World War II's "Merrill's Marauders" — Who Were They, and Why Do They Matter?

Brown Bag 2022 Lecture Series with John M. Jones, Jr.
In person & online
Monday, May 23, 2022 - 7:00am

In Person Location and Reservations
East Tennessee History Center, 601 South Gay Street, Knoxville, TN 37902 (Seating is limited.) Register on Eventbrite.

Online Reservations
Register on Eventbrite for this event streamed on Zoom

Or visit the ETHS Facebook page at the start of the program to watch this on Facebook Live.

While Allied forces in Europe were preparing for what would become known as "Operation Overlord" — the Normandy Invasion, on June 6, 1944 — half a world away in Asia, a top-secret all-volunteer U.S. Army regiment was fighting deep in the jungles of Burma against a crack Japanese force several times its size. The regiment's mission: to help drive the occupying Japanese force out of Burma and thus make it possible to reopen a vital Allied lifeline from India to China known as "The Burma Road." Officially, the secret American regiment was the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional). Unexpectedly, however, the unit soon became known to the nation, and eventually the world, by the nickname given it by an American war correspondent: Merrill's Marauders. The nickname was a reference to the commanding officer, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill. The 5307th was formally dissolved in early August 1944. In 2021, however, 77 years after the unit's mission in the spring and summer of 1944, and 76 years after the end of World War II, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to present "Merrill's Marauders" with the Congressional Gold Medal. The U.S. Senate had voted the previous year to take corresponding action. Only three of the original regiment of approximately 2,700 volunteers remain alive. Two of the last five died in late April.

The medal, which is considered an extremely high honor, is to be formally presented on May 25, in a ceremony that will be conducted virtually because of the very advanced age of the few surviving members of the unit. Who the "Merrill's Marauders" were — and why their World War II regiment is being given this very high honor by Congress — will be the subject of a May 23 brown bag lecture at the East Tennessee Historical Society. 

About the Speaker
John M. Jones Jr., a resident of Greeneville and a son of John M. Jones, Sr., one of the Marauders, now deceased. He earned an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University, and a graduate degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Mr. Jones served as a Reserve Officer, Military Intelligence and Security branch, in the U.S. Army, with his rank at completion of active duty as Captain. He has been a reporter, then Associate Editor, then Editor with The Greeneville Sun, 1968-1978, was Director of Communications for Campus Crusade for Christ International (now Cru), San Bernardino, Calif. (full-time volunteer position), 1978-1986, and again served as Editor for The Greeneville Sun, 1986-2015.