In 1980 a 60 page monograph entitled “The 4th Marines and Soochow Creek, The Legend and the Medal” was written by collectors, F.C. brown, John E. Lelle and Roger J. Sullivan. It’s a most comprehensive tale of the Marines in Shanghai in the 1930s and the story of the Soochow Creek Medal and how it came to be and the various types that were made. Most of what follows is excerpted from that publication. The medals illustrated are in my collection.
The first Soochow Creek Medal was originated in early 1932 during the hostilities in Shanghai between the Japanese and Chinese. The Municipal Council of the International Settlement proclaimed an emergency in January. The 4th Marines were stationed along Soochow Creek, which was the boundary line between the International Settlement and Chapai, to proect the International Settlement. Troops of the other nations within the International Settlement also participated. The Marines occupied these positions until June, 1932 when things settled down. In spite of being very close to action and fire between the rival forces, the Marines suffered no casualties.
In the weekly publication of the 4th Marines, “Walla Walla” dated Feb 13, 1932 issue , it states,
“ Now that the war is on when do we get our medals”” is one of the natural questions which is being asked nowadays - particularly around Headquarters where other men have time to think about such things now and then. Well, men, here it is. The latest suggestion for a medal as struck by G. Whiz Wolfe and approved unofficially by all who have seen it. The ribbon is to be appropriately made in brilliant yellow silk - and the disc itself - well, is it appropriate?”
Here is a bronze 1932 strike suspended fro a replacement "type" ribbon. It came to me as a planchet only with no suspension pin or bar.
The obverse of the “approved” medal depicts the ubiquitous “Honey Bucket” and the legend “Soochow Creek 32” and the words “For Valor”.
In the following week’s issue, February 20, 1932, is found, “Report of our Awards Committee” - The Soochow Creek medal has not been struck yet, and may never be struck...." Apparently there was some unexplained doubt about the medal being made.
Initially, according to “Walla Walla”, certain men were singled out for the “award“. When the actual medals finally did become available it was noted in the April 30, 1932 issue of “Walla Walla” , “You too can join this band of heroes by putting in your name to the First Sergeant. Perhaps you are wary, having put in for a an all night pass several days ago that never materialized. Have no fear; the delivery of these medals is guaranteed. Of course you will find that you owe two dollars for it payday; but pay day is still a long way off and that will be just two dollars that Jensen or others of his ilk won’t get.”
“The famous Soochow Creek Medal comes in two finishes; gilt and bronze each suspended by a ribbon in the true Soochow colors. There will be only one batch of medals struck, so if you want one, put in your name before the of the month.
The rallying cry is “get them while they are hot”. Not only are they hot now, but they will remain that way for several years to come.
Think of the lies you can tell your grandchildren about this famous award.
No palpitating breast is complete without one.”
The monograph mentions, : "The man responsible for the design of the Soochow Creek Medal, as recorded in the 13 February 1932 edition of the 4th Marines regimental newspaper, "The Walla Walla" was D.R. ("G. Whizz") Wolfe. The 12 March 1932 edition of "The Walla Walla" lists Wolfe as being awarded his own creation, as well as the appelation "Soochow Creek Medal of Honor Man."
Regarding the manufacture, it is stated "although the actual manufacturer of the Soochow Creek Medal is unknown, it was undoubtedly a local Chinese entrepreneur. One strong possibility is that it was made by Tuck Chang, whose establishment was at 67 Broadway, Shanghai. A regular advertiser in the regimental newspaper, Tuck Chang's ad ran, "Marine, get your jewelry and medals where they are made right".
"The initial manufacture of the Soochow Creek Medal was made early in 1932. Such was the medal's popularity among the troops however, that a second batch was ordered in April 1933. As far as can be determined, no further Soochow Creek Medals were manuafactured again until 1937".
In July 1937, Chinese and Japanese forces clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge outside Pekin. Fighting spread south to Shanghai and then throughout China. The Sino-Japanese war commenced on August 13, 1937 when a force of more than 10,000 Japanese troops invaded the Chinese Peace Preservation Corps area.
Marines were once again deployed along Soochow Creek to prevent the conflict from spilling over into the International Settlement. The 4th Marines in Shanghai were reinforced by two companies from the Philippines. The 6th Marine regiment was quickly shipped out from San Diego, By the end of September 1937, USMC strength totaled over 2500 officers and men. Eventually the Japanese prevailed and occupied Shanghai. In February 1938, the 6th Marines departed leaving the 4th Marines to continue as protectors of American interests in Shanghai.
As things calmed down, the idea of striking another Soochow Creek medal was revived. Accordingly this was done and sold to the Marines from the company office and the through the “Walla Walla”. The price was still $2.00. The 1937 medal is virtually identical to 1932 issue except for the date on the obverse.
Here is an example of the 1937 Medal in bronze, suspended from an original ribbon. It came to me without a pin or suspension.
This medal was struck in three different styles. 1). Bronze finish. 2). Gilt finish and 3). A completely different obverse featuring a USMC emblem; the word “Soochow Creek 37” but no “For Valor” legend. However the reverse bears the same inscription, “Presented to/-----------------/For bravery and Valor/ Battle of Soochow/ Creek/ Shanghai 1937”
More to follow:
Edited by bobgee, 26 April 2009 - 10:30 AM.