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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — On this date in 1945, Japan surrendered to end World War II.

Sixty-eight years later, some the elite US Marine Raiders have come together one more time right here in Wilmington.

They stood shoulder to shoulder and fought in some of the Pacific Theater’s most dire situations. During WWII these men came together and formed the first special forces unit in military history: the US Marine Raiders.

“It was just a tough outfit. That’s all it was,” PFC Kenneth “Mudhole” Merrell said. “I wasn’t tough, but the guys I served with was, I guarantee you.”

“The Marine Raiders were the first to have dog handlers and the first to have Navajo code talkers,” PFC Charles Meachem said.

“You could depend on your foxhole buddy. That was the main thing,” PFC Joseph Harrison said. “The guys would give their lives for each other.”

Merrell said, “All I wanted to do was get in there and help out and kill as many Japs as I could.”

During the course of the war 8,000 men would fight for the Raiders. Four-thousand returned home.

But no matter how far they get from the islands of the Pacific, their Marine brothers are never far from their mind.

“You lay in that old foxhole on a muddy rainy night, bullets flying with Jap planes coming over and dropping bombs. You knew the guy on the left hand side of you and the right hand side of you. They would die for you, and they knew that you would do exactly what you would do for them,” Meachem said.

Merrell said, “There’s been a strong bond between us all because of what we went through. We have a lot to be thankful for. All of us. And the ones we left behind, we’ve never forgotten them.”

To carry on the tradition of the Marine Raiders and the work they did in the Solomon Islands, the group is building a school for the natives on Tulagi Island, where they landed in 1943.

Click here to learn more about the Marine Raiders and their reunion this week


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