Three Merrill’s Marauders, 1944 survivors of the secret mission of almost 3,000 presidential volunteers who fought through the disease-ridden “forgotten theater” of World War II, the China-Burma-India Theater, have lived to the age of 101. Another made it to 100.

Living to be a centenarian is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is that those Infantry jungle fighters, who have been called everything from “misfits” to “magnificent,” weren’t even expected to survive.

“We were expendable,” said Merrill’s Marauder Sam V. Wilson, who turns 93 next month. The retired Army lieutenant-general, who helped start Delta Force and still contributes to military publications, explained, “A plan existed on paper to get us into Burma, but no plan existed to get us out.”

Yet those extraordinary volunteers achieved their final objective on May 17, 1944, of capturing north Burma’s only all-weather Myitkyina airstrip by defeating the much larger elite 18th Japanese Imperial Guards Division in five major battles and 30 minor engagements.