Monday, August 19, 2013


Robert Johnson in his book Far China Station quoted a US Navy Captain who, while investigating alleged misbehavior by US Naval personnel, circa 1894, noted “men who do not get drunk are not plentiful in the Navy and Marines.”

With the dollar increasing it's strength against other currencies during during the 1920's and 1930's, it was no surprise that the average Marine who drank could indulge in said activity for a reasonable amount of money while on duty in China.

Another advantage to Asiatic duty was the ability to drink despite Prohibition. Although Prohibition may have “outlawed” alcoholic beverages in the Legation compound and other Marine manned posts in China, that didn't stop the Marines from consuming just outside the gate. In fact, the ability to obtain alcohol cheaply was one of the advantages to duty in the Far East. A Marine writing home in 1933 from Shanghai noted a quart of the finest beer was seven cents and a quart of bonded whiskey thirty cents.

A Marines view of China, c. early 1920's

Each region of China had their own local beers. In Shanghai, the Marines favored Union Brewery (or UB as it was popularly called) followed by Lion or Asahi, from Japan. In Peking, it was So Ho Shin. It seemed the only severe consumption vice a Marine could commit was drug use. One pre-WWI Marine was noted in the Legation Guard’s muster rolls for using cocaine and that got him arrested and quickly sent home for “deviant behavior” and jail time. Other Marines in the 1930’s when suspecting drug use, were not above anonymously turning in their bunkmates.

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