Fourth Marines Band: "Last China Band"

 

THE LAST CHINA BAND

An account of the 4th Marines Band of the Fourth Marine Regiment during the final days it served in China and before being surrendered to the Japanese at the fall of Corregidor Island, 6 May 1942.
By:
Master Sergeant Donald LeRoy Versaw, United States Marine Corps / Retired

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction
Acknowledgements & Dedication
 
CHAPTER ONE - China Duty Page 1
CHAPTER TWO - The “Clouds of War” Page 7
CHAPTER THREE - In the Philippines Page 21
CHAPTER FOUR - On Corregidor Page 31
CHAPTER FIVE - The Battle is Over Page 41
Roster of 4th Marines Band Musicians / 1940 - 1941
About the Author
 

Outdoor Marine Band Concert at the Peking (Beijing) Legation, Summer 1941

 

INTRODUCTION

My comrades of the Marine Corps Musicians Association prompted me to write this story. It first appeared in our newsletter. It was apparent that the story of the only band in Marine Corps History to be given over to an enemy in war time, needed to be told.

There were few field bands just prior to World War II. The Marine Corps was then smaller than the New York Police Force. Marine Corps musicians were a highly specialized group. Many of the veteran musicians served with one another in most of the posts and stations where a band was authorized. New recruits soon learned about old timers no matter where they were stationed. It is amazing that the fate of our comrades of the Fourth Marines is still of interest to Marine musicians now as well as many other friends of our Corps. It has been almost sixty years since the band sounded its last note and went into history as a rifle platoon. Of the forty eight members who then made up the band for its concerts and for parades and ceremonies, only eight are living at the time of this edition. This is our story.

After the war Marine musicians returned to China in other bands. But, the account here is about those of us who left that exciting Asiatic duty station just days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, and were also attacked the very same day. The musicians were the remaining members of two bands serving there at the beginning of the 40’s The Peking Legation Guard Band and The Fourth Marines Band. The two groups had been combined at Shanghai for a time before the order came to evacuate all forces from China. The Fourth Marines were taken to the Philippines, part to the Naval Station at Cavite and part, including the band, to Olongapo. Less than two weeks later at the advent of World War II, it was integrated into regiment’s Second Battalion as a platoon of infantry riflemen. Scattered throughout the Fourth were many Field Musics; buglers and drummers, that performed with the band parades and ceremonies. While not organic to the band, “musics” as they were called were historically distinctive, connected to the band and were considered part of it. A number of former bandsmen were still serving in other regimental components also but, like there are no ex-marines, there are no exbandsmen either. A special camaraderie still survives among all Marines who served for a time as musicians in the Corps.

When the Philippines were overrun in the first months of World War II, all the bandsmen save one, a lone bugler who was killed in battle, became prisoners of war of the Japanese and another battle, even more terrible began. It is in fond memory of them that this is written.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Among the many that helped me greatly I am pleased to thank them once again. They are the late George Francis with his insistent urging; Jim Beebe and my almost life long buddy Lou Curtis, both professional musicians and Marines to the core. The late Leland Montgomery gave me great support when I needed it most. My thanks to Phil Dreiseszufl, for editing, helping to make sense out of my first drafts. Carl Bermender gave me much encouragement helping me along. And to my niece Claudia Luther of the Los Angeles Times for her editorial help and guidance. I couldn’t have written this at all without my computer and Noel Roberts deserves great credit for teaching me the skills to use it. The beautiful design and cover of this book is the splendid work of Russ Romain and he is due much thanks, as is his wife, Carlene, who read it and applied “band-aides” where it was hurting.

This edition is enhanced with a set of six photographs made available to us by Jesse Mann Mastin. We are greatly in her debt for doing so. The story of the Last China Band ends with it playing itself out of the war-threatened city on November 28, 1941. The band appears somewhere in each view and the drama of it shows on each face. This was its last parade. It would join the troops it was leading in its final battle not long after. And another chapter would be added to the book of glory that is the United States Marine Corps.

 

DEDICATION

This edition is lovingly dedicated to Amelda, my bride of 52 years, 2 months and 9 days.
 
Fourth Marines Band
Shanghai, China / September, 1940 / 551 Ferry Road Billet

Cpl. Claude Lester Brent - Clarinet
PFC Artie E. Sanville - Clarinet
PFC William. E. Harrison - Clarinet
FM Sgt. Wm. j. McClung III - NCO in C Bugle & Drum Corps
TSgt. Jackson P. Rauhof - Drum Major
MFSgt. Levis E. Giffin - Bandmaster
Sgt. Frederick L. Mayberry - Percussion / Instrument Repair.
Cpl. George Francis - Trumpet
PFC Sp/4c Steven A. Jones - Trumpet
PFC Sp/5c John F. Sirota - Trumpet
Pvt. Sp/5c Robert S. Newsome - Trumpet
FM Robert E. Follendorf - Bugle / Drums
FM Martin D. Eichman - Bugle / Drums
PFC Sp/5c Floyd E. Grim - Percussion
FM Bernie D. Pitts - Bugle / Drums
Pvt. Sp/4c Hal T. Leber - Clarinet
FM I/c Frederick Stumpges - Bugle / Drums
PFC Sp/5c Leland H. Montgomey - Clarinet
FMC CpI. William H. Adams - Bugle / Drums
PFC Sp/5c John J. Lawson - Clarinet
FM Warren H. Mellies - Bugle / Scotch / Tenor Drums
Pvt. Sp/5c Donald L. Versaw - French Horn
Pvt. Sp/4c Arnold S. Baker - French Horn
PFC Anthony Stankitis - French Horn
FM 1/c Harry C. Dunlavy - Bugle / Scotch / Tenor Drums
Pvt. Sp/5c George McRae - Trumpet
Pvt. Pat Bennet - Trumpet
Pvt. Sp/5c Mercurio Coledanchise - Baritone Horn
FM Melvin Mikkelson - Bugle / Drums
FM 1/c Melvin J. Zhaler - Bugle
FM 1/c Rodger D. Baker - Bugle
FM. Wesley LeB. Usher - Bugle / Drums
PFC Sp/3c Gerald P. “Mickey” Finn - Percussion
PFC Sp/5c Donald F. Scott Percussion
Pvt. Sp/4c Victor 0. Lundgren Trombone
Additional duty as Chaplain’s Assistant / Leader of congregation Singing at Devine Services
Pvt. Sp/5c James W. Higley Sousaphone
PFC Sp/4c John Snyder Trombone / Library
PFC Sp/4c Hubert H. Johnson Baritone Horn
PFC Sp/5c Sydney A. McMullen Trombone
Pvt. Sp/5c Charles F. King Sousaphone

Fourth Marines Band
Shanghai, China / September, 1941
Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

The Fourth Marines Band leads the troops from the First Battalion down East Nanking Road leaving the International Settlement where Marines had been stationed since 1937. Drum Major, TSgt. Jackson P. Rauhof is seen in front of the band with his mace. At the extreme left MTSgt. Levis E. Giffin, the Bandmaster, marches in a lone column. Others in the front rank are: George Walker, Sousaphone; Sydney McMullen, Monford Charleton; Cedric Stephens playing Trombones. Charles King with Sousaphone is at far right. In the second rank: John Sirota, Trumpet; John Bingham and Donald Versaw (barely visible behind Stephens), French Horns. Third rank: Kenneth Marshall, Clarinet; Pat Bennett, Francis Hooker, Trumpets. This was the last marching event performed by the band as it made its way to the city’s famous waterfront, The Bund, with the troops to board U.S. President Lines ships anchored in the river just off shore.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

The Fourth Marines leave the International Settlement of China’s famed “Paris of the Orient” as relationships with the Japanese Forces surrounding the city are in jeopardy and the threat of war increases. Marines had been there protecting the lives and property for many years. The famous 4th Marines were a part of these forces since 1937. In this view Colonel Samuel Howard and his staff lead the way through down the colorful street called Nanking Road followed by troops of the First Battalion. An open Rolls-Royce in rear of the staff of nine officers and men of Headquarters Fourth Marines has entered the line of march to photograph the band led by Drum Major Jackson P. Rauhof and Master Technical Sergeant Levis E. Giffin, the bandmaster. The Second Battalion had departed the previous day during a rainstorm and waited aboard ships anchored in Shanghai’s river harbor of the Whangpoo. The entire organization then departed in the late afternoon destined for the Philippines.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

The last echelons of Fourth Marines arrive at the world renowned waterfront street called THE BUND. The distinctive Western style bank and office buildings form a classic backdrop for the departure from the headquarters led by Colonel Samuel B. Howard. The Fourth Marines Commander and his staff are shown as they emerge from crowded street canyons of the great city. In the far background at the foot of the Bank of Taiwan, Drum Major Rauhof can be seen executing a “Band, Column Left!” command. To the extreme right a Shanghai Metropolitan Police Mobile Command Post vehicle is on site to help with crowd control.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

Birds eye view of quay(s) on the banks of the Whangpoo River, the port of Shanghai during the farewell of the Fourth Marines as it prepares to leave the International Settlement. Throngs of people are seen gathered among the limousines of the world’s diplomatic, consular force and business firms watching troops of the First Battalion arrive led by the Fourth Marines band (note: Sousaphone base horns just to left of picture center). Plainly seen in the line of march carrying a large banner are elements of Shanghai’s Volunteer Defense Force wearing kilts and playing bag pipes. Shortly after this resounding, amazing and confusing send off, the Marines departed for the Philippines ending their duty in Shanghai after many years.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

Troops of the First Battalion, Fourth Marines march down Nanking Road, on their way to the quays of the Whangpoo River preparatory to embarking on U. S. President Line ships for the Philippine Islands. The Marines share the crowded streets with examples of every mode of transportation available. The troops are carrying “Heavy Marching Order” packs topped with neatly blocked campaign hats, armed with Springfield 1903 rifles at the left shoulder. Beneath each hat is the standard issue foul weather gear called a “pancho” and entrenching tool. At the head of this column pictured, the Fourth Marines Band can be seen breaking out into brighter sunlight. This proved to be a false foreboding as this historic field band would cease to be one in only ten more days.

Shanghai, China / 28 November, 1941

A lone Chinese sampan escorts a ship tender, the Merry Moller carrying troops of the Fourth Marines from banks of the Whangpoo River to American President Liner, SS President Harrison, anchored in deeper water. Among the troops were all of the First Battalion and the staff of regimental headquarters. The Fourth Marines Band is easily located on the top deck.

 
ROSTER OF THE PEKING LEGATION AND
FOURTH MARINES BAND MUSICIANS

Peking (Beijing) and Shanghai China / 1940 - 1941

Killed in Action

Sim Ashburn Popejoy FM 1 c
Bugle/Drums / May 1942 / Corregidor P.I.

Claude L. Brent Cpl
Clarinet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

John W.Bingham Sgt
French Horn / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

Levis E. Giffin MTSgt
Bandmaster / December 1944 / Brazil Maru

William F. Fryer PFC
Clarinet/Sax / December 1944 (Palawan Massacre) / Palawan P.I.

Jesse E. Grenz PFC
Trumpet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

John F. Sirota PFC
Trumpet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

Harry B. LaPointe Jr. PFC
Trumpet / October 1944 / Arisan Maru

George E. Walker PFC
Bass / December 1944 (Palawan Massacre) / Palawan P.I.

Died in POW Camps

Leon Konesky TSgt
AsstBMaster / June 1942 / Cabanatuan P.I.

Donald Scott PFC
Bass / June 1942 / Billibid P.I.

Charles F. King PFC
Bass / August 1945 / Japan

The Survivors

Jackson P. Rauhof TSgt / Drum-Major

Mercurio Coledanchise PFC / Baritone Horn

Sherwood LaRoche PFC / Percussion

John P. Latham PFC / Piccolo/flute

Alfred August PFC / Bass Horn

Pat F. Bennet PFC / Trumpet

George Francis Cpl / Trumpet

George McRae PFC / Trumpet

Robert Newsome PFC / Trumpet

Francis Hooker Cpl / Trumpet

Kenneth Marshall Cpl / Clarinet / Saxophone

Leland Montgomery PFC / Clarinet

Louis N. Curtis PFC / Clarinet

Hal T. Leber PFC / Clarinet

Franklin Boyer Cpl / Clarinet

Monford P. Charleton PFC / Trombone

S. W. Stephens PFC / Trombone

Sidney A. McMullen Cpl / Trombone

Harry Goldstien PFC / Trombone

John W. Brannan PFC / Trombone

Donald L. Versaw PFC / French horn

Anthony Stankitis PFC / French Horn

Norman 0. Shire PFC / French horn

William McClung FMSgt / Bugle/drums
(Killed in Action / Korea / November 1950)

Frederick Stumpges FM 1 c / Bugle/drums
(POW Korea / November 1950 - August 1953)

Martin V. Eichman FMcpl / Bugle/drums

Harry C. Dunlavy FMsgt / Bugle/drums

William H. Adams FN I c / Bugle/drms

John K. Corley FMcpI / Bugle/drms

Carl F. Girardot FM I c / Bugle/drums

Melvin Mickelson FM 1 c / Bugle/drms

Bobby Jones FM I c / Bugle/drms

Delmar V. Meyers FM 1 c / Bugle/drums

Charles Patterson FMcpl / Bugle/drums

Bernino B. Pitts FM 1 c / Bugle/drums

Melvin J. Zahier FM I c / Bugle/drums

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In Shanghai, China 1941

DONALD L. VERSAW, born June 23, 1921 in Bloomington, Nebraska. Joined the U.S. Marine Corps on Armistice Day, 1939 in Chicago. Following recruit training and a short term with the Marine Corps Operating Base Band, San Diego, CA, he was sent to Shanghai, China for duty with the 4th Marines Band. After the regiment was evacuated to the Philippines and at the outset of World War II, he became an infantryman in E Co. Second Battalion, Fourth Regiment. When Corregidor was surrendered to the Japanese in May 1942, he spent the next 40 months as a POW in the PI’s and in Japan.

During captivity he was held on Luzon Island mostly at a work camp near Clark Air Base for more than two years. In July 1944 he was moved to Japan in one of the notorious Hell Ships (unmarked freighter/troop ships) - and put into forced labor in Nitetsu-Futase Tonko Kaisha (coal mine company) on the Japanese island of Kyushu. This company paid enlisted men 5 sen per day for their labor. A sen is one one hundredth of a yen and one yen was then equal to ten American cents - which equates to 20 days of labor in the mines for 10 American cents. Deductions were made at the rate of 50% deposited in Japanese Postal Savings Plan.

Following repatriation, he remained in the Corps and married Amelda Gilmore, a union that lasted more than 52 years ending in her death in October of 1999. They had two daughters, Judith and Denise. In 1950 he served in Korea with the 1st Marine Division in a Photo unit. After retirement in 1959 he worked in the aerospace Industry for 13 years on the Saturn and Apollo programs. He completed 10 years of Civil service divided between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force; he retired in 1984 with a total of 31 years federal service. He is a Life member of American Ex-POWs and served two years as a chapter commander. He is currently serving as a Treasurer. He is a life member of the American Defenders Bataan and Corregidor, the Disabled American Veterans. He is a member of the American Legion Post 142 Bloomington, Nebraska, the China Marine Association and Marine Corps Musicians Association.

 
OTHER BOOKS AND ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
Mikado no Kyaku (Guest of the Emperor)
Sound of the Bugle
The Anvil Chorus
 
Copyright © 1990 Donald L. Versaw, printed by Marrs Printing, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, Inc1uding photo copy, recording or any information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. Requests for Permission to make copies of any part of this work should be directed to 4407 Adenmoor Avenue, Lakewood, CA 90713. Versaw, Donald L. 1921. First Printing 1990, Second Printing 1991, Third Printing 1993, Fourth Printing 1995, Fifth Printing 2000, Book and cover design by Russ Romain.

 

Full Text of THE LAST CHINA BAND Please Click Below for:
CHAPTER ONE - China Duty Page 1
CHAPTER TWO - The “Clouds of War” Page 7
CHAPTER THREE - In the Philippines Page 21
CHAPTER FOUR - On Corregidor Page 31
CHAPTER FIVE - The Battle is Over Page 41
 

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