"What a bunch of roughneck sword-swallowers the officers were and what a common lot their wives..."
Mrs Bishop, the wife of a retired US Army Colonel, when describing the officers of the 15th Infantry to Mrs. Viall, the wife of a young Marine officer, while attending a tea dance in Tientsin
Although today they lack the mystique of the China Marines, the US Army also maintained a strong presence in China beginning with their efforts to break the Boxer siege of Peking in 1900. Those soldiers under Gen Adna Chafee’s China Relief Expedition included the 9th US Infantry, 14th US Infantry, 6th US Cavalry, Battery F 5th US Artillery, and at the end of the campaign the 15th US Infantry.
The 9th Infantry outside the Forbidden City, summer 1900
Company H 9th US Infantry. Peking. Summer 1900
A portion of General Chaffee's Staff, Peking. Photo was taken shortly after the The Allies occuppied the City.
Within a year of the relief of Peking all US forces were withdrawn except for one company from the 9th US Infantry which was responsible for providing a Legation Guard until September 1905. The 15th Infantry returned to Tientsin in 1912 to ensure an open line of communications existed between the North China coast and Peking when the Chinese Revolution threatened to isolate capital. The 15th stayed on from January 1912 to March of 1938.
A 15th US Infantryman, c. WWI
Lastly, the 31st Infantry made a quick visit to Shanghai in support of the International Settlement during the 1931-32 conflict between the Japanese and China. Several interesting tidbits of information about the Army’s relationship with the China Marines. When Col Emerson Liscum brought the 9th US Infantry to China July of 1900, he had orders stating upon reaching the Legation he was to take command of all US forces, including the Marines. Sadly Liscum was killed at Tientsin on 13 July in a failed Allied attempt to capture the city. Had he and the Allies made it to Peking, the Marine guard under Capt Myers would have been subordinate to him. It is interesting to speculate how prominent a role the Marines would have played in the defense of the American Legation while serving under an Army commander.
The 15th drilling in Tientsin shortly after arrival
Within a few years of the 15th US Infantry’s arrival the Army appointed a General to command the US Army Forces in China. If Special Plan Yellow (a US war plan against a possible Boxer like uprising) was formally implemented then all Marine forces assigned to his command including the Legation Guard and possibly the 4th Marines would have fallen under Army control.
Men of the 15th conducting a field march