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Thread: LIFE in the Trenches: 1936 Xibei San Ma

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    LIFE in the Trenches: 1936 Xibei San Ma


    Note that the Ma Clique used the Kuomintang Party Banner,
    although the game gives them one with a different design
    so that each country gets a unique flag


    LIFE in the Trenches: 1936 Xibei San Ma


    Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, Time-Life books is proud to present `LIFE in the Trenches`, a selection of excerpts from the diaries of Jacques Theriaux. This beautiful leather-bound hardcover edition has been authorized by the Theriaux family and contains fabulous reprintings of many of Theriaux’s photos from his time in western China, both on his own and as a photojournalist for LIFE magazine. This edition is limited and can be yours for only $29.95. Operators are standing by, call now!


    Table of Contents


    Part One: My Own Journey to the WestPart Two: The Downfall of Chiang Kai-shekPart Three: The Disastrous Campaigns

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    Foreword


    Jacques `Terry` Theriaux was of French-Canadian descent. Born April 24, 1898 in Chicoutimi, Quebec province (now part of Saguenay), his father was Jean-Paul Theriaux and his mother was Evelyn Fisher. Jean-Paul was a moderately successful businessman working in the region’s pulp-processing industry. His wife Evelyn was an American actress. The two had met in New York when he was on business and caught one of her stage performances. After a whirlwind romance, they wed and Evelyn moved to the family home in Chicoutimi. He was 24, and she was 18. This caused quite a scandal in New York society at the time for numerous reasons, but since Jean-Paul lived in Quebec, he paid the whispers no attention.


    The family plant on the Saguenay River (photo courtesy National Archives Canada)


    Of his early childhood, Theriaux would write: `I don’t have too many warm memories of my father. That’s not to say I didn’t love him, but he was always occupied with the family business. Dad was just never there, so my mother is the one I was primarily attached to. I think mom really hated Canada and always wanted to go back to New York. She just got so bored in Chicoutimi and spent a lot of time with me. She would read a lot of plays to me and we would fantasize together about visiting lots of foreign places and having all sorts of adventures. I had a love of travel imprinted on me at quite an early age.`

    Evelyn did get her wish to return to the social life of the big city in 1908. Jean-Paul sold his various interests in the pulp industry and moved the family to New York. His new business was the Acadian Fruit Co., which specialized in importing various fruits from Central and South America, with a primary focus on bananas. Theriaux later had this to say on the subject: `I really have no idea why dad thought he could make money with bananas, although he did as it turned out. He may have explained why to the family, but at the time, I was still fairly young, and dad had a tendency to use a lot of technical talk when he spoke to my mother and me about anything to do with business. So if I ever did know the reason, I’ve forgotten it now. I suspect, though, that he knew how unhappy my mother was and he may have just taken any chance provided by a business associate, even if it wasn’t something he might have normally considered doing.`

    Whatever the reason, the transition from wood pulp to bananas proved to be the most lucrative decision Jean-Paul ever made. The new business took off immediately and was soon profitable. So much so, that he received a buy-out offer from the United Fruit Company in the beginning of 1909. Jean-Paul remained an executive in charge of the NYC operations up into the 1930s. In 1933, while United Fruit was still in a weakened financial state due to the effects of the Great Depression, Sam Zemurray, who had sold his own Cuyamel Fruit Co. to United Fruit but not stayed with the organization, staged a hostile takeover. In the reshuffling that followed Jean-Paul elected to retire (then aged 59) and lived out the rest of his life in comfort in New York with his wife.


    A shipment of bananas for the Acadian Fruit Co., awaiting inspection (photo courtesy National Archives, Records of the Food and Drug Administration)


    The large upswing in the family’s fortunes provided huge opportunities for young Jacques. His mother was always taking him to the latest stage productions in the city and he had plenty of private tutors for various subjects. Photography soon became a passion and the family brownstone promptly became equipped with a darkroom. To celebrate the immediate profits from the buy-out, Jean Paul took the family on a trip to England early in 1909. This trip would have a profound impact on Theriaux as he describes later in life: `The first family visit to London was an incredible experience. I loved all of it- the boat ride, being somewhere so different... just so much of *life* pouring into me all at once. Of course, dad wanted to show off so he put us up at the Savoy, and naturally my mother went right off and found out what the local art scene had happening. The Savoy Opera was doing a revival of The Mikado that season and we caught a couple of the performances while we were there. I don’t think I can understate how much of an impact that operetta had on me when I was still at a fairly impressionable young age. I just loved it! It started in me a love for the Orient that I carried with me throughout my lifetime. Of course, I did discover that the real Orient isn’t anything like what I saw back then on stage, but the glamour of the East never went away.`


    Poster saved by Jacques Theriaux from a 1909 performance at the Savoy Opera


    His childhood dreams of adventure would be fulfilled soon enough. When the Great War erupted in 1914, young Jacques, now a strapping lad of 16, still felt himself Canadian and loyal to the Commonwealth. He pushed his father hard to allow him to travel to Britain and enlist in the Royal Army, but was denied. This put something of a strain on the relationship between father and son. After Wilson’s re-election in 1916, Jean-Paul became very concerned about the possibility of losing his son to war if America committed to the Allied Powers. Theriaux had already defied his father and joined the American Army. Hoping both to keep his son out of danger and keep peace between them, Jean-Paul used his connections to arrange for Theriaux’s assignment to the forces serving as part of the Peking Legation.

    American servicemen had been based in numbers in Peking since the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. At the end of the Qing dynasty, numerous foreign delegations were quartered in the same district on Dong Jiangmi Xiang, or `East River-Rice Lane`. This area was just east of Tian'anmen Square. During the rebellion, the Boxers attacked this district as a symbol of foreign aggression against the Chinese. It was saved when the combined forces of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (known as the Eight-Nation Alliance) broke the siege of the Boxers on August 15, 1900.


    Reproduction of ‘I’ll Try, Sir’, depicting the Battle of Peking


    After arriving in the Orient, all of Private Theriaux’s thoughts of trying to be reassigned to combat duty faded away. He sat out the rest of the Great War there in Peking, but the time was not wasted. He soaked up Chinese culture like a human sponge and learned both the Mandarin and Cantonese dialects. He also made quite a few contacts that he would encounter again when he came back to China in the 1930s. Returning home in 1919, he was able to enroll in Yale, graduating in 1923. During his time there, he made what was perhaps one of the most important connections of his life. While still in his freshman year, he met Henry Luce, and the two would become lifelong friends. Luce himself graduated in 1920 and went on to found Time magazine in 1922 (with the first issue published in 1923).


    First issue of Time magazine, depicting Speaker of the House Joseph G. Cannon


    The two men had many shared interests. Luce had himself been born in China, in Tengchow on April 3, 1898, so they were close in age and had a common enjoyment of Oriental culture. After his own graduation from Yale with a degree in Oriental Studies, Theriaux went to work as a writer and later editor for Time. He began to revive his latent interest in photography and pushed Luce to include more photos as part of his magazine, however, this was resisted because Luce preferred to keep the costs of the magazine down. Growing bored with life back in the States, he persuaded Luce to send him to China to act as an unpaid contributor for Time to chronicle events in Asia. Once there he was able to meet Chiang Kai-shek and his wife and served as a conduit between them and Luce for many years in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Back home, Luce lobbied tirelessly to keep China in the government’s eye and support them as their problems with Japan began to escalate. However, the Republican administrations that followed President Wilson had little interest in getting deeply involved with foreign affairs outside of Latin America.

    As the situation in Asia became tenser in the mid 1930s, Theriaux had a sense of growing unease and decided to take a larger extended tour of the more remote areas of China with his camera in hand. By the time war broke out, he was in the northwest and largely remained there throughout the war, sending back articles and photos to Luce which were then printed in Luce’s newly purchased and revamped LIFE magazine starting from 1936. What follows are his diary entries from key events in this period which provide a first-hand account of the great upheavals in China and indeed the world. His diary has a hand-written title `Three Mas AAR Better Than One`, which appears to be an inside joke the meaning of which has gone unexplained.



  3. #3
    Nice another Eqqman production.
    Your trying to outdo Rensslar in number of AAR's?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Surt View Post
    Nice another Eqqman production.
    Your trying to outdo Rensslar in number of AAR's?
    Welcome!

    I have a problem in general with having too many ideas and not enough time to complete them before I lose interest. This one gets to be a narrative since I want to spend more time on writing.

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    You have so many different AAR styles, I look greatly forward to more updates.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NotFuchs View Post
    You have so many different AAR styles, I look greatly forward to more updates.
    Welcome!

    Hopefully I won't disappoint.

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    Haven't seen a Xibei AAR before.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hearth View Post
    Haven't seen a Xibei AAR before.
    Welcome!

    I tend to look for countries to play that don't have an entry in the Library already, so anybody curious about what you can accomplish with each country can find a little something. The HOI3 wiki doesn't have much more than stubs for the most part on a lot of nations.

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    Author's Note:

    This game is FtM 3.05. During all of my practice runs I got tired of having to make some of the same arrangements every single game, so I created a mod to deal with it for me. I then went on and made some additional cosmetic changes. The mod I am playing does the following:
    • The game's end date has been pushed ahead to 1956
    • The 1936 OOB has been changed to replace the two Corps HQ with Army HQs. The names of some of the units have been changed but not their type
    • Duplicates of all the Ministers have been made so that the Parliamentary Scandal event does not leave a player with the ??? Minister. The abilities of each duplicate are identical to the originals
    • The default unit templates in the Production interface contain division layouts I commonly build
    • The division names are extended to make it unlikely that the generic name will be used (`1st CL`, etc.). The capital ships have had some of their duplicate names removed (example: "Ying'Swei" appeared twice in the listing for Aircraft Carriers, Battlecruisers, and Light Cruisers)
    • Added entry for Escort Carriers in the list of names, since it was missing
    • Added entry for Super-heavy Battleships in the list of names, since it was missing
    • Changed the opening country selection screen to make Xibei San Ma the only choice
    • Xibiei San Ma is no longer a puppet of Nationalist China
    • National flag is the Kuomintang party banner

    Since you can basically repeat all of my gameplay without using these changes (aside from the end-date, of course), I consider this game unmodded. If you want to try this at home and would also like to get the benefit of all of my little tweaks, then you can download the 'mod' here. It is 10.5Mb.

    To play at home without all of my changes, all you need to do is start a XSM game and save it out. Open up the saved game file in a text editor and look for and delete the following section:

    Code:
    vassal = {
    	first = CHI
    	second = CXB
    	start_date = 1936.1.1
    	end_date = 1945.9.2
    }
    You can then either deal with having a bunch of '???' Ministers after all the Parliamentary Scandals that will come your way (in one game, I had 4!), or just reload from your last autosave each time it happens.

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    People's Commissar of the Navy Demi Moderator Avindian's Avatar
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    An interesting choice, to be sure. One of these days I need to pick up FTM again. I've loved your previous work, so count me in!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avindian View Post
    An interesting choice, to be sure. One of these days I need to pick up FTM again. I've loved your previous work, so count me in!
    Welcome, and thanks!

    I hope to have the first update from playing the game out soon, but this AAR will be a lot slower to post since it will be taking me a lot more time to write. I'll also be spending a lot of time re-reading things to be sure I'm totally happy with them.

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    1936, January - Journey to the West


    1 January: I’ve been spending New Year’s Day on a horse heading to Golmud with some other travelers. This will be my first trip this far west into China. I’m very excited but I will have to be careful about what I decide to photograph, since my supply of film is going to be very hard to replace out here. The roads have been getting worse and worse as I’ve gone west, and don’t even ask about the railroads. Some people around here have commented that Sun Yat-sen had planned a great rail network to reach all the major regions of China, but with his early death and the de facto civil war that raged throughout most of the late 20s and early 30s, that remains but a dream. I did catch a small break and hopped a train from Peking that went on a spur heading west, but it only went a mere fraction of the total distance I had to cover to get here.


    Sun Yat-sen’s proposed railway system for China


    Golmud is on the eastern end of the Tibetan plateau, so the climate has been getting more cold and arid as we’ve been going. I’ve been told that the name Golmud comes from the Mongolian for `Rivers`, and from what I’ve seen on a map, there are quite a few in the vicinity. There are also numerous salt lakes both large and small around the area, and the city counts exporting salt as one of its key industries. It also seldom rains here, and when it does, it does so in the summer, so I shan’t expect to see even a wisp of a cloud while I am out here for quite some time. Some might be bothered coming out here in the middle of winter, but it’s nothing to anyone raised in Canada.

    I spent Christmas in Peking with some of my old Army chums who are still in the area along with a couple of my Chinese friends. Things have changed a lot here since the Great War, but in many ways, they haven’t- the country is still a mess. A few years before I arrived to join the Peking Legation, Sun Yat-sen, who I never managed to meet- much to my regret, had been a driving force behind the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of a Republic. However, it seems to be difficult to just suddenly proclaim democracy for all when you have no traditions of democracy in the country to begin with. Things weren’t so hot before, but needless to say, tossing out the Qing gummed up the works pretty bad.


    Peking in 1936


    After the Qing were overthrown in 1912, Sun’s Kuomintang party won power in the first national elections over a handful of other minor parties that had been formed. He quickly ran into trouble, however, with his nominal second-in-command Yuan Shikai. Yuan was a high-ranking general in the Qing armies and thus had real power behind him. He forced the last Qing Emperor Puyi to abdicate, and then had himself proclaimed Emperor a few years later in 1915. Puyi went back to his ancestral home of Manchuria and the Japanese helped set him up as the ruler of `Manchukuo` when they took over Manchuria not too long ago. Sun felt obligated to try and stage the so-called `Second Revolution` to get rid of Yuan back in 1913, but failed, and went into exile in Japan of all places along with many other leading members of the KMT after Yuan dissolved it.

    Throughout my time there with the Legation, Yuan was sowing the seeds of future problems in China. The provincial governments were removed and Military Governors appointed out of his loyal associates in the army. If he had been a student of Western history he could have seen all the problems this type of feudalism caused over in Europe. When you give your local leaders a little bit of power with their own armies, they start to want a lot more power. And the people are loyal to them, and not the central authority. After all, it’s the local general who is protecting them, not the figurehead in a far-away palace. Back in 1915 the Japanese sent an ultimatum asking Yuan to make a wide range of concessions favourable to Japanese interests. While this ultimatum was supposed to be secret, it leaked out to the public and there were widespread pro-Chinese demonstrations throughout the country. Despite this, Yuan agreed to most of the demands, which didn’t win him any new friends amongst the people. It was the other Western powers that convinced Japan to back off... creating anti-Western sentiment in Japan, naturally. Sometimes you just can’t win for losing in diplomacy.


    Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai


    By proclaiming himself Emperor, Yuan had gone too far. No-one of importance recognized it, and his protégés acting as Military Governors began to run their provinces completely independent from Peking. China as a nation had no real functioning government throughout my stay there. Yuan died from some sort of ailment of the kidneys in 1916. Sun Yat-sen was back the following year, and he re-founded the KMT after I had already gone in 1919, with his headquarters in Kwangtung province, which these days is under the rule of the Guangxi Clique. He tried for several years to get himself recognized externally as the head of the legitimate government of China, with no success. I know Henry certainly lobbied hard for him in Washington, but at that time he had far fewer connections there than he does today. Sun ended up turning to the Soviet Union for help back in 1923, since he couldn’t get aid anywhere else. I suppose it was either that or make Yuan’s brodie of selling China out to the Japanese.

    When Sun died in 1925 leadership of the KMT passed to some of his political allies, but once again, political power devolved to military leaders, and Chiang Kai-shek, who had control of the army, ended up in charge by 1926. Chiang then spent 1926 - 1928 fighting what came to be called the Northern Expedition. In these campaigns he was somewhat successful and established control over much of central and eastern China. In what may have been a key mistake of his career, he decided to purge the Communists, with whom he had been allied. Oddly enough the Communists had wanted to stop working with him long before this, but were under direct orders from Stalin to support Chiang.

    These days, China is still split into several regions with Chiang exerting various levels of influence on them. As I mentioned his rule is firm in the center of the country. In the north, the Shanxi warlords hold the provinces around the old Imperial capital of Peking and are hoping to place a relative of Puyi on the throne and revive the Qing dynasty. The Communists who escaped Chaing’s purge have a small enclave under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung. In the south, the KMT lost its grip on Kwangtung and Guangxi provinces, but the Guangxi Clique there is still nominally loyal. In the west, the KMT still holds sway in Yunnan and the provinces ruled by the Ma Clique (where I’m headed), and in the far west, Sinkiang and Tibet have become almost fully independent. I’m highly dubious that this great patchwork can ever be stitched back together peacefully. Traditionally, every time China has become fragmented, a great warlord appeared who reunifies the country, but only after much bloodshed. They also typically emerge after building up a power base in the west...


    The various factions dividing China


    By next week I should be in the territory ruled by the Ma Clique. This Clique is usually referred to as `The Three Mas`, or `Xibei San Ma`, due to the power wielded by the three main men: Ma Bufang, Ma Hongkui, and Ma Hongbin. However, most Westerners overlook the importance of Ma Bufang’s older brother Ma Buqing, and around here the Chinese usually refer to the group as `The Four Ma Clique`. Bufang and Buqing rose to prominence as soldiers- well, they all did, actually. Bufang fought several battles against the 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet and both brothers fought against the Communists after Chiang’s purge. Ma Hongkui was also a general, who fought bandits primarily in the Mongolia-Shanxi border area. Ma Hongbin is yet another general, and a cousin of Ma Hongkui who competes closely with him for power. It seems that Chiang has been playing those two off against each other for a while, as part of a scheme to prevent any one Ma from consolidating too much power out here. Currently Ma Hongkui is ascendant and the nominal ruler of the area.


    The Four Mas: Bufang, Buqing, Hongkui, and Hongbin


    Something that I find interesting is that nearly all the Mas are Moslems, along with most of the people out here. I think if you asked the average person what a Chinaman’s religion was, if they had any answer at all, they would say Buddhist. In the West we think often of the Arab and Turkish expansions into North Africa and Europe, but Islam went east, too, and created several powerful kingdoms in central Asia. Many of these kingdoms were crushed by the Mongol conquests, but the religion goes on. I’ll be curious to see how common mosques are out here.


    Part of our expedition heading to Golmud


    Our guide is calling an end to our rest, so it’s time to mount up. I haven’t had to ride in a while so I’m getting quite saddle-sore. Here’s hoping Golmud has at least one decent hotel I can get into to doss down!



  13. #13
    Good going, you already increased the 3 Ma's to 4 Ma's, one general for each compass direction direction.

  14. #14
    Lt. General eqqman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surt View Post
    Good going, you already increased the 3 Ma's to 4 Ma's, one general for each compass direction direction.
    And every one will count, I think even Albania had more available leaders to start!

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    1936, Winter - Arrivals


    10 January: Finally arrived in Golmud. I’m staying at what is billed as one of the better hotels in town. Externally, the architecture is done in a Western style, presumably to attract the few tourists that come through here. The name translates as `Good Restings`, but the building is fairly ramshackle once you go inside. It feels like it is just barely a step up from a place you might read about in an American Western story. There’s even a chamber pot in the room in case you don’t feel like going down the hall to the communal flush. Not quite the Savoy, but good enough for what I feel like spending.


    My hotel in Golmud. Bad plumbing, but decent electric and they handle telegrams


    15 January: The big news over the wire today is that the Germans have sent military troops into the Rhineland. My understanding of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles is that this should have caused an immediate war with France and Britain, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case. Maybe the memories of the Great War are still strong enough that the major nations won’t just jump into another one quite so easily. I’m sure this episode will be a big boost to German national pride, as I expect any country would be humiliated to have to be told where you can and can’t have your troops. Besides which the French have been promoting their Maginot Line to the point that I don’t expect they care much what is on the other side.

    2 February: I’ve started to become a patron of a public house within easy walking distance of the hotel. It’s run by a German fellow named Konrad Schmidt and is called The Americaine. Konrad explained that he tried to give it a pretentious name to catch the eye of locals who might be interested in Western culture. Of course, `pretentious` isn’t the precise word he used. Konrad’s English is pretty bad, and I’m starting to wonder if it would be easier for me to just start learning German to make it easier to speak with him. He doesn’t even try to pronounce `Americaine` correctly in French and just uses the German `Amerikaner` whenever he refers to it. Speaking of French, getting him to pronounce my name was fairly hopeless, so I agreed he could call me `Terry` if he wanted. I’m not overly thrilled with it but I like it slightly better than substituting `Jack` for `Jacques`. `Jack` just feels a little too... American, I guess.

    Anyway, Konrad’s all right. It turns out he was also here back during the Great War with the Peking Legation, as part of the German forces, naturally. We don’t recall having seen each other back then, but it’s certainly a possibility we passed by on the street. Unlike me, when he mustered out of the German Army after the War he stayed in Peking and went into the public house business right off. There were plenty of German businesses still dealing in China throughout the 20s, most of them selling weapons to the various factions that popped up after the death of Yuan Shikai. However, the political situation got bad enough that it became too risky to try and do much business in Peking and a lot of the Germans pulled out. Konrad joined the general exodus but went to the (relatively) safer area here in western China rather than return to his native Bavaria. I asked him why he decided to remain here rather than go home, since he doesn’t exhibit much of an interest in the Chinese culture or language. He basically told me that in the latter days of the Weimar Republic and the worldwide Depression he didn’t think he’d be making much more money back home than he does here. I’m not entirely sure that’s the whole story, even though it seems reasonable. There’s a small picture of an attractive lady he keeps behind the bar and I haven’t been able to suss out who she might be since he won’t talk about her. The photo looks like it was taken in the `teens... but who knows.


    Konrad Schmidt, owner of The Americaine


    These days, Konrad’s main prides are his moustache and his booze. The main product is Tsingtao beer, and don’t bother too much about asking for anything else if you don’t like it. The brewery for this beer was founded by German settlers way back in 1903, so they could make sure the Peking Legation had all the comforts of home. It stayed under German ownership until the Japanese bought it out in 1916. Luckily for Konrad the Japanese are still willing to keep the taps open to all comers. Tsingtao itself is on the coast up in the Shandong peninsula. Right now Chiang’s government is in control of this region so Konrad hasn’t had too many issues with supply, but he happened to mention to me that things did get a little bad during the worst of the fighting earlier. For a couple of months during the Northern Expedition he wasn’t able to get any beer at all and had to close up shop. I asked him what he might do if the same situation happens again, and he just looked thoughtful and wasn’t able to give me an answer.

    Something else Konrad does is show movies on a whitewashed wall of the public house whenever he can get a new film in. This brings in a lot of the locals who are curious to get some outside news, along with a lot of the expat community out here looking for the same thing. The first time I stopped by for a movie, Konrad made a point of introducing me to a lot of the Americans who also patronize his business. He was so proud of himself for making all these introductions I started to wonder if he thought maybe I’d never seen an American before, since he knew I came originally from Canada. There are quite a few of these men I am starting to know quite well.

    Patrick `Paddy` O`Doul and Giovanni `Joe` Crosetti are in their early 20s and work in the local coal mine. Both sets of their parents emigrated to the United States right after the War and Paddy and Joe started working in the Pennsylvanian coalfields when they grew up. Although the mine out here isn’t large, the local government persuaded their company back out in the States to take a contract to help develop it. So Paddy & Joe went from swinging picks to supervising miners. Not too bad an advancement.


    The shantytown housing Golmud’s mine workers


    Frank Cho is of Korean descent but his family was living in San Francisco since the California Gold Rush days of the 1840s. His story seems a bit convoluted. If I understand it right, his parents sent him to Korea in 1920 to find himself a wife. Instead of finding a well-to-do Korean lady and going home, however, he skipped out on his family duty (the details of which aren’t clear to me), and went to Ulaanbaatar and married a Mongolian bride. These days he tells me he works in the provincial customs office dealing with the traffic back to Mongolia. Sounds like pretty easy work, since I know there isn’t much trade going on that way these days with all the high incidences of banditry that keep getting reported on the wireless. In fact, hardly a day goes by where you don’t hear news about this or that atrocity being done by such bandits or Mongolian border guards themselves. If you held credence with everything the wireless announced, you’d think that Mongolia was about to declare war at any moment and come swooping down with their Hordes just like Genghis Khan was reborn. I’ve asked Frank if all this talk upsets his wife, but he says she doesn’t pay it any attention.

    Peter Frank is the only other Anglo-Saxon patron who is a regular at the moment. Konrad loves to joke about `Frahnk und Frahnk` when the two are together. He’s about my age and makes his money doing exporting from China to various other companies around the world. He tells me his biggest customer is Morton Salt, who buys up a lot of the salt that Golmud produces for export. His business keeps him traveling a lot, so we don’t see him much, but one side of this is he’s often the source of the films that Konrad shows. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Peter pay for a drink at The Americaine, so I suspect Konrad thinks `movie night` is one of his biggest customer draws.


    1931 Advertisement for Morton’s Salt (image courtesy Morton Salt Company)


    Peter is the only guy here interested in Pinochle, so we try to play whenever he is in town. I’ve tried to get some of the others interested in bridge, so we can get a real gentleman’s game going, but they’ve proved hopeless so far. Still, I’ll keep at it.

    23 February: I took a walk around the edge of town today looking for some possible landscape shots and saw some earthworks going up. It looks like the Mas are getting ready to defend the place, but from what? Surely they don’t listen to their own propaganda about Mongolia. It’s also a bit odd, since I remember seeing a fair amount of soldiers on the road as I came out here, and they were heading west, not east. The main mandate that Chiang gave the Mas was to hold the line against the Communists based around Yan`an, but there is nobody there at the border anymore. Presumably that means Mao could slip out any time he wanted- but to go where? The road is now open for him to retreat to Mongolia if he wished. This would get him closer to his base of support, which is Stalin, but it’s a bad area if he wants to spread Communism throughout China. The military situation out here is getting quite confusing.

    When I came back to the hotel I found a bunch of correspondence had caught up to me at the telegraph office, so I’ll be busy tonight following up with that. I certainly should write to Henry yet again to get him to change his mind about including more photos in Time magazine. People can’t pay to come to places like China, but I’m sure they’d be happy to pay to see it in a magazine if the pictures are done right.

    6 March: An end was announced yesterday to the second Italo-Abyssinian war. The Italians won, as you might expect, and the Ethiopians agreed to take their directions from Rome... if `agree` is really the right word to use. Crosetti is bursting at the seams with pride and I haven’t had the heart to say anything to the contrary to him. It’s not like this is a really huge feat of Italian arms that will have the other major powers of Europe jumping if Mussolini snaps his fingers. Personally, I think the whole episode is a bit of an embarrassment, since with no disrespect to the Ethiopian Emperor, you might have expected a European power to defeat them far more quickly than they did. Still, Mussolini will have his day and Crosetti eats it up whenever he can catch a snippet of a speech on the wireless. He seems to switch between feeling Italian or American as the mood takes him.

    18 March: A new Chaplin film came in today, Modern Times. I must have seen this scamp character of his a hundred times, and each still feels as funny as the first. I’m sure mom has watched this one a dozen times by now, he’s aces for her. I’m wondering now when was the last time we watched a film of his together... was it Gold Rush? Either way it’s good to get a real taste of home once in a while- and since I don’t expect anyone here to be doing Shakespeare or Gilbert & Sullivan any time soon, Chaplin is as good a taste as any.



    It turns out that he’s a pretty popular character over here, which makes sense since physical comedy transcends language and often culture. The Americaine was pretty packed, which helps Konrad maintain his bottom line, I’m sure. He ended up showing it more than once that first night, since some of the locals were more than willing to stay up late to watch it again. All the laughter just reminds me how close we all are down inside, no matter where we may be from.



  16. #16
    Very nice, giving a bit of background and character makes it feel more alive, but I can understand if it takes a lot longer to write.

  17. #17
    Lt. General eqqman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surt View Post
    Very nice, giving a bit of background and character makes it feel more alive, but I can understand if it takes a lot longer to write.
    Thanks! I decided not to just gloss over the early years when nothing much happens specifically to do some development that would just clutter up more action-themed updates. But since this is Asia and not Europe you can be sure you won't have to wait much past July 1937 before things start to move quickly.

  18. #18
    People's Commissar of the Navy Demi Moderator Avindian's Avatar
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    That update was really well done! I definitely got a unique feeling of the era, and it's just made me hungry for more.
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  19. #19
    Lt. General eqqman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avindian View Post
    That update was really well done! I definitely got a unique feeling of the era, and it's just made me hungry for more.
    Thanks! Something else I want to try and do here is highlight that there was more going on than just wars in the two decades the game crosses.

  20. #20
    The Article Beggar Derahan's Avatar
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    the first Xibei san ma AAR i've seen and it is really going good! so subscribing!

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