the New Enemy (a sad story from Northeast China)
By Ed Bloch, USMCR 1943-1946
We had just finished our 82-day battle for Okinawa and my Marine Division
was training for an attack on Honshu, the center of the Japanese government.
Then with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nag-asaki the
Rumors swept our ranks, most of them involving triumphant ticker-tape
parades and adoring women. Then we got orders to go to China. Why? What
the hell were we going to do in China? Written orders declared we were
needed a) to accept the surrender of the Japanese armed forces; b) to
work in that connection with Chiangs Nationalist army and the Troops
for the Preservation of Peace, Order and Prosperity in the Greater East
Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (the Chinese puppets who had fought on
the side of the Japanese since 1931; and c) to protect the British-owned
Kailan Mining Association coal mines from the Chinese.
There was more. Verbal orders required that we work closely with the
Japanese armed forces with whom wed been at war less than two month
earlier. Clearly we were NOT disarming the Japanese. There was a big surrender
ceremony in Tientsin. The Japanese stacked their rifles and the officers,
with pomp and flourish, drew their swords and threw them on a pile. Later,
after the newsreel cameramen had returned to their hotel, the men picked
up their rifles and the officers their swords and returned to duty.
Later we found out the big question was to whom would the Japanese Kwantung
Army surrender its weapons Chiang Kai Sheks Nationalist forces
or Mao Tse-tungs 8th Route Army, the only forces fighting the Japanese
in the populous Northeast? The Nationalist troops were moving north to
accept the Kwantung arms.
Our mission was to prevent demolition of the three railroad bridges at
Lu Tai, Han Ku and Pei Tang. Each of the three rifle companies took responsibility
for one of these bridges one company got off at its bridge in Lu
Tai, we got off at our bridge in Han Ku and the third platoon continued
on toward Pei tang. Perhaps a mile further on there was an explosion and
the train was derailed. We saw the entire incident fairly clearly. I commandeered
a train in Han Ku, piled aboard with two fully-armed squads and hurried
down, my pistol pointed at the engineers head.
We found that nobody had been hurt but the locomotive itself had been
derailed. A few minutes after we arrived, the puppet troops showed up
and, close behind them, the Japanese, complete with Nambu machine guns.
So there I was at age 21 with my platoon on a railroad embankment in Northern
China after the war had ended. The Japanese troops were on our left; the
detested puppets were on our right. While we couldnt speak each
others languages, the Japanese officer made plain the way things
like this were handled.
There was a mud-hut village maybe a couple of hundred yards away. For
10 or 12 long minutes we fired rifles and machine guns into it. We didnt
do a body count or even go over to inspect the damage; we couldnt
see or hear much of anything in detail. BUT we had made plain who was
in charge in that part of China the U.S. Marines, the Japanese
imperial troops and the puppets.
Most of the guys in my platoon didnt like this setup at all and
said so very clearly. The operation was my responsibility and I paid no
attention until much later until, in fact, months after I returned
home when I replayed those scenes in my memory. I recalled then that when
we first arrived in Tientsin on September 22, 1945, an estimated million
Chinese welcomed us as comrades-in-arms. In the four-month period before
I left, Marines had become so hated that strict orders forbade leaving
post areas in small groups. Word of our incident and according
to historians, many similar incidents had made us, in North
Chinese eyes, an extension of the 14-year Japanese occupation.
Now, the least I can do, like the Ancient Mariner, is to tell my story.