|OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY AMEDD REGIMENT AMEDD MUSEUM|
HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY
THE MARAUDERS AND THE MICROBES
A Record of Righteous Indignation
THE MARAUDERS AND THE MICROBES
James E. T. Hopkins, M.D., Henry G. Stelling, M.D., and Tracy S. Voorhees
"VICTORY AGAIN. Radio from George Marshall on U.S. units for Stepchild. Only 3,000, but the entering wedge. Can we use them! And how!"--Stilwell Diary, 2 Sept. 1943.
"* * * 12 men left in 2 [Battalion] G[alahad]. Beach and Magee sick. Shudmak discouraged. [Galahad] is just shot."--Stilwell Diary, 30 May 1944.1
Stilwell's terse terms of jubilance and despair sum up the history of the first and principal action of American infantry in the Burma campaigns of World War II. At Quebec, in August 1943, Stilwell's sponsors secured the promise of an American force as a token match for the British 14th Army and the Chinese Army in India. The Quebec planners supposed that the American regiment would serve with General Wingate's long range penetration group. This notion did not suit Stilwell, however. He did not like Wingate's plan for isolated action; his national pride was offended. Rather, he wanted the regiment to fight in close conjunction with the main Chinese advance, acting as a spearhead or as a flanking weapon. Wingate resisted Stilwell's claims, and the Americans had already started toward Burma before Stilwell's authority over them was assured.2
To raise the regiment, the War Department issued a call for volunteers and rapidly assembled the officers and men who responded from the United States, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and the South and Southwest Pacific Theaters. On 29 October, the troops arrived at Bombay,
1Stilwell Papers, Hoover Institution on War,
Revolution, and Peace, Stanford University. The quoted passages are also
found in the published version of the diaries, pp. 219 and (in part) 301.
Stepchild was the cover name for Burma campaign plans. Galahad
was the code title of the regiment of American infantry which journalists
dubbed "Merrill's Marauders" and the Army officially knew as
the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional); Stilwell always preferred the
original code name. Lieutenant Colonels George A. McGee, Jr., and Charles
E. Beach commanded the 2d and 3d Battalions of the regiment. Maj. Melvin
A. Schudmak, M.C., was the Regimental Surgeon. The appropriate military
symbol for battalion appears in the quoted passage.
stopped briefly at a staging camp in nearby Deolali, and then moved to Deogarh, Bengal Province, for their training. The unsettled command situation left them under improvised administrative and supply arrangements for much of this time. The troops were restive under the general supervision of Wingate's headquarters. Their self-respect as volunteers leaked away in the weeks when they did not even bear an official military designation. Their enthusiasm was scarcely increased by the vague and awkward nomenclature finally adopted--5307th Composite Unit (Provisional).3
The 5307th was organized into three battalions of infantry, without artillery support but with 700 pack animals. Each battalion was divided into two combat teams. Of special importance was an air supply section, for it was conceived at the outset that the 5307th, like Wingate's Special Force, would depend on aircraft for supplies and for casualty evacuation. Twelve officers and 84 men composed the medical establishment, enough to provide detachments for each combat team.
The volunteers presumably were ready for a "hazardous mission," and were in a "high state of physical ruggedness and stamina." Some were battle-tested. Accepting Wingate's doctrines, the planners assumed that the regiment would be able to stand 3 months of jungle fighting. At the end of that time, its condition would be so bad that there would be no use trying to salvage it by sending in replacements. Its survivors would need prolonged rest at the rear before they could again be sent into combat.4
3Romanus and Sunderland, ibid.; Ogburn,
pp. 29-34, 46-62, 282-283; Merrill's Marauders and NCAC History,
ibid. The medical establishment in the Theater was evidently not
among those branches privy to the plan for 5307th. Tamraz records in his
diary his unawareness until the end of October, when he was suddenly asked
by the British what he proposed to do for 5307 hospitalization: see p.
171. Williams, the Theater Surgeon, wrote the editor in 1947 that "the
whole project was so hush-hush that I did not hear of it until the day
before they were committed to action in Upper Burma." In this regard
it is notable that from September onward, Tamraz was in almost daily touch
with officers who were joining South East Asia Command headquarters, then
forming. The 5307th was, of course, part of the SEAC. Williams, according
to entries in his diary, met very highly placed medical officers from the
Office of The Surgeon General, who were visiting from the United States
in the latter part of September. He also conferred at Ledo in September
with General Boatner, and with the two principal medical officers in the
combat command, Vernon W. Petersen and L. N. Simmons. In December he met
with the Rear Echelon and SOS Surgeons and he was at Ledo, looking into
the outbreak of scrub typhus. It is difficult to imagine that none of these
people mentioned 5307th to Tamraz or Williams. But it is probable, in view
of their comments or recollections, that they were not officially drawn
into the planning discussions or asked to make special arrangements for
5307th while it was conceived as a branch of Wingate's Special Force under
the authority of SEAC.
For several months, Col. Charles N. Hunter, the senior officer, led the 5307th. When Stilwell placed Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill in command on 6 January 1944, the period for the development of corps d'esprit had nearly ended. However, the loyalty already attached to Hunter quickly expanded to include Merrill. Ordered to the combat zone immediately upon assuming command, Merrill led the 5307th into position south of Shingbwiyang. As the men completed their 100-mile march from Ledo on 21 February, Stilwell watched them come in and noted approvingly: "Tough looking lot of babies. Told M. what his job would be * * * we can go now."5
Tough the Marauders certainly proved to be. They looked the part suggested by the gaudy name which newsmen gave them at Shingbwiyang. They stayed in the jungle until the first week in June, marching and fighting for the full 4 months they were there. They withstood the silent terror of ambushed jungle trails. They survived while their clothes, boots, and sometimes their flesh rotted in the heat and damp. They carried their sick and wounded with them to jungle clearings or river sandbars from which light planes flew the casualties to safety. They fought pitched battles at their road- and trail-blocks. They crossed a 7,000-foot-high range of mountains in the rain on half-cleared trails and attacked at the end of the march without a rest. When they could fight no longer, they had enough meanness left in them to rebel, to a degree in deed and in spirit utterly, against what they felt were unlawful, ignorant, and harsh demands still being made upon them.
When Stilwell appraised the Marauders as they started their first attack mission, he doubtless thought of what had been heard of them during their training period. They had been hard to handle. They despised the accommodations and rations which the British produced. Cliques from different outfits resisted assimilation; to break them up, the troops were finally reshuffled among the several battalions. Soon after they reached India, some of the men went "over the hill" for women and drink.
But they had "shaped up" by the time they reached Burma after a last, wild Christmas spree. Stilwell probably put their unruliness on the credit side of the book, if he thought of it at all seriously. The Marauders fitted the traditional image of volunteer, expeditionary troops in their slouchiness, touchiness, and air of rascality. The fact that many nursed grievances did not show. But the time had been and would come again when their recollection of real or imagined promises of special amenities and perquisites would surface and fester.
5Stilwell Diary, 21 Feb. 1944 (Notebook); Merrill's Marauders, pp. 14-16; Romanus and Sunderland, II, p. 146; Ogburn, pp. 47-88. Ogburn recalled: "We did not feel tough--our complaints would have kept a corps of chaplains occupied--but it was gratifying to be thought so" (p. 81). In 1947, Colonel Williams (the Theater Surgeon) wrote to the editor: "These volunteers were a tough lot, capable in their own estimation of licking the entire Jap Army." The picture that remained in his mind was of a unit which "had gotten so out of hand that the British had asked CBI to 'please for God's sake take them off our hands.' " In part, evidently, the toughness was revealed (as he saw them) in lack of discipline and organizational structure.
Two incidents might have received special attention in Stilwell's summary view of his troops. Not long after the 5307th reached India, Theater authorities began to hear rumors that they were in everything except a "high state of physical ruggedness." By November, the incidence of malaria was so high that the Acting Theater Malariologist, Maj. F. A. Mantz, MC, hastened to Deogarh for an inspection. His report was startling. It was "incumbent upon any medical officer," he wrote, "surveying a unit with a current malaria rate of 4080/1000 annum; with 7.4% of the men non-effective each week because of malaria; and 57.3% of the remainder infected during the past year, to consider that unit as unfit for operations before adequate rest treatment and replacement is provided."6 If it was impossible to replace the infected men, he proposed the removal of all soldiers who had had three or more malaria relapses and whose last relapse had occurred since 1 September 1943. The remainder of the malaria victims should be put on a regimen of complete rest while being treated. He estimated that the three-relapse policy would eliminate 12.8 percent of the troops in the 3d Battalion, where the infected men were most numerous. No heed was taken of the more radical of his two proposals. No men were released, but training was suspended in the 3d Battalion for those men undergoing a full course of treatment for malaria. Suppressive Atabrine therapy then was resumed.7
The episode revealed more than the deep inroads malaria had made in the regiment. Just as significant was the fact that it had broken through the routine of Atabrine suppressive discipline. The combination of enforced and self-regulated measures of hygiene obviously had collapsed, as one especially virulent manifestation of the loose morale of the troops en route to and during their first weeks in India. The
6As reported in n. 90, p. 24, the malaria rate
for CBI troops exceeded that anywhere else in the Army. In 1943 it ran
from 264/1000/annum in June to 322/1000/annum in August. In November the
rate fell below 200/1000/annum. Thus Mantz's recommendations must be considered
conservative, observing due respect to the priority which commanders gave
need to restore Atabrine discipline was as pressing as the need to treat the relapses.
One final incident relating to the health of the command occurred before the 5307th went into battle. Stilwell noted the number of men who fell from the ranks on the march down from Ledo to Ningbyen, Burma. When he met the officers to give them their final instructions, he told them that most of the march casualties had been found fit for duty by the hospitals to which they had gone. Many of them, indeed, had not been sick enough to have been evacuated at all. They were being immediately returned to the regiment. "He directed the regimental surgeon [Maj. Melvin A. Schudmak, MC] to straighten out some of the younger inexperienced Medics on how to handle minor sickness without resorting to sending every man with a case of diarrhea or a headache to the hospital."8
Whether or not Stilwell was quoted exactly, the touch of sarcasm is authentic; so is the hint that fortitude is the sovereign remedy for tropical diseases. The tone is that of the hardy commander instructing his tender-minded medical staff in its obligations to a tough-minded legion. But at least some of the medical officers of the 5307th were not so inexperienced or soft-hearted as to evacuate typical cases of "Delhi belly" or trifling F.U.O.--Fever of Undetermined Origin. Henry G. Stelling, in the 2d Battalion, had already served at a tropical military station before he volunteered to join the 5307th. So had James E. T. Hopkins, who had come to the 3d Battalion from combat service in the South and Southwest Pacific, where he began his studies of the manner and cause of battle casualties in jungle warfare. With the information he had painstakingly collected on the battlefield, he could account for the exact nature and circumstances of death, wounds, and injury of several hundred troops. These vital data he was prepared to correlate with the tactical and disciplinary aspects of training and combat which had affected the soldiers' vulnerability.9
Soon after the Marauders left the battlefield in June, these officers wrote extended reports on the campaign.10 Quite frankly, both were
8"War Diary of 5307th," p. 29.
briefs in the case of the 5307th against the Army. They presented the medical history of the regiment to support their authors' contention that by June 1944 the Marauders were honorably "used up" and had not, as rumor had it, simply lost their nerve. Hopkins and Stelling also wished to protect their men from further combat until they had been thoroughly rested and the sick and wounded had completely recovered their health. To add urgency to their case, they had learned that convalescing troops were to be sent back into the lines, and that under the War Department's current policies, the Marauders were no more eligible for return to the United States than a rear echelon clerk with similar months of overseas duty to his credit.11
The reports are unusually valuable, despite their special pleading. In the first place, the medical records of the 5307th were scanty and unreliable. It never composed the statutory "annual medical report," an omission which is understandable in the light of its troubled history and its breakup in August 1944. But the fact that most of the Marauders left combat as medical evacuees means that the regiment's medical history must be reconstructed if its combat record is to be explained. In the second place, both reports came from the battalion level, without having been filtered by administrative screens erected by regimental or higher headquarters. Thus they are less remote, less generalized, and less conventionalized than most of the documents available to the military historian. Because of their origin, the reports omit some lines of perspective which the observer needs to obtain a clear picture of the 5307th. But at the same time, the picture they outline is undisguised by shadings of tact or bureaucratic self-consideration. Unlike the ordinary history of a medical unit, they do not try to present a success story. They explain a failure.
The reports have been divided into three comparable parts. The first gives the authors' versions of the origin, organization, and precombat experience of the Marauders. The second and third portions treat the campaign in March and April and in May 1944, periods which constituted distinct chapters in the Marauders' history.
11By August, however, many became eligible and did return to the United States. At about the same time, Hopkins, Stelling, and Kolodny were shifted out of the combat regiment.
The Hopkins Report
5307th Composite Unit (Prov)
Subject: Preliminary Report of Physical and Mental Condition of Men and Officers of the 3rd Battalion with Recommendations
To: The Surgeon General etc.12
Introduction.--a. The physical and mental condition of the 3rd Bn. has now reached a point where when the men are returned from Burma and are discharged from the hospital to gather as a unit, its function will (in my opinion) be poor even as a garrison unit backed by the best efforts of the medical and other officers. This is a preliminary history of the 3rd Bn., many of the figures are not accurate to the last man. It has to be remembered that the personnel came from many organizations. No medical records came with them. We have constantly been on the move and have just returned from four months in Burma.
b. This report is made with hope that adequate steps will be taken immediately by proper military authorities in this area. It is desired that if they are unable to remedy the situation adequate steps will be taken by the War Department.
Brief history of formation and work of the 3rd Battalion as well as its relation to the 2nd and 1st Battalions of this unit--a. In September 1943 volunteers were gathered from four divisions which had seen action in the Southwest Pacific. Approximately 600 men and officers congregated in New Caledonia to form a special Infantry Battalion. Divisions furnished men approximately as follows: 37th 150; 43rd 150; 25th 100; Americal 200.
b. The 37th Division has been overseas since May 1942. The 147th Infantry sailed in March 1942, served on Tonga and Samoa and fought on Guadalcanal from November 1942 through May 1943. Infantry Regiments 148 and 145 served in New Zealand, Fiji, Guadalcanal, and the Russell Islands. They fought on New Georgia as well as surrounding islands with high casualties.
12There are several copies of the Hopkins reports.
One is in the files of the Historical Unit, Army Medical Service, D/A.
Another, with the original letter of transmittal, is in the Stilwell Papers,
Hoover Library, Folder 88, No. 1. In his transmittal letter, which he addressed
to Col. Charles N. Hunter, Hopkins stated that he was being evacuated from
a hospital, perhaps destined for the United States. He suspected that the
authorities considered him persona non gratis, but he hoped he could
at least present his case to the officials in New Delhi. To Hunter, personally,
he wrote: "We are backing you to the limit out here and feel that
you are a shining light in a dark basket."
c. The 43rd Division made up of the 172nd Infantry, 169th Infantry, and 103rd Infantry departed overseas October lst 1942. They spent time in New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and Guadalcanal. This Division occupied the Russell Islands in February 1943 and made the initial landings in the New Georgia Group. They took extremely heavy battle casualties.
d. The 25th Division with the 27th Infantry and 161st Infantry arrived on Guadalcanal during the first week in January 1943. The majority of these men had been overseas before Pearl Harbor. They had seen action there and at Midway (in some cases). These men played a major role in the Guadalcanal Campaign and later participated with very reduced strength in the New Georgia Campaign where they had a very high casualty rate.
e. Two regiments of the Americal Division departed overseas in January 1942 and the 164th Infantry in March 1942. After many months on New Caledonia this division carried the greater part of the Guadalcanal Campaign suffering heavy casualties. They had a short rest in Fiji before the volunteers joined this unit [the 5307th].
f. During the early part of October the newly organized battalion boarded the Army Transport Lurline to travel by way of several Australian Ports to India. On the boat we found two other Infantry Battalions, the 1st Battalion from Panama and the Continental United States and the 2nd Battalion made up of men and officers from the Caribbean Theatre.
g. At Brisbane seven officers from the 41st Division, and 150 enlisted men from the 32nd Division and 125 enlisted men from the 98th Pack Artillery joined the 3rd Battalion. The majority of the men had been overseas over 18 months.
h. The Regiment landed November 1st at Bombay and traveled by train to a British Transit Camp at Deolali, India. In three weeks after rigorous training here, we gathered at an isolated spot, Deogarh in Central Province, India. A new tent camp was soon formed. The 3d Battalion transferred 160 men and 6 officers to the lst and 2nd Battalions and took an equal number of men and officers from them. We organized and trained according to Wingate tactics. In December General Merrill joined us and we knew that we would work under General Stilwell. Training with numerous field exercises continued until late January when we were to leave for Burma.
i. During the latter part of January 100 men from the 31st and 33rd Q.M. Pack organizations with numerous animals were attached to the 3rd Battalion. We were also given a few men and officers who came to us by way of North Africa.
j. During our training period in India the 3rd Battalion sent 115 men to Regiment for duty. These men were considered by the Medical Officers to be unfit for combat. (See miscellaneous Disease). 79 men were sent to the 181st General Hospital at Karachi and 36 to the 97th Station Hospital at Agra. A few of these men got back to duty before we left for Burma.13
13Hopkins Notes: "Each battalion transferred men with chronic disease and psychiatric complaints as well as poor general physical and mental fitness to regimental headquarters where they were to pack parachutes and drop them out of planes to the unit in Burma. The first and second battalions each sent about 20 men, the third battalion sent 115 as well as 70 to the 181st General Hospital. The majority of the hospital cases did not return in time for combat. The 185 men were replaced by quartermaster pack and casual troops who had not been in combat."
k. After boat and train travel the entire regiment arrived at Ledo during the first week of February 1944. After one day's rest we started the march from Ledo into Burma. The Campaign was not to end for the majority of my men until the last week in May 1944. Over 100 men from the 3rd Battalion are still fighting at Myitkyina. About 50% of these are men who had been left in hospitals when we went into Burma. Others are men who have recently been sent back to duty most of them without medical examination before the trip to Myitkyina.
1. The Battalion like the rest of the 5307 lived and fought from the early part of February well into the last week of May 1944 or 4 months. We played the major part in two engagements and a minor part in two. We also fought four minor battles and twelve skirmishes. We marched between 700 and 800 miles over mountainous jungle terrain in Northern Burma.
Hospital facilities.--a. I have spent many months in the Solomons and have visited New Zealand, New Caledonia, and Fiji. Medical care, from the eyes of the Battalion Surgeon, was very good in these places. My opinion is that none of the troops in the Solomons from August 1942 until September 1943 could expect adequate medical care. The hospitals did not have the facilities to study chronic or acute disease properly. Transportation facilities, crowded hospitals and understrength units made short periods of hospitalization necessary. Many sick men especially [those] with malaria were treated in quarters or on duty. Many attacks of malaria in the Pacific were given very little more nursing care or rest than the average common cold at home; very little interest could be aroused in studying the diagnostic problems and chronic cases. This must, in part, explain why so many chronic cases came with the 3rd Battalion. Many of these men volunteered with the hope that they would get hospital care. This is a fact.
b. Hospital care on the Lurline from New Caledonia to India was excellent. The British hospitals did a good job at Deolali and Deogarh. We were always disappointed in the care given the few venereal cases in India. Our station was several hundred miles from the 181st General Hospital at Karachi. We could use it for little except cases which we thought required medical boards14 and complicated diagnostic procedure. During our stay in India we sent 79 men to this hospital. Few were given medical boards and some were treated three months before joining our unit.
c. We also made use of the 97th Station Hospital at Agra. The 30 or so cases sent here were diagnostic problems and complicated venereals and mostly eventually returned to duty. 30 to 40 men were left in hospitals at Ledo along the road. The majority were chronic cases.
d. From Burma our men were evacuated by liaison planes which landed on run-[ways] we prepared in clearings which are found at strategic points in
14Procedures of special boards of officers convened to determine and, if necessary, change the duty classification of troops.
Northern Burma. At times sick and wounded men had to be littered many miles.
Living conditions.--a. The men of the third battalion have had field living conditions for practically their entire stay overseas. Even in Fiji and New Caledonia floorless tents without screens and lights were universal for the infantry. In combat of course the much publicized foxhole gave a resting place. Some outfits in the islands lived in hole after hole for as long as 70 days in succession. In India when not on maneuvers we lived in British tents which are quite warm during the day and cold during the night. On our maneuvers which usually lasted five days we spent uncomfortable periods because of the very cold nights. A man hiking 10-15 miles per day with five days' rations on his back is not willing to carry over two blankets in most cases and this certainly was not adequate in the field.
b. Our four months in Burma found us sometimes on top of the ground and sometimes in holes. The first month was cold, the next two months were ideal, and the last month was very hot and wet. Because of this many miserable nights were spent and joint pains were universal.
c. On the islands the days were full of maneuvers, salvage and stevedore work when not in actual combat. Sleeping accommodations consisted of a bunk, the blanket they carried overseas and a net.
d. Food was never ideal. In all Pacific areas it came from cans. Canned milk, fruit and fruit juices were never easy to obtain or sufficient when obtainable. Synthetic lemon juice was the rule. Baking powder and yeast were seldom issued in sufficient quantities. Fresh meat was practically nonexistent. Some units went as long as two months on C-Rations. In the infantry outfit which I joined15 outbreaks of simple diarrhea and gastritis were weekly occurrences. We could never blame anything but the canned food. Food supplied to my unit on Guadalcanal ran 10% spoilage. On the Russells it ran 10-20%. After the New Georgia campaign, where we had lived on cold C rations when we could get them, spoilage ran for different types of brand from 10 to 50%.
e. At our assembly area in New Caledonia and on the Lurline the food was exceptional. During our training period in India, it was never adequate in variety.16
f. In Burma, we marched and fought for four months on K-Rations with an occasional 10-1 drop whereupon many men usually developed gastritis and diarrhea. The food was inadequate since the average loss of weight appears to be about twenty pounds.17
15First Battalion, 148th Infantry, 37th Division.
Recreational facilities.--a. Recreational facilities for these men during the eighteen months in the Pacific were of necessity poor. When in rear areas poor setups existed. In forward areas certainly little could be expected. When movies did function bombing raids or the weather often discouraged any but the most persistent. Even soldiers became unwilling to undergo much discomfort while attempting to see poor or antiquated movies and newsreels.
b. No other facilities existed for the men in most cases. Our stay in the Pacific was a little early for recreational kits and free use of radios.
c. Both the movie and reading material situation improved in India but was far from ideal. The Post Exchange situation was poor.
d. Post Exchange supplies for infantry troops in the Solomons for the first year were practically non-existent. For six months in my area we were unable to obtain a tooth brush. Beer and Coca-Cola were of course not available with few exceptions.
Medical history with a discussion of malaria in the unit.--a. The four medical officers who gathered in New Caledonia with the 3rd Battalion knew that their job would be a difficult one. I, as one of them, can say we did not realize how serious the physical condition of these men had become. We expected picked troops. Instead we found many chronically ill men. Many brave men came but also numerous psychiatric problems as well as men with chronic disturbances who believed that they might get treatment if they could get away from their outfits.18 We were also to find that a majority of the men and officers had [had] one or more attacks of malaria.
b. Under the direction of Major Norton our battalion surgeon, we weeded out about 20 men. The step was obviously inadequate. We were soon to find the men had not been given adequate physical examinations and histories by us or by their organizations. As I will later show, we had then and still have many chronically ill men in our battalion.
c. From our arrival in New Caledonia until we finally set up at Deogarh, during the last week in November, we did not have free access to our medical supplies. Because of this we were largely dependent on others for medical help during our trip to India. In New Caledonia the 6th Replacement Depot Dispensary held sick call for the battalion. I worked regularly there. In the first week before we started one suppressive atabrine daily we treated about 50 cases of malaria. On the Lurline all medical attention was given at their request by the Naval Medical Staff. After about three weeks they convinced Major Camp that the atabrine should be stopped and the malaria cases allowed to break down. Their large sick bay was soon filled and
18So says Ogburn also, p. 41.
remained filled for the entire trip. Some of the men, as had been the practice in the 'canal, treated themselves, as I later found out. During my association with this unit I have found many men who had taken atabrine constantly since their first attack in order that the severity of their attacks would be decreased. The Naval Medical personnel were very much upset over the condition of our men. We in the Pacific have always known that the condition of naval personnel is much better than Army personnel. To us such a statement would be an obvious conclusion. The sick bay treated many cases of recurrent malaria, amebiasis, hookworm, as well as the usual chronic bronchitis, sinusitis, arthritis and other chronic disturbances which caused so much suffering among our men. They thought the situation so grave that a letter was written and sent through Major Schudmak, our regimental surgeon, to our Commanding Officer, giving their opinion that the 3rd Battalion was not in physical condition for combat. At Bombay, our debarkation port, they sent Major Camp, our battalion surgeon and another officer, both with chronic malarial fever, to an Army Hospital. These two men were given a medical board. Twenty enlisted men also went to the hospital with chronic amebiasis etc.
d. At Deolali the 3rd battalion kept between 50 and 100 men in the British Hospital. During one week we had over 100 cases of recurrent malaria.
e. A conservative estimate of recurrent attacks of malaria at Deogarh for the first five weeks would run between two and three hundred. We usually carried between 75 and 150 cases in the 80th British General Hospital, a small field hospital. Of course they were not all malaria. Our 10 bed battalion hospital usually carried 15 to 20 patients.
f. A malarial survey of the 3rd battalion, conducted by the Delhi Malariologist, led to a blanket treatment in the early part of December. This was the third blanket treatment for some of the men in the Americal Division. This was followed by a daily suppressive dose of atabrine. His report recommended that men who had malaria over four times not be sent into combat.19 This amounted to a considerable number of men and was apparently considered a poor policy as it was never carried out.
g. We continued the suppressive treatment until the men were evacuated to hospitals from Myitkyina during the last week of May. What suppressive treatment our men who are in Burma as casuals are getting must depend on what they wish to take. A few are evacuated daily with malaria. Without atabrine, our men would have been of little use in Burma. Our men took atabrine in Burma on the honor system.
h. A high percentage took it regularly as is proven by their color and the low incidence of severe attacks. During the first three months, I evacuated two cases both of whom had been taking one tablet of atabrine regularly. They had severe malaria complicated by other diseases. Both had had it several times.
i. The doctors, Capt. [Milton H.] Ivens and Capt. [Philip J.] Cecala, who were with the other column of my battalion have been transferred from
19Varies from the official recommendation, but the sense is the same; see p. 296.
this unit and I have no records as yet available, but my impression is that they evacuated about 10 cases in three months. Many low grade fevers with mild symptoms responded to therapeutic atabrine treatment. The men began to break through in increasing numbers during the last two weeks of the campaign. Some [malaria cases] were complicated by scrub typhus or amebiasis or both.
j. Preliminary study of all available data indicated that [of] the men from the 43rd, the 37th, the 25th and the Americal Divisions, 80% have had one or more attacks, 30% have had over four attacks. An approximate overall count would give three attacks for every man.
k. The entire 3rd battalion or rather what was left of it, was evacuated from Myitkyina by plane during the last week of May on EMTs.20
Approximately 90% of the men are still distributed among three hospitals, the 20th General, the 14th Evac[uation Hospital], and the 111th Station [Hospital]. The atabrine suppressive policy is irregular in the hospitals. Some of the men are still taking it. Some have already had one or more attacks of malaria. None of our men have died of malaria. I have seen only two cases of cerebral malaria, neither of whom had a rough course or complication.
1. From personal experience I am unwilling to take men with chronic malaria into combat.
The Stelling Report
5307th Composite Unit (Prov)
30 June 1944
Subject: Report of Physical and Mental Condition of Men and Officers of 2nd Battalion with Recommendations
To: The Surgeon General
Outline of principal considerations.--A. This report21 is written in order to present certain vital facts concerning the physical and mental condition of the men and officers of the 2nd Battalion. All of these facts support the conclusion that the unit as a whole and the men as individuals
20Emergency Medical Tags--the brief printed
forms on which lower echelon aid stations wrote the initial diagnosis and
treatment of patients they evacuated.
are no longer fit to function in combat or even in garrison without adequate medical treatment and a prolonged convalescent and rest period of many months. Most of these men and officers have served in foreign duty over two years, and many have served in foreign duty from six years to eighteen months without having leave or furlough to go home. Some of these had already been given orders to return home when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred and their leaves and furloughs were cancelled. A large number of men and officers of the battalion who have survived the past two years of constant strenuous maneuvers in tropical lands, climaxed by four months of combat in Burma, during which they marched from seven hundred to a thousand miles over mountains and through jungles, will never be fit for combat again.
B. Each fact presented in this report has come from the experience of the men and officers of the battalion and those of the writer who is a medical officer of the battalion and who has marched through the entire Burma campaign up to the last engagement and has been present at every combat engagement of the battalion except the beginning of the last one at Myitkyina. Each fact has behind it the sworn testimonials of from one to several hundred men and officers.22 Practically every fact was observed personally by the writer. Several opinions are also presented based on the professional knowledge of the writer. It is earnestly hoped that the facts, conclusions and recommendations here presented will be acted upon by the proper military authorities in time to remedy the situation.
C. The writer was forced to leave Myitkyina several days after the majority of the 2nd Battalion were evacuated by EMTs on planes to India. He was ill with fever which soon developed into epidemic hepatitis23 and resulted in hospitalization. This illness delayed the preparation and presentation of this report by almost thirty days.
D. The facts here presented focus upon two main considerations of prime importance which cannot be ignored. First, that every man and officer in the 2nd Battalion, as well as those of the lst and 3rd Battalions of 5307, who survived the Burma campaign as "Merrill's Marauders," has for several months, in addition to many other diseases and illnesses, suffered under an ever increasing complex of symptoms and ailments summarized best and recognized by medical authorities as exhaustion syndrome. Second, that every man and most officers of "Merrill's Marauders" has experienced a series of mental frustrations in the form of so many promises that were never
22Perhaps Stelling refers to information which
the Theater Inspector-General, Brig. Gen. Francis H. Griswold, obtained
confidentially. Stilwell put Griswold on the case on 22 June: Stilwell
Diary, 22 June 1944. Romanus and Sunderland, the historians of CBI, cite
Griswold's report with apparent confidence: II, p. 239 et seq.
kept, and so many disillusionments as to the general and many of the specific situations, that morale and esprit de corps which at first were excellent have now faded to the vanishing point.
E. It cannot be overemphasized that this is the first time in the history of modern war that so many men so heavily laden, have been called upon to march so rapidly and so long, over such high mountains and through such thick jungles, on inadequate diet, in pursuit of such a tenacious enemy. And there is no one who can personally comprehend adequately the draining hardships on bodies and minds caused by marching from seven hundred to a thousand miles over such terrain except a medical officer who has carried as much weight on his own back as that carried by the average man in the outfit. The men and other officers felt the hardships and suffered the exhaustion but they did not and cannot comprehend [the total effects of the campaign] in terms of actual energy loss and damage done to their own bodies unless they possess the scientific knowledge of such matters as that possessed by medical officers. And no man can march along carrying one-tenth or one-half or even three-fourths as much weight per pound of his own body weight as [was] the weight carried by the average man in the outfit and claim with justification that he comprehends the hardships of the outfit, and therefore, because he feels comparatively fresh that the whole outfit is in good shape and ready for another hundred miles or so. It follows that no officers of such caliber can be qualified in terms of scientific medical truth to state whether or not such an outfit as "Merrill's Marauders" is in condition for combat or not. And certainly no officer who did not take active part in the campaign is qualified to do so. Only a medical officer in possession of the facts who has carried his own pack of equipment equivalent in weight to the average in the outfit and throughout the entire campaign is qualified to give a true and comprehensive statement of the physical and mental condition of the men in the outfit.
To overlook these fundamental basic truths is to ignore the main difficulties under which the whole outfit suffered and still suffers. No medical officer who has not experienced these difficulties and hardships throughout such a campaign is qualified to examine a man who has gone through the Burma Campaign by means of the usual gross diagnostic procedures and state in every case whether that man is in condition for combat. Of course it goes without saying that certain well known diseases can be diagnosed by the usual procedures in the hands of any medical officer and the termination and probable prognosis and time of convalescence estimated. But the very serious diseases made much worse by the underlying exhaustion syndrome and the mental picture involved here are not subject to adequate diagnosis by such gross procedures and rushed techniques as the average evacuation hospital or theatre general hospital are forced to adopt.
F. It is my personal opinion that never before has severe exhaustion syndrome been so manifest on such a large scale as it is manifest most astound-
ingly throughout the men and officers of 5307th.24 Before the third month of combat, evidence of marked adrenal insufficiency began to be noticed in the men. Blacking out and dizziness were common in spite of adequate salt and vitamin intake and an almost passable but still inadequate diet. Lack of muscle tone accentuated diarrheas already present in over 90% of the men. Anorexia and gastritis accompanied by nausea and vomiting were quite common. Mental and physical lassitude increased. Weight loss averaged twenty pounds per man and in many cases reached as much as fifty pounds. This in spite of the fact that the men were trained down to the point of no excess fat early in the campaign. Failure to regain the usual physical rebound in strength and endurance after a day or two rest every ten to thirty days was universal. The comparatively delicious ten-in-one ration which was dropped to us occasionally during these short day or two rest periods failed to give us the rebound of energy expected. The men continued to decrease in strength and endurance and their physical and mental lassitude and exhaustion continued to increase until the very last.
G. It is a fact that the morale and spirit de corps which reached their height following the first two major combat engagements in which the men fought magnificently and withstood assault, and in the second engagement accounted for over 200 of the enemy for every American killed or wounded,--that this wonderful fighting spirit as a unit gradually dwindled due to exhaustion, false promises and increasing distrust of theatre commanders and of other high ranking officers, General Merrill excluded. The spirit and will to go on became purely a matter of getting out of Burma as soon as possible rather than that of a fighting unit proud of its record and desirous of increasing accomplishments to add to its laurels. Toward the last it became a matter of getting over one more hill and still another mountain over and over again with the certain knowledge that by no other means could we ever hope to terminate the torture. It was during these times that the most crushing disappointment came. The outfit was dead on its feet. No one seemed to know or willing to tell if they did know how long we were expected to march and where to and what for. Once every two weeks or so some announcement was relayed that we would not go beyond such and such a place or south of this village or that, and no sooner did we arrive than away we would be ordered again.
During the first half of the Burma campaign during which we accomplished with great success our original missions there were almost daily meetings at which the officers were given information concerning the situation which was handed down to the men so that every one would know what to do and what to expect. This information became less and less and finally dwindled to practically nothing at all even though excellent radio commu-
24The unawareness of British and American jungle warriors about their common lot now seems peculiar. Each had been trained to take pride in its uniqueness--and pride was meant to take the edge from pangs of hunger. Yet in May, when both were on the verge of collapse, they felt neglected and isolated. It might have been heartening for them to recognize their brotherhood in peril and fortitude. But there are no signs that Stilwell made certain that each knew he expected no more from one than from the other. Instead, invidious comparisons were allowed, if not encouraged, to the point where the sense of injustice surmounted the sense of heroic identity.
nications existed between battalion and regimental headquarters.25 Not even good child psychology was being used on us. Never was the promised stick of candy given to us even though promise after promise was made. And this was no little march of a week or a month or of a few hundred yards of fighting for ten days or so without packs. This was a long gruelling campaign of over seven hundred miles of marching with extra full and often overloaded packs, for four whole months on an inadequate diet, over one of the highest ranges of mountains in the world through some of the most treacherous enemy-invaded jungles in the world.26
H. Be it noted that the medical officers of the entire outfit of three battalions consistently adhered to the principle of keeping the men going against all odds in as good a condition of health and morale as we could help maintain. And that only after the men began failing fast did a few of us begin to insist that something be done [to] remedy the situation. This condition and difference in combat experience and actual work done, and knowledge of our men and willingness to help them, divided the medical officers into two schools of thought and action. One school which was in the majority and held the weight of rank, and apparently desired and desires to increase this weight of rank, consistently "yessed" the commanding officers in nearly every recommendation concerning the fitness of the men to continue in combat. These same medical officers allowed themselves to be dictated to by these line officers.27 When matters became so extreme that seriously ill officers and men were ordered to take one march after another even when not in contact with the enemy, and finally the column and battalion commanders recommended medical evacuation before the battalion surgeon dared perform this most sacred duty for the men, it was quite evident that such a medical officer was only a mouthpiece of the battalion commander.
Out of the entire high ranking personnel excluding medical officers only two officers consistently made efforts to fight for the integrity of the outfit as a whole and to back up their talk with action to do all in their power to give the men and officers of 5307th a fair and square deal and a fighting chance. These two officers are General Merrill himself and Colonel Hunter. All others in direct day by day contact with the organization were either powerless to help or didn't seem to care whether the men were treated justly or not. The outfit seemed doomed after General Merrill's transfer to another post, and this condition of being a pawn in the hands of General [Haydon L.] Boatner and other generals of this theatre, regardless of the physical and
25The campaign is discussed more specifically
in other parts of the report. One point may here be noted, however. At
the outset, Stilwell gave Merrill a good deal of freedom in determining
tactical movements. Later, after its second major engagement, unforeseen
Japanese flanking movements required improvisation. The assault on Myitkyina
eventuated in several weeks of tactical developments which were often pragmatically
instituted. Stelling, however, is making two points, the first that they
were told too little and the second that they were told too much.
mental unfitness of the men, persists. Unless the War Department will intercede on behalf of several thousand still sick and exhausted men in the outfit there is little hope of averting one of the greatest mass tragedies of gross injustice in the annals of the United States Army.28
History of 2nd Battalion; the relation to other battalions in 5307th Composite Unit (Prov) up until arrival in India.--A. The 2nd Battalion was derived from and organized out of the 33rd Infantry in Trinidad B.W.I. in September 1943. The 33rd Infantry at that time was composed of two battalions made up of men from Panama, from which the whole regiment had originally come, and several hundred replacements from the United States proper as well as from Jamaica and Puerto Rico. These replacements came at intervals as one cadre after another was sent to the states [from the 33d Infantry].
B. The replacements from the states were subjects of amazement on the part of both medical and line officers all the way up to the Regimental commanding officer. It seemed evident that Trinidad and the 33rd Infantry in particular was being used for a dumping ground for all of the misfits in the Army. Many of the men had extremely low I.Q.s and many were physical wrecks. There were literally dozens of marked pes planus cases and many with bony deformities ranging from ankylosis of elbow and shoulder joints to herniated intervertebral discs, and incapacitating limitations of motion of the body due to residual deformities from automobile and other accidents. Several were found to be totally blind in one eye and of low visual acuity in the other. Some had perforated ear drums and others were partially or totally deaf due to neural pathology. At least a dozen draining pilonidal cysts were found and many severe hemorrhoid cases. Several men were veterans of the last war and one had been paid disability compensation since 1918.29
28The final two sentences pertain principally,
if not entirely, to the situation in June. Then, as will be shown, the
original Marauder campaign had ended and a rather different kind of battle
had developed at Myitkyina. General Merrill had been transferred because
of ill health. After January, Brig. Gen. Haydon L. Boatner served as Commanding
General, Northern Combat Area Command, and Chief of Staff, Chinese Army
in India. On 30 May, Stilwell put him in command of the Myitkyina Task
Force: Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 138, 237. Stelling's distribution
of praise and blame typifies opinions which the Marauders generally expressed.
The reference to "several thousand" men is vague. Presumably
it means the original 5307th plus replacements and some additional American
troops added to the Myitkyina Task Force in June.
C. When the 2nd Battalion was formed it was difficult to find the required number of even partially normal soldiers from among the many volunteers. The announcement of the special military mission for which volunteers were desired was followed so quickly by the rapid organization and actual departure of the men that little time was available to select the men carefully on a physical as well as mental basis.
D. The CO of the 33rd Infantry was quite new in September 1943 because he had been in Trinidad only a month or so. He was so anxious to have a 100% volunteer outfit for the special mission that he practically ordered all of the officers to volunteer and in other ways brought pressure to bear. The men were quickly gathered together in platoons and companies and asked by their officers after a very brief explanation of an important hazardous and mysterious mission to which they would be flown by special transport planes: "Is there any man here who does not volunteer?" or "If there is any man here who does not volunteer step out in front of the company and tell us why." My name was placed on a list several hours before I had heard of the great event because I was out making a sanitary inspection of an outpost. But little did the CO realize that the men would do almost anything to get out of Trinidad--myself included. However, the summary manner in which the "100% volunteer" unit was rushed together put a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Many of the men and officers--myself included--had volunteered into the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor and some before and we couldn't figure out why the CO or others higher or lower than himself just didn't order us to active combat in the first place. But failing to do this why not let us really volunteer again instead of making a halfway gesture under pressure.
E. Many of us had already been in Trinidad a year or more. Some who came from Panama hadn't been home in from four to six years. Nothing ever happened in Trinidad except marching, maneuvers and jungle warfare training over and over again. When Africa began to be safe for the Allies, Trinidad was no longer a very dangerous or exciting post. Most of us had been run through at least one and some two or three jungle warfare training courses in which we hiked hundreds of miles but did little else except listen to lectures, watch demonstrations and wait for something to happen.
F. The V.D. rate on the island was astonishingly high, at times 90% among the Negro soldiers (Americans of 99th Coast Artillery), and it became as high as 75% among the white soldiers. However, much good V.D. control work was done in the 33rd Infantry a few months before the 2nd Battalion of 5307 was formed and new V.D. cases were practically nil before
we left Trinidad. Malaria was quite common and many men had had from two to eight reoccurrences. Trichophytosis and other chronic fungus infections were almost universal.
G. In May 1943 a great flourish of excitement and much preparation including training in amphibious landings with the Navy was participated in by the 33rd when the Regiment was to be included in the attack on Martinique. When this fell through there was a great letdown as most of the men were spoiling for a fight. Even though many lives were saved by the diplomatic triumph of the peaceful submission of Martinique by American and French collaboration, the cancelling of our combat mission after so much preparation and expectation seemed to be the loss of our last hope to break the useless and deadening monotony of Trinidad. We had become a bunch of grass and tree planters where grass and trees were plentiful.
H. Morale was suddenly restored upon the formation of the 2nd Battalion of 5307 and the men we left behind in Trinidad were for the most part a disappointed and despondent lot. Before the news came through that there was to be a special battalion organized from the 33rd for the secret mission in September 1943 there was a number of suicides and the N.P. wards at the hospital and the guard house and the wood pile were always overrunning with candidates.
I. The morale of the 2nd Battalion was especially high just before leaving Trinidad because we had gathered information that we were going to the states first. For most of us this was to be the first feel to be had of our native land in nearly a year, and for some the first homecoming in several years of continuous foreign duty. Other volunteers were added to our group from Puerto Rico. Among these were some who had been promised verbatim leaves and furloughs in the states before going into combat.
J. The first great shock of our experience after leaving Trinidad came in Miami, Florida, where we were treated more like prisoners and ordinary convicts than volunteers on a special mission. No one was allowed to contact any of his friends or relatives. No messages of any kind were allowed to be sent or received. Everyone was checked on carefully and kept within certain areas of hotels especially blacked out and selected for the purpose. None of us except maybe two or three of the highest ranking officers had the slightest notion of what our mission would be, or whether we were headed to the East or the West or to the northern borders of the United States. All hopes for leaves and furloughs were lost. Home for the first time in over a year, and for some, years, we were to be sealed in special trains and ridden through our own home towns nonstop to some distant P.O.E. [Port of Embarkation]. Most of us understood that this procedure is S.O.P. [Standing Operating Procedure] for troops in transit and we were finally reconciled by the realization that ours must be such a special mission that we had to pay a special price. For many of us this was truly the last fleeting feel of our native land because many of our battalion are already buried in India and Burma. Not until we were held over twenty days in Deolali, India, doing absolutely nothing but marching and shooting once on a range, and unpacking and repacking our equipment, and listening to the same lectures we had heard
a dozen times before, did we begin to question the wisdom of not being allowed leaves and furloughs in the states. This especially since the main benefits of security had been lost because several of our men had gone AWOL in the states all the way from Miami to California. Almost every day one or more men would escape from the trains and go AWOL.30
K. At Camp Stoneman in California we were allowed to write letters and send telegrams and make telephone calls during the two days we were not on alert. This helped our morale greatly and we became resigned to another long absence from home. Those among the men who had been definitely promised furloughs by their colonel in Puerto Rico tried to contact the Inspector General at Stoneman but were told by our CO [Lt. Col. George A. McGee, Jr.] that he didn't think that they deserved furloughs in spite of the fact that some of them had not been home in several years and that he had just shortly returned from over a month's leave in the states before he left Trinidad. This started the first bad feelings between the men and the CO of the battalion.
L. Food and medical facilities and ordinary sanitary and other comforts were practically ideal in Trinidad, and of course especially on all Pullman trains from Miami to California, and in Camp Stoneman itself. Excellent food and medical facilities and entertainment and other comforts continued aboard the Lurline all the way to India. Training and closer organization and special study periods and lectures on jungle fighting and various subjects to be in demand later were carried on during most of the voyage of 37 days from San Francisco to Bombay. Much speculation on the nature of our mission was indulged in but very few facts were known by any except the very highest officers. All we knew was that we would probably be called upon to fight Japs in some jungle in India or Burma or China.
M. It must be borne in mind that by no possible twist of the imagination could the 2nd Battalion be regarded from the medical-physical standpoint as being made up of first class fighting men. Morale was high and bravery and will to fight unquestioned and later proved magnificently true. But physical handicaps of most serious degree were and still are common among men. Many possessed the body deformities already enumerated. Chronic recurrent malaria continued to break through from time to time. A few had organic heart disease and were sent to hospitals in India later. Several were nearly deaf or nearly blind and old V.D.s began to break through. The most serious of these cases were also sent to American hospitals in India later after being further diagnosed and treated by the Navy Medical officers on the Lurline. But to weed out even all the seriously handicapped men at this late stage would have reduced the battalion's strength so much that
30The grievance of the men, while understandable, is hardly supportable. If the need for strict security is admitted, then to send the troops on leave after they had been accepted for a secret mission would have been foolish. That leaks did occur anyhow, due to the indiscretion of men who went absent without leave, does not argue against security measures which were as comprehensive as possible. Since the 5307th was to be the first American infantry unit to fight in Burma, and since its task would be long range penetration, security precautions were especially justified. But, as it was, Tokyo Rose went on the air when the troops debarked in Bombay to send them greetings and threats!
the matter was dropped for the time being with the hope that some replacements could be found before the actual combat mission began. It is a drastic mistake ever to suppose that the longer men are left in tropical countries the better their condition to fight in these countries becomes. The theory of acclimatization in the tropic backfires after the first year. The men become more and more drained of their physical and mental stamina.31
N. Great interest was shown in the coming aboard of the 3rd Battalion at New Caledonia and at Brisbane. Our men and officers eagerly searched out these men to get first hand accounts of combat experiences. Medical officers held daily seminars on subjects of special interest dealing mainly with diseases to be expected in India and Burma and China. Medical officers lectured to the men on subjects of first aid and sanitation and stressed the use of atabrine and halazone32 and use of repellent and nets to prevent malaria and other mosquito borne diseases. The men were very attentive and cooperative and general morale was very high.
O. The main depressing influence on the men's spirits during the voyage on the Lurline was cancellation of all shore leaves. We were not allowed to set foot on any port of call except a few officers at Noumea, New Caledonia, and officers of field grade at Brisbane and at Fremantle near Perth, Australia. However, at Fremantle we were marched ashore to a park near the edge of town and then marched aboard again. Several men went AWOL at every port of call but most of these were rounded up and brought aboard again. One man jumped overboard when far out at sea and was never seen again.
After arrival in India.--A. The first disappointment in India was refusal to allow passes to see Bombay. But most of the men and officers still realized that our mission must of necessity be of great importance and they were eager to get going and have it over with. This especially because we were told in Trinidad that in volunteering for the mission, which was to be a short and hazardous one, we earned the privilege of being sent home as soon as the mission was over.33 But the majority of the men and officers could not forget that no leaves or furloughs or passes of
31This viewpoint might be considered carefully,
since it challenges the normal practice of using veteran troops according
to their training and experience. As noted on p. 5, the 151st Medical Battalion,
which became one of the main ground evacuation units in Northern Combat
Area Command, had desert training. The 13th Medical Battalion had mountain
training with pack animals and thus was presumably an appropriate unit
to serve in North Burma, despite the contrast between cold weather training
and tropical service: Kuite, George B., "Report of Medical Department
Activities" (13th Mountain Medical Battalion, 1944. Kuite, the executive
officer of the 13th MMB, was interviewed in 1945 in the Office of The Surgeon
General, and the report records his statements).
any kind had been issued in many months and in most cases in years. Nevertheless, we had become resigned to our fate and realized thoroughly that we were on no vacation.
B. The first astounding shock in India came at Deolali where officers and men were dumped in barn-like structures with inches of dust under foot to sleep on wooden and rope beds. The shock was not the barns or the beds but rather the evident fact that the camp which was to be our training point was not yet available and that we were thrown there at Deolali to waste precious time that could have been spent at home or at least in active training for our mission. The food and sanitation at Deolali for men and officers were deplorable. The food in most instances for the men was actually nauseating in its preparation and appearance. Hair as well as maggots was in the meat and the vegetables were rotten. The native Indians who prepared the food were filthy in their persons and habits. Finally after a week or so the medical officers insisted that the preparation and serving of the food be supervised by our own cooks and KPs. But the raw food itself was no good. The men went to nearby English and Chinese restaurants and lunch rooms and soon became out of funds buying food to eat. They also purchased large amounts of tea and cookies and fruit from native peddlers.34
C. Sanitation in other ways besides that connected with the preparation and serving of food was unbelievable. Latrines were wide open with open buckets to catch the fecal deposits. These were collected periodically by the native Indian servants and stored away somewhere to be used as fertilizer. Every single principle of sanitation which we had stressed to the men for months and months previous to this was violated before their eyes and our own. Numerous cases of gastritis and diarrhea developed within the first two weeks. Also several dozen cases of malaria began to break through in spite of atabrine suppressive treatment. Most of us were afraid to eat. I personally rented a bicycle and rode for miles around buying up all the American and Australian canned fruit and vegetables and milk and cheese that I could find as well as crackers in boxes. I lived mostly on these during the twenty days spent in Deolali as did many of my fellow officers and men themselves. Only once a day
34There is no reason to suspect exaggeration in Stelling's account. The conditions he describes were met with everywhere in CBI. There were the problems of native food-sources and food-handlers; of antiquated waste disposal procedures supported by the caste system; of environmental sources of filth, discomfort, and disease; of strained civilian and military resources in the host nation. Remedial actions required a combination of administrative ingenuity and persistence, on the one hand, and technical and material changes, on the other. See Van Auken, "Preventive Medicine," op. cit. To add complications in this instance, the 5307th had been organized and sent to India on very short notice, and its status was "between stools"--an American unit authorized by the Combined Chiefs of Staff to serve in the new inter-Allied South East Asia Command with the British long range penetration group which Wingate led. Fumbling the question of logistical responsibility and arrangements unquestionably occurred. The War Department queried Mountbatten on the Deolali episode, observing that Stilwell had offered to take responsibility for housing and training 5307th, but that SEAC had refused the offer. The War Department pointed out that while the troops waited at Deolali for Deogarh to be put in readiness, 2 weeks of training were lost. In view of its great effort to assemble and ship the troops speedily, the War Department, speaking of Gen. George C. Marshall's personal interest, was greatly disturbed: Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 34-35; Ogburn, pp. 47-52; and see n. 3, p. 294.
did I venture into the officers' mess and then mainly for social rather than for gustatory purposes.
The conditions of feeding and sanitation at Deolali were inexcusable but we were told to keep quiet about them in order to avoid international friction. Socially and in every other form of hospitality our British hosts were most cordial. Hospital facilities and the quality of the British medical officers and sisters were excellent in every respect. All of our men sent into the British Military hospital at Deolali were given excellent treatment. We could not comprehend the reasons for the discrepancy between the excellence of the British hospital personnel and the facilities and the deplorable sanitary conditions in and near our living and eating quarters.35
D. Our next big shock mainly from the medical standpoint, as are most of the shocks and disappointments and frustrations related to the physical and mental condition of the men, came at Deogarh, India. Here was our main training camp which we were to use for about nine weeks. Our shelters were very neat double walled and roofed Indian type tents. The nights were extremely cold and days extremely hot. These natural phenomena could not be helped and our shelters and cots were as comfortable as could be expected. Besides, we had all been trained in very rugged outdoor living in jungles, sleeping and marching in pouring rains, and we now knew at last that we would be expected to go into Burma and live under plenty of hardships. Soon we were not only prepared for many hardships but we expected them. And we felt confident that we could stand up under any hardship of physical endurance that could present itself.
But we were not prepared for the failure of those who had selected and outfitted our training camp to arrange for necessary sanitary facilities and to provide an adequate food supply. No latrines were provided and no one seemed to worry about this at first except the medical officers. The food was grossly deficient for weeks and only improved after insistent appeals to higher authority.36 Nothing could be gained by training to go without food and thus face our rigorous Burma campaign poorly nourished. The quality and variety of food served in camp at Deogarh can best be judged by those who have lived on C and K and Ten in One rations by stating that we actually looked forward to overnight and several day maneuvers in order to enjoy these rations which are all many times more palatable and balanced in every way compared to food served in camp during the first half. Later some milk and fruit and vegetables and better meat and some sweets were provided. In fact, during the last two or three weeks of the nine weeks of our training the food was quite adequate and very palatable.
35In a few weeks, as Stelling soon reports,
he saw a similar discrepancy develop in his own regiment. He explained
it then as the failure of his commanders to heed good advice from the medical
officers. A little reflection might have suggested to him that some such
reason might equally explain the difference between a British staging area
and a British hospital.
E. The sanitary problem was not solved until the last part of our training period.37 Only slit trenches were available for the first half of the training period and these had to be dug in shale and among rocks and were never more than a foot or two deep until much later when demolition details were appointed to blow craters into the ground. The fecal deposits were never properly covered until finally during the second half of our stay in camp regular box type latrines were constructed and their freedom from flies closely supervised. But this was only accomplished after repeated oral and written reports were made by medical officers through the chain of command. The training schedule was so crowded that it was claimed that no time was available for the construction of proper latrines.
F. In like manner the preparation and serving of food and the disposal of garbage was never properly done from the standpoint of sanitation until near the end of the training period. Meat and vegetables and bread were left exposed as well as other articles of food to millions of flies from nearby slit trenches and these flies were allowed to swarm over food and kitchen utensils. Only after several weeks of adverse reports by the medical officers were these conditions improved. Finally, during the second half of our training period in this camp steps were taken and time allowed for the construction of fly proof kitchens and food storage and serving facilities.
G. But these tardy efforts at improving the deplorable sanitary conditions came too late and only after serious damage had been done to the men. Many of the diarrheas acquired at Deolali were not yet cured when we arrived at the camp in Deogarh. Within a month 90% of the men were incapacitated by diarrhea, most of which proved to be bacillary dysentery and a few cases of Amebiasis. There were also many cases of Fever of undetermined origin and the ever present recurrent malaria. The 80th British General Hospital in the vicinity of our camp, placed there especially to serve us, was filled to overflowing with our men. And our own ten-bed hospital was always full. So many men were ill at one time that in addition to those overrunning all available hospitals in the vicinity the men had to be kept in their own tents and treated there. The men received excellent care in the British and American hospitals including the 181st General Hospital at Karachi, and the 97th Station Hospital at Agra to which most of our most serious cases were sent.
H. During the training period at Deogarh there seemed to be a plan put into operation for the 2nd battalion only, by the CO and other high ranking officers, to divide the men from the boys on a basis of physical endurance as quickly as possible. We were always sent on the longest marching maneuvers. Most of these took place before our pack animals arrived. On one maneuver
37Diarrhea and dysentery were the principal acute diseases in 5307th from November 1943 to January 1944. In December, an outbreak of bacillary dysentery occurred in the 1st and 2d Battalions; there were about 200 cases: Hopkins Notes. The very close parallel between these conditions and those in Wingate's troops should be noted, along with the inability of medical officers to "get through" to their commanders, or, if they did, to persuade them it was profitable manpower economy to use small work crews to build and maintain sanitary facilities in order to protect much larger numbers of men from sickness. The severity of Stelling's criticism is matched by that of senior British medical officers reporting on Wingate's training centers and campgrounds: see pp. 256-258.
lasting ten days,38 all during which the [men of the] Heavy Weapons outfit in our battalion were forced to hand carry their weapons, we covered over 200 miles carrying in addition full field packs and rations for from three to five days at a time. On some days we marched 20 to 40 miles. The heavy weapons men hand-carrying mortars and heavy machine guns as well as some ammunition were almost completely broken down on the march. Upon returning to camp a large percentage of them had to be hospitalized immediately because of exhaustion and seriously swollen and infected feet as well as high fevers, some of which were malaria and others of undetermined origin. All during these maneuvers diarrheas were common. The peak of the epidemic of dysentery followed shortly after the longest maneuver of 200 miles. When they returned their resistance to infection had greatly decreased.
I. Then, in spite of large numbers of sick and exhausted men, training in river crossings was carried out. Training always continued regardless of the condition of the men. There seemed to be a childish desire on the part of the battalion commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions to brag about what their men could do or had done and then to make them do it all over. Less than 50% of the entire outfit could swim. These men were brought to the river's edge, and without previous instruction as to the use of flotation bladders provided them, were ordered to go across some 300 yards of cold deep water. A suggestion made by a medical officer to have a rubber raft or boat handy in case of an accident during this first river crossing was ignored by the battalion commander. Finally, after two men had to be pulled out to prevent drowning, the column commander of the combat team to which I was attached realized the danger of this first river crossing under such conditions and moved to a narrower part of the river. He had a rope stretched across to add to the confidence of the non-swimmers until they could realize that the flotation bladders properly used would hold them up safely. In spite of these precautions six other men had to be dragged out by the few life savers present. In the wider portion of the river without a rope or a boat these would have resulted in fatalities. Two men had already been lost from drowning by other battalions.39
J. Shortly after we arrived at Deogarh we were addressed by General Wingate and the implication was made that we would fight side by side with the British soldiers on a long range penetration into Burma under General Wingate's command. A British medical officer who had been with General Wingate on his first campaign talked to the medical officers of 5307th and gave us some very good pointers on what to be prepared for. British intelligence officers were assigned to us and a group of Gurkha soldiers were attached to us.
K. Soon after the first long maneuver during which the combat team to which I was attached captured the Brigadier and a British column by means of an ambush, there were statements made to the effect that we would not
38Probably the exercises conducted jointly
be under General Wingate's command but under General Stilwell instead. Shortly after this we were addressed by Lord Louis Mountbatten who made a very fine impression on most of us and gave us the first true picture of the general set-up in this theatre. Nevertheless, each week or so the general picture seemed to change and no one seemed to know just what we were going to do. Of course we didn't expect detailed information dealing with the strategy and tactics of the impending campaign. But we did expect to know before we entered the campaign under whose command we would be and the general nature of our mission. However, we were first told that we would go on a long penetration into Burma. Then we were told that we would go on a short range penetration spearheading the Chinese. We were told we had been promised to Prime Minister Churchill by President Roosevelt to fight under Wingate. Then we were told that we were entirely under General Stilwell's command. Naturally, we had all supposed that such details of our special mission had been worked out far in advance. Of course we were powerless to do anything about the situation except to do as we were told, but much confidence in our leaders was lost and we had the feeling of being a political football.40
L. In January our regiment was activated and Colonel F. G. Brink, a special G-3 representative from the War Department,41 who had supervised our training at Deogarh, presented Colonel Hunter as our Regimental Commander. But soon General Merrill came to take over the command of the regiment. By this time most of us arrived at the very obvious conclusion that everything wasn't running too smoothly among the generals of the theatre command. The British intelligence officers and Gurkha soldiers were taken from us. Insulting remarks against the British were made by high officers in our Command. We began to feel that something was going wrong in the general setup of our command and in the specific plans for our unit. We couldn't see the fire in the stove but we could feel that the stove was getting hot. But our chief concern was to accomplish our mission and get out as soon as possible.42
M. During the last two or three weeks at Deogarh several hundred mules and horses were given to the regiment with which to train. Days were spent trying to get men who in the vast majority of cases had never ridden a horse or a mule and could not swim themselves to lead the animals across the river. These operations in the case of the 2nd Battalion were placed in charge of a veterinary officer who had had no experience whatsoever in this
40One suspects that Stelling's tone would have
been a good deal more bitter had the 5307th remained under British control,
for national alienation would have been added to all other foes of high
morale. The British Special Force, certainly, believed that it would not
have suffered so in May and June had it not then been under American operational
control: see With Wingate's Chindits, part IV.
activity. The horsemen of the battalion, including the specially trained personnel of a QM Pack outfit which had brought the animals in, were practically ignored, and the veterinary officer continued in charge of most activities dealing with the animals and many others not dealing with the animals. He became universally hated by all the men and most of the officers of the battalion, because of his overweening sense of importance and his arrogant manner of giving orders to those over whom he had no official authority. The fact that he was maintained in his decisions and became the welcome "shadow" of the battalion commander caused still more loss of confidence in the CO. The captain in charge of the pack train and his trained personnel were continually ignored by or forced to take orders in non-medical matters to do with the animals from the veterinary officer.
N. Before leaving for Burma our morale as a regiment was greatly strengthened by knowing that General Merrill was with us. Every officer and man had and still has a high regard for the General. He struck the right note when he told us in a speech to the regiment that his main objective was to lead us into Burma and to help us to accomplish our mission as soon as possible and then get us out. Through his efforts many of the men and officers received the first passes to visit places of interest in India just before the Burma Campaign of Merrill's Marauders began.
O. Shortly before we left for Burma a number of our best men and several of our best officers were still in hospitals due to the exhaustion of our strenuous maneuvers and the epidemic of dysentery and other diseases. We took some of these with us as convalescent patients on the train as we had done before when we left Deolali. Each time we were forced to leave some in the hospital until they were well enough to join us later. Also our battalion medical officers formed a board and decided upon the most serious cases to be sent to the 181st General Hospital at Karachi and to the 97th Station Hospital at Agra. These amounted to some 25 patients. About 50 other partially incapacitated men who were absolutely unfit to even start a rigorous campaign but who were not acutely ill were assigned by the medical board of our battalion to Regimental Headquarters to serve in the rear echelon. Other men were also sent to the rear echelon by other than medical officers in the battalion for non-medical reasons.
P. In addition to these, early in our training period at Deogarh, we had exchanged about 80 men and one or two officers with the 3rd Battalion so as to have the benefit of men who had combat experience in the jungles against the Japs.
The Burma Campaign.--A. Early in February the regiment arrived at Margherita near Ledo. After a day's [effort of] unpacking and packing the packs for the animals and for our own backs we started down the Ledo Road. The first day's march of over twenty miles resulted in many sore backs for animals and men and many blistered feet and other ailments for the men. Some of the "bunches" on the backs of the animals started this first day persisted until the animals were killed in the Burma Campaign. About twenty of the men had to be ridden on trucks because of their condition following this first day's march. Several, including a medical officer, were sent
to the 20th General Hospital for treatment on the second day of the march. Those among us who had had experience in the cavalry could not imagine why anyone in command ordered such a long first-day march with full packs on animals not yet hardened to marching. But we continued from ten to twenty miles per day down the Ledo Road until we had covered practically its full length to about 150 mile marker in ten days. Of course all the men carried full packs as did the animals from Margherita to the end of the Burma Campaign unless they became incapacitated in some way and had to be evacuated or were killed in combat.
B. Later on the road one of the trucks carrying men and rations ran away down a steep hill and off the road into some trees. In this accident one man was killed and ten men were injured seriously enough to be sent to a nearby evacuation hospital. There were several compound fractures of the arms and legs and a few head injuries in this group. Also, in addition to this group other men fell out each day and we left the serious fever cases at evacuation hospitals at intervals along the road.43 Toward the end we were riding from thirty to forty men each day on the ration trucks and we had lost almost as many scattered along the road. But most of these were returned to us by truck transport before we started into the jungles proper.
C. Food along the road was adequate and well prepared most of the time. Our own ration trucks carried our cooks and some K.P.s and most of the food we ate. Sanitation was quite bad because all our bivouac areas were predesignated and most were at former camp sites either still being used by construction engineers, or close to Chinese camps, or just recently used by them or by the battalions ahead of us. Human as well as animal feces were almost always scattered around in these camp sites. And of course flies were plentiful. Some of our bivouac areas had adequate latrines but the latrines were not used by many of the men who had gone before us.
Stilwell attacked the Japanese 18th Division in a series of enveloping maneuvers. None succeeded, but each engagement forced Lt. Gen. Shinichi Tanaka to give ground on the road leading southward to Kamaing. The Chinese 22d and 38th Divisions were Stilwell's chief weapons. To put an edge on them he had a group of tanks and the Marauders. By the middle of February 1944, the Chinese had dislodged the enemy from its original positions in the northern part of the Hukawng Valley. Stilwell thought that vigorous efforts on the flanks as well as in the center of his advance might catch the 18th in the vicinity of Maingkwan, the valley's most significant village.
Accordingly, he sent the Marauders around a battalion of the 56th Regiment, which Tanaka had posted well out on his right flank. The Chinese 113th Regiment, 38th Division, followed the Marauders. It
43Detachments from the 48th Evacuation Hospital and 151st Medical Battalion manned the roadside hospitals.
was to consolidate positions which the 5307th would take up behind the enemy's main line of resistance. The 22d Division and the tanks were to advance in the center and to try to get around the enemy left flank on the southwest.
From 24 February to 3 March the Marauders marched along jungle trails until they were safely past the 18th Division line. Then they swung back toward Walawbum, a village on Tanaka's line of communications near his headquarters. The 1st Battalion guarded the trails at the Marauders' back while the 2d and 3d Battalions attacked. Unexpectedly, Tanaka decided to concentrate on the Marauders, estimating astutely that the Chinese would advance too slowly and cautiously to be immediately dangerous. His bold plan nearly succeeded. But when the Marauders held fast against artillery fire and infantry assaults, and the Chinese finally closed in upon him, he ordered a withdrawal on 7 March. The Marauders, in turn, dropped back to avoid encountering the full strength of the 18th as it passed by the roadblock. They turned their sector over to the 113th Regiment, which by then had caught up with them. They had been under fire at Walawbum for 4 days before they returned to the jungle to evacuate their casualties, replenish their supplies and ammunition, and await orders for their next mission.44
During their 3-day rest, the Marauders could accept with justifiable pride the congratulations Stilwell sent them. After their brisk 100-mile march, they inflicted several hundred casualties on the enemy, and they passed their first battle-test with aplomb and determination. They had lost only eight men killed and 37 wounded. Yet it might have sobered them to reflect that their strength was nearly 10 percent less than it had been when they started for Walawbum. Thirty-three of 250 men they evacuated had suffered nonbattle injuries. The rest of the evacuees (battle casualties excepted) were sick. Many of their disorders were either preventable or were conditions of long-standing with which the Marauders should not have been burdened. Nineteen men, who should have been protected by Atabrine suppressive control, went to the hospital with malaria. Eight were sick with other serious fevers; dengue was the most common. Ten displayed neuropsychiatric symptoms. The remaining 109 invalids--almost the equivalent of a company--were evacuated with a miscellany of illnesses and disabilities. It is safe to conjecture that less seriously afflicted men stayed with their comrades, and that many of those who were evacuated and those who remained had diarrhea, dysentery, and various chronic disorders. A few of the evacuees had
44Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 148-159; Merrill's Marauders, pp. 31-45; Ogburn, pp. 91-134. The only account without the cold curse of summarization is that of Ogburn. Although Stilwell regretted the withdrawal of the 5307th, he had told Merrill to hold down his losses and to use discretion in his tactical movements. Very poor communications prevented Stilwell from coordinating the Marauders' concluding actions at Walawbum with those of the oncoming Chinese. As it turned out, however, the intended envelopment sprang its most serious leak on Stilwell's right, where the 22d Division came in too late to close off Tanaka's escape route.
scrub typhus, which they probably had picked up while crossing the northern edge of the Hukawng Valley.45
The medical support of the Marauders was like that which Northern Combat Area Command had devised for the Chinese Army in India (and which Wingate's Special Force would adopt).46 Battalion medical detachments marched in the columns, established aid stations during battle, collected and gave emergency treatment to casualties, and cared for the sick. The sick and wounded walked, rode, or, if necessary, were carried with the columns until they recovered or an air-evacuation point became accessible. One of the most essential tasks which 3d Battalion performed in the Walawbum engagement, therefore, was to secure an airstrip at Lalang Ga. Communications with the rear regarding medical matters--supply and evacuation, mainly--were the responsibility of the regimental surgeon. Through him, the battalion surgeons arranged to get their casualties to the airstrip and aboard the light planes sent down to serve as combat area ambulances.
The L-1 and L-5 planes carried casualties to the nearest landing field that could accommodate two-motored aircraft. For the Walawbum engagement, such a field opened on 29 February at Taipha Ga; planes also continued to fly to the older and more distant airfield at Shingbwiyang. At these points the patients were transferred to the C-47 ambulance planes of the 803d Medical Air Evacuation Squadron. In this way 135 Americans were brought to the 20th General and 73d Evacuation Hospitals at Ledo after the battle of Walawbum.47
Air clearing stations were essential links in the chain of evacuation. Those in the most forward zone were improvised by local troops until detachments of the l3th Mountain Medical Battalion moved in. At the larger fields in the rear, the 151st Medical Battalion, a Service of Supply unit, provided clearing stations. A typical ACS, such as that which the 151st put at Taipha Ga in March for Chinese and 5307th evacuees, consisted of a medical officer and from 10 to 25 men--nursing orderlies, drivers, loaders, laborers. It had a ward tent and facilities for an average patient census of 30; first aid supplies on the scale of a divisional emergency unit; a few trucks or ambulances; and housekeeping equipment for the ACS personnel. The ACS could be opened or closed on short notice, or it could become the nucleus of a major evacuation center.48
45NCAC History, p. 65; Merrill's Marauders,
p. 45. Ogburn, p. 134, depends on previously published sources. Conjecture
is required with regard to the 109 miscellaneous cases, since no record
of the diagnoses ever has been located.
The great advantage of this evacuation plan was that it avoided long litter or ambulance hauls and followed the Marauders by air into areas where land communications were difficult. The disadvantage was that some patients who went back to the large hospitals might have been as well treated and restored to duty sooner by more forward medical stations. Some, also, had to wait out the entire evacuation sequence before they received anything but emergency care, when intermediate therapeutic procedures would have forestalled death, radical treatment, or a long convalescence.
The usual way to solve such a problem was to use mobile evacuation hospitals between the divisional medical battalion and the major fixed or semi-mobile hospitals. Combat Command had none assigned to it, however. Instead it had to do the best it could with such units as Seagrave's and the 25th Field Hospita1.49 Such units, being relatively large and well-equipped, functioned best on an effective line of ground communication, whereas many of the troops in Burma required medical service which was fully mobile and of a relatively advanced technical quality. This need was especially great during the several envelopment maneuvers, when flank regiments were out for weeks on jungle trails.
The answer to the need lay in mobile surgical units such as the Portable Surgical Hospitals (four officers, 33 enlisted men), which the Army had recently established as standardized medical units. Combat Command had three of these, the 42d, 43d, and 46th. More were needed. To fill the gap comparable surgical teams were improvised with medical troops detached from hospitals and other units in the combat area. The place of the surgical hospital was near the regimental line, ahead of (but, with luck, near to) an airstrip. They were expected to work under fire, if need be, in order to stay inside a defensive perimeter or to avoid long litter carries in the jungle. Their role was to provide prompt and significant surgery for casualties which the battalion aid stations could not handle decisively and who would profit from
49Justice to Seagrave's hospital cannot be
done in a short note. It was a small, multi-purpose unit, capable of serving
as a surgical hospital or field hospital, as need be. It began its work
with the Chinese Fifth Army in the First Burma Campaign, served in India
at the training center of the New First Army, and went through the Second
Burma Campaign until the Chinese left Burma in 1945. The 400-bed 25th Field
Hospital, although designed for communications zone stations, did yeoman
service on the combat road. In the first stage of the campaign, its hospital
sections were used separately to provide both advanced and intermediate
facilities. The 1st Hospital Section took over a Seagrave station at Taipha
Ga just before the Walawbum engagement. Between 4 and 12 March, it treated
460 battle casualties. Some of them were Marauders taken to the 25th from
the airfield instead of being sent on back to Ledo. See Seagrave, Burma
Surgeon Returns, and the annual reports for 1944 of the 896th Clearing
Company and the 25th Field Hospital; also G-4 Periodic Reports, Nos. 19
and 20, CBI, 1944.
advanced procedures before reaching a large hospital. Such treatment might in itself be sufficient to prevent further evacuation, the patient being briefly held and then returned to duty or to the battalion medical station. Otherwise, such patients were started on their way to recovery soon after being wounded and at the same time that they were on their way to the Ledo hospitals.
A small surgical team from the 13th Medical Battalion was attached to 1st Battalion, 5307th, for the Walawbum engagement. A veterinary officer from the medical battalion also went with the Marauders. The 113th Regiment had surgical support from a team composed of officers and men from Seagrave's well-seasoned hospital and from the 13th Medical Battalion. When the 113th and 5307th made contact at the end of the Walawbum battle, and both used the Lalang Ga airstrip, the 13th Medical Battalion teams combined to treat Marauder casualties.50
50The problem of triage produced by the long-range
air evacuation system came under review in the annual reports for 1944
of the 20th General and 73d Evacuation Hospitals, although it was, of course,
taken up long before the reports went out at the end of the year. Features
of the Portable Surgical Hospitals were revealed in their annual reports.
Units sending personnel out for improvised surgical detachments usually
noted the fact in their annual reports and sometimes included accounts
of the service their men had performed, for example, the 1944 annual report
of the 73d Evacuation Hospital, the 896th Clearing Company, the 13th Mountain
Medical Battalion. Information regarding the detachments with the 113th
Regiment and 1st Battalion, 5307th, is found in Seagrave, Burma Surgeon
Returns, pp. 110, 115; Kuite, "Report"; G-4 Periodic Reports
Nos. 21 and 22, CBI, 1944; and Hopkins, in Wound Ballistics, op. cit.,
pp. 249-251. The whole subject is treated briefly in the editor's article,
"Surgeons in Battle: The Mobile Surgical Hospital in Burma, 1943 to
As far as can be determined, sick and wounded Marauders received good care.51 Early in April a committee of surgical chiefs of service met to study the treatment of battle casualties. On the whole, it concluded, the medical officers in forward units had performed commendably and there had been a steady gain in the speed of evacuation. In the Chinese advance of December 1943-January 1944, slovenly practices and difficult ground communications delayed evacuees as long as 2 weeks. In March, casualties came to the Ledo hospitals from 24 hours to 4 days after being wounded. The longer period, unfortunately, pertained most regularly to the Marauders. At Walawbum, they had been tightly confined to their roadblock positions and perimeters from 3 to 8 March. Later in the month, casualties incurred during their march to the next roadblock position could be evacuated only at irregular intervals from jungle clearings.
As a result of such delays and of the unavailability of advanced surgical detachments, more men from the 5307th than from Chinese units had wound infections when they were hospitalized. Along with such serious cases, however, were Marauders with relatively minor disabilities. The committee realized, of course, that unless intermediate medical facilities were accessible, the 5307th had no alternative but to evacuate those who (even temporarily) could not fight or keep up the march.
The committee was bound to take notice of various technical flaws in field medical service: inadequate wound debridement, premature or poorly-accomplished wound-closure, circulatory constriction due to dressings or casts that were too tight, for example. Even when qualified by general statements of encouragement and approval, the report of the hospital surgeons caused some resentment in the field, where officers
51Hopkins, in Wound Ballistics, p. 251:
"Aside from the variable, and sometimes inadequate, facilities for
their evacuation, the men of the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) received
excellent surgical care." Ogburn takes a favorable view of the medical
services, throughout. The India-Burma Theater Surgical Consultant, though
he gained his impressions many months after the campaign, was also commendatory
in the editor's conversations with him.
felt that critics in the rear failed to appreciate the difficulties of battle and jungle surgery.52
The Walawbum engagement was child's play compared to what the Marauders faced during the next month of the campaign. Even before the last and worst week of that 30 days, a reliable report53 warned 5307th headquarters that "should the men be told they will stay here on completion of the campaign, they will be practically impossible to control. The men feel they have earned a furlough home, and say it has been promised them too." Since the campaign plan was open-ended, the combination of anticipation with a grievance was ominous.
After Tanaka eluded him in the Hukawng Valley, Stilwell planned another double envelopment about midway on the Mogaung Plain. Again, Chinese troops advanced on Tanaka's left flank and in the center. The Marauders, divided into two flanking forces, circled around his right. The 1st Battalion headed for Shaduzup on trails close to the Kamaing Road. Almost at once it encountered enemy ambushes and trailblocks. Some of these it fought through. In other instances it left the trail and literally hacked a new pathway through close-set jungle. The battalion's progress was not only slow but arduous and dangerous to the last degree of endurance.
When it finally reached Tanaka's communication line near Shaduzup, it fell upon an unsuspecting Japanese supply camp. Then it blocked the Kamaing Road for 2 days (27 and 28 March). When the Chinese 113th Regiment came up behind it, 1st Battalion pulled back into the jungle again. After a 2-day rest, it started eastward to rejoin the rest of the 5307th. Communications with Stilwell were unreliable, and it was unaware that its battle at Shaduzup had been too late to coincide with roadblocks set up by 2d and 3d Battalions further south. Worse, it was not aware that the other combat teams were in mortal danger. The 1st Battalion took up a moderate pace until Osborne, its commander, became uneasy enough to go directly to Stilwell's headquarters at Shaduzup. There he was told to get on as fast as he could
52Essential Medical Technical Data [EMTD] Reports,
CBI to SGO, January-April 1944; 73d Evacuation Hospital and 20th General
Hospital annual reports for 1944; Clarence J. Berne, MC, Chief of Surgical
Service, 73d Evacuation Hospital, "Observations in regard to liaison
between surgeons in portable surgical hospitals and evacuation hospitals
in Northern Burma Campaign," a letter report.
to the village of Hsamshingyang. By forced marches day and night it reached 3d Battalion headquarters on 7 April. Colonel Hunter welcomed it by giving it a place in an attack he was preparing. The battalion combed its ranks for men still able to negotiate the trails. It found only 250 to send up the line with the 3d Battalion.54
How had the 2d and 3d Battalions fared during these weeks in March? After leaving Walawbum they marched eastward into the rough hills on the rim of the Mogaung Valley. The trails were unguarded, but the necessity of crossing and recrossing the many streams in the hills made the march wearisome. However, with one combat team guarding their rear, they attacked Tanaka's communications line at Inkangahtawng 23-24 March. Then they learned that there was a strong enemy force coming up toward them from Kamaing. Merrill pulled his troops back to avoid this threat. No sooner were his troops disengaged than he was told that another enemy column, a reinforced battalion, had started north and soon would be behind him. Unless he intercepted it, he and the Chinese would be outflanked. Stilwell therefore ordered the 5307th to return eastward and throw itself across the enemy's pathway.
Back they went, 3d Battalion followed by 2d. They sent their I & R platoons ahead to protect their line of march. A series of brave and stubborn rearguard stands by the scouts allowed the combat teams to get on to the main trail north. The 3d Battalion reached Hsamshingyang, where it found a clearing it could use as an airstrip. Five miles behind, under artillery as well as small arms fire, 2d Battalion dug in on a hilltop at Nphum Ga. There it stayed under fire for 2 weeks.
For the first 2 days of the ordeal the two battalions were in touch with one another. Then the Japanese took the waterhole at Nphum Ga55 and closed the trail to Hsamshingyang. No longer could 2d Battalion obtain supplies or evacuate its wounded. General Merrill collapsed with a heart disorder; Colonel Hunter assumed command. In conditions of mounting desperation and morbid horror, 2d Battalion held its perimeter. Day after day, 3d Battalion attacked up the trail or tried to find a jungle bypass to the hilltop. On 6 April, it still had a mile to go to reach Nphum Ga. Next day Hunter added the 250 men of 1st Battalion to the relief force. He committed all his troops on the 8th and advanced a half-mile before night fell. The troops dug in on the trail so that they could resume the attack immediately next day. But on Easter Sunday morning, the 9th, Hunter's patrols discovered they could simply walk on in to the 2d Battalion perimeter. The Japanese had vanished during the night. Although they had suffered many casualties, they were still relatively strong and they slipped off to join the garrison
54Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 175-191;
Merrill's Marauders, pp. 47-91; Ogburn, pp. 137-218.
at Myitkyina. The 5307th moved a few miles northward to lick its wounds.56
The march to Shaduzup and the battle near it cost 1st Battalion almost as many casualties as the entire regiment lost at Walawbum--8 killed, 35 wounded.57 At Inkangahtawng, casualties in 2d and 3d Battalions were much lighter. They lost 2 killed and 12 wounded. The great damage to the regiment occurred in the siege of Nphum Ga. There the Marauders lost 57 killed and 302 wounded. Although many sick and wounded men were kept in the columns when the siege lifted, 379 were evacuated from Hsamshingyang in the second week of April.58
As before, casualties were carried to battalion aid stations or surgical teams on litters or mules, if they could not walk. Airstrips for light planes evacuated patients from the Shaduzup and Inkangahtawng areas. At Nphum Ga, 2d Battalion casualties were taken to the 3d Battalion perimeter at Hsamshingyang during the first 2 days of the battle. Thereafter, the enemy controlled the trail; no further evacuation occurred until after the battle ended.59
In the Shaduzup-Inkangahtawng engagements, most, if not all, the regiment's casualties were seen by surgeons from the 13th Medical Battalion and Seagrave's hospital. They had been formed into a mobile surgical team in February, and already had marched to and served at Walawbum with the Chinese 113th Regiment and the 5307th. On occasions, Charlton Ogburn, in the 1st Battalion, recalls seeing them digging foxholes for their patients during artillery bombardments. He saw his own battalion surgeons, John McLaughlin and Winnie Steinfield, operating at night by flashlight behind poncho shields.60
The medical detachments with 2d and 3d Battalions were put to the severest tests of nerve and energy. As 2d Battalion scrambled in the rain up to Nphum Ga, enemy artillery fired repeatedly into the column. Somehow the company aidmen pulled the wounded men along, improvised litters, or put them on mules. As soon as the perimeter was established, Maj. Bernard Rogoff, the battalion surgeon, began operating in a deserted basha. One knows, despite the absence of records, that Captains Stelling and Lewis A. Kolodny, Rogoff's as-
56Romanus and Sunderland, Merrill's Marauders,
Ogburn, ibid. During this period, Stilwell's diary entries suggest
that his attention was given to the Chinese advance until the 5307th was
caught at Nphum Ga. On 4 April, he noted a "disturbing msg. from Hunter
last night." He worried on the 5th ("No report from Galahad")
until he heard late in the day that "G is ok. Closing in on japs at
Nphum Ga." How hard the fighting was he may not have realized. His
entries on the 6th, 11th and 13th are cheerful in their references to the
sistants, were at once at work receiving casualties, moving them into sheltered positions at the edge of the deserted village, and supervising their evacuation on litters. The wounded were carried to Captain Hopkins' 3d Battalion aid station at Hsamshingyang, who in turn put them aboard the liaison planes which landed at the airstrip on 29 March. Evacuation stopped after that, when the Japanese cut the line between the two battalions.
A few men came to Rogoff fearful or apathetic from battle fatigue. He set them to work digging trenches and foxholes for the casualties. All but two of his eight neuropsychiatric cases responded to this practical therapy and returned to the firing line. About sanitation he could do little. The carcasses of horses and mules soon littered the perimeter. The men were too closely confined to their foxholes to do much about their own wastes. The flies and the stench became almost unbearable. An airdrop of 500 pounds of lime helped a little, but not much.
The waterhole of the village lay near the edge of the perimeter. On the 31st the Japanese captured it. Until 3 April, 2d Battalion had no water except what it could collect in pits and shellholes on the few occasions when rain fell. Then water was airdropped into the perimeter in plastic containers. It had to be used sparingly. The doctors were unable to provide the extra fluids which the wounded men required, and they were handicapped in preparing plaster casts. Supplies became scarce. On the 8th, they were partly replenished by an airdrop of glucose-saline solution, vitamins for intravenous administration, gas gangrene-tetanus serum, and, for the dysentery patients, sulphaguanadine and paregoric.
On 4 April, Rogoff reported a casualty list of 17 killed, 97 wounded. Fifteen men had previously been evacuated to 3d Battalion. By the 6th, he had 100 patients in his aid station. Four of his medical men had been wounded. Some of the casualties were refusing to stay at the station and were returning to their foxholes to fight. Three of the wounded men were subsequently killed. When the siege ended on Easter Sunday, Rogoff led a litter train of 103 wounded men to Hsamshingyang.
Meanwhile, Hopkins and his assistant, 1st Lt. Paul E. Armstrong, had not only maintained the 3d Battalion aid station but had been out on the combat trail. Sometimes their aid post was as near as 30 yards to the firing line. Wrote the official diarist of the 5307th:
[Hopkins] goes anywhere to take care of the wounded * * * He has a pleasant personality that assures each wounded soldier he is in the hands of a man who cares for him and who knows how to take care of him. He has seen every man before he died * * * Every wounded man is moved and treated within two minutes of being shot. Medics move with the assault troops. An 81 mm and one knee mortar shell
landed in the aid station and wounded two men. Doc Hopkins got a piece of shrapnel in the aid pouch at his side.61
As soon as the 5307th established its bivouac north of Nphum Ga, when the siege ended, it put together a small hospital with parachutes and bamboo lean-tos. To reinforce the battalion detachments, Combat Command flew in a group of medical officers from the l4th, 48th, and 73d Evacuation Hospitals near Ledo. The team was shocked to learn of the conditions under which medical service had been rendered "on the hill," but impressed by the quality of the work which the battalion surgeons had done. Wounded men who had survived were in good condition, even though their injuries were 2 weeks old. During the 10 days the special team stayed with the Marauders, they kept an average of 70 patients in the hospital. Hasty studies of the troops were carried out with the intention of evacuating those appearing unfit for further jungle fighting.62
Terribly exhausted; suffering extensively and persistently from malaria, diarrhea, and both bacillary and amebic dysentery; beset by festering skin lesions, infected scratches and bites; depleted by 500 miles of marching on packaged rations, the Marauders were sorely stricken. They had lost 700 men killed, wounded, disabled by nonbattle injuries, and, most of all, sick. Over half of this number had been evacuated from 2d Battalion alone. Many remaining in the regiment were more or less ill, and their physical condition was too poor to respond quickly to medication and rest.63
61"War Diary of 5307th," pp. 126-127.
Kolodny, of 2d Battalion, had a similarly narrow escape at Walawbum: Ogburn,
p. 117. Preceding details of the medical service at Nphum Ga and Hsamshingyang
are from the "War Diary," pp. 93-135, the "2nd Battalion
Diary," 29 March-9 April, and Ogburn, ibid. Hopkins and Rogoff
were decorated with the Bronze Star medal; so were medical technicians
Eugene F. Arnold and Joseph N. Gomez: Stilwell Papers, Folder 88, section
3; Merrill's Marauders, p. 116.
Hopkins noted that there were approximately 200 cases
of sickness in the 2d Battalion when it left Nphum Ga; most of the patients
had amebic dysentery, he believed. He also reported that there had been
26 cases of scrub typhus in 1st Battalion, with two deaths; five cases
in 2d Battalion (no deaths); and four cases in 3d Battalion (one death).
Some of these may have occurred during the period of rest and patrol action
after the siege was ended, but before the 5307th started for Myitkyina:
Hopkins Notes, p. 3.
General Wingate was accused of ruthless folly, if not madness, when he lost one-third of his brigade in the jungles and plains of Burma in 1943. By mid-April, the 5307th had suffered almost as many casualties as the Chindits and, like them, had many men sick and dazed in the ranks. But the campaign of 1944 was still under way. The Mogaung-Myitkyina line still had to be captured.
The Hopkins Report, Continued
General discussion of disease.--a. In the Pacific the sick rate was high for the following diseases: Bronchitis, arthritis, asthmatic attacks, sinusitis, myositis, external otitis, diarrhea, dysentery, the common cold, and gastritis.
b. Among the men of the 3rd battalion who were studied in India, approximately 250 were seen and studied with 400-500 chronic cases of disease. For example I have records on 13 chronic backaches; 30 chronic gastritis cases; 10 severe psychoneurotics; 8 psychosis cases; 30 chronic bronchitis cases; 10 hernias; 30 chronic malaria with splenomegaly, anemia, and weight loss; 9 men with chronic recurrent attacks of pleurisy; 5 with per-
forated drums, some with chronic otitis; 11 severe chronic tonsillitis cases; and 5 pilonidals. This discussion could take up many groups of chronic disease. Our sick call usually ran 25 to 75 men and we were very liberal about seeing them throughout the day.
c. I have previously stated that we put 115 men not fit for combat in the rear echelon and sent 69 to the Karachi [181st] General Hospital. The rest and many of those we sent to the hospital went with us into Burma.
d. We have all been impressed by chronic attacks of dizzyness on change of position which the men complain of, as well as the high incidence of anorexia and gastritis. The symptoms continue even after days of hospitalization.
Typhus.--a. The 3rd Battalion left for Burma with its typhus inoculation complete. We continually kept typhus before the minds of the men. They were cautioned against lice and ticks. We were never impressed with the danger of the so-called Burma or CBI fever which is apparently tsutsugamushi fever [scrub typhus]. My battalion had one typhus case in India. In Burma, during the first three months, three cases were evacuated; one died. During our last three weeks in Burma, many men were evacuated with typhus. Figures are not yet available but the 3rd Battalion records will probably show between 125 and 150 cases. Twenty-one men from this battalion have already died and several are still seriously ill.
b. Our men were apparently inoculated at Ritpong61 where the Japanese had had two recent deaths, according to statements of a prisoner, from an undiagnosed disease. The majority of the dead and sick slept in bashas on the outskirts of the village.
c. The hospitals here state that these typhus cases should be given medical boards and evacuated to the states for further convalescence. However no one with the possible exception of the 111th Station Hospital65 seems willing to take this step.
d. In the majority of cases it seems apparent that these men are not getting the type of study and convalescent care that their disease warrants. Lipman, Byron and Casey in the January 1944 issue of the [Army Medical Department] Bulletin give the following opinion.
e. "It is well to stress a few points. Scrub typhus fever may run an entirely mild course with relatively low-grade temperature ranging from 99 degrees to 102 degrees. However, regardless of the severity of the infection all cases in their convalescence should have a period of prolonged bed rest following a regimen akin to that used in rheumatic fever and postdiphtheritic heart disease. Every case should have electrocardiogram studies in order accurately to assess cardiac damage of which perhaps there is more than is immediately apparent. In justice to the patient, extremely careful study should be made before returning the patient to full or limited duty."
Amebiasis.--a. My opinion is that the Amebiasis rate in the Pacific was low, but diagnostic facilities available to me were poor and I may be mis-
64On the trail to Myitkyina in May.
taken. We were troubled more by bacillary dysentery. On the Lurline 15 to 20 cases [occurred; the men] were transferred to the Army Station Hospital in Bombay. In India a few cases were treated at Deolali and Deogarh. No followups have been done on any of these men.
b. Diarrhea and dysentery were ever present with the 3rd Battalion in Burma. The men used Halazone religiously and we were always setting up water points away from villages where it might be contaminated with Cysts.66 We saw many attacks of bloody dysentery especially during the latter two months of the campaign. Stools are not being done routinely at the 20th GH or the 14th Evac Hospitals. The 111th Station Hospital has been able to make adequate studies. Their work points to a very high percentage of amebiasis. I personally think 90% of the men have the disease.
c. No steps have been taken for mass diagnostic procedure, or adequate followup of the treated cases. Some men have gone back to Myitkyina without adequate stool study.
Casualties.--a. The men of the 43rd, the 25th, the Americal, and 37th Divisions came in the majority of cases from battalions where military and medical casualties had been high. I know very little about the 32nd Division. My battalion, the 1st battalion of the 148th Infantry, had over 200 casualties. This amounts to 25 to 30% casualties. My impression is that the other divisions took higher casualties.
b. In Burma up to the present, the battalion has had 45 killed or died of wounds, 22 dead from disease and 115 wounded. At this time it is not possible to figure the exact percentage but it would seem about 10% killed or dead and 15% wounded.67
Morale.--a. The spirit and enthusiasm among the 22 officers and 650 men who formed the unit in New Caledonia were exceptional and impressive. It was a great unit. Unfortunately some outfits had promised the men promotions if they volunteered. This was the case in my regiment. I was actually told that I would be given a majority. It soon began to dawn on the men that they were not to be a commando unit as they had been told and that they were not to be automatically promoted. After considerable controversy all privates were made private first class.
b. The enthusiastic spirit of officers and men was dampened at Brisbane where five officers who outranked all ours in their grades and who had not seen combat joined us from the 41st Division. They brought no men.
c. None of the men or officers with few exceptions, since being overseas, had been given leave. Many had not returned home for several months before sailing overseas. They were very disappointed to find that it was not the policy to give passes ashore in any ports. In India no leaves were given until about one half of the third battalion went AWOL during the latter part of December. When this started a few short leaves were given. In two
66Encysted forms of E. histolytica,
the amoeba causing dysentery. In this form, the organism was especially
resistant to chlorination.
years or more overseas the majority of the men and officers have never had leave.
d. It is not within the scope of this report to discuss the numerous cliques and problems which have arisen so often to lower the men's morale. The attitude of the average enlisted man is that many promises have been made and few have been kept. They openly state that their days of volunteering are over. They feel that their country has let them down. They have been in the Army long enough to know that psychologically and medically they have gotten what they call a raw deal. The majority of them still have great respect for the Regimental Staff and General Merrill.
e. Seventy five percent of these men should have been evacuated from Burma before the start of the Myitkyina campaign. They put up with a lot and led the Chinese to Myitkyina, doing a large part of the fighting on the way. They all knew of and believed in the vague promise that they would be evacuated as soon as the airport was taken. This was accomplished just about two weeks before the battalion was finally evacuated on EMT tags.
f. The 3rd battalion was the most superb fighting outfit I have ever seen. Considering the fighting they did their casualties were amazingly low. These low casualties go hand in hand with their accomplishment and both are due to the leadership of company commanders and platoon leaders as well as their magnificent courage and past experience. Many died because they were willing to fight Japs as well as disease on the trip to Myitkyina.
g. Many of these men were mentally and physically ill after 2 and 3 campaigns and 2 years of field duty in the tropics and subtropics. Their morale is low and they have lost all confidence in the CBI Theatre Leaders. It is not helped by seeing raw and previously unorganized infantry and poorly trained and prepared engineer troops sent to Myitkyina to carry on a large share of the battle.
h. It is not helped by seeing their buddies sent out as casuals quickly sent back to the same area, after a magnificent showing for four months of sickness, death, wounds, and misery. Many were still affected with the disease with which they were evacuated.
i. Here I want to insert a paragraph from the January issue of the Bulletin of the U.S. Army Medical Dept. I quote: "Morale is an intangible necessity which no army can get along without and still be successful. Soldiers with inferior weapons and equipment but with high morale can overcome an enemy with the best equipment but low morale. The Army is well aware of this, and through its Special Service Division has accomplished much by encouraging athletic recreation and entertainment as diversions. A Special Service Officer is assigned to each post and unit. Frequent physical inspections are conducted, since poor health can seriously interfere with morale. The selection, preparation, and serving of food are closely supervised, as it is well known that plenty of good food is one of the prime supports of good morale in any group of men. Morale, however, is far more than entertainment and diversion. As a matter of fact it is an integral factor in mental hygiene." Unquote.
The Stelling Report, Continued
D. After starting into the jungles we failed to make our objective the first day so our battalion commander decided to continue in the dark along a very narrow jungle trail without lights of any kind. The trail went across several muddy stream beds and two or three flimsy bamboo foot bridges. In the pitch black dark only those who have attempted to do so can possibly appreciate the utter impossibility of keeping a column of loaded pack animals and men moving along such a trail with thick vines and bamboo and underbrush growing up to the very edge of a narrow winding trail and with fallen logs and roots every few feet. With just a little light or in bright moonlight it can be done, but with no lights at all and men falling and stumbling and animal packs getting caught in vines and stuck between and under limbs of trees, it is an impossibility to move over a few feet a minute. It takes hours to move even a half mile. It is easily understandable that occasions could arise in enemy territory where a half mile or even a few hundred yards or feet could mean the difference between victory and defeat. But without such special reasons we have on several occasions wasted whole nights that should have been spent sleeping just moving two or three miles. Never has any possible advantage been achieved by us in night marches through the jungles except once or twice on moonlight nights. The disgust generated by our battalion commander on the first night march by stubbornly ordering the battalion on for three or four hours after dark during which we moved nearly one-half of a mile, of course without any light whatsoever, caused him to reach a new low in the estimation of all the men and most of the officers. It's no doubt laughable now but let anyone try to walk in absolute darkness in deep jungles such as I have described, stumbling and falling and barking shins and spraining ankles and falling on their faces in the mud, and stopping to repack animals--all this to absolutely no avail. Spend a whole night doing this and find that you have covered nearly a mile or maybe two by morning, which you could have covered in less than one hour in daylight and see how much adrenalin you use up, and how fresh you feel to march all day the next day in enemy infested jungles. The morale factor involved in such physical and mental frustrations is quite large. Any officer who stubbornly persists in ordering such utterly inexcusable and dangerously depleting activities of which this is only one example destroys one's faith in his mentality to say nothing of his leadership.
E. During three days [of] rest at the end of the ten day Ledo Road march and after part of a day and a night and another part-day march to our first stopping place in the jungle, we received our first air drop and packed rations and ammunition in addition to regular packs for our start into deeper jungles to our first engagement with the enemy; every few days we received air drops of food and ammunition and other supplies when needed. This was to be routine during the four months of the Burma campaign. The Air Corps working in conjunction with the men of the rear echelon coordinated by regimental and combat headquarters did an excellent job without which the campaign would have been impossible.
F. Rations were K rations enough for from three to five days at each drop. No rations were carried on animals except for their own grain. K rations for mountain and jungle marching were found to be inadequate to maintain body weight and energy even when supplemented with C and D and Ten in One rations occasionally. This proved to be true in spite of adequate salt and vitamins added to the diet.
G. The 2nd Battalion fought through four major engagements and three minor ones and several skirmishes during the four months of the Burma campaign. 55 men were killed in combat or died of wounds and 175 of the wounded are still living. Two died accidental deaths out of combat. None have to my knowledge died of disease up to the time of this writing.68 These figures are not absolutely accurate to the last man because about 25 men of the 2nd Battalion are still in the vicinity of Myitkyina and the detailed medical records of the battalion are not available to me at the present time. Neither have hospital records been completed.
H. It should be borne in mind that only once were we taken totally by surprise by the enemy. Excellent scouting and patrolling and general reconnaissance by our own men and accurate and timely information by the Kachins assigned to us and the excellent work of the OSS mostly done by Kachins kept us well posted. Of course this information came to us mostly through regimental headquarters. Only one out and out catastrophe occurred due to failure to guard a trail. But none of the enemy ever forced their way through our perimeter.69
I. The worst combat ordeal for the battalion and the one catastrophe referred to which caused the highest number of casualties came when we were completely surrounded by what later proved to be a reinforced battalion of Japs as we were holding rear guard for the regiment at Nphum Ga. We were surrounded here on this hill for fifteen days. The conditions were horrible in the extreme. It is here that the greatest drain on the life and strength of the battalion occurred. We were living on a bull's eye. Day and [night] almost with every Jap shell we lost more men in killed and wounded. Here alone we lost 45 killed and 150 wounded. There was no water to be had except from a mud hole in which drainage from dead animals accumulated, until later during the siege water was dropped to [us] along with food and ammunition and medical supplies. Out of some 200 horses and mules which went to Nphum Ga all but about 53 were killed or wounded by enemy fire and the wounded animals had to be killed by us.
J. On Nphum Ga the medical and sanitary problems were acute in the extreme. Nothing could be done to relieve the situation until the combined efforts of the Air Corps and the 3rd Battalion helped us to break the siege. Men could not venture out of their fox holes except when absolutely necessary. They began to look like skeletons, haggard and worn and very thin
68Totals for the campaign, including the Myitkyina
from severe battle exhaustion due to prolonged and almost constant enemy fire and bombardment which made it next to impossible to ever eat or sleep or even to relax for a moment. The water problem at first became accentuated by the capture of our only real water hole by the enemy. For several days until water could be dropped to us the whole battalion tried to get water out of the only mud hole below the picket line. From this and due to other extreme sanitary problems because of being trapped and of not being able to bury the men and animals deep enough as fast as they were killed, and not being able to move from the spot for half a month, acute gastritis complicated by pernicious nausea and vomiting and bloody diarrhea were almost universal by the tenth day of the siege. After many promises of relief had failed, most of the men and officers began to have the hopeless look of despair and had developed such severe battle exhaustion that they could not continue to function. These and the high number of wounded and dying averaging together as high as twenty per day made it impossible for the medical personnel to dig fox holes fast enough for the men who could not dig for themselves. Some of the men including those from the pack animal personnel helped enlarge the aid station facilities which however were adequate.
K. With no water during the first part of the siege with which to boil instruments and barely enough to give oral medication and practically none to drink, some of the men became delirious from thirst and all suffered marked dehydration. It became difficult to recognize one's closest associates by looks and because of personality changes due to the physical and mental strain of the siege.
L. The surgical problem was acute. Men already weakened pitifully had little resistance and succumbed more rapidly to infection and from blood loss. Plasma saved many lives but many more could have been saved if evacuation to hospitals could have been achieved earlier. Only operations of absolute necessity to attempt to save life and limb were performed. These had to be done while almost standing on one's head on the edges of fox holes in which the patients lay. Deep fox holes could not be dug fast enough to accommodate even the most serious surgical cases. Great heroism was shown by some of the medical enlisted men in going out at all times and under all conditions to bring in casualties. The majority of the medical personnel bore up bravely and efficiently under this most trying of all ordeals.
M. The great majority of the enlisted men of the line and their officers fought on day and night with magnificent bravery and courage. Our perimeter was never successfully invaded by the enemy in spite of repeated charges from many directions and enemy reinforcements that were brought up.
N. After the siege was broken and the enemy thrown back mainly through the efforts of the 3rd Battalion and the Air Corps from the outside reinforcing our efforts from the inside, we were finally relieved. Even before this siege of half a month, after the 2nd Battalion and a column from the 3rd Battalion had destroyed several hundred Japs near the road at Inkangahtawng about the middle of March, we had been promised evacuation on grounds that our mission had been accomplished.
We were told at that time that we would start out of Burma in about ten days. Also about the tenth of March we were told that the animals would need to hold up for only ten days longer. We had accomplished the desired effects of causing the Japs to withdraw south on the Road allowing the accumulating Chinese forces to break a stalemate and advance rapidly down the road toward Kamaing. In doing this the 2nd Battalion had formed one road block behind the Jap lines and had tapped enemy wires leading to division headquarters and gained much vital information contributing to allied successes.70 And in attempting to cut the road again at Inkangahtawng [we] had practically annihilated a Japanese battalion. The 3rd Battalion fought magnificently near Walawbum, destroying many hundreds of the enemy. The 1st Battalion had engaged the enemy several times north of these points and had caused him to become disorganized and to lose many men.
O. Thus, before the siege of the 2nd Battalion at Nphum Ga we were led to believe that we were on the way out of Burma.71 In fact, we had been congratulated upon our good work and told that we had killed our quota of Japs. It must be constantly borne in mind in order to have a true picture of the campaign of "Merrill's Marauders" that we were not resting between combat engagements, but were always on the move enduring unbelievable physical and mental hardships which defy description. During the successful first half of our campaign our extraordinary mobility accounted for much of our success. We moved much faster than any of the enemy forces we engaged and surprised them time and again. Roughly speaking we moved from two to four times faster than any of the Chinese outfits with which we were associated. So, before the Nphum Ga siege,
70Specifically, at Walawbum. At Inkangahtawng,
a radio message from Merrill, warning Colonel Hunter of an approaching
Japanese force, reached 2d Battalion but not Hunter himself. The response
of 2d Battalion helped alert the rest of the 5307th on 24 March: Romanus
and Sunderland, II, pp. 153-181.
in spite of great fatigue, our morale was high. Our losses in killed and wounded up to this time before Nphum Ga were very small, less than one American killed or wounded for every 200 Japs killed.
When we came down off Nphum Ga after the most killing and wearing ordeal that had ever been sustained by any similar unit in the Army, and after the Chinese had moved up to hold the ground we had gained,72 the whole regiment of "Merrill's Marauders" naturally expected to be sent out of Burma for a much deserved rest. The most optimistic amongst us thought of the implications made in Trinidad when the 100% volunteer mission was said to be a hazardous one but with hope of being sent home at the end of it. And all of us recalled the several promises made during the fighting and marching thus far in Burma by no less than General Merrill and Colonel Hunter themselves, as to our being through with our mission in ten days following the initial successes. So after Nphum Ga, we were all consternated [sic] and in the weakened exhausted state of the 2nd Battalion we couldn't at first believe our ears when we heard that still another combat march lay ahead of us.
What Mogaung was to the Chindits, Myitkyina was to the Marauders--a city of despair. The fate of the two forces was curiously similar. In May, both had reached the end of the period supposedly allotted to them for jungle penetration warfare. Both, then, were called on by Stilwell for one more assault. By that time a major part of each had been severely mauled in a static situation, the 111th Brigade of the Chindits at Blackpool and the 2d Battalion, 5307th, at Nphum Ga. Each believed that it was performing tasks for which other national forces were properly responsible. Their suffering, they thought, resulted from shirking or failure not their own. The monsoon rains pelted each force alike; the trails and dugouts turned to slime beneath their feet. Their men--the half or so left for the last attempt--were all gaunt and weary. Some of their officers were disgruntled, many of the doctors were resentful, most of the troops were either jocularly or sullenly bitter.
The 5307th had 2 weeks in April to rest after the battle of Nphum Ga. New clothing, extra rations, treatment of the sick, and some routine training exercises were thought to be preparation for withdrawal to India as soon as Chinese troops took over the trail patrols. By the 21st, however, Stilwell's orders to attack Myitkyina reached the regiment. A week later it had been bracketed with Chinese and Kachin troops. The 1st and 3d Battalions were joined to the Chinese 150th Regiment, 50th Division, and the Chinese 88th Regiment, 30th Division. They formed H and K Forces, respectively. The
72A battalion of the 112th Regiment, 38th Division.
Chinese troops had recently been flown to the combat area from China. A pack artillery battery, surgical teams, and the 42d Portable Surgical Hospital were added to the columns. The 2d Battalion, cut in half at Nphum Ga, was reorganized internally into more compact subdivisions. Three hundred Kachin scouts accompanied it. It was called M Force.
When the reorganization was completed, General Merrill, just out of a hospital, spoke in Stilwell's name.
In giving Merrill his orders for the march, Stilwell stated that he knew he was calling on Galahad for more effort than could fairly be expected, but that he had no other option. In the light of that, and the exhaustion of the unit, he authorized Merrill to begin evacuating Galahad 'without further order if everything worked out as expected.' After discussing the plan with his battalion commanders, Merrill said a few words about what would be done for Galahad on completion of the mission. Such a prospect was a tremendous incentive to the weary men of Galahad, and Merrill believed many made the march as a last desperate effort for a great prize.73
The rewards, according to the way the men understood Merrill, were to be immediate return to India when the Marauders took their objective, "a party to cause taxpayers a shudder," recuperation in rest camps (which were located in such attractive places as Kashmir), and furloughs.74
The advance to Myitkyina was desperately difficult. The trails over the Kumon Mountains were wet and overgrown, steep and narrow. Many miles of the pathway had to be rebuilt or cut out anew. K Force led the way on 28 April. Just across the mountains it attacked enemy strongholds at Ritpong and Tingkrukawng. H Force, which started for Myitkyina on 30 April, went past the Japanese while K Force engaged them. M Force (2d Battalion) first spread out in the Naubum-Nphum Ga area to seal the trails. Its task was not dangerous but it was tiring. On 5 May, it closed up its patrols and left for Myitkyina over the worst of the trails selected for the advance. Animals and men began to fail at once as the column hastened after the rest of the force.
H Force reached Myitkyina airfield on 17 May. "The attack went like a service school demonstration, for although the Japanese knew Myitkyina was in danger, the actual assault was a complete surprise."75 The Marauders took positions to protect the airfield from possible counterattacks, and the Air Force promptly began flying in supplies
73Romanus and Sunderland, II, p. 225; the general
description of reorganization, ibid., pp. 224-225, and Merrill's
Marauders, pp. 96-97. Ogburn, pp. 222-227 and 278, describes the situation
and attitudes in 5307th after the battle of Nphum Ga. Hunter astonished
the men by ordering them to march and drill when they began to show signs
and additional Chinese troops. Urged on by Hunter, Merrill hoped to attack the city at once. But time and luck ran out. The Chinese regiments were inexperienced, easily daunted and confused, and sometimes badly led. The Marauders were exhausted. Both broke down repeatedly short of their objectives. Japanese reinforcements soon found holes in the Chinese and American lines. In a few days a determined, well-organized, and fortified garrison of over 4,000 troops defied the Myitkyina Task Force.
Stilwell had no more Chinese he could add to the attack. The British Chindits were a long distance away, although--against their protests--he was maneuvering them up to the Mogaung-Myitkyina line. But in the last week of May, he found additional American troops. The men were replacements for the 5307th, who had been secured in the United States by a call for volunteers. The War Department intended that they would compose a fully organized and trained unit to replace 5307th as a whole. Stilwell, however, had no time to carry out the War Department plan for a new regiment. Instead, he ordered the men to Myitkyina on 30 May (5 days after they reached India) to fill up the ranks of the Marauders. At the same time he pulled two battalions of engineers, the 209th and 236th, off the Ledo Road and sent them to the battlefield. They were split into companies and sandwiched between Marauder units.76
Nothing availed. During the last week of May, a very strict policy on evacuation had been enforced, with the hope of preventing rapid decimation of the ranks. Additionally, word went through medical installations on the battlefield and back at Ledo to stretch every point in order to return men to duty. But such measures actually hastened the collapse of the 5307th. To injury they added insult.
In each previous mission, the Marauders had been required to undertake a jungle march, seize a designated enemy position, hold it for a few days, and turn it over to the Chinese. This they had done at Myitkyina. Never before had it been expected that they would settle down to a battle of conventional, yard-by-yard advance, let alone besiege a city. Yet this change of purpose and style now was demanded. The stringent evacuation policy, the reappearance of some Marauders previously evacuated to Ledo, and the addition of replacements all
76Ibid., pp. 229-243; 2d Battalion Diary,
15 April-17 May; Russell F. Hill, Operations Sergeant, "S-3 Journal
3rd Bn 5307th Comp. Unit (Prov)," Stilwell Papers, Folder 88, section
2; Stilwell Diary, 23 April-30 May 1944. Stilwell's entries show his worry
while the 5307th made the approach march to Myitkyina. After a few days
of exuberance when Myitkyina airfield was taken so easily, gloom set in.
He put Col. John E. McCammon, Merrill's assistant, in command of Myitkyina
Task Force. McCammon was sick, and after 2 weeks Stilwell replaced him
with his own Chief of Staff, General Boatner. Boatner commanded the task
force from 30 May to 26 June. Stilwell felt he did not act with sufficient
energy, and when Boatner showed signs of malaria, Stilwell replaced him
with another officer from his staff, Brig. Gen. Theodore F. Wessels (who
had been at SEAC Headquarters for several months).
showed that they were being committed to the Myitkyina battle to the bitter end. What little capacity to fight they had left after Nphum Ga had been preserved by hope and will. In the face of what seemed like betrayal, hope and will vanished and the Marauders were finished. All but a few score were flown back to Ledo as medical evacuees in the first 3 days of June.77
The medical support for the Myitkyina expedition was more elaborate than the Marauders customarily received. In addition to their own battalion medical detachments, surgical teams accompanied the H and K Force columns. With H Force, 1st Lt. Milton A. Dushkin led a Seagrave hospital team of three officers, 16 enlisted men, an English civilian technician, and three Chinese orderlies. His teammates were Lieutenants Carl J. Antonellis and Theodore Gurney. All had been serving for months with the Chinese New First Army and, like the Marauders, they were seasoned jungle troops. K Force had with it Capt. F. B. Zombro and three men of the 73d Evacuation Hospital. They had been part of the medical troops flown in to help the 5307th after the battle of Nphum Ga. The principal surgical unit in the column, however, was the 42d Portable Surgical Hospital. It supported the Chinese 88th Infantry in K Force. Zombro's team backed up Hopkins's 3d Battalion medical detachment.78
When K Force started for Myitkyina, the 73d Evacuation Hospital team and 3d Battalion medical detachment marched near the head of the column. The 42d PSH went at the rear with the animal train of the 88th Infantry. Its men were on foot. Twenty-five horses carried its equipment which, in the absence of packing cases, had been bundled up into bags of parachute cloth--"bulky, awkward, difficult to pack as well as to load." Since the bags were not waterproof, supplies and equipment were repeatedly soaked. When the trail became too steep for the animals, the Chinese shouldered the loads. At first the men of the PSH put their own baggage on the animals. But when they discovered that the pack train came in 3 hours after a bivouac had been established, they picked up packs discarded by other troops and thenceforth carried their own rations, blankets, jungle hammocks, and personal belongings.
On the afternoon of 7 May, K Force began fighting at the village of Ritpong. Casualties collected in a clearing, and the 42d was called up from the rear of the column. The trail was so narrow that men and animals could pass each other only in a few places. It was dawn of the 8th before the PSH equipment had been hand-carried forward to the casualty collection point. Meanwhile the men of the 42d had given emergency treatment to some 50 wounded soldiers. As soon as the equipment arrived, serious surgery began under a bamboo lean-to. By
77Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 238-242;
Merrill's Marauders, pp. 110-113; "War Diary of 5307th,"
pp. 75-78; 2d Battalion Diary, 30 May-5 June; "S-3 Journal of 3rd
Bn," 29 May.
the end of the 4-day engagement at Ritpong, there were 60 litter patients in the portable surgical hospital. When K Force resumed the advance, the question of evacuation became acute.
The nearest evacuation point was a hard two days' march. The second battalion of the 88th Chinese Regiment was assigned the task. Litters were constructed of bamboo poles and ground sheets and each was carried by two Chinese. Fellow soldiers carried the extra rifles, fourteen per man, and extra packs, eight per man! The walking wounded straggled behind. One officer from this organization [the 42d] accompanied and supervised this evacuation. Upon arrival at a small liaison plane landing field at Arang, in the mountains, air evacuation was begun. One hundred and ten patients were evacuated by liaison plane in one day from that field. Two planes crashed because of the hazardous take-off. However, no patients were lost in the complete evacuation.79
The 42d learned a valuable lesson at Ritpong. Afterward, it pared down its equipment to essentials, which it packed on four animals. These animals, with four of the unit's men, were put with 3d Battalion headquarters near the front of the column. The rest of the PSH troops moved up to the head of the Chinese infantry, which followed 3d Battalion. Only secondary and reserve hospital baggage remained in the animal train at the rear. The plan of operation was for the four men at the head of the column to go into action as soon as a battle began. By the time the rest of the PSH had come up, the hospital would be unpacked and medical service could be started at once. The plan was tested a few days later when K Force attacked a well-protected Japanese battalion at Tingkrukawng. The 88th Infantry took fairly heavy casualties. The Marauder 3d Battalion lost 8 killed and 21 wounded.
Hopkins placed his aid station immediately behind the 81 mm. mortars and near an ammunition dump--the only available spot for him in the cramped position which the battalion occupied on rough and thickly overgrown terrain. The 42d PSH stationed itself 200 yards behind the aid post. Hardly had it laid out its hospital than enemy troops filtered through the Chinese line. They opened fire on the trail and the nearby hospital. Several Chinese and two American animal-handlers were killed. It was late afternoon before the enemy was driven off and casualty evacuation to the PSH began.
The 42d worked "all night with flashlights in spite of the proximity of the enemy, until ten o'clock the next morning, at which time the column received orders to move. The Hospital was torn down and at ten-thirty moved with the column thirteen grueling miles over mountain trail."80 Its patients again were carried on litters over the long
7942d Portable Surgical Hospital Report, p.
route to the airstrip at Arang. In the Ritpong and Tingkrukawng engagements the PSH treated 133 Chinese and American surgical cases.81
Although K Force held the enemy at bay, H and M Forces still had the rain and the precipitous trails to contend with. Sick men accumulated so rapidly that when H Force passed by Arang, it dropped off the Seagrave medical team to care for its invalids and supervise air evacuation. Casualties from K and sick men from M Force soon swelled the number needing help at Arang. Over 100 men were brought out from the village by liaison plane. Beyond Arang, a 2-day, 20-mile march produced over 30 more sick men in 1st Battalion. Five of them had scrub typhus. They were left at the village of Seingyang, expecting evacuation by air. A week went by. Finally an officer and one of the sergeants, both seriously ill, walked on in to Myitkyina airfield. Four liaison plane trips later, a part of the group at Seingyang had been rescued. Then a plane crashed and the flights were halted. After 4 more days of waiting, the remaining sick received a message to come on in to Myitkyina or go back to the airstrip at Arang. They chose the latter and finally were evacuated.82
When the Marauders attacked Myitkyina, the battalion aid stations were established in the perimeters. For the first few days, before enemy counteraction became serious, the principal medical problem was the still-increasing number of sick men. In the latter 10 days of the month, however, battle casualties, too, required attention. Hopkins' aidmen and the 73d Evacuation Hospital team were at Charpate, in 3d Battalion territory, on the 24th. Early in the morning "a large Japanese patrol infiltrated the perimeter and was not discovered until it was practically inside the command post. During the ensuing action six Americans including two officers, were killed and seven [enlisted men were] severely wounded. The aid station was within fifty feet of the point of attack but fortunately none of the personnel was injured." After 2 days in this position, 3d Battalion withdrew to a less active point north of the airstrip, where it remained until the men were evacuated at the end of the month. At the same time, the 73d Evacuation Hospital team returned to its parent unit.83
The other medical unit with K Force, the 42d Portable Surgical Hospital, put its station in the perimeter of the Chinese 88th Infantry. The tactical situation was too changeable for the hospital to be safe. On 21 May, rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire spattered the area. PSH men scrambled to get their patients under cover, but some were hurt anew and some were killed. One of the medical men, too, was seriously wounded. He was later decorated with the Bronze Star medal.
81Ibid.; 73d Evacuation Hospital, "Brief
During the following week, Japanese patrols broke into the defenses on numerous occasions. Once an enemy machine gun was emplaced a mere 75 feet from the hospital. At times, intense fire interrupted surgery. Heavy rain and deep mud prevailed constantly. Hospital troops and patients lived in foxholes under tarpaulin shelters. By the end of May, the 42d PSH, like the 5307th, was exhausted. Two of its officers--one, Capt. Douglas A. Sunderland, with a Bronze Star for heroism during attacks on the hospital--were evacuated sick; so were five of the men. The rest were relieved from duty with the 88th Infantry, and the 42d moved to the airfield near Seagrave's hospital.84
Before H Force attacked the Myitkyina airfield on 17 May, Gordon Seagrave and his hospital were with the 50th Chinese Division in the Mogaung Valley. Lately arrived, the Chinese were inactive. Seagrave fumed at the lack of business. Acting on a hunch, he cleared out all his patients on the 18th and packed his equipment. He alerted his staff--another medical officer, two Burmese contract surgeons, three Burmese technicians, three American medical men (including a Chinese-American corporal who had joined the unit that day and became the registration clerk), 18 Burmese nurses, and five Chinese orderlies. Almost as if on a schedule, Petersen, the Combat Command Surgeon, telephoned and told Seagrave to get over to Maingkwan airfield. Planes were coming to carry his hospital to Myitkyina. By the end of the afternoon, the hospital was on the battlefield near the 5307th command post. It sheltered its equipment beside a revetment at the airfield. Next morning, the staff laid litters across packing boxes and began to operate on casualties. At noon in came Dushkin and the H Force surgical team, "the thinnest, dirtiest, weariest bunch of men [Seagrave] had seen for a long time." No matter. They went to work immediately under scorching sun and squalls of rain. The nurses held umbrellas over the patients on the operating table during the worst of the downpour.
A Chinese litter bearer company scoured the battlefield, collecting casualties wherever they found them, without regard for their unit origin. By nightfall Seagrave's surgeons had operated on 128 men. Many of them were promptly evacuated in the troop transport and cargo planes which were flying to and fro between Myitkyina and Ledo. Patients who remained were put on ground sheets under parachute cloth and tarpaulins. Casualties continued to come in. An electric generator was located to provide light. It was 2:30 in the morning before the last patient had been treated and the hospital personnel sought relief from the rain under the same improvised tents which sheltered the wounded.
Next day they draped parachutes over bamboo poles to form three operating pavilions. A slight decline in casualties gave them time to put up shelters for the medical troops, as well.
8442d PSH Report, p. 7; "History of 42nd P.S.H. in Myitkyina Campaign"; NCAC History, appendix 2: "Myitkyina," p. 29; Citation list, Stilwell Papers, Folder 88, section 3.
Rain was almost continuous and the condition of shock in many patients was greatly aggravated by the cold and wet, blood and mud. Evacuation by plane became more difficult and patients were lying everywhere underfoot under every kind of cover or lack of cover. Because of torrential rain during the night the "covers" hastily thrown up for half the unit personnel collapsed and little real rest was possible.
It took two more moves in as many days for the hospital to find a permanent position. They soon improved their shelters, and after 10 inches of water covered the ground one night, Seagrave's demand for drainage ditches brought action. By early June, the hospital was securely established.85
One other medical unit served with 5307th while it was at Myitkyina, a surgical team of one officer and four men from the 25th Field Hospital. They reached the airfield on 24 May, where troops of the 5307th headquarters and the 209th Engineers were located during the rest of the month. Mainly, the team treated emergency cases and sick men, evacuating its patients to the nearby 42d PSH or to Seagrave's hospital.86
85Seagrave, Burma Surgeon Returns, pp.
132-139. The first quotation is on page 137. Seagrave's chronology is incorrect;
the flight occurred on the 18th, as stated above. For the second quotation
and other details, 896th Clearing Company Annual Report, 1944, pp. 3-5;
NCAC History, "Myitkyina," pp. 17-21.
Seagrave has left a vivid sketch of the medical scene at Myitkyina. He depicts his own hospital, specifically.87 But the sudden influxes of casualties, the strenuous exertions of evacuation, the menace of enemy fire, the dreadful climate, and the remarkable success of close-in medical support provided by indefatigable doctors, nurses, and enlisted technicians--these were the hallmarks of the medical service in Burma, whether it was provided by a battalion detachment, a mobile surgical team, or a field hospital:
* * * On July 14th, 190 operations were performed in 24 hours on Chinese patients. This number was made not only possible but easy by two factors: the nearness to the front lines--always less than 2½ miles--and the extreme efficiency and endurance of the Chinese regimental litter bearers. It should be called to the [reader's] attention that the first aid work done by forward Chinese units was uniformly of a very high grade in sharp contrast to the first aid work done in the first "Battle of Burma." There is no question that this is the direct result of training given the Chinese units by Liaison American Medical Officers at Ramgarh, Ledo, and actually on the field of battle at Myitkyina. The task of such medical liaison officers is a thankless one and they attain little fame. But to those who have been responsible for this change in Chinese first-aid methods some recognition is due.88
Because of this improvement in first-aid and the speed with which casualties were borne by Chinese litter bearers to hospital, a very great many men with wounds of unbelievable severity were able to reach the hospital who would never have done so in any previous war, or in the first Burma Campaign where effort was made to set up surgical teams out of range of enemy shell fire. In all those previous battles such cases
87896th Clearing Company Report, 1944, pp.
6-7; a similar but more circumstantial description is in Seagrave, Burma
Surgeon Returns, chapter 7.
would have died before reaching hospitals. Luckily, in this battle, it was impossible to place hospital units out of range of shell fire and so patients reached the hospital much more rapidly, in some cases within a half-hour of the time the wound was received. This, plus the large amounts of blood plasma and sulfa drugs furnished the forward units, made it possible to save lives of very many soldiers who otherwise would have died. Of some 4,000 Chinese casualties operated on by this unit alone during the Myitkyina battle (an average of 50 per day) only 168 died (3.8%).
Although so close to the front, no casualties were experienced by unit personnel except on one occasion when one of the Chinese orderlies was wandering around where he should not have been during a shelling and received a microscopic shell fragment in the leg. Shelling never interfered with important operative work which went on, with an occasional ducking of heads, when the whistling sounded too close, in spite of shelling. On one occasion the Japs pulled up a 150 mm gun to the north and with its "shorts" dropping to the north of us and its regular shells dropping so close to the south that their shrapnel fell within the revetment, and with the Myitkyina 75s shelling the field west of us and mortars blasting at installations just to the east, the unit was so completely surrounded by fire that personnel hardly knew which way to duck * * *.
Sun, rain, mud and dust alternated continuously during the battle of Myitkyina, but the blood of almost 4,500 casualties (Chinese, American, British, Indians, Kachins) was with us continually, flowing down ditches, rotting, breeding flies, maggots and stench--price of the conquest of one of the really important air bases of the future.
Air evacuation procedures continued to play a vital part in the medical service, whereas ground evacuation remained very difficult. During the approach to Myitkyina, casualties suffered seriously from delay and trouble in reaching airstrips at Arang, Seingyang, and Myitkyina. At Myitkyina, the battalion aid stations and surgical hospitals lacked sufficient litter bearers to carry patients to the evacuation points on the airstrip. The rain and mud soon made it very difficult even to use jeeps as ambulances. Natives and their oxcarts were brought into action. "This involved the complicated process of getting the cart, oxen, owner, and driver together at the same place, at the designated time. The trip was excruciatingly slow, so much so that one cart could make only one trip daily.89
At the airfield the absence of an air clearing station caused further difficulties in ground evacuation. Task Force headquarters supposed that stray men always were at hand to help receive and load patients, so it turned down an SOS offer to put in a clearing station of the sort so successfully operating in the Hukawng and Mogaung Valleys. Instead, two men from the 5307th were assigned the duty of super-
89W. W. Hiehle, "Medical Service in Myitkyina Campaign."
vising a small evacuation shelter at the field. They were entirely overwhelmed by the tasks of receiving and dispatching patients, keeping adequate records, reserving and assigning air space, watching the condition of the patients, and directing the work crews of soldiers or native laborers sent to help them. An unnecessary burden fell upon the nearby 42d Portable Surgical Hospital. After working throughout the night in surgery, "it was necessary on many occasions for them to litter patients from the hospital to the air strip * * * at the expense of operating efficiency of the hospital * * * delay in loading planes and consequent blocking of the air strip."90
The first ambulance plane of the 803d Medical Air Evacuation Squadron landed at Myitkyina on 18 May. It was shot up before it could take off. During the attack, the crew removed the patients they had just put aboard. In the process, the flight surgeon, flight nurse, and two technicians were wounded. But thereafter the air evacuation system worked smoothly and continuously. Since the campaign depended entirely upon air support, there were always cargo planes returning from Myitkyina which could transport patients if the 803d MAES ambulance aircraft were full. Myitkyina patients accounted for 75 percent of all who were air evacuated from North Burma between 17 May and 3 August. Almost 4,000 Chinese and American patients were flown out in the first month of the battle alone.91
Before the battle of Myitkyina, patients usually reached base hospitals in from 1 to 4 days. The first group of Marauders to be flown back had been held up 5 or more days because of their inaccessibility during the approach march to Myitkyina. But from Myitkyina, Marauder casualties reached Ledo within 24-48 hours. About one-fourth of those admitted to Ledo hospitals on 17 May, the day of the attack on Myitkyina airfield, had been wounded earlier that day. By the end of 18 May, 83 percent of the Americans and 75 percent of the Chinese who were wounded on 17 May were safely in hospital. This efficiency continued throughout the Myitkyina engagement. Those sent by the portable surgical hospitals and Seagrave usually
90Ibid.; later in June a proper ACS
of the 151st Medical Battalion went into operation, however: Romberger,
"Air and Ground Evacuation," pp. 36-38.
In the same months, the total air evacuation figures,
swelled by Chinese and British casualties, were, respectively, 469, 1,031,
1,211, 4,351, 3,311, 2,302, and 3,171.
had remained overnight. Some, however, still had the odor of ether on their breath when they arrived. About half the casualties came directly from battalion aid stations within 24 hours of being wounded.
Medical officers in the fixed hospitals again observed two consequences of the rapid air evacuation system. First, opportunities were increased for definitive and successful treatment. Second, the large hospitals received patients who might have been just as effectively treated nearer the front, if enough field facilities had been present.92
[Death] in flight was rare indeed * * * Patients with intra-cranial injuries tolerated air evacuation beautifully. Intrathoracic injuries, without sucking wounds of the chest, could be transported safely with benefit of oxygen if cyanosis or dyspnoea were present. Intra-abdominal injuries, with preexisting abdominal distention, occasionally did badly in flight. Soldiers subject to abdominal laparotomies in the forward area, fared better in flight and subsequently if the trip were postponed 5 to 7 days following operations. Gastric suction aboard the plane was not employed. By virtue of the tactical situation, such delay in evacuation was frequently impossible. Injuries of the cervical cord with respiratory embarrassment required, as might be expected, special attention. Fracture of the long bones with temporary immobilization tolerated such travel exceedingly well.
If general statements can be justly made, it may be concluded that,
(1) Battle casualties tolerate air evacuation exceedingly well.
(2) Rapid evacuation permits early major definitive surgery--especially applicable in intra-cranial injuries.
(3) Many patients reached fixed hospitals in the Base alive, who otherwise would have perished en route.
(4) Those wounded, denied surgery in forward units, in the light of interdicting tactical situations, might benefit from surgery in rear hospitals before infection occurred.
For the Marauders the most crucial aspect of the medical evacuation program became the policy which governed it. No question arose about how battle casualties should be handled. If they could not be restored to duty almost immediately, they were evacuated. Whether they went directly to an airstrip or to a portable surgical hospital made little difference. In either case, they were soon in a fixed hospital and they were lost from the unit for an indefinite period of time. Many of the sick, however, were thought to be curable without evacuation. Most of the respiratory and enteric disorders, skin infections, and malarial or other fevers constituted grounds for evacuation only if the man were acutely ill, utterly unresponsive to treatment, or unable to keep up with
92"Report of the 20th General Hospital, 3 April 1943 to 1 August 1945," pp. 45-56; 20th General Hospital "Annual Report," 1944, pp. 75-76. The quotation is from the report first cited. Some of the casualties with soft-tissue wounds need not have been carried all the way to the fixed hospitals, for example. But the holding facilities of the aid stations, portable surgical hospitals, and Seagrave hospital were too limited to preclude evacuation of most casualties and many sick.
the columns. The policy was well illustrated after the battle of Nphum Ga. A large number of men were evacuated, but many more were treated in the area to control, if not cure, their illnesses, and to produce some partial semblance of fitness for duty.
The differentiation between sick and wounded derived from the facilities and medical staffs needed to care for them. The wounded who required surgery and, in many instances, immobilization, could not be treated in marching columns or by aid stations. The sick, however, might be given suitable medication and simple nursing help at the battalion level. Convalescence and military duty were simultaneous. Although the policy was not ideal, it was in accord with established military practice and it had been tolerable up to the time the Marauders attacked Myitkyina.
When the Marauders emerged from the jungle in mid-May they were "a pitiful but still a splendid sight," according to Merrill.93 The splendor was in their very presence, after the torture of the approach march. Their misery immediately became evident at the battalion aid stations. "In wholesale numbers they reported to the doctors, seeking evacuation. A large number, if not practically all, were legitimately ill men * * * many had been so for a long time. Particularly malaria cases."94
The Regimental Surgeon, Maj. Melvin A. Schudmak, began recommending that the entire unit be withdrawn because of its wretched physical condition. The battalion surgeons seconded him.95 But the Japanese counterattack was expected. Although it did not come, the failure of the advance on Myitkyina town left the expeditionary force in a precarious position after 22 May. Mass evacuation would apparently endanger the entire operation. The hope was that the 5307th could hang on until replacements arrived. Then, with the fresh strength thus provided, it could finish the Myitkyina campaign.
The problem of the sick remained, nevertheless. The rule-of-thumb in 5307th, for which Hunter, then the senior officer, took responsibility, was that men should be evacuated if they ran temperatures of 102° for 3 consecutive days and if a committee of medical officers authorized evacuation. The policy meant that men with malaria and a variety of other diseases would be held for at least 72 hours in hope that treatment would beat down their symptoms. In practice, the battalion surgeons doubtless tried to hasten the evacuation of men who obviously could not respond to medication in the prescribed time. To hold men with scrub typhus, for example, positively reduced their chances of survival.
Yet the policy was inhibitory in spirit as well as in application. After "instructions were issued by Gen. Boatner stressing the gravity of the
93Romanus and Sunderland, II, p. 230.
outlook and cautioning the Medicos against indiscriminate evacuation," the atmosphere became lurid with suspicion and hostility. There were charges that some doctors disobeyed orders and evacuated men who were well although tired and despondent. Conversely, there were charges that line officers personally invaded aid stations and evacuation points, removed Emergency Medical Tags from sick men, and sent them back to their combat teams.96
96"Galahad," p. 77. Approximately
the same passage occurs in Merrill's Marauders, p. 111, and NCAC
History, "Myitkyina," pp. 4, 28. Williams, the Theater Surgeon,
wrote to Stilwell on 23 August 1944, in part as follows:
Outright official verification of the charges on either side never became public. It is very probable that the medical staff legitimately evacuated some men who did not meet the exact and literal evacuation prescription but who were really suffering from combinations of malaria, dysentery, and extreme exhaustion. And the testimony of medical officers cannot be refuted with regard to the intervention by line officers in the evacuation process. It would be mistaken to think that many such cases occurred; improbable to suppose that officers in 5307th itself were involved, after all they had shared with their men; and irrational not to allow for the extreme anxiety of Task Force Headquarters about the tactical emergency.
By the end of May, in any case, the terms "sick" and "well" were meaningless. In 2d Battalion, which had started to Myitkyina with 27 officers and 537 men, there were only 12 men left in action on 30 May. Even counting the engineer company bracketed with it, there were only 24 officers and 455 men. The engineers were absolutely unprepared for combat. McGee, 2d Battalion Commander, and some of his men collapsed several times during an attack. No one could claim any longer that 2d Battalion existed as a fighting force. Matters were much the same in 3d Battalion. It had fought several times on the way to Myitkyina, and after the 24th it was severely attacked repeatedly at Charpate, near the airfield. The commander of K Force, with which 3d Battalion had marched, was dying of scrub typhus. The 3d Battalion commander had malaria and was evacuated after the unit withdrew from Charpate; soon he was on his way to the United States. Obviously, the battalion could not survive any further battles. Only in 1st Battalion did some strength remain--about 200 men and some of its officers were still able to carry on.97
Approximately 2,000 Marauders started for Myitkyina in the fourth month of their campaign. Thirteen hundred reached the airfield and were in action for about 12 days. Probably about 200 were evacuated from Myitkyina before the end of the month. The rest, excepting the
97Stilwell Diary, 30 May; 2d Battalion Diary, 28 April, 26 May-4 June: "Sick men first, others after" (3 June). "Evacuation continued; whole Bn cleared by tonight. McGee, Rogoff, Healy [a Combat Team commander), last of our unit to come out" (4 June); Merrill's Marauders, pp. 112-113; Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 237-242. Capt. Lewis Kolodny, one of the 2d Battalion Surgeons, photographed McGee as he lost consciousness, telephone in hand, in a foxhole; Ogburn published the photograph in The Marauders; "Galahad," p. 75.
1st Battalion survivors, were evacuated by air between 30 May and 4 June. The official casualty record, at that point, was as follows:98
1Not including lightly wounded men treated in the column
and not reported.
Before the battle of Myitkyina, the 20th General Hospital had been the destination of sick and wounded Marauders. This remarkable organization, its staff from the University of Pennsylvania, had built a 1,000-bed facility out of bamboo in 1943, in spite of the most disheartening conditions of climate and scarcity. By 1944 it was working at full capacity. Most of its patients were Chinese, but it also received the most seriously sick or injured Americans on the Ledo Road, and all of the evacuees from the 5307th during February,
98Merrill's Marauders, p. 114. The footnotes are part of the original table. It is repeated in Romanus and Sunderland, II, p. 240. The "Casualty Report," 5 July 1944, Stilwell Papers, Folder 204, gives the following figures for May and June (see p. 331, n. 63, for February-April figures):
The June figures distinguish between "Old" and "New" Galahad. Those for "Old Galahad"--the 5307th--are shown above. While June battle casualties almost all came from the 1st Battalion men who remained at Myitkyina throughout the rest of the campaign, many of the sick who were evacuated were probably among the troops withdrawn en masse from 30 May to 4 June. Certainly the figure shown for sick and injured evacuees is far too large to come from the few "Old Galahad" troops active in June, even if it included some Marauders who returned from the hospitals and were sent back almost immediately.
March, and April. Thereafter, even by extraordinary efforts it could not keep up with the demand for hospital beds.99
A crisis in hospitalization arose just when the Marauders began their last march. Its roots went back a year to May 1943, when plans to provide adequate medical support in the Second Burma Campaign were cut back to fit into the total resources of the U.S. Army. Since that time, Combat Command had acquired a few small field medical units--the portable surgical hospitals, the 13th Medical Battalion, and the 25th Field Hospital. No new intermediate or large hospitals had been assigned to it, however. When the 5307th went into action it relied on the SOS hospitals then in the Ledo area to absorb the new burden of combat casualties.100
Their ability to do so seemed doubtful. Warnings from the SOS Surgeon at Ledo and from the Combat Command Surgeon brought little response.101 For one thing, the War Department had reduced the formula scale for authorizing hospital beds to the Theater. For another, there had been diversions and delays of medical troops scheduled for service in CBI. The priority of other theaters of war produced some of these disappointments. In part, however, the Theater itself was to blame for the apparent inattention to its pressing needs. Until June 1944, it did not send the War Department detailed information regarding the amount of hospitalization given to Chinese troops. Although there were thousands of such patients, it looked to The Surgeon General as if the Theater had beds to spare. The error in reporting came to light too late to prevent the midsummer crisis in which the Marauders unwittingly became involved.102 On 1 June
99The official annual reports of the Theater
and SOS Surgeons provide general surveys of the hospitalization problem.
The annual reports of the 20th General Hospital itself are especially relevant,
of course; that for 1944 is both extensive and well-written.
1944, the Ledo group of SOS hospitals possessed an authorized bed capacity of 3,250. They were actually caring for 7,088 Chinese and American patients, and they were prepared, if necessary, to make room for another 2,000.103
The hospitals making this prodigious effort were the 14th, 48th, and 73d Evacuation Hospitals, rated at 750 beds each, and the 20th General Hospital.104 Several of them had sent officers and men to surgical teams out with combat forces. But also there were a few officers, nurses, or technicians who were temporarily assigned to Ledo hospitals while waiting to go to their permanent posts in Burma and China. The 685th Clearing Company, formerly one of the companies of the 151st Medical Battalion, took some pressure off the larger units by hurriedly building and operating a 500-bed station hospital at Ledo. The SOS Surgeon also had arranged to send patients back to the 111th Station Hospital at the large air transport base of Chabua, some 75 miles away.105
In this group of hospitals, the 20th alone took care of the sick and wounded Marauders flown to Ledo from Walawbum, Shaduzup, Inkangahtawng, and Nphum Ga. By the end of April, however, the rate of its improvised expansion fell behind the accelerating overload of patients. In that month it admitted over 2,000 men, most of them Chinese. Its daily patient census exceeded 1,800. May was worse. Over 2,500 patients were admitted and over 2,000 were in the wards each day. Before the end of the month, the 20th had to evacuate patients in order to make room for new arrivals. In this way some of the sick from 5307th found themselves in the 111th Station Hospital at Chabua. Even so, in June the 20th admitted just a few less than 3,000 new patients and cared continuously for nearly 2,500. Under such circumstances it had to be satisfied to be "not unduly embarrassed by reports * * * that we had missed a number of cases of amebiasis and one diabetic." But except in one respect, it maintained the quality of its professional services magnificently. Indeed, by opening new or rebuilt
103Essential Technical Medical Data Report,
CBI, July 1944, including the ETMD Report of Base Section 3, CBI.
wards of improved design during the months of crisis it even increased the excellence of its performance.106
The exception was in its lack of facilities for convalescent patients. The 20th had authority to send to the United States anyone needing more than 6 months of care. But a good many patients remained who required a few weeks for recuperation before returning to duty after clinical treatment. This need Tamraz, the SOS Surgeon, had foreseen long before. In March 1943, he recommended that a convalescent hospital or camp be established in the Ledo area. No one opposed the idea, but other needs appeared more urgent. Early in 1944, however, the practice was started of sending long-term Chinese patients to the 14th Evacuation Hospital at Mile 19 on the Ledo Road. Soon the l4th became a major center for convalescent, rehabilitation, and repatriation services in the Chinese Army in India. For a time, also, some thought was given to the possibility of sending American convalescents back to the 99th Station Hospital at Gaya in central India.
The impracticality of such a procedure led the 20th General to open a small convalescent annex in the spring of 1944. To it men were to go when they were ambulatory and out of danger. Medical attendance would be provided on a minimal scale, but normal command relationships were to be introduced so that the men would become psychologically, as well as physically, prepared to resume normal military activity. The SOS Surgeon, too, began to take hold of the problem. A convalescent camp site was selected, some bashas were constructed, and in April the 14th Evacuation Hospital sent up one-third of its staff to open the new facility. But hardly had its men reached Ledo than Marauder casualties began pouring in after the disastrous march to Myitkyina. In a few days, all that was left of the 5307th arrived at the 14th Evacuation Hospital branch.107
First things were put first. The new 5307th casualties preempted the space intended for Marauder convalescents. It was almost impossible to retain them as full-fledged patients, shaky and weak though they were. Many, therefore, were prematurely released from medical surveillance. There was no place for them to go except to a staging camp, where unattached troops or men in transit were housed. "It is true that in order to discharge them from the hospital," the Theater Surgeon later explained, "these cases were marked 'Duty.' But in each case
10620th General Hospital Annual Report, 1944,
pp. 1-3, 66-67, 84, 96-98, 109-111; as a basis for evaluation, the unanimous
opinion of all observers who left records of their visits to the 20th.
For its full program of professional services, its emphasis upon study
as well as treatment--its staff produced 38 scientific and clinical papers
in 1944, as well as the annual critical reviews of services performed--,
and its sense of responsibility for setting medical standards, as the leading
hospital in the area, its commander, Brig. Gen. Isidor S. Ravdin, and his
staff amply deserved the prise bestowed on it.
the camp commander was informed that the man should not be returned to his organization for a specified number of days."108
It was the last week in May, no time for Marauders to be showing notes to line officers, as if they were schoolboys whose parents asked for them to be excused from physical education until they "felt better." The attack on Myitkyina dragged. Supplies were dwindling and casualties were rising. It looked possible for the Japanese to break out of the Myitkyina trap, perhaps even to destroy the expeditionary force. Stilwell's commanders, apparently with his knowledge, initiated Draconian measures. The battalions were ordered to hold down evacuations, especially when malaria was the chief cause of sickness. The Ledo hospitals were "asked"--in declaratory tones--to turn out Marauders as soon as they were able "to pull a trigger." Rear echelon headquarters was told to send up all who had been released from hospitals.109
Reputable medical authorities such as Ravdin and his staff rebuffed attempts to influence their professional judgment. Moreover, Ravdin and Merrill went directly to Stilwell on 8 June. Almost certainly they asked him to clarify, if not justify, his intentions. In his diary he noted the lethal effects of scrub typhus, which suggests that Ravdin discussed the importance of convalescent care for men who had survived serious diseases in spite of their general debility after the campaign. Stilwell afterward was reported to have said he did not intend to mobilize sick men in order to strengthen Myitkyina Task Force. Later he quite certainly exempted the sick and wounded from his demands for continued combat from the British Chindits, when they, like the Marauders, were seeking relief.110
However, if bedridden evacuees still were safe, there were others who had been discharged from the 20th General and 14th Evacuation Hospitals simply to make room for more acutely ill or wounded men. Rear echelon authorities raided the staging camp and selected some 200 men to return to Myitkyina. It is said that medical officers rescued some of them on the way to the airport.111 Among those who reached
108Ibid.; 14th Evacuation Hospital Annual
Report, 1944; 20th General Hospital Annual Report, 1944; Romanus and Sunderland,
II, pp. 237-241. The quotation is from the letter Williams wrote to Stilwell
on 23 August 1944, which has already been cited in connection with the
evacuation scandal. Although Williams' diary shows that he visited the
major hospitals on 24 May, he was about a week ahead of the crisis over
convalescents. When it occurred he was in New Delhi and soon afterward
he was in Washington, D.C.
the battlefield, a number (variously reported as from 10 to 50) were immediately tagged for medical reevacuation. The remainder were as depressed and bitter as they had been sick, injured, or exhausted a few days before.112
Soon the rest of the 5307th, except 200 from 1st Battalion, returned to Ledo. The matter of the convalescents did not end therewith, however. Two weeks later, Boatner was told that the staging camp had filled up with Marauders lively enough to shoot up the barracks, carouse, and go absent without leave. Some, it was said, were anxious to get back to the fight. He welcomed the rumor that many of them were being rounded up to go into New Galahad. The information he received was authentic, but the new attempt at recovering Marauders had little success. Its main effect was to keep open the graves in which Marauder hopes and pride had been buried.113
Special efforts to revive Marauder corps d'esprit were ironic, if not futile. With most of the 5307th back at the Ledo camp, Stilwell (on Boatner's prompting) visited Myitkyina on 18 June and pinned medals on some Marauder chests. "The men look good," he wrote in his diary. It was their officers who were unduly "gloomy with their talk of low morale and poor health in New and Old Galahad." But by the 22d, the series of incidents regarding evacuation and the return of evacuees reached the level of scandal. He was forced to launch an official investigation of the 5307th and Myitkyina Task Force.114
112Romanus and Sunderland, II, p. 240; Merrill's
Marauders, p. 112; "Galahad," p. 76. In a letter to the editor,
12 Feb. 1947, Lt. Col. Kirk T. Mosley, MC, the Theater Epidemiologist who
was in Burma in June 1944, commented: "The pay-off was when some [Marauders]
were sent back to Myitkyina before they felt they were completely well.
I shall never forget the medical officer who was ordered back to Myitkyina.
He had recently been discharged from the hospital with scrub typhus and
was still weak. His reaction and that of his fellow medical officers was
Thenceforth little more was heard about or from the Marauders. The investigation produced no official action, although the 5307th thought that the sudden relief and repatriation of Hunter, late in June lacked subtlety. The inquiry added one dimension to the disagreeable picture, however. Boatner, explaining Stilwell's position, spoke of the inter-Allied aspects of the campaign. Both the Chinese at Myitkyina and the British Chindits below Mogaung were part of the same operation to which the Marauders were assigned. Stilwell could not afford any accusations that he spared American combat troops at the expense of their Allies.115 The 5307th, that is, was a political as well as a military force.
The point can be sharpened, in fact. In the last week of May, while the Marauders were being manipulated, the 111th Brigade of the Chindits evacuated its roadblock, Blackpool, much against Stilwells wishes. Before and after, Stilwell flung the incident in the faces of British commanders, questioning their claim that the 111th, specifically, and the Chindits generally, were no longer fit for combat. Stilwell went to great lengths to hold the 111th in the Kamaing area after it left Blackpool, even though it had hundreds of sick and wounded men to evacuate. He repeatedly expressed doubt that the 77th Brigade did all it could to help capture Mogaung. Likewise, Boatner, when commanding Myitkyina Task Force, took a stern tone with the Morris Force wing of the 111th across the Irrawaddy from Myitkyina, and he was belated and grudging in acknowledging its exhaustion.
Stilwell's relationships with the Chinese were just as uneasy. Throughout the campaign he alternately coaxed and bullied local commanders into aggressive action. He knew that Generalissimo Chiang secretly restrained the Chinese Army in India when he thought its risks were excessive compared to those of the British and Americans. Just within the month, in fact, the battle for Kamaing and Mogaung had not progressed satisfactorily until Chiang lifted his hand from the 22d and 38th Divisions. Under such circumstances, Stilwell was certain to feel that the Chinese, like the British, would quickly take flight if he seemed overly protective of his American infantry.116
No favoritism appeared. He required the 5307th and the Chindits to demonstrate conclusively that they were literally and completely used up before he spared them further combat. He settled any questions about whether they had done their duty by requiring them to go beyond it. While the Americans were in the battle, the expenditure of Chinese troops at Myitkyina could not be challenged. And while he continued to fight at Myitkyina, the need for the British below Mogaung could be demonstrated. He won his victory. But from the standpoint of the Marauders it was a Pyrrhic triumph.
115Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 239-240.
The Hopkins Report, Concluded
Present status of 5307.--a. By the 31st of May all but 13 men and one officer of the 3rd battalion had left Myitkyina on EMT tags. These men were held up several days because of General Boatner's verbal order to Major Schudmak that none but very seriously ill would be evacuated.
b. Approximately 100 men from the 3rd Bn are now117 at Myitkyina. These can be divided into four classes:
(1) Men who had been assigned to the rear echelon before combat because they had been designated unfit for combat duty by the battalion medical officers.
(2) Men who had been left in hospitals when the 3rd Battalion went into Burma.
(3) Men who came out of Burma during the campaign because of wounds or illness.
(4) Men who came out during the last week of May.
c. It is true that these men have been treated in hospitals. My opinion however is from knowing the histories of many, that a large majority are in very poor mental and physical condition. A typical example of that is one who just came in the ward with a snake bite. He received a bullet wound through his inguinal region and hip area in April. He was sent back during the latter part of May with considerable temporary limitation of motion.
d. The remainder of the 3rd battalion can now be found in one of four places.
(1) 20th General Hospital.
e. Since the airfield at Myitkyina was occupied, several very strong efforts have been made by higher headquarters in that area to send all available men back. This as I have said has resulted in the return of many sick men and soldiers who had not had adequate convalescence.
f. Since there is no rehabilitation or convalescent setup in this area many men have been discharged to duty in a shorter period than their situation warrants.
g. We have found it necessary to readmit many men to these hospitals in order to prevent them from going back to combat, as casuals, before they are in reasonable condition. Many men are readmitted because they have not been adequately studied or treated. This is especially true for amebiasis cases.
h. Since the men are all still alerted for Myitkyina no leaves can be granted.
11722 June 1944, the date of the report.
Discussion.--a. I have outlined the history of the 3rd battalion of 5307. I have discussed the medical history and written about miscellaneous diseases seen, as well as typhus, malaria, and amebiasis. I have discussed casualties, food, and living conditions, not to mention hospital care and morale.
b. The discussion I believe has shown several important points which apply to the greater majority of the men in the 3rd battalion as well as to many others in 5307.
(1) The men have lived in the tropics and subtropics from 18 to 36 months.
(2) Recreational facilities, food, and general living conditions have consistently been substandard even when not in combat.
(3) The majority of these men have been through two severe campaigns and some through three.
(4) Casualty figures for these Campaigns have been high, probably an average of 25% for the men who were doing the fighting.118
(5) Hospital facilities have been poor during these two years. They are now good.119
(6) The men have been subjected to almost constant physical and mental strain.
(7) Chronic disease rate in this outfit is very high.
(8) 80% of the men from the Southwest Pacific have had malaria; 30% over four times; over 3 attacks for every man.120
118No fully reliable medical statistics exist
for 5307th. Some medical records were destroyed when the mule carrying
them was blown up by an artillery shell. In some tactical situations records
were not kept or, if kept, were not consolidated. The regiment refused
to send the normal weekly medical statistical reports to the Theater Headquarters;
presumably to do so might endanger secrecy. Minor wounds and illnesses
were sometimes not reported. Men with several possible causes for evacuation
were often listed only in one statistical category: Radio NR 192, 1 Mar.
1944, 5307th Hq to CBI Rear Echelon Hq; "Medical Service in Myitkyina
Campaign," 15 Aug. 1944; "Galahad," p. 105.
(9) The battalion has had 125 to 150 cases of typhus with 21 deaths.
(10) The amebiasis rate is very high and will require followup studies. Diagnostic procedures have not been adequate.
(11) Morale of this unit is very low. As a doctor who has seen two infantry battalions intimately and lived with them for months in and out of combat I feel qualified to judge the situation. The 3rd battalion was at one time a great outfit with esprit de corps. The morale now found combined with the health of the men makes this outfit of little value as an offensive fighting unit.
The most serious disease was scrub typhus. The 14th EH
rendered initial treatment in 93 cases and received 35 convalescent cases
from the 20th General Hospital. Mild cases may have escaped notice or were
included in the category of undiagnosed fevers. Fifteen men died from the
disease in the 14th EH. (The 20th General Hospital treated 432 American
and 41 Chinese cases during 1944. There were 22 American and 3 Chinese
deaths. It built a special air conditioned ward and instituted enriched
nursing procedures for scrub typhus patients.) Hopkins stated in his "Notes"
that in May, 1st Battalion evacuated 23 scrub typhus patients, five of
whom died. The 3d Battalion had 68 cases, with 21 deaths. He reported no
cases from 2d Battalion in May: Hopkins Notes, pp. 3-4.
(12) The medical situation is now so bad in the 3rd battalion that it can only be kept on even a moderately efficient garrison status with the greatest effort of the surgeons and other officers. Incidentally, of seven medical officers we have had I am the only one still on duty with the unit. I have never seen so many physically unfit men gathered in one unit.
(13) 5307 is still alerted for Burma. As soon as men are sent back to duty they go into Burma as casuals. The greater majority are not fit for combat at present or even in the near future.
(14) It must be remembered that the men have just finished a hazardous and remarkable infantry campaign during which they marched and fought over 700 miles of rugged Northern Burma terrain. During this time they were subjected not only to severe physical and mental strain but also K rations for four months.
(15) It should be pointed out that two-thirds of the men in the 3rd Bn have been overseas two years. No rotation plan has as yet applied to them.
Recommendations.--a. The alert for the 3rd battalion on the Burma front should be immediately removed.
b. A systematic effort should be made to study the Army records and health of the men.
(1) A large percentage of the men with chronic malaria should be given medical boards or reassigned. Many of these men need long periods of hospitalization.
(2) All men should have adequate stool studies for amebiasis and other intestinal diseases.
(3) Chronic diseases of other types should be adequately studied and proper disposition made.
c. Assuming that all men have been properly studied and treated by hospitals the ones discharged should be sent to a camp assigned to 5307. The hospitals should make an honest effort to board all men who require this step. Boards should be more lenient than with service troops. Other men not fit for infantry work should be designated as reassigned. The men returning to camp would be in good physical condition or their physical status would be known. They would fall into several classes.
(1) Men and officers from the 25th, the 43rd, the 37th, the 41st, the 32nd, and Americal Divisions; men and officers from the 97th and 98th Pack Artillery Outfits. This group would now number approximately 550.
(2) Men from the above units who were transferred to the 1st and 2nd battalions. They now number approximately 150 men and officers.
(3) Men and officers who were in the 1st and 2nd battalions who are now in the 3rd battalion. About 150.
(4) Men and officers from the 31st and 33rd Quartermaster Pack Outfits which joined the 3rd battalion in January 1944: about 80.
(5) Various casuals, probably 50 men and officers.
(6) Men and officers who were sent to 5307 Regiment Headquarters before the Burma Campaign because they were not fit for combat duty. Approximately 100.
d. All men overseas two years should be immediately sent to the Continental United States.121
e. Men who have been overseas 18 months and have been through one or more campaigns should be sent to the Continental United States.
f. Men who have been overseas less than 18 months and have been through two or more campaigns should be sent to the Continental United States.
g. The remainder of these men should be either reorganized or sent to units where their various talents could be best utilized.
h. The ideal set-up would be to take the qualified men home as a unit.
JAMES E. T. HOPKINS,
27 June 1944122
Additional notes on the status of 5307.--a. The status of this battalion as well as the first and second battalions, is essentially the same as it was in the report dated June 22nd 1944.
b. At this point, it should be explained that the regimental surgeon has been hospitalized at APO 465 [Calcutta] since leaving Myitkyina. He has not been available to this unit for two weeks. Within the past few days I have talked with all but one of the remaining medical officers in the regiment. I am of the opinion that they agree with me and will back any statement made in either of these reports.
c. It is my opinion that the medical situation of the regiment is now beyond the China Burma India Theatre control and requires the attention of the War Department. Many will agree that it holds more dynamite than the Patton Incident.123
Discussion of steps taken to remedy the situation.--a. All possible steps have, in my opinion, been taken by the regimental staff to carry out the recommendations of the medical officers of this unit.
b. I have talked with the commanding officers of the 20th General Hospital, the 111th Station Hospital and the 14th Evacuation Hospital. Their co-
121Such men became eligible for return in August;
most men in 2d and 3d Battalions left the Theater soon after. A revised
rotation policy--the "point system"--prevailed in 1945 wherein
months of service overseas and combat received weighted credit toward repatriation.
operation is excellent but they are unable to relieve the most important factors which are playing a part in the situation.
c. I have written three personal letters, copies of which are attached to this report.124 Col. Perrin Long, MC, taught me preventive medicine and information on the sulfa drugs at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School. Col. Benjamin Baker is a former teacher and a personal friend. He is particularly interested in the men of this battalion because of his work in USAFSPA Headquarters in the Pacific. General Merrill is, of course, the former commanding officer of this unit.
17 July 1944125
Additional notes on status of 5307.--a. The status of this battalion as well as the lst and 2nd Battalions is essentially the same as it was in the report dated June 22, 1944.
b. At this point it should be explained that the Regimental Surgeon while on leave at APO 465 was hospitalized and thus has not been where he could study his troops. Recently, he was able to spend several days in this area before going back to Myitkyina.
c. Theatre Headquarters was given, during the early part of July, permission to send all two year men by air travel to the Continental United States. A few days later, the following telegram was received by 5307 Composite Unit (Prov): "Decision of Boss [Stilwell] relative Galahad rotation is that no men will be rotated who are physically fit for further combat until situation here is cleared. Green light will be given as soon as possible. Present qualifications for rotation are two years overseas and certificate given by commanding officer of S.O.S. Hospitals stating that soldier because of physical condition should be sent to States. (This does not mean that the soldier is necessarily a convalescent.) However, the surgeon will carefully consider all cases. In order to expedite and coordinate carefully it is requested you delegate authority to issue orders to Comdg. Gen. NCAC. From your headquarters quotas and dates are to be radioed to Breister who will then select names and issue orders." This put a different light on the picture. The hospitals in this area are reluctant to send these two year men home unless they can demonstrate definite disease. Up until this date orders have been received by only 6 officers and 35 enlisted men. Apparently men not received by the SOS Hospitals will not be rotated until Myitkyina falls. It is the opinion of the writer that at least half of these men are not at present ready for combat even under emergency conditions.126
124None were retained with the carbon copies
of Hopkins' report in Army files.
d. It is the general impression of many that the men who are out of the hospitals by the end of July will be sent to Myitkyina organized into platoon groups rather than as a unit.
e. The present living conditions of the 1,000 or so men now out of the hospitals, are deplorable. They have been placed in the Transient Camp at Ledo. This is a poorly drained area. Practically all of the bashas leak. There are not enough of these, so we are now housing the men in tents. None of these living quarters are screened. Insects come through walls as well as doors and windows. There is no evidence of mosquito control in this area. Food is ample. No post exchange supplies have been available for two weeks. No shower facilities are available in the area. The latrines are unkept and inadequate. Rarely have the soldiers been subjected to such inadequate and sub-standard living conditions.127
f. Approximately 100 men out of the Battalion have been given leave. It now appears that very few more men or officers will be given leave until after Myitkyina falls.
Discussion of steps taken to remedy the situation.--a. All possible steps, in my opinion have been taken by the Regimental Staff to carry out the recommendations of the Medical officers of this unit.
b. I have given testimony about the mental and physical condition of these men to both the Combat Hdqtrs, Inspector General and the Theatre Inspector at their request.
c. I have talked with the commanding officers of the 20th General Hospital, 14th Evacuation Hospital and the 111th Station Hospital. Conversations have also been held with the Base Section Three, the Combat Hdqtrs., and the Theatre Surgeon.128 Their cooperation is excellent, but apparently they are unable to relieve the most important factors playing a part in the situation. We do, however, seem to be assured that the Typhus cases will have a prolonged convalescence. A few will be given medical boards.
d. Steps are being taken by this organization to apply mosquito
control in this area and to improve the housing and general living conditions.
It must be remembered that this area is a staging area which should be
ready at all times to provide [adequate] living conditions for transient
127On 13 and 14 July, Hopkins stated in subparagraph
e that a list had been requested which was to show the names of
men unfit for combat but available to serve as instructors at Myitkyina.
Presumably they were to work with the engineers and replacements. Since
this point is not included in the 17 July report, Hopkins must have concluded
that the action contemplated would not be taken. Subparagraph identities
vary in the 14 and 17 July reports, because of the omission noted herein.
The description of the transient camp (subparagraph f. in the 14
July report) is a little longer in the 17 July report.
Observations on the inadequate preparations made to receive these troops as they came from a combat area.--a. No convalescent or rest camp was established.
b. No effort appears to have been made to study the troops' peculiar problems and meet them.
c. Preparations were not made by the hospitals of this area to study and rehabilitate these troops. It must have been obvious that they could not have remained in combat indefinitely.129
d. The area selected for their recovery after hospital care shows no signs of the application of even the simplest sanitary principles.130
e. Adequate plans were not drawn up to treat the acute typhus cases or to care for them after the severe period of their illness. The mortality rate in one hospital was 30% of 50 cases.131
f. The command here apparently did not appreciate the seriousness of our malaria and amebiasis as well as morale problem.132
Justification for the submission of these reports.133--a. The writer considers these reports of interest to the Surgeon General for several basic reasons.
(1) This is the first campaign waged by American infantry in this theatre.
(2) I do not believe that the Surgeon General has records available which give a true picture of the medical history of this group of 5307, which came from the Pacific area.
(3) This was a special type of Infantry outfit with a special Medical table of organization and equipment.
(4) It is my impression that other American troops will fight under control of this theatre.134 This makes it seem imperative that the Surgeon
129As indicated above, plans for replacing
5307th were very vague, although they did exist. If Myitkyina had fallen
quickly, the steps already underway to develop convalescent facilities
might have been satisfactory. At least, the pressure to interrupt the period
of recuperation would have been less. Also, if Myitkyina had been taken
promptly, Stilwell would have had time to organize and train the replacements
General get intimate information about troops in this area insofar as their health and morale are concerned.
(5) The writer does not try to set himself up as a military authority, but has only attempted to set down in writing a few simple truths. It is hoped that this effort will tend to increase the desire of all concerned to see the mental and physical health and military efficiency of troops, who have fought and will fight in this area, continually improve.
The Stelling Report, Concluded
P. It was at this point that confidence in Theatre commanders became zero. We could not believe that General Merrill had forsaken his men and we did not believe this. We knew he had already had one heart attack and was at the moment in a general hospital. So we were forced to conclude that his promises to us had been overruled by higher authority. Our consternation reached a new high when it was discovered and witnessed many times that our own battalion commander and our own column commanders and our regimental and battalion surgeons all collaborated in the fanciful idea that the majority of the outfit was in condition to continue in a few days on the most difficult mountain marching and combat mission of the entire campaign.
The men had almost fallen off of Nphum Ga after the siege and they walked about as in a trance and with lack lustre eyes and hopeless staring attitude. The idea was expressed by the battalion commander and the column commander, whether they believed it or not, that a few days of rest and ten in one rats [rations] would put the men in good shape again. And they themselves about this time personally expressed to me that they felt better than ever before in their whole lives. The column commander of the column to which I was attached is the most incurable chronic optimist I have ever known and a very capable leader in every respect. However, shortly after starting on the most fool-hardy and crushing second half of the campaign, he as well as dozens of others blacked out and fainted several times during strenuous climbs. Coming off of Nphum Ga he weighed little more than 120 of his 180 pounds with which he started the training period back at Deogarh.
Q. It is a disgrace upon the Medical Department of the Army that the ranking medical officers of the regiment did not insist upon the total
evacuation of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of 5307 after Nphum Ga and after the Chinese took over and held the gains which had been made. There was no immediate danger of enemy contact. Almost a month passed before we finally marched far enough to make contact with the enemy again and then we were on the offensive. The medical officers who began to insist that this action take place were sent out with combat teams on special holding missions which were for the most part unnecessary, and were not included in any of the regimental meetings of medical officers, meetings where decisions were made as to recommendations concerning the physical and mental condition of the troops. These were the officers who had always been out in front in every engagement and had performed nearly all of the surgical procedures to help save the men's lives and to prevent deformities. The regimental surgeon in his administrative capacity did not undergo the hardships of the entire campaign. He rarely carried a pack and was flown by air from place to place. Yet he dared to pose as an authority upon the condition of the men and made only token protests against the treatment they were receiving. He was most always overflowing with cheerfulness and cordiality to those of higher rank but usually ignored the suggestions of those with lower rank and discouraged their ideas. He ordered me to stop carrying my pack saying that it was too heavy and would reduce my efficiency, yet he failed to realize or admit the degree to which the health and efficiency of the men had been lowered by the hardships they endured, until near the end of the campaign.
R. The battalion surgeon carried a light pack and for days carried no pack at all and was often seen hanging to the tails of exhausted overloaded animals as they climbed mountains. Yet he refused to evacuate seriously ill men on several occasions. Except just after Nphum Ga he never evacuated but a small percentage of the seriously ill until the last month of the campaign. He took the attitude that the men were exaggerating their illnesses until proven otherwise. He preferred to be overly cheerful and on occasion to shout in a lusty voice: "Carry on men! Carry on!" He nearly always held out promises of long rests to the men which never came, and his usual statement to sick men regardless of whether facilities for evacuation were available was: "Come back and see me tomorrow. I can do nothing more for you now." and "Tomorrow" would usually find us further away from evacuation facilities than ever. The men throughout the battalion began to detest and loathe him and many have threatened to kill him if given a chance. I know of three line officers who were seriously ill for from one to two weeks before he finally agreed to evacuate them, as well as many enlisted with similar complaints. Two of the officers had epidemic hepatitis and one had severe bloody diarrhea. Neither of them could function efficiently during these weeks. They only suffered and dragged along with the column. They volunteered the statement before they were
finally evacuated that the battalion surgeon allowed his medical judgment to be dictated by the battalion commander.135
S. During the last half of the campaign following Nphum Ga the men were so thoroughly exhausted that they could climb the five to six thousand foot range of mountains they were forced to cross only by very slow labored marching with rest stops every five or ten minutes. The mules and horses were so exhausted and undernourished that they began falling down without being able to get up even without packs and saddles. We were losing toward the last of these rugged mountain marches as many as ten animals in a single day. Near the last, loads had to be left and the few remaining animals shuttled back and forth until the absolutely essential loads were brought through. Many animals and pack saddles and much ammunition and equipment had to be left behind with no hope of recovery. The battalion at times was scattered from ten to twenty-five miles along these mountain trails. If any sizable enemy force had been met or had ambushed or cut off segments of our columns we would have been exterminated without a chance of holding our own.136 Our battalion commander was so set on reaching Arang and being ready to push on to Myitkyina and so blind
135Passages such as these invite the reader
to retire with a jury. Before doing so, the terms of the law should be
stated. First, the 5307th was created to be totally expended in the North
Burma campaign. The campaign had been planned to culminate in the capture
of Myitkyina. Second, the 5307th had been designed to carry out protracted
jungle marches capped by diversionary operations in favor of the main body
of forces at Stilwell's disposal. Its value was in what it could do for
the Chinese, not what it could do itself. Third, its tactical doctrines,
based upon the Wingate formulae, required abnormally restricted communications,
supplies, and evacuation. Unlike normal forces, it had no rear, only a
front: it was not shaped to fall back, only go forward. Finally, its most
precious quality, its raison d'etre, was its continuous mobility, not its
firepower. The latter needed to be sufficient only to harass the enemy.
But more important still was the absolute necessity that the 5307th keep
moving to threaten the enemy constantly from the flanks and from the rear.
in his stubborn determination that he walked off with his usual very light pack and left most of his staff far behind and started pushing the leading platoon at full speed. Some units of the outfit were two days behind including about thirty quite ill patients who were trailing near the end trying to keep up.
When the battalion finally reached Arang some fifty men were completely incapable of marching because of exhaustion plus specific diseases including advanced malaria, epidemic hepatitis, cholecystitis, chronic bloody diarrheas of weeks' duration, and fevers of undetermined origin. Several typhus cases developed out of this group. I made an insistent appeal to the battalion surgeon to put up a stand to evacuate the battalion at Arang where an airstrip was available, as none of the men would be able to fight when they finished the march to Myitkyina or its vicinity. No man in the battalion was in condition for combat at Arang and certainly the almost fifty miles which still lay ahead would not improve the condition of any of the men. The battalion surgeon refused to make a stand which in my opinion it was his duty to do. Instead he ordered me to remain at Arang with the acutely ill patients and to take charge of their evacuation by plane. He told me that I would rejoin the battalion in about two days.
T. The battalion's stand near Myitkyina was deplorable. The men were so completely exhausted by then that they were literally on their last legs. All alertness and all will to fight or even move had left them. When ordered to dig in, many fell from exhaustion and went to sleep by their partially dug fox-holes. Others fell without attempting to dig. Those on guard fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. One man was killed and seven wounded by enemy fire, and the wounded who could still move looked dazed and made little attempt to take cover. The medical men were too exhausted to care for the wounded and considerable time passed before the wounded could be finally evacuated.
U. This was the pitiful end of a magnificent fighting unit which had gradually been depleted of strength and will to fight by constant and many unnecessary drains on their energy and morale. These depletions began in Trinidad and developed as serious illnesses for the group back at Deolali, and continued getting more and more serious through Deogarh and throughout the entire Burma campaign. The men fought courageously and accounted for hundreds of the enemy. They accomplished the original mission with great success, but they were ordered on and on past the breaking point and promise after promise to them failed to materialize. Due to lack of vision and lack of knowledge of the limitations of physical endurance, or failure to act upon this vision and knowledge, in the face of what was known to be a very difficult situation, the theatre commanders forced the regimental command to drive the men until they dropped and to an ignominious failure from which many will never recover to the point of having the strength and the will and unhampered courage to fight again. The medical department failed in its duty to the men to insure that every American soldier be maintained in as good health as possible throughout
every campaign, and that all sick as well as wounded be evacuated as soon as possible. No situation can change the fact that seriously ill and utterly exhausted men cannot fight.
V. Finally, upon the suggestion of the commanding officer the battalion surgeon authorized evacuation of what was left of the men by emergency medical tags from Myitkyina on planes to hospitals in India.
Later, at the airstrip near Myitkyina I found to my astonishment that many 5307 men who had been evacuated during the last part of the campaign since Nphum Ga, and some of the rear echelon who have never been fit for combat, had been sent to duty at the airstrip. Among these I found eight with fevers ranging from 100 to 104 and several men who had been wounded and whose wounds were still draining, and one man who had had an abdominal operation less than three weeks before and with the skin incision still quite raw, and another man who is a veteran of the last war and over 48 years old with pitting edema of the hands and evident cardiac pathology. I was told that orders had been issued by General Boatner that none but the most acutely ill patients were to be evacuated. This despite the fact that there were several thousand Chinese troops near the airstrip and in the vicinity of Myitkyina, as well as several hundred fresh American troops who had not seen combat before. Entirely new medical officers who knew little of the condition of the men in "Merrill's Marauders" and couldn't possibly comprehend their fitness for combat or any other duty were in ranking position at the Myitkyina airstrip and given authority above that of the medical officers of "Merrill's Marauders" with the stipulation that no patients could be evacuated without the specific sanction of the new medical officers.137 I made an effort to evacuate all of the 5307 men of "Merrill's Marauders" whom I knew to be unfit for combat or duty of any kind and was successful in evacuating several dozen of the most serious cases in spite of opposition. It was at this time that I succumbed to illness after having run a high fever for over a week and I was sent to a hospital in India.
Present status of the 2nd Battalion and the men of "Merrill's Marauders" as a whole.--A. Since arriving back in India I have learned from unimpeachable sources and witnessed personally many astounding developments. The great majority of "Merrill's Marauders" sent back to Myitkyina for duty were collected suddenly from rear echelon and convalescent areas and rest camps and put in trucks from which they were placed on planes and
137This reference to new medical officers does not occur in other source materials. From Stelling's account it appears that he speaks of events some time between 4 and 20 June, after the replacements had reached the scene and the 2d Battalion had left it. The new medical men might have been individual replacements sent to "New Galahad" from other units in CBI; they might have been officers with the engineers; or they might have been in the staffs of the 42d and 58th Portable Surgical Hospitals and the Seagrave hospital. Stelling's protests complement Boatner's report of 15 June that evacuations were being restricted. Stelling understandably believed that the evacuation policy worked more hardship on ex-Marauders in "New Galahad" than upon the fresher replacements. In this regard, it should be noted that on 15 July, Col. George E. Armstrong, acting as Theater Surgeon while Williams was in Washington, D.C., reported that he instructed the medical officers at Myitkyina not to sanction medical evacuation for "tired" men: Letter, 15 July 1944, Acting Theater Surgeon to NCAC Surgeon.
flown to Myitkyina. Many of these were definitely weak and ill patients convalescing in and near the staging area because the hospitals were and still are overflowing and cannot accommodate the men. The medical officers of the 20th General Hospital and 111th and 14th Evacuation Hospitals upon learning of this wholesale gathering of convalescents to be sent to Myitkyina without medical sanction, immediately took steps to rehospitalize as many as possible and to issue convalescent certificates for the protection of the patients.
B. The majority of the men and officers of the 2nd Battalion as well as of the other battalions of "Merrill's Marauders" are still in the 20th General Hospital or in the 14th and 111th Evacuation Hospitals either as wounded or as acutely ill patients or convalescing from definite diseases. The hospital care has been as good as could be expected under the crowded conditions and by the overworked medical personnel. However it has proven impossible under these conditions to accurately diagnose and adequately treat many cases. Even the most obvious diseases have in most cases been of necessity treated inadequately. Among the malarias first treated very briefly with 30 grains of quinine given once followed by a few tablets of atabrine there are already beginning to be reoccurrences reporting almost daily to sick call and being rehospitalized. Some of these have already had malaria from six to ten and even more times. And in spite of the fact, as proven by the cases and observations of many medical officers in the tropics, that malaria cannot be cured by means of atabrine alone or even with moderate amounts of quinine in addition, the same mistakes are being repeated over and over. Medical officers with combat experience in tropical and subtropical terrain know that it never pays to take chronic recurrent malaria cases into combat. The most conscientious of these medical officers will refuse to do so. Such malaria cases will invariably break down often just when the men are needed most. No man with high fever is in fit condition for combat. Fortunately atabrine suppressive treatment will hold the fevers down but men with chronic recurrent malarias respond less and less to atabrine and will never recover unless returned to temperate zones and given further study and extensive therapy.
C. In like manner cases of amebiasis have been inadequately treated. A few shots of emetine or a few doses of other medication will not cure amebiasis. Of the cases thus treated there will be many chronic reoccurrences and the probability of liver abscesses greatly increased. It is my opinion, as it is the opinion of other medical officers in 5307, that the percentage of amebic dysenteries among our men is far greater than the cases so far diagnosed seem to indicate. I have already contacted several men and officers who are supposedly cured of the specific illness with which they entered the hospitals but are now quite definitely still suffering symptoms typical of amebiasis as well as those of other serious ailments they experienced in the Burma campaign.138
138The 20th General Hospital reported: "The response to emetine is dramatic. A few recurrences and amoebic liver abscesses have occurred." It also reported observing numerous cases of diarrhea which resisted treatment and which followed amoebic or bacillary dysentery: Annual Report, 1944, pp. 86, 88-89.
D. New cases of epidemic hepatitis are increasing each week. In the 2nd Battalion we have had more evidence of this disease and more serious cases than the other battalions. The rather long prodromal and incubation periods of this disease will continue to keep many developing cases covered up. But the disease as we have had it is completely incapacitating and can be of even more serious consequence.139
E. Many upper respiratory as well as possible lung pathologies have been insufficiently investigated and it is quite probable that if chest plates were done at this time several cases of tuberculosis would be found. The 2nd Battalion passed through one native village in which it was found that a native had just died and another was in the last stages of tuberculosis. I was called in to examine this man and he had every sign and symptom of terminal tuberculosis, and several groups of natives were coughing and expectorating bloody sputum around the basha. This condition may have existed in other villages as several mysterious deaths had been reported and an interpreter described to me how many of the natives were coming down with disease. The men of the battalion always in spite of warnings to the contrary slept in or near the bashas of native villages whenever possible. Many of them have chronic coughs and have not regained weight or appetite since being in the hospitals here.140
F. Typhus did not strike the men of the 2nd Battalion as it did those of the 1st and 3rd Battalions. We had only about six to ten cases whereas the other two battalions combined had near to two hundred cases and of these nearly forty have died. A large percentage of these deaths can be attributed to the exhausted condition of the men and failure to evacuate fevers of undetermined origin quickly enough. The 2nd battalion marched to Myitkyina over a different route than that used by the other battalions and thus missed the principal infected foci of the disease. But typhus has been increasing lately among the men of the Chinese and American forces in the vicinity of Myitkyina.
G. Since the evacuation of the majority of "Merrill's Marauders" from Burma several other very disappointing and inexcusable occurrences have served to decrease our morale still further and our confidence in those of high authority who are still refusing to treat us fairly. When we left for Burma we were told to pack all our personal belongings in one or two barracks bags
139The 14th Evacuation Hospital Branch did
not give special attention to infectious hepatitis in its review of disease
in the 5307th, nor was it identified as a major cause of illness among
American troops in CBI, generally speaking. The 20th General Hospital reported:
"This disease has increased during the past few months. There have
been 87 cases during the year [among American troops]. One severe case
died [the entry on this reads: Cause unknown, was on suppressive atabrine].
Several cases have been accompanied by more pain, tenderness and fever
than is usually seen." Its monthly account of the disease showed four
to six cases had been hospitalized in each month from April through July.
During the period August-November, from 10 to 17 cases per month entered
the 20th General: Annual Report, 1944, pp. 85b, 85d, 89.
and some of the men and officers had suit cases and trunks. We were told that this personal property, including our best clothes and shoes and all of our official papers and letters and photographs and other things of equally cherished and irreplaceable value, would be kept in a safe place for us under guard until our return. However, when we returned we found that 90% of everyone's bags and cases and trunks had been either totally lost or hopelessly wrecked and the contents strewn in tangled, damp and rotting masses. Containers had been ripped open with knives and locks broken and suitcases and trunks crushed in or torn open. In this manner at least 90% of the personal luggage of every combat team of every battalion has been totally or partially wrecked. The only compensation so far presented has been a free issue to all men and officers of at least one complete uniform including shoes and hat. This issue may be entirely unrelated to the loss of our personal belongings. What is left of the wrecked and scattered belongings can be seen now in a few long bamboo huts still unguarded and no attempt has yet been made to classify the articles or to salvage them.
H. New American outfits coming to India for the first time as we did, but not having the previous combat experience that some of us had, and the training and prolonged working together as combat teams which all of "Merrill's Marauders" experienced, have been rushed into the Myitkyina area almost totally unprepared for combat. These outfits have had unbelievably heavy casualties and some of them were never given a fighting chance. A few companies have lost more killed in one or two engagements than our entire regiment lost in four months of many engagements.141 Company commanders and platoon leaders of infantry outfits just flown in and of engineer outfits who had only eight months basic training over a year ago and have since been working on the Ledo Road and laying pipe, were sent into action hastily organized and poorly equipped. Whole companies didn't even have entrenching tools and their fire power was greatly reduced because of '03 rifles and practically no automatic weapons.
These outfits were rushed to the Myitkyina area in spite of thousands of Chinese troops already present. In some cases they were promised at least a brief training period and had not a chance to get organized properly since leaving the boat. Some were sent out without Kachin or Chinese scouts or liaison men or proper reconnaissance and they lost hundreds of men trying
141The "Casualty Report," 5 July 1944, Stilwell Papers, Folder 204, shows that in June 1944, "New Galahad" had 309 battle casualties of all types, compared to the official figure of 424 for the 5307th in the entire campaign. In "New Galahad," in that month, 45 were killed in action and 12 more died of wounds; 248 more survived wounds in action. The number of battle deaths in "New Galahad" in its first month was well over half the number in 5307th during the whole campaign. Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 241-243, describe the hurried organization of "New Galahad," the unprepared condition of the men, and their ultimate development into reliable and effective fighters. The final casualty report for the battle of Myitkyina listed 272 killed and 955 wounded American troops; most of them were from "New Galahad." There were 980 American sick. It can be assumed that the number recorded as sick did not include those with minor conditions. However, since "New Galahad" was directly on an effective evacuation line, the figure is probably more revealing than figures for 5307th prior to May (when only the seriously sick were evacuated). The casualties in the 209th and 236th Engineer Battalions were "as heavy * * * as [those of] any American units in the theater (the former, 41 per cent)." This estimate and the total figures for the Myitkyina battle are given in Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 252-253.
to take well dug-in and fortified Japanese positions which have been in preparation over a year. Others were caught in the open by veteran Jap troops and shot down by machine guns without having a chance to fight back. This information came first hand from officers and men who managed to survive, some of whom I knew personally in Trinidad, and who could have no other possible motive than to tell the truth and hope that other men would not be sacrificed as many of their fellows were. Quite a few who volunteered this information are still patients in hospitals along with other wounded and sick from "Merrill's Marauders." These accounts of actual experiences do not help the morale or add to the confidence of the men so far as the responsible leaders in this theatre are concerned. In fact they reinforce all the doubts and misgivings as well as the experiences that exist concerning these responsible leaders.
I. The latest and most crushing fact of all has put the final touch to the gross injustice that has been dealt out to "Merrill's Marauders" of 5307. Lists were finally prepared and orders in process to send all two year men of the regiment to the continental United States. In fact about 800 were to be started on their way in July. A very encouraging speech was made to the available men of the regiment by a representative of the Inspector General implying possibilities that all men of the outfit would be sent home to the United States in the near future. But suddenly all of these homegoing orders and plans were canceled or suspended. Now the men are faced with the possibility of being sent into combat again in the near future in spite of their illness and exhaustion.
It is true that the hospitalization and rest most of them have received for the past few weeks have improved their physical condition to some degree. But now the medical officers of the outfit who are the only ones who can know from actual experience the condition of the men have been pushed aside and hospital medical officers given the full and only authority to say whether a man is fit for combat or not. This further injustice to the entire outfit is the more deplorable because it takes away one of the best hopes the men have of getting fair treatment at this late date. No foolish implication is made that a medical officer or any doctor must have a disease before he can diagnose or treat it properly and no inference should be drawn that the medical officers of this outfit regard themselves as superior or as the only judges of the hardships to be found in jungle warfare. But it is undoubtedly true that no medical man can perform a rushed examination on a man, using the usual diagnostic procedures as are available at the present time, and just because the man shows no evidence of a specific disease and can walk to and from meals and to a picture show once in a while and says he feels pretty good, to class this man as fit for duty with the impending possibility of early combat attached, and this so shortly after the man has undergone such hardships as this paper presents. Only the medical officers who have endured with the men the self-same hardships can properly evaluate the men's present condition and point with justification to the fact that the men are not fit for duty or combat.
J. The medical officers of the 20th General and the 14th and 111th Evacuation Hospitals and their entire medical personnel have been most kind and efficient in their efforts to help the men and officers of "Merrill's Marauders." But they cannot appreciate the full damage done from the physical or mental standpoints to the men of the outfit. They admittedly cannot carry out all of the diagnostic procedures indicated in many cases, and in the most serious groups of illnesses such as typhus, malaria, amebiasis and epidemic hepatitis they have denied authority to take necessary steps to guarantee that these men shall not be returned to combat.142 The most definite statement yet made as to this problem came from the Chief of the Medical Service of the 20th General Hospital. He stated to a battalion surgeon of the regiment, "This is war and we know what should be done but our hands are tied and we cannot do any more for you than we are doing." Yet he admits that there is a very high probability that there are cases of developing liver abscesses and tuberculosis as well as other serious complications among the men.
K. In this there is a serious challenge to the sacred duty which the medical department owes to the men of the army and to the sense of intellectual
142The passage is ambiguous. Should it read:
"have been denied authority," or "have denied having authority"?
Stelling touches unwittingly upon another complicated administrative problem.
In the Ledo area, the 20th General Hospital had the authority to convene
a Disposition Board, which could recommend the return of patients to the
United States or to duty in the Theater. Those returned were deemed to
have permanent disabilities, to require more than 6 months of treatment,
to need therapeutic care unavailable in the Theater, or to be fit only
for limited or Zone of Interior military duty. Informally, at least, the
20th sometimes recommended limited duty in the Theater, but the official
policy envisaged evacuation to the United States of such soldiers.
honesty and adherence to scientific truth which is the essence of the medical profession. If pressure from high ranking field officers can be applied to Army General and Evacuation Hospitals as well as to medical officers in general to such an extent [regarding their] prerogative of protecting the health of the fighting men and guaranteeing that men unfit for combat are kept out of combat, then those hospitals as well as all medical officers are robbed of sacred duties and rights to which their professional knowledge and service entitles them.
Summary and conclusions.--A. Many facts have been stated as well as several opinions advanced based on my observation and knowledge of the physical and mental condition of the men and officers of the 2nd Battalion as well as its relation to the lst and 3rd Battalions of "Merrill's Marauders" of 5307 Composite Unit (Prov). Much evidence has been presented to prove that these men have undergone such grueling physical and mental hardships, that they still suffer such exhaustion superimposed on so many diagnosed and undiagnosed diseases, that they are not in condition for combat at the present time and cannot be made in condition for months to come, especially in this theatre.
B. The tactical situations which have been alluded to, and the personal references to certain individuals which have been made, are all presented in a purely scientific spirit as necessary evidence in the long chain of physical ordeals and mental disappointments and frustrations which have been the chief factors in reducing the men of the outfit to their present state of unfitness. Few names have been mentioned but it is quite evident that the names of other persons referred to can be easily determined. The personal animosity which I can't help holding towards certain individuals mentioned, because of their callous disregard for the feelings and condition of the men and their failure to make a firm stand in behalf of the outfit as a whole, has little place in the purpose of this paper. It is not my desire to bring into any more bold relief the personalities of these individuals. I have only quoted and interpreted some particular facts which bear directly upon the condition of the outfit as a whole. But if anyone should desire to investigate more completely the truth of these matters I am prepared to advance still more evidence to support the statements which have been made. But it is not the purpose of this paper to disparage anyone. I only seek justice for the men and the outfit as a whole.
C. General Merrill and Colonel Hunter are mentioned quite specifically as being two men associated intimately with the regiment who have done the most to give the men a fair deal. It is emphasized again here that these two leaders in direct command of "Merrill's Marauders", and their regimental staffs, are not implied to be responsible for the continuance of the Burma Campaign after Nphum Ga and our first missions were successfully completed, except as they were directed by higher authority, and of course this holds for the campaign as a whole, to some degree. General Merrill had and still has the admiration and respect of the entire regiment. And the officers and men realize perfectly, when after General Merrill's hospitalization he was not available for duty, that Colonel Hunter was directed by still
higher authority to continue the campaign in spite of evident disadvantages and disappointments amounting in the end to the medical evacuation of most of the regiment.
D. It is not presumed that the writer implies that he understood or now understands the tactics and strategy of the Burma Campaign, and he does not make claim in any way shape or form to be a military expert, nor that the extreme urgency of the situation could not justify the Theatre Commander and his staff to sacrifice the entire regiment if they saw fit. The only claim made by the writer and the only basis for the facts and opinions presented in this paper is that he is a medical officer of the 2nd Battalion who went through the campaign itself, and he is thus qualified as an expert to judge and give an accurate estimate of the physical and mental condition of the men and officers with whom he was and is on such intimate terms. The morale factor being of such vital importance as a part of the mental picture it is necessary to relate the numerous instances of mental frustration presented, and these required reference to tactical situations and the personality traits of leaders. The writer deems it his duty to the 2nd Battalion and to the regiment as a whole, and to his profession and to the loved ones to whom his life is dedicated, and to the ideals and principles of the United States of America which are to him far dearer than life itself, to relate the true facts and opinions here presented. This is done in the hope that the proper military authorities will take steps to prevent further injustice to the regiment.
Again he would like to emphasize the evident possibility that the Theatre Commander did not have time to evaluate the details concerning the welfare of one regiment when many more important and pressing matters concerning the success of the war in this theatre occupied and still occupy his attention. Information concerning the fitness of the regiment may have been inaccurately presented to him. This statement is made because in the evaluation of the psychological as well as physical disintegration of the men of the regiment, implications could be drawn from the many uncomplimentary remarks concerning the theatre generals, that some intent other than that of presenting the actual influences upon the men has been insinuated. No such other intent is implied. It is entirely in keeping with the true intent of this appeal to higher authority that the proper military authority to remedy the situation may and should in all justice be within the Theatre Command itself.
E. It is realized by all concerned that the many stupendous problems of training, transporting, equipping and feeding the regiment, and of maintaining a supply of ammunition and food and medical and other supplies under jungle warfare conditions were solved for the most part with the great efficiency common to all American forces at home and abroad. These fighting forces are known the world over for their excellence in training and stamina in combat, and for the abundance of the latest and best arms and ammunition and plentiful food and medical and other supplies. American forces are also known for the excellent treatment their sick and wounded receive and for the generous recognition and treatment of men who have been
through long and arduous campaigns. We of "Merrill's Marauders" of 5307 being a composite and a provisional outfit assigned as we were to a specially long and most hazardous mission, have been forced to arrive at the unanimous conclusion that the treatment we have received during the second half of the Burma campaign and since most of us have been back in India is far below best American standards. Being rated as a 100% volunteer outfit and having a record of several successful missions behind us climaxing an average of two years of continuous foreign duty, we believe that we deserve thorough and highly specialized medical care and enough rest in favorable surroundings to enable us to become fit for combat again. The latest steps taken to groom us for almost immediate combat in the next month or two are quite the opposite from the treatment we have a right to expect and most certainly deserve.
F. The writer does not lay claim to a full knowledge of the causes of all the various instances bearing upon the physical and mental condition of the men as presented in this paper. The individuals responsible no doubt felt that they were justified under the circumstances to act as they have acted. However, the writer does claim that whatever the causes were and no matter how justified they may have been or still may be, the end result is that of rendering the men physically and mentally unfit for combat or duty of any kind for many months to come.
Recommendations.--That the entire personnel of the 2nd Battalion as well as that of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional) who took part in the Burma Campaign as "Merrill's Marauders" be returned to the continental United States for thorough medical study and treatment and a prolonged rest of from two to three months before reassignment and return to active duty.
HENRY G. STELLING
Three responses to the reports of Hopkins and Stelling were written in 1944. General Boatner wrote to Stilwell that Combat Command Headquarters had sent Theater Headquarters three reports from Galahad medical officers. "Two," he continued, "were more or less constructive in spirit but one was most destructive." He then called Stilwell's attention to the remarks of Colonel Hunter regarding the "officer authors of the worse reports." They had "been made available for reassignment."143
143Letter, Boatner to Stilwell, 4 Oct. 1944, Stilwell Papers, Folder 204. Boatner does not name the authors on whom his judgment is rendered, but there can be little doubt that the two who disturbed him least were Hopkins and Kolodny.
Colonel Hunter, to whom Hopkins and Stelling had sent their reports, wrote as follows:144
"1. These reports are transmitted as a matter of interest.
"2. I concur in those parts of the report where the reporting officer drew conclusions as a medical officer.
"3. Captain Stelling is an unquestionably fine surgeon and devoted to his work and to his men. This officer has been reported by this headquarters as available for reassignment. It has been my observation that conscientious medical officers especially the young ones are deeply affected by the destruction of human life caused by modern war. This report will illustrate the effect and should be read with the understanding that the report itself is the best evidence of the mental state of the reporting officer."
The most extensive evaluation of Hopkins' report was that of Col. Tracy S. Voorhees, of the Judge Advocate General's office. He was sent to the Theater in the late spring to investigate the medical supply system. In his final report, he observed that other matters of interest to the Medical Department inevitably had come to his attention. One of them was the medical history of the 5307th, in general, and the reports of Hopkins, in particular. His statement to The Surgeon General was dated 16 August 1944, early enough to be derived from fresh observation and interviews, but late enough to describe the terminal procedures carried out in and for the 5307th.
The Voorhees Report: "The Controversy
Affecting Merrill's Marauders, 5307th Composite
1. The serious morale situation affecting this organization and the medical controversy which raged about it came to my attention first from the surgeon of one of the three battalions of the Raiders; second, from Colonel Armstrong, who investigated the complaints made by the above officer; third, from Colonel Ravdin, Commanding Officer of the 20th General Hospital; and fourth, from conversation with various enlisted men who were in the Raiders.
2. The release by the War Department of the story carried in the press of 6 August has brought this matter to light. Later information indicates that a Senate Committee may investigate it. Especially on this account you may desire to have all available facts. The following information is, of course, partial only.
3. Captain Hopkins, a battalion surgeon of the 5307th, to whom I was introduced when just about to board a plane at Agra on 5 July, handed me
1441st Indorsement, Hq 475th Infantry to CG 5332d Brigade, Stilwell Papers, Folder 88, section 1. The typescript has been altered to read: "This report is * * *," suggesting that Stelling's report was being temporarily held back or passed on without comment. The next indorsements from 5332d Headquarters list the Stelling and Kolodny reports along with the Hopkins report.
a paper which he requested that I bring personally to The Surgeon General. Later examination showed that the paper was a very serious criticism, with detailed factual information supporting it. Captain Hopkins' battalion was, as I recollect it, "C" Battalion. According to this statement, many of these men then on duty in the Pacific, volunteered for this unit under representations that it was to be a Commando outfit. It indicated that many were not in good physical condition at that time, had undergone long campaigns, had malaria, etc. The report reviewed the training in India and the campaign, the very extensive illness, the alleged failure in Command to protect the men adequately or to relieve them when ill. (From this or other sources I learned that out of an original strength of 4,700, Merrill's Marauders, although losing only 32 killed in battle, wound up with a strength of less than 100 able to fight.) The report went through various promises made or understood to have been made to the men, the breaking of such promises, and the deterioration of morale. It was addressed directly to The Surgeon General, not through channels.
4. I spoke to Colonel Armstrong as to this report, and learned that another copy had come into his possession; that he had made a thorough investigation of it, and had, as the Acting Theater Surgeon, sought a personal meeting with General Stilwell to discuss it, but that General Stilwell had declined to see him. Colonel Armstrong felt that he had taken adequate action in regard to the Hopkins report. Such action included the following:
a. He had informed Hopkins of the proper military channels for forwarding such a report.
b. He had directed Hopkins to withdraw all copies of the report, all but one being in his possession at that time (that one was presumably the one which I had).
c. Colonel Armstrong had shown the report to the Theater G-1, who promised an investigation of the morale problems involved.
d. Theater Headquarters had assured that the two-year rotation program would be applied to Merrill's Marauders, and that between 700 and 800 would be rotated shortly, probably by air.
e. All hospitals are recommending return to U.S. for hospitalization of all cases of chronic malaria and amoebiasis. They feel that repeated cases warrant return. All chronic malaria cases having (1) chronic splenomegaly, (2) chronic anemia, (3) residual cerebral symptoms of psychoneurosis as a result of worry from repeated attacks are being returned to U.S. Returning men to combat service, without any of the above findings, even though they have had malaria ten times, does not, in the opinion of Colonel [Francis C.] Wood, Chief of the Medical Service, 20th General Hospital, jeopardize the future health of the individual.
f. A convalescent and reconditioning camp, under command and technical supervision of the 14th Evacuation Hospital at Ledo Area, has been established. Men here will be carried as "Hospital", reconditioning will be supervised by medical officers, but discipline and actual reconditioning by line officers of Northern Combat Area Command (NCAC). No patient will be marked "Duty" until fit for combat.
g. General Boatner of NCAC gave assurance that all of the 5307th will be pulled out of Myitkyina as soon as replacements are available, and [kept] no longer than one [more] month.
h. The Surgeon of NCAC was directed to instruct all his MCs to cease evacuating non-medical cases (fatigue cases) from combat areas but to make such recommendations to their commanding officers as they deem appropriate. This is upon the basis that evacuation of "tired" is the function of command but that recommendations by MCs are appropriate.
5. Colonel Armstrong, in discussing the Hopkins report with me, also indicated that Medical Department officers in Merrill's Marauders had been at fault in diagnosing cases as unfit for duty which the facts did not justify, and that this had been done because of sympathy for the men.
6. Colonel Ravdin, Commanding Officer of the 20th General, had been one of the medical officers put under pressure to return troops to duty even if considered by him medically unfit. One officer responsible for such pressure was a Colonel Bradsher. Colonel Ravdin refused to take such action and was told that he would answer for this directly to General Stilwell. He wrote to General Stilwell explaining his position. Later he was ordered to Myitkyina where General Stilwell apologized to him for the other orders, saying that he had not known of them, and that Colonel Ravdin's action had been correct.
7. With knowledge of all of the above factors, I did not feel that it was right to bring the Hopkins report out of the Theater unless consent were given by the proper authorities there to do so. I had at the earliest opportunity informed Colonel Armstrong that I had a copy of the report. It was clear that he did not feel that the report should be brought out of the Theater. In this I felt he was justified since it was not made through channels and there was, therefore, no opportunity for the other side of the case to be stated. Further, it was no part of my business to become involved in the controversy over the report. Since I could not return the report to Captain Hopkins, I burned it and sent a message to Captain Hopkins that after studying the report, I felt it improper to bring it out of the Theater; that I had no way to return it to him and was therefore destroying it.
8. I took this course with some reluctance as the document was a most remarkable one and contained a most informative statement with persuasive internal evidence of being an accurate and fair review of the circumstances.
9. Captain Hopkins was relieved of his post as Combat Surgeon, and was, I believe, assigned or about to be assigned to a hospital, but it was later determined to return him to the United States. On his return an interview with him by a representative of The Surgeon General's Office might give considerable enlightening information.
10. I also met at various places men of the 5307th Unit. The attitude of all was the same. They swore by Merrill as being the finest Commanding Officer in the world, and were against everybody else. They felt that they had been very badly treated and repeatedly let down by their country. It appeared that they had been first promised that they would be taken out of the line on 15 May. Then they were told that they must capture the Myitkyina
air strip and would then be relieved. They did this and were then told that they must capture the town of Myitkyina and they would then be relieved. They did this,145 and then the Chinese took over and they lost the town again. Those of the Raiders still able to fight were apparently left in the line. I was told from independent sources that General Merrill stated that he had made the definite promise to the men that they would be relieved by 15 May. General Merrill was taken ill in the Spring and was in the hospital (the 20th General). I believe that this was in April. It was at first thought that he had a coronary attack. The final diagnosis I do not know, but he was in the hospital again later and was found physically unfit for any field duty.
TRACY S. VOORHEES
Post mortem dissections of 5307th usually concentrate upon the heart. The Marauders decry the heartlessness of senior officers, and attribute the demise of the 5307th to harsh and fraudulent autocracy. But observers outside the force blame the Marauders themselves for the misery at Myitkyina. The breakdown of morale, according to this viewpoint, determined the Marauders' fate. The diagnosis: heart failure.
Can it not be argued, however, that such explanations only tell us when the 5307th revealed that it could no longer fight? They do not tell us why they collapsed. What reached Myitkyina in H, K, and M Forces was not the 5307th but a rapidly decomposing corpse. The painful controversies that arose late in May were quarrels about what should be done with the body and whether someone should be tried for murder. The 5307th which marched through Ledo past the 20th General Hospital in February was spare, uncouth, tough. The Marauders unloaded at the hospital gates in June were "gaunt, famished, grimy, tattered, and worn out physically and psychologically."146 Eye-witness descriptions of their arrival at Myitkyina are similar; what happened before Myitkyina had been decisive.
The 5307th of February, March, and April had evacuated relatively few of its sick and not even all of its wounded. As soon as the Marauders reached Myitkyina, they sought hospitalization "wholesale." Their deterioration proved to be as irreversible as decay in human flesh. The 5307th that fought at Walawbum, Shaduzup, and Inkangahtawng had moved in and out of combat positions aggressively and speedily. The Marauders who reached Myitkyina--about half those who started the march--could barely fall into defensive perimeter positions or drag away to safety when ordered to withdraw. After a few days even the
145Chinese elements of H Force reached the
outskirts and railroad station of Myitkyina on 17 and 18 May, but they
were so disorganized that they abandoned the positions. The 5307th troops
then at Myitkyina included only the 3d Battalion. Thus, the version of
the battle given to Voorhees appears misleading. Otherwise, the accuracy
of Voorhees' report testifies to what must have been an extraordinary capacity
to get at the truth of the problems he examined, and do so very quickly.
desperately worried Task Force commanders were willing to exchange the inefficiency of green replacements and engineers for the deathbed struggle of the Marauders. The 5307th did die of heart failure at Myitkyina, as all human organisms die utterly when the heart stops surging. But the most important question remains: what destroyed the Marauder heart?
The chief causes of the disaster were environmental, tactical, and medical in nature. The environment was crowded with impediments to tactical operations and hazards to health. The tactical deployment of the 5307th as a long-range penetration force and, especially, as a static defensive force at Nphum Ga, demanded unusual discipline and physical prowess. The medical imperfections and sanitary defects of the Marauders, in the menacing environment and under such tactical strains, produced the physical collapse which occurred before the battle of Myitkyina. Injudicious promises and false expectations, the severity of enemy action late in the campaign, the disappointing performance of Chinese troops at Myitkyina--all these lowered the Marauders' morale and operational effectiveness. But the 5307th might have withstood them creditably had it not been fatally injured by environmental deprivation, tactical misfortune, and medical demolition.
The social and physical environment of North Burma was inhospitable in peace and hostile in war. Except for the Kamaing Road, jungle trails, many barely passable for native villagers, served as lines of communication. Troops marching on them found their way hindered by numerous watercourses and thickets. Much of the terrain was hilly, with sharp ascents, complicated ridge lines, and steep declivities. Isolated forces, such as the British Chindits, the 5307th, and various other flanking parties, required superb stamina merely to reach their destinations with energy to spare for combat.
Environmental threats to health were numerous. The climate was disagreeable: excessively warm and humid much of the time, often rainy in the spring. In it thrived all the insect pests and carriers of disease organisms: flies, mosquitoes, gnats, mites, and ticks. The inhabitants, few though they were, provided hosts to spare for the parasites that produced malaria and other fevers, and all forms of dysentery. The ground was infested, the water polluted, the air debilitating, the terrain exhausting.
Many men in 5307th were well acclimated to tropical and subtropical conditions. Third Battalion troops had served in the Pacific area, and the 2d Battalion was composed mainly of men from Caribbean stations. All were in India for nearly 4 months before they began their combat missions. They trained in a region which possessed some of the physical features of the combat zone and most of its sanitary defects. As a result the 5307th encountered only two unpredicted environmental hazards. One was the unexpected severity of the Kumon Mountain trails that led to Myitkyina. Their rain-soaked condition and steep grades made them much worse than any which
the Marauders had encountered before. The endurance of the men would have been risked even if they had made the march when they were fresh. The other unpleasant surprise was the mite-infested ground where lurked the carriers of scrub typhus organisms. By February 1944, it was known that North Burma harbored the disease. Certain types of terrain were suspected, but no advance information could be secured regarding sites of possible danger.
When in comparable situations, enemy and Allied forces reacted in the same ways to the environment. The Chindits of 1943 lasted about 3 months behind enemy lines. The Japanese, having plunged into jungle and hilly country west of the Chindwin early in 1944, deteriorated rapidly as they retreated after 3 months of strenuous maneuver and combat. The 14th and 16th Brigades of Wingate's Special Force became ineffective in a little shorter time, while the 77th and 111th Brigades survived over 4 months before approaching the point of futility. The environmental toll in each case was usurious: antipathy to the point of nausea and despondency, disgust and lethargy, tension and fatigue.
Other troops than penetration forces, however, submitted to the same environment for longer periods of time. The second factor, tactical disposition, must therefore be taken into account in explaining the 5307th collapse. From the time they left Ledo in January until 10 April, after the battle of Nphum Ga, the 5307th was in motion or in combat continuously. The number of days of "rest" did not amount to as much as a week, and they were used to assemble the troops after a battle, gather supplies, evacuate casualties, and overhaul equipment and weapons.
A longer interval for rest followed the siege of Nphum Ga. For many, however, the period was one of recovery from acute exhaustion and illness. For all, anxiety regarding the future prevented relaxation. After 10 days, patrol activity commenced and the troops formed up for the march to Myitkyina. Thereafter there were no respites. For 4 months, then, with negligible intervals, the 5307th was constantly engaged. It could not have been otherwise, if the force was to serve the purposes for which it had been created, penetration and flanking operations designed to divert enemy strength from the defenses opposing the Chinese Army in the Hukawng and Mogaung Valleys.
Weight loss and fatigue were direct consequences of penetration marches. The isolation of 5307th required it to subsist for 4 months on airdropped rations. Although the K-ration proved to be the best combat food pack yet devised, monotony, personal preferences, and occasionally, scarcity led to dietary insufficiency. As long as it had to maneuver out of reach of ground supply lines, the 5307th could do nothing to improve the quantity and quality of its food supply. That the regiment withstood the rigorous campaign as well as it did was a credit to the combat ration. But it could not stave off or reverse a steady loss of weight and energy in the troops.
The need for mobility and stealth in tactical maneuvers added to the discomforts and dangers in the environment. Strict limits on the baggage train prevented the troops from equipping themselves with extra boots and clothes, antimosquito gear, or improved jungle bedding. Such aids to health, comfort, and endurance were sacrificed to speed. Similarly, their tactical disposition forced them to depend upon the least certain of water sanitation procedures. Boiling water usually was impractical; there was too little time or too much chance of enemy observation. Bulky water purification equipment could not be transported. The standard Lyster bag used in bivouac was not always accessible to all the troops. They depended mainly on individual use of chlorinating tablets for water safety.
The effects of environmental and tactical strain accumulated noticeably in March. But the most striking consequences of tactical operations appeared when the 5307th, by necessity and not by choice, was forced to stand still. Facing an emergency and with no other troops to turn to, Stilwell ordered the Marauders to defend the trail up which the enemy had sent a flanking column. At Nphum Ga, the troops trained and inured to the derring-do of penetration tactics, submitted to "a static defensive role [which] was a radical change in the concept of [their] employment."147 One battalion under siege, a second trying to rescue it, and a third scrambling to reinforce, the 5307th adjusted to the new role successfully, but at a fatal cost.
The force was too lightly armed, too isolated, and too oriented to hit-and-run tactics to undertake a prolonged defensive engagement. Similarly, the British 77th Brigade in the later days at White City and outside Mogaung, and the 111th Brigade at Blackpool fought well in a static situation, but they too emerged from such battles more severely damaged than from any sequence of rigorous marching and daring attack. Even troops outside the defensive perimeter were afflicted. The 77th "flyer column" circling White City; 3d Battalion, 5307th, attacking day after day up the trail from Hsamshingyang; and 1st Battalion making forced marches to reach Nphum Ga--each suffered exceptionally from its effort to support the troops who were pinned down defensively.
Disease as well as enemy fire fell more heavily than ever before on the Marauders at Nphum Ga. For the 5307th to pass through contaminated terrain on the march was dangerous enough. To occupy such areas for days on end was lethal. First, it became impossible to escape thorough exposure to possible sources of disease. Second, the troops contaminated themselves. Thus the deserted villages of Hsamshingyang and Nphum Ga, sites already sufficiently risky, became saturated with insect pests and disease organisms produced in decaying animals and men, foul water, and fecal wastes. Mental health, too, was imperiled, for the troops on the hill were hemmed in without a line of supply,
147Romanus and Sunderland, II, p. 182. In 1947, the editor emphasized the unfortunate consequences of the defensive battle: Stone, "The Marauders and the Microbes."
evacuation, or retreat. Their casualties accumulated on the spot, visible and pitiable testaments to the waste of battle and the fate that might befall the entire force. Scrub typhus appeared. Malaria recurrences flared up ominously. The diarrheas and dysenteries became rampant. Chronic disabilities took acute forms. When the siege lifted, the men nearly collapsed with exhaustion and sickness. Special medical facilities were introduced. Evacuations exploded into the hundreds.148
Thus, fostered by environmental conditions and tactical malfunctions, the Marauders' worst enemy, disease, attacked with frightening speed. Had it not been for sickness, a very respectable force of at least 2,300 would have remained after the battle of Nphum Ga. Enemy action had produced nowhere near the predicted losses.149 Even without the killed, wounded, and missing, the force would have had as much strength as it had ever needed for its successful roadblock attacks. Reinforced by Chinese troops for the march to Myitkyina, the 5307th would have been stronger than before, if enemy action alone had been the chief cause of its depletion.
At this juncture, the Marauders received a heavy blow to morale. They learned they were called on for one last effort, one they felt exceeded the terms of campaigning set for them originally and justified by common sense. Not only was the demand unfair, but, they added, many of them were too exhausted or too sick to go on. Their grievances and illnesses reinforced one another. Total breakdown of the force seemed imminent. But some tension became dissipated when the troops attached their animosity to Stilwell and other invisible authorities; their confidence in Merrill and Hunter revived; and their morale lifted enough for most of them to start for Myitkyina, reluctantly but in good faith. Their health, too, temporarily improved. Vigorous medication and a partial respite from tactical maneuvers brought under control the most acute manifestations of disease. But with its residual malnutrition and enfeeblement, infection and infestation, the 5307th in May was very different from the force that had started the long jungle campaign in February.
One misleading feature of the crisis in health was the apparent suddenness with which it arose. Commanders--especially those at a distance--might well suppose it was the specific result of a single severe engagement. If so, rapid recovery could be predicted. So late in an arduous campaign, complete rehabilitation would be impossible, but
148Romanus and Sunderland, II, pp. 189-191,
point out that exhaustion and the deterioration of morale were the worst
results of the battle. The editor adds emphasis to the outbreak of disease,
in the light of the testimony of Hopkins and Stelling, miscellaneous evidence
on the medical history of 5307th, and, by comparison, the experience of
the Chindits (see With Wingate's Chindits).
it seemed likely that the force could regain strength enough for a final all-out effort. The troops might think otherwise. But as to that, Stilwell had already openly expressed suspicion that the men and their officers were "soft" about health. Although the regiment had shown enough durability to quiet such doubts, they were too habitual and traditional among commanders to be completely allayed. But such assessments of the situation, although they stiffened resolves to send the Marauders to Myitkyina, failed to recognize the medical background and history of 5307th. The outbreak of disease at Nphum Ga was not merely a special emergency. It was produced by physical liabilities of long standing; preventable faults in medical discipline; and the accumulating disabilities of the hostile environment, the tactical experience of long-range jungle penetration, and the defense at Nphum Ga.
From the first day it reached India, 5307th showed its lack of the superior physical capacities specified for it. After assembling the volunteers and again after debarking, command authorities failed to disengage men physically unfit for the strain of jungle combat. Some men with chronic sickness or permanent disability were cleared from the force during the period of staging and training, but some returned and some were taken out of their rear echelon posts to serve as replacements at Myitkyina. To burden the 5307th with such troops was foolish and unnecessary. Even those able to participate in the beginning phase of the campaign were potential casualties liable to break down at a crucial moment.
An equally unsatisfactory feature of the troops who composed 5307th was their high sick rate. On shipboard, malaria, dysentery, and respiratory infections were excessive and evidently likely to become long-term risks. The first two of these diseases flared up periodically during the preparatory period in India. Malaria became so common that the regiment interrupted training to treat it. Outbreaks of bacillary dysentery occurred, the continued incidence of amebic dysentery produced alarm, and the diarrheas never disappeared. In addition to inhibiting troop activity, such conditions testified to poor health in the past and to inadequate sanitary discipline in the present.
The treatment of enteric disorders posed no peculiar problems. The essential task was to prevent their recurrence and to relieve the men from long-continued drains on their energy. To do so required careful attention to sanitation. Unfortunately, in both the camps which 5307th occupied in India, sanitary facilities were wretched, and food supplies from local sources were medically unacceptable. Command concern, aroused by medical officers, came late. Thus, remediable faults in sanitation led to new intestinal disorders in the regiment. Many men lost training opportunities and did not store up strength for the campaign to come. Worse, the 5307th carried into the jungle its own sources of recontamination, as well as the nagging burden of diarrhea and dysentery. The climax came at Nphum Ga, where 2d Battalion could not provide itself with adequate field sanitation, and 3d Battalion, fighting
every day to reach Nphum Ga, had no time to spare for sanitary protection. The outbreak of dysentery was virtually inevitable.
There are no signs that the 5307th improved on the average poor standards of British and American troops in respect to field sanitation. The manner of their deployment made difficult the enforcement of disciplinary regulations or the provision of self-regulating equipment. Some hints from the scene suggest, indeed, that the troops adopted primitivism as a sign of a formidable character. In some degrees, thus, did they cooperate with environmental and tactical impediments to cleanliness, proper waste disposal, the elimination of flies, and the safety of food and water. With regard to food they were probably better off than many troops in fixed camps, where native markets and food-handlers were a constant source of enteric disease. The problem of water purification was another story, however. The troops necessarily depended on open water sources, all of which were rightly assumed to be contaminated with intestinal disease organisms. Among these were the encysted form of E. histolytica, the cause of amebic dysentery.
To guard their water, the men were required to add chlorinating tablets to their canteens and Lyster bags. Failures to achieve satisfactory results were certain to occur. The unpleasant taste of overchlorinated water encouraged the use of dosages under, rather than on, the safe side. The delay needed to allow chlorinating tablets to work effectively was an annoyance. The appeal of a sparkling stream, the temporary unavailability of halazone tablets, or simple carelessness--all together admitted many chances that the men would consume contaminated water. That they did so, in fact, was shown by the wide and persistent spread of diarrhea and the intermittent upsurge of bacillary dysentery.
With amebic dysentery the case was somewhat different--and all the more menacing. The orthodox view was that chlorination could not kill amebic cysts. Only special filtration devices or boiling, followed by normal chlorination practices, sufficed. It is true that research reports had appeared in 1943 and in January 1944, suggesting that superchlorination destroyed cysts. Few medical officers knew of these reports. From one standpoint, it made little difference, because the 9th Medical Laboratory in CBI later showed that the research had been faulty.150 Boiling water was impractical and the use of special filters was impossible, so the 5307th was inevitably threatened by waterborne amebic dysentery.
From another standpoint, however, even a false promise that chlorination could check amebiasis would have been valuable. Of all the dysenteries this form was most feared. It was the commonest of be-
150Van Auken, "History of Preventive Medicine," pp. 136-141. Hopkins, composing his "Notes" before the research on chlorination had been challenged, believed that "better halazone discipline" would have helped greatly to prevent amebic dysentery. Halazone, he stated, "was used regularly but 30 minutes discipline [that is, delay between chlorination and consumption, as recommended by the new research reports] was not universal": Hopkins Notes, p. 5.
liefs that no one could escape diarrhea in the tropics: why try? Bacillary dysentery displayed such acute features that troops usually ascribed it to some particular and accidental source--"food poisoning." To deal with it by continuous and unglamorous measures of field and mess sanitation awakened little permanent enthusiasm. But for reasons difficult to surmise, the troops were more easily aroused to the danger of amebic dysentery. One wonders whether the nationally-publicized outbreak from contaminated water in a Chicago hotel, not long before the war, helped call attention to the disease. In any case, superchlorination might have been undertaken for the sake of curbing amebiasis. While this goal could not have been attained, protection against other enteric disorders would have been much increased.
Like amebic dysentery, respiratory and skin infections were difficult to prevent. The most desirable safeguards, shelter, prompt relief from duty while under treatment, cleanliness, and better clothes and boots, were unattainable. Exposure, drenching, excessive fatigue were unavoidable. The strict evacuation policy, without which the 5307th could not have carried out its tactical responsibilities, and the unrelenting harshness of the environment often permitted respiratory and skin ailments to become serious, chronic, or recurrent. Their effects, therefore, were bound to accumulate, and when they became widespread and deep-seated, the 5307th rapidly lost effectiveness.
Still less preventable was scrub typhus. For this serious disease the medical establishment had no specific remedy. Careful nursing and vigilant treatment of symptoms gave the victim his best chance for recovery. If he were in poor condition, beset by concomitant diseases, or not promptly hospitalized, he probably would die. There were two protective measures. The first was to avoid sites infested by the mite which transmitted the disease organism. But this the troops could hardly do because of ignorance about danger zones and because of tactical circumstances. The second was to repel the mites chemically. The preferred insect repellent, dimethyl phthallate, could be relied on for this purpose, but merely to apply the ointment to hands and face was insufficient. To provide a fair measure of protection, the troops needed clothing that was frequently washed and impregnated with the repellent. The supply system was too undeveloped to produce such preventive measures for the 5307th, and recognition that they were required awaited the Marauders' experience. Once understood, need led to deed. In the 5332d Brigade, successors to the 5307th, better selection of campsites, repellent and clothing discipline, and the issue of treated field uniforms were introduced with some success.151
151Van Auken, op. cit., chapter XV. Local medical officers vigorously investigated the disease in 1943 and early 1944. Late in that year a party from the U.S. Typhus Commission began an extensive field study. When the disease appeared in the 5307th, Combat Command advised medical officers to be alert to its symptoms and to evacuate its victims as soon as possible. They were sent a summary of available information about the disease in North Burma, and troops were warned to use dimethyl phthallate liberally. In June, Myitkyina Task Force was ordered to spray the troops' clothing once a week with the repellent. In the same month, the new Theater Epidemiologist, Lt. Col. Kirk T. Mosley, launched experiments in the 102d Chemical Processing Company at Ledo to find out how to impregnate clothing mechanically and in large quantities. Difficulties in supplying clothing persisted. Efforts to have the troops do their laundry in soap-and-repellent solutions were not famously successful. Repellent and clothing discipline ebbed and rose according to the energies expended by commanders to maintain it: Stone, Medical Service in Combat, III, pp. 215-219, with attendant citations of field memorandums, correspondence, and directives.
With regard to malaria, the foremost cause of incapacity in 5307th, the story concerns control, rather than prevention or treatment of disease. The disease already was well established in 3d Battalion before the troops had even landed in India. To what extent new infections occurred between February and May is unknown. There is evidence that a significant number of men came down with the disease for the first time in May and early June. The remainder--probably three-quarters of the unit--succumbed to recurrences of old infections.
Attempts to prevent infection were unimpressive. Little had yet been done in the Theater to establish environmental controls over mosquito carriers. There were millions of native hosts in India, and the 5307th itself provided both victims and hosts as the force maneuvered in Burma. Repellents and mosquito bars were unpopular. To require troops to use them diligently required more command supervision and discipline than could be expected. Infection and reinfection, therefore, were the likely results of operations in the jungle. Herein the experience of American, British, and Japanese troops in Burma was identical.
In most cases malaria was readily treated by standardized courses of medication with quinine or Atabrine. The real problem was to do so without evacuating the patient to a hospital, and yet have a fair prospect of clearing the pathogenic plasmodia from his bloodstream. The 5307th, like the Chindits, tried to treat malaria patients on the trail and to reserve evacuation for any who developed cerebral malaria or who failed to respond to extended Atabrine therapy. In principle, no distinctions were made between men with new infections and those who had had numerous recurrences. Practically, it is probable that the latter received some benefit of doubt from their medical officers.
The main effort at controlling malaria was devoted to Atabrine suppressive discipline. Many had been introduced to the system of self-administration of a tablet a day, which had been developed in the Pacific theaters. Atabrine discipline was neglected, however, until the disease brought training to a standstill. Thereafter, suppressive practices apparently held up well until the battle of Nphum Ga. By then some cases were "breaking through" on the march, and they became very numerous during and immediately after the siege. Evacuations and medication produced some relief. But as the troops struggled over the trail to Myitkyina and lost momentum in the fight for the town, malaria overwhelmed the force.
The most probable cause of the outbreak was a serious breach in
Atabrine suppressive discipline. In the midst of a crisis in morale, such an explanation became especially convincing. Research evidence and practical experience had shown repeatedly that a sustained suppressive program was all but invulnerable to malaria "breakthrough." If there might be a few cases of atypical response to Atabrine, it could safely be predicted that suppressive discipline was more than adequate to protect the bulk of the troops from chills and fever. The outbreak at Nphum Ga, however, revived old doubts. The unusual exhaustion of the men, the frequency with which malaria was accompanied by another disease, and the number of long-standing and recurrent infections led many to think it plausible that malaria had conquered the suppressive system.152
It is doubtful whether the command and the medical establishment ever regained control of the situation. Some semblance of Atabrine discipline had been reinstated before the march to Myitkyina began. But "breakthroughs" and new cases immediately appeared again. Those who did not fall by the wayside with malaria were thoroughly ill when they staggered into the aid stations at Myitkyina. Sent off after the usual onsite treatment, they soon returned as sick as ever. Outraged by restrictions on evacuation and the pressure to continue the campaign, genuinely dazed with fatigue and suffering from other diseases, more and more men repudiated Atabrine therapy. The sicker they became, the lower fell their morale. The lower their morale, the less hope there was of restoring Atabrine discipline and curbing malaria.
Thus were the Marauders destroyed, not by misleadership, although it played a part in the closing phase of the disaster; nor by the enemy, although he put the 5307th to severe tests. Although it was from Myitkyina that they were evacuated, their destruction occurred on the
152The research and controversies on Atabrine
suppression are discussed in connection with the Chindits, pp. 270-275;
see also p. 24, for malaria in the American Army. Malaria control in CBI
is treated in Van Auken, op. cit., chapter XII. The section on Atabrine
in this chapter, by Col. Karl Lundeberg, the Theater Preventive Medicine
Consultant, describes the vacillation in the Theater (echoing that in the
War Department as late in 1943), the preference for environmental control
and for full therapy, and the cautious institution of suppressive discipline.
He quotes "a very shrewd analysis" by Maj. Maurice Seltzer, the
SOS Malariologist at Ledo, who wrote in June 1944:
hilltop at Nphum Ga, and on the ridges and jungle trails leading to Myitkyina airfield. Of the three chief causes of the regiment's collapse, the environment was the underlying cause; the tactical disposition was the sustaining and, in the static engagement of Nphum Ga, the precipitating cause; and the invasion of the troops by disease was the final and decisive cause. To an unknown extent, the Marauders helped their enemies by their loose sanitary practices, by command ineptness in supporting the medical establishment, and by defiance of Atabrine suppressive discipline. They were no more guilty of these defects than most troops.153 But had they been better trained and better disciplined they might have held on long enough at Myitkyina to end their campaign in the sunshine of victory rather than in the twilight of recrimination.
The military record of the 5307th was a variable function of its medical history. It bore up under environmental strains. It put its tactical opportunities to good use. The injuries it inflicted on the enemy outnumbered ten to one the injuries it received. But in the end, amoebae and plasmodia, bacteria and rickettsia, rather than Japanese soldiers, vanquished Merrill's Marauders.
153Hopkins concluded in his "Notes,"
p. 5: "Strict suppressive atabrine use, better halazone discipline,
dimethylphthallate impregnated clothes and replacements flown in by planes
which evacuated patients would have prevented much disease, as well as
mental and physical fatigue." He took pride in the thought that his
battalion had held up as well or better than the others, despite the fact
that it was heavily infected with malaria. "It is certainly a victory
for atabrine * * * This is another case showing that malaria even with
odds provided by chronic malaria, can be suppressed with great success
by atabrine even under the severest conditions" (p. 4).