1914 - Fourth Marine Regiment activated as part of the Marine Corps' Advances Base Force.

1915 - Fourth Regiment deployed to the Dominican Republic.

1924 - Fourth Regiment reassigned to San Diego, California.

1926 - Regiment assigned to guard US Mail in the western United States.

1927 - Regiment deployed to International Settlement in Shanghai, China.

1941 - Regiment assigned to Olongapo, Mariveles, and Corregidor in the Philippines.

May 6, 1942 - Surrendered Yes, Defeated No.

1944 - Fourth Marine Regiment reborn from units of the 1st Marine Raider Regiment.

August 15, 1945 - VJ Day.

1945 - Regiment ordered to occupy the Japanese naval base at Yokusoko.

Post-WW II, regiment inactivated.

1951 - 4th Marine Regiment was reactivated at Camp Pendleton, California.

1972 - Regiment moves to its now current home base on Okinawa.


When the winds of unrest stirred the American colonies to spawn revolution against the tyranny of King George of England it fell upon the militia, a loose knit army of farmers and settlers under the leadership of George Washington, to defeat the British Red Coats and create a new nation. Armed ships set sail to fight the British fleet at sea. There arose a need for a fighting force separate from the crews who sailed the ships and manned the cannons.

The Continental Congress, addressing the problem, authorized the formation of a military force to fill the need. An so, the word went out: "FIND A FEW GOOD MEN AND CALL THEM MARINES!" Thus on 10 November 1775, the Continental Marines became the first military organization authorized by congregational action. In those days of wooden sailing ships, the Continental Marines kept order at sea and maintained internal security on board ship. In combat they manned the fighting tops, sniping at gun crews on enemy ships. On deck they led boarding parties in close action and repelled enemy boarding parties. These Marines earned the nickname "Leatherneck." The time honored sobriquet was derived from the thick leather stock worn around the neck to protect the Marine from the decapitating slash of an enemy's cutlass.

The emblem of the Marine Corps, the Eagle, Globe and Anchor, defines the mission of the Corps--As the words of the Marine Corps Hymn declare--"First to fight our Country's battles on land, sea and in the air." So it has been throughout the long history of the Fourth Regiment of Marines. In 1914 an upheaval in Mexico brought swift action by Marine Corps Headquarters. Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton was ordered to report to San Francisco to organize the Fourth Regiment for temporary foreign tropical shore service. The newly formed regiment sailed from San Diego aboard Navy cruisers to positions off Mexico's western shores and harbors.

After the emergency passed, they were returned to San Diego and North Island. As the result of the Navy Department's decision to establish a combat ready unit on the West Coast, the Fourth Marines became the nucleus of advance forces on the west coast. The road to hell for the Fourth Marine regiment began on North Island where they were bivouacked at Camp Howard. Camp Pendleton, the huge West Coast Training base for today's Marines is named after Colonel Pendleton, the first commander of the Fourth Marine Regiment. In 1915 the regiment moved to a model camp in what is now Balboa Park to take part in the Panama-California Exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. Based in San Diego the regiment remained in striking distance of possible disturbances in Latin America.

On three occasions in 1915 the regiment was dispatched to the western shores of Mexico when revolution again threatened American interests. The rapid response to the danger area did not result in combat action, but the Marine presence was effective in motivating the Mexican Government to take action against the rebels. On 3 February 1916 the regiment returned to San Diego. The new Fourth Regiment had been in existence for over two years, but had not seen action on the three excursions in Mexican waters for which they received commendations for their rapid response.

Four months later, on 4 June 1916 Colonel Pendelton received orders for the regiment to embark for the Republic of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean. Two days later the regiment departed San Diego for New Orleans to board transports. Rebels, unhappy with the economic distress in the country wanted to overthrow the government of the tiny island republic. The United States was fearful that an unfriendly foreign nation might try to take advantage of the unrest to gain control of the island and threaten the security of the Panama Canal. In keeping with the Monroe Doctrine, to keep foreign influence out of the Caribbean, the Marines were dispatched to Santo Domingo to quell the rebel uprising and bring order to the island nation.

The arrival of the Fourth Marine regiment in Santo Domingo marked the beginning of an eight-year campaign to put an end to the rebel uprising and to administer a military government until order was restored. On 11 December 1916, Colonel Pendelton was promoted to Brigadier General and on 1 January 1917, Colonel Theodore P. Kane assumed command of the Regiment. In August of 1924 the Navy transport Henderson sailed from Santo Domingo City, with the Fourth regiment aboard, bound for San Diego. In the regiment's eight year absence, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego had been constructed and was ready for occupation by the Fourth Marines, "San Diego's Own." During the next two years, due to the economic conditions of the time; reductions in military spending and a world at peace, the regiment's strength was depleted. On 29 June 1925, they were called upon to lend assistance to local authorities when a severe earthquake struck Santa Barbara, California.

Active throughout July the Marines won the grateful appreciation of the citizens of Santa Barbara for their help. Another emergency once again called the Fourth regiment to respond to the needs of the nation. In 1926 following a rash of mail robberies across the country, the Postmaster General petitioned the Secretary of the Navy for help in quelling the disruption of mail service.

On 18 October, Major General John A. Lejeune, Commandant of the Marine Corps, ordered elements of the Fourth regiment to be designated as the Western area Mail Guards. In three days, the Marines were en route to their assigned duty on trains, mail trucks, post offices and railroad depots. Once the Marines were posted, there were no more mail robberies.

On 28 January 1927 the Fourth regiment received orders to proceed to China. Five days later, the regiment boarded the Naval transport Chaumont for duty in the international settlement in Shanghai China. As time passed, the word spread throughout the Corps that the choice duty was with the "China Marines." But duty in Shanghai was not without danger. On 12 December 1937 Japanese naval aircraft strafed and sank the U.S. Navy's Yangtze River patrol boat, Panay. In February 1938 the Japanese tried to provoke an "incident" by attempting to enter the American sector with armed patrols. The Marines stopped the attempts without incident.

In the waning months of 1941, with world tensions growing, other foreign governments ordered their troops out of the international settlement in Shanghai. The last bit of protection left for American and U.S. interests in China was the small U. S. 7th Fleet, the Fourth Marine Regiment and the Yangtze River patrol boats that inspired the book and the movie, "THE SAND PEBBLES." The final elements of the Fourth Regiment left Shanghai on 28 November 1941. They were the last foreign troops to leave the international settlement. The Regimental band led the Marines down East Nanking Road toward the Whangpoo River and the waiting evacuation ships. It was an end of an era--the final day of one of the most desired duty stations in the history of the Corps.

The China Marines had been there 14 years. Their arrival in the Philippines opened a new era for the Fourth Marines--a time of jungle warfare, starvation and deprivation. These "Leathernecks" may have been surrendered by Army command, but they refused to accept defeat.

The China Marines lived up to the proud heritage of the Corps, despite the horrors, the deprivation and barbaric treatment they were subjected to in Japanese Prisoner of War Slave labor camps. As prisoners, the marines continued the battle from behind barbed wire through sabotage and other activities designed to discomfit their captors.

The experiences related on this web pages are the stories of the men of the Fourth Regiment of Marines, as told to devotees of war stories, Marine Corps Historians and in letters from the men who were there. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 8 December, (Philippine time), 1941, the men who were known as the China Marines were forever changed. After a half a century or more, one would think memories of war and POW life would fade, some do but others are like visions as vivid and horrible as when they occurred; stark, real events--horrible and humorous--etched indelibly into the memory banks of the brain.

They found themselves in an environment where all the rules of propriety they had been taught as a child had been erased and it was necessary to violate every rule just to stay alive. It is impossible for a man to remember every day of nearly six months on on the bulls eye that was the Alamo of the Pacific. Nor can they recall every day, lived in the shadow of death for nearly four years. However, certain events are like scenes from a movie seen over and over again.

There are visions of atrocities that exemplify the adage, "Of man's inhumanity to his fellow man," as Japanese guards viciously beat and tortured American Prisoners, scenes so inhuman that they could not be visualized by one who was not there. The quotation, "War is Hell," can not adequately symbolize the events of World War Two. Combat and life as a Prisoner of War just can not be described as "Hell." Even to call it, "A Living Hell," can only hint at the reality of what the Battling Bastards of Bataan endured.

Some Japanese guards, veterans of China, remembering the China Marines in Shanghai, took exceptional pleasure in singling out Marine prisoners for harsh treatment. Here are the stories of how the men of the Fourth Regiment of United States Marines, continued the battle from behind barbed wire through sabotage and antics designed to befuddle their captors. But in the memories of the men, no longer on combat alert, there, hidden in the dark reaches of the mind, are the memories of bloody combat in the Jungles of Bataan and Corregidor. In the tropics dead bodies bloat quickly, the odor of body excrement, released by death, lies heavy in the air mingled with the smell of blood and the odor of corpses rotting in the heat. This is the reality of war--memories that can not be erased by time; of boys who became men in combat--memories carried to the grave.

Lest we forget what these men did for their country--their number grows smaller each year.

Special thanks to China Marine Otis H. (Karl) King 3rd Bn, "L" Co. for contributing this page.


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