Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Sasebo-Nagasaki Landings
Kyushu Occupation
Marine Withdrawl
Brigadier General William T. Clement
The Senior Marine Commanders
Special Subjects
The Invasion That Never Was
New 4th Honors Members of the Old 4th
Marine Corps' Demobilization Plan
Oldest Marine on Kyushu

SECURING THE SURRENDER: Marines in the Occupation of Japan
by Charles R. Smith

When not engaged in renovating the air base or on air missions, liberty parties were organized and sent by boat to Tokyo. Preference was given to personnel who were expected to return to the United States for discharge. Fraternzation, although originally forbidden by the American high command, was allowed after the first week. "The Japanese Geisha girls have taken a large share of the attention of the many curious sight-seers of the squadron," reported Major Michael R. Yunck, commanding officer of Marine Fighter Squadron 311. "The Oriental way of life is something very hard for an American to comprehend. The opinions on how the occupation job 'should be done' range from the most generous to the most drastic — all agreeing on one thing, though, that it is a very interesting experience."

Prostitution and the resultant widespread incidence of venereal diseases were ages old in Japan. "The world's oldest profession" was legal and controlled by the Japanese government; licensed prostitutes were confined to restricted sections. Placing these sections out of bounds to American forces did not solve the problem of venereal exposure, for, as in all ports such as Yokosuka, clandestine prostitution continued to flourish. In an attempt to prevent uncontrolled exposure, all waterfront and backstreet houses of prostitution were placed out of bounds. A prophylaxis station was established at the entrance to a Japanese police-controlled "Yashuura House" (a house of prostitution exclusively for the use of occupation forces), another in the center of the Yokosuka liberty zone, and a third at the fleet landing. These stations were manned by hospital corpsmen under the supervision of a full-time venereal disease-prevention medical officer. In addition, a continuous educational campaign was carried out urging continence and warning of the dangerous diseased condition of prostitutes. These procedures resulted in a drastic decline in reported cases of diseases originating in the Yokosuka area.

New 4th Honors Members of the Old 4th

On 6 September 1945, more than 120 4th Marine survivors of Bataan and Corregidor, who were freed from Japanese prison camps and were physically able, were invited to a regimental guard mount at Yokosuka Naval Base, the fallen bastion of Japanese naval might. Their hosts were the officers and men of the new 4th Marines. Reactivated in February 1944, the new regiment was composed of men from the four Marine raider battalions; men who could carry on the name of the old 4th — the legendary China Regiment which protected American interests in the Far East from 1927 to 1941 and caught the first full impact of the Japanese in the Philippines.

Alighting from trucks they were met by a huge sign which read: "Welcome, Old 4th!" Overwhelmed, the older men immediately threw their arms around the new in their first display of emotion since being rescued. A number said that the Japanese had marked them for death in the event another atomic bomb was dropped.

4th Marines
Liberated 4th Marines enjoy a steak dinner to the accompaniment of jazz tunes. National Archives Photo 127-N-133749

Looking thin but fit in newly issued dungarees and canvas sneakers or fabric split-toed shoes purchased from Japanese civilians, they quickly lined up three deep in parade formation in front of the base's wooden naval barracks where each was given a small Marine Corps emblem. "We're damned glad to have you here," said Brigadier General William T. Clement. "Some of you have changed a bit since I last saw you, but this is the happiest moment of my life just to be able to bring you back to the Fourth Marines."

Clement, Linderfield
BGen Clement chats with Cpl William R. Linderfeld, who was captured on Bataan. National Archives Photo 127-N-134481

In a mess hall where Japanese suicide pilots ate less than a month before, members of the new regiment treated members of the old to an American-style steak dinner with tomatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, oranges, and coffee while a strolling Marine band played the latest jazz tunes. Horror tales of Japanese imprisonment were exchanged for stories of Pacific victories. Two half-brothers, one in the old regiment and one in the new, were reunited after never expecting to see each other again. Following the dinner, they reviewed a guard mount in their honor and drank their first American canned beer in more than three years. As the band struck up the Marine Corps Hymn, "one returned prisoner, a tough-looking leatherneck with a face like a bulldog's, began to sob. Tears streamed down the checks of half a dozen more, and those who weren't weeping were swallowing hard."

As the truck convoy pulled away to carry them to the ships waiting to take them back to the United States, one veteran remarked: "Hell, I don't want to go back home. I want to stay with the Marines and just as soon as I get to the United States I'm going to ask for a transfer back to the Fourth Regiment. I've been in the Marines since I was 17 and it's the easiest life I know."

4th Marines
Members of the new 4th pass in review for members of the old 4th Marines. National Archives Photo 127-N-135287

On 8 September, the group's Corsairs and Hellcats, stripped of about two and a half tons of combat weight, began surveillance flights over the Tokyo Bay area and the Kanto Plain north of the capital. The purpose of the missions was to observe and report any unusual activity by Japanese military forces and to survey all airfields in the area. Initially, Munn's planes served under Third Fleet command, but on the 16th, operational control of MAG-31 was transferred to the Fifth Air Force. A month later, the group was returned to Navy control and reconnaissance flights in the Tokyo area and Kanto Plain discontinued. Operations of the air group were confined largely to mail, courier, transport, and training flights to include navigation, tactics, dummy gunnery, and ground control approach practice. By mid-October, the physical condition of the base had been improved to such an extent that the facilities were adequate to accommodate the remainder of the group's personnel. On 7 December, the group's four tactical squadrons were placed under the operational control of the Far Eastern Air Force and surveillance and reconnaissance flights again resumed.

On 8 September, Admiral Badger's Task Force 31 was dissolved and the Commander, Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, assumed responsibility for the naval occupation area. General Clement's command, again designated Task Force Able, continued to function for a short time thereafter while most of the reinforcing units of the 4th Marines loaded out for return to Guam. On the 20th, Lieutenant Colonel Beans relieved General Clement of his responsibilities at Yokosuka, and the general and his staff flew back to Guam to rejoin the 6th Division. Before he left, Clement was able to take part in a ceremony honoring more than 120 officers and men of the "Old" 4th Marines, captured on Bataan and Corregidor.

Hundreds of neatly stacked torpedoes are inspected by Marines. They are a small part of the tons of war materiel Marines found at the naval base. National Archives Photo 127-N-134498

After the initial major contribution of naval land forces to the occupation of northern Japan, the operation became more and more an Army task. As additional troops arrived, the Eighth Army's area of effective control grew to encompass all of northern Japan. In October, the occupation zone of the 4th Marines was reduced to include only the naval base, airfield, and town of Yokosuka. In effect, the regiment became a naval base guard detachment, and on 1 November, control of the 4th Marines passed from Eighth Army to the Commander, U.S. Fleet Activities, Yokosuka.

While the Marine presence gradually diminished, activity in the surrounding area began to return to normal. Japanese civilians started returning to the city of Yokosuka in large numbers. "The almost universal attitude was at first one of timidity and fear, then curiosity," it was reported. "Banks opened and started to operate . . . . Post offices and telegraph offices started to function smoothly, and movie houses began to fill with civilian crowds."

Unlike Tokyo and Yokohama, the Yokosuka area had escaped much destruction and was remarkably intact. On base, evacuated Japanese barracks were quickly cleaned up and made reasonably liveable. The Japanese furnished cooks, mess boys, and housekeeping help, allowing Marines more time to explore the rice-paddy and beach resort-dotted countryside, and liberty in town. Allowed only five hours liberty three times a week, most enlisted Marines saw little of Japan, except for short sight-seeing tours to Tokyo or Kamakura. Yokosuka, a small city with long beer lines, quickly lost its novelty and Yokohama was off limits to enlisted personnel. So most Marines would "have a few brews and head back for the base at 4 p.m. when the beer sales cease." Their behavior was remarkable considering only a few months before they had fought a hard and bloody battle on Okinawa. Crimes against the local Japanese population were few and, for the most part, petty. It was the replacement, not the combat veteran, who, after a few beers, would "slug a Jap" or curse them to their faces.

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division