Merrill’s Marauders/ Honoring a Hero

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Patch emblem of Merril's Marauders

“Merrill’s Marauders (named after Frank Merrill) or Unit Galahad, officially named the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), was a United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, which fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II, or China-Burma-India Theater (CBI). The unit became famous for its deep-penetration missions behind Japanese lines, often engaging Japanese forces superior in number.” ~ Wikipedia

A ninety year old man from Soddy Daisy, TN recently was introduced to the cool one-stringed musical instrument, the authentic, original CanJoe Company created instrument called, The Canjoe“. He fell in love with it and wanted one for himself. Being that the CanJoe Company creates these instruments as musical works of art, and that each one made is only custom created for the individual owner, personal information was supplied about this ninety year old that could be incorporated in his instrument. Details of his life include that he served as a member of the elite US Army unit of Merrill’s Marauders during WW2 and that he received the Bronze Star award, and the Purple Heart award for his part in that historic event called the “Burma Campaign”, as a soldier fighting in Japan.

This specific man who now owns this custom created Canjoe musical instrument is a true American hero, so it was quickly decided that his instrument should reflect his sacrifices and his gallantry as having served with the Merrill’s Marauders. This specific instrument is symbolic in every way, in by its choices of materials used to fabricate it and in its design, to honor his service.

The body of the instrument is comprised of the finest of mahogany in the world with a most beautiful curly maple finger board laminated on. The mahogany was sourced from what was originally made for use to become a dowel for a casket handle. A company that makes caskets, nearby, supplied the special mahogany dowel. This dowel symbolically represents the hundreds of the members of the Merrill’s Marauders who lost their lives in the line of duty from wounds acquired during the 32 ground battles that they engaged with the Japanese forces, or those who lost their lives from the many diseases contracted from the severe environments that they encountered. The stunningly beautiful piece of curly maple used as the finger board came from the Gibson musical instrument company, as a piece that would be too small for use in their products, but just right for this purpose. Combining the two pieces by methods of laminating them together in the shop after acquiring them began the process of physically creating this exquisite finished work of art.

Researching about the history of the Merrill’s Marauders, a necessary requisite for designing an appropriate memorial, was not only very informative but a real pleasure in discovering the profound sacrifices of those who served this elite unit and of their superhuman accomplishments that helped win the war for the allies against the Japanese in the World War 2. First, before doing internet searches and a lot of reading, my own brother, an avid amateur historian of WW2, was contacted and during the initial phone conversation with him about this project, upon hearing of the fact that this 90 year old man was a member of the Merrill’s Marauders caused him to nearly fall on the floor from astonishment. He was beside himself in hearing that a member of this legendary unit was still alive. His first words upon hearing this was, “do you know who the Merrill’s Marauders were?”, and, with less knowledge than him, of course I said, “not yet”. He then went on to “school” me on their history and after that conversation, I was intrigued and amazed. Here, I’ll post a link for those reading this to use in case of further desire to learn about the most incredible feats of human effort that any armed forces members from anywhere ever pulled off…

Just reading the source from Wikipedia will enlighten the curious:

After the research phase, it was decided to place the Merrill’s Marauders unit patch on the instrument’s head stock. The photo introducing this page is of that symbol artistically rendered. The official Merrill’s Marauders unit patch incorporates a sun in the top left quadrant and a star in the bottom right quadrant. In making this instrument I, the artist and instrument creator, took some artistic license and imbedded a diamond as exchange for the sun, and a gold foil star in the bottom quadrant. The diamond, though representing the sun, also represents the unbreakable, un-scratchable, super hardened, sparkling drive and fortitude of these men. The gold foil star represents, too, that absolutely every one of those who served in this elite unit not only were awarded the Bronze Star but were also as men of men representing the scintillating, shimmering stars of what America represents as being among her finest of heroes.

The designs on the curly maple finger board became from his military awards of the Purple Heart, which is rendered by the purple ribbon design between two frets, and his awarded Bronze Star as represented by the single star between two other frets. In between these emblems is placed the modern day unit patch of the US Army Rangers; the reason, the Merrill’s Marauders as made up of 3,000 volunteers who became trained to become the United States Army long range penetration special operations jungle warfare unit, and whose value and honorable service eventually led to the formation of the modern day US Army’s Rangers, since.

The red, white, and blue that trims the instrument’s finger board should be self explanatory. The new owner loves root beer, so, a vintage 1939 logo design of a collectible “Frostie Root Beer” can was chosen as the resonator.

These men, and especially the 90 year old who now owns this special instrument, should ALL be remembered and honored for their extreme sacrifices and service to this country and the world, for what they endured and for what they did for all free nations in that campaign. Too, it is of the highest honor for me, CanJoe*John, to have been chosen to create this fine instrument, and as a US Navy veteran, myself, the honor is even greater magnified for me, personally, in that my contribution by creating this simple token of art as rendered in this cool, one-stringed musical instrument, and that this man will undoubtedly cherish, is also to honor a fellow veteran of whom I salute as a true American hero.

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In honor of a true American hero

Military symbols

The "Bronze Star", Ranger's patch, & "Purple Heart ribbon"

Vintage Frostie

1939 Vintage "frostie Root Beer Logo can


Laying in my fiddle case!

For all orders, inquiries, prices, and options, please call the CanJoe Company at 423-612-4320.

About CanJoe*John

CanJoe*John began making and marketing the authentic 'canjoe' instruments from their origin. Introduced to them by their creator, Herschel R. Brown, in the early 1990s, John, from the beginning, helped Herschel manufacture them in Herschel's shop. John relocated back to his home state of TN in 1993 and continued, initially with Herschel's direct assistance, to make and market them, establishing the licensed sole proprietorship, the CanJoe Company, in 1994. As a professional musician CanJoe*John became billed as the "world's most unique musician, playing the world's most unique musical instrument, the canjoe" (aka, canjo). Always with his own personal canjoe instrument in hand he was awarded the adult "2007 Male Bluegrass Instrumentalist of the Year" by the North American Country Music Association International (NACMAI), and now having the distinction of being the first and only canjoe picker to ever perform on the Grand Ole Opry, has literally taken the one-stringed thing to the outer limits! CanJoe*John is a master craftsman and artist who designs, creates and crafts these instruments as custom works of musical fine art for those who respect and require the best of the best, truly genuine, original one-stringed musical instruments. He can be reached via email at, or by phone at 423-612-4320.
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