The Marine Corps Raiders have become legend. Activated in 1942 to fight in the Pacific during World War II, they are widely considered to be the original elite special forces unit. And they have the medals to prove it: in the two years they served in combat before being deactivated, the Raiders earned seven Medals of Honor, 141 Navy Crosses and 330 Silver Stars. Now, the Raiders still remaining have hope that their legacy will live on, as Marine Corps Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, will be taking on the Raider mantle.
It took nine years to make this a reality. Informally, MARSOC has held the name of Raiders anyway. But making it a formal designation has been an uphill battle. Gen. James Amos, then commandant, claimed he understood why the name was so important to both the surviving Raiders and the MARSOC Marines. But he didn’t want them to lose their core identity of being a Marine first. It was a battle the original Raiders had to fight as well. The Marine Corps came around eventually, though, and now the Raider name will live on. The Navy has the SEALs, the Army has the Rangers and now the Marine Corps officially has the MARSOC Raiders.
And for the few remaining World War II Raiders, that is all that matters.
Three of those original Raiders attended the ceremony deactivating the MARSOC units, and then immediately reactivating them under the Raider name. With World War II veterans in general getting older and their numbers dwindling, there has been a real fear that they will be forgotten. The newly minted Raiders were given a yellow flag with the Raider logo on it, along with signatures from the surviving Raiders on it. 91-year-old Kenneth Merrill was one of the original surviving Raiders to attend the renaming ceremony this week, and it was a day he had been hoping would come.
“Today’s our day. Our legacy goes on now,” Merrill said.
“This is the greatest thing that ever happened. And I know that all our dead buddies, our companions, I know that they’re jumping for joy. And there’s not very many of us left, I know, but this is a great, great moment for us.”