China - 1945

Coast Guard Cutter Ingham (WPG-35)
We reached the Yangtze delta September 19th, being assured by the Atlantic patrol "salts" that this storm was "a piece of cake." We had survived the storm and minefields without damage although the crew was exhausted from the continuous pounding and a week of sea sickness.
With other units of the Seventh Fleet, we were to enjoy two weeks of glorious liberty in Shanghai whose citizens were celebrating the end of an eight-year occupation by the Japanese. FROM: WEB PAGE

Floating mines had presented a serious problem to the Seventh Fleet and our task force. Mines were everywhere and our Navy minesweepers had worked constantly for the past five days clearing the channel and anchorage in Shanghai. Our convoy formed up single file as we entered the mud-yellow Yangtze River approach. All hands were ordered to assemble on the fantail as a precaution in the event we were to contact a submerged mine. It was a time of serious apprehension for all shipmates. To add to our apprehension, we were witness to several vessels other than our own hitting mines and receiving much damage. We also passed floating mines as close as 25 yards. For this reason we maintained modified general quarters to insure our watertight integrity. We proceeded up the Whang Poo River and anchored in the stream off the Bund, in downtown Shanghai. Anchored about were hundreds of junks, other U.S. and British warships, and what seemed to be thousands of small craft with families living aboard. Thousands thronged the banks on both sides of the river to view the U.S. ships. They cheered, waved United States flags and clapped their hands. Squat little riverboats tooted their whistles as their crews jumped and danced with delight. Some had banners which read "welcome glorious Seventh Fleet."

The departing Japanese army had systematically looted Shanghai of sugar, flour and anything negotiable since the surrender five weeks earlier. Everything of any value had been taken. Public buildings were stripped of radiators and furniture in a desperate attempt to salvage anything which could be sold on the black market. Japanese officials in Shanghai had appeared stunned and disorganized at the surrender of Japan although the end had been inevitable for the past year. Later we learned that the departing Japanese had broken up busses, streetcars, and even a statue of King Edward VII in an attempt to ship them to Japan aboard the previously captured USS President Harrison and on the captured Italian liner Conte Verde, seized after Italy's surrender.

Admiral Kincaid's pilot, Captain Eugenio Merrett had been released only a week earlier from Pootung Prison Camp where he had been held with 1,100 other Allied P.O.W.'s since January, 1943. Capt. Merrett described conditions in the camp as horrible; 200 prisoners shared two rooms, two wash basins and three toilets. Their daily diet was rice, cabbage and water soup. Capt. Merrett displayed "a huge wad" of Japanese-sponsored Chinese Yuan, which was rated at 145,000 per American dollar.

As we prepared for liberty September 20th the British carrier HMS Colossus was waiting to take Allied P.O.W.'s to Hong Kong and Manila. The hospital ship USS Refuge, the Ex-Empress of Australia was tied up at the TKK Wharf. Ahead of Ingham anchored in-line in the river was Admiral Kincaid's flagship, the USS Rocky Mount and the cruiser USS Nashville.

Once ashore, the enlisted men were "wealthy" and descended upon the city in groups of up to one hundred jamming streets and sidewalks. Walking along Nanjing and Bubbling Wells Road, beautiful women, Filipino band leaders and banking tycoons shared the crowded sidewalks with beggars, street urchins, newsboys and grinning dudes shouting "Woman? woman?"

The exchange rate at the time made anything desired within ones reach. The menu at the Palace Hotel included:

Chicken & Ham 160,000 Yuan
T-bone Steak
 170,000 Yuan
Hamburger Steak
 130,000 Yuan
Ice Cream
 80,000 Yuan
20,000 Yuan

<>Mix with this hundreds of British Navy, U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard sailors ready to blow off steam. The night clubs were ready; the economy starved for American dollars. Port side liberty was granted at 1600 as the starboard liberty section could only wait with envy. Checking the Shore Patrol list, there was Colbert's name in all capitals with duty the first night ashore. It was an apparent fact many of the Chinese were well educated and either extremely friendly towards us or curious to see if they could make a dollar. With so much money to be spent, it seemed they were guaranteed in the latter.

During our shore patrol rounds, we came across one young U.S. Navy Seaman pretty well along; about "3 sheets to the wind;" hat on back of head, U.S. paper money protruding from his jacket pockets. He was quite forcefully telling about fifteen Chinese they were heathens; that they "better get with the Lord, and mend their ways." All this taking place in an area not very well lighted. Lt. Colbert asked our senior Petty Officer to hold him, call the jeep and send him back to his ship.

The young seaman said, "Lieutenant, this is not your business. This is between me and God!"

While he was being held, his Commanding Officer, came by. The young seaman called, "Captain, Captain, they've got me."

The LCDR turned to Colbert, "Let him go!"

Colbert answered, "Sir, he is drunk, and we're having problems. I am sending him back to the ship as soon as the jeep gets here."

The LCDR replied "The hell you are! I'm taking him."

Colbert fired back, "No, you are not!"

Then the Commander says, "You're nothing but a G.D. Coast Guard J.G.!"

The Petty Officer and Colbert exchanged glances trying not to do anything rash. Then Colbert said, "Sir, I'm acting under the direct orders of Admiral Kincaid, and I suggest you get out of here, pronto!"

The Navy Commander struggled with himself for about three seconds, turned and stomped off.

There are many stories told of those first few nights and days in Shanghai. When going through the bars, just before liberty expired the first evening, a couple of "innocent" seamen from Ingham were at a bar in civilian clothes. The shore patrol officer looked, couldn't believe his eyes, did a double take, struggled with himself for at least three seconds, tapped his wrist watch, turned and left the premises immediately. On the liberty party the next day, many crewmembers went ashore, appetites whetted from the stories of the previous night, among those told by Signalman Striker Donald Balsly, Seaman 1st Class Robert Carter and Lt. j.g. Dean Colbert.

On October 2, 1945, Ingham left her moorings and proceeded down the Whang Poo about two miles and tied up to a tanker for refueling. Nearby we saw Japanese ships seized as prizes, flying the Stars and Stripes over Rising Sun ensigns. Their crews were still aboard, with a few sailors from the USS Nashville in charge. The vessels looked immaculate; food that appeared to be rice was stored in barrels on deck. Early the next morning, with a Yangtze River pilot aboard, Ingham proceeded carefully down the river 40 miles to the open sea, her mission in Shanghai completed.

Rest and recreation in Shanghai for the ship's company and an opportunity for us to see something of one of the world's great cities had continued for two never-to-be-forgotten weeks. This poem, by LCDR John Buckley, USCG, was written at sea December 12th, 1945 enroute Shanghai to Pearl Harbor, on CGC Spencer; it sums up the nights we spent in this great city. 

Go To Shanghai Page