Disembarked At Tsingtao
During the early morning of October 11, while the 7th Fleet stood offshore, the first of the division’s transports docked at Tsingtao’s wharves. The 6th reconnaissance Company disembarked and was soon on its way to secure Tsangkou airfield, about ten miles from the city. Two VMO-6 observation planes launched from the escort carrier USS Bouganville flew low overhead above the docks and headed toward the airfield.
At 0750 I reported to the bridge on the USS Napa, and along with two Marine officers transferred by motor launch to the USS Bouganville. Once aboard we were escorted to a stateroom next to the bridge. Gathered around a conference table were a dozen officers and ranking enlisted men. Both officers and men were dressed in their green uniforms. I had never before seen so many campaign ribbons and decorations as I did that morning. Maj. Glen Wallis from the Adjutant General’s office stood with his back turned talking to his aide in a tone that was hardly audible. In one hand he carried a black leather brief case; in the other, a swagger stick. At his side was Capt. John Johnson, also from the Adjutant General’s office. With the exception of a young pimpled-face lieutenant, I had seen all the officers at one time or another. Everyone in the room carried side arms. Staff NCOs stood in the background. Lt. Brandmire was off to one side. He gave a scowl when he saw me and motioned that I stand in the rear behind the NCOs. I do believe that he expected me to salute him, but since I wasn’t armed or wearing a duty belt, I wasn’t required to salute. I moved to the back as he instructed. I shoved Stevenson’s barracks hat farther back under my arm and hated myself for bringing it. Not a single officer or enlisted man in the room had a barracks hat.
Maj. Wallis withdrew some documents from his carrying case, unfolded one, scanned it quickly and then looked up. “Lt. Austin is from G2,” he said, glancing over at the lieutenant with the pimple face. “Some of you gentleman may already know him.” Lt. Austin smiled. Maj. Wallis continued. “We are not going ashore to engage in combat,” he began. “That’s not our mission. We are on friendly soil. Tsingtao is under General Chiang K’ai-shek’s control.” General Chiang K’ai Shek-a name we all knew, one of the good guys. “Lt. Austin will explain in more detail the situation in Tsingtao.”
Lt. Austin from the G2 Section stepped forward. “I am pleased to announce that Tsingtao is backed up by armed irregulars recognized by the Central Government, the Kuomintang,” he began slowly. What he lacked in appearance, his voice carried in authority. “The Nationalists are running Tsingtao. The communists, however, hold most of Shantung Province, right up to the countryside at the outskirts of Tsangkou airfield. Japanese troops are holding the rail route leading into the interior.” I glanced around at the others and wondered if they had the same thoughts as I did. What were the Japanese doing holding rail lines? Weren’t we supposed to repatriate them? “Until Nationalist troop units arrive at Tsingtao in sufficient strength to replace the Japanese, there is little hope of rapid fulfillment of repatriation plans. The IIIAC has the enormous task of processing over 630,000 Japanese military and civilian repatriates in North China. We expect to proceed smoothly so long as the Japanese can reach American-controlled areas.”
“But we don’t expect any armed conflict,” Maj. Wallis spoke up. Lt. Austin didn’t like being interrupted.
“The colonel is right,” he said. “However, the disciplined strength and tactical and technical know-how of the Japanese will keep both the Nationalists and the Eighth Route Army under control.” The Eighth Route Army I learned was another name for communist forces.
“What happens when the Japanese leave China?” a warrant officer asked.
“Only time will tell. We can’t speculate,” Lt. Austin replied.
In the meantime, the Nationalists are on their way as I speak. The US 14th Air Force is airlifting 50,000 men comprising the 92nd and 94th CNA, the Chinese Nationalist Armies, to Peking from central and South China. The Nationalist are also known as the Kuomintang. The important thing to remember is that we must be careful. We don’t want to let our men agitate
the situation. We are here to liberate not to conquer.”
Maj. Wallis thanked the lieutenant and reminded him that his staff officers are well aware of what is important and what wasn’t. He then pointed to a map on the table. “Gentlemen, this is a map of Tsingtao,” he said. “You will each get a copy. You know our mission now. An advance party under Col. Best, from Division Quarter Masters, will make arrangements for billeting our troops and will obtain information regarding the local civil, military, and political situation. Lt. Brandmire will accompany him.” Lt. Brandmire snapped to attention and saluted. He attempted to snap his heels but his bootstraps got in the way.
The 6th Reconnaissance Company had left the docks by the time we disembarked. Our small motor convoy consisted of five 4×4 weapons carriers and three Jeeps with the tops of the vehicles removed. Lt. Brandmire motioned for the two Marine guards and me to be seated in the last Jeep.
“You swinging with the brass,” the driver said as I began to climb into the Jeep. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Sammy from Motor Pool, from the “Night Fighters Squadron” we called them. “I always knewed you were sumptun.”
“”Hey, Sammy, I’m not one of these guys,” I said. “I’m only a private.”
“Yea, boss,” he said and saluted from behind the driver’s wheel. I was about to push his hat down over his eyes but I noticed Lt. Brandmire watching us.