Veteran Stories:
Charles Riddle

Army

  • Code named Unit Galahad, the unit was also known as Merrill’s Marauders and was officially the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional). The unit was along range penetration US Special Forces group that operated behind enemy lines in Burma.

    Charles Riddle
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I was, you know, at 17, I was in a coal mining camp and I was always getting in trouble, [laughs] so I figured if I joined the army, they’d make a man out of me and they did. I believe it [the attack on Pearl Harbor] was on a Sunday [7 December, 1941] and in Hawaii, it was peace and quiet. See, I did a hitch in Hawaii. I was in Hawaii three or four years. Same place they struck. That was the spot then, you know, that was the most popular spot the U.S. army had was in Hawaii. Schofield Barracks [in Honolulu].

From Hawaii, they sent me to Burma. Burma is a very intriguing place, you know. It’s usually about the only settlement where the enemy was on the south side of Burma. They had a sort of a city, a town on the south side, but the rest of Burma, it was nothing but bloody jungle. Only trails, you know. You go down a road and you meet a big old tiger cub laying over, licking his arse or a big elephant is coming down the road and you just don’t bother them, let them go. You only get in trouble, just [don’t] disturb them. [laughs] You learn your lesson pretty quick in the jungle.

I was with [Brigadier General Frank] Merrill’s Marauders [also known as (unit codename) Galahad, 5307th Composite Unit (provisional): American long-range special operations penetrating deep into enemy territory] quite a bit. Well, I was with him in the latter part of my career there. I was with him more or less than anything. Oh, we were done, we were hit and run, you know, with the Japanese, hit and run, hit and run, hit and run. We didn’t stick around too long, we just hit ‘em and run. Hit and run, hit and run. See, I was a scout, a scout, we went in front, we went behind. We were everywhere, you know. I used to play hide and seek when I was a boy, you know, cops and robbers, and it come natural to me. [laughs] I enjoyed that.

As a scout, well, you had to scout the … I remember, I was behind the line there for a long time, we were pinned down. They had us pinned down in front and then we on our left… You had what you called an FPL, a final protective line, and this final protective line is quite the thing. You know, you’re protecting everything, you’re protecting your middle, you’re protecting your flanks, you’re protecting everything. It’s quite an operation. I was thinking about it this morning. It’s so damn funny that you called on that, I was thinking about that this morning, about an FPL, final protective line. Yeah. That’s where you were dug in and you were going to make your stand. Come hell or high water.

We’d never had the numbers or anything that the Japanese had. Hell, they had men to burn. But we didn’t have men to burn. So all we done, we hit and run, hit and run, hit and run, all the time, hit and run. We never stayed around. Everything in the jungle is twice as big as ordinary. You know, all the animals and everything are twice as big. It’s a different world altogether in the jungle then it is outside the jungle. Everything is bigger, everything is louder and everything is, you know ̶ the jungle is a place all by itself. There’s nothing like the jungle.

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