Ranger Grant Jiro Hirabayashi, MIS. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.
Ranger Grant Jiro Hirabayashi
Grant Hirabayashi, one of World War II's famous Merrill's Marauders veterans, the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 8, 2004. He was selected for his distinguished service as a military intelligence specialist with Merrill's Marauders, which operated stealthily behind enemy lines in Burma to eavesdrop on enemy discussion of battle plans and to disrupt their communications and supply lines. The Ranger Hall of Fame was formed to honor and preserve the spirit and contributions of America's most extraordinary Army Rangers. The history of American Rangers goes back to the American colonial period and Rangers have been deployed in every war since then.
Hirabayashi, a native of Washington state, enlisted before the war to become an aircraft mechanic for the Army Air Corps. When war broke out on December 7, 1941, his family was forcibly evacuated to the Tule Lake internment camp. Hirabayashi was assigned to desk duty as a clerk. When he learned of the need for Japanese linguists, he volunteered and attended the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage, Minnesota.
Hirabayashi was one of the 14 Japanese American volunteer linguists from the mainland U.S. and Hawaii to serve on what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "a dangerous and hazardous mission." Merrill's Marauders trained in India for six months in jungle warfare and long-term penetration behind enemy lines. Following that, they marched on foot with a full pack for 700 miles through thick jungle and mountains. They fought five major battles and 30 minor engagements and cleared north Burma of enemy troops by defeating the Japanese 18th Division, the conquerors of Singapore and Malaya. Amazingly, Hirabayashi was nearly disqualified from combat duty with Merrill's Marauders because during training he found he was allergic to K-rations, the main combat rations carried by soldiers. He also had fractured his elbow. Contrary to the doctor's recommendation, Hirabayashi pretended he was well, sparingly eating K-rations supplemented with whatever he could scrounge. Eventually, a lack of nourishment was to catch up with him, along with a high fever and amoebic dysentery, all of which forced him to be evacuated after the battle at Nhpum Ga. After one month of hospitalization, Hirabayashi rejoined the Marauders for the Myitkyina operation. The Marauders captured the Myitkyina airfield, the only all-weather airfield in northern Burma, and subsequently the town of Myitkyina. This paved the way for the Burma Road's reopening, facilitating equipment, supplies, and ammunition shipments to the allied Chinese forces.
The Nisei in Merrill's Marauders, like other Nisei soldiers in the Army, faced great physical and mental hardship in the Asia Pacific area. Many had their families in internment camps located in desolate places in the U.S., many had relatives and even family members in the Japanese military. The Nisei Marauders courageously faced the danger of being captured and tortured by the enemy. They were committed to proving their loyalty to their country. Having completed its mission at Myitkyina, Merrill's Marauders disbanded on August 10, 1944. Asked about the value of Nisei Marauders, General Merrill simply stated, "I couldn't have gotten along without them."
Hirabayashi was then assigned to China, where he interrogated Japanese Prisoners of War. One prisoner, a scientist, reported that Japan was developing an atomic bomb, and research was being conducted at the two imperial universities, Tokyo and Kyoto. He said that a bomb, the size of a matchbox, could destroy an entire city. Hirabayashi's superiors dismissed the reports. When the war ended, Hirabayashi was ordered to go to Nanking to join the U.S. delegation to observe the Japanese surrender ceremony. Following his discharge, Hirabayashi married and served as a Monitor in the War Crimes Trials in Japan. After obtaining a Master's Degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, he served in the State Department and Library of Congress. Hirabayashi retired from the National Security
Agency after a distinguished career. Ranger Hirabayashi was a life member of JAVA.