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

China 1945

In the meantime, the 29th Marine Regiment, 6th Division was supposed to have landed at Chefoo, but plans had to be changed. The communists had already seized the city, and they were extremely uncooperative. And so it was that young private Stevens and the 29th Marines found themselves at Tsingtao (now Qingdao), a port on China’s Yellow Sea coast.

In the early afternoon of October 11, 1945, the first Marines landed at Tsingtao. When the main body arrived on October 15, they were given a tumultuous welcome by the Chinese population. Private Stevens tried to learn a few words of Chinese on the trip. When Colonel Roston, the battalion commander, heard that Stevens “knew Chinese”—a great exaggeration —he appointed the young leatherneck as official interpreter. Stevens did his best, even though all he knew were a few stock phrases like, “Do you have your own rice bowl?”

Marines in China

Tsingtao was a fascinating city, but some aspects took some getting used to. Ragged beggars swarmed through the streets, a number that included many impoverished children. In fact, Private Stevens’ own outfit, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 29th Marines, unofficially adopted a little Chinese beggar who they nicknamed “Little Lew.” He was cleaned, fed, and dressed in cut-down Marine uniform items.

But elsewhere in China the news was not so heartwarming. Chiang had made a major tactical mistake that would ultimately cause his regime to collapse. The generalissimo concentrated on winning back Manchuria, in the process withdrawing many of his troops from northern China. This created a power vacuum that the communist Chinese were all too happy to fill. Tsingtao became a Nationalist “island” in a communist-dominated Shantung Province “sea.”

Even in Hubei Province the communists were suspicious and generally uncooperative. Marine Brig. Gen. William Worton had a meeting with Zhou En-lai, later famous as Mao’s right hand man and foreign minister for the People’s Republic of China. Zhou was a brilliant diplomat, and he made it clear that the communists would fight hard to prevent the Marines from entering Peiping.

Worton was not intimidated, even after a stormy hour with Zhou. He pointed out that the IIIAC was a battle-hardened unit with superior air power support. He was not looking for trouble, but his Marines could push through any opposition if they had to. Zhou En-lai had met his match, and he withdrew after insisting he would have Marine orders “changed.” The Marines arrived in Peiping without major incident.

American Marines armed with a Browning .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun and other light weapons pose during efforts to evacuate former Japanese Army personnel after their surrender in China following World War II.

The formal surrender of the 10,000-man Tsingtao Japanese garrison took place on October 25, 1945. The whole Marine 6th Division was on hand for the ceremony, conducted by division commander Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepard and Chinese Nationalist General Chen Chao-Tsang. However, some Japanese troops were still needed to help keep the major rail lines open in Shantung. There were not enough Marines or Nationalist troops to guard all the railroads.

Even so, Marines often found themselves in the role of train guards, one of the most dangerous assignments in China. Winters were bitterly cold in China, and the great city of Shanghai, a metropolis of three million souls, needed a constant stream of northern coal to keep it going. Shanghai needed 100,000 tons of coal a month, so Marine riflemen, shivering from the icy blasts than swept in from the Gobi Desert, stood guard to keep the trains running. 

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Jacob Alphen – Green Valley, AZ; US Navy, WWII

Gerald Bruno – North Andover, MA; US Army, Korea, 82nd Airborne Division

Greg Farison – Columbia, SC; US Army, Vietnam, 1st Cavalry Division

John Gill – Huron, OH; US Navy, WWII & Korea, Lt. Commander

Charles Jackson – Camillus, NY; Merchant Marines, WWII / US Army, Korea

Cecilia Krulikowski – Yeadon, PA; US Army WAC, WWII, Medical Tech, ETO

Ervin Licko – Chicago, IL; USMC, WWII & Korea

Ian Michie – Toronto, CAN; RC Navy, WWII & Korea

Allen Penrod – Dunmor, KY; US Air Force, WWII, Korea & Vietnam, CMSgt. (Ret. 29 y.)

Richard Wenneson – Fredericksburg, VA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. C/511/11th Airborne Division

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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 25, 2019, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 103 Comments.

  1. Thank you for the history, GP! My Dad had picked up a pet monkey during the war, which he was not allowed to bring back stateside. Might have been in China when he was there for a little while.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fascinating and not very well known piece of history – thank you for educating me, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed learning about WWII and China. I know so little about what happened in this area.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It always amazes me the extreme sacrifice that our armed forces have undergone over the years. Thanks for all the insights.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have the histories of the USMC and the Army, (haven’t gotten to the Navy just yet), and when you go back to the beginning and read coming forward in time to the present – it is mind-blowing!! The more I learn, the more respect I have.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. GP: I wanted to let you know…I got this e-mail from Brian’s (LordBeariOfBow) daughter Sarah:

    “Dad is still in hospital. Very frail. Had an operation yesterday to put a stent in his valve. They said it went well. He has a scan on Monday to check.
    He will appreciate every ones thoughts – thank you for checking on him and sending love and best wishes. I will pass them on.
    He is looking forward to writing a blog about his admission.”

    (((HUGS)))

    Liked by 2 people

    • I told you he was tough! Please thank Sarah for me for giving you the information. The old guy is still a hoot and we need his sort around.
      Thank you very much for coming by to let me know of Beari’s condition. (I realize his name is Brian, but he asked me a long time ago to not use it.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Do you have your own rice bowl?” That made me chuckle, GP. Although I realize it’s a rather sad commentary that such a question would be a stock phrase.
    This is a marvelous post. I love the perspective you give these tellings. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When he see these accounts it just makes you wonder what the actual strategic thinking was. How could this be the best call.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The original idea was to simple repatriate the Japanese that were still in China. D.C. never listened to the military warning them about the chaos that could erupt area, including Indochina and Korea.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Standing in the freezing cold guarding the trains would have led me to borrowing some of the coal the trains carried, G. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Excellent post, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. ´”non cooperative communists”.Tthis way a wonderful paraphrase. Lol Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Zhou En-lai was a very powerful man, surprises me he capitulated to Brig. Gen. William Worton. Zhou En-lai went on to play big roles in South East Asia long years past the second world war.
    Interesting post gp.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Fascinating reading GP. There’s clearly more to being a marine then we think!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Although the Americans were never going to back the communists, Chiang wasn’t a great bet to support. Too much corruption.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I had a friend who fought in Korea and you are not wrong about the cold winters in that area!And how foolish Zhou En-lai was to think he could stop the US Marines!
    I pity poor Private Stevens who was foolish enough to say that he “knew Chinese”. I made the same mistake a couple of times, saying that I could understand Russian. Nobody ever understands that just knowing “Two beers” and a few simple sentences is not really enough to negotiate a peace treaty or to buy a 30% share in a multi national company.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. It surprised me that our Marines were guarding Chinese trains so their people could have coal. Also, enjoy hearing how they adopted Little Lew. The Marines were spreading a little kindness in the world at a very difficult time in history.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. More and more, I’m realizing how little I know of Chinese history. I know something of the ancient dynasties, and of course some modern history, but this whole period around the World Wars is like a blank slate.

    I noticed something today about the Farewell Salutes that hadn’t caught my attention. I always read the names, of course but today I realized how interesting the town names are, too. The lists are full of towns I’ve never heard of: all of those tiny villages and towns that are mostly unknown to the rest of the country. It’s good to have them highlighted, too — they gave up their boys to these wars, as well as the families.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve noticed I do that as I collect them. I imagine that some are from a small farm in the Mid-west or ranch in the south. Perhaps a tenement in the Bronx and did he decide to go back to the same area. Did seeing CA give them an urge for sand and surf? So on and so on.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. There’s much we don’t know, are never told, and most likely shall never know. (But a good cartoon speaks volumes~!)

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Odd, but we don’t think about things that happened beyond certain dates. What’s amazing is after you win a war, there’s such a thing as winning the peace. No one seems to do a good job of that.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Sure gives a good look at what was going on there.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Fascinating, GP. I know little about this part of WWII. Thanks for the story.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Most people don’t, Cindy. The war was finally over – who wanted to hear it. And in schools, we had won, so why bother to teach these episodes? Thanks for reading the first parts!

      Liked by 2 people

  21. Very interesting. I know so little about this time in Chinese history.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Guarding trains doesn’t sound a good post for a marine. Bet they were not best pleased.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Love the encounter between Worton and Zhou En-Lai!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Great post. That’s a part of U.S. military history that always intrigued me, but many Americans seem to know little about. While not the same story, one of my favorite John Wayne movies was Flying Tigers about the same period.

    It is really a shame as well, because the communist take over of China destroyed so much of a rich and amazing culture.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Recently my husband and I visited the Naval and Military Park here and the feeling that I got while standing gawking I could relate to this post. I really want to thank you for documenting history here. So many died in the past wars and it is up to us to remember them. You must spend a lot of time researching. My hat is off to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I hope that you are feeling better

    Liked by 2 people

  27. So interesting o read more about the varied role of the US army in China. It’s easy to forget that so many soldiers were already back at home, whilst these men had to continue their duties.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Hope you’re feeling better GP. This is fascinating. Glad a Marine Corps general was a match for Zhou En-Lai. The poor private who became the unit translator demonstrates that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Glad his bits of Chinese were not of the boudoir variety.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. The story of US Army in China was completely not known to me. The fight in Pacific, Japan, etc. I was aware of but your articles fill important gap in my history knowledge 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I didn’t realize we had servicemen in China. Wow, my understanding of this war is improving. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

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