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Charles Hunter file photo [32840]

Charles Hunter

Given NameCharles
Born11 Jan 1906
Died14 Jun 1978
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseCharles Newton Hunter was born in Oneida, New York, United States in 1906. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, United States, where he acquired the nickname "Newt"; he graduated in 1929. When the United States entered WW2 in Dec 1941, he was recalled from the Panama Canal Zone to the United States to train troops at Fort Benning, Georgia, United States. In Aug 1943 Lieutenant Colonel Hunter accepted a call for volunteers for a secret operation. Having spent three years of his pre-WW2 career in the Philippines and another two and half years in the Panama Canal Zone with the 14th Infantry Regiment, his jungle experience led him to being selected as the senior officer of "Galahad", the code name for what would later become the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), a unit formed to conduct jungle warfare in Burma behind Japanese lines. The 5307th would later become better known by the unofficial nickname "Merrill's Marauders". Even in his leadership position, he did not learn of the unit's destination, India, until the unit had traveled all the way to Australia and had already departed Fremantle by the passenger ship Lurline. Under his direction, the volunteers who joined the 5307th became tough soldiers through training in India and then the arduous hike through the jungles of northern Burma to reach their combat area. Never a yes-man, Hunter was not favored by his superior, General Joseph Stilwell, leading to Stilwell's appointment of Frank Merrill to takeover the 5307th when the unit entered combat, instead putting Hunter on the front lines to lead H Force, which was consisted of the 1st Battalion of the unit, the Chinese 150th Regiment, and one howitzer battery, as the unit advanced toward Myitkyina, Burma. On the same day that Myitkyina was declared secure, Stilwell dismissed Hunter, explicitly ordering him to return to the United States by ship rather than to fly. Some hypothesized that it was so Stilwell and Merrill could take the credit for the campaign that led to the victory at Myitkyina, while preventing Hunter from divulging the less savory events such as Stilwell having overworked the 5307th. The news did eventually leak, however. On 6 Aug 1944, the newspaper Washington Post published "Marauders' Morale Broken by Hospital Faults, Promises", and other publications slowly picked up on various tales of the poor treatment of the 5307th. When later questioned by senators, Stilwell and Merrill chose to lie when possible, and point fingers when they could not; they were largely successful, securing credit for capturing Myitkyina and ultimately relegating Hunter to obscurity. He did, however, receive the Silver Star medal for his WW2 service. After WW2, Hunter served on the faculty of the Armed Forces Staff College for three years in the United States, chief of the Military Assistance Division in Europe, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the 4th Army, and Commanding Officer of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, United States. He retired from military service in 1959 at the rank of colonel. After retirement, he moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, United States, hometown of his wife Don Mae Hunter (née Wolfer). In 1963, he published the book Galahad. He passed away in Cheyenne in 1978 and was buried at the Frances E. Warren Air Base Cemetery in Cheyenne.

Gavin Mortimer, Merrill's Marauders

Last Major Revision: Jan 2024

Charles Hunter Interactive Map

Charles Hunter Timeline

11 Jan 1906 Charles Hunter was born in Oneida, New York, United States.
1 Jan 1944 The US 1688th Detachment was renamed 5307th Composite Regiment (Provisional) with Colonel Charles Hunter in command. It was to be downgraded from a regiment to a unit within hours.
6 Mar 1944 Louis Mountbatten arrived at Taihpa, Burma by transport aircraft escorted by 16 fighters to inspect Joseph Stilwell's headquarters; Stilwell privately complained that Mountbatten had used enough fuel on this trip for Stilwell to mount an offensive. Mountbatten would also visit the Walawbum battlefield 25 kilometers to the south. On the front lines, the 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) arrived at Wesu Ga early in the morning. Colonel Charles Hunter, liaison officer Colonel Chun Lee, and a small group traveled north to make contact with was meeting with Colonel Rothwell Brown of the joint American-Chinese 1st Provisional Tank Group to possibly coordinate an attack on Japanese positions near Walawbum, but they could not locate the Chinese unit. On the same day, the Japanese launched several frontal attacks across the Numpyek River near Walawbum. 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)'s Orange Combat Team halted the attacks, inflicting heavy casualties while suffering only a small amount itself. At about 2230 hours, as the Japanese halted the attacks and quietly sent litter bearers to carry away the wounded, Frank Merrill ordered Lieutenant Colonel Charles Beach to withdraw the Orange Combat Team, intending for the Chinese 38th Division to eliminate the remaining Japanese.
20 Mar 1944 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) suffered 1 dead and 2 wounded after encountering a Japanese machine gun nest north of Shaduzup, Burma. Also on this date, Frank Merrill met with his officers at the village of Japan and gave orders. Orange Combat Team of 3rd Battalion was to remain in Janpan. 2nd Battalion and Khaki Combat Team of 3rd Battalion were to cut off Kamaing Road south of Shaduzup somewhere between Warazup and Malakwang, under Colonel Charles Hunter's tactical command; they would depart within hours with Blue Combat Team of 2nd Battalion at the vanguard. The forward elements reached Nhgum Ga by the end of the day.
21 Mar 1944 Troops of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) received an air drop at the village of Auche, Burma. Colonel Charles Hunter gave the villagers the parachutes as compensation for their assistance. Meanwhile, Chinese troops captured Jambu Bum ahead of schedule, thus Frank Merrill ordered Hunter to establish a roadblock on Kamaing Road 36 hours earlier than originally planned. Merrill also ordered the Orange Combat Team of 3rd Battalion to depart Janpan and form a block near Auche.
22 Mar 1944 In Burma, the villagers of Auche hosted a celebration for Frank Merrill and his headquarters staff. Meanwhile, Colonel Charles Hunter's troops of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) marched along the difficult trail following the Nampana River, crossing it many times. 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), which marched in support of Hunter's units, suffered 1 dead and several wounded after being ambushed north of Shaduzup.
23 Mar 1944 Colonel Charles Hunter, with his troops now 6 miles southeast of Inkangahtawng, Burma, decided to establish the roadblock at that location. He ordered the Khaki Combat Team to be held in reserve while the forward elements he sent out reached as far as the eastern bank of the Mogaung River, the village of Ngagahtwang, and a position 300 yards east of the Kamaing Road; from the latter location, the American soldiers were close enough to the Japanese to hear arriving trucks disembarking Japanese troops. The 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was supposed to establish another roadblock a few miles to the north, but 1st Battalion fell behind schedule, leaving Hunter's troops exposed without Hunter's knowledge. Also, unbeknownst to the Americans, the Chinese 22nd Division halted its southward advance to rest, further exposing Hunter's troops.
25 Mar 1944 Lieutenant Colonel William Osborne of 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) sent a platoon to attack the Japanese along the Kamaing Road as a diversion for another group of his troops to advance down the trail toward the main objective, Shaduzup, Burma. Meanwhile, Men of Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr.'s 2nd Battalion departed the village of Ngagahtwang at 0500 hours, many wounded in tow. Colonel Charles Hunter, whose radio is broken, surveyed the field in an L-4 aircraft and spotted McGee's column. Realizing the many wounded after landing and speaking to McGee, he ordered the aircraft to return without him, and to quickly return with litters to help evacuate the wounded. Hunter scolded McGee for foolish field decisions, but McGee told him that some of the tactical decisions were made by Frank Merrill directly, thus deepening the chasm between McGee/Merrill and Hunter. Finally, on 3rd Battalion's front, Japanese troops attacked in force, destroying the radio set carried by Lieutenant Logan Weston of the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, thus rendering him without communications; he made contact with Lieutenant Warren Smith also of 3rd Battalion, who assisted with Weston's retreat.
26 Mar 1944 In Burma, Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr. and the troops of his 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) departed camp at 1000 hours, and Colonel Charles Hunter followed after all wounded were evacuated by air. McGee arrived at Manpin at 1200 hours, where Hunter ordered McGee to clear a field for a resupply by air. At 1700 hours, McGee departed camp toward Auche while Hunter remained at Manpin, where he was joined with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Beach of the 3rd Battalion to plan on an attack on Kamaing. The attack was overruled by Frank Merrill, who ordered Hunter to withdraw instead.
29 Mar 1944 Four howitzers of Chinese 113th Regiment forced Japanese artillery to cease firing on 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), which had been ongoing since the previous day, and further advanced to force the Japanese guns to fall back; by nightfall, the Allies would learn that the Japanese were evacuating Shaduzup, Burma and the Chinese would capture the city before dawn. Elsewhere, Frank Merrill was evacuated by air in the morning from Hsamshingyang toward 20th General Hospital at Ledo, India. Colonel Charles Hunter assumed command of the US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) and moved to Nhpum Ga, but which time Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr. and the 2nd Battalion had completed defensive preparations at Nhpum Ga, which was near the clearing at Hsamshingyang. Between 1040 and 1400 hours, some supplies arrived at Hsamshingyang by air. Hunter departed Nhpum Ga at 1530 hours.
31 Mar 1944 At 0530 hours, Japanese artillery on the American positions at Nhpum Ga, Burma intensified, paving way for a second day of infantry assaults. Meanwhile, another group of Japanese troops moved toward the clearing at Hsamshingyang and set up a roadblock, cutting off Nhpum Ga's main supply route; this roadblock was discovered by troops of Orange Combat Team of 3rd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), but the Americans were unable to break the roadblock. Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr., commanding officer of 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), reported 3 men dead, 9 men wounded, and many mules killed; though casualties were relatively few, McGee nevertheless feared that the supply situation would become impossible to overcome by the next day. Colonel Charles Hunter, in command of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), at Hsamshingyang, began to organize a mule train to leave for Nhpum Ga the next day, to ensure his own position did not get surrounded by the Japanese, and to request fresh water to be delivered by air.
1 Apr 1944 The Japanese attempt to capture Nhpum Ga, Burma slowed as heavy rain poured. Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr. at Nhpum Ga was informed by his superior Colonel Charles Hunter that Hunter was expecting a delivery of two 75-millimeter howitzers by air on the next day, which would hopefully relieve the pressure that the Japanese had been placing on McGee's 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional).
2 Apr 1944 Two 75-millimeter howitzers arrived by parachute at the clearing at Hsamshingyang in Burma in crates. As soon as they were set up, Colonel Charles Hunter of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) ordered their usage against suspected Japanese gun positions at Kauri south of Nhpum Ga. Meanwhile, the Japanese assault on Nhpum Ga continued.
3 Apr 1944 Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr., whose 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) had been under near constant attack by the Japanese at Nhpum Ga, Burma for several days, sent a warning message to his superior Colonel Charles Hunter at the clearing of Hsamshingyang nearby, noting that the constant pressure by the Japanese and the lack of fresh water were about to break the morale of his men. With 1st Battalion five or six days away and Chinese allies more than ten days away, Hunter only had the tired troops of the 3rd Battalion to attempt to rescue the besieged 2nd Battalion. He planned to strike out from Hsamshingyang toward Nhpum Ga at 1200 hours on the next day, with Orange Combat Team at the front and Khaki Combat Team ready to flank the first Japanese position that Orange Combat Team would encounter.
7 Apr 1944 The 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) arrived at Hsamshingyang, Burma at 1700 hours after marching through 30 miles of jungle, which took 5 days. The 800 men were exhausted, and 200 of them were suffering from acute dysentery. Colonel Charles Hunter immediately organized an offensive toward Nhpum Ga for the next day, and Osborne of 1st Battalion committed 254 of his men who were in decent enough of shape to fight.
18 Apr 1944 Charles Hunter started drills and parades to reinstate military organization to the US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) in Burma after difficult fighting at Nhpum Ga, Burma.
26 Apr 1944 Troops of the 3rd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) arrived at Naubum, Burma. Joseph Stilwell, already there by aircraft, revealed to the soldiers that Myitkyina was to be the next objective. Frank Merrill told Charles Hunter that Hunter would have tactical command of the operation, with Marauders, US 150th Infantry Regiment, Chinese 50th Division, and the 88th Regiment of the Chinese 30th Division under him, totalling 6,000 men. Hunter divided the troops into three forces. He was to personally lead H Force, consisted of the 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the Chinese 150th Regiment, and a howitzer battery. Colonel Henry Kinnison was to lead the K Force, consisted of 3rd Battlion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the Chinese 88th Regiment, and two howitzer guns. Finally, Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr. was to lead M Force, consisted of 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) and 300 Kachin guides and guerrilla fighters.
29 Apr 1944 H Force of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), under the command of Colonel Charles Hunter, departed toward the Kumon Mountain Range in Burma. Joseph Stilwell opted not to inform Louis Mountbatten regarding this offensive toward Myitkyina, Burma in fear of a possible failure that would make him appear incapable in front of the British.
14 May 1944 Colonel Charles Hunter sent Joseph Stilwell the code phrase Cafeteria Lunch to note that the troops were ready to strike Myitkyina, Burma within the next 48 hours.
15 May 1944 The Kachin guide leading H Force of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was bit by a venomous snake, but Colonel Charles Hunter forced him to continue forward to stay on schedule of the Myitkyina, Burma offensive. Meanwhile, M Force (Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr.) reached Arang, Burma; by this time, most of the men of M Force were sick and exhausted; 50 were left behind for evacuation by air under the care of medical officer Captain Henry Stelling, while the others continued the march toward their objective of Myitkyina Airfield further south.
16 May 1944 H Force arrived at the village of Namkwi, Burma, 4 miles north of the airstrip at Myitkyina. Colonel Hunter ordered his troops to intern the villagers in case any were informants for the Japanese. In the evening. Hunter sent the code phrase Strawberry Sundae to Joseph Stilwell to indicate the offensive would begin in 24 hours. After dark, he ordered Sergeant Clarence Branscomb to sneak onto the Japanese-held airfield to see how many defensive structures were manned and whether the airstrip had any unepaired bomb craters; Hunter gave Branscomb his opened bottle of Canadian Club whiskey as a gesture of appreciation. Branscomb recruited Tom Frye and Walter Clark, who finished the whiskey before moving out in the dark. The group would successfully complete the reconnaissance mission.
17 May 1944 At Myitkyina, Burma, Colonel Charles Hunter ordered Chinese 150th Regiment to attack the airstrip west of the city, and ordered 1st Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) under Lieutenant Colonel William Osborne to capture the ferry terminal at Pamati one mile southwest of the airstrip on the Irriwady River. The Chinese attack began at 1030 hours and the airstrip was captured at 1200 hours, with most Japanese troops falling back into the city aboard trucks. 1st Battalion Red Combat Team remained at the ferry terminal and White Combat Team moved to the airstrip to reinforce the Chinese. At 1530 hours, Joseph Stilwell learned of the success, and gleefully noted in his diary that this capture would embarrass the British. When informed of the capture, Louis Mountbatten was angered by Stilwell's decision to hide this offensive from him. Nevertheless, Mountbatten gracefully sent a message to Stilwell to praise his leadership and to congratulate the success. Stilwell, however, did not think of sending any messages to the commanders in the field to thank them. Colonel Charles Hunter, the tactical commander, was surprised that his superior Frank Merrill failed to show in the first group of aircraft to land at Myitkyina Airfield; instead, Merrill sent a team of engineers to repair an airstrip even though Hunter had already reported that the airfield was captured in tact. Merrill also failed to send any badly needed food and ammunition. Shortly after capturing the airfield, Hunter ordered K Force of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) to move toward the airfield with speed. On the Japanese side, troops were quickly gathered at Tingkrukawng to the northeast and would arrive at Myitkyina within 24 hours.
19 May 1944 Frank Merrill finally arrived at Myitkyina Airfield in Burma, but would suffer another minor heart attack; rather than appointing Charles Hunter, who had spearheaded the recent successes for US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), to take Merrill's place, Stilwell chose Colonel John McCammon; McCammon had a history of going along with Stilwell's orders without any questions. Meanwhile, M Force (Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr.) of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) arrived at Namkwi, four miles northwest of Myitkyina, Burma; 25 men were ordered to be sent to Myitkyina Airfield for evacuation by air due to sickness.
25 May 1944 Joseph Stilwell flew to Myitkyina Airfield. Charles Hunter personally handed him a letter listing all the grievances from the field officers and men of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), noting that the area commanders had betrayed them by depriving them of rest and treating them as expendable, leading to the whole of 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) becoming practically ineffective as a combat unit.
2 Jun 1944 Lieutenant Colonel George McGee, Jr. requested 2nd Battalion of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) to be relieved and be evaluated from Myitkyina, Burma to India. Both Colonel Charles Hunter and Brigadier General Haydon Boatner agreed.
4 Aug 1944 Joseph Stilwell named Frank Merrill, who he considered as a yes man, as the new commanding officer of US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), relieving Charles Hunter. Hunter was returned to the United States by ship. Morale among the US 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), most of whom were recovering from their ordeal in hospital beds, collapsed completely as a consequence, and soon after the entire force was despicably disbanded. Back in the United States, the obnoxious Joseph Stilwell's treatment of Hunter's "Marauders" had become a public scandal eventually leading to a full inquiry.
14 Jun 1978 Charles Hunter passed away in Cheyenne, Wyoming, United States.

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