BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Some overdue recognition for one of America’s “Greatest Generation” who grew up here in Youngstown.
At the age of 23, Private First Class Robert Landis was serving his country as an Army private during World War II when he joined the 5307th Composite Unit.
“They were 3,000 intrepid young men that volunteered for an unknown mission,” said organizer Tammy Dixon.
Dixon’s father served in that same unit, known as Merrill’s Marauders. Their mission was to take and hold an airfield in Burma. Landis became the first solder killed in action there in 1944.
Friday morning, a small group gathered to dedicate a new gravestone to Landis.
After the Marauders were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal last spring, Dixon decided to set out on her own to find where all the original members of that unit were from. She discovered Landis had been buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boardman.
“It was under about an inch of silt and I dug it out with my bare hands. It had just rained, it was underwater,” Dixon said.
As part of their mission, Landis and the Marauders marched over 1,000 miles to reach that airfield.
“Robert Landis ran toward the fire and signed himself up in a volunteer manner for a secret and dangerous mission that he didn’t necessarily know what he was getting into,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kelvington.
Lt. Col. Kelvington teaches military science at Ohio State University. He is part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which identifies itself as a legacy of the Marauders, even wearing a pin based on the original unit’s patch.
“They are the prime example of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” Lt. Col. Kelvington said.
He urged the group to always remember the service and sacrifice of Landis and others like him.