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A Somewhat Delayed Walk


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This has to be one of the more unusually executed purchases I have made. Last month I was on vacation at the beach and had just gotten out of the water, when a fellow Forum member called to inform me of a BIN he thought I might be interested in. Funny thing was he was also at a beach, but several states away. He had found a stick that was named to a fellow and dated 1940-41, with the city of Tientsin engraved on it. Since to him it did not have direct correlation to a Marine, he passed it off to me with the hope it belonged to a US military man serving in China during those final years of peace. I quickly checked it out, and took a chance and hit BIN, then back to the ocean. Later that evening I checked my North China POW lists and sure enough he was on it. Not a Marine, but one of four Pharmacist Mates assigned to support the Tientsin Marines. He along with the rest of the Tientsin and Peiping Detachments were taken prisoner by the Japanese on 8 December 1941. He was held in the following locations/camps: Peiping, Woosung, Kiangwan, Fengtai, Sendai #11. He was liberated from the Sendai camp after the war.

 

At the end of my vacation I returned home and raced to the post office to pick it up, and to my surprise it was not a swagger stick (I really did not read the fine print at the beach), but a ebony wood and silver tipped cane, about 36 inches in length and in almost mint condition. From its minty condition, clearly PhM 1st Riley did not get much use out of it after he bought it. The cane, as noted, is ebony wood, which gives the cane some weight. The bottom silver tip of the cane shows almost no wear, and the chop mark is still very clear. The cane features a single engraved dragon topped off with the owners name.

 

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Always looking for items associated with the China Marines! Visit chinamarine.org

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So how did this item survive Rileys captivity? Well, he either mailed it home before December 1941, but thats somewhat unlikely as the North China Marines only had a few weeks departure warning and he would have had to pay customs duty on it. Instead, the more likely scenario is he stored it away in his trunk which was to moved to the port city of Chinwangtao along with everyone elses trunks, luggage, and the Detachments heavy weapons. In addition, the bones of Peking man were also crated up and shipped from the Peiping Marine Detachments location to go out on the same ship (SS President Harrison) with Rileys things which had been chartered by the Navy to pick up the last of the China Marines, on 10 Dec 1941. The Harrison never made it. Spotted by the Japanese Navy, the Captain of the Harrison ran his ship ashore to prevent its use by the Japanese.

As for the North China Marines, on the morning of 8 December the Peiping Detachment was surrounded and after a several hour standoff surrendered, followed by the Tientsin Marines. However, at dock at Chinwangtao, where supposedly this cane sat packed away alongside the bones of Peking Man, the few Marines responsible for guarding this shipment learned war had been declared and moved to quickly unpack their heavy weapons and prepare to fight it out right there on the docks. Only a call from Col Ashurst to them to lay down their weapons prevented the fight from materializing out on the docks. As for the stuff they were protecting, the story gets murky.

When the Chinwangtao Marines marched off into captivity, the Swiss were responsible for watching American interests and that included property. It seems the Swiss performed their responsibilities in a rather inconsistent manner. Reports surfaced that some of the contents of the Marines baggage and the bones of Peking man were strewn across the dock and disappeared into history. But not everything, as one China Marine told me, some of the men after the war got some or all of their things back while others got nothing. It appears PhM 1st Riley was one of the lucky ones to get something back and so here we have his cane.... did he have the opportunity to use it after the war? We shall never know, but he did survive, and that was more important than a delayed walk.

 

And no, I have no idea what happened to the bones of Peking Man....

 

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Always looking for items associated with the China Marines! Visit chinamarine.org

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Hi Dirk,

 

Incredible history and excellent research in unlocking the story. It was good to read that Riley survived his captivity. Some wonder what inanimate objects would tell us if they could talk; in this case it not only did, but it brought to light another chapter in a heart-wrenching period of the war when our men were taken into captivity.

 

Hats off to the amazing cane, Pharmacists Mate 1st Class Riley, and your excellent research.

 

RC

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

*Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia"*

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RC thanks as always! Glad we are able to bring Riley, the cane and the tragic event to a wider audience.

Always looking for items associated with the China Marines! Visit chinamarine.org

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Another wonderful China piece brought to life by your devoted research, Dirk. Bravo

-Brig
GySgt/USMC/0369
RSU-Quantico


"FOR OUR TOMORROWS, THEY GAVE THEIR TODAYS"
RIP
Sgt Jesse 'Jeff Nasty' Balthaser
Sgt John P Huling
Cpl Carlos 'Gilo Monster' Gilorozco
Cpl Stephen C 'Socks' Sockalosky
LCpl Joshua A 'Scottie' Scott
LCpl Jason Lee 'Birdman' Frye
LCpl Nicolas B Morrison
LCpl Jon T Hicks
LCpl Osbrany 'Oz' Montes De Oca
Pvt Lewis T D Calapini
'The SOI 5'

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Incredibly awesome piece of history Dirk. Way to capture what it probably experienced. I knew you would like it and it needed to be in your collection. Wish I was back on that beach!! I have items belonging to Maj Luther "Handbook" Brown that must have had the same fate, either that, or they made it home with his wife right before he was captured in 1941.

 

Mike

Mike Manifor
Buying and selling Military Antiques. Specializing in hat and collar insignia (EGAs) of the USMC.
Top dollar paid.
info@eagleglobeandanchor.com
My website:www.eagleglobeandanchor.com

Visit my EGA reference section: http://www.eagleglobeandanchor.com/EGA_Reference_Section.html

 


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Thanks Mike! and for the great photo of Riley, courtsey of Northchinamarines.com (front row far left). Funny there is so much out there still to learn!

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Always looking for items associated with the China Marines! Visit chinamarine.org

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Dirk! what a great find and story. Excellent conjecture on the travel of the cane. It will be interesting to see Riley's post WWII career as well as the maker of this fine cane! Even though Riley was a squid........Semper Fi.....Doc. Bob

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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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Mike thank you! More China Marine POW finds coming....

 

Bob as always a big thanks! got to get down your way this coming year....

Always looking for items associated with the China Marines! Visit chinamarine.org

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Very well written and researched, Dirk. Your new cane much like the one my father had made and I now own. His didn't have the fancy silver work, but used what looks like long human hair glued to the wood to create the design. Anyway, Sinanthropus Pekinensis to you too. Semper Fi, Jim PS, My information had Pharmacist's Mate First Class Herman Davis as having something to do with the bones of that really, really old "Old China Hand."

Present Arms!

by James Shaw

 

A link to my Marine Corps history web site:

http://www.usmcpresentarms.com

 

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