The Diary of Captain Glenn F. Howell of the USS Palos, 1920-1921

Glenn F. Howell
(Dennis L. Noble, ed)

NEW copy, trade PAPERBACK. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002). Photographs, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, 198 pp.

Captain Glenn F. Howell kept a detailed account of his activities in China for 62 years. His journals now make up 202 leather-bound volumes—one of the largest sources in existence, perhaps the largest, of servicemen’s observations of service in China during that country’s struggle to oust one power and come to grips with a new one between World War I and II.

This work presents Howell’s diary from June 6, 1920, to September 23, 1921, during which time he commanded the naval gunboat USS Palos on the Yangtze River. First comes a biography of Howell, an overview of Chinese history from 1800 to 1920, and a history of the United States military involvement in China during those years. Howell’s time as commander of the USS Palos is divided into three sections. Preceding each, the editor comments on the nature of the upcoming diary entries. Howell covers a range of topics, including the Chinese people, various important locales (e.g., the Three Gorges), making official visits, (his first as a captain), officer–enlisted man relations, opium, the steam navy, people who influenced him (S. Cornell Plant and Captain Joseph Miclo, skipper of the Meitan), missionaries and other foreigners in China (including U.S. military retirees), and “trackers” (China’s human beasts of burden.)

Although this book does not deal directly with the subject of U.S. Marines, and there is only one reference to Marines listed in the index, Marine detachments served on every Navy gunboat on the Yangtze, and there are references to and quotations from Marines to be found occasionally throughout this diary.

This book makes an excellent companion to Kemp Tolley's Yangtze Patrol: The U.S. Navy in China.

See also Bernard Cole's Gunboats and Marines: The United States Navy in China, 1925-1928.