Sunday, 21 March 2010

Merrills Marauders

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The great Jeff Chandler as Merrill The movie isn't given enough credit in Sam Fuller's filmography, probably because it doesn't showcase the director's flamboyant tabloid sensibility. It's one of the best films about extreme combat situations, and shows Fuller perfectly capable of doing well with material not of his own devising. Frank Dow Merrill was born in Woodville, Massachusetts, United States, descendent of British settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s. In his teenage years, he worked for United Fruit Company on a freighter as a radio operator, and then enlisted in the US Army while still underage.

Merrill's Marauders is also noted as the last film appearance of star Jeff Chandler, who weathered the hostile shooting conditions only to fall, at age 42, to complications from a botched surgery to repair a back problem. Chandler was publicly mourned at the next year's Academy Awards, before obituaries were a common theme of the ceremony.

Frank Merrill  held every enlisted rank as well as the officer rank of lieutenant and had experience in Haiti and Panama before gaining entrance into the United States Military Academy at West Point. His poor eyesight was cited as the reason for repeated refusal, but he finally gained entrance after receiving presidential appointment.Early 1944, Merrill became the head of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), a unit modeled after British General Orde Wingate's expeditionary force Chindits which penetrated deep into Japanese lines to disrupt communications. Merrill's unit would later gain the name Merrill's Marauders. Colonel Charles Hunter was assigned to the 5307th as the senior officer under Merrill; Hunter described his commanding officer as "rather tall, he was by no means a rugged individual, being narrow of chest and rather thin. His features were sharp but his nature ebullient, affable and confident." The first Marauder campaign took place in late Feb 1944 as they attacked the Japanese 18th Division at Walawbum, allowing Stilwell's regular units to take control of the Hakawing Valley

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