. . . . .
When I came from the restaurant that night after being with Lt. McCaffery, the guys wanted to hear all about it. I told them that I thought the lieutenant was full of crap, and a Jap lover, but as for the Sofuku Geisha House, that was something else. It wasn’t an officers’ hangout as everyone thought, and it was well worth visiting to see how the Japanese entertained customers. Chandler didn’t agree but Terry and Hecklinger wanted to give the place a try, and I said I would take them. We agreed to go the following Friday night.
I should have known something was wrong when our rickshaw boys stopped a block before the restaurant and insisted we get out. Still not sure, I led the way up the street, and then hesitated. The street in front of the Sofuku was crowded with Chinese mulling about. They appeared to be waiting for something to happen, or for someone to appear. It wasn’t this way when I went there with Lt. McCaffery. This was different. There were no women in the crowd, only men. I was about to ask two Chinese who stood nearby what was going on, when a hush rose from the crowd and all heads turned toward the Sofuku. We too looked in that direction. Coming down the three steps that led to the street was a Japanese officer. He was the one the mob was waiting for.
He had no bars on his shoulders, no insignias, and no marks to show that he was an officer, but you knew instantly that he was. You could see where the insignias and rank had been removed from his uniform. His jacket was high-neck with a cloth belt. He wore breeches and high leather boots. He was uncovered, that is, he wasn’t wearing a hat. He hesitated, looking out over the mob, and then boldly walked down the steps to the street. The Chinese nearest him fell back.
He walked only a dozen yards when the Chinese began to close around him, first from the rear, and then in front. He stopped, and in a loud commanding voice he shouted for them to step back and clear the way. He spoke in proper Mandarin Chinese and at once you knew he was no newcomer to China. You knew immediately he had been around Chinese for a long time. The mob fell back, bumping into one another, scrambling to get out of the way of one another. After a short distance they stopped. The officer began to walk ahead again. No one moved. I was sure the man would walk away without further interruption, but then I saw the Chinese in the back ranks picking up stones. It was not over.
From over the heads of the mob, a single stone flew through the air and struck the ground a dozen yards in front of the officer. It was a signal, the needed encouragement for the mob to close in again. The officer stopped short, and shouted again to the crowd, and for the second time they fell back, but not as far this time. I thought he would begin walking again, but he only stood there, waiting. He seemed to know. Now a rain of stones came flying from every direction, striking the ground in front of him like hail. Then one of the more daring men in the mob, a man far in the rear, threw a stone, and it struck the officer on the side of the head. He stood firm. Blood trickled down his forehead. It was the impetus the mob needed. The stones that rained down now were direct. They struck the officer from head to foot. Still he did not move, nor did he cower or plead for mercy. He just stood there, defiantly, bleeding profusely from the head. His jacket turned crimson red. The first thing to give way were his knees; his legs became rubber and began to falter. He collapsed in one heap, like a wet cloth, and now the mob descended upon him in mass, throwing stones, shouting jubilantly, kicking furiously at the inert body on the ground.
Their deed done, the mob turned to us. “Come on you bastards,” Terry shouted. “Who’s gonna throw the first rock?” We quickly realized they were looking at us for praise, not in anger. They were proud, but they were also disappointed. We didn’t join in their fun.
I had no plan to see Lt. McCaffery again, but after the incident at Sofuku Geisha House I went to see him. I was looking for an answer but I didn’t even know the question. All I knew was that he was sympathetic with the Japanese and maybe he could explain, but his response was nothing that I expected. He only confused the matter more. “You hold the Japanese in contempt for their atrocities, and rightfully so,” he said, “but let me tell you another story. On August 19, 1945, four days after the Japanese surrendered, a civilian group of Chinese managed to capture 26 Japanese soldiers and executed them near the town of Hankow in northeast China. Four of them were beheaded, four were tied to posts and shot through the back of the head, another four had their arms and legs broken and then crudely amputated, four more were found minus hands and feet and had their genitals stuffed into their mouths. The remaining ten had their eyes gouged out and then they were bayoneted to death. In this act of reprisal, the past methods of killing by the ‘Sons of Heaven’ had been copied to the letter.”
I was sorry that I had gone to see him. What good did his college education and all his books do him when he couldn’t give me an answer.
There was no rest for us in the MP Battalion and I had little time to visit with Little Lew or look up Roger. I had been back more than a week and I had neglected visiting my old teacher Mrs. Djung. I was looking forward to meeting with her and her daughters, and maybe even Dr. Fenn. Mrs. Djung would be proud of my Chinese. Secretly I was hoping to get transferred to another outfit but for the time being there was no chance of that. A considerable number of dependents had been permitted to come out from the States in keeping with a new postwar policy of reuniting service families wherever possible. Duty at Tsingtao had become much like that at any overseas station, but dependents also meant more troubles for the Provost Marshall. Clashes came between officers’ wives and enlisted men’s wives. Kids also spelled trouble. Marines had not seen white women, except for nurses, in months, even years, and suddenly frustrated wives and teenage girls with agendas were fluttering around the bases and on the streets of Tsingtao. Some women were certain to cause destruction. Buxom Bonnie, a navy Chief’s daughter was one. She was sexy and knew it, and wanted everyone else to know it too. Bringing her to Tsingtao was a mistake. She should have attended high school dances back home rather than tempt combat-hardened Marines to engage with her in sack time. She was successful, and that’s where the problem began. But like the stories you hear back home, about the girl who screws the whole football team, Bonnie was taking on the whole Baker Company. Her father the chief was a drunken sod and his wife was no better. She was always causing a stir in the NCO Club. Instead of the Chief accepting conditions as they were, he was putting blame on the Marines, those “lecherous bastards.”
Tsingtao was like Stateside duty but with one critical difference. The fighting between the Nationalists and communists grew steadily more violent and bitter and the possibility of Marine involvement was always present.
There was no question about it, Marines in the north were assuming more and more responsibility for guarding rail lines and all rail bridges between Tangku and Chinwangtao. Extensive security commitments were made on the 7th Marines. IIIAC recognized the need for additional troops and they would be sent in from the States. The Marines were plagued by incidents involving blown tracks, train derailments, and ambushes. While the casualties were not great, these China dangers were particularly distasteful because the war was supposed to be over, and any casualty list in the eyes of Americans back home did not look good. Nevertheless, China duty had much of that same appeal as it did in the prewar Marine Corps. And in Tsingtao it was much different than in the north. Tsingtao was considered an R&R Center. It did have some fine beaches and good recreational areas in its favor. Indeed, China duty was good duty in our eyes, and we felt we were in the best city in China.
Most of the time Tsingtao was peaceful, until the Seventh Fleet sailed into port. When the British Navy arrived at the same time, there was always hell to pay. There was an arrogant first sergeant with the British Royal Marines whom we all detested, He never failed to give us a hard time. He was filled with self-inflated egotism and somehow he always managed to get the upper hand over us China Marines. “Not this time,” Terry said. He outlined his plan. It was outrageous, but only if it would work.