Merrill Marauder receives Congressional Gold Medal, dies that night

| May 22, 2022

Raleigh Nayes

Poetrooper sends in the sad, but heartwarming story of Raleigh Nayes. He received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his old unit, the WWII Merrill’s Marauders. He was only one of three of the roughly 3,000 men that served in the unit that were still alive. The Marauders were a special operations force in the China-India-Burma Theater of the Pacific War. They were one of the precursors to the modern Army Rangers and Special Forces.

Nayes obituary describes him thusly;

Raleigh E. Nayes, 99, of Chippewa Falls, passed away Thursday, April 21, 2022, at the Chippewa Manor Nursing Home.

Raleigh was born September 8, 1922 in Cadott, WI to the late Henry and Mary (Hanson) Nayes.

He served in the US Army from 1942-1945. Raleigh was in World War II and fought in Burma as a member of the “Merrill’s Marauders” unit, which specialized in long range jungle warfare operations. Few know about the terrible trials he and his comrades had to endure during their service. Some 3,000 men went into that jungle and only 200 came out. Although he never wanted recognition, Raleigh received awards and honors for his wartime efforts, culminating in the highest possible civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal, which was presented to him on Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

Raleigh started “A Sentimental Journey”with Betty Frederick after an evening of dancing at Rainbow Gardens in Cadott. He and Betty married on June 28, 1947, at Central Lutheran Church in Chippewa Falls. Family was very important to Raleigh and, together with his bride, they created a beautiful legacy.

Raleigh was an energetic yet laid-back man who knew how to find the fun in everyday life and never missed an opportunity to lovingly tease his friends and family. He was a strong and humble war veteran, a dedicated worker, and trusted provider, but everyone knew that his biggest pride and joy was his wife, Betty. They enjoyed 74 years of marriage together and right until the end he never lost the twinkle in his eye for her.

After the war, Raleigh was employed by several local businesses including St. Regis Paper Mill, Johnson Manufacturing, Chippewa Woolen Mill and the Northern Center, where he retired from on August 1, 1987. He was of the Lutheran faith and a charter member of Christ Lutheran Church. Raleigh was a man of few words with a huge heart and he will be missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his daughters: Pam (Jack) Murphy and Roxy (John) Harvey; sons: Jim (Jill), Gerry (Diane) and Dan (Gail); 12 grandchildren; 22 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Raleigh was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Betty on July 29, 2021; six adult brothers: Marinus, Henry, Ralph, Roy, John and Harold; sister, Loretta Prpish; younger brother, Willard and two siblings in infancy.

Here’s the American Military News article;

Like so many World War II veterans, Raleigh Nayes rarely talked about his service.

Initially, that was likely the result of Nayes and the others in his unit being ordered not to talk about their secret mission in Burma.

But this spring, 78 years after completing their mission, the few surviving members of the famed Merrill’s Marauders finally got the recognition they deserved. For Nayes, the honor came just in time.

Nayes, of Chippewa Falls, received the Congressional Gold Medal on April 20 in a small ceremony at Chippewa Manor, where he had lived for the past six years. He died in his sleep early the next morning at the age of 99.

“We believe it is because he felt his mission here on Earth was finished, and all he wanted was to share his honor and to be with the love his life, Betty,” Nayes’ family wrote in his obituary, referring to his wife, who died last July.

The commendation for “their bravery and outstanding service” came about, after years of pushing by advocates, when Congress last fall approved the Congressional Gold Medal for all the soldiers in the 5307th Composite Unit, the formal name of the Marauders.

“When it finally happened, it was a big moment,” said Jim Nayes, Raleigh’s oldest son. “Dad was pretty stoic, but it was very emotional for the rest of us. We are extremely proud of his service.”

Only three of the roughly 3,000 original Merrill’s Marauders remain alive. Videos of medal presentations for the last five Marauders, including Nayes, will be part of the virtual Congressional Gold Medal ceremony hosted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that is scheduled Wednesday and will be broadcast on C-Span, according to the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes. An exact time was not yet available as of Thursday, a C-Span spokeswoman said.

The Marauders’ namesake was Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill, who led the Army unit as it fought in Burma, the southeast Asian country now called Myanmar.

The Marauders arose from an August 1943 meeting among President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other Allied leaders in which they decided that an American mission behind Japanese lines in Burma was needed to destroy Japanese supply lines and wreak havoc with enemy forces while an attempt was made to reopen the much-needed Burma Road, according to the Merrill’s Marauders website.

Roosevelt then issued a call for volunteers for “a dangerous and hazardous mission.” The call was answered by about 3,000 American soldiers, who walked more than 1,000 miles over mountains and through jungles to carry out their mission.

After five major and 30 minor engagements, the vastly outnumbered Marauders, forerunners to today’s Army Rangers special forces, accomplished their goal by capturing the Myitkyina airfield in northern Burma on May 17, 1944. Nayes was one of the few Marauders still able to fight by the time the airfield was taken.

“The soldiers were plagued by disease, parasites, exhaustion and malnutrition, winnowing their ranks from the original 3,000 to roughly 200 by the time they seized the airfield,” Stars and Stripes reported.

Indeed, the family wrote in Nayes’ obituary, “We’ve all heard the stories about how he would wake up in the jungle covered in leeches, which was the least of his troubles.”

At one point, Jim Nayes said, his father got sick with dysentery and was laid up for a week.

“Then he went back and fought again,” Jim Nayes said. “It was just hellish conditions. I can’t even imagine.”

The Marauders’ legacy also is receiving new recognition this spring with the release of a PBS documentary titled “They Volunteered for This: Merrill’s Marauders.” The film is narrated by retired NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, author of the book “The Greatest Generation.”

Three surviving Marauders and many family members attended the film’s premiere in March.

“Merrill’s Marauders had more continuous jungle combat fighting behind enemy lines than any other American infantry unit in the entire Pacific Region in World War II,” Brokaw states in the documentary, which is available on the PBS website. He points out that many people refer to the fighting in Burma, China and India as World War II’s “forgotten theater of war.”

The Marauders have the rare distinction of having every member of the unit awarded the Bronze Star medal.

After shipping back to the U.S. in May 1945, Nayes worked for National Presto Industries, Chippewa Woolen Mill, Johnson Machine, a local paper mill and Northern Center before retiring in 1987. He attended two Marauder reunions after his retirement.

“He never complained about anything,” Jim Nayes said of his father, who understood real hardship after what he endured in the war. “We thought he was going to live forever the way he was going. It’s still hard to comprehend that he’s gone.”

While Jim Nayes wishes he would have asked his dad more questions about his service, he’s not sure it would done much good.

“He just shared a few things. He didn’t want to talk about it,” Jim Nayes said, suggesting that Raleigh Nayes may have enjoyed a sort of group therapy over the years when gathering with his five brothers, who all served in World War II and all were fortunate enough to return home.

While playing cards at a picnic table years ago, Jim Nayes recalled asking one of his uncles which of the brothers saw the most action during the war.

“He tipped his cap toward Dad, and that was the first time I knew,” Jim Nayes said.

Even after his death, Raleigh Nayes was granted one final wish when his grandson, Will, performed “Taps” on his trumpet at Nayes’ funeral, playing the stirring final notes in tribute to a man who made great sacrifices for his country.

Godspeed, Private First Class Nayes. You’ve earned it.

Category: Army, Historical, Real Soldiers, We Remember

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Prior Service


Old tanker

May his reunion with Brothers and his Wife, be joyous. RIP Sir.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

I watched the PBS program which I taped. The patch had the letters CBI which was China, Burma and India. Stillwell ran them into the ground with the long marches before the unit was disbanded and the remainder went home.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

RIP Merrill Marauder.

The Stranger

To quote our Navy brethren:
Fair winds and following seas.

Rest easy, Ranger. We have the watch.


Rest Easy Good Sir. You’ve earned it. Enjoy your reunion with your fellow Warriors and the twinkle of your eye.


40 years ago,
Penn State used football home game half time
to honor prominent Pennsylvanians and Penn Staters.

The combined count of deaths, strokes, and hospitalizations of the honorees, shortly before or after, was heavy.
1 took ill, and went for an ambulance ride, during the 2nd half.
He survived.
Governor Thornburgh was booed heavily at his,
but survived in good health.

When death or bad health befell more honorees during the 2nd year,
Penn State discontinued the half time honors.


It was 1 honoree per home game.
7 the 1st year,
stopped after 4 or 5 the 2nd year.

RIP MM, and the long time PSU honorees.


Rest in well deserved peace Sir.


Mason, I must make a correction to your article. Merrill’s Marauders (the 5307th Composite Provisional Unit) was not a precursor to Army Special Forces. The precursor to Army Special Forces was the 1st Special Service Force, comprised of volunteers from the U.S. and Canadian Army. Indeed, the the SSI patch for Army’s SOCOM is a copy of the patch of the 1st SSF of WWII. Merril’s Marauders figures nowhere in the lineage of Army Special Forces.

That said, the 5307th is prominent in the lineage of the 75th Ranger Regiment. In fact, the sleeve patch (SSI) of the 5307th was copied for the regimental insignia (DUI) for the 75th Regiment and is worn on every enlisted man’s beret flash. Moreover, the first unit report page in “Patrolling,” the official magazine of the 75th Ranger Regiment Assn., is reserved in each issue for news on the Merrill’s Marauders, before reports on all other units which were affiliated with the regiment.


Actually, another WWII organization had more to do with Army Special Forces doctrine and operations than either the 1st SSF or Merrill’s Marauders. That organization is the OSS and its Jedburgh teams. Much of the doctrine and training in SF comes from OSS operations. Whereas the 5307th was a conventionally equipped and armed airborne infantry unit specially trained to operate behind enemy lines in a jungle environment. You should read Col. Aaron Bank’s book on the subject. He served on one of those Jedburgh teams.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

I’m not crying.
You’re crying.
Pass the kleenix.
Damned allergies.
RIP, Mr Nayes.
Valhalla’s gates open wide for you in honor.

RGR 4-78

Rest in Peace.

MI Ranger

A great representative of his generation who endured many hardships on behalf of his country, but did not gripe about it…because it was something that needed to be done, and he was willing to do it.

Rest in peace PFC Nayes your mission is complete. R.L.T.W.


Been a while, but seems to me I remember seeing Merrill’s grave in the cemetery above what was Company A barracks at DLI in Monterey, CA. Been a few decades, so I could be wrong.

RGR 4-78

He is buried with his wife and son at West Point.

Merrill, Frank Down. – WW2 Gravestone