Local man part of Merrill’s Marauders

Dear Editor,

Gabriel B. Kinney, 91, of Calera, a WWII Merrill’s Marauder, was among the oldest combat-seasoned soldiers in the nation to observe Veterans Day Nov. 11.

The legacy of these courageous men continues to be honored by modern-day Army Rangers who wear the Marauder patch as their crest. They were named for their commander, Gen. Frank D. Merrill.

Like the Rangers, the Marauders volunteered for their unit.

In 1943, almost 3,000 men from the jungles of Panama and Trinidad, Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Georgia and the United States answered President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “call” for a secret “dangerous and hazardous mission,” and volunteered not knowing where they were going or what they would be doing.

The Marauders made military history during the short eight months of their existence by marching farther — with estimates up to 1,000 miles — than any other American fighting force in WWII.

They had only what they could carry on their backs or pack mules.

Kinney, a native of Hanceville, enlisted in the U.S. Army in November 1942. He was assigned to Company F of the 35th Infantry Regt, 25th Infantry Division.

He participated in three campaigns in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater: Guadalcanal, the Northern Solomons and Vella Lavella. In 1943, while on Vella Lavella, he volunteered to be part of a the unit that would later become known as the Marauders.

Kinney was assigned to HQ 5307th, 2nd Platoon, Blue Combat Team during the march to capture the all-weather Myitkyina airstrip in Burma.

When the Marauders reached the airstrip, Kinney was one of a small number of original Merrill’s Marauders considered “still fit for combat.” Kinney was wounded at both Nhpum-ga and Myitkyina.

Kinney currently lives in Calera with his wife Elena.

Eighteen of these remaining Marauders, ranging in age from their 80s to 99, gathered in Louisville, Ky., over the Labor Day weekend for the 66th annual reunion honoring their famed unit of the China-Burma-India Theater.

A grass-roots campaign to obtain the Congressional Gold Medal for the Marauders, who will be meeting in Minneapolis for their 2013 reunion, is currently underway.

Carol Crawford

Clanton