Technically I should have posted this yesterday, but it's a great piece from Military Times:
The U.S. Marine Corps landed in China exactly 116 years ago today.On May 31, 1900, an expeditionary force of 56 Marines and sailors arrived in Beijing to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission in the face of mounting militia attacks in what would be known as the Boxer Rebellion.Our own Siggurdsson has discussed two individuals who took part in the Boxer Rebellion in the past. First, Calvin P. Titus, Bugler, Company E, 14th Infantry:
Over a brutal 55-day siege, the Marines would fend off repeated assaults through dense urban terrain by militias and Chinese government forces determined to wipe them out.
"The Americans who have been besieged in Peking desire to express their hearty appreciation of the courage, fidelity and patriotism of the American Marines, to whom we so largely owe our salvation," a group of American missionaries wrote in the aftermath of the battle, according to the National Archives. "By their bravery in holding an almost untenable position in the face of overwhelming numbers, and in cooperating in driving the Chinese from a position of great strength, they made all foreigners in Peking their debtors, and have gained for themselves an honorable name among the heroes of their country."
One hundred and [sixteen] years ago this week, the United States military participated in joint operations with the forces of seven other nations. Their objective was to rescue the civilians, embassy staff, and Chinese Christians besieged in the international legations located in Peking, China. Modern history calls this the "Boxer Rebellion" or the "Boxer Rising;" historians of the U.S. Army refer to this operation as the "China Relief Expedition."And second, Sergeant Major Daniel Daly:
In addition to Marines and sailors from several ships in Chinese waters, American troops stationed in the nearby Philippines were rushed to rescue the trapped civilians. The 9th and 14th Regiments were assigned that duty, as was the 6th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery F of the 5th Field Artillery Regiment. They were accompanied by troops from France, Russia, Japan and the British Empire.
After fighting their way from the coast, through the city of Tientsin, the relief force arrived before the Chinese capital in mid-August. The plan called for an assault on the city on August 15. However, hoping to steal a march on the other contingents, early in the morning of August 14 the Russians attacked a city gate assigned to the Americans. All the Russians accomplished was to give away the operation, and to get themselves pinned down by heavy Chinese rifle and artillery fire.
Units of the U.S. 14th Infantry converged on the area shortly after dawn. With the Russians trapped by Chinese Imperial fire, the American soldiers swerved to attack the city wall nearby. The brick structure was some 30 feet tall. There was no way to determine if Imperial troops were hiding on the wall, waiting for the Americans to make a move.
Col. A.S. Daggett, commanding the 14th Infantry, decided that it was necessary for the wall to be scaled and secured. With no scaling ladders or ropes, someone must try to climb the perpendicular brick façade. Volunteers were asked for, and one of Company E's soldiers stepped forward. It was company bugler Calvin Titus, all 5 feet, 7 inches and 120 pounds. He also was serving as a chaplain's assistant, and had a very good reputation among his fellow soldiers. Titus laconically said, "I'll try, sir." After looking the slightly-build fellow up and down, Col. Daggett said, "Well, if you think you can make it, go ahead and try."
Titus dropped all his equipment, even his pistol and his hat, and began the perilous climb. In his book, "America in the China Relief Expedition," Col. Daggett described what happened next:
With what interest did the officers and men watch every step as he placed his feet carefully in the cavities and clung with his fingers to the projecting bricks! The first fifteen feet were passed over without serious difficulty, but there was a space of fifteen feet above him. Slowly he reaches the twenty-foot point. Still more carefully does he try his hold on those bricks to see if they are firm. His feet are not twenty-five feet from the ground. His head is near the bottom of an embrasure. All below is breathless silence. The strain is intense. Will that embrasure blaze with fire as he attempts to enter it or will the butts of rifles crush his skull? Cautiously he looks through, and sees and hears nothing. He enters, and, as good fortune would have it, no Chinese soldiers are there. Titus stands in the embrasure, and informs those below that he thinks others can climb the wall in the same way...
In a letter written 35 years later, Titus told of the most "ticklish part" of his exploit:
For me the most ticklish part of the event was when I found that there were a lot of matting tents on top and I had to find out if they were occupied before I could tell the company all was clear... Naturally I was scared stiff but it had to be done; but all the fear went for nothing as there was no one in any of them.
After determining that this particular section of the wall was unoccupied, Titus was followed by other members of Company E. After pulling up their rifles using makeshift ropes composed of rifle slings, the soldiers successfully suppressed the Chinese rifle and artillery fire. This allowed the trapped Russians and the Americans to enter their assigned gate, in the Chinese capital.
Army Medal of Honor, 1896-1903
Citation: Gallant and daring conduct in the presence of his colonel and other officers and enlisted men of his regiment; was first to scale the wall of the city
Footnote #1: One year later, Calvin Titus received a presidential appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. After graduating in 1905 as a 2nd Lieutenant, he became a very busy young man. He served several years in the Philippines, was part of the relief effort after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, fought forest fires in Yellowstone Park, pursued Pancho Villa in 1916, and served in Europe after the "Great War." He later directed the ROTC battalion at Coe College in Iowa, retiring in 1930. He died in a VA hospital in California on May 27, 1966 at the age of 86.
Calvin Titus, Cadet, U.S. Military Academy
Footnote #2: Less than two years later, Titus received his medal in a most auspicious way. On March 11, 1902, this first year plebe attended with all cadets a ceremony marking the academy's centennial. He received a shock when he was called front and center at the entire assembly. The commandant and President Theodore Roosevelt, walked over to Titus, and the President, pinned the medal on the surprised plebe's coat. Roosevelt then said "Now don't let this give you the big head!" After the group was dismissed a second year classman approached Titus, looked at his medal and said "Mister, that's something!" The man's name? Douglas MacArthur.
Daniel J. Daly was born on November 11, 1873, in Glen Cove, NY. In his early days in New York City he fought rival newsboys for the best street corners. At the age of twelve Dan became a semipro boxer in sports clubs while still selling papers.
Dan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on January 10, 1899. He had hopes of seeing action during the Spanish-American War; however, the majority of the action was done, The young man was eventually shipped to the Far East, seeing service with the U.S. Asiatic Squadron. Daly probably saw some action during the Philippine-American War (formerly known as the "Philippine Insurrection").
First Medal of Honor Citation, August 14, 1900
"In the presence of the enemy during the battle of Peking, China, 14 August 1900, Daly distinguished himself by meritorious conduct." – Medal of Honor citation
There you have it; "…distinguished himself by meritorious conduct." Really? That's it?!? [I should point out that in the first 40 years or so of the Medal of Honor, the citations were usually quite short and to the point.] Now, you and I both know there's more to the story than that; so – if I may assume my Paul Harvey voice – here's "the rest of the story."
Peking, China and the Boxer Rebellion
In early 1900, Imperial China was divided into a number of "spheres of influence" that were controlled by several European nations. Whole provinces, ports, and railroads were under the jurisdiction of Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. Also involved in the dismemberment of China were Japan, Italy, and Austria-Hungary. [The United States, despite the recent acquisition of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, had no interest in the carving up of a nation older than any of the European polities.] Before long, famine struck large parts of China, and rioting occurred. Christian missionaries and their converts were attacked as "third degree devils."
In addition, in provinces near the capital of Peking secret societies began to form. One of these was the "I Ho Chaun," better known to history as the "Fists of Righteous Harmony." They were dubbed "Boxers" by the Europeans. The Boxers began to make nuisances of themselves by their attacks on Europeans and Christians generally, and were themselves attacked by units of the Chinese Imperial Army. However, these attempts to suppress the Boxers were not enthusiastically pursued, for their hatred of foreigners was rife among the nobility, all the way up to the Imperial Chinese throne room.
China's ruler was the Empress Dowager Tzu-Hsi, a fairly conservative ruler that resisted many attempts to reform the Imperial government. Many historians believe the Empress Dowager was highly sympathetic to the Boxers' aims. In June of 1900, the Boxers launched attacks against the Legations Quarter of Peking, where the embassies of foreign nations were located.
After a couple of weeks, the Boxers did not succeed in destroying the "foreign devils," so the Imperial Chinese Army essentially took over the job. Low on food, water, and medicine, low on ammo, low on everything, the residents of the Legations, held out for 55 days. On August 14, 1900 a relief force from the major nations of Europe – and Japan and the United States – stormed the gates of Peking and rescued the besieged residents of the Legations quarter.
Dan Daly's Contributions to the Defense of the Foreign Legation
In May 1900, he was deployed aboard the USS Newark (C-1) for Taku Bay, China, where he landed with other Marines enroute to Peking. During the siege of the Legations, embassy guards set up makeshift defenses in many locations. The U.S. Marines and German forces had been stationed on the Tartar Wall, south of the American Legation.
The Germans and the Americans occupied perhaps the most crucial of all defensive positions: the Tartar Wall (labeled the "Brick Wall" in the map below). Holding the top of the 45 ft. tall and 40ft. wide Wall was vital. If it fell to the Chinese, they would have an unobstructed field of fire into the Legation Quarter. The German barricades faced east on top of the wall and 400 yds. In the opposite direction were the west-facing American positions.
The besieged Legation Quarter in Peking, June 20-August 14, 1900
From a sketch by Capt. John T Myers, USMC, included in book
"The Royal Navy: From Earliest Times to the Present" (1903)
The Chinese built barricades facing the German and American positions. For many weeks, these enemy barricades were pushed closer and closer to the lines of the "foreign devils." Constant sniper activity, artillery barrages, fireworks, and infantry attacks kept the defenders unnerved and awake.
On the evening of August 13, with Capt. Newt Hall, accompanied by Pvt. Daly, mounted the wall bastion, bayonet-tipped Lee Navy Straight-Pull Rifle in hand (see below). Many U.S. Marines had been pulled from the barricade to build positions to back up the main barricade. After assessing the situation, Capt. Hall left to bring up reinforcements and Pvt. Daly remained to defend the position single-handed.
Model 1895 Lee Navy Straight-Pull Rifle
Standard weapon of USMC, 1895-1913
For the balance of the night, Chinese snipers fired at Daly and stormed the bastion, but he fought them off with well-aimed rifle fire, using his bayonet in hand-to-hand fighting usually outnumbered. He kept up such a volume of fire that the Chinese thought there were more men than just the diminutive private defending the position. Sometime near dawn, reinforcements arrived. In the first rays of the rising sun, they found Pvt. Daly leaning against his defensive position. In the area in front of the barricade, his fellow Marines counted over 200 dead Chinese, helped along to see their ancestors by Pvt. Daniel Daly, USMC.
Second Medal of Honor Citation, October 24-25, 1915
"…for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with the 15th Company of Marines (Mounted), 2d Marine Regiment, on 22 October 1915. Gunnery Sergeant Daly was one of the company to leave Fort Liberte, Haiti, for a six-day reconnaissance. After dark on the evening of 24 October, while crossing the river in a deep ravine, the detachment was suddenly fired upon from three sides by about 400 Cacos [Haitian insurgents] concealed in bushes about 100 yards from the fort. The Marine detachment fought its way forward to a good position, which it maintained during the night, although subjected to a continuous fire from the Cacos. At daybreak the Marines, in three squads, advanced in three different directions, surprising and scattering the Cacos in all directions. Gunnery Sergeant Daly fought with exceptional gallantry against heavy odds throughout this action."
Footnote #1: While serving with Marines in "The Great War" (aka First World War) in France during the battle of Belleau Wood, then-Gunnery Sergeant Daly in June of 1918 performed several more heroic acts, including putting out a fire in an ammunition bunker and silencing a German machine-gun nest singlehandedly. He was recommended for a third Medal of Honor, but instead received the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal. From the French he received the Medaille Militaire. The story goes that General of the Armies John "Black Jack" Pershing offered him an officer's commission; Daly declined, supposedly saying he would rather be "an outstanding sergeant than just another officer." Not bad for man of 45 years of age.
Footnote #2: Daniel Daly retired from the USMC on February 6, 1929. He worked as a bank guard on Wall Street for seventeen years. He died in 1937, and is buried in the Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY.
Footnote #3: Daly is credited with saying, "Come on, you sons of bitches; do you want to live forever?" during the battle of Belleau Wood, urging his men into battle. He later told a Marine Corps historian that his actual words were, "For crissake, men – come on! Do you want to live forever?"
USS Daly (DD-519), 1943-1974
Photograph courtesy of http://www.badassoftheweek.com/daly.html
Footnote #4: The exemplary spirit of Dan Daly lived on after him, as the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Daly (DD-519) was launched and commissioned in 1943. The crew received eight battle stars for service in the Second World War, and another for service during the Korean War. It was sold for scrap in 1976.
Footnote #5: Daniel Daly's Medals of Honor are on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, located in Dumfries, VA near the entrance to Marine Corps Base Quantico. The museum, originally opened November 10, 2006, recently underwent expansion and re-opened on April 1. [There is also an exhibit in the museum, using life-size mannequins, depicting Daly's heroic exploit of August 14, 1900.]
National Museum of the Marine Corps, Dumfries, VA
Image courtesy of http://www.nationaldefenseweek.com/interviews/ezell-national-museum-of-marine-corps-to-double-in-size/