Georgia campus premiers documentary on WWII jungle fighters

March 12, 2022 GMT

DAHLONEGA, Ga. (AP) — A documentary about the World War II jungle fighting unit known as Merrill’s Marauders premiered at a Georgia campus with three of the unit’s few surviving members in attendance.

About 500 people attended the March screening of “They Volunteered for This: Merrill’s Marauders” at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw narrates the documentary, which chronicles nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers who deployed in 1944 on a secret mission behind enemy lines in Japanese-occupied Burma. They battled hunger, disease and enemy troops while trekking roughly 1,000 miles to capture a Japanese-held airfield. Barely 200 of the soldiers remained in the fight at the mission’s end.

Congress in 2020 voted to award Merrill’s Marauders its highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.

In the audience for the premiere were three of the few Merrill’s Marauders still living: 101-year-old Gabe Kinney of Alabama, 98-year-old Gil Howland of New Jersey and 97-year-old Bob Passanisi of New York.

“We started production during the height of COVID when 10 were alive. Now there are five,” Tim Gray, whose World War II Foundation produced the documentary. “We are beyond grateful that three of those five not only attended the premiere but made it an event to remember.”