San Antonio, Texas (CPL Steven Fox) – The U.S. Marine Raider Association and Foundation celebrated the history of the highly decorated, though short-lived, U.S. Marine Raider unit during its annual reunion held this year in San Antonio, Aug. 26-29.
Several surviving World War II Raiders, their families and Raiders of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command traveled far and wide to attend the reunion, which included trips to Lackland Air Force Base and The National Museum of the Pacific War. On the final night, those attending the reunion, including Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, MARSOC, and Sgt. Maj. John W. Scott, the MARSOC senior enlisted advisor, assembled for a formal banquet, fond remembrance and final night of the occasion.
The U.S. Marine Corps formed the Marine Raider Battalions during World War II, inspired by the British Commandos. Two Raider battalions were activated in February 1942. First and 2nd Raider Battalions specialized in conducting small-unit amphibious rubber boat insertions, light infantry warfare, and executing independent raids behind Japanese lines.
In an effort to create and populate the elite unit, scouts began searching for volunteers from throughout the Marine Corps. After being vetted, qualified individuals were hand-selected to start training.
One of the surviving Raiders, Kenneth (Mudhole) Merrill Sr., described his induction into the Raider community.
“I was in bootcamp and heard about them forming a catch-me-kill-me outfit, so I volunteered,” said Mudhole. “There were 11 of us, and we were interviewed by Jimmy Roosevelt, the president’s son, and out of the eleven I was the only one who was picked.”
The Raiders were involved in almost every major Pacific campaign from August 1942 to January 1944, earning seven Congressional Medals of Honor, 141 Navy Crosses and 330 Silver Star Medals for combat operations conducted in less than a year and a half’s time.
In early January 1944, the Marine Corps re-designated the Raider Battalions, and the Raiders, in their official capacity, were no more …
… Until June this year, when MARSOC re-designated its subordinate commands, integrating “Raider” into their titles.
“I was there when they made that happen,” said Mudhole. “It made me cry, actually, because of what it meant to me and the Raiders still alive. It means our legacy will live on for as long as there’s a United States.”
MARSOC Raider, and graduate of MARSOC’s first Individual Training Course iteration, Staff Sgt. Brandan Taylor, was one of the active-duty Marines who attended the reunion.
Taylor is undergoing physical therapy to treat injuries he has sustained on active duty. He was in San Antonio at the Center for the Intrepid learning to walk and run with exoskeletal orthosis leg braces when the director of the Raider Project invited him to the Raider reunion.
Taylor was asked to speak during the dinner and he talked about how MARSOC has embraced the Marine Raider moniker, and about how hard the community had fought to officially adopt the Raider name.
“I never planned on speaking, but I felt I owed them an answer on how proud we are, as MARSOC Marines, to earn the title of Marine Raider,” explained Taylor. “I spoke to them about what an honor it is to carry their legacy on with the future generation of Raiders from MARSOC.”
Details for next year’s reunion are not yet solidified, but it will no doubt be a special one as MARSOC will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. The U.S. Marine Raider Association and Foundation plans to align the reunion with MARSOC’s planned events.