Withdrawal of the 1st Marine Division
CONSOLIDATION OF MARINE POSITIONS1By the summer of 1946, the combat efficiency of the 1st Marine Division and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing had dropped far below wartime standards. Neither organization was considered in satisfactory shape to perform its normal function in an amphibious operation. The two units had become, in effect, garrison forces with capabilities geared to the missions which had been theirs since the war's end.
The wing's troubles stemmed from wholesale personnel turnover brought on by rapid demobilization. General Sanderson reported on 15 July: "Only 35% of the present enlisted strength of the entire Wing can be considered to have any qualifications other than basic. . . ." He pointed out further that MAG-24 had less than one experienced mechanic for every four planes, and that it was forced to operate at only 20 percent of aircraft availability. Progress in correcting training deficiencies was hampered by a lack of experienced instructors.2
The division shared with the wing the personnel problems brought on by demobilization. An extensive schooling program begun by IIIAC to keep abreast of the loss of specialists was continued and expanded. Ranges were opened near Peiping, Tientsin, Chinwangtao, and Tsingtao to maintain weapons proficiency and to qualify those replacements who had missed range instruction in boot camp. Squads and platoons practiced tactics to the extent that maneuver room was available in the immediate vicinity of Marine posts, but field training by larger formations was not possible. By September, 1st Division units were reporting military efficiency levels of 25-35 percent,3 barely adequate to do the job at hand and certainly far below acceptable standards for amphibious troops.
Part of the solution to the combat readiness problems of the division and wing lay in a return to more normal rates of personnel attrition. At the direction of the Secretary of the Navy, a target date of 1 October was set for the discharge of all reserves and draftees in the naval establishment, a decision prompted by the limited postwar funds available to operating forces.4 From North China, all but a
handful of these men were on their way home by mid-September. Replacements scheduled to arrive during the fall month% together with the regulars remaining, promised stability in unit rosters and therefore greater benefit from training programs.
Substantial cuts in the strength of Marine Forces, China, continued during the summer, easing the replacement problem appreciably, As a result of the Communist threat to Tsingtao in June, the Nationalist garrison had been strengthened, and there seemed little reason to station there any more Marines than were necessary for the immediate security and support of Seventh Fleet shore installations. On 1 August, the 1st Division issued an operation order directing the reduction of Marine Forces, Tsingtao, to the strength of a reinforced infantry battalion. The 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, augmented by detachments from the regiment's supporting units and with operational control of VMO-6, was selected to remain. Colonel Samuel B. Griffith, II, was assigned duty as Ics commander. The 12th Service Battalion was directed to continue supply functions for Navy and Marine units in the Tsingtao area under operational control of 7th Service Regiment. The air units at Tsangkou Field, except VMO-6, remained under the wing's command.
All regulars in Tsingtao over the number needed for the reinforced 3/4, the 12th Service Battalion, and 1st Wing detachments were transferred to 1st Division units in Hopeh. The reserves and draftees eligible for discharge, over 2,200 men, were transferred to units returning to the United States. In August, 3/12, the 3d Medical Battalion, and headquarters, signal, and service companies of the regimental reinforcing elements sailed for the west coast to form part of a new 3d Marine Brigade organizing at Camp Pendleton. On 3 September, the 4th Marines, less 3/4, embarked and sailed for Norfolk to become a component of the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. On the departure of the regiment, the command Marine Forces, Tsingtao, ceased to exist, and Colonel Griffith reported to the Commander, Naval Facilities, Tsingtao, for operational control. At the same time, the Marine air base at Tsangkou came under the naval commander. The division and wing retained administrative control of their respective units.
The narrowing of the 1st Division's operational responsibility to Hopeh was made even more significant by a long-sought change in Marine dispositions. Sometime near the beginning of July, General Marshall informed the Central Government that he was going to order the Marines off coal and rail guard duty and bring an end to their exposure to Communist attack. His decision forced the Nationalists to begin relieving the Marines without further delay.5 In July, eight Marine bridge detachments were replaced by troops of the 94th CNA, which included four first-line divisions equipped with American arms.
On 7 August, as the pace of reliefs was accelerated, General Rockey reported to Admiral Cooke the extent of the Marine commitment along the railroad. Over 4,700 officers and men, a
third of the actual strength of the 1st Division,6 were stationed from Tangku to Chinwangtao. Of that number, 873 Marines were on outpost duty, an assignment that included the security of 20 bridges. Sixty men a day were detailed to bridge guard on the coal trains originating at Kuyeh; between 120 and 180 men were constantly employed in this task. The close-in protection of the KMA mines near Linsi was the responsibility of three companies of the 5th Marines. Intelligence indicated that 25,000 Communist troops, both regulars and militia, were located within 15 miles of either side of the railroad in the 1st Division zone of responsibility. Nationalist forces in the same area, all under the 94th CNA with headquarters in Tientsin, totaled 35,898, but many of these soldiers were former puppet troops of dubious military worth.7
The Communists did not relax their program of harassment while the Marines were withdrawing from the railroad. On 4 August a coal train headed for Tientsin was ambushed and derailed near Lutai. The four Marine guards riding the caboose and Chinese railroad police fought off the 50-man ambush party; a relief train from Tangku rescued the men. Sentries on bridge and station outposts were often sniped at, and occasionally a night-long exchange of fire would occupy the Marines and their elusive attackers. Through August and September the number of such incidents declined steadily as the division's units became less vulnerable. The Communists showed no disposition toward attacks on the main Marine positions, but such costly attacks were unnecessary. The same purpose of speeding the decision to withdraw the Marines was accomplished by harassing actions, and without the risk of all-out retaliation.
In effecting a reorganization of its positions, the division returned the battalions of the 1st and 11th Marines in Peiping to their parent units in Tientsin. The 5th Marines (less 1/5) was reassigned to Peiping and the command, Peiping Marine Group, was dissolved. The 1st Battalion, 5th, continued its year-long association with Tangku and remained responsible for the security of the port and its warehouses and supply dumps. In like manner, after pulling in its outposts, the 7th Marines continued to hold the American installations in Peitaiho and Chinwangtao, a job that had occupied the regiment since the initial landings in China.
The last relief of Marine rail guards by Nationalist troops took place on 30 September. The event also marked the completion of moves which saw the concentration of division units in three main areas--Peiping, Tientsin-Tangku, and Peitaiho-Chinwangtao. With the ending of its responsibility for ensuring coal delivery to Chinwangtao for shipment, Marine Forces, China, had only four residual missions: (1) to protect U.S. property, installations, and personnel; (2) to maintain such detachments in port areas as were necessary for its own support; (3) to guard only those routes and means of communication
necessary for its own support; and (4) to assist and provide logistical support for U.S. Army activities of Executive Headquarters.
While the ground elements of the division were regrouping, the wing made two changes that reflected the altered nature of Marine operations in China. On 22 September, the wing service squadron, which had acted as a personnel clearing center at Tsangkou Field for almost a year, moved to Changkeichuang Field outside Tientsin to relieve headquarters squadron of maintenance, housekeeping, and transportation details. On 15 October, VMO-6 was detached from 3/4's command and moved to Tientsin to provide additional reconnaissance aircraft to cover supply trains bridging the gaps between Marine garrisons and to scout the immediate vicinity of American defensive positions. Both transfers were made entirely by air.
During this period of change, the last two general officers who had made the original landing completed their China duty. On 26 August, General Worton was relieved as ADC by Brigadier General Alfred H. Noble, and on 18 September, Major General Samuel L. Howard relieved General Rockey in command of the division. Rockey's new post was Commanding General, Department of the Pacific, and Worton took command of Marine Garrison Forces, Pacific, in succession to Noble.8 Howard, a China-duty veteran who had commanded the 4th Marines in Shanghai in 1941, acted quickly to forestall any thought by the Chinese that a change of command meant a change in Marine purpose. In a public statement addressed to the people of North China, he stated:
The U.S. Government's announced policy is the promotion of peace and harmony in China. General George C. Marshall and the members of his Executive Headquarters are working toward that end.
The U.S. Marines have no part in the establishment of our nation's policy. We are an organization whose traditional duty is to support and uphold that policy and to protect American lives and property in any part of the globe. We are in China to carry out the directives of our State Department or those of General Marshall. This we propose to do.9
The Communist attitude toward the Marines did not soften in any way with the withdrawal of the Americans from railroad and mine outposts. General Howard's assumption of command was greeted with an incident as serious as that at Anping in what it portended--a well planned raid on the Division Ammunition Supply Point at Hsin Ho six miles northwest of Tangku. The supply point was laid out along the edge of a large oval almost two miles across on its long axis and just over a mile wide on the short; the area enclosed was marshy ground. A barbed wire fence, a motor road, and eight sentry towers ringed the oval; the ammunition was disposed in tented piles between the towers. During the summer of 1946, this ammunition supply seemed an irresistible lure to many individuals and small groups which attempted to steal from it. Sentries were frequently fired
upon and their return fire drove off several raiding parties bent on getting at the contents of the tents inside the barbed wire. The last such incident happened on 4 September and then a lull occurred which set the stage for a determined effort by the Communists to make a sizeable haul.
At about 2200 on 3 October, a sentry at the ammunition point's Post 3, which was nearly a quarter of a mile from the guard house, discovered a large group of Chinese just outside the perimeter wire. When he approached to investigate, he was fired upon and, after an exchange of shots, ran to the sentry tower to call in an alarm. While he was phoning, a raiding group cut through the wire, entered one of the tents, and began carrying off ammunition boxes. The sentry's rifle fire failed to stop the thieves.
A strong covering party of the raiders, from positions in the fields adjoining the ammunition point, opened a heavy fire on a truck carrying men of the guard to the aid of the sentry. Before the Marines could reach Post 3, they were forced to dismount, take cover, and build up a firing line, while the remainder of the guard, 52 men in all, came up and joined the fight. Gradually the firing from the fields died away and when a reinforcement of 100 men of 1/5 from Tangku arrived at 2300 the Chinese had disappeared. Machine guns and mortars were set up and searching fire by flare light was delivered for several hours to discourage any repetition of the raid. At dawn the nearby fields were thoroughly searched; one dead and one wounded Communist soldier were found and 11 cases of rifle ammunition and grenades were recovered. An inventory showed 32 cases of pistol, carbine, and rifle ammunition were missing. Papers on the dead man and interrogation of the prisoner identified the raiding group as a 200-man company from the Road Protecting Battalion of the 53d Communist Regiment; the unit had come from an area about 35 miles north of Tangku in a day's hard marching.
The Communists withdrew as rapidly and as secretly as they had come. Aerial reconnaissance did not spot them or the donkey carts they had brought with them to carry away the ammunition. The raid was well planned, well executed, and but for the prompt reaction of the Marine guards might have been even more successful. The strengthened security precautions taken at Hsin Ho as a natural result of the raid did not discourage the Communists from attempting further attacks, but they helped delay a return engagement until spring.
WITHDRAWAL FROM HOPEH10Almost as the last shots were dying away at Hsin Ho, General Marshall was reporting to President Truman that he felt he could no longer be useful in China as a mediator. Neither side was willing
to honor its truce agreement nor to make any concessions which would materially weaken its position. The fires of hatred fanned by years of bitter civil strife could not be quenched by negotiations. An American reporter categorizing the attitude of the Communists and the Nationalists at this time aptly summed up the situation: "Each side is convinced of the insincerity of the other. Each side is convinced that the enemy aims only at its destruction. And each side is right."11
Unwilling to admit failure whenever the barest glimmer of hope for peace remained, Marshall continued to try to bring the two sides together during the remainder of the year. His efforts were fruitless. Finally, on 3 January 1947, President Truman directed Marshall's recall for consultation and on the 7th, as the general was preparing to leave China, announced Marshall's nomination as the next Secretary of State. In evaluating the Marshall mission, the President commented:
. . . it is important to bear in mind that even before he left for China there already existed a formal agreement in writing between the Central Government and the Communists to work toward national unity. This is the agreement that was brought about previously with the assistance of Ambassador Hurley when he headed our diplomatic mission to China, and had this not already been in existence I would not have sent Marshall to China.12
General Marshall issued a strongly worded personal statement as he left China which outlined his views on the reason for failure of the negotiations leading toward peace and coalition government. On the Nationalist side he laid most of the blame on a "dominant group of reactionaries" in the Kuomintang who believed "that cooperation by the Chinese Communist Party in the government was inconceivable and that only a policy of force could definitely settle the issue."13 While he recognized the existence of an even more powerful and doctrinaire group among the Communist leaders who would not compromise their views, Marshall stated that he considered that there was "a definite liberal group among the Communists, especially of young men who have turned to the Communists in disgust at the corruption evident in the local governments--men who could put the interests of the Chinese people above ruthless measures to establish a Communist idealogy in the immediate future."14
The American representative recognized, however, that many knowledgeable people disagreed entirely with his thesis, holding that Communist party discipline was so rigid that it could not condone the existence of divergent viewpoints. Marshall advocated as a solution to the China crisis the assumption of leadership by liberals in the Central Government and in independent minority parties, In the context of his remarks, it is apparent that he had few illusions that what he recommended would occur.
While American efforts to bring about peace in China were reaching a final peak of frustration and disappointment, the role of the Marines was undergoing a sharp reappraisal. The mission of assistance and support to American-sponsored activities of Executive Headquarters was the prime reason for the continued presence of the 1st Marine Division in North China. As it became increasingly apparent that a complete collapse of truce negotiations was in the offing, plans were laid for the withdrawal of all Marine units from Hopeh. Guam, which was being developed as the principal forward base of FMFPac, was originally designated the redeployment point for the entire division, but later plans provided for gradual reduction of forces with some outfits slated for Guam, others for the west coast, and a few aviation units headed for Hawaii. The first major move was ordered from Washington and called for the return of the 7th Marines (Reinforced) directly to the States.15
A division operation plan incorporating this decision was issued on 2 December. All troops were scheduled to ship out from Chinwangtao. Before the month's end, the 7th Marines was directed to disband the reinforcing companies of the division service and support battalions which had been attached to it during most of the China tour of duty. Those men eligible for return on the basis of their time overseas were incorporated in the regiment's ranks; recent replacements were transferred to units remaining in China. Two artillery battalions, 3/11 and 4/11, and VMO-6 were attached to the regiment for the return voyage. A small rear echelon was charged with the responsibility for disposing of all U.S. property in the Chinwangtao-Peitaiho area. To provide security while American troops and supplies were being shipped from Chinwangtao, a guard detachment of two companies from 1/1 was sent to the KMA port town on 28 December. The 7th Marines embarked and sailed on 5 January, reporting to FMFPac for operational and administrative control.
Sailing with the regiment but bound for Ewa on Oahu was the ground echelon of VMF(N)-533. In December, the flight echelon of the squadron had flown its night fighters to Guam via Shanghai, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima; from Guam the planes were shipped the rest of the way to Ewa. Eleven days after the VMF-(N)-533 aircraft staged through Okinawa, the Corsairs of VMF-115 were flown to the island to pick up the carrier Tarawa as a transport to Ewa. This cut in MAG-24 strength was ordered on 23 December as a part of a further reduction of Marine Forces, China, which saw the departure of the remaining units of the 11th Marines for Guam.
Heavy icing conditions at Taku Bar and in the Hai River made it necessary to use Chinwangtao as the shipping point for troops ordered out on 23 December also. The 1st Tank Battalion, less Company B which remained attached to the 1st Marines and Company C which had been disbanded by the 7th Marines, left for Guam with the division artillery regiment on 18 January. The
ground echelon of VMF-115 sailed at the same time for Ewa.
For a short while in December, Marine combat units were leaving China as Army dependents arrived. General Marshall had approved the sending out of the wives and children of personnel attached to Executive Headquarters before the truce reached its final stages of disintegration. As a result, dependents began arriving at Tangku in August and were escorted to Peiping by Marine train guards and covering flights of OYs. A sizeable shipload arrived on 14 November, but the situation was such that many of these people were sent home on 23 December when another dependent ship arrived. Thereafter the civilian traffic was all one way--homebound. Many dependents bound for Peiping never got off the ships they arrived in.
Some Marine officers and senior NCOs who were normally entitled to have their dependents with them at peacetime overseas stations were quite anxious to have their families join them in China. When the matter was first seriously considered in the summer of 1946 after the Navy had approved the idea in principle,16 General Rockey recommended strongly against its adoption for forces in Hopeh. Aside from the obvious danger from Communist action, he felt that the personnel and military situation was too fluid, that suitable housing was not available, and that there was a significant danger to the health of women and children exposed to a wealth of strange diseases.17 Before he left China, however, Rockey endorsed the idea of sending Marine dependents to Tsingtao since its geographic situation permitted quick evacuation and close-in naval support, while the health and housing picture was considerably better than it was in Tientsin and Peiping.18 On 29 November, the Commandant wrote to General Howard that he was ready to recommend to the Secretary of the Navy that dependents be sent out to China as soon as the troop list was firm.19 Marine families actually began arriving at Tsingtao in late fall, following by several months the arrival of the first dependents of Navy men stationed at the port.
The Department of State made its formal announcement of the end of American participation in the activities of Executive Headquarters on 29 January. The stay of the 1st Division units in Hopeh was tied to the evacuation of American personnel and property from Peiping. In a new operation order issued on 3 February, the division was directed to provide tactical and logistical support to the Army's Peiping-based forces until their withdrawal was completed and at the same time to finish preparations for its own departure from China. The 1st Marines in Tientsin and the 5th in Peiping and Tangku were ordered to provide train guards, rescue parties, and motor convoys as needed in addition to routine security detachments. One battalion of the 1st Marines was to be ready to fly to Shanghai on six hour's notice, a requirement which reflected the fact
that the few Army and Navy units left in the central Chinese city were not organized or equipped to protect American lives and property.
Training was the keynote of China duty for the ground elements of General Howard's command during the waning months of the Marines' stay in Hopeh. Between the fall of 1946 and the spring of 1947, there was a steady but slow rise in the reported combat efficiency of the various elements of the division, but the lack of opportunity for large unit maneuvers and amphibious practice put an effective ceiling on efficiency ratings. By April only the medical and motor transport battalions, whose duties were roughly the same in war and in peace, reported percentages of combat efficiency as high as 75 percent; the remainder of the division hovered around the 50 percent mark and the infantry regiments hung at 40 percent.20
The situation in the 1st Wing was somewhat better since the pilots were able to maintain flying proficiency. The requirements for patrol flights were sharply curtailed, however, by the fold-up of Executive Headquarters and the consolidation of Marine positions. In December, VMF-211 got in three weeks of gunnery practice over the sea off Tsingtao while it was temporarily based at Tsangkou Field, but in general fighter pilots had little opportunity for combat training. As far as the crews of VMR-153 were concerned, there was no discernible letup in the heavy schedule of operations that they had met since the transport planes first reached North China. In late February, at Seventh Fleet order, the squadron began dropping UNRRA supplies, mainly clothing and medical items, in Communist territory in western Hopeh.21 By 27 March when this mission ended, three-quarters of a million pounds of relief supplies had been air dropped.
Marine transports were sent to Tsinan on 3 March to evacuate 17 American and foreign civilians threatened by fighting between CNA and Communist troops. This particular type of rescue mission was to become more and more a part of the VMR-153 routine as its stay in China continued and the civil war situation grew less and less favorable to the Nationalists. The decision as to what aviation units were to remain in China after the withdrawal of the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced) had been made in Washington by March and the ubiquitous transport squadron headed the slim list of units scheduled to base at Tsangkou where a new command, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific (AirFMFWesPac), was to be organized.
Colonel John N. Hart, the chief of staff of the wing, was assigned duties as commanding officer of the new organization which was to be a part of
the over-all Marine command to be activated at Tsingtao--FMFWesPac. The wing issued the operation order for the withdrawal of its units on 25 March as a preliminary part of the 1st Division's similar inclusive plan which was published on 1 April. In addition to VMR- 153, one fighter squadron (VMF-211), a headquarters squadron (formed from the wing service squadron), and the air base detachment already at Tsangkou were included in Hart's command. The pilots of VMF-218 began flying their ships to Shanghai via Tsingtao on 26 March and completed a further move to Okinawa by the 30th. From Okinawa the Corsairs picked up a carrier for transport to Guam.
Guam was to be the next base for the wing and for MAG-24, and the planes and men of the headquarters and service squadrons moved to the Marianas in April. The advance CPs of the wing and group opened on Guam on the 24th. The rear echelon of MAG-24 closed out all Marine facilities at South Field by 9 May and headed for Guam; with its departure all scheduled flights to Peiping ceased. While the 1st Marine Division remained in China, a few transports of VMR-153 and six fighters of VMF-211 remained at Changkeichuang Field, which was serviced by an air base detachment. Regular flight operations from the field did not end until 19 June.
The final plan for the withdrawal of the 1st Marine Division ground elements was preceded by several minor moves which anticipated the deployment ordered on 1 April as had the 1st MAW plan. On 10 March, Company B of the 1st Pioneer Battalion was sent to Guam to assist in camp construction activities for the 1st Brigade which was slated to be based on the island. Brigadier General Edward A. Craig, who had relieved General Noble as ADC at the turn of the year, was the commander designate of the new unit.22 On the 17th, Company E of 2/1 was ordered to Tsingtao to augment 3/4 so that the reinforced battalion could relieve all seamen guards at naval installations. At the same time the 1st Reconnaissance Company was sent to Chinwangtao to relieve the one 1st Marines company still on duty with the guard detachment at the port.
Essentially, the division's withdrawal plan, which was to take effect on the departure of the last elements of the Army's headquarters group from Peiping, divided the division into four detachments. The Marine ground units detailed to FMFWesPac included the 1st Marines, less its Weapons Company and 1/1, and company-sized attachments from the division's headquarters, service, engineer, medical, and motor transport battalions. Similar attachments of division supporting troops were added to the 5th Marines which was scheduled for Guam as the infantry component of the 1st Brigade. The headquarters companies of FMFWesPac and of the 1st Brigade were to be formed by redesignating the Headquarters and Service Companies of the 1st and 5th Marines. A rear echelon consisting of the 7th Service Regiment and 1/1 was directed to dispose of all U.S. property in the area occupied by Marines before withdrawing. All remaining elements of the division
were ordered to Camp Pendleton to join units then stationed there and to rebuild others to form a new 1st Marine Division.
During this period when the division withdrawal plan was just getting underway, the Communists made their most punishing attack against the Marines. Again the ammunition point at Hsin Ho was the target, and by all indications the raiding force was the same one that had hit the point in October. (See Map 36.) Ironically, the Marine guards were close to the end of their task when the Communists struck. The 7th Service Regiment had nearly finished the process of separating the serviceable ammunition from the stocks and shipping it out of China. Much of what remained was useable but unstable or in poor condition. Although no decision had been made as yet to turn over this ammunition residue to the Nationalists,23 the prospect that this might be done was obvious and may have triggered the attack.
Following the October raid, the layout of the supply point had been altered from an oval to a more regular triangular shape, with the long axis toward the north. The ammunition was grouped in eight dump areas along the triangle's legs, a pair two miles in length and a shorter side a little over a mile long. At the northern apex, the point most distant from the guardhouse, was a two-man sentry post. Several other fixed posts were placed at strategic points along the perimeter and jeep patrols checked the open stretches between. The security system was adequate to discourage thievery and to hold off the attacks of small raiding groups until reinforcements could arrive from Tangku, but it was not designed to cope with an attack by a force estimated at 350 well-armed men.
At about 0115 on 5 April, a bugle call sounded from the fields adjacent to the northernmost sentry post and a fusillade of rifle and machine gun fire burst out of the night directed at the Marines. The two sentries returned the Communist fire for about 10 minutes before they were killed. Two separate bodies of raiders then penetrated the northern dump, their action evidently a diversion for a stronger and heavier attack which took place farther down the eastern side of the ammunition point. The target of this attack was a dump area containing artillery and mortar ammunition and fuzes. The Communist fire emptied a patrol jeep, killing all three occupants, and drove back the other sentries as well as the men from the main guard coming to their rescue. Eight more Marines were wounded in the exchange of shots.
As soon as word was received in Tangku that the Hsin Ho point was under attack Company C of 1/5 was dispatched to the scene. The Communists were ready for them. At 0200, as the self-propelled 105mm howitzer leading the relief column reached a narrow point in the road near Hsin Ho, it was disabled by a land mine and blocked the way. Immediately, the Marine vehicles following, a jeep and two trucks crowded with men, were subjected to an intense fire coming from an irrigation ditch only 40 yards east of the road. Under cover of
Map 36: Attack on Hsin Ho Ammunition Supply Point, 5 April 1947
this fire, two waves of Communist soldiers rushed forward and threw grenades at the Marines who had taken cover behind the trucks and were firing back. The Communists, a group of 35-40 men, then pulled back to the ditch and kept up a brisk exchange for another 15 minutes before they were driven off. Eight more Marines were wounded in this well-planned ambush.
By this time the main body of the raiders was withdrawing, leaving behind six dead and taking an estimated 20-30 wounded with them. Tracks showed that six to eight carts and a number of pack animals carried full loads of ammunition out of the dump but no accurate count of what was lost could be taken since the Communists blew up the remnants of the piles they had stolen from. A rear guard composed of the raiders who had hit the northern dump area furnished covering fire until 0300 when the last of the Communists drew off. Again, as in the first Hsin Ho attack, the Communists got away undetected.
Heavy punitive columns from 1/5 and planes from VMO-3 and VMF-211 were on the trail at dawn but the only Communists sighted were those who had died in the attack. The raiders and their booty, ammunition and fuzes which could be made into mines, were able to reach a ferry across the Chin Chung River eight miles north of Hsin Ho and disappear on the other side into a maze of farming villages and fields.
The unsatisfactory ending of the second Hsin Ho attack was a grim reminder of the handicaps under which the Marines operated in North China. The initiative rested with the Communists, who attacked when and where they pleased, secure in the knowledge that once they struck and ran they were safe from effective reprisal hidden among the thousands of villagers within a short distance of any Marine post.
As a matter of expediency, before the month of April was out the ammunition point was being guarded by Nationalist troops. The transfer had little element of formality; "it was more a walking away from the ammunition than a turnover."24 Only a small detachment from 7th Service Regiment which was cleaning up the last stocks of serviceable ammunition remained at Hsin Ho and these men were withdrawn to Tientsin on 15 May.25 At virtually the same time in Tsingtao, the Nationalists began acquiring similar stocks of American ammunition declared unserviceable by boards of survey. The ammunition was dumped in small quantities in revetments near Tsangkou Field after the local CNA commander was informed of the intention to do so. Naturally enough, the ammunition quickly disappeared.26
Marine activities in Hopeh gradually shut down and centered in Tientsin as the division withdrew on schedule. The last motor convoy carrying 5th Marines gear cleared Peiping on 12 May, and on
the same date the regiment (less 1/5) sailed for Guam. On the 20th, the 1st Marines departed for Tsingtao, leaving 1/1 as the guard force for the rear echelon. The port of Tangku's garrison was secured when 7th Service Regiment withdrew its naval detachment, the successor to GroPac-13, to Tientsin, and 1/5 followed the rest of its regiment to Guam on the 24th. For a few days, the only Marines in Hopeh stationed outside of Tientsin were at Chinwangtao, but Communist attacks on the railroad at that port soon prompted their withdrawal.
The Communist drive on Chinwangtao was in sufficient strength to threaten the CNA perimeter positions, and Nationalist gunboats fired over the Marine camp on one occasion to beat back attacks on the railroad.27 Between 22-24 May, 79 U.S. and European civilians were evacuated from Peitaiho by Marine OYs and Navy landing craft. On the 26th, the Marine guard detachment, the 1st Pioneer Battalion which had taken post in late April to relieve the reconnaissance company, boarded LSMs and left for Tientsin. The Communist attack proved to be only the most serious of a long series of attempts to disrupt rail traffic in the vital corridor to Manchuria, and the Nationalists were able to retain their hold on Chinwangtao.
The remainder of the division shipped out for the States and Guam during the first weeks of June. The only threat to the orderly withdrawal procedure was a report received on the 18th that the Communists intended to attack Tangku. To counter this action, a rifle company at Tsingtao was alerted for airlift to Tientsin to reinforce 1/1. The threat failed to materialize and the division headquarters battalion and attached units sailed for San Diego on 20 June. At midnight on the 19th, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick L. Wieseman, commanding the division rear echelon, reported by dispatch to the Commanding General, FMFWesPac, for operational control.
FLEET SUPPORT28The troop strength of Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific, was settled early in 1947 at an interdepartmental conference in Washington in line with the State Department view "that the number of United States armed forces ashore in China should be maintained at the minimum compatible with United States interests."29 The command drew its name from the altered title of Seventh Fleet which had been redesignated Naval Forces, Western Pacific in January. Named to head FMFWesPac, which was activated on 1 May, was Brigadier General Omar T. Pfeiffer, who had served under Admiral Cooke as Fleet Marine and Planning Officer since January 1946.30
The basic organization of General Pfeiffer's command included a force headquarters and service battalion, two infantry battalions, the 12th Service
Battalion, and AirFMFWesPac. Its strength at the end of May after all its elements had joined was 279 officers and 3,747 enlisted men. Administratively, the air elements remained a part of 1st MAW with operational control resting with General Pfeiffer. In the case of the service battalion, the same situation applied although the phrasing vested "military command and coordination control" in FMFWesPac and retained "management and technical control" in Service Command, FMFPac.31
In the absence of a regular artillery unit, FMFWesPac was reinforced by enough officers and men to form the nucleus of a provisional artillery organization with two six-gun 105mm howitzer batteries. Five officers and 16 men were added to the force as a tactical headquarters, and one rifle company in each infantry battalion was augmented by 3 officers and 22 artillerymen. These reinforced companies were commanded by artillery majors with infantry captains as executive officers. The battalions were commanded by colonels with lieutenant colonels as executives.32
FMFWesPac was ordered to continue the principal mission executed by 3/4 and its predecessors of furnishing security for American naval installations. In alternate months, each of the two infantry battalions was to furnish all the guard details needed for wharfs and warehouses, barracks and headquarters, and ammunition dumps and motor pools. One company, initially E of 2/1, was assigned to the air base guard for several months at a time. The force's lone tank platoon was permanently stationed at the field as part of its defenses.
In addition to its guard duties, FMFWesPac had a mission of providing emergency protection for American lives and property in Tientsin, Nanking, and Shanghai. The three cities contained the majority of Americans in China on government business, aside from the sizeable contingent at Tsingtao. The protective requirement was temporary in nature as far as the 1,900-man division rear echelon at Tientsin was concerned; its planned departure date was set for the end of August. At the Chinese capitol of Nanking, there were 1,240 military and diplomatic personnel and their dependents and at Shanghai were another 1,700. Besides these official representatives, more than 4,500 American nationals were in China on private business and the number was steadily increasing.
Airlift was the means of accomplishing the quick reinforcement intended by FMFWesPac orders. The infantry company at Tsangkou had to have a rifle platoon ready at all times for lift on an hour's notice, One of VMR-153'S R5C transports stood by on the same alert. On six hour's warning, all of 2/1 had to be prepared to lift from Tsangkou in the squadron's transports. In surprise practice alerts undertaken during the summer, the ready platoon was aloft in half an hour and seven plane loads of infantrymen were airborne in less than an hour. On the departure of 2/1, 3/4 was to undertake all security commitments, including those at the airfield, assisted by bluejackets trained in interior guard duty by the Marines.
The addition of a second infantry battalion to the units at Tsingtao was made in part so that a realistic program of amphibious training could be scheduled. By alternating months of guard and training, both battalions were able to increase combat efficiency appreciably. All summer long, small unit practice for amphibious exercises planned for the fall was the daily routine of the battalion in training. An important adjunct of this improved program was the instruction given ships' landing forces in the tactics and techniques of land combat. One or two ships of Admiral Cooke's forces were detailed each month for this training which was conducted as a regular activity of FMFWesPac.
No amount of planning or training, however, could overcome Tsingtao's most serious deficiency as a site for amphibious exercises. There was no safe impact area for live firing in support and execution of a landing, and no room for maneuver ashore in the heavily cultivated countryside. Fields used by the Marines in cold weather for extended order training were denied them as soon as the spring thaws allowed crops to be planted. The city's food supply was too critical as a result of the Communist economic blockade to permit the leasing of arable land for troop use.
The problem of a suitable area for training did not plague the fighter squadron at Tsangkou as much as it did the ground units it was to support. In June, 17 pilots of VMF-211 went to Guam for ten days training in naval gunfire spotting techniques. While these men were gone, a like number of VMF-218 pilots from Guam took their place to maintain the state of readiness. The sea off the port of Tsingtao was available as a firing range, and in mid-August VMF-211 was able to practice strafing and dive and glide bombing in attacks on a Japanese destroyer sailed to the area as a target. Later in the month, the squadron flew combat air patrol for fleet units maneuvering off Tsingtao.
Heavy weather dogging these exercises was responsible for the loss of three Corsairs. The pilots of two were recovered quickly, one from the sea and another from a friendly sector of the Tsingtao countryside; the third pilot was taken by the Communists when he landed out of gas on the south shore of Shantung Peninsula. His plane was sighted on 28 August, and a landing party sent ashore to destroy it and find the flyer exchanged fire with local Communists as it withdrew. Fifteen days later the pilot was returned unharmed, but only after lengthy negotiations, the submission of a letter explaining the incident from Admiral Cooke, and the payment of $1,000 plus medical supplies as compensation for damages supposedly sustained by the Communists.33
The status of VMR-153 as the odd-job and workhorse squadron of Marine air in China was not in any way changed by its assignment to AirFMFWesPac. Courier flights to Tientsin were made twice weekly after 20 June to expedite the withdrawal of the division rear echelon; Changkeichuang Field was manned by a liaison detail from 7th Service Regiment during landing and takeoff. Nanking and Shanghai were
stopping points in a regular schedule of transport and cargo flights which maintained physical contact between the major American bases in China. The squadron continued to perform chores outside the common military pattern, and on 28-29 August it flew 218 Germans from Tsingtao, Canton, and Tientsin to Shanghai where they boarded a repatriation ship. The former enemy nationals were not wanted in China by the Central Government, and the U.S. State Department cooperated in arranging their transport.
August was the time of departure. General Pfeiffer completed his tour of overseas duty, having established FMFWesPac as a flourishing command. Brigadier General Gerald C. Thomas, the former Director of Plans and Policies, Headquarters Marine Corps, relieved him.34 At the same time, Colonel Hart relinquished command of AirFMFWesPac to Colonel Frank H. Lamson-Scribner. The 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, at Tientsin mounted out for the States on 27 August, its destination Camp Pendleton and the 1st Marine Division. The remainder of the rear echelon, its task completed, boarded ship by 30 August and sailed for Guam. On 12 September, Lieutenant Colonel Wieseman reported with 7th Service Regiment to the 1st Brigade and at the end of the month the regiment was officially disbanded.
The withdrawal of these Marine units from Hopeh marked the end of 25 months of difficult, sometimes hectic service. Tsingtao now became the focus of attention, but duty in the Shantung port continued to have a different aspect than that which prevailed in the north. In many senses, during the remainder of its existence FMFWesPac repeated Marine history. Its actions paralleled those performed by the expeditionary and garrison forces in the China of the prewar era. As an arm of the fleet ashore, it provided security for American nationals in danger when the civil war's tide turned overwhelmingly against the Nationalists.
A LOSING CAUSE35By the summer of 1947, the Communists had their Nationalist opponents dead in their sights. A mounting series of offensives in Manchuria cut off and annihilated or captured CNA outpost garrisons. Lines of communication between major cities were severed and permanently blocked. In less than six months the Nationalists were effectively isolated in several large garrison areas. In order to shake loose from Communist nooses which were slowly tightening, the Nationalists had either to reinforce their armies strongly and take the offensive or to consolidate positions quickly to conserve men. They did neither.
The weak reinforcements sent were dissipated ineffectually, and hundreds of thousands of men were tied to the defenses of cities whose retention added little or nothing to Nationalist military or economic strength. It was evident that few leaders in Nanking appreciated
the truth of the Communist battle philosophy espoused by one of Mao Tse-tung's commanders: "When you keep men and lose land, the land can be retaken; If you keep land and lose soldiers, you lose both."36
Vividly illustrative of the Communist viewpoint was their reaction to a CNA drive to capture the Red capital at Yenan. Rather than tie themselves to position defenses, Mao Tse-tung's forces faded before the advance and let the Nationalists take the remote Shensi city. The victors then were exposed at the end of a long and vulnerable supply line and became besieged instead of besiegers. Similarly, Nationalist advances in Hopeh and Shantung, which included the capture of Chefoo in October, were hollow successes. The attack objectives were cities, not soldiers, and the attacking forces soon settled into a sit-tight defensive pattern to protect their prizes and withered as fighting units.
The deterioration of Nationalist morale was compounded of many factors. American military observers noted a significant loss of popular support for the Nationalists among the war-wearied people, and Chiang's soldiers in return evidenced little regard for the natives of Manchuria and North China. Many of the men in the CNA ranks were from southern and central provinces and had not seen their homes or families for years; there was no rotation plan for veterans. Inflation robbed the soldier's meager pay of any value, and an incredibly inept supply system often left him on short rations, with ailing equipment, and too little ammunition. To top the dismal picture, the military hierarchy in Nanking kept changing senior field commanders; the rate of turnover was high early in 1947 and soared higher as reverses mounted. In all save a few cases, proven combat leadership was subordinated to political considerations in making appointments.
The situation was so black that American leaders were in a quandary as to just what their future policy toward China should be. In May 1946, General Marshall had determined that the Communists and Nationalists were not cooperating to establish peace and a coalition government as they had promised, and he had been instrumental in imposing an embargo on U.S. arms shipments to the Central Government. This cut-off of munitions supply to the Nationalists lasted a year and the results were felt sharply in the fighting in the latter part of 1947. The 6,500 tons of ammunition turned over to the CNA by the Marines at Hsin Ho and Tsingtao between April and September was a helpful measure, but little more than a stopgap. The Communists, aided by the huge quantities of Japanese munitions handed over to them by the Soviets and by their own increasing captures of Nationalist weapons and ammunition, fared better on the arms supply front than their adversaries.
In July, at the request of President Truman and Secretary Marshall, General Wedemeyer headed a special mission to China to investigate and report
on the situation as he found it.37 He was asked to advise on what aid measures might be taken to bolster the Central Government and what would be the consequences if no assistance was given. For a month members of the mission visited China's major cities and talked with many prominent persons both in and out of Government. The report of the detailed survey and its conclusions were presented to the President on 19 September.
In his report, General Wedemeyer severely criticized the Central Government and its conduct of political, economic and military affairs. He pointed out, however, that the U.S. had little choice but to support the Nationalists, since the Chinese Communists were furthering the aims of the Soviet Union in the Far East, and these aims were diametrically opposed to those of the United States and jeopardized its strategic security. Although Wedemeyer made a number of specific recommendations designed to remedy the situation, including increased American economic assistance and the institution of a United Nations-sponsored trusteeship of Manchuria, the crux of his feelings was summed up in an extract from the report's conclusions:
The only working basis on which national Chinese resistance to Soviet aims can be revitalized is through the presently corrupt, reactionary and inefficient Chinese National Government.
The National Government is incapable of supporting an army of the size it now has in the field.
In order to preclude defeat by Communist forces, it is necessary to give the National Government sufficient and prompt military assistance under the supervision of American advisors in specified military fields.
American military aid to China should be moral, material, and advisory. It should be an integrated part of our world wide policy of military assistance to certain nations.38
The Wedemeyer report was not made public after its presentation and the tone of urgency its recommendations contained was not translated into immediate action. Although Congress subsequently increased American economic and military aid and the military advisory groups in China were strengthened, the pace of this support did not match that at which the Nationalist fortunes declined.
The confused military picture at this critical point in the civil war was best explained by the man most responsible for its being--Mao Tse-tung. In a speech to his principal subordinates on 25 December 1947, the Communist leader laid out a ten-point path of conquest, a primer for the warfare that had gone before and the battles to come:
(1). First strike scattered and isolated groups of the enemy, and later strike concentrated, powerful groups.
(2). First take the small and middle-sized towns and cities and the broad countryside, and later take big cities.
(3). The major objective is the annihilation of the enemy fighting strength, and not the holding or taking of cities and places. The holding or taking of cities and places is the result of the annihilation of the enemies fighting strength, which often has to be repeated many times before they can be finally held or taken.
(4). In every battle, concentrate absolutely superior forces--double, triple, quadruple, and sometimes even five and six times those of the enemy--to encircle the enemy on all sides, and strive for his annihilation, with none escaping from the net. Under specific conditions, adopt the method of dealing the enemy smashing blows, that is, the concentration of all forces to strike the enemy's center and one or both of the enemy's flanks, aiming at the destruction of a part of the enemy and the routing of another part so that our troops can swiftly transfer forces to smash another enemy group. Avoid battle of attrition in which gains are not sufficient to make up for the losses, or in which the gains merely balance the losses. Thus we are inferior taken as a whole-numerically speaking--but our absolute superiority in every section and in every specific campaign guarantees the victory of each campaign. As time goes by we will become superior, taken as a whole, until the enemy is totally destroyed.
(5). Fight no unprepared engagements; fight no engagements in which there is no assurance of victory. Strive for victory in every engagement; be sure of the relative conditions of our forces and those of the enemy.
(6). Promote and exemplify valor in combat; fear no sacrifice or fatigue or continuous action--that is, fighting several engagements in succession within a short period without respite.
(7). Strive to destroy the enemy while in movement. At the same time emphasize the tactics of attacking positions, wrestling strong points and bases from the enemy.
(8). With regard to assaults on cities, resolutely wrest from the enemy all strong points and cities which are weakly defended. At favorable opportunities, wrest all enemy strong points and cities which are defended to a medium degree and where the circumstances permit. Wait until the conditions mature, and then wrest all enemy strong points and cities that are powerfully defended,
(9). Replenish ourselves by the capture of all enemy arms and most of his personnel. The sources of men and material for our army is mainly at the front.
(10). Skillfully utilize the intervals between two campaigns for resting, regrouping and training troops. The period of rest and regrouping should be in general not too long. As far as possible do not let the enemy have breathing space.39
The complete Nationalist defeat presaged by Mao's pronouncement was more than a year and a half in the making. During that time, the American private and public stake in mainland China was wiped out and the principal concern of U.S. officials became the safety of American nationals. The primary mission of Naval Forces, Western Pacific in support of national policy eventually became the evacuation and protection during evacuation of Americans ordered from China.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (V-4) * Next Chapter (V-6)
1. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: Aug-Oct46 WarDs of 1st MarDiv and 1st MAW.
2. CG 1st MAW ltr serial 0052 to CG AirFMFPac, dtd 15Ju146, Subj: Reduced status of 1st MAW AvnUnits (ComSeventhFlt SA4-1 File, FRC, Mech).
3. CG, 1st MarDiv (Reinf) SpecRpt of MilEfficiency to CG, FMFPac, dtd 24Sep46 (ComSeventhFlt A-9 File, FRC, Mech).
4. Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift Itr to Adm John H. Towers, dtd 9Aug46; Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift Itr to LtGen Roy S. Geiger, dtd 22Aug46 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File, HistBr, HQMC).
5. Rockey interview, 14-15Apr59.
6. 1st MarDiv G-1 Rpt, Jul46, dtd 5Aug46 in 1st MarDiv WarD, Jul46.
7. CG, 1st MarDiv ltr to ComSeventhFlt, dtd 7Aug46, Subj: Defense of the RR Line from Tientsin to Chinwangtao (HQMC S&C Files, FRC, Alex).
8. General Officer Biographies (Subj File, HistBr, HQMC).
9. North China Marine (Tientsin), 28Sep46, p. 1.
10. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from 1st MarDiv WarDs, Oct46-Jun47; 1st MAW WarDs, Oct46-Jun47; Raid on DivAmmoPt at Hsin Ho, 5Apr47, encl A to 1st MarDiv G-2 PeriodicRpt No. 52, dtd 8Apr47; U.S. Relations with China; Military Situation in the Far East; Harry S. Truman, Years of Trial and Hope--Memoirs, v. II (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1956).
11. Harold J. Noble, "Should We Pull Out of China," The Saturday Evening Post, v. 205, no. 13 (28Sep46), p. 19.
12. Truman, op. cit., p. 92.
13. Quoted in U.S. Relations with China, p. 687.
15. Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift Itr to MajGen Samuel L. Howard, dtd 29Nov46 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File, HistBr, HQMC).
16. CNO disp to CinCPac, dtd 1Jun45 in CinCPac WarD, Jun46, encl (B) (OAB, NHD).
17. Rockey comments.
18. Rockey interview, 14-15Apr59.
19. Vandegrift ltr to Howard, dtd 29Nov46, op. cit.
20. 1st MarDiv serial 01 A12647 to CG, FMFPac, dtd 5May47, Subj: ReadinessRpt of FMF, (Ground) Units (Unit HistRpt File, HistBr, HQMC).
21. The Seventh Fleet commander noted that these supplies were arranged for by negotiations at Nanking between Communist, Nationalist, and U.S. representatives. They were intended for "relieving nonmilitary inhabitants, non-Communist inhabitants in dire straits." Admiral Cooke stated that "it was later found that the Chinese Communist Army appropriated and put to its own use all the medical supplies. . . ." Cooke ltr.
22. Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift Itr to LtGen Allen H, Turnage, dtd 12Feb47 (Vandegrift Personal Correspondence File, HistBr, HQMC).
23. MajGen Samuel L. Howard statement of 30Apr47, in North China Marine (Tientsin), 3May47, p. 1.
25. 7th ServRgt WarD, May47.
26. ComNavWesPac ltr serial 0002640-07 to CNO, dtd 16Sep47, Subj: Rpt of Ammo dumped by FMFWesPac at Tsingtao, China 19May-13Sep47 (ComNavWesPac File, FRC, Mech). The decision to dump the ammunition in this fashion was recommended by Admiral Cooke, and approved in Washington during a conference in early February 1947, which was attended by Admiral Cooke and Secretary of State Marshall. Cooke ltr.
27. 1st MarDiv G-2 PeriodicRpt No. 59, dtd 27May47.
28. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: FMFWesPac WarDs, May-Aug47; AirFMFWesPac WarDs, May-Aug47; 7th ServRgt WarDs, May-Sep47; 12th ServBn WarDs, May-Aug47.
29. SecState ltr to SecNav, dtd 23Ju147 (ComNavWesPac S-A-14 File, FRC, Mech).
30. MajGen Omar T. Pfeiffer ltr to CMC, dtd 19Oct61
31. 12th ServBn WarD, May47.
32. Encl (A) to CMC serial 03A5947, cu. 15Apr47 (ComNavWesPac A-1 File, FRC, Mech).
33. Capture comments, p. 6. Admiral Cooke commented that he directed that "there would be no ransom and no apologies" in the negotiations for the release of the flyer, Cooke ltr.
34. General Officer Biographies (Subj File, HistBr, HQMC).
35. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: U.S. Relations with China; Liu, Military History of China; Wedemeyer, Reports; Rigg, Red China's Hordes.
36. Gen Liu Po-cheng, CG, Second Communist FldA, quoted in Rigg, Red China's Hordes, p. 31.
37. When he was in Washington in February 1947, Admiral Cooke, in a meeting with President Truman, had proposed that "a commission composed of eminent members of high prestige, in the political field, the economic field, and the military field, be sent to China in the immediate future, and thoroughly explore the situation and make recommendation to the U.S. Government of what should be done." Cooke ltr.
38. Quoted in U.S. Relations with China, pp. 813-814.
39. Mao Tse-tung, Turning Point in China (New York: New Century, 1948), p. 3, quoted in Liu, Military History of China; Quoted from the original press release of 1Jan48 in Rigg, Red China's Hordes, pp. 180-181. The two translations vary but not significantly; that in Liu has been used.