Marine Corps Photo #530953 entitled “Ready for Anything–Maneuvers outside of Peking” showing some well-outfitted Devil Dogs clad in overseas winter gear to include fur caps readying a Browning M1917 water-cooled 30.06 machine gun while sheltering in what looks like a tilled field. Although the M1919 air-cooled Browning was around, the sustained fire M1917 was a thing of beauty on the defense.
The picture is comparable to one from RN Marines from about 30 years previous:
“The New Maxim-Gun mounting field Service with the Naval Brigade in South Africa 1900.”
While the USMC photo is undated, it likely comes from the late 1920s-30s, the heydey of the famous “China Marines” which saw the whole of the 4th Marine Regiment stationed in Shanghai from March 1927 onward to augment the Legation Guard Marines from Peking and Tientsin in protecting American citizens and property in the International Settlement during outbreak of violence that came with the Chinese Revolution– and, after 1937, the Japanese invasion of China.
“Technical Sgt-USMC-1938, Mounted, by Maj. J.H. Magruder, USMCR” typical of the kit of the 4th Marines in Northern China at the time of the photo at the top of the post.
Reduced over time to just two (sometimes horse-mounted on Mongolian ponies) battalions, each with only two rifle companies of two platoons each and one machine gun company (but augmented by the only fife band in the Corps), by 1940 the Marines were the only large international force in Shanghai as the French and Brits had withdrawn due to pressing needs elsewhere.
A group of horse Marines gallops in formation in Peking, China. These Marines were members of the American Legation Guard. 1936
Horse Marine, China, circa 1913 USMC photo
One of several Mark VII 3-inch landing guns remaining in the hands of the Marine garrison in Peking in service with the 39th Company, Marine Artillery. Just 51 of these handy 1,700-pound guns were built from a German Ehrhardt design 1909-12 and were used extensively by the Marines in the Banana Wars (although not in France in the Great War). China was the last hurrah of these peculiar 3″/23 caliber field guns– and the Japanese captured six of the example in storage at Cavite in 1942.
The 4th Marines was itself pulled from China less than a month before Pearl Harbor. These hardy regulars were withdrawn to the Philippines aboard the chartered Dollar liners SS President Madison and President Harrison, where they were soon ground down against the Japanese to the point that the remnants burned their colors on Corregidor before the surrender there in 1942.
Of the 204 remaining Legation Marines and their Navy support personnel under Col. William W. Ashurst in China not directly assigned to the 4th, their own planned extraction to the PI was interrupted by Pearl Harbor and, on 8 December 1941, they were captured by overwhelming Japanese forces. The men were interned in a prisoner of war camp in Shanghai under harsh conditions until it was liberated, 19 June 1945.