The U.S. Marine Corps in China – part I

Marines in China

On September 2, 1945, Japanese representatives boarded the battleship USS Missouri. World War II had been brought to a swift conclusion. To the men of the III Marine Amphibious Corps (IIIAC), already training for the proposed invasion of Japan, this was welcome news indeed.

The leathernecks knew that an invasion of the Japanese home islands would have been bloody.  Now the nightmare seemed over, and the Marines looked forward to returning to the States.

But instead of going home, the IIIAC Marines found that they were going to be sent to China instead. This was a bitter disappointment for many, but some actually looked forward to an adventure in the Far East. Private Harold Stevens of the 29th Marines was thrilled that he was not going back to his family’s farm in Pennsylvania. He was only 19 but was already a veteran of the bloody battles that secured Okinawa.

To many Americans of Stevens’ generation, China was still the land of mystery and romance, of exotic sights and beautiful women. It was a place that had enthralled Marco Polo. Now Stevens, a farm boy, was about to be sent there. He could hardly believe his good fortune.

Chiang Kai shek

The story of the postwar Marine involvement in China is interesting but anything but romantic. It began when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, leader of China during World War II, requested American help in securing northern China. There were more than two million Japanese there who had to be repatriated to Japan, including a substantial number of soldiers. But Chiang was also thinking of his chief rival, Communist leader Mao Zedong. The communists were particularly strong in the north. With American help, directly or indirectly, Chiang hoped to seize the important cities of northern China before the communists could gain control.

While the U.S government did help transport Chiang’s Nationalist troops to various locations, in general the American military was to maintain strict neutrality. In October 1945, the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force airlifted 50,000 men of the 92nd and 94th Chinese Nationalist Armies to Peiping (Beijing) and other key strategic points. While “cooperating” with Chiang and the Nationalists, the Americans thought they could bring about a permanent peace in China.

In fact, on November 1945, President Harry Truman appointed Gen. George C. Marshal as a special representative to mediate the differences between the communists and Nationalists. Truman felt it was in the most “vital interest” of the United States and all the United Nations that the people of China overlook no opportunity to adjust their internal differences promptly through peaceful negotiation.

Gen. George C. Marshall

American foreign policy over the last 70 years has often been based on naïve thinking and well-meaning blundering. There is an underlying assumption that Americans have the “know how” to solve the insoluble. Deep cultural, religious, ethnic, and political differences are all too often downplayed or ignored in favor of an optimism that is almost always misplaced.

Such was the case in Vietnam, and such was the case in China from 1945-1949. The Truman administration was certain that General Marshall could negotiate a lasting peace between the bitterest of enemies, foes who mistrusted each other and who were stalling for time to gain a decisive advantage over their rivals. As a result, the Marine IIIAC was left “holding the bag,” trying to maintain a precarious neutrality in the face of a swiftly deteriorating situation.

A pair of communist soldiers read a broadside describing a plan for reconciliation in post-World War II China that has been put forward by General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff.

In fairness, there were some “Old China hands” in the State Department who recognized that the Chinese government was riddled with corruption and warned the Truman administration accordingly. They were ignored. Though Chiang was no “prize,” he was anti-communist, and that’s all that seemed to matter. The Cold War was starting and with it a new “Red Scare” that communism would spread throughout the world.

The Marine IIIAC Corps headquarters together with the 1st Marine Division would occupy positions in and around Tangku, Tientsin, Peiping, and Chingwangtao in Hopeh Province. Air Support would be provided by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing flying Grumman F7F Tigercats and other planes. The airmen would be stationed at airfields in the Tsingtao, Tientsin, and Peiping areas.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

It’s his discharge papers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ernest Bernard – Ackley, IA; US Navy, WWII

“THE LAST TRIP”

Walter Brown Jr. – Chicago, IL; US Navy, WWII

Adam Cho – Honolulu, HI; US Army, WWII & Korea

Leonard Gustafson – Columbia, SD; US Army Air Corps, WWII / US Coast Guard

Charles Hasper – Denver, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 tail gunner

Jerry Kaschak – Castle Shannon, PA; US Army, WWII, ETO

Robert Parker – MA; US Army, WWII, APO

Howard Reynolds – Fort Worth, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Recon/11th Airborne Division

Herman ‘Bud’ Schwabl – Canandaigua, NY; USMC, WWII

Douglas Willson – Markham, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, # 10 Squadron

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Personal Comment –

I have been under the weather, so please bear with me as I am trying to continue my on-line presence as usual as possible.  I seem to have had the need to become quite acquainted with my couch.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 22, 2019, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 150 Comments.

  1. I was told my father spent some time in China recuperating from a bayonet wound.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Best wishes, get well soon.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. This is most interesting considering the repositioning of China and Japan today.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Hope you return to being your usual self soon GP. I’d forgotten your troops had been in China, sadly short lived as the result went with Mao. One theory we were grappling with in my studies was the theory that the nationalist forces planned and killed off some of the communist leadership, but missed the younger ones, leaving a revitalised and youthful leadership to push on. The theory being that had they assassinated the younger ones the outcome of the civil war may have been different. We’ll never know.

    Liked by 4 people

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