Fourth Marines Band: "Last China Band"
 

Additional Fourth Marines Band in China Photos and Information

 


U.S. Marines Arriving in Shanghai Aboard USS Chaumont, September 19, 1937


George Francis: Third from the Right

Fourth Marines Regimental Flag: "Old Blue"

U.S. Marines First Stationed in China, 1927
 
 

China Duty 1927 - 1941
 

The 4th Regiment of the United States Marine Corps received orders on January 28, 1927 to embark for expeditionary duty in the Far East. This was the beginning of a 15 year tenure in China, protecting lives and property of American citizens in the International Settlement of Shanghai. The 4th Regiment never had to draw their weapons although the Chinese Revolution and the second Sino-Japanese War were within miles of the International Settlement.

The 4th Regiment had been called for service to protect American lives and property because of the increasing political turmoil between Chiang Kai-shek's National forces and the Communists. By April of 1927, the crisis was over and Chiang Kai-shek's forces had control of Shanghai. The International Settlement was not involved in the conflict and the 4th Marines began to settle into their surroundings. The regiment changed its name on February 13, 1930, the regiment was officially designated the 4th Marines, a change which applied to all regiments in the Marine Corps.

Shanghai in 1842 was a sleepy provincial town, but the arrival of Europeans began a remarkable commercial boom. By 1927 the city had a population of about three million and it was the leading port of China. The International Settlement consisted of British, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch communities. France also had an independent concession just to the south of the Settlement.

British Band Members

Other nationalities included White Russians who had fled the Revolution in their country twenty years earlier and there was also a thriving community of Sikhs who had left India in the early thirties. Quite a few Sikhs joined the Shanghai International Police Force and these men and the 4th Marines helped each other out on numerous occasions. The International Defense Scheme, indented to protect the Settlement against Chinese attack, had been drawn up by the commanders of the British, American and Japanese garrisons at Shanghai.

"There were American citizens over there which we protected, but most of our duties were strictly guard. Standard Oil Company was over there and we used to guard them. Then we had our own areas that we to guard. We had to guard the hospital. The Navy Hospital. And so it was one day on and two days off. The first thing you do is buy a teakwood chest. Then you go down, you start buying this and buying that, whatever you could afford. The ivory was the most important thing that we could buy. It was real, real inexpensive there and you could buy like a Hamilton wrist watch was like a Rolex today. You could get that for less than a hundred dollars. Some silks, some kimonos, and just a little bit of everything that you could. You just kept packing it and packing it and hopefully we can get it home, you know. The 4th Marines had their our own club in town, and, of course, everybody would go to the club. If you would venture out to say, French town, there were several bars. Most of them went to what they call the Green Hall Bar. It was a popular place that everybody would go there. And it was just a regular beer place, you know. So everybody would get drunk as a hoot owl. The French police is the one that you really have to really be careful with, and if you got caught by the French police. They would throw you in their jail and it's like being thrown in jail in Mexico. You'd never get out of that place. Boy, it's terrible. So you had to really be on your toes." - Pete George

It was choice duty. Among other things, labor, women, jewelry and other items were available and cheap. Each squad could hire a Chinese man to do all the work. Clean the room, make the beds, do the laundry, shine shoes, and run errands. Billets and headquarters buildings were converted schools, office buildings, or private mansions, rented from their owners or the Shanghai Municipal Council. In April of 1938, the past members of the 4th Marines gave the present marines a club all to their own. On April 9th, the 4th Marines Club opened as the finest enlisted men's club in the world. The club included a Noncommissioned Officer's Bar, a Private's Bar, three lane bowling alley, billiards, gymnasium, library, restaurant, movie theater, a ballroom, dining and private rooms.

Imperial Japanese Army in Peking (Beijing), China - 1940

 
A new crisis began in September of 1931 when the invasion of Manchuria marked the beginning of the Imperial Japanese efforts to conquer China. The rise to power of Chiang Kai-shek worried the Japanese militarists, who realized that the Nationalist drive to the north as a threat to Japanese ambitions in Manchuria. Japan did not want a strong, unified China.

On September 18, 1931, following a "staged explosion" by Japan on the South Manchuria Railway, Japanese forces moved out from positions guarding the track to occupy the principal southern Manchurian cities. This invasion by Japan led a state of war between Japan and China and also permitted the Japanese militarists to take control of the Japanese government. On January 7, 1932, the United States stated it would not recognize Japan's Manchurian conquest. Japan's answer was to proclaim 'independence' of Manchukuo under the puppet emperor, Henry Pu Yi.

Stuck right in the middle of all this was the 4th Marines stationed in Shanghai at the International Settlement. The US was opposed to Japanese aggression against China, but our garrison at Shanghai was a partner of the Japanese and other powers in a plan to defend the International Settlement against the Chinese. There was no provision for dealing with a situation where one of the partners to the agreement attacked the Chinese. The Japanese agreed to withdraw from the International Settlement and the 4th Marines along with the British had no choice but to remain neutral in the eminent war for Shanghai.

The 4th Marines turned to strengthen their defenses along Soochow Creek to the north. On the other side of Soochow Creek was Chapei, the location of the battle between China and Japan. By February 7th, 1932 the entire 3 miles of front lines had been barb wired and sandbagged with machine guns ready. The battle for Chapei lasted until March 3rd and neither the Chinese nor the Japanese encroached on the International Settlement but from their front lines, the 4th Marines had grandstand seats for the war.

In 1937, the mascot of the 4th Marines arrived on the scene. Along the banks of Soochow Creek, a small and underfed puppy began to post guard along side other Marines. The men of the 4th Regiment began to help feed the lost puppy and it wasn't long before he was taken back to live with B Company. They named him Soochow and he became the mascot of the China Marines. He was outfitted with three different uniforms; greens, khakis and even dress blues. Soochow would hit the clubs and restaurants with his fellow marines and on many Saturday nights, Soochow could be seen riding in his own rickshaw back to his billet.

The second battle for Shanghai began on August 13th, 1937. Once again north of Soochow Creek, the Chinese and Japanese were locked in combat. Not until the final offensive launched by the hoarding Japanese Army in October did the Chinese retreat from Shanghai.

The withdrawal of the Chinese army from Shanghai left the International Settlement and the French Concession as two tiny islands of Western authority in a hostile Japanese sea. The Allied numbers were sparse compared to the Japanese army of 300,000, the British numbered 2,500 - French numbered 4,000 and the 4th Marines numbered around 1,000.

Yet with even these small numbers, the International Settlement continued business as usual. The Chinese post office, radio and telegraph offices, and central bank all continued to operate within the Settlement. The greedy Japanese were furious because they could not control these institutions nor lay their hands on the rich revenues. A new threat to the neutrality of the International Settlement came upon on August 10, 1940, when the British announced the withdrawal of all forces from Shanghai and North China. By the end of 1940, Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commander of the Asiatic Fleet, was convinced that war with Japan was inevitable. All but the 4th Marines and the Yangtze River Patrol gunboats had departed by early 1941.

Japan's war machine moved southward in April 1939 with the seizure of the Hainan Islands. That hostility combined with repeated bombings and other atrocities against civilians in China, led to the move of the United States Fleet from the West Coast to Pearl Harbor in May of 1940. Japanese occupation of northern Indochina in August and her alliance with Germany and Italy in the Tripartite Pact, on September 27th had resulted in war material restrictions and to strategic conversations among Americans, British, and Dutch concerning Pacific defense. When Japan completed their Indochina occupation in July 1941, President Roosevelt countered by freezing Japanese assets.

In Shanghai, the 4th Marines had been making plans in the event of hostilities breaking out. Colonel Peck prepared a desperate escape plan in case the Japanese attacked the International Settlement. Mounted in all available motor vehicles, the 4th Marines were to break through the roads blocks on the Settlement boundary and drive west towards territory controlled by Chiang Kai-shek. Peck intended to keep the 4th Marines together as a military force as long as possible. But, "when the regiment hit something it couldn't crack," the men were to be instructed to break into small groups and attempt to make their way as best they could to the nearest Nationalist-held territory and then to Chungking, some 900 miles away.

"The Japanese would just test you and see what you would do. They would come on into our settlement, and, of course, what we would do is just force them back out again. And I think two occasions we got into gunfire with them. It was not in our end of the field but First Battalion, they ran into it. They had a gun fight with the Japanese. Most of it, see, was down towards where the harbor was. The Japanese were down in there with their destroyers and light cruisers so they had a lot of run-ins down there. They thought that they could just come on in and do it, and, of course, we had orders that if they come into your sector, well, you're to put them out, or, if not, then you get into a gun fight with them so that happened a few times. The Japanese would capture the Chinese people and would execute them every other day at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. These were the Communist Chinese. Now, Chiang Kai-shek was down in Chungking, but it was the communist regime that actually took over China. It was Mao and his group that we would catch and then turn them over to the Japanese. We watched a lot of killings over there." - Pete George

The summer months passed with only minor skirmishes and Colonel Samuel L. Howard, commanding officer since May 14, 1941, gained permission for withdrawal of the regiment in early November. The liners President Harrison and President Madison were charted for this purpose.

Thousands of cheering people waving Chinese and American flags lined the streets to see the regiment, which had played such an intimate part in community life for over 14 years, parade through the Settlement for the last time. At the dock, members of the Municipal Council, the foreign consuls and diplomatic representatives, the commanding officers of all military units, including the Japanese, and the heads of many civic organizations gathered to bid the Marines farewell. The 4th Marines including Soochow were finished with Shanghai, their ships bound for the Philippines.


Shanghai Race Course and Park Hotel, Location of Grand Theater Sunday Concerts



 

Fourth Marines Club - Shanghai, China
 
Please Click Here for 1939 Regulations of Fourth Marines Club
 
Please Click Here for Other Fourth Marines Regiment Related Publications


Catherine and Master Sergeant August "Gus" Olaquez, Band Master


Commander of Japanese Guard in Shanghai Bids Farwell to Col Samuel L. Howard and the 4th Marines Regiment, November 28, 1941

 
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