My Dad the U.S. China Marine

My Dad the U.S. China Marine

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Marble Boat at Kunming Lake, Summer Palace near Beijing

The Boat of Purity and Ease -more commonly known as the Marble Boat- is one of the most recognized structures at the Summer Palace northwest of Beijing. According to the Beijing Summer Palace Administration Office and the Department of Architecture of Qinghua University, the boat was originally built in 1755. This was the 20th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong. The original superstructure was Chinese-style, but that was destroyed by fire in 1860 during the Second Opium War.

The Marble Boat is 118 feet long with a hull built from stone slabs. It was rebuilt in 1893. Dowager Empress Cixi ordered western-style alterations and two faux propellers added on either side.

The photograph here was taken by my father on a visit to the Summer Palace on January 21, 1946. Tt was the middle of Winter and Kunming Lake was completely frozen at the time.

The United States Marines in North China 1945 - 1949 by Henry I. Shaw, Jr.

The United States Marines in North China 1945 - 1949
by He
nry I. Shaw, Jr.

Printed 1960, Revised 1962, Reprinted 1968

Historical Branch, G-3 Division; Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps
Washington, D. C. 20380 DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY


The United States Marines in North China, 1945-1949 is a concise narrative of the major events which took place when Marine ground and air units were deployed to the Asian mainland at the close of World War II. The text and appendices are based on official records, interviews with participants in the operations described, and reliable secondary sources. The pamphlet is published for the information of Marines and others interested in this significant period of Marine Corps history.

Brigadier General, U. S. Marine Corps
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3

For the text of this article, which has been transcribed and posted online, go to this link.

Herbert Mead in Okinawa: Greenwich Time, October 23, 1945

Herbert Mead in Okinawa: Greenwich Time, October 23, 1945

Pfc. Herbert B. Mead, of 7 Relay Pl., Cos Cob, who is now stationed in Tientsin*, China, fought with a heavy artillery unit of the First Marine Division during the Okinawa campaign.

In a letter home he wrote, “I am very thankful that you did not know what I was doing when we were fighting on Okinawa. When I was transferred from the 3rd Amphibious Corps to the First Marine Division, I was changed from radar to radio and I am still in radio. I carried a portable radio on my back in combat. During the operations I was with the Fifth Marines, which is an infantry outfit, as a “forward observer” for the 11th Marines (Artillery). I was on the front lines from April 8 until the fighting ended. The first month we were working with different Army outfits. Boy! I was never so scared in all my life. On an O.P. team there are one officer, two radio men, one scout sergeant and three wire men. Each battery sends out two teams. Of all our men who were up on the line 50 per cent were killed or wounded so I guess I was just lucky for I had many a close call.”

Pfc. Mead graduated from Greenwich High School in June, 1943. A few weeks later he left for Parris Island for training in the Marine Corps. He has been in the Pacific for 19 months.

*Known as Tianjin, coast port.

Chinese New Year 1946

Earlier this year an article I wrote about my father's first Chinese New Year in the post-World War II world was published in Hawaii Reporter. My thanks to Malia Zimmerman. Go to this link for the article and photos taken by my father.

The movie features photos taken by my father on Chinese New Year 1946. The scenes feature local Chinese residents in costume in stilts. I am reading the text of the article.

Veterans Day 2009: Our Veterans - Men and Women Who Survived Danger

On November 11, 2009 this article was published: 'Our Veterans - Men and Women Who Survived Danger, Separation and Endured Sacrifice on Behalf of Us All - Walk Among Us Daily: A story about my father and other brave soldiers we honor on Veterans Day.' Enjoy!

Memorial Day 2010: A Call to Duty

“Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.” Daniel Webster.

Three months ago in the closing minutes of his 86th birthday my father Herbert Bingham Mead was “called home” at a hospice in Westchester County, New York, not far from our ancestral home in Greenwich, Connecticut. My sisters were with him in those closing moments. I was unable to be at his side to bid farewell.

This is the first Memorial Day he will not be with us in body. Dad is certainly with us in spirit.

My father made one final request to me in the summer of 2008. That was to research, write and publish a book about his service as a member of the U.S. 1st Marine Division when he was stationed in China 1945-1947. This blog is part of that final commission.

In 1983 my hometown newspaper, the Greenwich Time, opened the door by which I began my career as a published author. In May 9, 1993 Greenwich Time an published article, ‘Following in Historic Footsteps.’ In it I wrote in part,

“My vocation propels me to investigate the nooks and crannies of our culture and rediscover the traditional character of a New England town that I hold near and dear to my heart.”

While this sentiment still holds true 17 years later, my father’s final commission has thrust me into something extraordinary and exciting far beyond the hills southwestern Connecticut were my family has lived for over 350 years.

The articles and book I plan on publishing will preserve the histories and voices of not just my Dad and his fellow the China Marines. It will I hope include those who called Beijing and Tianjin home in those chaotic and frightening days in China.

The quote by Daniel Webster resonated with me. My Dad was a true patriot, one who found expression in an understated, unassuming style. But America was not the only land he honored. Dad truly honored Chinese civilization, one of Earth’s oldest and most dazzling. While stationed in Tianjin and Beijing he was privileged to visit palaces and cities steeped in allure and mystery, to walk in the paths and halls of “Sons of Heaven,” empresses, concubines, imperial households and court officials. That was just the beginning.

Never once did Dad utter to us a derogatory comment about his former Japanese enemies. It was not his way. When I shared the news several years ago that I was hired as an adjunct faculty to teach at a Japanese-based international college in Honolulu he was quite elated. “Keep them safe and take care of them,” he said. I understood. My father never wanted anyone to go through the trials of battle he had endured at such places as Guadalcanal and Okinawa, where he was almost killed in action on the front lines.

My hope is to bring to words, paragraphs and chapters the sights, sentiments, aromas and tales of an extraordinary time in history in a place steeped in mystery and history.

One of my father’s dreams –one that was sadly not realized before his death- was to return to China. Dad told me many times how much he loved China and its people. They were the happiest and the most dangerous days of his life and that of many others, and he always looked back with fond memories.

So, for me –and I hope for you- the windfalls of this amazing journey will be bountiful, enriching –and as we pause on this Memorial Day- somber and sobering.

A Prayer:
In the solemnity of our hearts and under the benevolent shade of freedom’s protection on this Memorial Day remember those who have trod the darkness of war and calamity, who rest eternally in the calm repose of God’s eternal blessings. Remember the families of those sunshine soldiers called home to your protection, Almighty God, and help those left behind find trust, healing and find the courage to move forward, ever hopeful that the sun shall rise on a day when such loss and sacrifice are no more. Amen.