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Dedicated to Documenting the United States Marine Corps China Experience 1818-1949

 

 

As China again reenters the world’s stage, few Americans are aware of the relationship the United States Marine Corps shared with this distant land, and that these “Soldiers of the Sea” witnessed firsthand, many of the events that shaped the China we know today.  For some Marines, exposure to this exotic land came while serving aboard warships, whose protective guns ensured American commerce could safely operate along the Chinese coast.  For other Marines, the Middle Kingdom came into focus from the deck of cramped gunboats that causally moved up and down China’s legendary rivers.  Yet other Leathernecks discovered the mysteries of this vast and varied land while garrisoning the great cities of Peking and Shanghai.  Officially, the Marines came because they were ordered to come.  But privately their reasons for wanting to make the long Pacific crossing were as varied as the men themselves.  To one young Marine, China offered an exciting contrast to a hard scrabble farm life in eastern Colorado.  To another, it was a land where a man could establish his reputation, and in the process become a part of history.  Yet others came simply for the easy lifestyle and abundant luxuries unattainable in the United States.  Regardless of their reasons for coming, China would leave a lasting impression upon everyone of these men as they witnessed a land torn apart by internal strife, while foreign powers eagerly chipped away at the country’s sovereignty.  Like any group exposed to a new and distant culture, many Marines grew to hate the decay and stagnation they witnessed in a society so radically different from their own.  Others however, came to appreciate China’s beauty and recognized the great potential its people possessed.  For more than 125 years the United States Marine Corps maintained a presence in, or around China: this is their story...

 

 

Marines on Hatem Street, Peking c. 1925

How to use this site

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This site is my attempt to document the Marine Corps experience in China through the use of original photos, period publications, artifacts, and words, as written by the men themselves.  My interest in the China Marines was born out of a simple desire to know more about these unique men and my inability to easily find enough comprehensive materials to understand who they were, and why they were there. As I conducted research, amassed a collection of original materials and interviewed some of the last surviving China Marines, I decided much of the information gathered should be shared in the hope others might add to the China Marine story.  As for site layout, since many China Marine activities can be grouped by geographic region, I’ve chosen to use these regions as an organizational starting point.  For instance, if you want to focus your attention on understanding Marine activities in Peking, you click on the tab marked “Peking”. Likewise, to follow Marine activities in Shanghai, click the “Shanghai” tab.  Initially, I thought it would be simple to organize this site along geographic lines, but I quickly realized there were other events, actors or activities that were not restricted to a particular region, or just too common to the Marine experience to be ignored.  Therefore, I’ve added tabs on these areas as well. Since I am a big fan of timelines, I have attempted to place one master timeline on the homepage listing Marine, Chinese or key world events of importance to the story.  As you will see the timeline requires much more work to be even close to being comprehensive. Please note many of the geographic locations have under gone name changes over time.  I’ve chosen to use the names and spelling as the Marines would have recognized.  Today’s city of Beijing was known as Pekin or Peking at the turn of the twentieth century, and later in 1928, it was called Peiping.  Lastly, it should be said this is an evolving project, therefore expect changes as improvements are made, new information is discovered and mistakes corrected.  The bulk of images and items shown on this site are copyrighted from the author’s collection, unless otherwise noted.  Please do not copy without permission.  

 

A Special Note of Thanks:


I would like to thank the following Marines for their support in assisting me with this project. Without their help I would be lost: the late Cpl Gary Morhlang, USMC; Darrell Snyder, CAPT, USMC (Ret); SSgt Jeremiah Cable, USMCR; Bob Gill, MAJ, USMCR (Ret); Maj Mike Manifor, USMC, Cpl Charles Demirjian, Chester Biggs, GySgt USMC (Ret); the late Cpl Leonard Dombroski; Bill Woodier, Lt Col (Ret) USMC/USAF, CAPT Fred Greguras, and of course Rick Spooner, MAJ, USMC (Ret), whose drive and enthusiasm for all things Marine brings true credit to his beloved Corps.  I would also like to extend my thanks to Nelson Johnson Jr, Betty Jean Gerber, Sara Penella, Betsy Robinson, Margo Stever, Adam Rohloff, and Susan and Russell Harvey for sharing their time, patience and family history. And of course a big thanks to my wife and children who strongly supported me in my desire to build this site.