This web page will try to convey just why it was considered such good duty to be assigned to the Fourth Marines before the Second World War. The US dollar would go a long way for enlisted men in 1930's China. The Chinese and White Russian girls were pretty, beer was cheap, and a Marine private could afford to hire a 'houseboy' to take care of his gear. The Fourth Marines had to stand a lot of guard duty in stressful locations, and witness atrocities between the Chinese and the Japanese in which they weren't allowed to intervene in, but their 30 days a year mess duty was performed by Chinese servants. China Marines didn't polish brass, mow the lawn, rake gravel, or keep their barracks clean. Servants did all these tasks for them. There were numerous confrontations with Japanese soldiers, but Marines are cocky and butting heads probably just added spice to life. Some of the men who made up the Second Battalion, Fourth Regiment are pictured below, together with what they wanted to fight for, whom they prayed to, what they read, ate, drank, and wore, whom they dated, plus Pvt. Godfrey's accomplishment.
As good as Pvt. Godfrey was with his water-cooled Browning, he had to ship-over to be promoted to Private First Class.
United States Marines were in Shanghai, China to protect American interests. During the 1930's they accomplished this task by standing guard duty along the borders of the International Settlement. Armed to the teeth with M1911 .45's carried low on their hips, fixed bayonets, and a Thompson submachine gun, these Marines look as if they're the second Great Wall of China. Incidentally, China's architectural wonder, the 4000 mile long Great Wall, ended near Camp Holcomb; the United States Marine Corps Rifle and Machine Gun Range, Chinwangtao, China. Chinwangtao, a free port on the Gulf of Chihli, is within hiking distance of the eastern end of the Great Wall of China. Beginning 1938, a small detachment of Marines were in charge of all freight shipped to and from the Peking Legation. Renamed Camp Holcomb, the former US Army summer training camp at Chinwangtao, plus the nearby Peking Marines' summer camp at Peitaiho, overlooked the white sand beaches and the red bluffs at the seaward end of the Great Wall. Sinanthropus pekinensis--I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the archaeological mystery of this really old "old China hand." In November 1941, two crates containing the 500,000 year old Peking Man's bones were entrusted to the Chinwangtao Marines and Pharmacist's Mate First class Herman Davis for shipment to the US for safekeeping. These priceless fossils on early man's evolution, disappeared. Conspiracy theories still run rampant.
The Scandinavian Brewery Co., Ltd., Shanghai provided U. B. Pilsener Beer for this "E" Company party. U. B. Beer was a favorite brand of both China Marines and China Sailors. Take a look at the two Marines who have unhooked their fair leather belts and run them through epaulets. Salty, huh? The fair leather belt was made obsolete sometime in early 1948. Click here for a 1937 "E" Company roster. Members of Foxtrot and Golf, plus the USS Sacramento Marine detachment, are here. Email me if you want my Hotel company roster.
The Sacramento (PG-19) was a gunboat nicknamed the "Galloping Ghost of the China Coast." During the 1930's, the Sacramento was part of the Asiatic Fleet. Commissioned in 1914, she also served at Vera Cruz, Mexico, in Caribbean waters, at Gibraltar, and off the Russian coast at Vladivostok. The Sacramento earned one battle star fighting the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. A battle star is also known as an engagement star, and crewmembers on that fateful day would have added a small bronze star to the ribbon worn in lieu of their Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.
When the Fourth Regiment held a parade, the popular event would be announced in the local newspapers. These regimental parades were for everyone living in the International Settlement to enjoy. However, when the Fourth Marines hosted a mess night, you had to be invited. The pomp and circumstance of a mess night featured polished silver, sparkling crystal, fine china and the martial music of the Fessenden Fifes. This musical group was named after Sterling Fessenden, an American who was the chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council. This council governed all who lived in the settlement. Mr. Fessenden orchestrated a gift of musical instruments to the Marines, who gratefully name the fifes after him. The tradition of Marine Corps mess night can be traced back to Gen. Lemuel Shepherd---in 1927, he had been impressed with British ceremony when he attended the Second Battalion, Scots Guards' mess night. The legendary "Chesty" Puller didn't need a newspaper for his announcements. During the summer of 1941, Major Puller was in Shanghai and when asked what he would do if the Japanese attacked, he growled: "I don't know what the United States Government will do; I don't know what Marine Headquarters will do; and I don't know what the regiment will do. But---no orders to the contrary---I'll take my battalion and fight my way the hell back to Frisco." Before World War Two, every Marine was issued a set of dress blues, including the white trousers used for formal affairs. For liberty, China Marines would often have a second pair of blue trousers altered by a tailor to give them a salty bell bottom look. About the same time that Donald Dickson created the drum major art that I have pictured above left, John Philip Sousa died. Sousa was responsible for turning the Marine Band into the finest military band in the country. After his death, Sousa's body laid in rest four days in the Marine Band Auditorium.
This photo of a color guard was taken at the Shanghai Race Course. The regimental flag seems to be Old Blue, which was retired on July 4th, 1937 when it was replaced with one having a scarlet background. The Fourth Marines shined off the race course/parade ground too. Occasionally, the Marines used the Japanese rifle range for practice. Once, several supposed marksmen from a group of observing Japanese officers, asked to shoot the American rifles. They just managed to keep their shots within the target frame. A contemptuous Marine gunny took a rifle from one of the officers and, offhand, scored a bulls-eye. Nine of his next ten shots were in the black. Skeptical, the Japanese sent one of their group to the butts. The dead-eye gunny repeated his feat.
Pvt. Shaw is wearing his winter green uniform and his Model 1917A1 steel helmet. Many, but not all, of the China Marines punched a hole in the front of their helmet and screwed on an EGA--this embellishment was a carryover from the First World War. Some Marines preferred to fasten their helmet's chinstrap behind their head. The thinking was that, if fastened this way, the concussion from a nearby shelling wouldn't break their neck. By the way, a China Marine private could afford to buy tailor-made uniforms and to personalize his stationery.
*NOTE* All images and content are copyright by James A. Shaw. Reproduction of any kind is strictly prohibited without prior express written consent...