In the News
Marauders honored with Congressional Gold Medal
Dustin Strong | Pittsburg Morning Sun
PITTSBURG, Kan. — Twin brothers, Johnie and Louie Baima, were strapping young men when they enlisted together during World War II, and served side-by-side in the jungles of Burma as members of the 5307th Composite Unit, better known to history as “Merrill’s Marauders.”
The Marauders were a special operations unit tasked with raiding deep into Japanese-held territory in southeast Asia. After several weeks of specialized training in India in 1943, these 2,750 men fought their way through deep jungles, rugged mountains, tropical diseases, malnutrition, and a relentless enemy from February to August of 1944. Always outnumbered and often under-equipped, the Marauders engaged the enemy in five major battles and 32 smaller actions and inflicted over 5,000 enemy casualties, while marching more than 250 miles in some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain.
By the end of the campaign, the regiment had been reduced to 130 combat-effective members, and only two men were never wounded or hospitalized.
“Since the day we were born,” Johnie said, “except for two days in Burma, we were always together, he was always in the foxhole with me.”
Sadly, Louie Baima passed away in June of last year. “I look forward to seeing him again one day,” said Johnie.
On Friday, Sen. Jerry Moran was in Pittsburg to present the Baima families with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions that can be bestowed by Congress. Less than 200 have been awarded, to either individuals or organizations, since its creation in 1776. Only five people have been awarded more than one.
According to Moran, the medals were authorized by Congress in 2020, but because of unforeseen delays, it is only now that they are able to be awarded. The Baima medals were only minted barely more than a week ago.
Sen. Moran, who never served in the military, punctuated the emotional event by recounting a phone call with his father, a World War II veteran of North Africa and Italy, shortly before his passing. He had just finished a walk to the Lincoln Memorial, which had taken him past the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. At the end of that phone call, he told his father, “I thank you. I respect you. And I love you.”
The Senator then turned his remarks back to the gathered family members and onlookers. “It is these memorials and occasions like today that allow us to say what we need to say to our veterans, ‘We thank you. We respect you. And we love you.’”
Moran presented the medals to Johnie Baima and his wife, Lois, and to Michael Baima, Louie’s son.