Preparations for the Return to Burma

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Stilwell checks the results of rifle training, Ramgarh, India, 1943.

Stilwell inspecting troops of the Chinese 38th Division at the
training base at Ramgarh, India, 1942. General Sun Li-jen, commander
of the 38th Division follows Stilwell.

Conference concerning training of Chinese troops at Ramgarh, India,
1943. Left to right are unknown Chinese officer, BG Sibert,
Stilwell, General Sun Li-jen, General Liao Yueh-shang.

Stilwell and Chinese General Sun Li-jen check on training at Ramgarh,
India, 1943.

Stilwell addressing wounded Chinese soldiers at the training facility
Stilwell set up to provide the soldiers with civilian skills once
they were discharged from the Army.

The 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was organized to participate in the Burma operations as the result of a decision made at the Quebec Conference in August, 1943. Five months later, on I February 1944, the three battalions comprising the provisional unit had been transported to India, organized, trained, and equipped for employment. They were the only American ground combat troops designated at this time for the China-Burma-India Theater. The Unit was to become know as Merriller’s Marauders.

Individual training emphasized marksmanship, scouting and patrolling, map reading, and jungle navigation. A normal amount of calisthenics was included in the daily routine, and the length and pace of marches were increased in order to make the men physically hard. Classes always marched to and from ranges and training areas, no matter how far they were from camp. Packs were worn whenever possible.

Platoon tactics were stressed in every training operation. Company, combat team, battalion, and unit exercises were also held, but time was short and attention had to be directed mostly toward moulding squads and platoons into highly efficient and well-coordinated teams. Each small unit was familiarized as much as possible with the normal combat activities of other types of units. Rifle platoon leaders and noncommissioned officers were instructed in directing mortar fire, and all men were taught the rudiments of voice radio procedure.

In general, the heavy weapons, intelligence and reconnaissance, pioneer and demolition, and communications personnel were already well trained in their special functions. Taking part in all training of their combat teams, they became physically hardened to the same extent as the rest of the men. Rear echelon personnel, including parachute packers, riggers, and kick-out crews, were trained separately by the unit S-4.

Ten days spent on maneuvers with General Wingate’s troops brought to light minor deficiencies. There was a shortage of pack animals, and the changes which had been made in organization and equipment required final adjustments.

After the commanders within the unit had been assigned, General Merrill was placed in charge of the entire force. He appointed Maj. Louis J. Williams as his executive officer, in charge of the Command Post group.

On 8 January 1944, the completely organized and trained unit was assigned to General Stilwell’s field command in northern Burma. He expected to use it in conjunction with the Chinese forces which were beginning their drive against the Japanese 18th Division. In accordance with General Stilwell’s concept of the use of long-range-penetration units, the 5307th was to be sent on bold missions against assigned objectives behind the enemy lines in order to facilitate the seizure of key points by the main Chinese forces.the unit, each battalion was formed into two jungle columns, called “combat teams” by the Americans. These were not combat teams in the accepted American sense, for their organization represented only a division of each battalion into two smaller units, without any addition of elements not organic to the battalion. The division was made in such a manner that each “combat team” had its share of the heavy weapons and other organic battalion elements and thus was able to operate as a self-contained unit.

General Stilwell’s immediate orders to the 5307th were to close in on Ledo by 7 February and from there to march over the trail as far as Ningbyen.

Decorating Chinese troops of the 22nd Division, 1943.

Stilwell in northern Burma, December 24, 1943. In the background is his aide, Lt. Richard Young.

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