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To Brigadier General John McA. Palmer
December 31, 1925 Tientsin, China
My dear Old John:
Your letter of two days ago brought me the first news of your prospective retirement, and while I think it decidedly the wise thing to do, it makes me very sad to feel that you and I are not to serve together again. I never expect to enjoy another relationship like ours—official and personal; but while the chance of a renewal of the former is gone, I purpose, with your consent, to look forward to much more of the latter in the future.
I am assuming that all you need to put you back in good shape is a philosophic calm, much fishing and proper contemplation of the duties and responsibilities of a grand-father. What I am particularly interested to know, is where Mrs. Palmer and you propose to locate. I hope in Washington.
Time out here has flown of late, with the sounds of battle in our ears for more than a week and the final confusion incident to the capture of Tientsin by the Peoples Army on Xmas day.1 Early that morning on the great plain seven miles south of the ex German Concession, I witnessed a tragic sight. Galloping across country with three mounted men, I encountered hundreds of women and children fleeing from the villages further south, which had been pillaged and ravaged during the night by the retreating soldiery of Li Ching Lin.
The usual refugee who has congested the roads leading into the foreign lines during the past three weeks, is a sad spectacle, but the donkies, carts and household belongings are usually with him. But these little groups had nothing. The thermometer was only a few degrees above zero, the wind keen and piercing and the ground hard with frost. Overhead the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun shone; but to those pathetic little groups it must have been a black, calamatous day. Their heavy clothing was gone, shoes often missing, babies crying. None would look at me or listen to my attempts at reassurance. They resembled animals hunted to exhaustion, and paralyzed by fear. And this was Xmas morning in the Year of our Lord 1925!
The long camel trains of artillery and supplies, which accompanied the troops from outer Mongolia, and the troops of cavalry on shaggy Mongolian ponies, made very picturesque sights. We had many difficult contacts with the victors, but came through without precipitating a crisis. I had command of the regiment during this period, as Naylor was sick, so it gave me an interesting problem until two days ago. I did about 25 miles a day on my poney, making early morning and late evening surveys of the daily situations. It was good fun and instructive.
I heard from Captain Jones that he had been unable to locate the Japanese plates and had left the money with the Q. M. at Nagasaki for him to get them. This, the latter was unable to do, so he returned the money to Jones at Benning, and he advises me that he sent it on to you.
Today is my 45th birthday. I’m no longer of the “Young Turk” party. Isn’t that sad after the bombast and assurance of our Leavenworth days of Army reformation. With every wish for your contentment, health and happiness in the New Year and my love to Mrs. Palmer and you,
Document Copy Text Source: John McA. Palmer Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Handwritten letter signed.
1. Feng Yu-hsiang labeled his army the Kuominchun, or National People’s Army. His army defeated the Fengtien garrison under the command of Li Ching-lin.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 284-285.