A Warm Victory Embrace, But Not At Home
The lead Jeep, with Maj. Wallis and Capt. Johnson sitting upright in the rear of the vehicle, moved slowly through the arched gate and entered the street. They met with sudden loud cheering and a tumultuous welcome of enthusiastic applause. We were stunned, completely overwhelmed at the reception that awaited us.
First impressions they say are lasting. If this be the case, those who were there that day in Tsingtao on October 15, 1945, will forever remember the landing and the reception we received. No ticker tape parade in New York City for a returning victorious army could have been more grand. The streets were one continuous mass of humanity, a carpet of happy, smiling, waving people. In every direction I looked there were people. They jammed the streets. They crowded the alleys and doorways; they hung out the windows and looked down from rooftops. There wasn’t a telephone pole, a signpost or a tree that didn’t have people clinging to it. They waved and they cheered. Each and everyone there that day, without exception, babies included, held small American flags which they waved frantically.
An armored Chinese military vehicle was waiting outside the gate and turned into the stream of people when they saw us coming. They led the way as the masses parted to let us past. But barely. Chinese officers in dark brown uniforms and Sam Brown belts sat riding in the lead vehicle, but unlike the rest of us, they remained somber and unsmiling.
We drove through the city, passed a twin towered church and up a long hill to a cluster of stone buildings surrounded by a high wall. The sign at the entrance had Chinese characters with the name “Shantung University” underneath. Our entire route, from dock to university, had been lined with people. There wasn’t an inch of standing room to spare. Inside the gate were more people, but now they formed two lines. We passed through the lines to another reception party standing at the doorway to the main building.
The officers and senior enlisted men in our convoy stepped out of their vehicles. Chinese officials in long ankle-length robes bowed slightly from the waist and then extended their hands. Soon everyone was shaking one another’s hands. One Chinese official, upon seeing the two guards and me sitting in the Jeep, motioned for us to join the others. It was an awkward situation. We made overtures thanking him and remained seated. The Chinese official ran up to Maj. Wallis and pointed back towards us. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but he was speaking in English. What a relief. I suddenly relaxed. They wouldn’t need to count on me for Chinese. Seeing our predicament, Maj. Wallis signaled for us to join the party. The Chinese delegation now shook hands with the two guards and me, and pushed us ahead to join the others. Lt. Brandmire was not too pleased.
The main building had been turned into a banquet hall, and we were the guests. It was a banquet deluxe, course after course, lasting two hours.
The meal finally ended and the staff officers were ushered into another room. Col. Best from Division Quarter Masters gave Lt. Brandmire his orders and rushed off to join the staff officers. Before any of the Chinese delegation could lead me away, as I was hoping they would, Lt. Brandmire summoned me to follow him. “We have our orders,” he snapped and led the way to an outer courtyard,
The university had been turned over to the division for our billets. Lt. Brandmire’s task was to see that classrooms were emptied out and made habitable. Since none of the Chinese in the work party spoke English, I was assigned to assist him. The thought was frightening. I didn’t know that much Chinese, but there was no use trying to explain to Lt. Brandmire.
I was at Lt. Brandmire’s mercy. He now had me where he wanted me. I had to stand at attention while he gave me instructions. He was a most irritable guy who suffered from some kind of disillusionment. He was downright nasty, and it didn’t take a head shrink to reason it was his diminutive size that made him that way. His first name was Clark, named after Clark Gable they say, but he was no Clark Gable. The men in our company could see through him, and I think he was aware of this. He was a non-combatant dealing with combat Marines. His was defensive, which made him a bit cocky. When he walked, he strutted. He wore non-regulation boots with straps and tucked his trousers into the boot tops. This alone would have been enough to make the troops dislike him. Marines like their officers to be regulation. Lt. Brandmire was not.