Elite military fighting unit is holding reunion in Wilmington - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Elite military fighting unit is holding reunion in Wilmington

The Marine Raiders are recognized as the founders of all United States Special Operations units, including the Navy Seals and Green Berets in the United States Army. The Marine Raiders are recognized as the founders of all United States Special Operations units, including the Navy Seals and Green Berets in the United States Army.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The City of Wilmington is playing host to a group of men who played a vital role in defending our country during World War Two.

Only about 20 members of the United States Marine Raiders are still alive. Several of those members and their families will attend their annual reunion in the Port City this weekend.

The Marine Raiders are recognized as the founders of all United States Special Operations units, including the Navy Seals and Green Berets in the United States Army.

They executed the first successful ground offensive against Japanese forces, making amphibious landings in rubber boats and from submarines on just about every island in the Pacific war.

One of the Raiders, Ken Merrill, was just 17 years old when he was selected to be a Marine Raider, and he remembers their daring landing on Makin Island in August, 1942.

"I had a fire-fight with another machine gun, and I killed eighteen of them (Japanese soldiers)," said Merrill. "I went around and took a look and I counted them and there were 18 of them I killed. In all, we killed about 186 of them, and that does not include the two planes that we shot down."

Merrill, who got the nickname "Mudhole" from the son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was injured while fighting in the war and still walks with a limp today.

His military career ended when the Raiders were disbanded in early 1944, after the Corps decided they had out-lived their original mission. However, the elite fighting unit became the most highly decorated unit in the Pacific war.

Their reunion continues thru the weekend at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside.

Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved.

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