In 1948, the Department of State (DOS) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) signed a Memorandum of Agreement whereby the Marine Corps would supply active duty Marine Corps personnel to protect classified materials, American lives and property in U.S. Diplomatic Missions worldwide. These USMC personnel, to be designated as Marine Security Guards, would report directly to a DOS Foreign Service Officer at each mission.
The last "Ambassador" to "China" (on the west side of the Taiwan Strait,) was appointed on July 4, 1946, John Leighton Stuart, who was born in China in 1876. As the US Ambassador, he worked in concert with General George C. Marshall to mediate between the Nationalists and Communists. After Marshall's departure from China in January 1947, he led the mediation efforts that changed from all-out support of the Nationalist government to mediating the coalition government, to negotiating an understanding with the Communist party. When the Nationalist government fled Nanjing, and Communist forces entered the city in April 1949, Stuart maintained the U.S. Embassy in Nanjing. He sought accommodation with the Communist Party in an effort to maintain U.S. presence and influence in China. On August 2, 1949, he was recalled from Nanjing, and some 3 years later on November 28, 1952 formally resigned as Ambassador to China. The U.S. mission in Nanjing had not followed Chiang’s government to Taipei but had remained at Hong Kong.
On July 28. 1950, the Department of State announced the assignment to Taipei of a diplomatic representative with the rank of charge d’affaires. Ambassador Stuart maintained the title of Ambassador to China at this time.
In diplomacy, chargé d’affaires (French for “charged with (in charge of) matters”), often shortened to simply chargé, is the title of two classes of diplomatic agents who head a diplomatic mission, either on a temporary basis or when no more senior diplomat has been accredited.
Karl L. Rankin was appointed as chargé d’affaires in the office of the US Ambassador to China in August 1950 and oversaw the US Consulate in Taipei. Where Mr. Rankin maintained his residence between August 1950 and the opening of the US Embassy in Taipei, in April of 1953 cannot be confirmed. I have looked but cannot find the answer, some suggest he resided at the US Mission in Hong Kong.
The Consulate in Taipei was upgraded to a full US Embassy in 1953, and therefore the Ambassador to China maintained residence at Taipei, Taiwan, in the Republic of China.
Karl L. Rankin was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to China, arrived in Taipei and the US Embassy was opened in April 1953. There were Marine Security Guards assigned to protect the Embassy staff, property and material.
To the best of my knowledge, these were the first Marine Security Guards assigned to the United States Embassy in Taipei. No records I can locate show the guards being at the Taipei Consulate between 1950 and 1953, although I suspect there were guards at the Consulate, because it was a US Diplomatic Mission.
Where the Taipei Consulate was located in the early 1950s remains a mystery. Some write that it was the same building on Chung Shan North Road that later became the Ambassador's official residence.
When did the large US Embassy Compound, as seen in photographs below, actually open? Who owned the property before it became the Embassy. There is some discussion of property for the Embassy discussed in George H. Kerr's book, "Formosa Betrayed, " but it's not clear to me when, what property, who owned it, and how it came into or was always in, the hands of the US Government. One mystery after another.
All of the following rare photographs are courtesy of the Marine Embassy Guard Association.unless otherwise annotated. We appreciate their support.
|1953 - The 178th Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebration, 10 November 1953.|
Taipei Marine Security Guard Detachment personnel.
Left to Right: Corporal Ray Whitlock, Corporal Gerald Genovese, NCOIC Technical Sergeant Henry Brown, Naval Attache Lieutenant Colonel Tegau, Corporal Robert McDonald and Corporal Lawrence Derrah.
|Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat attend the 178th Marine Corps Birthday Ball Celebration in Taipei, November 1953.|
Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday with a toast.
|Guard Post # 1. The Front entrance, US Embassy, Taipei. Photo circa 1953. |
US Embassy Compound Taipei. photo courtesy Gary Wilson circa 1965.
|Guard Post #2 - The Union Building. Photo circa 1953.|
The Union Building was also referred to by the Taipei Embassy Marine Guards as the MSA Building. I have no explanation of what MSA stood for. UPDATE - 2 July 2012: MSA stood for Mutual Security Agency. You can look it up on the Internet. The agency was only in existence for a couple of years in the early 1950s. Question answered courtesy of Steve Craft.
A friend suggested there were various US Government offices located in the Union Building. US Embassy Offices, CIA, and other US Government entities, such as US Aid to Taiwan, and other similar organizations.
Another view of the Union Building, center building in this photo with 2 flags on roof.
Next door, on right, building with maroon colored roof, was the MAAG Taiwan Headquarters.
Photo courtesy Alice Winans. Circa 1952.
A new "Annex" building opened at the US Embassy Taipei in 1955.
If you look at the Embassy Building, third photo above, it appears this new building is just to the left of the original structure.
Many of us visited the US Embassy, these very buildings, but I cannot remember much about them. I seem to recall a small restaurant either in the basement or possibly close to the entrance where visitors entered the building.
1954 - Corporal Hung Lei Quan going on Duty.
This photo looks like it was taken from outside the New Annex building in photo just above, notice curved curbs and roadway.
The Sacking of the American Embassy
The following paragraphs were extracted from Chapter 19
of the 1965 book, written by George H. Kerr.
The sacking of the American Embassy on May 24, 1957. The unofficial story has been retold by Captain William Lederer (USN, ret.) in A Nation of Sheep and by Formosans publishing at Tokyo.
On the night of March 20 an American Army sergeant shot and killed a prowler discovered in his garden at Taipei.
An American military court tried the case, acquitted the sergeant on May 23, and flew him out of the island.
The victim was described as a minor employee in a Chinese government agency and a reserve officer.
In time-honored Chinese custom his widow demanded "consolation money" which was not promptly forthcoming.
On the day following the acquittal (May 24) she took up a position in front of the American Embassy gates to scream hysterically that she had been denied justice. This, too, is a time-honored Chinese custom.
According to the official story her noisy clamor attracted a crowd, the mob spirit took over, a stone was thrown, and soon the crowd poured into the Embassy compound. The American flag was torn down, cars were overturned and the offices were sacked. Some local employees and American officers were injured before they could retreat from the premises. The rioting began about one-thirty in the afternoon and continued with brief lulls until well after nightfall. Files were broken open, cipher books and coding equipment were tossed about, and confidential and secret papers were strewn through the building.
After many hours of uninterrupted rioting Chiang Ching- kuo's security forces took over the gutted Embassy.
Ambassador Rankin returned from Hong Kong during the height of the riot. He visited the site during a lull in the affair but was asked by the Chinese to leave the premises; for they anticipated further violence.
When he returned soon after daylight next morning, accompanied by Embassy officers, he was gratified to find the Chinese had been so helpfully attempting to restore order to chaos and to sweep up some of the debris within the building. Approximately fourteen hours had elapsed.
The ladies of the American community promptly volunteered to assist in sorting scattered file materials. Some 90 per cent were recovered. No classified materials "of consequence" were missing and enough of the cryptographic material was recovered to satisfy the Ambassador that the codes were intact.
Prompt official protests brought equally prompt apologies and indemnities.
The unofficial accounts add disturbing detail to this story and raise troublesome questions. According to Captain Lederer certain Chinese and Formosans and some foreigners had been warned of possible trouble days in advance.
It is maintained that the dead "minor official" was a Major in one of Chiang Ching-kuo's secret organizations and that other members of Chiang's organizations were identified as ringleaders whose faces appeared in news photos made during the riot.
The screaming widow is alleged to have been provided with a prepared text which she obligingly read into a recording apparatus conveniently at hand when the riot began.
Behind all this lay the odd circumstance that so spontaneous a riot took place precisely on the day when Madame and the Generalissimo were far away at a mountain retreat, the Ambassador was not on Formosa and the chief officers of the Army administration were across the channel on the offshore islands.
In a city notorious for its elaborate secret services and policing agencies -all under Chiang Ching-kuo - why was a riot such as this permitted to go unchecked for hours? And why was not a strong police cordon established around the premises, leaving only Americans or Embassy employees to handle scattered cryptographic materials and secret papers?
Was someone seeking for documents recording American views on the internal situation or confidential notes which might incriminate anti-Nationalists in communication with the Embassy?
You may want to read the complete book, "Formosa Betrayed," by George Kerr.
HERE is copy, free of charge. Much to discover in this book!
This photo taken during the 1957 on-going riot, notice men inside the embassy building. Photo courtesy of Taipics
Armed Police (or soldiers) arrive at Embassy grounds, 1957. Photo courtesy of Taipics
1957 - the 182nd Marine Corps Birthday Ball Cake Cutting Ceremony, American Embassy, Taipei, with Taiwan Marine Security Guard Detachment members.
From left to right: Corporal Ken Swinson, Sergeant. Fred Siverly, Rear Admiral Read (Executive Officer, US Taiwan Defense Command), Lieutenant Colonel Holt (Senior Marine on the island, therefore MC), Major General Frank S. Bowen Jr. US Army (Chief MAAG Taiwan), Lieutenant Colonel Thomas C. Dutton, USMC (Assistant. Naval Attache), Sergeant Gerald Winters and Corporal Thomas Schultz.
Left to right: Mrs. Pauline Rankin, Ambassador to Taiwan the Honorable Karl Rankin,
Detachment NCOIC, Master Sergeant Hiram S. Range and Mrs. Norma Range.
1957 - The 182nd Marine Corps Birthday Ball Celebration.
From left to right: NCOIC Master Sergeant Hiram S. Range, Staff Sergeant Billy K. Grove, Sergeant Fred Siverly, Corporal Thomas Schultz, Sergeant Gerald Winters, Corporal Virgil Johnson, Corporal Kenneth Swinson and Staff Sergeant Richard McNutt.
1957 - Marine Security Guard Detachment, Taipei