The term China Marines originally referred to those United States Marines from the 4th Marine Regiment who were stationed in Shanghai, China during 1927 - 1941 to protect American citizens and their property in the Shanghai International Settlement during the Chinese Revolution and the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Most of these troops were withdrawn in November 1941, however some of them were scheduled to be withdrawn on December 10. The remaining Marines who were the Marine Embassy guards, as well as some US Navy support personnel, for a total of 204 men, were captured by the Imperial Japanese Army and forced into slave labor until they were freed in 1945.
Later, another group of Marines also referred to as China Marines were those of the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions sent to occupy northern China after the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II from 1945 - 1948.
Due to the cheap labor being readily available, China Marines lived relatively comfortable lifestyles, with squads being able to hire a Chinese man to do all of their cleaning and errands. When added to the inexpensive goods available on the local economy, assignments to the original China Marines were highly coveted.
On January 31, 1996, Marines from the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines, as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC), visited Shanghai, China for the first time since World War II. The visit was reported by the L.A. Times in the Feb. 1st edition of that year. Since then, the 31st MEU-SOC has visited China once more on November 22, 2006 during a port visit to Zhanjiang. This visit was documented in the Stars and Stripes Pacific edition.
In popular culture
- Author W.E.B. Griffin often writes of China Marines in his book series The Corps. Book 1 of the series in particular highlights the pre-World War II lives of China Marines.
- Neal Stephenson's book Cryptonomicon contains descriptions of the exploits of the China Marines in World War II and the book opens with the evacuation of Shanghai in 1941.
- Yangtze Patrol
- Operation Beleaguer
- China Service Medal
- History of the United States Marine Corps
- List of United States Marine Corps battalions
- Biggs, Jr., Chester M. (2003). The United States Marines in North China, 1894-1942. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-1488-X.
- Shaw, Jr., Henry I. (1960). The United States Marines in North China, 1945-1949. Washington, D.C.: Historical Branch, United States Marine Corps.