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Paradise or Hell Hole?: U.S. Marines in Post–World War II China

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Among the many U.S. servicemen stationed in China after World War II were the marines of the U.S. Third Amphibious Corps (IIIAC), sailors from the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and U.S. army personnel.1 Transported to the seaports of coastal China like Shanghai, as well as placed on the main communication lines between the major cities of the interior, these Americans encountered Chinese of all kinds—students, soldiers, merchants, bandits, politicians, and prostitutes. But whereas the Americans were done with their fighting in 1945, China was quickly convulsed into civil war between the Nationalist government of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The fighting between the two dated to the 1920s. There was a brief period of uneasy unity before fighting erupted again, leading to Kuomintang successes and the Communists’ Long March of 1934–36. Japan’s brutal aggression after 1937 put an end to most of the fighting between the KMT and CCP, but once it became clear after 1941 that the United States would defeat Japan, it was only a question of time before the two started at each other. Given the longevity, magnitude, intensity, and complexity of the Chinese Civil War, the interaction between American soldiers and the Chinese people during this critical period in history was bound to be calamatous for all those involved.


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