The Marines fall in love too
I always wished I could bring Ming-Lee to dine with me, but that would be impossible. I could go to the Prime Club and sit with her, that was fine, but we could not be seen together in public. It was frustrating. We wondered what would happen if we did take a girl out on the town, to a nice restaurant. What would they do? We found out when we heard about a Marine from Easy Company who talked a taxi dancer at the ABC Club to step out with him. The girl should have known the consequences, but obviously the guy was pretty convincing. It was dark when they entered the street in front of the club. The girl had pulled her coat high up around her face to help disguise herself. But the coolies in the street recognized that she was Chinese, very bu hao, a Chinese girl going out in public with a white man. The coolies began hurling stones at her. Several stones hit the Marine. The two tried to get a rickshaw to take them away but none of the rickshaw boys would come to their aid. Fortunately for the Marine, an MP Jeep patrol was passing and managed to get the injured Marine into the Jeep just in time. No one knew what happened to the girl. When the Marine recovered he went back to the ABC Club but the girl was not there. He never saw her again, nor did he ever find out what happened to her.
Ming-Lee lived with the other girls above the Prime Club.
I was waiting for her to come down one evening when I noticed, standing at the bar, a Chinese man in western dress. He stood out from the other Chinese men in the club. His coat was a tweed sports coat, heavy wool, and his slacks were dark gray. He wore brown loafers. His hair was long for a Chinese, but neatly trimmed. He had a smile that never left his face. His teeth were white and even. He saw me sitting alone at my table and came over. “My name is Roger,” he said and offered me his hand. His grip was firm. His accent was strange. It was Chinese, but different. I noticed in the leather trim on his shoes, in the small openings, he had U.S .25 cent pieces lodged.
“I’m waiting for my girl,” I said.
“You from 29, maybe I think. I like 29 malines. Vely good. Good malines on Okinawa. You BAR man?
It was hard not to like someone who liked the 29th Marines. How did he know all about the 29th? “I’m a machine gunner,” I said.
“Ah, mashin gunner. You Sugar Loaf Hill. Many good maline, 3,000, maybe die Sugar Loaf. You on Sugar Loaf? ” No, I came right after.”
“You come repacemen draft. What number? I forget,” he said and pulled up a chair. It was still early and the place was near empty.
“You know a lot about Marines,” I said. “What do you do, sell Tsingtao beer to the PX?” I didn’t like him moving in the way he did. I was anxious to be alone with Ming-Lee and he was getting in the way. Still, I was curious about him. He didn’t quite understand what I had said.
“You no like Tsingtao pijiu’I”
“No, I asked if you sell beer. You know, to the PX.”
“No, me no sell. Me newspaper man. Chinese newspaper.” “You a reporter?”
“No, no reporter. Work office.” “You mean you are an editor?” “Maybe what you say.”
Ming-Lee appeared at our table, all smiles and jolly. Roger and I stood up. She knew Roger and greeted him. They had a few words but my Chinese wasn’t good enough to gather what they had said.
Ming-Lee looked very pretty standing there. Her hair was brushed back and she wore a Mexican blouse and skirt. I was blunt with Roger. “You must excuse us,” I said. “I want to talk to Ming-Lee. I have something I want to tell her.”
“Vely good,” Roger said. “Maybe you wanna be no one else. Okay.” He bowed. We shook hands and he left.
“You want to tell me something,” Ming-Lee said when we we’re seated.
“Yes, I do,” I said. “I missed you.”
Japanese Surrender in Tsingtao
The formal surrender of the 10,000-man Japanese garrison in Tsingtao took place at the racecourse on October 25th 1945. We had roll call at 0500 that morning. With rifles, helmets and full field packs we marched in force to the racecourse.
We made a splendid show that morning. The entire 6th Division, from company runner to mess hall cook, lined up on the green, with armored vehicles flanking both sides of the troops. Somewhere ahead of us the generals from the United States, Nationalist China and Imperial Japan were gathered for the surrender ceremony. General Lemuel Shepherd and Lieutenant General Chen Pao-tsang, Chiang’s representative, took the surrender in the name of the Chinese Central Government. Gun salutes were fired, planes flew overhead and speeches where made.
It was an impressive ceremony that made newsprint around the world. That’s what we heard anyway. The only thing we knew was what we could see, and that was the top of the helmet of the Marine who stood in front of us. For an October day in north China it was not cold like the books said it should be. It was hot, almost as hot as Guam. Marines standing in ranks began to pass out and dropped like lead soldiers. Trucks with red crosses painted on the sides were there to pick them up.
The town of Tsingtao celebrated. Throughout the city banners went on display. Chinese and American flags appeared everywhere, and the Nationalist Army paraded through the streets. In the hills the Eighth Road Army looked down at us.
The CO gave each of us a certificate. It had the flags of the United States and the Chinese National Government printed across the top, with our names below, our proof we had taken part in the surrender. We passed the certificates around and had one another sign their name with their address. We vowed we’d all keep in touch and never forget that day.
The day we received our certificates, we also got word that we were shifting quarters. Fox Company was moving into the Strand Hotel near the racecourse. We were thrilled at the news; we were moving into a hotel. To celebrate, we went to the Prime Club. Ming-Lee came to sit at our table. Roger came to the table too. He said he had something to tell me and called me aside. “You want see Ming-Lee Sunday. Good. I take her to beach. Meet you there.”
I didn’t care what the others thought about Roger. He had his merits, and I was going to make the most of them. Roger kept his word. I spent that Sunday with Ming-Lee at the beach. What a marvelous time. China duty was the best!
Roger took Ming-Lee back to the Prime Club at the day’s end. The rest of us, filled with good cheer, returned to the university by rickshaw, singing and laughing all the way, urging our drivers to beat the other drivers in a race, but as we neared the gate we drew solemn. We knew what to expect – the kid living in the sewer. And there he was. His tear-stained face, smudgy and forlorn in the cold, shamed us coming back filled with booze and so joyful.
He brought back the image we had of all the street kids that roamed the back alleys of Tsingtao. Chinese children are beautiful and lovable when they are in health; their almond eyes sparkle; their cheeks flush. But what we saw were shrunken scarecrows with shallow eyes; hunger had bloated their bellies; weather had chapped their skins. Their voices had withered into a thin whine that called only for food. We had to be callused to survive. Outwardly we displayed our indifference, but I don’t think there was a Marine who didn’t suffer inwardly, even the most stoic and toughest of us.