TRIP TO CHEFOO, 1946
By V.R. Crosby.
D I A R Y
My trip to
Chefoo, Communist-held port on the North banks of
We have talked about going to Chefoo
for some time. Jim, ― (Ensign James Moore, my Commanding Officer) ― is especially keen to visit
this port, as it represents his "old home town". His mother and
father were missionaries in the Southern Baptist Church there, serving for some
fifteen years. Having spent all his childhood in Chefoo, Jim is anxious to get
back. In the past, we have hesitated to plan such a trip, fearful that the
Communists might resent our entrance. No channels of communication exist
between the Nationalist-Communist lines, and it would be practically impossible
to give them any advance notice. Mail, strange as it may seem, is still
distributed throughout all
Under the present "cease fire" order, it seems feasible to land in Communist territory. We have talked to Mr. Service, the American Consul, Capt. Hubbard of the Marine G-2 section, and Mr. Righter of UNRRA regarding our proposed trip. They all concur that such a trip should be both interesting and relatively safe. Mr. Service requests that we deliver a letter for him and look up a Mr. Yang. The latter worked eighteen years for the American Consulate in Chefoo, and should be a reliable contact.
Al is consulted ― (Sigurd Aalbu, pilot of our L-5) ― and asked to check flight time, chances of landing near Chefoo, etc. Jim does not know of any airfield in the immediate vicinity of Chefoo, and to our knowledge, the Japanese did not build any there during the occupation. Al tosses this off lightly, saying that he can sit the L-5 down almost anywhere. We discuss the possibility of riding three people in the small plane, and finally decide that it can be done ― providing I ride back in the tail section. Al feels that it is about one and one-half hours flying time to our destination.
After some lengthy discussion, we
decide that the trip can be made, and we determine to get off to an early start
tomorrow morning. I certainly am anxious to go. I want to see all I can of
Looks like we won't get away today. It is so foggy this morning, that from the dining room window, you can barely make out the outline of the Edgewater Hotel. Al gives the airfield a call, and is informed by operations there that visibility is practically zero. With luck, we may get off tomorrow.
The mist still looks thick enough for
cutting, but it is decided to journey out to the airfield and see if operations
will give us clearance. I am told that
We get into the air very quickly, and from my "closed-in boudoir" in the rear, it seems that the L-5 is functioning normally. (Later, Al tells me that the added weight made the flying much different, that he consistently had to keep the plane in a climbing position). It's extremely cold in the plane, and every few minutes, I find myself checking my watch. Through a corner in the window, I note a road winding up and down through the hills. I figure that Al may be using this as a guide to Chefoo. Only an hour has passed, but Al has cut the motor, and is pointing toward the ground. By twisting my neck out of joint, and almost sticking a left leg through the fabric of the plane, I can make out a large town below, bordered by a lot of ocean, obviously Chefoo. Al circles the town several times, finds no signs of an airport, and starts looking for a makeshift landing strip. He finds several suitable places, but after a few runs over them, shakes his head and moves on. The ground must look soft. He finally selects a section of the beach West of the town. After a few runs, we come in slowly and Al gives us the high sign for landing. We seem to come in very slowly, but at the last moment, the tail (and I) seems to drop fast. We hit fairly hard, and I keep hoping that the tail assembly hasn't fallen apart. Al soon manages to slow her down and we all tumble out of the plane.
There are a few peasants (Lau Pai Hsing) along the beach, and we soon have a nice audience. Jim immediately contacts the most intelligent looking Communist in the crowd, asking how we can quickly get into Chefoo. Though it seems only a few minutes away by air, we find that it in eleven li (approximately four miles) by road into town. Al suggests a taxi service ― first ferrying me closer into town and then coming back for Jim. Agreed, so off we go again. It sure seems good to ride in the seat. Al spots a beach nearer town and we go in for a trial run. There seem to be soldiers all over the place. Some of them have their rifles pointed in our general direction. Off-hand, it seems as though every section of the coast is protected. I notice that some of the peasants have thrown themselves prone on the ground, as if they are afraid of a strafing party. Suddenly, Al cuts the motor, and we drift in for a landing. People seem to be running all over the place. This time, the landing is smoother. I climb out, and Al immediately heads back to pick up Jim. The Ba Luh (Eighth Route Soldiers) seems to be all over the place. I tell them that the plane will soon return that two more people are on the way. The leader asks the purpose of our mission, and the proposed length of our stay. His attitude is almost one of friendliness.
Jim soon arrives and plans are made to start into town. The beach seems to be crawling with Chinese Communists. The soldiers soon get organized and post guards around us and the plane. A Mr. Muh suddenly appears on the scene and announces that a car is coming to carry us into town. Al decides that the plane is too near the water, so we roll it up away from the waterline. While everyone is talking and unloading the plane, I snap some pictures.
In a few minutes, a battered 1936 Ford appears, and we are soon headed into town. We are told that the car is run on homemade gasoline ― grain alcohol. Jim keeps trying to recognize some streets, finally announces that he is lost. We arrive at the Provincial headquarters. Two huge pictures, measuring 12' by 15', stand at the entrance. One I recognize as Mao Tze-Tung, the party leader; the other as Chu-Teh, the famous Communist military strategist.
Inside, we are introduced to various
members of the Provincial Government, one of them notably being Mr. Yang. He tells us that he is working for the
Municipal Government as an interpreter. Relations are extremely friendly, and
over a cup of tea, we explain the purpose of our mission. Current information
is passed along to them, and then Jim asks if it would be possible for them to
answer a few questions relative to Japanese War Crimes, conditions of road in
this area, status of American businessmen wanting to return to Chefoo, and
other generalized information. They seem very pleased to oblige us and the
atmosphere is most cordial and polite. Jim explains that he would like to visit
his old stamping grounds, and we are told that a car is being prepared to take
us around on a sightseeing tour. Mr. Yang is to
accompany us as a guide, and we are told that we are free to snap pictures. Jim
asks that our plane be well protected, and tells them of our intentions to
The Ford carries us all over Chefoo.
The town appears to be very clean and orderly. Jim's primarily interested in
his old home, so we stop there first. It is a pleasure to see Jim stomping
through the various rooms of this empty house, recalling old times, and at the
same time, disturbed at the present state of decay. The Japanese have ruined
everything in the house, and it presently looks like a pigsty. We walk down to
the beaches and Jim explains how he formerly spent many hours here swimming and
hunting duck. Mr. Yang tells how the Japanese
treated some of the local people during the occupation, points to a spot on the
beach where two Chinese were put to death by the time-old expedient of being
buried alive. (I suddenly recalled that before leaving
We continue making a tour of the town,
stopping every now and then to snap a picture. We are told that the Japanese
interned a Greek family here in Chefoo during the war. Jim is very interested
in this, and we decide to make a stop at the home of this man ― Paradissus. The whole
family is overjoyed to see Jim, and they tell us of the poor treatment afforded
them by the Japanese during the war. They were allowed to remain here because
of an invalid daughter. They beg Jim to go upstairs and talk a few minutes with
her. While he is gone, I tell Mrs. Paridissus what I
know of the Chefoo people now living in
We next move to look at the American and English Consulates. Conditions here are the same as in the churches. The outside of the buildings are in good condition, and the interiors are in dire need of repair. The Archives are fortunately all intact.
We journey back to headquarters, and
are told that it is time for dinner. We walk several blocks to a large,
attractive restaurant. Here, toasts float back and forth across the table ―
renewing Sino-American friendship. The Communists explain their ideals and ways
of living, and we in turn tell them of current activities in the outside world.
The food is delicious, the atmosphere one of warm friendliness, and we all feel
that it has been a successful "first day". It is only but we decide that this in an
opportune time to catch up on some sleep. Tomorrow we shall be headed back to
the comforts of
After twelve hours sleep, we are ready for some activity. Our first breakfast in Chefoo is delicious, four eggs per man, complete with coffee, jam and western chopsticks. After eating, we are told that the local authorities want to have a little talk. The Mayor of the city, Yu Ku-Ying, is now in the hospital, recovering from three major operations. The acting government head is a Mr. Li Huh, a typical farmer ― shaggy brows, hair over his ears, and at all times looking scared. It is with Mr. Li that we have our audience this morning. He is blunt and to the point. Our questions are to be answered, but first permission to do this must be obtained from the authorities at Yenan. He explains that they have a definite chain of command, and in the absence of the Mayor, his only recourse was to refer this matter to the authorities at Lai-Yang and Yenan. He explains that this message has gone out and that an answer is expected today.
Meanwhile, we will please make
ourselves at home and enjoy the hospitality of Chefoo. Jim then tells Mr. Li
that the action taken by the Chefoo authorities is indeed beyond comprehension ―
that we came here as friends, asking only questions of a very general nature.
Moreover, if they did not desire our company, they could have told us
immediately to return to
We retire to our room, and begin to play honeymoon bridge. We're all thinking "it isn't possible" "They can't keep us here". We have a little stove in our room and all activity is centered around it. The Houseboy keeps us well-supplied with apples, pears, and tea. All in all, it is a very comfortable confinement.
In the afternoon, they come to take us
to dinner. Again, the meal is delicious, seasoned with "gam-beis". The talk is generally of
Nationalist-Communist relations, the future of trade between
The two interpreters, Mr. Yang and Mr. Liu (the latter helped Capt. Hubbard bring in the Marine flyers who went down around I-Hsien ― stayed in Tsingtao for several days) are both quite concerned over this situation, and say frankly that Mr. Li Muh has made a grave error in reporting this to higher headquarters. They say that if the Mayor himself had been well, this would never have happened. It seems a little late for all this now. A barber comes in and gives Jim a shave and haircut. Al and I decide to let our beards grow.
Our activities are routine now, gating apples, reading the one English book in our room "Favour Trials of History". Before retiring, we are given some coffee and cakes. The service is wonderful, but we're all a bit worried over this situation, wondering if it will have any repercussions. The sleeping bags we brought along are sure coming in handy.
It is hard to believe that the Communists are holding us here. Actually, we haven't obtained any information from them. They must realize that we came here on a very friendly basis. Undoubtedly, they will release us today. The order banning us from appearing on the streets has evidently been lifted, for they have given us permission to go on another sightseeing tour. First, we visit the schoolhouse of the China Inland Mission.
The large building has been entirely gutted by fire ― by bandits at the time of the end of the war. We take a lot of pictures and inspect all the elaborate air-raid shelters the Japanese built. This was the Army's main headquarters during the occupation. Next, we drop around to the Baptist church where the elder James Moore once delivered many sermons. To Jim's surprise, the church is in wonderful condition, the furniture, even pews intact, and the windows unbroken, all ready for a congregation.
Mr. Yang then asks us to visit the buildings of the McMullan Company. The Japanese Gendarmerie resided here during the occupation, and we are shown the cells and places of torture. The cells resemble animal stalls, built low to the ground, reinforced with concrete and solid locks. I doubt if any prisoners ever escaped out of there.
It is now time to eat, so we hurry back
to the same restaurant. The menu is the same ― good food, gan beis, and a session of heated
discussion over our retention. Jim uses every argument in the book, gives all
kinds of reasons why we should be released. Finally asks that Al be allowed to
fly back to
We are asked to participate in a basketball game. After the American team has thoroughly defeated the Chinese team, enjoyed by a large audience, we are taken back to our room.
Al is concerned over the L-5, and asks that he be allowed to look at it. They refuse this on the grounds that the military is handling the guarding of the plane, and that no one can now go near it. Al explains that the engines must be "revved" up. They tell him not to worry ― that the plane is in safe hands that they have even covered it with mats for protection against snow and rain. (Actually, the plane is weather-proofed against snow and rain)
This is Chinese New Years Eve. Outside, you can hear music everywhere. We are all wondering what the people are doing at our home base ― if they are attempting to get us out of here. "Famous Trials of History" is most popular and we all take turns. Conditions here are wonderful except for the "outhouse". It is a typical Chinese trench and not fit for man or beast. Even flies refuse to go in there. However, with the exception of our room, it is the only place "in bounds".
Every Chinese in Chefoo seems to be out having a good time today. Firecrackers are going off all over the place, accompanied by the strange strains of Chinese opera music. New Years Day is a big occasion and each and every individual adds another year to his age.
A plane buzzes the house about in the morning, and Al rushes out to investigate. Reports that four Navy planes are circling the town ― that they have evidently spotted our plane on the beach. We wonder if they are looking for us.
After breakfast, we are asked if we care to go for a walk. We must get our daily exercise so we agree. The streets are crowded and we soon have a large mob of curious and noisy people following us. Occasionally, a group of Ba Luh soldiers will march past. They look very good ― each equipped with a rifle and four hand grenades. They certainly look better than any Nationalist troops I have ever seen. We visit a Chinese temple and observe how the people are all offering food and gifts to the various gods in celebration of the New Year. There are so many people in the temple that we can hardly move.
Mr. Li, our guide, asks us if there is any special place we would like to visit, so Jim tells them that we are very interested in boats and would like to see the dock area. They evidently do not want us near this area, explaining that the military have placed a guard in this area and will not permit any visitors trespassing.
The planes are still circling the town, and I keep hoping that they will come down lower. Al is sure that they have seen our plane.
We are next taken to a camera shop. Here we have our pictures taken with Cdr. Liu, the interpreter, and Mr. Li, Secretary of the Municipal Government. It must be a very sober picture as we are not particularly overjoyed with this warm reception.
When we get back to our room, we find
another Communist leader awaiting us Mr. Tung, Secretary to the Commissioner of Foreign
Affairs. He says that he brings good news, and is smiling all over the place,
so we figure "this is it". Beaming with good fellowship and overjoyed
with his news, he tells us that peace is restored in
Again, we have a big dinner, followed
by a violent debate on our being held. They constantly reiterate staunch
friendship with us Americans, so finally we tell them "so sorry, but we do
not recognize this treatment in the light of friendship". Jim even asks
that from here on, we be treated prisoners ― even put in a cell and given
only bread and water. Al and I hope fervently that the translator takes this in
the spirit that it is given. We go on to tell them that all we want from them
from here in is a telegram saying that we can go. I keep wondering if radio
operators work on Chinese New Years day. The more thought I give the matter,
the more downhearted I become. Al says that now that peace has been established
We all sleep until in the evening. More coffee and cakes. Everyone is feeling a little cheerier. Mr. Liu is very humorous and does every possible thing he can do to make us comfortable. When Jim explains that it is Saturday night and that he could now be attending a large dance at the Edgewater hotel, Mr. Liu bobs his head and says that "It's a pity". That gets us all laughing, and we retire in the best of spirits. It is hard to believe that we are being held here. Jim says that it is the first time he has ever been held prisoner. It sure is monotonous.
If we could sleep twenty-four hours a day, this life would be acceptable. During the daylight hours, there is too much time to do nothing. We have now arrived at the point where we're figuring out ways of escaping how long it would take to get the plane off the ground ― what the guards around the plane would do (as if we didn't know).
The Communists, at our request, are leaving us alone. Mr. Liu, our friend and interpreter, is the only one that stays with us constantly. It seems that Mr. Yang has been sent away ― reportedly Lai-Yang. A plane just went over the house, providing some food for thought. Al dashes outside and comes back with the report that it is Keller, the Marine pilot. They seem to be flying all over town (Al spots two planes), and we doubt if they will land. They have probably spotted our ship. Jim says that it might be Colonel Williams of the G-2 section, and I ask him if that is good or bad. Jim says that is good as we can then play four-handed bridge. Common census of opinion is that they won't land, when suddenly the phone rings and Liu tells us that two planes have landed on the beach, and that more "guests" are on the way. We immediately all get off some wise remarks such as telling Mr. Liu to prepare some more beds and to enlarge the jail accommodations.
We keep playing honeymoon-bridge until
we hear the sound of good solid Americans in the next room. I instantly
recognize the voice of our medic and friend Ray
Hanchulak. It sure is good to see that "kind, honest, face".
He is accompanied by Marine Lieutenants Keller and
Johns. We quickly herd them into our little room and start giving them
the straight dope. Jim briefly describes our situation. Our three
"rescuers" look rather confused, especially when we tell them that
their chances, of getting away are mighty slim. Hanchulak looks as though he is
ready for battle, and confides to me that he is equipped with a .45. The
Communists are not particularly keen on our orienting the newcomers, and
suggest that we all adjourn to the large room for a little discussion. This
particular room is always used for greeting strangers. On the walls are huge
After what seems like a couple of hours, the order comes that Johns, Keller, and Ray are free to go. They hastily get their gear together, give us the old pat on the back, and start for their planes. Ray, at the last minute, says he doesn't understand all this ― why we are being held by the Nationalists The officials holding us all wear blue uniforms, which evidently throws Ray off the track. We quickly tell him that there isn't a Nationalist within 100 miles, that our hosts are Eighth Route Army men.
After they go, morale hits an-all-time
low. We are a little disappointed in Mr. Tung and his conversation with the Marine pilots. We
decide that we won't go out to dinner with them, and ask to be let alone. For a
brief moment, we contemplate a "nonce cooperative" policy. Seeing our
three friends fly back to
Later in the evening, Mr. Liu proposes a fireside chat, and we are soon in good spirits again. Mr. Tung even orders that a big meal be sent in to us, so we all eat together and pretend to be dinghaw friends. We talk about things in general, and agree that during the rest of our confinement, there will be no more "business" talks. Strangely, they even accepted our term "prisoners" now. The atmosphere is now very cozy and warm, and we all turn in feeling in the best of spirits.
Lt. Johns informed the Communists yesterday that a plane bearing an UNRRA (United Nations Rehabilitation Relief Association) representative would arrive here today. There's a low ceiling, so it is doubtful if he will show up.
Mr. Tung and his cohorts have taken Al out to look at the plane. Jim is still reading "Famous Trials". My main interests are throwing wood on the fire, and drinking 10 or 12 cups of tea per hour. It's all very boring now. However, we have figured out that tomorrow is our day of release. It is time to eat again so Mr. Lee Muh and company take us over to the restaurant. Later, Al joins us, reporting that the plane is in good condition, but that he found most of switches turned on. A Company of soldiers marched ten miles last night into Chefoo to look at Al's plane. If they each decide to take a souvenir, or tamper with the motor again, we may see Chefoo in the springtime.
Relations at dinner are extremely cordial. On our 3rd course, two planes come buzzing over, the telephone starts ringing, and the Municipal Government hastily departs for the beach area. We refrain from eating anymore, until the new guests arrive.
They turn out to be Major Sabatier, Lt. Gatchell (pilots), Capt Price, and Mr. Richter,
the UNRRA representative. After proper greetings, we all take our places at the
table. Capt. Price, a former American Consul at
The meal runs into several hours, so Al and I tell Jim that we are going back to the room. A guard comes along back with us. We sit around the stove feeling miserable. We're not very fond of UNRRA, Major Sabatier, or the world in general. Later, all the Americans except Al and I take off to the Chinese opera. Jim goes along just to keep up on the conversation ― see if any negotiations are opened to release us. Nothing is mentioned however, and Jim feels that this new group wants nothing to do with us. In fact, he thinks that they are not particularly interested in even talking to us, so he leaves them and comes in to join Al and I over some coffee and cakes. We individually feel like "the man without a country". Richter is the only one staying tomorrow ― the others are going back to Tsingatao, so the place won't be too crowded. We're not too sure now that the Communists have even sent in those telegrams. Al keeps us happy for a moment by telling how he is going to get Mr. Tang out in a open field someday, and then chase him in the L-5. Next, we dream up how we'll invite Mr. Tung to Tsingtao in the future, give him a big welcome, show him his room in the coal room, furnish him with plenty of bread and water, tell him he is free to leave anytime, look the door, and throw the key away.
At a very late hour, Mr. Liu comes in for a chat. We are good friends now,
and we almost feel that we can trust him. He is very interested in the
compiling of this diary, especially after I tell him that it is to be published
in 50 different languages. We discuss sending another telegram to Yenan. I feel that Communist Headquarters has been moved
from Yenan to
The Marine pilots went back to
Jim has finished "Famous Trials" and we are going to ask for a new book.
Mr. Li Muh and our arch-enemy Mr. Tung dropped around this afternoon and asked us to go to the photo shop with them. We've had all kinds of pictures taken of us here. Later, we go for another walk along the waterfront with Mr. Li. Despite the few hard times we have given him, he is as friendly and courteous as ever. The walk is enjoyable and peps us up considerably. The first hint is dropped that we may be leaving soon. I tell him that each day from the hours of four to six, I am very bu gau-shing (unhappy), but that after six, my frame of mind is a happy one. He remarked that tomorrow at , I should be very happy.
Later, in the room, our good friend Mr. Yang tells us that some word has come through, but he does not know the details.
We eat with Mr. Righter at dinner and later play some four-handed bridge. It's Al's first game and he picks it up fast. Mr. Liu darts around the room dropping hints that he some hot information to pass along. He finally shows us a speech that he has typed up (See Enclosure) ― to be delivered to some "Americans" tomorrow. It is eloquent and wonderful and we tell him so. We talk about escaping tonight, even though it is untimely. Mr. Liu still wants to go with us. He is very sincere, and I feel (and hope) that we are going to lose a good friend. He will not give us much information on our leaving, but says that a big celebration is being prepared. He reiterates his friendship, and we have a big time laughing at his humor. He has made this whole experience interesting, at least for me.
We're hoping that we can get off to an early start tomorrow. Officially, they haven't notified us of any incoming message, probably the work of this snake Tung.
It is now , and my cellmates are fast asleep. I feel as though I've always lived in this room.
At a meeting held in the Chefoo
Municipal Headquarters a this morning, we were officially
notified that we are now free to return to
Jim tells Tung that we are anxious to get away, and requests that we eat an early lunch. Tung informs us that some leading officials are coming up from Lai-Yang, and that a banquet has been prepared.
Well, the officials do come to dinner, and are very nice fellows at that. But we're all anxious to get in the air, and back to No. 10 for some hot baths. Flowery speeches are given all through dinner; afterwards a lot more pictures are taken. We are then driven in style out to the beach. It is a real sendoff ― even complete with firecrackers. Al soon gets the plane warmed up, we snap a few more pictures, and are all set to take off. At the last minute, the soldiers guarding the plane say that we can not leave, as they have not received instructions from their superiors to that effect. It looks like more trouble, till finally Mr. Li says that he personally will be responsible for our getting away. He tells us that we are free to go, several minutes are spent in which Americans and Chinese tell each other there has been no misunderstanding.
The weight of my body in the tail
section is too heavy for the little plane, so I sit on Jim's lap going back. It
feels good to get in the air, though it becomes very cold. The engine is
missing, and Al keeps shaking his head. Finally, we sight
Another story for our grandchildren.
END OF DIARY - NEVER AGAIN
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