Fairhope, Ala. (WKRG) — A veteran of one of the most acclaimed voluntary forces in World War Two was recently the recipient of a National Honor.
As one of the few surviving members of Merrill’s Marauders Gabe Kinney recently accepted the Congressional Gold Medal.
At the ceremony, Kinney said, “There is one group that we all want to be proud of—they are the young men left in Burma did not get to return–so let us remember those now and forever.”
Kinney described how he came to serve in Merrill’s Marauders. “Fellow came through wanting volunteers–to go to another theater of operations on a very hazardous mission–explained to us thoroughly they expected about an 85 percent casualty rate.”
Kinney was interviewed for a documentary produced by the World War Two Foundation and Museum in New Orleans to commemorate the exploits of the all-volunteer force named after their commander, General Frank Merrill. Merrill’s Marauders ran missions deep behind the Japanese lines in Burma. When he volunteered, Kinney was already a combat veteran from the battle at Guadalcanal.
“Our mission was to stop the supply lines where they were fighting the British,” he said.
Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall said at the time that the mission against large numbers of the enemy with few resources was unmatched in any theater. Retired Ranger, Green Beret, and veterans advocate Colonel Pat Downing, who ran similar missions in Vietnam, agreed.
“It’s scary—to say the least,” said Downing. “But, it was the mission and just like Merrill’s Marauders we had volunteers and it had to be done and they volunteered to do it.”
The Marauders are considered the forerunners of the Army’s Rangers. They fought in five major battles and as many as thirty other engagements over five months. Not only did they fight the Japanese, but they also fought treacherous jungle terrain, incredible heat, debilitating disease—and leeches.
“We had to even stop ourselves–pick the leeches off of us. They were awful–leeches were bad,” said Kinney.
Long after the war, Kinney’s children didn’t hear a word about the details until they were adults.
“I guess worst stories we ever heard was about the siege at Nhpun Ga and how difficult that was for the guys,” said daughter Carol Crawford. “Thirteen days, surrounded by Japanese–charge after charge, running out of water, running out of ammunition.”
“One story is built upon another,” said another daughter, Pat Nelson. “So finally you can kind of chronologically understand what he went through when there was a time I didn’t really know how it fit together.”
The Congressional Gold Medal was finally authorized to recognize the gallant service of Merrill’s Marauders in 2020. Covid kept a ceremony from happening then. Finally, the honor was bestowed in a virtual ceremony in May with members of Congress, the military, other Merrill’s Marauder veterans—and Kinney accepting the medal in a ceremony at the Flora Bama.
“For that unit to have received this medal is something I am particularly proud of,” Kinney said while accepting the award.
And WKRG News 5 would like to humbly add our own Serving Those Who Serve award to the accolades earned by Gabe Kinney–and Merrill’s Marauders.
If you’d like to watch the documentary about Merrill’s Marauders produced by the World War II Foundation, you can watch it here.