My Dad the U.S. China Marine

My Dad the U.S. China Marine

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dad's Samurai Sword and the 1st Marine Division Arrives in Tianjin

When my father gave me his Japanese World War II samurai sword on my thirteenth birthday he described a ceremony. It was at a train station in China, I believe in Beijing. When the formal surrender took place, he said, the Japanese soldiers strode one at a time and deposited their swords on the ground. When this was completed Dad and other soldiers went and picked them up.

The image featured above is from a newspaper clipping in one of his albums. The picture above was in Malaysia, yet I think it helps capture the scene held throughout eastern Asia where such surrender ceremonies took place.

As I delve further into my research the situation in postwar China becomes more complicated. Yesterday I found this excerpt of an article in which the situation in North China in September 1945 is revealed. On October 6, 1945 Japanese forces -who still maintained order in Tianjin, even after the official Japanese surrender- transferred authority to the American Marines. The Marines landed in Tianjin on September 30. On October 7 the Marines returned to Beijing, and three days later on October 10, 1945 Japanese forces around Beijing surrendered, with the 5th Marine Division moving in to occupy the Legation Quarter.

In August 1945, the communist-led 
guerrilla forces, who had spearheaded 
resistance against the Japanese in North 
China and Manchuria for nearly a decade, 
controlled vast areas of the countryside. 
A million and a quarter Japanese troops, 
and another 1.7 million Japanese civi
lians controlled most of the major cities 
and the communications lines in North, 
Central and East China. Kuomintang 
armies were confined largely to South 
and Southwest China. If the Japanese 
surrendered to local forces, the vast 
majority of Japanese troops would surrender to the communists, turning over both 
weapons and effective control of North 
China to them.

In order to avoid having 
to recognize the communists' control 
over North China, and to prevent them 
from acquiring Japanese weapons, Pres
ident Truman announced that the United 
States would transport KMT troops from 
South China into Japanese-held areas 
in Central and North China. Truman 
ordered the same Japanese troops, which 
had conducted brutal "three-all" paci- 
fication campaigns throughout North 
China in the preceding years, to "main- 
tain order" until KMT or American 
troops could arrive in North China to 
accept their surrender. 1 To discourage 
the Japanese from surrendering to the 
communists, the U.S. notified the Japanese government that soldiers would be guaranteed return to their homeland only
if they surrendered to the U.S. or to
Chiang Kai-shek or his subordinates.

In September the first two divisions
 of U.S. Marines were ordered to proceed
to China to accept the Japanese surrender
on behalf of the KMT, to assist with the
repatriation of the Japanese army and
civilians in North China, and to guard 
railroads and other communications lines
in the area. The First Division of U.S.
Marines left Okinawa on September 26, 
and arrived in Tangku on September 30.
 They moved straight into Tientsin, and 
on October 6, surrender ceremonies were 
held in that city.

The Japanese, who
 had continued to hold Tientsin since 
their official surrender in August,
turned it over to the Marines, who began 
patrolling the city to maintain order.

A few days after the Marines landed 
in Tientsin, Chou En-lai told General
 W.A. Worton that the Red Army would 
fight to prevent the Marines from moving 
to Peking. Worton, however, was extreme­
ly eager to take Peking. Acting on 
orders which gave him permission to 
"occupy such . . . areas as he deemed ne­
cessary . . . for the security of his own 
forces," Worton had already prepared for 
the Marines' advance. He therefore 
told Chou "that the Marines most cer­
tainly would move in, that they would
come by rail and road..."

The arrival of the 1st Marine Division in Tangku from Okinawa seems significant.

Tangku (known as Tanggu today) is a district in Tianjin and was the setting in 1933 for truce negotiations between the Chinese Republic and the Empire of Japan formally ending the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The truce led to the defacto recognition by the Kuomingtang government of Manchukuo, and it was humiliating to the Chinese people. My father told me that the Americans were warmly welcomed by local residents. I am interested in learning more about this, especially from those from China, Japan, surviving Marines or their records.

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