Story of a Sword

A Marine's View of the The Surrender Of The Japanese Forces In Northern China, November 1945 to The Third Amphibious Corps of the United States Marine Corps in Tientsin, China

by Oliver Titchenal

Patches Third Amphibious Corps and 2nd Division Patches.

Preparing for Invasion

When Japanese surrendered in August of 1945, thus ending World War II, I was in the 35th replacement battalion. The 35th had been attached to the 8th Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division of the U.S. Marine Corps stationed on Saipan as the Regiment's Shore Party Team.

I had arrived on Saipan in December, 1944 just after the 2nd Marines had secured the island. In April through September, the 2nd Marine Division and Marine amphibious forces had in quick succession stormed Saipan, Tinian and re-occupied Guam. The islands were taken and occupied in order to build air bases that were within bombing distance of Tokyo. In December of 1944, B-29 Superfortresses were already flying daily bombing runs to Tokyo 1500 miles away.

The Shore Party Team's job was to occupy and hold the beach, then bring in, unload and store ammunition for troops, right after the first wave of assault troops hit and established the beach head. This could be a dangerous task. The Japanese would have all their big guns targeted at the beachhead and our group would be under fire at all times until the guns were destroyed.

The 8th regiment had just returned from the battle of Okinawa. We were settled in our camp again and were training for the invasion of the mainland of Japan. The 2nd Marine Division was scheduled to be part of the assault troops of the attack.

Needless to say, I was happy that the war was over. The 35th draft was not an integrated part of the 2nd Division so, now I was waiting to find out what was to happen next. I didn't wait long. The draft was shipped out to Guam within the week. On Guam, the draft was broken up and everybody reassigned.

On to China

The Chinese are happy to welcome a Marine, Oliver, that had freed them from years of Japanese occupation.

I was put into the Headquarter's Military Police battalion of the newly formed Third Amphibious Corps. The Third Corps was already preparing to go to Northern China, to repatriate the Japanese troops who had been occupying Northern China since 1933. Also, we were to occupy northern China to prevent the Communists from taking northern China, as they already had done in southern China.

I was not happy to be an MP. It conjured up thoughts of standing guard in front of a General's office. Having to face inspection at any time, know all the rules and regulations, shoes shined and be perfectly outfitted at all times, or arresting and taking into custody other Marines etc. None of which seemed pleasant.

As it turned out, I didn't like the MP duty, but being in the headquarters battalion offered some rare opportunities that I would not have had in other assignments.

Oliver as MP

It was because of one of these assignments that I was a part of a significant event at of the close of the war and was able to obtain the Samurai Sword.

Surrender Ceremony

A few weeks after we arrived an official ceremony was held to accept the surrender of the Japanese forces in China. It was to be held in front of the Third Corps Headquarters. The MP battalion would be part of the ceremony. It was a news worthy world event and would be covered by the world press.

Signing Picture Official Surrender Signing

These are the official pictures taken for publication by the Marine photographers at the ceremony that day in November 1945. I was assigned to be one of the guards at the ceremony and was able to see the events first hand. In the photographs, I was one of the guards standing at attention while the Japanese generals saluted the American flag as it was raised at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Saluting the American Flag

The Generals were required to sign the terms of the surrender, and also turn in their Samurai Swords. This was solemn and important part of the ceremony as the samurai sword was an ancient and important historic symbol to a Japanese warrior and the people of Japan.

Japanese Generals with their Swords

Collecting the Swords

The Samurai Tradition

The Samurai warrior was complex. The same man could at once be contemplating the intricacies of an iris blossom and a moment later behead, with one stroke , a threat to his emperor. The samurai warrior symbolized self sacrifice, bravery and indifference to pain. In unswerving loyalty to his Emperor, the Samurai's heart was as brazened and true as his steel. This belief was ingrained in the Japanese culture. It was part of the training of all Japanese solders, both officers and enlisted men.

While fighting the Japanese on the Islands, the Marines had experienced this samurai tradition of self sacrifice, bravery, indifference to pain and unswerving loyalty to his Emperor. The Japs would rather die than surrender or as they would put it, "lose face". On the islands many an officer committed "Harri Karri", if he did not die while loosing a battle. Many times rather than surrender, a Japanese commander has led a charge of men to his (and this men's) death holding his sword high and yelling "bonsai" at the top of his voice.

Many a solder played dead while lying among the wounded on the battle field with a grenade hidden in his blouse and would explode it when a group of Marines were close, killing himself and the Marines. All this caused the Marines not to trust a captured Japanese. In fact very few Japanese were taken prisoners during the war.

During the invasion of Okinawa, rather than admit the war was lost, the Japanese had sent Kamikaze pilots in old planes loaded with bombs to crash into ships in a desperate, but futile attempt to stop the invasion. One had even struck the ship I was on, killing and wounding six men. It was because of this SAMURAI WARRIOR tradition that few Americans and no Marines expected Okinawa would be the final battle of the Pacific War.

We were told and we believed, the Japan's militarists were prepared to continue fighting to the death. They planned to meet the Americans on the home beaches with 2,350,000 regular troops and some 32 million civilians, women among them. The arms of the civilians to include muzzle loading rifles, bamboo spears, and bows and arrows saved from feudal times.

The BOMB

News of the BOMB came as a wondrous surprise to me and other Marines. We were busy preparing for the invasion coded "Olympic." I never forgot the developments of August 6, 1945. We were all thinking about "Olympic" in November. The 8th regiment of 2nd Marines were rumored to be one of the assault regiments. I and the others were scared about the invasion. In fact, we didn't think we would make it home again in one piece.

No tears were shed for Japanese civilians, not at that time anyway. The attitude was natural enough, Three years and eight months of war had cost the Corps nearly 92,000 casualties. The dead numbered about 20,000--enough to fill out a division. We were glad to see Japan knocked out, whatever the method.

The Sword

These thoughts were in my head as I watched the Japanese Generals salute the American Flag. It filled me with pride to be there and see the ceremony. After the ceremony it seemed important to have a samurai sword for a souvenir. I asked our "Number One Boy" if he could get one for me. He said for about $15.00 he thought he could get one. I gave him $15.00, the next day he brought me a sword.

"Number One Boy" and Oliver with his sword

Marine Corps Life in China

As background information, it should be noted that going back to China was a big event for the Marine Corps. The Marines had been stationed in Tientsin, China before and during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of the early 1900's. They fought the Boxers but were forced to leave China at that time. Old "China Marines" never forgot the assignment in China and talked about being there. It was choice duty. Among other things, labor, women and jewelry and other items were available and cheap.

For example, as we found out, each squad could hire a Chinese man to do all the work. Clean the room, make the beds, do the laundry, shine our shoes, clean our rifles and run errands, The man was called our "Number One Boy" and hired several more men to be his assistant. "Number Two, Three, etc. Boys." The total cost to the squad was eight dollars a week.

Life was very good, educational and fun during the six months I was stationed in China. The pictures show some of the scenes in and around the old Marine barracks built for the Marines in 1900.

Marine Headquarters Onlookers at the front gate

Later the same day, the American flag was officially raised at the MP compound, the old 1900 Marine Corps barracks.

The official picture of that flag raising ceremony.

The Marines had now returned to China.


This story was written for Oliver Titchenal's grandchildren to explain how he obtained a Japanese Samari sword that is still owned by the family.
Broken links fixed 1/9/99