Journey to Shanghai

My Marine Corps career started in 1939 when Ernest Arnold used to come in my dad's restaurant where I worked with him. He got to talking about the Marine Corps, and I told him that at a very early age that I was very interested in the Marines. So we got together and on December the 4th, 1939, we left Fort Worth and went over to Dallas to the Allen building and enlisted in the Marine Corps. We went to the recruiting station there, and of course, we had to get an application and fill that out and they were saying how good the Marine Corps was and that they were going to make a man out of you. And they really did. I was 21. We enlisted on December the 4th, about 7 o'clock we took our oath and by 9 o'clock we were on the train.

I rode the train from Dallas to Los Angeles and then we rode another train from there into San Diego, and we got in late in the evening. It took about three days to go by train in those days to San Diego. We got into the barracks there, and then we started training the very next day. Of course, you go into close order drill and memorize the different ranks of the service, the Navy, and the Army and the Air Force, corresponding with the Marines. Our training was just the manual of arms and marching - the manual of arms and marching - the manual of arms and marching. So just for that period of time, we'd go into parades and do parades. We would go on hikes and we started out with small hikes like 10 miles and ended up doing 30-mile hikes with a pack, they made a man out of you real quick.

The biggest surprise was the discipline. As long as you're a recruit in training, if a Private First Class with just one stripe on his arm happened to walk in your barracks, well then, the first one to see him would holler attention and everybody would jump up and just stand at attention. They were doing this all along just to acquaint you with the officers you would run into in later years. And our platoon leader was a staff sergeant and we had two corporals as the assistant instructors and whenever they walked through the barracks, you jumped up real quick.

After I graduated from boot camp, I was sent up to Mare Island, California, which is a Navy Base and they made submarines there. They bring in the ships, put them in dry dock, and work them over. I stayed there about four months, then they made up the orders to go overseas. I went aboard the USS Chaumont, which is a troop ship for the Asiatic Pacific fleet and we proceeded -- as they told me then that I was going direct to Shanghai, China. I didn't realize at the time that when we got to Guam that they drew names, who was going to stay in Guam and who was going to go on the Shanghai. We just wanted to go to China because that's where the Old Salt Marines were. But I was fortunate enough that my name was drawn to go to Shanghai. In our trip over, we stopped at Pearl Harbor and then we stopped at Guam, which we ran into a typhoon at the time and had a rough trip there.

We did guard duty on ship but the Navy and the Marines never get along on a ship. We always sit there and watch them work, you know, swabbing and scrubbing and this and that and they get mad at us, you know. But that's about all we had to do on the ship was just, we had to pull our watch, and, of course, we were carrying the Asiatic payroll at the time and then you take your turns guarding the safe, which they had several million dollars in the safe. Of course, nobody's going to get it in the middle of the ocean.


USS Chaumont (AP-5)

At Sea

If you didn't have duty, why you could go up on the deck and write letters if you wanted to. But then when you get close to the 180th meridian, well, then, if you haven't been over that, well, then, that's when you're initiated. You're a pollywog before you cross the equator and you go through the initiation, which is pretty rough. We got up that morning, had our breakfast and then right after that, well then all of the Trusty Dragons started rounding everybody up and taking us to the bow of the ship and then from there they started. They run you through a slop chute and then they have rice paddles that they bang on you going through. They cut your hair. They paint your face. And just do everything in the world to just mess you up real good. And, I mean, that lasted most of the day, you know. You'd go back through that chute two or three times and it wasn't fun at all.

Then we went on into the Philippine Islands and ran into another storm, which was the first time I've ever seen a water spout and it rained fish because fish were falling all over the deck of that ship. If anybody's been on the ocean, they know that what they have is flying fish. As the wave breaks, then these fish come out of that wave and they have little wings on them and they fly. Not very far, but they fly, 20, 30, 40 feet, then back into the water again. And the first time that I witnessed that water spout blowing, it was just sucking up that ocean and fish going all over everywhere.

From there we went to Shanghai, China. At this point we started seeing some passing ships at that time, the cruise ships that were taking people around. We ran into foreign ships as well, the Chinese and the Japanese. We were going into the Yangtze river at that point. We got there July 26th, 1940.

In Shanghai, what really baffled me when we first got there, they drive on the wrong side of the road, they drive 90 miles an hour and the streets are just filled. I don't see how in the world they couldn't keep from killing hundreds and hundreds of Chinese, but they seem to manage to get out of the way. But the saying is if you're driving a vehicle and you hit one and injure them or kill them, you're responsible for that person. So you were double careful not to injure anyone or anything else.

Now we were only able to stay in what they call the International Settlement, which was a very small place because it was divided up with the Americans, the British, and the French that patrol this area and the rest of it. Of course the outline areas we couldn't go because the Japanese completely surrounded the International Settlement, their ships were out in the Yangtze River. We could go to the British sector or we could go into the French sector, but then you couldn't venture beyond that at all because if you did, then you run into the Japanese.

There were American citizens over there which we protected, but most of our duties were strictly guard. Standard Oil Co. was over there and we used to guard them. Then we had our own areas that we to guard. We had to guard the hospital. The navy hospital. And so it was one day on and two days off . The two days that you're off, you did your close order drill.


Arriving at Shanghai


The billets were what you call the mansions of Shanghai where the rich Chinese were ousted. And, of course, the Marines took all those over and made living quarters out of the whole thing. We had a squad in each room and we had eight men in a squad. They had one room that was quite large that they may have put two or three squads in. It was just like a dormitory.

Each Marine had a Chinese person that washed your clothes and organized your pack and shine your shoes, press your clothes. You didn't have to do anything. Of course, you paid him every month. The only thing he couldn't fool with was your rifle. But everything else they took care of. They'd shine your shoes and everything. So it was pretty nice. And Shanghai was a real interesting place. They had everything there. You wouldn't imagine.

When you're there you're buying this, you're buying that and so the first thing you do is buy a teakwood chest. Then you go down, you start buying this and buying that, whatever you could afford. The ivory was the most important thing that we could buy. It was real, real inexpensive there and you could buy like a Hamilton wrist watch was like a Rolex today. You could get that for less than a hundred dollars. Some silks, some kimonos, and just a little bit of everything that you could. You just kept packing it and packing it and hopefully we can get it home, you know.

The 4th Marines had their our own club in town, and, of course, everybody would go to the club. If you would venture out to say, French town, there were several bars. Most of them went to what they call the Green Hall Bar. It was a popular place that everybody would go there. And it was just a regular beer place, you know. So everybody would get drunk as a hoot owl.

Our own MPs, they'd get them drunk. They'd haul them in and put them in the brig, you know. And then, of course, the commanding officer had to go down and try and get them out and find out what was wrong. The French police is the one that you really have to really be careful with, and if you got caught by the French police. They would throw you in their jail and it's like being thrown in jail in Mexico. You'd never get out of that place. Boy, it's terrible. So you had to really be on your toes.


China Marines

China Marines

The Japanese would just test you and see what you would do. They would come on into our settlement, and, of course, what we would do is just force them back out again. And I think two occasions we got into gunfire with them. It was not in our end of the field but First Battalion, they ran into it. They had a gun fight with the Japanese. Most of it, see, was down towards where the harbor was. The Japanese were down in there with their destroyers and light cruisers so they had a lot of run-ins down there. They thought that they could just come on in and do it, and, of course, we had orders that if they come into your sector, well, you're to put them out, or, if not, then you get into a gun fight with them so that happened a few times.

The Japanese would capture the Chinese people and would execute them every other day at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. These were the the Communist Chinese. Now, Chiang Kai-shek was down in Chungking, but it was the communist regime that actually took over China. It was Mao and his group that we would catch and then turn them over to the Japanese. We watched a lot of killings over there.

We knew six months before the war started that the Japanese were going to come in and take over the International Settlement. We were going to try to evacuate the settlement and fight our way to Chungking where Chiang Kai-shek was, which would be impossible to do because that was quite a ways. But that was the plan. Then we got orders to that we were going to leave Shanghai.

We heard that we were going to leave in November. We started buying this and buying that and so whoever wants to send their stuff home, tell us now and we'll box it up and send it. So we wanted to go ahead and buy more stuff, fill it up and take it with us. So, of course, not knowing what the outcome was going to be. I took mine along with everybody else, quite a few, loaded them up on a ship, and just went right along with us to the Philippine Islands.

The citizens started leaving on the president liners long before that because they watched and said, when the Marines leave, then they want to get out. And some of them stayed and they got caught when the war started. They didn't think anything was going to happen like that, but a few of them stayed. Most of them left. Of course, we left there November 28th and we got to Philippine Islands December 1st.



Shanghai Exit

November 1941

All quotes attributed to Hold High the Torch: A History of the 4th Marines by Kenneth W. Condit and Edwin T. Turnbladh

"The summer months passed, and still there were no withdrawal orders. In September, Colonel Samuel L. Howard, since 14 May 1 94 1 the commanding officer of the 4th Marines, joined Rear Admiral William A. Glassford, commander of the Yangtze River Patrol, and Consul General Frank B. Lockhart in urging upon Admiral Hart an immediate withdrawal. Hart naturally concurred and proposed to the Navy Department that the troops depart on the Henderson, due to make a routine call at China ports in September. .... Finally, on 10 November, permission was granted, and the liners President Harrison and President Madison were chartered for the purpose."

"Colonel Howard planned to embark half his command in the Madison on the 27th, and the remainder in the Harrison on the 30th. .... About 0900, the remainder of the 4th Marines formed outside the 1 st Battalion billet and marched down Bubbling Well and Nanking Roads to the President Line dock on the Bund. Thousands of cheering people waving American and Chinese flags lined the streets to see the regiment, which had played such an intimate part in community life for over 14 years, parade through the Settlement for the last time. At the dock, members of the Municipal Council, the foreign consuls and diplomatic representatives, the commanding officers of all military units, including the Japanese, and the heads of many civic organizations were gathered to bid the Marines farewell. All hands boarded a power lighter and were ferried downstream to the waiting President Harrison. At 1400, on 28 November, the ship dropped her mooring and headed down the Whangpoo, bound for the Philippines."

Read Hold High the Torch