Marines In Japan

By Leatherneck Staff - Originally Published November 1942

The Japanese learned to respect the United States Marines as far back as 1853. One hundred Marines under Major Jacob Zeilin were the first to land on Japanese soil when Commodore Matthew Perry dropped anchor in Yedo (Tokyo) Bay on the morning of July 8, 1853, and went ashore to negotiate a treaty opening Japan to foreign trade.

The Marines formed lines on both sides of the route from Perry's flagship at the dock to the reception hall. Sent ashore first, ostensibly to give "face" to the landing, they were there primarily as a protection for the landing party as five thousand Japanese troops were on hand to "do proper honor to the occasion."

Although no fighting took place, the Japanese were greatly impressed by the uniforms, discipline and precision drill of the Marines-and their presence contributed greatly to the success of the undertaking.

As Americans everywhere prepare to celebrate the 167th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps on November 10, the Marines are teaching the Japanese a new sort of respect-respect for their marksmanship and tenacitydown in the Solomons Islands. The reputation the "devil dogs" won through 167 years of fighting and colorful history is being maintained by the Marine of 1942.

The Marines have tangled with the Japs on their home ground many times since 1853. In 1S63, the Prince of Nagato, who hated all foreigners and especially Americans, started a war to drive all foreigners from Japan. The Prince commanded six forts and three men-of-war at the Straits of Shimonoseki, at the west exit of the Inland Sea. an important trade route for American ships.

The American merchantman, Pembroke, was fired upon and seriously damaged by the Japanese.

Commodore David McDongal, USN, sailed his ship, the USS Wyoming, into the straits as soon as he heard of the attack.

In the ensuing one-hour battle, the Prince's fleet was wrecked and much damage done to the shore batteries. The boilers on one of the warships, a steamer, were hit by a well directed shot and the vessel left sinking. A Jap brig was sunk and substantial damage done to the third ship before the Wyoming withdraw.

While revolution, little wars, and constant disorder kept Japan in a turmoil during the latter half of the 19th Century, Marines were always on hand to protect American lives and properties.

A series of serious disorders broke out in Osaka in 1867, and U. S. Marines were given the task of safely escorting American Minister Van Valkenburgh from Osaka to the country residence of the commander-in-chief of the Japanese Army.

One of the protective missions of the Marines in Japan was ordered when foreign residents were attacked by Japanese troops in 1868, at Hiogo. Marines remained ashore until the Japanese government guaranteed safety of Americans in Japan.

The last time Marines marched through the streets of Yokohoma their missions was one of mercy. In 1923, Japan was shaken by destructive earthquakes. During this stay in Japan on their relief mission, Marines were praised by Tokyo newspapers for their "readiness to do everything possible for those seeking assistance," and described as "ambassadors of good will."

Marines of 1942 vow that their next visit will bring no relief to the Japanese. Three Marines, having their last drink together in "Washington, D. C., last spring, shortly before "shoving off" overseas, broke a glass cocktail straw, each taking a third. The three vowed that they would put them together in Tokyo, or die getting there.

One of them fell in the landing on the Solomons, and now the remaining two are even more determined to meet in Tokyo-Tokyo with the American flag flying over it.