My Dad the U.S. China Marine

My Dad the U.S. China Marine

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meanwhile in Shanghai…

Thanksgiving is one of America’s quintessential holidays, I was curious to know how my father and his fellow China Marines celebrated. Though I’ve not found anything yet this article by Henry Lieberman from the November 21, 1945 edition of the New York Times presents how things were in Shanghai. I am not sure whether my father ever visited the city. The nightlife is described as “feverish,” and foreign business men were not operating because of “exchange difficulties.”

Although the effervescent nightlife of Shanghai goes on at a fast, almost frenetic pace, China’s leading metropolis has not even come close to regaining its economic feet after three months of peace. The feeling prevails that the first peacetime winter will be hard for this city of more than 4,000,000, which is now experiencing a coal shortage and the dizzy processes of inflation.

The tinkle of ricksha bells combines with the roar of trolley and Army vehicular traffic to create a din of activity. Junks and Allied men of war glide down the Whangpoo River. Curio shops and street hawkers do a thriving business in exotic bric-a-brac, and American service men spend their money freely in the Avenue Joffre bistros.

But the basic commerce of this great port, which is said to have handled 10,000,000 tons of incoming and outgoing cargo annually before the war, has not yet been restored.

Foreign Representatives Back

The representatives of most of the American and British companies seem to be back on their old premises. They have been unable to resume their operations, however, because, the explain, the Chinese have not yet established a “realistic” exchange rate or promulgated a definite set of rules for doing business now that extraterritoriality has been abolished.

Aside from the matter of exchange, which is still operated under the wartime control machinery, the foreign business men are moving cautiously pending the official publication of China’s new company law. This is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 1946.

There are a number of indications that the economic situation has grown worse since the Japanese surrender even though Mayor Chien Ta-chun and the new Chinese municipal government have kept food supplies coming in and have maintained the public utility services without interruption. Prices have gone up 300 to 400 percent since the surrender, and while inflation is most noticeable in the restaurants and hotels frequented by foreigners, it has also affected the coolie.

The poor are paying more for rice and complaining that its quality has deteriorated. Rents have gone up, too, in the form of higher “key money,” the flat down payment required in Shanghai for taking possession of rented property. This “key money” payment is never returned. An office that could be obtained for two gold bars after the surrender, one business man asserts, now requires six gold bars for possession.

Employment Is Reduced

About 100,000 workers are now employed in Shanghai, as compared with 500,000 before the war in the city’s consumer goods factories, according to an official estimate. Cotton mills are the most important of these.

But these mills are cut off from their sources of raw cotton and coal in the southern provinces of Hopei and Shantung, where clashes are going on between the Communists and Government troops. So the cotton mills are operating with 159,000 spindles, as compared with 200,000 under the Japanese at the time of the surrender.

Five American Liberty ships and five British transports have brought 62,000 tons of coal to Shanghai from Chinwangtao during the past month, but this has been used mainly for the public utilities.

Night Life Is Flourishing

This side of Shanghai offers a pronounced contrast to the nightly gayety one finds in bistros like “D.D.’s,” the “Kavkaz,” the “Atomic Bar,’ and the “Arcadia” in the vicinity of Avenue Joffre and Avenue Albert in the old French Concession. Many of the 15,000 American soldiers still here and the 5,000 sailors are at liberty nightly and they flock to this oriental Times Square in pedicabs, a means of locomotion that is half ricksha and half bicycle.

A drink of Canadian Club along Frenchtown’s Gay White way costs $2.50, American money. White Russian and Eurasian girls, acting as hostesses, help run up the bills. These hostesses are free to leave the bistros to explore the night life with guests, but the price, according to the sailors, is $10, divided equally between the management and the hostesses.

There is a noticeable change in the attitude of service men since the first wave entered the city following the Japanese surrender. After long months in the interior of China they plunged like starved men into Shanghai’s metropolitan whirl. Now that the shine has worn off the men are looking homeward.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Take Out Anyone?

Among the other items we found in my father's scrapbook was this card. I would imagine this place is not in business anymore. Restaurants large and small, upscale and basic are all gathering places where memories are created and shared.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"A Marine is at Home Anywhere"

This is a newspaper clipping from one of my father’s albums. There is no date of the photograph mentioned. This is a photo of Chinese citizens outside the main gate to the 1st Marine Division’s headquarters in Tianjin (Tientsin).

The man on the left appears to be a military officer with the Chinese government. Under the photo is a caption that mentions the eagerness of the Chinese to see the Americans and try to speak English to the guards.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Map of North China: NY Daily News, November 7,1945

This is a clipping found in one of my father's albums of a map showing important location in North China. The map is dated November 7, 1945.

Note that Beijing is referred to as 'Peiping,' Tianjin is 'Tientsin,' and so on. Also note the caption that states the Americans "will leave for home by Dec. 5."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bargaining for Ricksha Rides

The weekend is here. Life and service with the American Marines in China included scenes such as this one. This clipping comes from one of my father's scrapbooks. There is no date mentioned.

What caught my attention was the name and title of the American Marine featured here. Corp. Richard W Miller of Philadelphia was a photographer connected with the 1st Marine Divisionin Tientsin (Tianjin). I'm interested in finding out if his photographic work is archived somewhere.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Map of the Bohai Sea

This is a modern map of the Bohai Sea region that features many of the name places found in the articles and sources mentioned in the articles I’ve posted on this blog. When looking at the map it becomes clear why this region of China was so important strategically in the mid-1940s. Given Tianjin’s location near Beijing it is no small wonder that this was then as it is now one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The North China Marine: Newspaper Published By and For the Marines

The North China Marine newspaper was published by and for the Marines stationed in North China after the conclusion of World War II. The image here comes from this link which featured an original edition that is for sale. I assume by now it has been sold.

I am looking for information on whether copies of this publication are available online, on microfilm or conserved in their original print editions. Please contact me. Thanks!

When Did World War II End? October 15, 1945 for the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions

Yesterday I found this article on the conclusion of World War II by Ed Fulwider of the China Marine Association. Of course, most American students learn that the war ended on V-E Day or V-J Day. I was in Hawaii when the 50th anniversary of V-J Day was observed.

Fulrider is correct that one important anniversary was not widely observed. That was the 50th anniversary of the surrender of over a half-million Japanese troops in Tianjin (spelled Tientsin in 1945) on October 15, 1945. My father was there in the middle of it all with the other members of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division.

Fulrider points out:

"On that day, the United Sates Marine Corps accepted the surrender of more than 500,000 Japanese troops in mainland China. The majority of these Marines were members of the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions who had just completed the long and bloody campaign on the island of Okinawa. They were among the hundreds of thousands of American serviceman preparing for the final assault to end the war and were scheduled to land on the Japanese homeland on November 1st. Had this invasion actually taken place, it would have made Valley Forge, Gettysburg, the Marne and even Iwo Jima look like Boy Scout Camporees. President Truman's difficult and courageous decision to drop the Atomic Bomb not only saved a million American casualties, it undoubtedly saved 10 million Japanese casualties."

Go to this link to read the entire text.

As I have continued my research and analysis it's also become clear to me that the seeds of what we knew as 'The Cold War' were in the process of being planted. The immediate postwar period was a far more complicated and dangerous time than many people realize.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chinhsien Still Attacked: New York Times: Sunday, November 25, 1945

Chinhsien Still Attacked
New York Times: Sunday, November 25, 1945. Page 4.
By Wireless to the New York Times

CHUNGKING Nov. 24 –Government forces are continuing their attack on Chinhsien, main communist base and administrative center in southwest Manchuria.

[Government troops were reported to have seized Chinhsien’s railway station, according to The Associated Press]

To attack Chinhsien the government forces bypassed the port of Hulutao, leaving it on their flank for later attention. The aim now is said to be to smash the Communists in the Chinhisien area.

The Communists say they had been operating strongly in Liaoning Province from Chinhsien to the Great Wall during the war against Japan and after the Japanese surrendered. They incorporated the area, together with Jehol Province, into their Chinchachi border region. In addition to Jehol and part of Liaoning the region takes in the Communist area of northern Hopeh, northern Shansi and southern Chahar and has its “capital” at Kalgan.

Other Government Advances

Government forces are pushing northward also at points west of Shanhaikwan and the Communists report fighting at Fengjun and Lwanhsien. Trainloads of Government troops from Peiping were said to have been sent to Nankow, the pass through the Great Wall leading to Kalgan.

The success of the Government offensive in Manchuria has caused Kuomintang quarters here to feel more optimistic about the Manchurian situation. These sources believe that if the Government troops could move more quickly they would be able to take over the main centers before the Communists could build up military strength and that a large part of the population would welcome Government control instead of Communist domination.

The Foreign Office spokesman said that despite continued Chungking negotiations with Russia no satisfactory arrangement had been made for the entry of Kuomintang troops into Manchuria. Reports from Manchuria indicate a continuation of the Russian withdrawal and probable further expansion of Communist influence.

Hulutao Reported Taken: New York Times Nov. 25, 1945

Hulutao Reported Taken
New York Times: Sunday, November 25, 1945. Page 4.

(AP) –Chinese Government troops have wrested the Manchurian port of Hulutao from the Chinese Government Communists, Chungking newspapers reported today.

Capture of Hulutao would give the Government its first port in Manchuria at which to land reinforcements for the campaign at securing Manchurian strongpoints, many of which are already reported being entered by Chinese Communists as the Russians withdraw.

Chinese Communists report that their forces are pouring into Mukden, Manchuria. They asserted that 200,000 men, including the People’s Militia, were ready to fight for Manchuria.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Living Quarters of the Dowager Empress Ci'xi: January 21, 1946

This is a photograph taken by my father of the front entrance of the Hall of Joyful Longevity at the Summer Palace outside Beijing. The image was taken during a visit on January 21, 1946.

This building was the summer residence of Empress Dowager Ci’xi from April to October. An earlier residence stood on this site until it was destroyed in 1860 by the Allied Anglo-French Force. The Empress Dowager had this reconstructed in 1889.

The foreground of this photo features a pair of bronze deer, two cranes and one of two large bronze vases. My father’s notation in the photo albums states “Bronze deer and Phoenix Incense burner.” Deers are symbols of longevity since the Chinese believe that deers are the only creatures that can find the lingzhi fungus of immortality.

I was intrigued to find a reference to an electric chandelier that hangs from the ceiling in a sitting room. It was installed in 1903, and it is said to be the first electric light ever introduced in China. For further details about the Hall of Joyful Longevity go to this link.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Marines To Stay On Job In China: New York Times Nov. 25, 1945

Marines To Stay On Job In China
New York Times: Sunday, November 25, 1945. Page 4.

-No Prospect of Early Leaving, Wedemeyer Says – Expects MacArthur Visit


-Repatriation of Japanese Goes Slowly – U.S. Officers Not Admitted to Manchuria

By Henry R. Lieberman, by Wireless to the New York Times.

SHANGHAI, Nov. 24 –There appears little prospect of an early evacuation of North China by United States Marines as Lieut. Gen. Albert C. Wedermeyer, American theater commander, told a press conference that his instruction from the War Department did not cover an “immediate withdrawal.”

At the same time he declared that he and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek had invited Gen. Douglass MacArthur to visit China and that the Supreme Allied Commander had “expressed a desire to come as soon as his official duties in Tokyo permitted.”

When he was asked when the Marines would “pull out” of North china General Wedermeyer reiterated the stand that his job is to implement policy and not make it. He said that until he got instruction regarding the withdrawal of the Marines he could not answer the question.

“I am just a pick and shovel man doing my best to carry out instructions from Washington, “he added.

General Wedermeyer asserted that his directives required him to assist the Chinese Government to disarm the Japanese and repatriate them to their homeland. Following his recent disclosure that one-third of the 1,090,000 Japanese troops in China proper are still not disarmed, he said today that out of 500,000 Japanese troops and civilians between the Yellow River and the Great Wall, only 35,000 will have been repatriated by Nov. 30.

-Rate is 3,000 a Day

“We have facilities for repatriating 3,000 Japanese daily,” General Wedermeyer said. He added that at this rate it would take six to eight months to get the Japanese out of North China.

With Chinese troops movements competing with the repatriation problem for scarce shipping space, General Wedermeyer told the conference the Chinese Government has requested the United States to make additional vessels available to transport Government forces northward. He added that the War Shipping Administration was now studying this request.

Denying Communist claims that the United States Army had committed itself to train and equip seventy Nationalist Government Divisions, General Wedermeyer said that the wartime contract with Chungking called only for training and equipping thirty-nine divisions. By the end of the war, he said, twenty of those divisions were completely trained and equipped and the remaining nineteen were in various stages of American sponsorship.

Now that the war is over, he continued, the equipping of these nineteen divisions is being completed by making available to the Chinese lend lease material that was either en route to China or in Army storehouses here when the war ended. The Chinese Army, he saod, is completing its own training program formerly carried out under the auspices of the United States Army’s Chinese Combat Command.

-Says Question is for Chinese

Parrying a question as to whether the Government forces now engaged against the Communists include wartime American-sponsored divisions, General Wedermeyer said that such a query should be addressed to the Chinese authorities. He conceded, however, that some of the units of the Thirteenth Army that were transported to Chinwantao, on the Hopei coast, by the United States Seventh Fleet were trained and equipped earlier by the Americans.

American cadres have been assined to assist the Government troops embarking by sea for North China and debarking there, General Wedermeyer said. He added, however, that United States liaison groups would not accompany Chinese land forces entering Manchuria.

The general confirmed earlier reports that united States Army personnel who went to Manchuria at the time of the surrender to gather intelligence and pave the way for the entry of Chinese Government forces had been asked to withdraw by the Russians. The theater commander who declared there were no Army personnel in Manchuria have said the withdrawal of the first Americans entering the northeastern provinces had been requested by a Soviet consul, whose name he remembered as Danovich.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mystery Building in Tianjin

Among my father's various photos are these. The buildings are supposedly located in Tianjin, probably in the former Foreign Concession section of the city. Do you know what these buildings were and what they were used for? Do they still exist? Please contact me. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Veteran Who Needs Help (Editorial)

On the same day that the editorial on American policy and involvement in China was published this one on the special needs to returning veterans appeared. This editorial could apply today in the early 21st century:

New York Times: Friday, November 23, 1945

If there is any one thing that the American service man wanted during the war was to get home.

Home, as seen from the front-line hole in the ground, the deck of a fighting ship, the inside of a fighting plane or some forsaken outpost, was heaven. But for many returned veterans it is turning out to be an imperfect heaven.

Bradley Buell and Reginald Robinson, looking into case records in several American cities, find about one-fifth of the veterans “unable to cope, by themselves, with the problems of personal and family adjustment which face them.” The Buell-Robinson report, financed by the Grant Foundation and to be published in the forthcoming issue of survey Mid-Monthly, emphasizes the need for community action on all fronts to ease the veterans transition into civilian life.

Veterans come home to face all sorts of problems. Many of them are emotionally upset and need psychiatric attention. Some find family troubles waiting for them. The investigators believe that for five or ten years to come “there will develop personal and family crises which had their beginnings in this present period of transition from military to civilian life.” The veteran and his family may become what social workers call a “case” –in other words, they need the very best advice and guidance they can get. They need help to adjust themselves emotionally; they made need more financial aid than comes automatically under the GI Bill of Rights –they want education; they will have health problems; they will want to rebuild the social life and friendships war has destroyed or suspended.

Many existing agencies can do various parts of this job: the Red Cross, the charitable and social service organizations, employment services, Selective Service boards, juvenile courts and domestic relations courts, veterans information centers. But too often the veteran doesn’t know just where to go. Too often he feels that he is being given a run-around. The gist of the Buell-Robinson report is that his needs should be more concretely realized, that it should be made easier for him to get the information and the help he requires, and that there should be a centralized community responsibility for him and his future.

He comes close to being one in ten of the population of many cities. If in one out of five cases he is in serious trouble and the trouble is not cured the situation is bad for him and dangerous for his country. The moral seems to be that we need now and will need for years to come a warm aliveness to the veteran’s difficulties and an earnest determination to make up to him the time and opportunities he lost while serving his country.

New York Times Editorial: American Policy in China, Nov. 1945

The following is an editorial from the November 23, 1945 edition of the New York Times:


On the basis of first-hand investigation on the spot, Under-Secretary of the Navy Gates sends back word that the situation in China is more serious and the danger of American involvement more acute than is generally realized. The Chinese civil war, which is rapidly passing from a war of words to a war of arms, is lighting new fires in the East which could set all Asia aflame again. It was Asia rather than Europe that was the immediate cause of America’s entry into the war, and American forces are now deployed throughout the Orient to help liquidate that war, a fact which puts them in the direct path of any new conflagration.

Under these circumstances it behooves the American Government and the American people to be very clear about the reasons which brought our forces to the Orient, and about the policy we wish to pursue there. The temptation is great to avoid possible danger simply by withdrawing all Americans from the danger zone, and old isolationist voices mingle with those of partisanship to urge such a step. But an examination of the fundamental causes, principles and methods of our policy in the Far East reveals how contradictory such an act would be to everything we have stood and fought for, and how futile and how dangerous such a course might be. For these causes, principles and methods may be summarized as follows:

1. The immediate issue over which the United States was plunged into war was American aid to China, which prevented Japan from conquering that great and friendly nation. America aided China for three reasons. The first was that we stand for a free world and that it is part of our policy to aid victims of aggression. The second was that we were specifically pledged by policy to defend the Open door in China, and by the Nine-Power Treaty to uphold the ‘sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial and administrative integrity of China.” The third and most fundamental reason, proceeding from the elemental instinct of self-preservation, was the realization that the domination of Asia by Japan would represent a mortal threat to the security of the United States.

2. American aid to China was extended to the only authority to which it could be extended –the Chinese National Government under Chiang Kai-shek, which all Chinese factions still recognize. This government was America’s ally during the war. It is now a charter member of the United Nations. To extend aid to any other authority in China would have been tantamount to fomenting rebellion against our ally and a flagrant intervention in China’s internal affairs. It is a curious but revealing sidelight on the situation that some of the same voices which properly demanded American aid to the Spanish Loyalists as the legitimate government of a neutral country now cry out against American aid to the legitimate government of our ally China.

3. Before Japan surrendered it was feared that American forces would have to fight the Japanese across China even after Japan herself had been conquered. The Japanese surrender fortunately made that great and perilous task unnecessary, but buy the surrender terms signed by all the Powers the Japanese armies in China have been ordered to surrender to Chiang Kai-sek, together with their arms and equipment. Because of the Communist revolt, Chiang Kai-sek has been delayed in carrying out his part of the surrender terms, and American forces are now aiding him in doing so. They are not there to fight the Chinese Communists, or to take part in a Chinese civil war, but to complete the Japanese surrender in conformity with obligations assumed by the American Government. In the performance of that duty they are entitled to understanding and support at home.

4. Whatever aid must still be extended to china must likewise go to the National Government, because any other course would undermine the United Nations. In this connection we must note that the other great Western Power in Asia, Soviet Russia, has pledged itself in the Russian-Chinese treaty to extend moral and military support to the National Government and no other.

5. The National Government of China is not yet as democratic as we should like it to be, but it offers more hope for liberty than the totalitarian regime of the Chinese Communists. The National Government is not only pledged to the establishment of democracy after a long period or tutelage; it is already beginning to extend democracy to the opposition. The Chinese Communists liquidate all opposition.

These are the principles and the practical considerations which have shaped, and should continue to shape, or policies.

Monday, July 5, 2010

New York Times: Role in China Laid to Vow to Japan, November 22, 1945

Role in China Laid to Vow to Japan
New York Times: Thursday, November 22, 1945. Page 8

Byrnes Reveals That Marines Must Stay Until 600,000 of Foe Are Sent Home

Pledge Made in August

Diplomats in Washington See Long Stay by Our Forces in Civil War Areas

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 –Secretary of State James F. Byrnes disclosed today that the United States had promised Japan last August that she would see that Japanese troops in all outlying places, including many Pacific Islands, were returned to their home islands.

The disclosure was made in response to questions at the Secretary’s press conference concerning marines who were in North China to assist Chungking forces in bringing about the surrender of Japanese troops in that area. Mr. Brynes said his latest reports were that there were about 300,000 Japanese soldiers and 300,000 civilians still in North China.

Our promise to bring about the return of the Japanese troops, Secretary Byrnes explained, was given in response to a Japanese inquiry last August regarding the Potsdam ultimatum calling upon Japan to surrender. While Mr. Byrnes did not go into the matter in detail today, it was assumed that the pledge in which he referred applied to the area in which we received responsibility from the Combined Chiefs of Staff last summer. This area includes Japan, the Philippines, islands in that general area which lie north of the Netherlands Indies, where Britain has the responsibility, and North China.

Our responsibility in North China, however, was limited to assisting Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in cleaning up there. This limitation, however, would not relieve us of our responsibility to return Japanese soldiers where we can.

Secretary Byrnes made the disclosure in explaining the presence of our marines in North china as solely a military matter, although he said that inevitably political aspects arose incidentally.

In view of our pledge, he declared, the marines should remain there until their mission was completed, although he reiterated that his statement of two weeks ago. To the effect that plans were underway for their withdrawal, still stood. He stressed that the accomplishment of our pledged purpose depended in some slight measure upon the availability of transportation, especially ships.

Mr. Brynes said that his information was that reports as to the fighting in North china had been exaggerated but, he added, the situation was most unfortunate.

Long Stay by Marines Seen
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21. Secretary of state Byrnes’ comment today, on the secret assurances that surrendered soldiers would be returned to Japan, immediately raised speculation among diplomats here that American marines and other forces would be active in strife-torn China for a fairly long time.

It was a question of how soon these United States forces in north China –the scene of conflict between Chinese Government and Chinese Communist forces- might be withdrawn that set off the discussion that led to mention of the undisclosed assurances.

Heretofore inquiries at the State Department about the need for American marines in north China have always been answered with the statement that their presence there was necessitated by the surrender of Japanese forces because it is this Government’s policy to give all possible assistance in such matters to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

This is apart from the question of sending a military mission to help train Chinese troops as Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, American commander in China, forecast immediately after his recent return to China from Washington.

Any political implications in the presence of American forces in China at this time, Mr. Byrnes said, arise incidentally to the main military purposes they serve there.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 4, 1946: New York City Welcomes the 442nd, by Jeffrey Bingham Mead

By Jeffrey Bingham Mead

It was a welcoming-home event like none other that New York City had thrown before. Summer heat and humidity descended on the region in the days leading up to the first post-World War II July 4 holiday. “Skippers of harbor craft leaned heavily on their whistles, low-flying Navy planes dived low in salute and fireboats put on a display off the Battery yesterday afternoon,” reported the New York Times on July 3.

The Transport Wilson Victory had arrived at 3:00 p.m. off ‘the Narrows’ between Staten Island and Brooklyn, the main channel long considered the maritime gateway to the city. It was escorted up the Hudson to Pier 84.

An Army tugboat carried a band that commenced playing a medley of Hawaiian tunes, causing the returning soldiers and about 800 other passengers to the rails, life rafts and the ship’s mast to view, hear and no doubt smile at the welcome they rightfully were receiving. Thoughts of home and of loved-ones who had withstood separation and sacrifices surely warmed their hearts.

The occasion was the return of 500 officers and enlisted men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They were returning home after nearly three years of some of the worst combat in Europe. Many of their brothers in arms did not live to see victory or the welcome those who survived the horrors of the Second World War were being treated to by the people of New York City that summer day.

“And for support of this Declaration,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence, “with a firm reliance on Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our Live, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Those words rang true in 1776. On this occasion -and for these special Americans- history and tradition was reaffirmed.

Those returning soldiers were making history, and history was all around them that sunny day in New York. Almost 170 years earlier British forces under the command of William Howe in late August 1776 mounted an amphibious maneuver across those same Narrows from Staten Island, landing in Brooklyn, routing Washington’s army at the Battle of Long Island. This was the first major battle of the American Revolution, and it was the largest of the entire Revolutionary War.

It was a near catastrophe for Washington, his army and the cause of American freedom and independence just declared the month before.

But the landscape the 442nd Regimental Combat Team passed by that day was the scene of one of the most surprising and successful military retreats in history –a retreat that, confusing as it may be was in hindsight a resounding victory.

Washington and the army under his command were encircled on Brooklyn Heights; the East River was at their backs. Heavy rain descended. British forces were digging trenches, and approaching the American lines. David McCullough reflected in his book ‘1776’ that, “With the situation as grim as it could be, no one was more conspicuous in his calm presence of mind than Washington, making his rounds on horseback in the rain. They must be “cool but determined,” he had told the men before battle, when spirits were high. Now, in the face of catastrophe, he was demonstrating what he meant by his own example. Whatever anger or torment or despair he felt, he kept to himself.”

The commander of the Pennsylvania regiments was Thomas Mifflin, who had crossed over from Manhattan to Brooklyn. After an inspection of the outer American defenses he advised Washington that retreat to Manhattan was necessary. The other Generals agreed and orders were sent out. “In a single night,” McCullough wrote, “9,000 troops had escaped across the river. Not a life was lost. The only men captured were three who had hung back to plunder.” The British were understandably astonished, and the cause of freedom was preserved.

The members of the 442nd were officially welcomed at New York’s Pier 84 by Hugo Rogers, president of the Borough of Manhattan along with army officers that included Brig. Gen. Robert H. Wylie, deputy chief of transportation of the Army as well as Major Gen. Ewart G. Plank, the commanding officer of the New York Port of Embarkation.

The New York Times reported that in a message from Gen. Jacob L. Devers, head of the Army Ground Forces, the soldiers of the 442nd were honored for their record of service and valor “in which we of the Army Ground Forces take special pride.”

Lieut. Col. Alfred A. Pursall (spelled Purcell by the Times) of Crystal City, Missouri was there. He was the commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion who said, according to the Times, the troops displayed the same high morale and in the scene of battle.

The Times did not shy away from the issue of discrimination the Japanese Americans endured. Pursall reportedly commented that indeed discrimination against Nisei families “was not entirely cleared up,” noting that while it was “depressing” it did not lead to bad morale. “The men took in their stride. They were out to fight for liberty and recognition of themselves and honor for their families in every way.”

“How thoroughly the 442nd lived up to its meaning (referring to the slogan ‘Go for Broke”) was reflected in the 3,600 Purple Hearts and almost 2,000 other decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor, won in their drives.”

The day after the news of the warm welcome and return to American soil was reported, the New York Times published an editorial like none other in a July 4 edition. It was and still is a cause for celebration and inspiration.

Entitled ‘First-Class Citizens,’ the July 4 Independence Day editorial harkened back to the days of the American Revolution and those who crossed the waters of New York to secure freedom and liberty we enjoy as the 21st century continues to unfold:

“By any test, the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who came home belatedly from Europe to a sincere welcome by New York City are a fine type of American citizen. All were born in the United States, or in United States territory. They were educated in American schools. As a group they and their parents and grandparents have the highest record of law observance in Honolulu and on the West Coast. Some of them were in military service before the beginning of the war. Practically all of the rest were volunteers in the sense that they did not wait their turn to be drafted. Their military record is unsurpassed by any organization of the like size in the United States Army.

“These men deserve well of their country. They are of Japanese ancestry, descendants of a people with whom we have just fought a bloody war. But if anyone ever lived up to the democratic ideals it was the men of the 442nd, 650 of whom died in action, or of wounds, and of whom 4,349 more were wounded in action and 4,881 suffered from combat-induced illness. Even more important than their combat record, however, is the report of their commanding officer that their morale has been as good in camp, as they waited long to come home, as it was in combat.

“For these men, it is hoped, there will be waiting here no second-class treatment, no second-class citizenship or social or economic discrimination. For they and their families from which they came are first-class citizens in every sense. They won that honor the hard way –with blood, sweat and tears. They are men of whom the whole United States should be proud.”

On this 234th anniversary of American independence we reminded that throughout our history the lives entailing self-sacrifice are the ones that endure the most. Whether it was 1776, the World War II years, the present and all points in between we should both celebrate and pause to recall those who answered the call in the face of tyranny’s darkness to uphold, perpetuate, support and protect free government. Throughout the great events of time our wisdom, moral courage and our ideals have been and will continue to be tested. History records the achievements of those who embraced the inner strength and faith needed to face down discouragement, fear, discrimination and turn those darker paths of human conduct into opportunities for courage and devotion to a cause and country higher than themselves. “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages,” said Washington. As it should be.