Operation Beleaguer

Operation Beleaguer
Part of the Chinese Civil War and the Cold War

Marines in Tsingtao during Operation Beleaguer.
LocationHopeh and Shantung Provinces, China

Successful operation:

  • Japanese and Koreans repatriated
  • American and other foreign nationals evacuated
 United States China Chinese Communists
Commanders and leaders
United States Albert C. Wedemeyer
United States Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.
United States Keller E. Rockey
United States Samuel L. Howard
United States Omar T. Pfeiffer
United States Thomas C. Kinkaid
China Mao Zedong
China Zhou Enlai
Units involved
III Amphibious Corps
7th Fleet
14th Air Force
8th Route Army
50,000[1][2] Unknown
Casualties and losses
35 killed
43 wounded[2][3]

Operation Beleaguer[4] was a major United States military operation that took place in northeastern China's Hopeh and Shantung Provinces between 1945 and 1949. The main objectives of the operation were the repatriation of more than 600,000 Japanese and Koreans, who remained in China after the end of World War II, and the protection of American lives and property. During the course of nearly four years, American forces engaged in several small battles with the Communists, and they were successful in repatriating and evacuating thousands of foreign nationals. The United States government also attempted to mediate a peace treaty with the opposing Nationalist and Communist forces, but the effort was unsuccessful.[1][5][6]


During World War II, China was a battlefield with three opposing armies; the government, or Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek, the Communists under Mao Zedong, and the Japanese. When Japan surrendered in 1945, over 630,000 Japanese and Korean military personnel and civilians were still in China, and in need of repatriation. Since the Chinese government was not up to the task, President Harry Truman sent over 50,000 United States Marines of the III Amphibious Corps (IIIAC) and the 7th Fleet to northern China with orders to accept the surrender of the Japanese and their Korean subjects, repatriate them, and help the Nationalists reassert their control over areas previously held by the Japanese. The Marines were not to take sides in the fighting, and were only allowed to engage in combat if fired upon first. Major General Keller E. Rockey, IIIAC, was placed in command of the operation, and Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer was in command of the China Theater.[1][2]

IIIAC was preparing for the invasion of Japan when the war ended on September 2, 1945. Within the next forty-eight hours, IIIAC received new orders to ship out to China. The corps headquarters and corps troops together with the 1st Marine Division would occupy positions in the vicinity of Tangku, Tientsin, Peking, and Chinwangtao in Hopeh Province, and the 6th Marine Division would move into Tsingtao in Shantung Province. The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing would move its planes and men to airfields in the Tsingtao, Tientsin, and Peking areas, and commitment of the entire corps in the Shanghai region was assigned as an alternate mission. Tentative plans for these operations were issued on August 29, setting the mounting-out date for September 15. The 3rd Marine Division on Guam and the 4th Marine Division on Maui were designated area reserve for the operation.[1]


Hopeh Province

A Marine Corps Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat at Peking's Nan Yuan Airfield in December 1945

The Hopeh Province occupation force was the first to get underway. Loading of the troopships began on September 11 and was completed on September 19. Sailing from their base on Guam, the Americans anchored off the bay of China's Hai River on September 30. Disembarkation began soon after, and the Americans were greeted by swarms of sampans, whose crews were eager for trade, and crowds of jubilant Chinese on the shore. Brigadier General Louis R. Jones, Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Division, landed at the Tangku docks to meet with local Chinese port officials, make arrangements for the surrender of the Japanese garrison, and to prepare for the dispersal of the Marines across the province. Everything went according to plan: Jones later said that the "Chinese military and civilian authorities were cooperative in the extreme," and that he and his men had no trouble whatsoever in dealing with the Japanese garrison.[1]

The Americans who went to occupy Tientsin were also greeted by crowds of Chinese who were anxious to be liberated from the Japanese. According to author Henry I. Shaw, Jr., the "streets were packed with Chinese of all classes and European expatriates. Trucks and marching troops literally had to force their way through the happy, flag-waving throngs to reach their assigned billets in the former International Concessions. To many of the men, it seemed that their welcome must have out shone and out shouted 'any welcome given to troops any time, any place, and anywhere during [World War II].'"[1]

The first element of IIIAC to see action in China was 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, although it did not actually participate in the fighting. On October 1, 1st Battalion, under Lieutenant Colonel John J. Gormley, sailed from Taku to the port of Chinwangtao, which served as a railroad terminal for the shipment of coal from the Tangshan mining area. Former Japanese "puppet troops", as Henry I. Shaw called them, were engaged in "desultory fighting" with Communist forces who held most of the surrounding area. Since "all factions, civilian and military, were anxious to cooperate with [American] troops," Colonel Gormley was able to stop the fighting by ordering the "puppet troops" to remove themselves from the town's perimeter defenses, and by placing his own men along the frontline. Cooperation between the Americans and the Communists did not last long, however. According to Shaw, the Communists were sabotaging railroads leading into Chinwangtao and ambushing American-held trains by the end of the month. Before long, Chinwangtao would prove to be one of the centers for Communist resistance to the American occupation.[1]

Most of the Japanese military personnel in Hopeh Province surrendered to Allied forces within days of the Americans' arrival in country. On October 6, General Rockey accepted the surrender of 50,000 Japanese at Tientsin. Four days later, an additional 50,000 Japanese surrendered to General Lien Ching Sun, Chiang Kai Shek's personal representative in northern China. Most of the Japanese were concentrated in bivouacs and barracks near the coast; however, due to a shortage of man-power, the Japanese in many of their outlying positions were ordered to remain on guard duty until they could be relieved by Chinese Nationalists, or by the Marines.[1]

The first skirmish between American and Communist forces occurred on October 6, 1945, along the Tientsin–Peking road, barely a week after the marines arrived in China. On the day before, a reconnaissance patrol traveling down the road found thirty-six unguarded roadblocks, which made the road impassable to anything larger than a Jeep. Accordingly, a detail of engineers and a platoon of riflemen was sent to clear the road. At a point about twenty-two miles northwest of Tientsin, the engineers were attacked by an estimated forty to fifty Communist soldiers. After a brief firefight, the Americans were forced to retreat with three wounded. On the following day, another detail of engineers was sent out with the same objective as before, but this time they were protected by a company of riflemen, a company of tanks, and carrier-borne aircraft. However, the Chinese did not attack, and the Americans were successful in reopening the road to Peking. A large convoy of ninety-five vehicles and several hundred Americans traversed the road without incident shortly thereafter and met up with the American forces who had reached Peking via railroad. A patrol was also established in order to keep the Tientsin-Peking road open.[1]

By October 30, all major 1st Marine Division units were ashore and established in their initial areas of responsibility. The Peking Group, under the command of General Louis R. Jones, and built around the 5th Marines, set up base in the old Legation Quarter, and placed a rifle company at both of the city's airfields. The 1st Marines and the 11th Marines occupied Tientsin, its airfield, and its approaches. The Taku-Tangku area was garrisoned by 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 7th Marines held strongpoints along the Tangku–Chinwangtao railroad. Corps troops were stationed mainly in Tientsin, with necessary supporting detachments in the field with division units.[1]

Headquarters of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, under Major General Claude E. Larkin, was established on October 6, at the French Arsenal near the airfield east of Tientsin. Headquarters and service squadrons of the wing and its air groups arrived in China with their equipment throughout the remainder of the month. Flight echelons were sent to their assigned airfields at Tsingtao, Peiping, and Tientsin, as facilities were readied for them; however, American air cover was severely limited during the first few months of the occupation. This was mainly due to a typhoon that ravaged Okinawa between October 9 and October 11, 1945. A large portion of the wing's equipment was stopped in Okinawa while en route to China, and it was damaged by the strong winds. The first extensive use of the airfields under American control was made by the Chinese Nationalists. The 50,000 men of the 92nd and 94th Chinese Nationalist Armies (CNA) were airlifted to Peking from central and southern China by the 14th Air Force between October 6 and October 29. The 92nd CNA remained in the Peking area while the 94th CNA moved to Tientsin, Tangku, Tangshan, and Chinwangtao.[1]

According to Shaw, the arrival of the CNA in Hopeh may have made the Communists' 8th Route Army wary, although it did not stop it from raiding and ambushing the Americans, or sabotaging railroads and bridges. Shaw says that "[t]he III [Amphibious] Corps' first month in China revealed the pattern of future months which stretched into years. Set down in the midst of a fratricidal war with ambiguous instructions to abstain from active participation while 'cooperating' with [Nationalist] forces, the Marines walked a tightrope to maintain the illusion of friendly neutrality."[1]

In late 1945, the Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, was preparing for a campaign to take control of Manchuria. In November, General Wedemeyer, the commander of the China Theater, who also served as a military advisor to Chiang Kai-shek, warned the Nationalist leader to secure his hold on the vital provinces of northeastern China, before entering Manchuria. However, in order to do this, the Nationalists required an "overwhelmingly superior" force. As result, Nationalist troops who had been stationed in Hopeh and Shantung Provinces were sent into battle, leaving large areas of the said provinces unprotected from Communist guerrillas. It wasn't very long before the Communists had taken control of the areas previously held by the Nationalists. Shaw says that the "Nationalist's premature Manchuria operation contained within it the seeds of Nationalist destruction, and they ripened in a few short and bloody years into total defeat."[1]

Shantung Province

USS Princeton off Tsingtao in 1948.

The situation in Shantung Province was different from that of Hopeh. In Shantung, the Communists controlled most of the countryside and the coast, and they were also stronger in numbers than in Hopeh, where there was a growing Nationalist presence. According to Shaw, "Tsingtao remained a Nationalist island in a Communist sea." The Japanese and their puppet troops held the railroad leading from Tsingtao into the interior. Until Nationalist forces could arrive in Shantung in sufficient strength to replace the Japanese, there was little hope of rapid fulfillment of repatriation plans.[1]

Immediately after General Rockey accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in the Tientsin area, he left for Chefoo with the 29th Marine Regiment, 6th Division, to investigate conditions at that port. However, when he arrived, Rockey found that Communist troops had already taken control of the city from the Japanese and installed a new mayor. The Communists in Chefoo were not cooperative with the Americans. Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid, commander of the United States Navy's 7th Fleet, sent a message to the Chinese commander requesting that he withdraw his men from Chefoo before the Marines land. Following a conference on October 7, 1945, with the Communist mayor of Chefoo, who asked for withdrawal terms that were unacceptable to the Americans, Vice Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, commander of VII Amphibious Force (VIIAF), recommended that the landing be postponed. Rockey agreed, so the 29th Marines were ordered to land with the rest of the 6th Division at Tsingtao on October 11, instead of going in ahead.[1]

According to Shaw, on the day of the landing, "the 6th Reconnaissance Company [landed first and] moved through the crowded streets, lined with a cheering, flag-waving throng, to secure Tsangkou airfield," which was located about ten miles from the city. On the following day, observation planes from the escort carrier USS Bougainville landed safely at the field, and by October 16 all of the Marines had been put ashore and assigned to billets.[1]

On October 13, an emissary from the Communist commander in Shantung arrived in Tsingtao with a letter for General Lemuel C. Shepherd, the commander of 6th Division. In it was an offer to cooperate with the Marines "to destroy the remaining Japanese military forces and the rest of the traitor army ('puppet army')." In order to "best establish local peace and order," Communist troops would be sent into Tsingtao with the expectation that the Marines would not oppose them. The Communist leader noted that CNA troops were preparing to enter Tsingtao with American help for the express purpose of attacking the Communists. In the resultant "open conflict," he hoped "that our both armies continue to maintain friendly relations." General Shepherd responded immediately with his own message, which said that his mission was not to "destroy" either the Japanese or their puppets, that a Communist occupation of Tsingtao was "most undesirable," because the city was peaceful, and that he would not cooperate with them. He also said that if a crisis was to occur in Tsingtao, his "division of well-trained combat veterans would be entirely capable of coping with the situation."[1]

The formal surrender of the 10,000-strong Japanese garrison of Tsingtao took place at the city's racecourse on October 25, before the assembled troops of the 6th Division. General Shepherd and Lieutenant General Chen Pao-tsang, Chiang Kai-shek's representative, took the surrender in the name of the Chinese government. However, despite the surrender, Japanese troops in certain areas were still required to man their positions, and thus defend against any Communist attacks. Clashes between the communists and the Japanese and former puppet troops were frequent in Shantung during October, and at General Shepherd's request, planes of Marine Air Group 32 (MAG-32) started regular reconnaissance patrols on October 26 to check the status of the rail lines and their Japanese guards and to insure adequate warning of any Communist move against Tsingtao. The flight echelon of MAG-32 reached Tsingtao on October 21, and it was followed soon after the planes of MAG-12, which was flying from the Philippines to its new base at Peking. By the end of October, elements of all the wing's major units had landed in China. MAG-12 and MAG-24 were established at Peking's airfields, MAG-25 and MAG-32 were stationed at Tsingtao together with the wing's personnel reception and processing center. Major General Louis E. Woods arrived in Tientsin on October 31 to assume command of the wing from Major General Claude E. Larkin.[1]


The Kuyeh Incident

One of the more notable skirmishes between American and Communist forces became known as the Kuyeh Incident. On November 14, a train carrying General Dewitt Peck, 7th Marines, and an inspection party consisting of Marines was fired on near the village of Kuyeh, while it was traveling from Tangshan to Chinwangtao. An indecisive battle ensued. For over three hours the Marines exchanged fire with the Communists, who were positioned around the village, about 500 yards north of the railroad tracks. Chinese fire from the village was so intense at one point the Americans called in air support. However, because the Marine aircraft could not clearly identify enemy targets, and because there was a risk of harming innocent civilians, permission to open fire was not given. Therefore, the aircraft flew over the Communists, but they did not actually fire on them. Later that day, a company from the 7th Marines was sent to reinforce the ambushed train. Men of the company found that the resistance had "melted away," so General Peck's train proceeded into Kuyeh after nightfall. There were no casualties among the Marines. Chinese casualties are unknown.[1][7]

On the next day, Peck's train was ambushed again in the same area as before. This time, the Chinese had torn up about 400 yards or the railroad tracks, and the workers sent to fix them had been killed or wounded by land mines. Since it was expected that repair work on the railroad would take at least two days, Peck returned to Tangshan and boarded an observation plane, in order to fly to Chinwangtao. The Kuyeh incident demonstrated the need for a strong Nationalist offensive action to clear the railroad line, and to arrange this, General Peck was authorized to deal directly with Lieutenant General Tu Li-ming, who was the commanding general in the Northeast China Command. Li-ming agreed to drive back the Communists and avoid Marine positions while doing so, in order to keep American forces out of the conflict. The Marines, in turn, would help release Nationalist troops for the operation by assuming responsibility for guarding all rail bridges over 100 meters long between Tangku and Chinwangtao, a distance of approximately 135 miles. Even before taking on these new responsibilities, the 7th Marines was short on manpower. As a result, 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Division, was transferred from Tsingtao to Hopeh and placed under the 7th Marines' operational control.[1]

Peitaiho and Anping

Another serious incident occurred in July 1946. On July 7, the Communist Party of China issued a statement regarding their displeasure with the United States' policy toward China, and shortly thereafter, Communists troops launched two minor attacks against American forces. The first skirmish occurred on July 13, when the Communists ambushed and then captured seven Marines who were guarding a bridge about fifteen miles from Peitaiho. After some negotiation, the Marines were released unharmed on July 24, but in return the Communists asked for an apology from the United States government for invading what they called a "liberated area." However, the United States responded with a "strong protest" instead.[1]

Five days later, on July 29, 1946, a routine motor patrol (made up from B Battery, 11th Marines and a mortar squad from the 5th Marine regiment) – consisting of one lieutenant and forty enlisted men - was escorting six supply trucks from Tientsin to Peking when it was ambushed near the village of Anping by a strong force of uniformed Communists, who were armed with automatic weapons, rifles, and hand grenades. The ensuing battle lasted four hours. A relief column with air support from Tientsin attempted to trap and destroy the Communists, but it failed to arrive in time. Three Marines, Lt. Douglas Cowin, Cpl Gilbert Tate, and PFC Larry Punch were killed and twelve others were wounded during what was, up to that point, the most serious clash between American and Chinese forces. One other Marine, PFC John Lopez, later died of wounds received in the battle, and two more were injured when they crashed their Jeep while returning to Tientsin for aid. According to Shaw, "the deliberate Communist ambush was additional proof that the chances for peace in China were nonexistent. Without regard to their truce agreements, both sides initiated hostilities wherever the military situation seemed to favor them, and 'each side took the stand with General Marshall that the other was provoking the fighting and could not be trusted to go through with an agreement.'"[1]

Hsin Ho

Two small battles occurred at Hsin Ho during the operation. Located six miles northwest of Tangku, Hsin Ho was the site of one of 1st Division's ammunition stores. On the night of October 3, 1946, a party of Communist raiders snuck into the ammunition dump to steal some of the munitions. However, a sentry from the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, guard detachment discovered the break in and opened fire on the raiders. Soon after, a rescue party of Marines in a truck was dispatched to the scene, but it was ambushed and the Marines inside were forced to dismount and form a firing line. Before additional reinforcements could arrive from Tankgu, the Communists slipped away. Later the Americans found that several cases of ammunition had been taken from one of the storage tents near the compound's perimeter fence. The body of at least one raider was also found, and one Marine was wounded.[1]

The second engagement at Hsin Ho occurred on the night of April 4–5, 1947, and it would be the last major clash between American and Communist forces during Operation Beleaguer. A party of Communist raiders with an estimated strength of 350 men made a "planned and coordinated attack" on three isolated points of the dump's perimeter. Five Americans were killed in the initial exchange of gunfire, and the Communists broke into the ammunition storage area. Eight more Americans were wounded as the heavily outnumbered guard detachment attempted to defend the dump. According to their plans, the Chinese used horse-drawn carts and pack animals to haul away captured ammunition, and they also set up an ambush on the road to Tangku, where American reinforcements would arrive from.[1]

A column of Marines in vehicles was sent to aid the garrison of the besieged ammunition dump, but the lead vehicle of the convoy was disabled by land mines, forcing the Americans to dismount and engage the ambushers. According to Shaw, the Communists closed to within grenade range before being beaten back. Having delayed the American reinforcements, the Communists were able to haul away a large amount of ammunition, and explode two other piles of ammunition. Altogether, the Americans suffered five dead and sixteen wounded, making it "the worst incident in the history of strained relations between the Marines and the [Chinese] Communists." The bodies of six uniformed Communist soldiers were found, and an estimated twenty to thirty wounded men were carried off by their comrades. A couple weeks later, on April 21, control of the ammunition dump was handed over to the Nationalists.[1]


See also: Dixie Mission
Mao Zedong (far right) and Chiang Kai-shek (center) with United States ambassador Patrick J. Hurley (far left) in 1945.

The United States was determined to find a way to achieve peace in China and "promote the country's economic recovery." On November 27, 1945, President Truman appointed General of the Army George C. Marshall as his Special Representative in China to attempt mediation of the differences between the Nationalists and Communists. Truman said it was "in the most vital interest of the United States and all the United Nations that the people of China overlook no opportunity to adjust their internal differences promptly by methods of peaceful negotiation."[1]

The immediate Chinese reaction to the President's appointment was very favorable, and it was evident that a man of Marshall's unquestioned personal integrity was essential in the role of mediator. But the basic problem proved insoluble. Neither the Nationalists nor the Communists could overcome their distrust of each other: The Nationalist were convinced that the Soviet Union had obstructed the efforts of their government to assume control over Manchuria in spite of the provisions of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of August 1945, and that the Chinese Communists were tools of the Soviets The Chinese Communists were suspicious of the Kuomintang, and believed that its aim was the destruction of the party. The Government leaders were unwilling to permit Communist participation in the Government until the Communists had given up their armed forces, while the Communists believed that to do so without guarantees of their legal political status would end in their destruction.[1]

General Marshall managed some cooperation early in his mission, when both groups agreed to meet with him and form a top-level negotiating Committee of Three. Chiang Kai-shek appointed General Chang Chun as his representative, and Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, appointed Zhou Enlai. The committee held its first formal session at Chungking on January 7, 1946, and three days later, agreed on a cease-fire to take effect at midnight on January 13. The terms of the agreement were simple: Both sides were to cease hostilities and halt all troop movements except those of the Nationalist forces into and within Manchuria, where government sovereignty was being reasserted. An Executive Headquarters would be established at Peking following the Committee of Three pattern to supervise the cease-fire agreement, and operational teams – including a Nationalist, a Communist, and an American officer – would go into the field to insure compliance with cease-fire provisions. It was made clear, however, that American participation in the work of the Executive Headquarters would be restricted to aiding the Chinese members. In effect, each American team member acted as did General Marshall, but in a greatly restricted capacity.[1]

For IIIAC, the cease-fire agreement meant a lessening of the hit-and-run guerrilla attacks, but there was never a time in the following months when a guard detachment could consider itself safe. By March, political and military differences had again split China wide open and, although a pretense at negotiation continued, clashes increased between Communists and Nationalists. Neither side was blameless in the covert renewal of hostilities, but the major share of blame fell to the Communists, who definitely violated the January 10 agreement in March and April by moving troops from Shansi and Hopeh into Manchuria. With the assistance of the Soviet occupation forces, which conveniently withdrew when Chinese Communists arrived to take over, and which left large stockpiles of Japanese weapons and munitions behind, Mao Zedong managed to strengthen his forces considerably during the cease-fire.[1]

By this time, about half of the 630,000 Japanese and Koreans in China had been repatriated. Chiang Kai-shek wanted the stores of weapons and ammunition that had been taken from the Japanese by the Americans, so he could use them for his campaign to take Manchuria. General Wedemeyer, however, refused to give the Nationalists control of the weapons until they assumed control of the repatriation program, as previously arranged. When the Nationalists did finally take control of repatriating the Japanese, the American forces involved became the supervisors of the effort, with the job of overlooking the processing, staging, and loading out the repatriates onto ships. Additionally, the Marines also continued to furnish guard details for American-manned repatriation ships. Once all of the repatriation operations were finished in the summer of 1946, and when the attempt to mediate a peace treaty proved futile, the objective of IIIAC Marines changed to the traditional task of protecting American lives and property, like the old China Marines.[1]

Troop reduction

Just as the Communists were strengthening their armies for the coming "show-down" in Manchuria, the United States went into a usual postwar reduction of its armed forces. By December 1945, thousands of men in IIIAC were eligible to return to the United States under the point discharge and rotation plan, and increasing numbers would become eligible in each month of the new year. Although some replacements, low point men and regulars, were available from Marine units disbanding elsewhere in the Pacific, or from the United States, the number did not meet the minimum requirements of the units remaining in China.[1]

Between January and April 1946, large reductions in the number of marines in China were made, and several veteran units were deactivated and repatriated as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Approval for IIIAC to disband 6th Division was received from General Wedemeyer on December 13, 1945. The division would shrink into a reinforced brigade, with its infantry component organized around the skeletonized 4th Marines, whose headquarters was then in Japan. On December 24, General Shepherd, commander of the division since its formation on Guadalcanal in September 1944, turned over his command to Major General Archie B. Howard. In addition to the deactivation of the 6th Marine Division, there was a reduction and regrouping of headquarters and service troops at all levels of command, a disbanding of 1st Battalion, 29th Marines, and the third battalion of each infantry regiment, and deactivation of the last lettered battery of each artillery battalion within the 1st Marine Division. The 4th Marines, backbone of the proposed brigade at Tsingtao, would be the only infantry regiment in the Marine Corps to retain the World War II organization of three rifle battalions. The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing was to return the headquarters and service squadrons of MAG-12, as well as VMF(N)-541 and VMTB-l34 to the United States, and to turn over control of the south airfield at Peking to the Army Air Forces units supporting the Executive Headquarters.[1]

On April 1, 1946, when the reorganization at Tsingtao was finished, the remaining elements of the 6th Marine Division officially became the 3rd Marine Brigade. The 1st Marine Division completed its last ordered deactivation on April 15, and the IIIAC staff and units were reduced to skeleton strength. At this point, most of the Marines who had been in China since the beginning of the occupation had been repatriated, and the remaining 25,000 Americans in China were mostly inexperienced and badly in need of training. As result, the American commanders set up a school in China, where many of the Marines received "on the job" training. On May 1, the China Theater was deactivated; most of the residual functions were assumed by Lieutenant General Alvin C. Gillem, Jr., and operational control of the marines reverted to the commander of the 7th Fleet. With the exception of security guard for vital coal shipments from the Tangshan area, Marines had accomplished most of their original missions, such as the repatriation of Japanese. The primary remaining function for American forces was to provide "security of areas occupied by, or necessary for the support of, United States installations, property, and personnel." General Rockey was also directed to maintain liaison with the Peking Executive Headquarters for the 7th Fleet.[1]

Between May and June 1946, both MAG-25 and MAG-32 returned to the United States, leaving the headquarters of the 1st Wing, with attached transport and observation squadrons and the fighter squadrons of MAG-24, to provide air cover for the marine infantry. On June 10, at Tsingtao, the headquarters and supporting troops of the 3d Brigade merged with those of the 4th Marines. IIIAC headquarters was also deactivated on June 10, and most of the corps staff was reassigned similar duties on the 1st Division staff. Corps headquarters and service-type units were disbanded. Excess staff officers and other personnel were either reassigned or returned to the United States.[1]


Preparation for the withdrawal of IIIAC from China began in the summer of 1946, as soon as the repatriation operations were finished. On August 1, 1946, 1st Division directed that American forces in Tsingtao be reduced to a reinforced infantry battalion, and that the 4th Marines be returned to the United States. The regiment's 3d Battalion was to remain in China as a separate unit, in order to protect the United States and Nationalist naval bases at Tsingtao. The 12th Service battalion would also remain to continue its role of furnishing logistic support for Marine activities in Tsingtao, and a company of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, was assigned to guard 1st Wing facilities at Tsangkou airfield, from which VMO-6 would operate as a reconnaissance and liaison agency for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.[1]

The last elements of the 4th Marines left China on September 3, and on the same day 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines went under direct naval command. The deletion of the 4th Marines from the 1st Division troop list came at the same time that the last Marines were being withdrawn from guard duty on the coal trains operating between Tangshan and Chinwangtao. Between August and early September, the Nationalists took control of the Tangshan coal fields, which were vital in keeping Chinese cities from collapsing, and the railroad between Peking and Chinwangtao, both of which were previously guarded by marines. After September 6, American guards were assigned solely to trains which transported American personnel and supplies. As result, General Rockey was able to withdraw from the interior and concentrate his forces within major cities. After the concentration of his forces, Rockey focused on his training program that was meant to maintain IIIAC's high state of combat readiness, and preparing for departure, which would take place over the next several months. The 7th Marines, reinforced by 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, were moved to the Peitaiho-Chinwangtao area, while division headquarters, the "special troops" of the 1st Marines, and the remainder of the 11th Marines took up station at Tientsin. Rockey was finally relieved of command on September 18, 1946, and replaced by Major General Samuel L. Howard, who would manage most of the withdrawal.[1]

American forces were withdrawn from Hopeh Province between April and May 1947. After that, efforts to evacuate American and other foreign nationals were centered around Tsingtao, which was under the control of Brigadier General Omar T. Pfeiffer and his men. One infantry battalion, based at Tsingtao, was reserved for operations to protect American lives and property in Hopeh, but it would only be deployed if needed. In the fall of 1948, the economic and military collapse of the Nationalists, predicted by General Wedemeyer, Marshall, and others, came about in Manchuria. According to Shaw, "In a few short months, the Communists captured vast quantities of munitions and absorbed thousands of defecting Nationalist troops, who had lost all desire to fight. In the cities of South and Central China, the pauperized populace, led by agitators, became increasingly more dissatisfied with its lot of continuous war and gave strong evidence that it would accept any change which promised peace."[1]

By December 1948, the ultimate success of the Communists was so obvious that the Director of the American Military Advisory Group of Nanking, Major General David Barr, told his superiors at the Pentagon that "only a policy of unlimited United States aid including the immediate employment of United States armed forces to block the southern advance of the Communists, which I emphatically do not recommend, would enable the Nationalist Government to maintain a foothold in southern China against a determined Communist advance... The complete defeat of the Nationalist Army...is inevitable." Over the next few months, the Communists gradually pushed back the Nationalists until finally capturing the capital of Nanking on April 24, 1949. The last of the Americans to leave China left Tsingtao on May 16, 1949.[1][2]


In total, thirteen marines were killed and forty-three wounded in clashes with Communist forces during Operation Beleaguer. Twenty-two marine aircrew members in fourteen aircraft perished during the same period.[2][3]

Action Date Killed Wounded Unit
Near Tientsin October 6, 1945 0 3 1st Marines
Near Tangshan October 19, 1945 0 2 7th Marines
Near Peking October 23, 1945 0 1 5th Marines
Near Anshan December 4, 1945 1 1 7th Marines
Tientsin December 9, 1945 0 1
Near Tangshan January 15, 1946 0 2 5th Marines
Near Lutai April 7, 1946 1 0
Near Tangku May 5, 1946 0 1 5th Marines
Lutai May 7, 1946 0 1 7th Marines
Near Tientsin May 21, 1946 1 1 1st Marines
Tangku July 2, 1946 0 1
Anping July 29, 1946 4 11 11th Marines
Hsin Ho October 3, 1946 0 1 1st Marines
Hsin Ho April 4–5, 1947 5 17 1st Marines
Near Tientsin December 25, 1947 1 0


See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 "The United States Marines in North China, 1945-1949". Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "When World War II really ended: The Antrim Review: Local News". Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 "Casualties: U.S. Navy and Marine Corps". Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  4. Millett, Allan R. (1991). Semper fidelis: the history of the United States Marine Corps. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 002921596X.
  5. "Operation BELEAGUER: The Marine III Amphibious Corps in North China, 1945-1949: Marine Corps Gazette". Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  6. "af.mil". Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  7. Clark, George B. (2001). Treading Softly: U. S. Marines in China, 1819-1949. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0275970787.
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