WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Veterans of a heralded U.S. Army unit that fought in the jungles of Burma in World War II are heading to Capitol Hill in an effort to bolster support for legislation that would award a Congressional Gold Medal to its soldiers for their service.
Robert E. Passanisi and Gilbert Howland, two of only nine surviving members of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), popularly known as Merrill’s Marauders, are scheduled to meet on Feb. 5 with Members of Congress and staff in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP partner Frederick R. Eames leads a pro bono team assisting the Merrill’s Marauders Association in enlisting Congressional support for the recognition. The legislation, Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Act, passed the U.S. Senate on Dec. 5, 2019. It now must receive support from two-thirds of the House of Representatives to be enacted. The Special Forces Association and the Association of the U.S. Army are collaborating in the effort.
“Mr. Passanisi and Mr. Howland’s visit to the Hill provides Congress an opportunity to thank them for their exceptional valor in World War II,” Eames said. “Honoring Merrill’s Marauders with a Congressional Gold Medal would help bring them the public recognition they deserve.”
“Highly trained soldiers that we regard today as heroes, such as the Special Forces, look to Merrill’s Marauders as role models,” Eames said. “The unimaginable conditions these men successfully fought through changed the understanding of the limits of human endurance in armed conflict.”
Passanisi, Merrill’s Marauders Association’s historian, lives in Long Island, New York, and Howland lives in Hamilton, New Jersey. Both in their mid-90s, they are among the unit’s nine remaining members.
Commanded by Army Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill, Merrill’s Marauders was a 3,000-soldier special forces jungle warfare unit that served in Burma in 1944. In its six-month operation, the Marauders’ three battalions fought in five major battles and more than 30 other engagements against the Japanese army. Its success opened a critical land route so the United States could continue to supply its Chinese allies and help support them as a fighting force.
By the time it was deactivated in August 1944, Merrill’s Marauders had lost hundreds of soldiers to both fatal or incapacitating combat injuries, starvation and disease. The unit won a Presidential Unit Citation, six Distinguished Service Crosses, four Legions of Merit, 44 Silver Stars, and a Bronze Star for every member.
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