July 1926

Marines Were with Biddle in Japan in 1849

Volume 9, Issue 10

Major Edwin North McClellan, USMC

Major Edwin North McClellan, USMC

Seven native Hawaiians in a Japanese prison at Nagasaki! About an equal number of Americans kept them company. That had been their unfortunate status for about seven months. A contemporaneous account stated that "five of them were Americans, seven Hawaiians; one was from Aahu and one from Astoria." They were of the crew of the shipwrecked whaler LAGODA. The year was 1849.

Three years before, Japan had warned out of its waters the two American warships of Biddle. Four years were yet to pass before Perry's negotiations opened Japan to American influence. Japan was "exclusive and isolated."

The United States ship PREBLE, commanded by James Glynn, was ordered to the relief of these incarcerated men. When she anchored at Nagasaki in the spring of 1849 the PREBLE was confronted with an imposing naval and military display. Captain Glynn's firm demand that the prisoners be placed on board the PREBLE was courteously acceded to by the Japanese authorities.

Sailing from China in June the PREBLE arrived at Honolulu in August, 1849. Twenty-one of her crew had died from disease. Forty-one more were transferred ashore to the "American hospital."

The presence of the PREBLE at Honolulu made more emphatic the protest of the Hawaiian Government and the American Consul against the interference of the French with the local government.

Leaving behind her concrete evidence of the friendship of America for Hawaii, the PREBLE sailed in December for the California coast.

On 21 October 1921, Maj McClellan suggested to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, MajGen John A. Lejeune, that 10 November be designated as the birth date of the Marine Corps, an anniversiary that had not typically been celebrated to that point.