U.S. Marines in China – Part IV – conclusion

By early 1947, it was clear that General Marshall’s effort to reconcile the Nationalists and communists was an utter failure. As a result, President Truman ordered all U.S. military home, but the disengagement was going to be a long and tedious one. Units were shifted around and finally withdrawn. It was clear that Chiang’s government was going to fall.

The last and greatest clash between American Marines and the Chinese communists took place the night of April 4-5, 1947. Mao’s forces, now dubbed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), attacked an ammunition dump at Hsin Ho that was guarded by Marines. The Americans were heavily outnumbered; the attacking force was estimated at about 350 men.

The night’s quiet was broken by the shrill notes of a Chinese bugle call. It was the PLA’s style to blow bugles when launching an offensive. This same technique would be used later in the Korean War. Five Marines were killed in the initial assault, and the rest were hard pressed to keep the enemy at bay. The PLA commander had anticipated that American reinforcements would be sent, so he placed a mine in the road where relief would be expected at any moment.

The bodies of two dead communist soldiers killed in a skirmish at Hsin Ho in April 1947 attest to the ferocity of such incidents.

Sure enough, a truck bearing a relief force made its way up the road and promptly hit the mine. The relief men jumped off the truck, and a sharp firefight ensued. The issue was in doubt several times, but the Marines finally gained the upper hand. Once again communist forces broke off the action and faded into the darkness. The enemy did manage to make off with some ammunition boxes, which seemed to be one of their main goals in the raid.

Private Stevens also had his share of adventure. He joined a small mission—only a handful of Marines—to try and rescue some nuns and Chinese orphan children in a remote place called Loh Shan. The mission failed because the nuns refused to leave. But worse was to follow. Stevens and his party were captured by bandits. All were executed, but Stevens was spared apparently because he knew Chinese.

Stevens was promptly turned over to a communist officer from the 8th Route Army. He became a prisoner with a Chinese character tattoo ID inked on his arm. Before long he found himself in a work gang on a coal storage island. The prisoners’ main job was to shovel coal to flat-bottomed boats moored along the shore.

“Mao was preparing for a major naval assault against the Nationalists,” Stevens says today, “and his ships needed coal to run their steam engines.” It was backbreaking work, but luckily he was transferred to help fishermen work their nets. He had to escape, had to get back to his unit. After some careful deliberation, he hatched an acceptable if risky plan. He would skull out in a small boat, pretending to check the nets that were farthest out.

Once in position, he would dive into the water and hopefully get picked up by a passing junk. It all unfolded as planned, except the water proved bitterly cold.  A junk did indeed pick him up, and friendly Chinese crewmen pulled him out of the water half dead with cold. Later, the junk was intercepted by a U.S. destroyer. He was free!

In November 1948, the U.S. embassy issued a statement that declared any American citizen “who does not wish to remain in North China should plan to leave at once by United States Naval vessel at Tientsin.” By the end of the month, consular personnel, the remaining American civilians, and military dependents were being shipped out. The American presence in China, which dated to the first Yankee traders who sailed to Canton in the 1780s, was coming to an abrupt end. There would be no more contact with China until President Richard Nixon’s visit in 1972.

By the spring of 1949, the total withdrawal of American military forces was almost complete. In February of that year, the U.S. Marine Corps Air Facility at Tsingtao was disbanded. All the ground equipment was removed, and the planes of fighter squadron VMF-211 took off for their new home, the escort carrier Rendova. On May 25, 1949, Company C/ 7th Marines, the last remaining American unit on Chinese soil, departed Tsingtao.  It was truly the end of an era.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

“ONE OF THESE DAYS THEY’RE NOT GOING TO FINISH ON TIME.”

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Farewell Salutes – 

Jack Burnett – Seattle, WA; US Army, Korea, 1st Calvary Division

Charles Clement – Redmond, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Company B/511/11th Airborne Division

Josephine Hopp – North Olmstead, OH; US Army Air Corps WAC, WWII, Medical Tech.

Louie Jordon – Saratoga Springs, NY; US Navy, WWII, PTO, SeaBee, USS Unimak (seaplane tender)

Paul Kelley – Evansville, IN; US Army, WWII, PTO, TSgt., Signal Corps

Leo Maroney – Kansas City, KS; USMC, WWII, 3/1st Marine Division

Robert Paynter – Mineral Point, WI; US Army, WWII, 139 Engineers/17th Airborne Division

Thomas Peatross – Mechanicville, VA, US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Cpl., 320 Bomb Group

Myron Stone – Orem, UT; US Army, Vietnam, 101st Airborne Division

John Tort Sr. – Newark, NJ; US Merchant Marines, WWII

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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 August 1, 2019, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 86 Comments.

  1. Informative post gp,enjoyed the story on Private Stevens, a very enterprising plan that came to fruition successfully. Have to admire all those who endeavored to escape throughout the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Always interesting to read your nuggets, and learn some more about the world we live in. Amazes me how many conflicts and struggles are on in the world at any given point of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a very interesting post

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you for the history lesson Sir, I enjoyed it. I am going to reblog this one for you.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Good series, G. I didn’t know of the post war effort by the marines in China. –Curt

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Stevens was a very, very lucky man to have survived all this to tell the story!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Stevens survived all this hardship so he could tell the story of what really happened. The memories would always be lingering in his mind.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. It’s odd, really — Nixon going to China was such a big event when it happened, and yet I knew so little of why China was closed to us. The end of the war there and that interim period have been a blank slate in my mind, so this really has been an interesting series.

    Here’s an interesting tidbit. When I was in high school, I was on the debate team, and as I recall it, some national board chose the topics each year. I can’t remember whether it was 1963 or 1964, but I do remember that one year our topic was “RESOLVED: That Red China should be admitted to the United Nations.” I guess that question’s not up for debate any more.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I was just saying the same thing to another reader. China sealed itself off just before I was born and I know when Nixon went to visit them, I had no idea why. We went in ’45 just to repatriate the Japanese – how everything went so wrong had to be a political decision.
      That question about Red China and the UN, I do recall being a topic of conversation back then. What answers did your debate come up with?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can’t remember. I do remember that we were expected to debate both sides of any issue, which was a great way to really learn. Wouldn’t it be interesting if all of our presidential candidates were made to debate both sides of the issues they promote?

        Liked by 3 people

        • hahaha, maybe if any of them figured out WHAT they promote. Watching the debates and really listening to what they say – I’ve never heard such dribble. So history is repeating itself. Instead of smear campaigns, I just want to hear their slate and how they propose to carry them out. It could be so simple.

          Liked by 2 people

  9. An excellent series. Reading your posts is always an education for me…thankful for his escape.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. You’ve taken a story that is difficult to present and brought it to life, GP. Real life is truly extraordinary. TGIF hugs!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. “the end of an era” for some, and the beginning of a nightmare for the Chinese people which is still going on, via Tiananmen Square and now in Hong Kong. Four excellent pieces of writing which must have done a lot to recall the contributions of some long forgotten heroes.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What an interesting series- love how much I learn from these posts! It’s so important to remember the sacrifices, even after the war was “over.”
    Whew- good on Stevens for being able to escape!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. That cartoon … Seabees at the sharp end and incoming plane astern … genius!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. An excellent series. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you for this history lesson, GP! Very interesting, and Private Stevens action unbelievable too. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  16. That was a super series, giving a picture of a period rarely featuring in the histories of the post war period.
    I hope you are feeling better now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Helen, on both counts. I am glad I was able to bring these men some recognition.
      I just have some lingering weak affects, but otherwise I’m pretty good – thanks for asking!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This has been a great series GP. You filled a gap in my understanding of the aftermath of WWII. I also have a better understanding of the significance of that visit in 1972. Thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. What an adventure it was even after WW2 in post-War china…

    Liked by 2 people

  19. What a great series! I learned a lot about US in China. Good for Private Stevens to escape! Was there a story similar to that where the natives helped the Americans escape on their little boat? I think it was Parsons in the PI.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. It was a very good series, GP. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. The end in Asia. My family will always wonder why in the 1960s my uncle was sent somewhere in South America, only to vanish, be proclaimed dead by the Army.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Communists cannot and will not be reconciled with anything but their own idea of communism, and the ideas vary. When China broke away from the USSR, Mao labeled the Soviet Communist party “revisionist.” There was a rumor, though, that initially Mao and Chiang were allies, but they had belonged to different “tongs” (families akin to Sicilian “families”), and that was what actually caused the rift. No reliable sources, only rumors.
    Thank you for a valuable history lesson, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. I’m glad Stevens survived. What became of him?

    Hope you’re feeling better from last week! 🤗🌺

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Good conclusion, and good story if the soldier’s escape. We are clever and brave.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Gave a good look into a time not really referenced in the history books. Thanks so much for the series. I learned a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. A satisfying conclusion to this series. Glad to hear the Stephens escaped successfully. I love these cartoons. Looking forward to whatever saga you come up with next, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. So sad that US soldiers were being killed in this civil war so long after WW2 had ended. Stevens did well with his brave escape though. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Private Stevens was brave and wily!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Another “What if” in history: What if President Truman reinforced the American presence in China rather than withdrew?

    Question: When are you going to compile all of these historical notes in a book form? Ha ha ha just asking.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The US against China probably would have created another world war and the world was not in position to handle it.
      I wouldn’t have the time to accumulate the number of resources and references I use. It would be beyond me, I’m afraid.

      Liked by 3 people

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