The China Marines —Part I

China Marines 001Marines became “China hands” in the same way Marines ended up as experts in small wars in the Western Hemisphere. It began with a threat to the security of American interests. In 1927, the president dispatched the Fourth Marine Regiment to China to protect those interests; the regiment ended up staying in China for the next 15 years.

China had been troubled by internal conflicts for years and each of these emerged with anti-foreign sentiments in some quarters of the population. In retrospect, who can blame the Chinese? Foreign interests did not exactly treat the Chinese people as if they were our equals, after all and the United States had no hesitation of intervention. Marines were no strangers to China.

In the mid-1920s fighting broke out between opposing Chinese factions around the city containing the largest foreign settlement: Shanghai. Marines were landed twice in 1925 to protect American diplomatic interests and our citizens. A more serious threat emerged two years later when Nationalist Chinese forces pushed toward Shanghai, destroying all of those that opposed their advance. The anxiety of these approaching forces were shared equally by the Chinese and foreigners because it was then the habit of the Chinese army to loot homes and businesses, and then abandon areas so that the opposing forces could have what was left. The fears of the foreign settlements were intensified by the reputation of the communist elements for violent behavior toward foreigners. The “Old China Hands” could recall the violence of the Boxers from an earlier period of unrest; a cry went out for military forces to protect them.

The United States ordered 340 Marines at Guam to reinforce the diplomatic garrison in Shanghai, but this did little to assuage the fears of American diplomats and their families. Following mail guard duty, the 4th Regiment of Marines was sent to China, departing San Diego, California on 3 February 1927 and arriving off the coast of Shanghai three weeks later. The Marines were not disembarked, however, as diplomatic instructions form Washington wanted a clearer picture of the threats against American life and property [1]. Although fighting had erupted in areas surrounding Shanghai, the State Department still would not allow the regiment to land. Finally, in late March, the municipal council of the foreign settlement declared a state of emergency, and the United States government responded by landing the regiment.

To be continued


[1] Proving, of course, that idiots like Hillary Clinton have been in the U. S. State Department for a very long time.

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Retired Marine, historian, writer.

4 thoughts on “The China Marines —Part I”

  1. I remember the mail guard duty. Interesting assignments for this group, a la The Sand Pebbles. Look forward to next installments.


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