Merrill trained and led a long-range penetration group called ‘Merrill’s Marauders.’ They were modeled on WINGATE’s chindits but were considerably more effective.
Merrill was in Rangoon at the start of the war and was STILWELL’s most trusted subordinate during his retreat from Burma. In May 1942 Merrill became a Lieutenant Colonel and began training his guerrilla force for operating in jungle conditions behind Japanese lines. Merrill’s Marauders set out in February 1944, cut off the Japanese rear at Maingkwan and severed their supply line at the Hukawng Valley by March. Although Merrill himself was hospitalized in April, May and July, his Marauders continued living off the land, harassing the enemy’s communications and attacking isolated outposts. On 17 May, together with some of Stilwell’s Chinese troops, they captured the Myitkyina airstrip. The town of Myitkyina held out till 4 August 1944. Merrill then became Deputy US Commander in Burma-India and, later, Chief of Staff of the US 10th Army in the Pacific.