PITTSBURG, Kans. — It’s one of the deadliest battles of World War II that you may never have heard of, but two area men who were part of it finally received their just-do for playing a crucial role in it.
Soldiers with the U.S. Army weren’t just fighting the Japanese in the southeast Asian country of Burma, they were also battling Mother Nature in the form of a snake-infested and disease-riddled jungle.
Twins Johnie and Michael Baima played a crucial backup role with U.S. Special Forces trying to disrupt enemy supply lines and communications in what was known as Merrill’s Marauders.
And as they’d done their whole life, they did it together.
“We even slept in the same foxhole together, he slept there and I slept there,” said Johnie Baima, Congressional Gold Medal Recipient.
So how did these two brothers end up staying together during the war? Well, a family member says a Southeast Kansas judge intentionally stapled their applications together so they would always stay together.
Military practice at that time was to separate siblings so no family would suffer multiple deaths in the same theater of war.
Senator Jerry Moran personally handed a newly minted Congressional Gold Medal to Johnie, as well as his brother’s family.
“I think it was a great ceremony. I think it was a great honor to be here to see the gold medal given to John, my uncle. I wish my dad was here, he’s been gone right about a year ago today, so wish he would have been here for it,” said Michael Baima, Louie Baima’s Son.
In fact, Louie passed away the same day both families learned about the medal.
“The the story of the Baima brothers, the twin’s service in the Pacific, is an amazing one of struggle and being heroes, and we need, the country needs to see that there are people willing to do things that are more important than just themselves,” said Senator Moran.
Of the 3000 men who volunteered as Merrill’s Marauders, only 200 survived.
The medals were awarded at the PSU Veterans Memorial.