U.S. Marines in Tsingtao, China 1945-49
Tsingtao China, now known as Qingdao and famous for its beer, was a German treaty port from 1897 to 1914 in Shandong Province. It is in the northeastern part of China on the east coast, north of Shanghai and southeast of Beijing. The city was occupied by Japan from 1914 to 1922 and again from 1938 to 1945. The city was under Chinese rule from 1922 to 1938. The US Navy Asiatic fleet used the city as a port during the 1930’s. In early June, 1949 the Peoples Liberation Army entered Qingdao and took control of the city.
After the end of the war with Japan on September 2, 1945, the U.S. Marines were ordered to participate in the occupation of certain areas of China primarily to assist Chiang Kai-shek’s government in the surrender and disarmament of Japanese troops. As part of Operation Beleaguer, the 6th Marine Division, under the command of General Lemuel C. Shepherd (later Commandant of the Marine Corps), was ordered to carry out the mission in the Tsingtao-Chefoo area. The 6th Marine Division was deactivated on March 31, 1946 and the Tsingtao command size was sized down to become a reinforced brigade. In May, 1947, after more reductions in force, the command became Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific (“FMFWesPac”). Some Marine units remained in Tsingtao until early May, 1949. Tsingtao was also the headquarters of the Western Pacific Fleet of the US Navy from 1945-1949 and the Marines provided security for the naval facility in the northwest part of the city.
In July, 2013, almost 70 years later after the Marines landed, I visited Qingdao to see what remained of the Marines presence in Tsingtao. I was armed with old maps of Tsingtao, photos and articles from the China Marines Association newsletter, the Scuttlebutt, and information provided by Billy Parker and Hal Stephens. I also had my iPad which provided on the ground, mobile access to Google Earth, Google maps and additional research as needed. The use of location based services allowed me to track my route wherever I went.
One group of photos I used to search for then and now comparisons was a 1945 era souvenir photo packet of the 6th Marine Division which has over 20 photos of Tsingtao including division headquarters, Pagoda Pier, the Shantung College compound, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Shantung Road scenes, the enlisted men’s club, the Japanese surrender scene at the race course and others (the “Packet”).
While there are shopping centers and other new buildings or park-like areas that replaced old buildings in the old town area, the modern part of the city primarily expanded to the east which helped save many old buildings. The old town area is full of historical buildings and the architecture reflects the German presence and a few buildings are influenced by the Japanese occupations. It would have been fun to try to inventory the historical buildings but I limited my search to those that had a specific Marine use or that were part of the Marine’s landscape of the 1945-49 period. The number of buildings needed for Marine billets decreased as the size of the Marine force in Tsingtao was reduced so not all buildings were used for the entire period. The Shantung College compound described below appears to have been used throughout the Marines presence in Tsingtao.
Many 1945-49 era buildings familiar to Marines still stand on Pacific (now Taiping) Road mostly east of Shantung Road (now named Zhongshan Road) as well as on Shantung Road itself going north from Pagoda Pier. Maps from the 1930’s and 40’s sometimes name Shantung Road as Chung Shan Road and sometimes it is named “Chung Shan Road (Shantung Road)” on such maps. Pagoda Pier (now Zhan Qiao) is still a prominent landmark at the foot of Shantung Road jutting out into Qingdao Bay and was my starting point for exploring the city. The walkway to the Pagoda Pier was being repaired so I couldn’t take photos of the city waterfront from there for comparison with old photos.
The building identified as 6th Marine Division headquarters in the Packet was directly on the water front just to the west of Shantung Road. The building is gone and the site is a small park. The International Club building which served as the Red Cross Enlisted Men’s Club, known as Shepherd’s Club in honor of General Shepherd, still stands on the east side of Shantung at the corner of Pacific Road. This was northeast across the street from division headquarters.
Three blocks up Shantung, the former German Navy Seaman’s Club building still stands that housed the enlisted men’s club at the northeast corner of Shantung and Hupei (now Hubei) Roads. The address is still no 17 as it was in 1945. Completed in 1902, the building looks and feels old.
A photo from the period looks east up current Fei Cheng Road from Shantung Road toward St. Michael’s Cathedral. The 1945 era photo shows that the “U.S. Bar” occupied the building on the southeast corner of Shantung Road. A photo in the Packet also shows this bar which was located at 75 Shantung Road. Today the lower level of the U.S. Bar building is a Kentucky Fried Chicken and directly west across Shantung Road is a McDonald’s.
I walked up the hill east from Shantung Road to St. Michael’s at 15 Zhejiang Road to visit this much photographed landmark. The Cathedral still looms over the city but it is not as visible as in the 1945-49 period. There are many buildings in this neighborhood from the German period.
The Zhanqiao Prince Hotel is located at 31 Pacific (now Taiping) Road east of Shantung Road and is the survivor of the three buildings called the Grand Hotels which were used as a Marine billet. The two buildings labeled annexes in old photos to the east and west of the Prince Hotel are gone. Many postcards and photos of the Qingdao water front show these hotels. The annex used as the Navy/Marine Corps YMCA on Pacific Road is gone. The Oceanwide Elite Hotel is at 29 Pacific Road, next door to the east of the Prince, and appears to be of more recent construction based on comparisons of the building with old photos. I walked through both of these hotels.
A photo in the Packet shows a plaza type area on Pacific Road east of the hotels that is open to the north up to the former municipal office building from the German period. This area was full of construction during my visit so I couldn’t take a comparison photo. I walked by the former U.S. consulate on Yishui Road just northeast of the former municipal office building but couldn’t get a good photo because of trees.
I walked north from Pacific Road up Jiangsu Road. This road has many old buildings on both sides as does Guangxi Road which runs east-west. Jiangsu Road intersects with Yishui Road near the former U.S. consulate. Daxue Road (formerly University Road) is another tree- lined street full of old buildings north from Pacific Road which is the route to Ocean University. Daxue Road seems relatively undisturbed from the 1945-49 period.
Former Race Course Area
The Japanese surrendered at the Tsingtao race course on October 25, 1945. The Packet contains a photo of the event. I had hoped to do a then and now photo comparison of the surrender scene. This was impossible given the recreational and other uses of the site. Google Earth provides a good overview of the current uses of the former race course. The outline of the race course is still very evident. The stadium east across the street used by the Marines for football games is still there but has been significantly expanded upward. One of the photos in the Packet shows a football game between the 22nd Marines and 29th Marines. The press box like structure at the north end of the stadium in the photo appears to have survived.
The former Strand Hotel building on Nanhai Road at the south side of the former race course which was used as a Marine billet still stands across the street from Strand Beach (now No. 1 Bathing Beach). The outside has been changed slightly and it is still used as a hotel. This hotel was built in the 1903-1904 time frame and is identified as part of the Grand Hotels group in early tourist advertising. The beach was very popular with tourists during my visit.
I rode by the Iltis Barracks buildings several times. They were built during the German period and are just east of the former race course. These buildings were the tank battalion billet in 1945 and the tanks were parked at the race course. The buildings seem to be currently used for military purposes since there was a military guard out front.
Shantung University Compound
Google Earth provided a good overview of the large Marine billet at what was Shantung University in 1945 (the “Compound”) and now is a campus of Ocean University. These buildings were built by the Germans as Bismarck Barracks in the 1900-1909 period. As mentioned above, the Compound appears to have been continuously used by the Marines from arrival in 1945 until departure from Tsingtao in 1949.
I walked east along Pacific Road and then north up University Road (now Daxue Road) and entered the Compound by the north entrance on Hongdao Road. The rectangular area inside the Compound is very park-like with mature trees and shrubbery. I couldn’t see the buildings from one side to the other either north-south or east west because of the trees. All of the buildings in the photo in the Packet appear to have survived. There is one modern building on the northwest corner of the rectangle but otherwise no significant changes. A biology student let me into the building at the southwest corner of the compound which was occupied by the 3rd Marines when the command was FMF WestPac. Some of the exterior doors appeared to be original and the building looked and felt old. The athletic field used as a parade ground by the Marines is still just to the south of the Compound. A 1945 era map shows an officer’s club on the west side of Daxue Road just north of the Compound. I photographed several buildings that could have served that purpose.
I saw the former Japanese Middle School at 7 Yushan Road several times which was used as a Marine billet. This is just south and west of the Compound. The building is Japanese style architecture and was built in 1921. It is currently part of the Yushan campus of Ocean University. The Edgewater Mansions Hotel, an officer’s club and BOQ, located on Huiquan Road has survived. This modernistic style building was built in 1936. I believe it is currently an R&R facility for the Chinese military.
The people of Qingdao were helpful and friendly. The fresh Tsingtao beer was very good. I can understand why the Marines used rickshaws in Tsingtao because, while the distances are not great, they are long enough to work up a good sweat in hot weather. I welcome any corrections and comments and will update this from time to time.
Semper Fi Fellow Marines!
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