Between 1923 and 1941, the only Army forces stationed on foreign soil were the garrison of about 1,000 maintained at Tientsin, China, from 1912 until 1938 and a force of similar strength dispatched from the Philippines to Shanghai for five months’ duty in 1932. In 1922 there was but one white regiment in the Tientsin garrison—the Fifteenth U. S. Infantry, or rather two battalions of it. Since then the British brought in a white battalion and the French have added a sprinkling of whites to the Annamese and the Turcos.
The city of Tientsin (Wade-Giles romanization T'ien-ching, Pinyin romanization Tianjin), the largest commercial city in Chih-li, occupies a unique position in Chinese history. In the second half of the 19th century, it became the most important commercial city in northern China, having been opened as a treaty port in 1860, as a consequence of the Treaty of Beijing that the defeated Qing Government was forced to sign at the end of the Second Opium War (1857-60).
During the period 1874-1894, when Li Hung-Chang was viceroy of Chih-li and ex officio superintendent of trade, he made Tientsin his headquarters, and the centre of his experiments in military and naval education. As a consequence the city became the chief focus of enterprise and foreign progress. Having arrogated to himself the practical control of the foreign policy of the nation, Li's yamen became the scene of many important negotiations, and attracted distinguished visitors from all parts of the globe.
Both the foreign concessions and the native city suffered severely during the hostilities resulting from the Boxer movement in June–July, 1900. The appearance of the city has greatly changed since the Boxer rising in 1900. After that event the city walls, which measured about three quarters of a mile each way, were razed, wide streets were made, the course of the river straightened, electric lighting and tramways introduced and a good water service supplied. The importance of Tientsin has been enhanced by the railways connecting it with Peking on the one hand and with Shanghai and Manchuria on the other.
Between 1860 and 1945, Tientsin consists of 9 separate foreign concessions, each with their own unique aspects, each functioning side by side, as well as being temporarily home to a multinational military government (1900–02). Besides the British concession the French, Germans, Russians, Japanese, Austrians, Italians and Belgians had separate settlements, five miles in all, the river front being governed by foreign powers. During that time, Tianjin became the second-largest industrial and commercial city in China after Shanghai.
Until 1921 the United States maintained a full regiment in Tientsin from the days of the Boxer troubles. A portion of this force is always required for the policing of the railway, with headquarters at Tongshan. The British patrol the Peking section, the French the Tientsin section and the Japanese from Lanhsien to Shanhaikwan. Yet after all, it is not the protection of the foreigners that is disturbing the foreign commanders, and the Municipal Councils. It is the ever-increasing number of the Chinese newly-rich, retired officials exhausted by three months' pillaging in Peking, and fugitive office-holders.
The small U.S. Army detachment was positioned at the strategic port of Tientsin. This was the port from which the European forces (including Americans and Japanese), relieved the foreign legations in Peking during the Boxer rebellion. It was one of the very few American military deployments outside American territory during the inter-war era (1920s-30s). By 1928 the US maintained in China approximately the following forces: 3,000 marines in Tientsin and 1,000 in Shanghai. On 22 July 1928 the commander in chief Asiatic Fleet recommended the withdrawal of some of the marines in Tientsin, and orders were issued on July 24 to withdraw about 900 marines from China for return to the United States.
The strengthening of the National Government permitted the withdrawal of marines from Tientsin. On July 1, 1928, there were 4,003 marines on shore in China. In the latter part of January, 1929, all marine forces were withdrawn from Tientsin and forces were left on shore after that date as follows: In the legation guard at Peking, 500; at Shanghai, 2 battalions of 1,200 men; a total of about 1,700 men.
The US State Department’s letter of February 17, 1933, addressed to General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff, enclosing a copy of a memorandum entitled “Foreign Armed Forces in the Peiping–Tientsin Area of China”, in which were set forth the facts in regard to the circumstances under which American armed forces were originally sent to North China and the purpose for which they are at present maintained there.
The foreign armed forces maintained at Peiping and Tientsin and at various points along the railway between Peiping and Shanhaikwan under the provisions of the Boxer Protocol were (as reported by the Military Attaché at Peiping under date September 27, 1935) on September 1, 1935, as follows:
United States 1256 Great Britain 1004 France 1763 Italy 390 Japan 1838 Total 6251
The American forces comprised two battalions of the Fifteenth Infantry stationed at Tientsin — a detachment of which was at the summer encampment near Chinwangtao — and a Marine Corps detachment at Peiping. The Tientsin garrison consisted of an infantry brigade of two infantry regiments supported by artillery, armor, cavalry, and other elements.
By 1936, the original mission of this force (that of providing, in cooperation with similar forces of other countries, special protection for the lives and property of foreign nationals, including the legations at Peiping and, in case of emergency that may call for evacuation, making available an armed escort to the sea) has been substantially modified by the fact that the presence of this force along with similar forces of other countries is regarded as having a psychological influence of a reassuring and stabilizing character. This force's mission had not been and was not combat or coercion but had been guard duty and potential escort.
Japanese ambitions in North China were limited only by their own military capability, they grew with every extra soldier that was committed to the North China theater. In July 1937 the Japanese Army, then known as the Tientsin Garrison, had no more than ten thousand men. The ambitions of the Japanese Army in North China magnified with substantial troop increases in July and August 1937. The Tientsin Garrison was enlarged to five divisions, with an approximate total of 100,000 men. A full scale war between China and Japan resulted.
The American Tientsin garrison was withdrawn in 1938 after the Japanese invaded China proper, beginnung the Second Sino-Japanese War. The only other Amerian garrison in Asia was the substantial force garrisoned in the Philippines.
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