Books authored by North China MarinesThe reasons for Marines being in China, details of their capture, imprisonment, and treatment at the hands of the Japanese are best explained in these books written by members of the North China Marines.  The books described below are out of print but can sometimes be found in public and university libraries.  They might be available for purchase at  


Behind the Barbed Wire by Chester M. Biggs, Jr.  This book is the best researched of all of them.  It includes many footnotes and references.  It tells of arrival in China in May of 1940, duty and capture in Peking, imprisonment in Woosung/Kiangwan until May of 1945, then time in the Hakodate camps in Japan until September of 1945.  Published in 1995.


From China Marine to Jap POW  by William Howard ChittendenThis book describes the voyage to China, details of life as a member of the Embassy Guard Detachment, capture and imprisonment at Woosung/Kiangwan until August of 1943.  At that point the author was sent to a camp near Kawasaki, then later to Niigata until September 1945.  Includes many photos.  Published in 1995. 


The Secret Camera by Terence S. Kirk
The author tells of capture at Chinwangtao and imprisonment at Woosung until November of 1942.  He then was sent in the first group from Woosung to Japan where he was held at Fukuoka 3-B until September of 1945.  This book includes photos taken by the author at Fukuoka from a home made camera, one of only two instances in the Pacific where POWs took photos while actually a prisoner.  Published in 1982.


ESCAPE! by James D. McBrayer, Jr.The author focuses on the escape from the train while enroute to Fengtai in 1945 and successful efforts to rejoin US forces.  Included are details of duty in Peking and imprisonment at Woosung/Kiangwan.  Published in 1995.  


The United States Marines in North China by John A. WhiteThe author describes duty in Tientsin, capture there and imprisonment in Woosung/Kiangwan, the trip to the Hokkaido camps in Japan in 1945, and rescue there.  His camp in Japan was near, but not the same, as the camp described in the Biggs book.  Published in 1974.  


The United States Marines in North China, 1894-1942  by Chester M. Biggs, Jr.  Published in the summer of 2003, this is the second book written by Chester  Biggs.  As the title states, this book covers more than just the North China Marines captured in 1941.  It explains in detail how they came to be there in the first place. 


Four Lost Years 1941-1945, by Victor F. Ciarrachi.  This is a series of short stories describing Vic Ciarrachi's time as a POW.  His wife Harriet told me he would tell her the story and she would write it down.  This is not a published work.  It describes the capture, time at Woosung/Kiangwan, the movement to Japan, and the camp on Hokkaido. It also describes plans to have the entire unit escape from the train enroute from Tientsin to Woosung.      



Officially Dead by Quentin Reynolds (not a North China Marine)
This is the story of the escape of Commander C. D. Smith from Ward Road Jail.  North China Marine Jerold Story was also in this escape.  He had been sent to Ward Road Jail after escaping from Woosung in March of 1942 and then being recaptured a month later.  North China Marines Connie Battles, Charles Brimmer, and Charles Stewart were part of the escape from Woosung.  After escaping from Ward Road Jail in October of 1944 Smith, Story, and British Commander Woolley, successfully reached US forces.  Read about the first Jerold Story escape at the page Escapes and Deaths.  Published in 1945.


The MUSHROOM Years by Pamela Masters (sister-in-law to North China Marine Jack R. Bishop)Pamela Masters is the sister of Margaret Bishop, wife of Jack R. Bishop.  Margaret and Jack were married 4 days before the capture of the North China Marines.  Margaret, Pamela, their sister Ursula, and their parents were then interned by the Japanese at Weihsien Prison Camp about halfway between Tientsin and Shanghai.  This book is that story.  Published in 1998. Margaret Bishop and the wives of three other North China Marines left Shanghai on the USS Lavaca for San Francisco.  They had not had contact with their husbands for a year or more.  Three weeks later they arrived in San Francisco to find their husbands waiting for them on the dock.
The married North China Marines were Bishop,Killebrew, Retzke, Somers, and Sydow.  Alan Sydow and his wife Iris were allowed to marry after he was captured.  Retzke and Somers both had sons born before Dec 1941. Randall Retzke was held with his mother Thyra at Weishien Camp from March of 1943 until August 1945, as were Margaret Bishop and Iris Sydow. I cannot find info on where Nadia Killebrew was held. For info on Maria and Michael Somers see Reunions page and the photo submitted by Michael Somers.


LITTLE FOREIGN DEVIL by Desmond Power:  Raised in Shanghai Power tells of life before the war among the other non-Chinese families and of internment by the Japanese.  Desmond knew North China Marine Major McCauley, Margaret Bishop and Iris Sydow, both wives of North China Marines.  Read his memories of life in Tientsin with the Marines at the page Peking/Tientsin Publications, Tientsin Marine part two. Published in 1996.

Captives of Empire by Greg Leck: Greg has been very helpful in researching the North China Marines, as has Desmond Power. Captives of Empire is the definitive history of the internment of the 13,500 Allied civilians held in China. Among these civilian prisoners were wives and children of some North China Marines: Margaret Bishop, Iris Sydow, Thyra Retzke and son Randall, Maria Somers and son Mike.

click here to see more info Captives of Empire


Captivesof Shanghai: the Story of the President Harrison by David and Gretchen Grover:  This is the history of the ship which removed the 4th Marines from Shanghai to the Philippines and was returning to pick up the North China Marines when the war broke out.  There are many references to the North China Marines, including the inaccurate information on the repatriation of Major McCauley.  (They are not completely accurate in reference to escapes.) Very detailed information on the last days leading up to the attempted removal of the North China Marines. Published in 1989.


The following are recent publications found at your local bookstore or library.Prisoners of the Japanese by Gavin Daws. This book gives an excellent overview of treatment of US prisoners at the hands of the Japanese.  This must be read to fully understand the experience of the capture and treatment of our POWs in the Pacific.

 Unjust Enrichment by Linda Goetz Holmes. This will help you understand the slave labor issue: how the POWs were 'rented' by Japanese industry,  the current attempts to force the Japanese government/companies to pay compensation, and our government's attempts to deny legal action on the part of the POWs today.

Hell Wouldn't Stop by Chet Cunningham, a Wake Island Marine. At the end of his story of the defense of Wake Island, capture, and imprisonment in various Japanese POW camps, the author includes short narratives of the experiences other Marine POWs.  Many of the POW camps discussed also held North China Marines.This is not meant by any means to be a complete list of books on the POW experience.  These books will give you as complete a picture as you can get of the North China Marine POW experience-and that is the purpose of this site.


Sadly, mention of the North China Marines in official histories of World War II is almost nonexistent.  The Battle History of the US Marines by retired Colonel Alexander has two very small paragraphs.  One mentions the capture of the Marines in Peking and Tientsin, the other refers to the North China Marines captured at Chinwangtao as the rear echelon of the 4th Marines.

Renowned author Stephen Ambrose, in his 600 page New History of World War II,  includes not even a full paragraph on US POWs in Japan.  He does take a whole page to discuss Japanese officers put on trial for treatment of US POWs.


An exception to the above is

Victory and Occupation:

History of US Marine Corps Operations in WW II, Vol V

by Benis M. Frank and Henry Shaw.

Appendix A is an entire chapter on Marine POWs during the war. Given that this was written in 1968 it proves that detailed information on Marine POWs during the war was available long ago but ignored by most authors since. However, the details on the North China Marines come from material supplied by Major Luther Brown, the ranking officer in Tientsin, but not material available from Colonel William Ashurst, the commander of the Marines in both Tientsin and Peking. I find it strange that the authors would report on the capture from the point of view of the second in command in Tientsin and not the senior officer in Peking with the bulk of the troops. The authors also repeat the erroneous claim that Major Edwin McCaulley was repatriated on the first exchange ship in the summer of 1942. Maj McCaulley was either released in Peking shortly after capture or released in Tientsin and returned to live in Peking until he was put into a civilian internment camp in January 1943. He appears as a civilian on the passenger list of the September 1943 exchange ship Teia Maru.

No mention is made of the escape and recapture of Peking Marines Sgt George Stone and Corp Donald Marshall, the first escape of Marines in the war. In fact, the authors state that "the Marines made no attempt to escape." This remark is apparently made based on the escape report of North China Marines Lt Richard Huizenga and Lt James McBrayer. The escape of Marshall and Stone is mentioned in the 9 Apr 45 report of Corp Jerold Story's escape that is also referenced in the chapter.

No mention is made of the Nov 42 shipment of Wake and North China Marines from Woosung to Fukuoka. It is not pointed out that by the time Woosung/Kiangwan was closed down in the spring of 1945 half of the North China Marines were already working as slave labor in factories in Japan, some for three years and others for two. It is my belief that those who went to Japan earlier died at younger ages than those who remained in China until the summer of 1945.

Still, this chapter remains a beacon of light on the story of the North China Marine POWs not seen elswhere. Finding this reference work is not easy as there are only 84 copies available in libraries throughout the entire United States. You can find what appears to be an unabridged version online at

Other excellent books which give details of the POW experience in the Pacific, many times describing camps North China Marines were in: DEATH MARCH by Donald Knox SURRENDER & SURVIVAL by E. Bartlett Kerr SOME SURVIVED by Manny Lawton

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