Skip Navigation
West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial


Charles Albert Bias Jr.

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Winston Churchill

Charles Albert Bias Jr. was born to Charles A. Bias (known as Albert) and Minnie Caldwell Bias in Meadowbrook, Harrison County, West Virginia, on October 5, 1919. The 1920 Federal Census shows the family living in Harrison County, with children Raymond, Alma, Roger, Savanna, and Charles. Mr. Bias was a laborer in a chemical company. In 1930, the census shows that Mr. Bias had a different wife, named Columbia. Minnie Bias had died in December 1925 at the age of 42 with multiple contributions to her poor health. Raymond, Alma, Roger, Savanna, and Charles were still living at home. Mr. Bias was still a worker in a chemical company, and son Raymond was working as a bricklayer's helper. Further research in the West Virginia Archives vital records show that Mr. Bias wed Columbia Morris in Huntington on July 9, 1928. He, at the age of 45, and she, at the age of 62.

Albert Bias died on January 4, 1931. Death records show he was crushed by a streetcar in Ziesing, Harrison County.

In October 1940, Charles Bias registered for military service. According to the Selective Service registration card, he was living in Spelter and working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, Company 3527, in Morgantown. He registered in Morgantown and indicated that his brother Raymond would always know his address. Though the 1940 census does not show it, a death notice for Charles Bias (Clarksburg Exponent, April 27, 1944) states that he made his home with Raymond. Raymond Bias's family in 1940 included his wife and four children. The obituary also states that he worked for the DuPont plant in Ziesing.

Charles Bias enlisted in in the U.S. Army in Clarksburg on June 20, 1941. According to U.S. WWII Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, he'd had a year of high school and was a skilled mechanic or repairman. He was single and without dependents. He trained in Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Camp Carson, Colorado; and Fort Lewis, Washington.

Also, from his death notice, Charles Bias was overseas, in the military, since December 1942, serving in the New Guinea theater, and later in India and Burma.

No records show when Charles Bias became a member of the 5307th Composite Unit (codename: "Galahad," but it appears at some point he joined the famed unit known as "Merrill's Marauders." The nickname was based on the commanding officer's last name, Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill. The unit had the challenging job of freeing the Burma Road from Japanese control. The road had been used as a transportation route between India and China. Through this mountainous and harsh terrain, the Allies supported China with supplies and communications. The road was the southern route out of China. With the loss of control of the road and Burma, the United States was forced to make supply runs by air. This was a costly and not wholly successful plan. From the biography on this site originally developed for Carl Smith of Tyler County, who lost his life as an aerial engineer, in India:

The Army Air Corps was in India during WW2 to move supplies into China and support actions there. An overland route, called the Burma Road, was lost to Japanese control 1942, and thereafter, flying supplies from India to China was the primary way of accomplishing this task. Common reference to this action was called "Flying the Hump," a reference to the flight over mountains in the Himalayan range. The altitudes varied between 12,000 mean sea level (MSL) and 20,000 MSL. ("Flying the Hump: History," China-Burma-India Hump Pilot Association, accessed 5 May 2019,

The weather in the mountains could deteriorate very quickly and become extremely dangerous, but the pilots were expected to fulfill their missions, despite the high hazard. Airplane maintenance was a serious problem due to parts shortages, also according to the China-Burma-India Hump Pilots Association website article on the operation's history.

According to the Lyon Air Museum website, in an article entitled "Flying the Hump During World War II,"

As a logistics operation, Hump flights were a failure. The cost in aircraft and crews was enormous. Loss estimates vary between 468 and 600 plus airplanes (the AAF did not record every crash), but the more probable estimate is 590 aircraft lost along with 1,314 crewmen. Some 1,171 men who survived crash landings and bailouts walked out to safety; 345 men were declared missing. (Accessed 5 May 2019,

It was a necessity for the Allies to regain control of northern Burma and clear a path to the Burma Road from the Ledo airstrip and reach Myitkyina. Merrill's Marauders assembled and trained as a deep penetration, light infantry unit for special operations. Their theater would be harsh terrain and jungles, from February through May 1944; their allies were the Chinese 22nd and 38th Divisions, Burmese, Indian, and British forces; and their enemy was the Japanese 18th Division. (U.S. Army, Center of Military History, "Introduction," Merrill's Marauders [Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990, first printed 1945], accessed 13 September 2019,

The Marauders consisted of only 2,997 officers and men. Their goal seemed impossible in the face of an experienced enemy, in conditions made harsh by elevation, steep mountain routes, remoteness, unpredictable weather, rivers, and jungle diseases. The fights to accomplish their mission might be called "legendary" based on the movies; numbers of books; and documentaries, professional and amateur, that appear on various websites documenting and attempting to explain how seemingly impossible and terrifying the situation really was. After all, when the goal is to build a road through enemy territory and take control of a road, the enemy has quite a good idea of where the troops will be, which is in the vicinity of the road. The Marauders were being supplied through air drops, and planes came and went to evacuate the wounded, ill, and dead. The element of surprise is right away lost. The best the unit could hope for was secrecy of strategy and capability.

The 5307th was comprised of troops who were already experienced, but approximately 3,000 American soldiers answered the call from President Roosevelt for volunteers for "a dangerous and hazardous mission."

From the unit history:

The Unit was officially designated as the "5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)" Code Name: "GALAHAD", later it became popularly known as "MERRILL'S MARAUDERS" named after its leader, Brigadier General Frank Merrill. Formed into six combat teams (400 per team), color-coded Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange and Khaki, two teams to a Battalion, the rest formed the H.Q. and Air Transport Commands. ("Merrill's Marauders, 5307 Composite Unit [Provisional]: Unit History," accessed 13 September 2019,

The new unit was sent to India, all having disembarked by October 31, 1943, where they underwent long-range penetration tactics training. Three weeks later, they moved, this time to an area to undergo training for jungle operations. Most likely Charles Bias was there, as it seems safe to assume that he moved with the rest of the unit during training and outfitting. Records show his eventual reckoning as a member of Company I, 3rd Battalion, Orange Team, of the Marauders. ("Bias, Charles Albert, PFC," Together We Served, accessed 13 September 2019,

The fourth of the five major battles in which the Marauders fought February through May was for Nhpum Ga, an inhabited area on a hilltop in Burma, and was won, but the unit lost 57 men, and 302 were wounded.

One of those to lose his life in the Marauder's operations was Pfc. Charles Bias. In his diary of April 7 through 14, T/Sgt. James McGuire wrote, "I hope this is over with quick" as he catalogued the numbers killed and wounded on the drive to Nhpum Ga.

The Merrill's Marauders newsletter, called The Burman News, was established to keep a connection among members of the unit, announce reunions, share photos, and recount their stories of war. A letter to the editor in the February 1994 issue carries the story of how Pfc. Bias died. The description satisfies why some sources claim that Charles Bias was killed in action while others say he died of wounds. According to the writers, Joe and Avis Stein, Philip Olsen, whose account was a basis for their letter, Charlies Bias was wounded by artillery fire and died an hour later on the trail to Nhpum Ga. (Official Publication of Merrill's Marauders Association, Inc., accessed 20 September 2019,

According to the Center of Military History's Merrill's Marauders, more than the number dead and wounded combined were those removed due to illnesses, such as amoebic dysentery and malaria. Because the Marauders were under siege during most of this time, their supplies ran low, especially water, and many drank from swampy water whose source ran through an area known for decaying corpses of the enemy and animals. There aren't words to describe how dire the circumstances were, and out of this desperation was hatched a final attempt to break the siege that ultimately worked but resulted in terrible losses, including that of Pfc. Bias.

During the campaign that ran from 24 February through 3 August 1944, the Marauders took part in five major battles and 30 minor engagements. The last major battle, at Myitkyina Airfield, was after four months of marching and combat in the Burmese jungles. The battle for the airfield and the town were the last for Merrill's Marauders. The unit was disbanded not long after.

The Marauders covered 1,000 miles of jungle, carrying their equipment or packing it out on mules, accepting resupplies by air drop. It was an extraordinary operation, conducted in terrible conditions, against a more experienced and numerous enemy. Those who survived suffered from disease, exhaustion, and malnutrition, and many had, in addition to these, battle injuries. By the time they reached Myitkyina, fewer than 500 were well enough to fight. After the town of Myitkyina was taken, there were only two men of the original 2,997 that had not been hospitalized; only 130 were capable of combat.

The experiences of the unit were the basis of the movie Merrill's Marauders. General Merrill also perished, before the end of the Marauders' campaign. He suffered a second heart attack before succumbing to malaria. An inspector general investigation was conducted on the medical evacuation policies, resulting in what is said to have been a "scathing report." Much would be learned about co-mingling troops of different cultures and the importance of controlling disease and keeping up calorie consumption in remote jungle locations.

Additionally, 17,000 mules and pack ponies were lost. (Jonas Goldstein, "The Burma Campaign during World War II: Seizing Imphal and Kohima," accessed 20 September 2019, This article first appeared in the November 2001 issue of World War II magazine.)


Headstone for Pfc. Charles Albert Bias in Bridgeport Cemetery. Courtesy Cynthia Mullens

The awards issued to the unit included the Distinguished Unit Citation, and all members received the Bronze Star. To individuals also went six Distinguished Service Crosses, four Legions of Merit, and 44 Silver Stars. Charles Bias's military headstone, located in Bridgeport Cemetery, shows that he received a Purple Heart.

Article prepared by Cynthia Mullens
September 2019


Charles Albert Bias Jr.

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

Veterans Memorial Database

West Virginia Veterans Memorial

West Virginia Archives and History

West Virginia Archives and History