The following is intended to provide some context for the location of Marine billets in Tsingtao from 1945-49. The primary purpose of this compilation is to help me find Marine Corps historical places when I visit Qingdao (Tsingtao) again this year. Additions and corrections are welcomed.
The 6th Marine Division less the 4th Marine regiment landed in Tsingtao in October, 1945. At the end of World War II, the 6th Division was comprised of the 4th, 22nd, 29th and 15th Marines (artillery). The 6th Marine Division in Tsingtao also included the 6th Service Battalion, 6th Engineers Battalion, 6th Tank Battalion, 6th Motor Transport Battalion, 6th Pioneer Battalion and the 6th Medical Battalion. Given its history at the beginning of the war, the 4th Marines were given the honor of being the first Marine regiment to land in Japan. The 4th Marines were redeployed from Yokosuka, Japan to Tsingtao China with the first personnel arriving in Tsingtao in early 1946.
The 6th Division was part of the III Amphibious Corps (“IIIAC”) which also included the 1st Marine Division that landed in the Taku/Tang-ku area and was deployed to Peking, Tientsin, Taku-Tangku port area and along the Tangku-Chinwangtao railway. The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW”) was also part of IIIAC and was deployed at airfields in Tientsin, Peking and Tsingtao. The 1st MAW was deployed at the Tsang Kou Airfield in Tsingtao. The infantry regiments initially had the responsibility for disarming and repatriating Japanese military and civilian personnel and for the security of Tsingtao and its port. The 6th Division established its HQ at the former Japanese Naval Headquarters Building on October 12, 1945. The formal surrender of the Japanese to General Shepherd took place on October 25, 1945 at the race course.
The Tsingtao Marine units had initial billets after their arrival in October, 1945. The location of the billets changed over time particularly when reductions in the Marine forces began in the first quarter of 1946 and when IIIAC deactivated on June 10, 1946. The 6th Marine Division was deactivated in March, 1946 and the Tsingtao command was sized down to become a reinforced brigade. On April 1, 1946 the 3d Marine Brigade was established as the successor organization. The Division had become a reinforced brigade. Many buildings were no longer needed. By 1947, force reductions were so great that most Marines could be billeted at Bismarck Barracks (Shantung University). In May, 1947, the command became Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific with HQ at Bismarck Barracks. The initial units in FMF Westpac were the 1st Marines, 3rd Marines, Headquarters and Service Battalion, 12th Service Battalion and Air FMF Westpac. After June, 1947, the mission of protecting American lives and property in China was the responsibility of the Marines in Tsingtao. FMF Westpac had an infantry battalion ready at all times to be transported by air to Shanghai, Nanking or Tientsin where most U.S. nationals were located. The Marines also were responsible for the security of U.S. naval training activities at the Chinese Navy Training Center (“CNTC”) in Tsingtao where Chinese navy personnel were being trained to operate LSTs that had been transferred to the Chinese navy. Tsingtao became the only Marine duty station in China on September 1, 1947 when the last units of the 1st Marine Division left Tientsin. Some Marine units remained in Tsingtao until about June 1, 1949.
Tsingtao was a home port for the U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet in the 1930s. Tsingtao was also the headquarters of the Western Pacific Fleet of the US Navy from 1945-1949. The main American naval base in China was located in Tsingtao. The Marines provided security for the naval facility in the northwest part of the city. The Navy had two types of ships ported at the naval facility for much of the 1945-49 period. The first was the command ship or flagship for the fleet and the second was a hospital ship which served as the base hospital.
The USS Estes was the command ship and the USS Repose was the hospital ship that served the longest in Tsingtao. The Estes was usually at Wharf 1, Tsingtao, as the Headquarters for Commander Naval Forces, Western Pacific. The Repose, with a hospital bed capacity of 750, served as a base hospital ship in Tsingtao supporting the Marine forces in northern China. Most Marines from North China were sent to the Repose for treatment. The 1948 Map referenced below shows the Estes at Wharf 1 and the Repose at Wharf 2.
There are three maps that are a primary source for locations: 1945, 1946 and 1948. The 1946 and 1948 maps came from Billy Parker at the China Marines Association. The 1945 Map is a late July, 1945 inventory of facilities in Tsingtao that appears to be for Marine commanders to use for selecting billet locations. The 1946 Map is prior to March 31, 1946 since the 6th Division deactivated on that date and a HQ for the 6th Division shows on this map. Only the 29th Marines has billets on the 1946 Map. The other regiments of the 6th Division, the 22nd and 15th Marines, have no billets on the 1946 Map. The 1948 Map is dated March, 1948. Another helpful resource is a 1947 aerial photo of the FMF Westpac compound (Bismarck Barracks) that identifies the use of the buildings (“1947 Aerial”).
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and correspond with Johnson Thomas before his death and have provided his inputs below on places in Tsingtao. Johnson was the son of General Gerald Thomas, Commanding General of FMF Westpac from about July 1947 to March 1949. Johnson lived in Tsingtao while his father was in command and also returned to Tsingtao in 2005 to see his home and other places. See his story Tsingtao 2005 in the Scuttlebutt, November, 2005, p20. He gave me a copy of an August 1948 Telephone Directory (“1948 Directory”) of the command which is referenced below.
In his book Take China, The Last of the China Marines, 2002, Marine Harold Stephens, who was with Fox Company, 29th Marines, describes his unit’s billets at Shantung University/Japanese Middle School and the Strand Hotel as well as other places in Tsingtao. He was there for about 3 years, 1945-1948. He describes his 2008 return visit to Tsingtao in Return to Tsingtao at haroldstephens.net.
The 6th Marine Division photo packet referenced below is a set of souvenir photos of the division in WWII. About a dozen of the photos are of Tsingtao.
The Milwaukee Journal, January 25, 1950, p2 has a story titled Navy Property is Red’s Prey. The story indicates the U.S. government had owned a number of buildings in Tsingtao which had been purchased from the Chinese Nationalist government. The story reported that the new government had taken over the navy installations and that the deal with the Nationalists would not be honored. The buildings seized included the U.S. Navy HQ and port facilities building, the U.S. consulate, the downtown Navy Officers Club, the Navy Barracks and Commissary, the admiral’s residence and consul general’s residence as well as installations at the Marine air base and the CNTC which was located at 10 Hai Yang Road according to the 1948 Directory. The U.S. consulate building at 1 Yi Shui Road still stands but I don’t know if any of the others do. The American Consulate General’s residence was on 1st Tai Ping Chow Road. Several of the buildings are definitely gone, including the Navy HQ and port facilities building and the Navy officers club both of which were near where Pagoda Pier starts into the sea.
Pagoda Pier was and is the symbol of Tsingtao/Qingdao and is the subject of many photographs. It also functioned as the arrival and departure point for some Marines in 1945-49 according to personal accounts. It is located at the base of the intersection of the old town’s main street (Shantung/Chung Shan Road) and Pacific Road (Taiping Road).
6th Marine Division HQ
- The HQ was initially located at the base of Shantung/Chung Shan Road on the west side as you come off Pagoda Pier. The building was the U.S. Navy HQ and port facilities Building owned by the U.S. government mentioned in the Milwaukee Journal article above.
- There are photos of the building in NCP, p35, the 6th Marine Division photo packet and Cass (editor), History of the 6th Marine Division (1987 reprint), This book is the definitive history of the 6th Division in WWII and North China.
- The building is gone. It is currently a park like grassy area.
- The 6th Division HQ had moved to One Guanxi Road according to the 1946 Map. The division disbanded on March 31, 1946.
- Bismarck Barracks, a large rectangular compound, initially housed a number of Marine units including the 22nd Marines, the 6th Medical Battalion and part of the 29th Marines. The 22nd Marines were deactivated on October 25, 1945.
- This barracks was built for German troops between 1903 and 1909. The buildings on the east side of the quadrangle were built later. The buildings became a national university in 1924 which was known as Shantung University. Many 1945 era buildings still stand.
- The university buildings later became the FMF Westpac Compound as the Marine forces downsized. The 1947 Aerial shows that many units were billeted in the compound: 1st Marines; 3rd Marines; B Company, 1st Engineers Battalion and the 12th Service Battalion. HQ for FMF Westpac was in the middle building on the east side of the quadrangle. The engineers were in quonset huts behind (north) of the north line of buildings.
- It was used by the Marines until early February, 1949 when it was returned to Shantung University and the Marines remaining in Tsingtao were moved to the Naval Barracks at One Guangxi Road.
- The brig building is at the southwest corner of the quad. In his book Take China, The Last of the China Marines, 2002, p221, Marine Hal Stephens, who had brig duty in Tsingtao, indicated that this brig had a reputation as being a very tough place and that there were few repeat offenders.
- The mess halls were in quonset huts at the northeast corner of the quadrangle and have been replaced by a newer building.
- Lester Field was just south of the buildings at the south end of the compound. This was the athlete field and parade ground according to Marine Norris Buchter. The field is identified as a parade ground in the 1947 Aerial. Fred F. Lester was a Navy corpsman MOH winner on Okinawa. This is still the site of an athletic field.
- The “Slop Chute” EM club was below (south) of Lester Field according to Norris. The quonset huts of the club show in the 1947 Aerial. These are gone now based on Google Earth (“GE”) photos. The athletic field was enlarged to the south to include the area of the club. The 1948 Directory lists an EM club in the compound.
- There is currently a building at the west side of the compound that looks like a gym but I am not certain if it was the Tarver Gym since it reportedly collapsed. The 1947 Aerial shows the gym in the same location.
- The area inside the rectangle of the buildings is now full of trees, bushes and other shrubbery but Marine Billy Parker remembers it as being open space and where the men would fall out in formation in the mornings.
- The 22nd Marines Special Services published a souvenir booklet on available recreational and educational activities named “Take a Break” in 1945-46. It contains a photo of Tarver Gym.
- The Marines went to St Michaels Cathedral for Catholic services according to Marine Norris Buchter. Protestant services were held at the German Lutheran Church and Evangelical Christ Church. All three buildings have survived. An October 28, 1945 program identifies the German Lutheran Church as the church for protestant services for the Headquarters Battalion and the 29th Father Eugene Kelley established a regimental chapel for the 22nd Marines at Shantung University, according to the Fortitudine, Summer, 1986, p12.
- Sick bay and the hospital were just inside the northwest gate to the compound according to the 1947 Aerial.
- Photos in the 6th Marine Division photo packet and in the North China Pictorial, p35 (NCP).
- There are also many postcard photos of the barracks from the German and Japanese periods.
- 29th Marines billet according to the 1946 Map.
- At the south east end of Bismarck Barracks. There is an aerial photo of the FMF Westpac compound showing this school in relation to the compound.
- Marine Norris Buchter’s communications unit (H&S Company, 29th Marines) was billeted there. Marine and author Harold Stephens who was with the 29th Marines was billeted there and then at the Strand Hotel.
- The building is still there.
- Photo in NCP, p35.
- According to the 1946 Map, each battalion of the 29th Marines was in a different location: the Japanese Middle School, the Strand Hotel and the former Japanese barracks on the north side of University road opposite the Japanese Middle School. University Road was the road from Pacific Road northeast to Shantung University.
- This is the billet for 2/29 on the 1946 Map. The 1948 Map doesn’t show the Strand Hotel as being used as a billet. Terry, Terrible Terry, (2000), p87-88 describes the move from Shantung University to this 29th Marines billet. The book mentions that they still used the facilities at the university such as the movie hall and gym with basketball court and weight room.
- The building is still there on Nanhai Road but it is no longer a hotel.
- Strand Beach (now Bathing Beach no. 1) is just below the building. Johnson Thomas remembered that it was full of clubs and bars when he lived there but that they had been cleared and were gone when he visited in 2005.
- Moltke Barracks was an initial billet of the 15th Marines.
- This billet shows on the 1945 Map but is not on the 1946 or 1948 Maps.
- The buildings are west of the current beer museum on the south side of Dengzhou Road (Beer Street) near Yan’an 2nd Road.
- This is the former German barracks where Germany surrendered to Japan in 1914.
- Marine Bill Duffy’s photos of buildings on the That’s Qingdao web site can be matched to old photos of Moltke Barracks.
- There are references to this billet in in Parry, Three War Marine (1999), p130, 132.
- Google Earth indicates most buildings are still there.
Barracks on the West Side of Pagoda Pier
- 3/15 billet. A Japanese barracks and two schools show in this area on the 1945 Map.
- I have a number of 1945 era photos showing this billet which place it very close to the sea since Pagoda Pier is visible to the east. One of the photos says the billet was at a school.
- Google Earth shows many new buildings in the area so a walk through will be needed to determine if anything survives.
Iltis Barracks, Race Course and Stadium
- The race course was the site of the Japanese surrender ceremony on October 25, 1945. The stadium is a separate building adjacent to and just east of the race course site. The Shanghai and Tientsin race courses were very developed with large grandstands and other recreational facilities but photos of the surrender at the Tsingtao show a large open area without any grandstand. Today, the outline of the race track course is visible on Google Earth but it is difficult to visualize on the ground because of roads that cross it and the recreational and other facilities that occupy it.
- The race course was the tank park for the 6th Tank Battalion with the Marines billeted at nearby Iltis Barracks according to the 1946 Map. The 1948 Map doesn’t show the barracks as being used. The Iltis Barracks buildings are still there.
- The 6th Marine Division packet has a photo of a football game between the 22nd and 29th Marines at the stadium in the fall, 1945. The gym at the north end of the stadium appears to have not changed since 1945. There are photos available of the gym from the inside and outside of the stadium.
- The History of the 6th Marine Division has many photos of the surrender starting at p206. The Traditions Military Videos production of China Marines has extensive footage of the Japanese surrender at the Tsingtao race track.
One Guangxi Road
- This was one of the U.S. government owned buildings, the barracks and commissary, mentioned in the Milwaukee Journal.
- This was at the east end of Guangxi road on the north side and shows on the 1948 Map. I don’t know if it is still there.
- This was the final Marine barracks and U.S. consulate according to documents relating to the withdrawal of U.S. Naval Forces from Tsingtao on the University of Wisconsin web site; library.wisc.edu/FRUS/EFacs/…/frus.frus1949v09.i0014.pdf
- The documents on the web site state that the move was to “US Government-owned Naval barracks, 1 Kuangsi Road.” The Marines were withdrawn from Tsingtao about June 1, 1949.
Warehouses & Wharves
- Marine accounts mention working at the warehouses at the port. The Marines were responsible for the security of the port.
- The warehouses were by and on the wharves in the northwest corner of old Qingdao near where the Estes and Repose were berthed. The two warehouses on wharf 2 were being used by the Marines according to the 1948 Map.
- The 1948 Map shows four wharves. The Estes berth is by Wharf 1 and the Repose by Wharf 2. The wharves were the primary entry and departure point for Marines arriving in and departing from Tsingtao on ships because they could pull in beside the wharves. Ships could not pull in beside Pagoda Pier but had to be moored away from the pier and small boats used for shore to ship transport for men and cargos.
- The 12th Services Battalion CP was located on the waterfront just behind (southeast) Wharves 1 and 2 according to the 1948 Map.
- Marine Billy Parker called this area of the city “Navy Town” and indicated it was full of bars.
U.S. Navy HQ (post WWII)
- The HQ was at the former German Consulate at 1 Qingdao Road, corner of Guangxi Road.
- This is based on a photo with a Navy HQ sign on the building. This was headquarters likely only for the period when the 6th Marine Division was using the HQ and port facilities building at the foot of Chung Shan Road.
6th Marine Division Officers Club (Brigade Officers Club)
- This was a club for both Marine and Navy officers located at the Edgewater Mansions Hotel along the shore in the east part of the city.
- The building is still there.
- Photo in the 6th Marine Division photo packet.
Flossels Restaurant (later became the Rainbow)
- There is a photo of this restaurant in the 6th Marine Division photo packet so it must have been very popular with the Marines after their initial arrival.
- The address was 42 Chung Shan Road according to advertisements in two 1945 era guides to Tsingtao.
- This is a landmark of old town Qingdao and its steeples can be seen from all over old town. The church has been restored.
- Marines attended Catholic services at this church. Marine Angelo Cofano remembers singing in a choir there at Christmas Eve midnight mass in 1945.
Pink Sisters Chapel
- Shows on the 1946 Map. This was a religious order according to the internet. I don’t know why it is on a Marines billet map.
- This was a BOQ for officers of the 1st Marines according to Johnson Thomas. It shows on the 1948 Map and is listed in the August 1948 Directory as being at 16 Cheng Yang Kuan Road, not far from General Thomas’s residence.
- Johnson remembered it as being just down the street from the Thomas residence. The building was still there in his 2005 visit.
- 29 First Kin Kow Road at lower right (east) edge of downtown
- This club is listed at this address in the 1948 Directory but shows in a different location on the 1948 Map.
- I also have a copy of a business card for the club.
- Marine Bennett Brock remembers the murals on the walls of this club in his book, The Last Days of China, 2009, p17. I’ve seen several photos of the outside of the club which also has a mural on it.
Navy Officers Club
- This club and BOQ was directly west across Chung Shan Road from the Red Cross Club (Shepherd’s Club). It was north across the street from Pagoda Pier on the west side of the road and is on the 1948 Map. This was known as the downtown club in contrast with the Navy Officers Club at the Edgewater Hotel. These clubs were both under the control of the Marines after their arrival in 1945 but the Navy also used them. They reverted back to the Navy as the Marine forces were reduced.
- The building was the U.S. Navy Officer’s Club owned by the U.S. government mentioned in the Milwaukee Journal article above.
- The club shows on the 1948 Map and is listed in the 1948 Directory.
- The building is gone.
Red Cross EM Club / Shepherd Club
- The Red Cross used the Tsingtao International Club. It was renamed as “The Shepherd Club” on its formal opening on November 3, 1945 in honor of the commanding general of the 6th General Shepherd left the division and departed for the U.S. in late December, 1945.
- It was north across from the entrance to Pagoda Pier on east side of Chung Shan Road. It is not on either the 1946 or 1948 Map.
- The Navy Officers Club was west across the street.
- The building is still there.
- Photos in NCP, p 35 and 44.
1948 Telephone Directory Places
- Below are places not listed elsewhere in this paper.
- Goats Nest Quarters at 9 Chu Yung Kuan Road. This shows on the 1948 Map. It was a BOQ for the 3rd Marines according to Johnson Thomas and about a block from the Thomas residence. It was gone in his 2005 visit having been replaced by a modern hotel.
- 1st Marines Junior Officers Quarters at 6 Mu Ping Road. This shows on the 1948 Map.
- Gunners Gulch Quarters at 2 Second Lai Wu Road. This was a BOQ for warrant officers according to Johnson Thomas. It shows on the 1948 Map as being just outside the northwest entrance to the FMF compound.
- Green House Quarters at 5 Shan Hai Kuan Road.
- Iltis Hydro Hotel at 1st Chan Shan Road. This was a small hotel in the Iltis Huk neighborhood of Tsingtao.
- Force Staff NCO Club at 57 Lai Yang Road. This shows on the 1948 Map.
- Sergeants Club at 7 Kin Kow Road (2d). This shows on the 1948 Map.
- CPO Club at 4 Mu Ping Road.
- Yacht Club at Hui Chuan Road.
Home of Marine General Gerald Thomas
- 11 Cheng Yung Kuan Road, according to the 1948 Directory and Millet, In Many a Strife: General Gerald C. Thomas and the U.S. Marine Corps 1917-1956 (1993).
- The Thomas residence was still there in 2005 according to Johnson Thomas. There is a photo of it in his 2005 trip article. The Snake Pit and Goats Nest BOQs were very close to the residence. The Tudor mansion of the American consul was also just down the street at 5 4th Chan Road. The consul residence was one of the properties owned by the U.S. government according to the Milwaukee Journal newspaper article above.
- This is the area known as Badaguan according to Johnson Thomas. It is located southeast of the race course, northwest of the Edgewater hotel and north of German Beach. According to the That’s Qingdao website, which has many photos of the area, Badaguan is located between Bathing Beach No. 3 and the TianTai Stadium in the Taiping Bay Area. It has 10 streets of which 8 are named after the eight strategic passes through the Great Wall of China.
- This is where about 30 Navy families and 15 Marine families lived according to Johnson Thomas including his family. The 1948 Directory has addresses for many of these residences. Johnson indicated that addresses in the area were about the same in 2005 as when he lived there.
- As mentioned above, an American Consul residence and the Snake Pit and Goats Nest BOQs were very close to the Thomas residence. The admiral commanding the U.S. Navy fleet also had a residence close by. Johnson indicated that the admiral’s house had been extensively changed when he visited in 2005. This was also one of the properties owned by the U.S. government according to the Milwaukee Journal newspaper article above. The house for the top ranking 1st MAW officer was known as the Princess Villa and is still there. Major Richard Ofstad was the CO of VMR-153, a Marine air transport squadron, in 1948 and 49 and resided at 29 Fu Shan Road, according to family members.
- Marine Billy Parker indicated the base hospital was the U.S.S. Repose and that that Dojinki Hospital was not used. There was no separate command field hospital. There was a medical clinic at the FMF Wespac Compound with corpsmen and a doctor. Sick bay and the hospital were just inside the northwest gate to the compound according to the 1947 Aerial.
- The Dojinki Hospital building is still there according to Colton Dirks.
- 17 Hubei Road, the former German Seaman’s Club built in 1903.
- This shows on the 1948 Map and is listed in the 1948 Directory.
- There are many postcards showing this building.
- The building is still there. It looked and smelled old when I visited it in 2013.
- The YMCA was the west building or annex of the Grand Hotel on Pacific Road. The building was used as a YMCA for the Navy and Marines.
- The 1948 Directory indicates the Navy YMCA was on Pacific Road. The address was 33 Pacific Road.
- The Grand Hotel was along Pacific Avenue just east of the Pagoda Pier and the International Club. It consisted of three buildings. Only one of the buildings, the Prince Hotel, has survived. It was the middle building. The east annex of the hotel was used as MP HQ.
- Pre WWII photos show the west annex building being used as a Navy EM club.
- The building has not survived.
Military Police (MP) Billet
- The billet was in the east annex of the Grand Hotel at 31 Pacific Road. The 1946 Map indicates it was HQ for both the MPs and the Navy Shore Patrol. The 1948 Map identifies it as MP HQ. The building has not survived.
- Photo in NCP, p35.
- I haven’t seen any references that indicate that the Prince Hotel, the surviving middle building of the Grand Hotel, was used as a billet for the Marines.
- Elements of the 1st MAW were at Tsangkou (or Tsan Kou) Airfield, about 10 miles north of Tsingtao (MAGs 25 and 32). MAG-25 remained in Tsingtao until June, 1946, when it returned to the U.S. The airbase had been used by the Japanese and had barracks, mess halls, hangars and other facilities which the Marines used and expanded.
- This is not the current international airport which is much farther from the city than Tsangkou field.
- The Tsangkou air field site is currently reportedly a China Air Force Training Center.
U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet Club (pre WWII)
- This club was likely by the wharves in the northwest part of the city rather than on Pacific Road.
- Photos of the club in a c1940 album on eBay in December, 2014.
- Also a photo in the book: Gugliotta, Pigboat 39: An American Sub Goes to War (1984).
- There was a later club at the west annex to the Grand Hotel on Pacific Road. This was the same building where the Armed Forces YMCA was located post WWII.
- The Tsingtao Tennis Club was available for both Navy and Marine officers and enlisted men.
- There was a Tsingtao horseback riding school and stables that the Navy used for recreation in pre-war years.
- Hostel No. 1 operated by the War Area Service Corps (WASC) was at 20 Hui Chuan Road. The hostels were billets for troops coming to Tsingtao, usually on a transient basis.
- A January, 1946 WASC Information Guide indicates there were service centers for military personnel at Pagoda Pier and at 4 Tong Yee Road (opposite the Chinese post office) and a social center at 26 Kuan T’ao Road (beyond the Marine post office).
- The Artillerie-Lager is shown in postcards from the German period. It had an entrance gate like the French Arsenal in Tientsin. This shows on early maps as being south of Bismarck Barracks and may have been gone prior to World War II.