The battle situation at the time the Maruders held its final bivouac before crossing the point of “no return” is noted as follows:
The Japanese 18th Division, the famed “Kuruma Shidan (Div)”, which played vital roles in the fall of Singapore and the capture of Burma, had a stranglehold on the Hukawng and Maguang Valleys through which the proposed Ledo Road (later renamed Stillwell Road) was to be built to link with the old Burma Road. In order to complete this land supply route to China, it was necessary to first clear the North Burma area and capture the town of Myitkyina and its all-weather airstrip.
By now the rumors of the outhouse variety were flying fast and thick. We wanted to believe the one about the outfit being scheduled for a single strike behind the lines, followed by air travel stateside for a month’s furlough. Commented one realist, “Yeah, those that are left can be flown back in a P-38!” The War Department had estimated in advance some 85% casualties.
“MERRILL,S [sic] MARAUDERS,” so named by Time Correspondent James Shepley, was ordered to make a series of raids behind enemy lines disrupting communications, destroying enemy strongholds, and in general confusing and harassing the enemy, while the American trained Chinese Division exerted pressure with frontal attacks. To achieve these objectives, it was necessary for the Marauders to operate in complete secrecy, with bold, swift movements in and out of enemy held territory.
Troops were supplied by airdrops, which is difficult at best and in this case further complicated by combat columns (six in all) operating independently in simultaneous attacks on separate targets. Because of the limited number of desirable “drop areas,” it was necessary at times to clear several acres of jungle in order for the planes to successfully unload their cargo of 5-day supply of K rations per man, feed for the animals (Pack) medical supplies and ammo.
To escape enemy detection, the Marauders marched for days without food; hacked their way through heavy undergrowth; clambered over mountains; and waded through leech infested streams. One battalion waded neck and waist deep in a stream for almost a day, crawled into holes, dug into the sheer banks at night, then launched a dawn attack that caught the Japanese by complete surprise.