Saturday, June 22, 2019

7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Chinwangtao, CHINA

I'm really proud of this artifact, and have never seen another one like it.  It was given to me as a gift when a family was getting rid of their father's War items.  It is the author's opinion that this flag was given to the 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division Marines who occupied the Chinwangtao region of Northern China starting in October 1945. 

HOPEH Area of Operations, 1st Marine Division
(courtesy of "A Brief History of the 7th Marines,Div HQ, USMC, Washington DC)

Few people know about the long history the US Marine Corps has had in China.  Extending from 1818- 1949 the USMC had activity in China.  

There was a 3-fold reason why thousands of US Marines were diverted to Northern China following the surrender of the Japanese 2 September, 1945; 
1) to accept the surrender and disarm Japanese troops 2) to reinforce the Nationalist political party's dominance over a surging Communist party and 
3) to act as a buffer both in ideals and politics against Soviet imperialism.  
The 7th Marine regiment left Okinawa on September 26, 1945 and arrived in Tangku, China September 30, 1945; accepting the surrender of the Japanese October 6, 1945 in the Tientsin-Tangku-Chinwangtao areas.

Marines on parade through Tientsin, China October 1945
(courtesy of "A Brief History of the 7th Marines", Div HQ, USMC, Washington DC)

According to the History of the 7th Marines, 

"Upon arrival, the 1st Battalion received further orders sending the unit to Chinwangtao on 1 October 1945.  Under LTC Gormley, the 7th Marines succeeded in bringing to an end the fighting that sporadically erupted between the Communists on one side and the Japanese and their Chinese allies on the other. ...Although technically the fighting had stopped in China, Marines did not come to view their assignment there as one normally associated with a peacetime garrison force.  They were instructed to prepare for an eventuality including combat with hostile units. And on occasions fighting did break out between Marines and Communist Chinese soldiers. In conjunction with safeguarding of the railroad, detachments were placed along the route in fixed positions- the most common being bridges and train stations.  Their mission was to make sure that rail traffic, especially coal destined for Shanghai, moved uninterrupted along the line.  The regiment remained occupied in this task for nearly 6 months.  Often the outpost units were little more than the size of an average infantry squad.  The duty was lonely and dangerous with the men not having, at least initially, adequate quarters, clothing, or rations to endure the harsh winter of North China." 

7th Marines guard a train on the Tientsin-Chinwangtao Railroad
(courtesy of "A Brief History of the 7th Marines", Div HQ, USMC, Washington DC)

E.B. Sledge (who had seen heavy combat already with the 1st Marine Division) was diverted to China after the fighting stopped on Okinawa.  He wrote in his book "China Marine":

"The First Marine Division's three infantry regiments, the First Marines, the Fifth Marines, and the Seventh Marines, were stationed in Tientsin, Peiping, and Chinwangtao respectively.  The battalions of the division's artillery regiment, the Eleventh Marines, were attached to the infantry regiments as they had been during combat-- for no one knew what might come to pass.  If after knocking off the Nationalist units in the area, the Communists decided to seize the three mentioned important cities, combat-weary Marines would be under fire again.
The First Marines and attached artillery in Tientsin and the Fifth with their artillery support in Peiping lived in considerable comfort, billeted in steam-heated buildings.  It was a comfort broken only by occasional patrols and railroad-escort details through a countryside raided by "bandits", "guerrilas", bona fide Communists, or other threats. 
The men of the Seventh Marines weren't so lucky in Chinwangtao, down where the Great Wall of China meets the sea.  Many of them had to bivouac in pup tents in the snow-- miserable enough to most anyone but particularly to these men, many of whom had lived in the steaming tropical heat of the South and Central Pacific islands for as much as two years or more.  Furthermore, the "unfriendly troops" in the Seventh's area were more aggressive than they were around Peiping or Tientsin."

The withdrawal of the 7th Marine Regiment occurred in early 1947, with the regiment sailing back to the US the 3rd and 5th of January.  It was a blow to not only the 1st Marine Division, but all Marines stationed in China to withdraw from China.  Up until the last days of their time there, Marines were in position, ready, and continually fighting the Communist Chinese guerrillas.  The orders to withdraw were a tough pill to swallow.  
This is a very brief overview of the 7th Marine Regiment and of the 1st Marine Division activities in China.  More articles will follow; including a tribute to 4 11th Marine Regiment men KIA on 29 July, 1946. 

*The author would like any former Marine who was there to please reach out and verify the reason and existence of the flag the author owns.  It's her opinion that the flag was given in support and friendship of US Marine Corps settling in the Chingwangtao area in October-November 1945.  While there were many Marines in the 1st half of the 1900's in Chinwangtao, this flag was acquired during the WW2 era.  The author has never seen another one like it.  Thank you.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

USN WW2 Veteran Burial Place Discovered 40 Years Later

There are not many details I can give about this project in terms of names (in order to protect the privacy of the family), but there was a great success today in terms of an exciting discovery.
I've been in touch with a family whose father served as a Seabee in the Pacific in WW2. His tour of duty was extensive throughout many islands in the Pacific. He enlisted quite young and turned 18 while overseas in 1944.  

Sadly, he left his wife and young baby daughter in Kentucky and moved to Southern California after the War. They never saw or heard from him again. He died penniless and as a homeless man on the streets of LA in 1979 at age 53. The family was able to see that he was cremated per a death certificate acquired decades later, but never could find his ashes. 

Today; after 2 hours of phone calls and a trail though Los Angeles County bureaucracy, I spoke with a kind and wonderfully efficient, professional man at the Los Angeles County Crematorium and Cemetery (Mr. Garnett). He was able to find the archived log of when this USN Veteran was cremated, where his ashes was stored for 5 years, and where he was buried in a mass grave of unclaimed ashes in Los Angeles. For the year he was cremated (1980), there were 998 unclaimed cremated remains buried together in a mass grave.
We now have his final resting place. While so many questions about his life may never be answered, this is one 40 year old mystery surrounding this soul that is solved.