged several groups of enemy stragglers en route and consumed 48 hours in reaching Zigyun. The Chinese dug in nine times in five miles. On May 18, the two battalions of the Chinese 150th Regiment attacked Myitkyina from the north. After seizing the railroad station, they became involved in confused fighting and had to retire to as position about 800 yards west of the town, were they dug in. The primary reason for the failure of the attack and the confused fighting of the Chinese was the discovery of a supply of native liquor and the looting of a jewelry store. K-Force was approaching Myitkyina, however, the guides lost their way about eight miles from the city and the unit was forced to bivouac for the night.
With daylight, K-Force discovered the Myitkyina – Mogaung road near their perimeter, and they pushed on along this road. Learning of their approach, Gen Merrill radioed K-Force to attack and secure Charpate, which they did without appreciable Japanese resistance, and the 3/5307 dug in around the village, while the 88th Chinese Regiment moved to the southwest on a line from Charpate to the railroad. The mission of the 3/5307 was to block the Mogaung road and to patrol the trails converging on Charpate. The village of Charpate is situated of a flat area surrounded by rice paddies. The ground rises slightly four to five hundred yards to the northwest and this high ground is covered with dense growth of scrub and vines. The 3/5307 overlooked the importance of this high ground in preparing its defensive positions.
Still on May 18, Lt Col Gordon S. Seagraves, the famous Burma Surgeon landed on the airstrip at Myitkyina with four medical officers and eighteen Burmese nurses. He immediately established his small hospital in a revetment adjacent to the air strip and began operating Chinese casualties. On May 19, small bands of Japanese trying to enter Myitkyina via the Mogaung attempted to the perimeter hold by the 3/5307, however, none of these engagements was serious. Gen Merrill began a buildup of his force along the Namkwi River to the southwest of Charpate. The reinforced Company of the 1/5307 at the Parmati ferry was relieved by a company of the 150th Chinese Regiment on May 19, and the Marauders company returned to Namkwi to take up defensive position along the Namkwi River. M-Force reached Namkwi the evening of the 19, ill and weak from hunger, for the supplies of food which they had requested and anticipated had not been dropped. Food was secured from H-Force, the unit then out posted Namkwi, and patrolled to the west and the southwest. Merrill had now placed his lines so that the Japanese reinforcements could reach Myitkyina only across the Irrawaddy River to the east, or along the Irrawaddy – Mankrin or Myitkyina – Radhapur roads from the north. The Allies covered all approaches from the northwest, west, southwest and south. Thus far, the enemy activity had been slight; even the air strip was handling an ever increasing amount of supplies, in spite of continual sniping.
Counter Intelligence Corps Activities Myitkyina
The first Counter Intelligence Corps personnel arrived in Myitkyina at this time and began preparations for carrying out counter intelligence mission of the command (*). British Intelligence Agencies had classified the residents of the area into three categories of security risks.
The Black List : contained names whose presence in the area was prejudicial to Allied security and whose apprehension and incarceration was desired by the British.
The White List : contained names of persons who were known to be loyal to the Allied cause and could be trusted to cooperate.
The Gray List : contained names of persons who could not be placed with certainly in either of the above categories.
These lists had been prepared as a result of interrogation of civilian and military personnel fleeing Burma in 1942, as well as information gained by Brigadier Orde Wingate’s Long Range Penetration Groups which had operated in South Central Burma. With these lists in their possession, the Counter Intelligence Corps Agents undertook the task of screening the large refugee camp which was being established at Pamati. The Japanese were sending the residents of the town out of the Marauder lines in an attempt not only to cause confusion, but also to conserve for themselves what little food there was in Myitkyina. The refugees were fed by the Allies in spite of the additional strain on the air supply facilities. In addition, a few Burmese had made huge profits trafficking in American flyers shot down over Burma. After having received a large prepaid reward of silver Rupees which the American flyers carried for the purpose of rewarding anyone who helped them return to Allied lines, the Burman would bury the silver Rupees where he could reclaim them at a later date, and then lead the American flyer into the hands of the Japanese. In this manner the Burman received two bounties; one from the American flyer, and another from the Japanese who were paying large sums for American flyers.
(*) Personal knowledge; Statement of Major D. E. Mackenzie, then Commanding Officer, Counter Intelligence Corps, China – Burma – India Theater, May 29 1944
Several of these individuals were captured as a result of interrogation of the refugees and investigations conducted in the hills surrounding Myitkyina. Native labor for use on the air strip was screened and refugees and line crossers were interrogated for information of tactical value. Information was gathered on Japanese strength, morale, supplies, and the location of headquarters and command posts in Myitkyina. Maj White of the British Civil Affairs Services arrived in the area and took charge of the stockade which was housing a large number of Burmese. One young girl was engaged in the dangerous occupation of running Japanese troops through the Marauders lines. After her capture by the Counter Intelligence Corps, she readily admitted that she had led numerous groups of Japanese soldiers through the Kunai grass and jungle surrounding Myitkyina into the city, using several devious routes whereby she had been able to avoid Marauder or Chinese lines, patrols, or outposts. This young girl was later executed by the British for her assistance to the Japanese in the Myitkyina campaign.
(Above) Members of the 4th Platoon, British Intelligence Corps, Burma. (Below) This group of British Intelligence Corps men served with the Chindits in 1944, in Burma.
It was learned from refugees at the Pamati camp that a number of Japanese comfort girls had been present in Myitkyina when the city was attacked. The comfort girls were camp followers of various Asiatic races whose mission was to entertain the Japanese troops – a sort of legalized prostitution. Efforts were immediately made to locate these women, and one by one they were gradually accounted for; one was not found until many months later when she was located living in India. The pilots of transport planes leaving Myitkyina airstrip for India had been only too glad to furnish transportation to their bases in India for any refugee who had asked, and as a result a close check had to be maintained at the air strip to insure that no civilians left Myitkyina without authorization. In spite of this security check at the air strip and the briefing of all flying crews landings at Myitkyina, illegal air traffic flourished.
A pass system was initiated for the refugees and many were given permits to travel away from the combat area, however, the majority remained in the refugee camp at Pamati. An illicit radio station in the hills surrounding Myitkyina was broadcasting news of Allied plane arrival and troops equipment unloading at the Myitkyina air strip, and as a result several teams of Counter Intelligence Corps Agents, together with Burmese police, entered the hills in an effort to locate the broadcaster. Signal Intelligence units were employed and after a lengthy, arduous chase one long Japanese and a small, but powerful, radio was captured. Plans were made to place the Counter Intelligence Corps personnel with assault units to insure that trained intelligence personnel were available when Japanese command post were uncovered. In this manner looting and unnecessary destruction of documents was avoided. Japanese prisoners were evacuated by air to India after a cursory interrogation at Myitkyina. The Counter Intelligence Corps had several agents present who could speak Japanese and these agents assisted in the interrogations.
Meanwhile, General Merrill began forming a Myitkyina Task Force for his planned coordinated attack on the town. This plan involved the reshuffling of all units of his command. The Marauder Battalions were to be combined under the command of Col Hunter; and the Chinese Regiments were to operate as separate units. As this reorganization was completed, Gen Merrill became ill, and had to be evacuated, Col John E. McGammon assuming command. The Myitkyina Task Force was unable to undertake its mission of a coordinated attack on the town. The Japanese had been able to reinforce the garrison, and estimated 3000 to 4000 enemy having come in from Nsopzup, Mogaung, and even further south, despite the Marauders efforts to cover the main approaches to the town, and the last ten days of May saw the Allies engaged in a defensive struggle to hold the air strip. The Japanese had built up more strength at Myitkyina than the Allies and by May 23, were passing over on the offensive.
If the Japanese were successful in their attempt to regain the air strip, then the American and Chinese troops in the Myitkyina area would be left with no way to escape except the rugged jungle trail over which they had come, and they were in no condition for such an ordeal. The most drastic measures were justifiably taken to muster a force adequate to defend the airfield. Since no Infantry replacements were available within the theater, the higher command reluctantly directed that the evacuation of sick and exhausted Marauders be held to an absolute minimum. Marauders convalescing in India after evacuation from Burma were rushed to Myitkyina. Some 200 arrived at the air strip, but medical officers declared that 50 were unfit for combat and these were returned to India. Fortunately a small group of replacements did arrive from India, and these were rushed to Myitkyina by air. These replacements, together with the 209th Engineer Combat battalion arrived on May 28 to further strength the defenses.
The first evidence of difficulty became clear on May 21, in the area north of the air strip. The 3/5307 had left Charpate at 1000 in an attempt to reach the road junction north of Radhapur. Short of the junction, they encountered and enemy position with tight bands of automatic fire directed over level terrain which pinned down the Marauders to the ground and forced them to dig in. During the night, the Japanese came down the Mogaung Road through Charpate to attack the rear of the 3/5307, however they were beaten off after severe fight. The 3/5307 withdrew to their origina position near Charpate at daylight and resumed patrolling.
At 2200, on May 23, a battalion of Japanese launched an attack on Charpate from the high ground northeast of the village. This was the high ground that the Marauders had overlooked in their preparation of the defense of Charpate. The Japanese attack penetrated the Marauder lines early in the action, and the Marauders were barely able to repel the attack after suffering severe casualties. The following morning, May 24, the Japanese resumed the attack, and in order to avert a rout the 3/5307 was ordered to break contact with the enemy and withdraw to the railroad 2.5 miles to the south. The Japanese occupied Charpate and held it in force immediately upon the withdrawal of the Marauders. On May 25, the Japanese, supported by mortar fire, attacked Namkwi in great strength, forcing the 2/5307 to pull back to a ridge about halfway from Myitkyina. With the Japanese seizure of Namkwi they had recaptured two of the villages on the approaches to Myitkyina.
On May 27, Charlie 209-ECB was attached to the 2/5307, and this force was forced to reconnoiter the Charpate area and to attempt to reach Radhapur. South of Charpate the 2/5307 was attacked, and though the Japanese were not present in great strength, fatigue dysentery, malaria, and malnutrition had so decimated and wasted the Marauders that the unit was not effective for combat. Several men went to sleep from exhaustion during the engagement. Even Lt Col McGee, CO of the 2/5307, lost consciousness three times, and between relapses directed the battalion from an aid station. The attack was successfully beaten off, however Lt Col McGee was convinced that his troops were unfit for further combat and asked to have his unit relieved as soon as possible. This was the last action at Myitkyina for most of the Marauders. The 1/5307 and the 3/5307 were back near the air strip, and neither had sufficient men fit for combat to be termed a fighting force. It was apparent that a larger force was required to besiege the city, a task for which the Marauder unit had not been organized nor trained, and which it was not strong enough to accomplish. Only 1310 men had reached Myitkyina between May 17 and May 27. Allied reinforcements finally arrived to carry on the fight, and about 200 men of the 1/5307, nearly all replacements who had recently joined Galahad, remained in the area until the fall of Myitkyina on August 3. The remnants of this force took part in the final attack on Myitkyina.
Results of the Operation
The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), although it did not capture its assigned objective – Myitkyina, did succeed in capturing the only hard surfaced air strip in the north Burma area. The capture of this air strip, only two miles from the objective, enabled the Allies to reinforce and build up for the ultimate capture of Myitkyina, and also to support further offensive effort in north Burma which culminated in the successful completion of the Ledo Road, on January 28 1945. The name of the road was changed on that date to the ‘Stilwell Road’ in honor of General Joseph Stilwell. Myitkyina was the key to the Allied effort opening land communications and supply routes to China, and the Marauders by taking and holding the adjacent air field, made its capture possible.
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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)