The Burma Campaign

American Forces in Burma

The first American ground unit in Burma was the 5307th Regiment (Provisional), a three battalion force, made up of about 3,000 volunteers from the United States, the 33rd Infantry Regiment in Trinidad, and United States forces in the south-west Pacific.  This force was given the name "Merrill's Marauders" by the press but was also known as Unit ‘Galahad’.  Its commander was Brigadier General Frank Merrill, but for most of its time in combat, it was led by Colonel Charles N. Hunter.

The initial battalion commanders were:

1st Battalion: Lt. Colonel William L. Osborne
2nd Battalion: Lt. Colonel George A. McGee, Jr
3rd Battalion: Lt. Colonel Charles E. Beach.

Each battalion was composed of two combat teams of 16 officers and 456 enlisted men.  Pack animal transport was provided, with initial mule strength of 700 animals.  Unit ‘Galahad’ operations took place in 1944, resulting in the fall of Myitkyina on 3rd August. The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter.

The few fit survivors were assigned to its successor, the 5332nd Brigade.  During the latter phase of the operation, a new force, named "New Galahad" was organized.  It was designated the 5332nd Brigade (Provisional) and consisted of the 124th Cavalry Regiment and the 475th Infantry Regiment. The United States Army designated the 475th as a Long Range Penetration Regiment, Special.  The Brigade was known as the "Mars Task Force."  Its first commander was Brigadier General Thomas S. Arms, succeeded by Brigadier General John P. Willey.  The 475th was commanded by Colonel William L. Osborne, former commander of the 1st Battalion of the 5307th Regiment.  The first commander of the 124th Cavalry was Colonel Milo H. Matteson.

The United States also provided invaluable air force units, such as the 10th and 14th Air Forces, which provided direct fighter and ground support, and medium/heavy bomber operations.  The First and Second Troop Carrier Squadrons also provided vital air resupply support, not only to the 5307th and 5332nd, but also to Major General Orde Wingate's ‘Chindit’ forces in 1943 and 1944.

In addition, there were supply support organizations such as the Army Signal Corps construction and service battalions which built and operated the telephone and teletype open wire circuits along the Ledo and Burma Roads.  There were petroleum pipeline construction and operations companies which, by the end of the war, supplied gasoline all the way to Myitkyina.  Quartermaster road construction and operations battalions built the Ledo Road from Ledo to Bhamo in Burma, improved the Burma Road all the way to Kunming, China, and operated truck convoys from India to China, beginning in January 1945.  Railway operations battalions improved the rail supply system in Assam.

01 December 2017