In War and Famine

In War and Famine: Missionaries in China's Honan Province in the 1940s

Erleen J. Christensen
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    In War and Famine
    Book Description:

    While the principle narrator is Christensen's father, a young missionary doctor who, in a hair-raising journey, smuggled his family behind Japanese battlelines the year before Pearl Harbor, Christensen also tells the story of the many other missionaries who also sought to relieve the suffering of innocents caught in the crossfire of war and revolution - brave women who marched orphans through enemy lines, missionaries turned OSS intelligence officers, a Canadian Anglican cleric, a Swiss trainer of seeing-eye dogs, and a diplomat who travelled the province by bicycle.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7259-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. MAPS
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction: THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
    (pp. 3-8)

    This is, in one sense, my own story, for I was there, a white-haired, bilingual child watching her fellow children starving in the streets of Honan. ButIn War and Famineis told principally by those who were both there and writing of that war and famine as it happened.

    My father, Dr Emery W. Carlson, a Lutheran missionary doctor, is the major narrator. The story begins when our family arrived in China in September 1940, some three years after the Japanese had taken control of the major cities of the coast and just over a year before the Japanese...

  6. chapter one THE OTHER SIDE OF NO MAN’S LAND
    (pp. 9-26)

    On 11 May 1938 General Shang Chen of the Chinese Nationalist Army stood on the banks of the mighty Hwang Ho and ordered the dikes blown. Yellow river water roared through a breach two hundred meters wide. Freed from the confining dikes that had forced it to flow east and north, the mighty river surged and sprawled south, killing a Japanese army advancing on the important railroad junction of Chengchow as well as almost 900,000 Chinese peasants, whose government had given them no warning of their impending doom.¹ For eight years the river flowed unfettered across the level plains of...

  7. chapter two BEHIND ENEMY LINES
    (pp. 27-40)

    Elvera Carlson recorded the news of Gerhardt Danielson’s murder and closed her diary for three and a half months. If she had not written numerous letters during those months, we might think she suffered regrets about coming to the mission field or wrestled with fears about her safety, but her letters were cheery and chatty, full of enthusiasm for the new venture, and her tone was a mite superior as she reassured the family at home that she and Emery were doing the Lord’s will. In March, when she reconstructed those first days in Hsuchang in her journal, she emphasized...

  8. chapter three HONAN MISSIONS
    (pp. 41-54)

    Once the ching paos and bombings ended, the Augustana missionaries turned their attention to holding their annual conference. This affair was the planning and decision-making session for the next year’s work and the evaluating and reporting session on the previous year. All the missionaries were expected to attend, and considerable effort was made toward consensus rather than simple majority rule in making decisions. The proceedings were printed up as theAnnual Reportand circulated at home as part of the public relations effort that influenced the financial support the mission received.

    The report on work in 1940 makes clear just...

  9. chapter four THE HONAN WAY OF LIFE
    (pp. 55-62)

    Honan province is located some four hundred miles west of such coastal cities as Peking, Shanghai, and Nanking and some six hundred miles north of the major cities of the south, Hong Kong and Canton. China’s most ancient capitals lay along the Hwang Ho, or Yellow River, which cuts across the top of the province: Loyang, Kaifeng, and Changte were all in one dynasty or another the seat of empire. Archaeological sites abound in the province, and the birthplace of Zen Buddhism was on the Augustana Lutheran field.

    The province was, to some extent, frozen in time. Its peasants farmed...

    (pp. 63-70)

    The war in the world at large escalated markedly in the spring of 1941. Germany and Italy ran rampant in the Near East and North Africa, eastern Europe was falling fast, and Norway surrendered to Germany. Japan and Russia negotiated a neutrality pact, Thailand and French Indochina signed a peace treaty with Tokyo, and Chungking “achieved the dubious distinction of being at the time the most bombed place on earth.”¹ In May, fighting broke out northwest of Loyang, in the area where the Chinese troops on the south side of the river were Nationalists while the ones on the north...

  11. chapter six AFTER PEARL HARBOR
    (pp. 71-78)

    It is difficult to determine exactly how many foreigners were in Honan on Pearl Harbor Day, but there seems to have been only one non-missionary on the “Free China” side of the river, an old reprobate in Chengchow who lived in a bombed-out factory and could not speak Chinese, even though he had been in the country for twenty years.¹ As to missionaries, the figure was upwards of 250. In Chinese-held territory, the Augustana Lutherans had nineteen adult missionaries, the Canadian Anglicans seven. The Southern Baptists and the Free Methodists had three each. There were four Seventh-day Adventists, two Pentecostals,...

  12. chapter seven THE LONG MONTHS OF SILENCE
    (pp. 79-93)

    For months, the Honan missionaries received neither mail nor money from the home countries. The English-language newspapers from the coast had ceased publication, and Chinese papers were few, heavily censored, and unreliable; so without radio or telephone, their news of the war and even of events beyond the mountains or across the river came largely by word of mouth or rumour. Those missions whose fields were split by the lines of war were as cut off from their homelands and West China as the Augustana missionaries, but they were far more conscious of what lay just the other side of...

  13. chapter eight CROP FAILURE AND FAMINE
    (pp. 94-99)

    In the summer of 1942 famine threatened Honan and prices rose. Elvera told her family at home, “Some weeks ago kerosene was $2400.00 for a 5 gal tin, so we don’t use kerosene for lamps but use sesame seed oil. Cheap cotton cloth is $10.00 a ft. and cotton stockings $50.00 a pair. Flour is $3.00 a pound.” (The exchange rate was $18 in Chinese currency to US$1.) She tried to reassure them by mentioning the tomatoes and sweet corn from the garden and the four quarts of milk a day their goats gave, but that information only underscored the...

    (pp. 100-109)

    October 1942 brought frequent ching paos and bombing in the area, but Elvera mentioned them in her journal almost casually as she recorded that baby Faith was sitting up and trying to creep.¹ While the bombs dropped and the famine deepened, spiritual routines seemed especially important to the Chinese Christians and the missionaries. Linju held its Fall Chu Hui meetings. The speakers, like those in the spring, came from nearby: a Chinese pastor from Lushan, the hsien to the south, and an “Independent Missionary” Elvera described as an engineer, who taught for some years in Tientsin and converted in his...

    (pp. 110-120)

    The Augustana Lutheran Annual Conference was held in Hsuchang on 5–10 January 1943 with only twelve voting members present. The numbers might well have been lower had the group not met in the station where the most missionaries were stationed. None of the Loyang missionaries, who had the farthest distance to travel, were present, and Emery was the only one to make the three-day trip from Linju. Three of the twelve at the conference were overdue for furlough, and now that there was some possibility of getting to India and eventually home, the three would leave: Stella Carlson, Dr...

  16. chapter eleven THE SUFFERING CONTINUES
    (pp. 121-134)

    When the Carlsons returned to Hsuchang, neither Elvera nor Erleen had been more than an hour’s walk from home since they moved to Linju fifteen months earlier. Once again, the eighty-mile trip meant three days of slow and uncomfortable cart travel on dusty or muddy roads. Bad weather and the deep ditches that had been dug across the roads to impede Japanese troop movement caused delays and frustrations. The famine was ever visible. Willow trees were stripped of leaves and bark, and people were out gathering weeds and leaves for food. The starving lined the roads. When the Carlsons stopped...

  17. chapter twelve THE EMBASSY COMES TO CALL
    (pp. 135-145)

    Early 1944 in Honan was beginning to seem cautiously hopeful: fall rains had the wheat crop looking green and healthy, the skies were quiet, the battle lines were stable. Relief efforts were in place. Mail was coming through reliably, albeit slowly, from North America and Europe. Those leaving China were making their way gradually and circuitously home, and a few foreigners were actually coming to Honan. Not all of them were missionaries. Emery wrote to his brother, “At the station where I was last year there are even a few of the boys from home.”¹ Benson met the Americans and...

  18. chapter thirteen THE JAPANESE OVERRUN HONAN
    (pp. 146-157)

    Before he left Loyang in December, Secretary Drumright telegraphed the ambassador, “Jap garrison on south bank Yellow River north of Chengchow has been increased and old railway bridge is being repaired.”¹ Not long after, the Japanese started firing their big guns at Kwangwu and Free Methodist missionary Edith Jones and her orphans retreated to Chengchow.² That step did not raise much alarm in the missionary community, and even Drumright’s dispatches about Honan in the early months of 1944 seemed to point toward the usual Japanese foraging expeditions and raiding parties – campaigns that caused inconvenience and hardship for the locals...

  19. chapter fourteen “FIRST WAR ZONE SHATTERED”
    (pp. 158-169)

    To those who had crossed the mountains by everything from crowded refugee trains to their own weary feet, Sian seemed light years away from Honan and the war – a provincial capital, a large modern city connected by rail and road to the country’s capital, a place shielded from the Japanese by a barrier of mountains. Surrounded by the army, the government, and the press, not just Chinese, but British and American, the missionaries quickly settled into temporary quarters in the Sian area and sorted out who would head home on furlough, who would find work in West China, and...

  20. chapter fifteen THE OSS’S TOP SECRED “PROJECT TOWER”
    (pp. 170-179)

    Before the ichigo campaign, the war in China seemed to be going fairly well. Supplies in goodly amounts flew in over “the Hump,” and gas came by pipeline over the mountains from India. General Chennault’s 14th Air Force guarded the skies, and the large American air bases in South China stood ready with air support for the Chinese army, should the Japanese try anything serious. ichigo changed all that. By May 1944 the Chinese defence had collapsed so thoroughly that Sian seemed next on the Japanese list of objectives, and no one had much faith that the Chinese troops which...

  21. chapter sixteen PROJECT TOWER IN CHINA
    (pp. 180-189)

    By the time Emery arrived in Kunming, Bill Fenn was in Sian (spelled Hsian in oss documents) arranging housing for the men of Project Tower. Under the reorganized oss structure, mo work would be a small part of the “Special Program for Agent Penetration of Japanese Inner Zone for Secret Intelligence Purposes.” All oss work north of the Yangtze would operate out of a single sub-base in Sian headed by a career service man, Major Gustav Krause, who was answerable to Colonel Heppner in Chungking.¹

    Emery waited almost two weeks in Kunming as the Japanese complicated things. Laohokow, Shensi, scheduled...

    (pp. 190-200)

    “It may have been oss’s first penetration into west Honan, but for me it was a return home,” Emery wrote in his memoirs.¹ The old temple near Tantouchen that became his West Honan oss headquarters was only about sixty miles from Linju, his daughter Faith’s birthplace, and the churches he had been responsible for in lyang were even closer to the temple.

    Emery’s journey back into Honan, like the one out the year before, was by modern transportation in Shensi province but on primitive mountain footpaths in Honan. The first day’s travel, by truck, covered almost half the actual distance...

  23. chapter eighteen RECLAIMING HONAN HOSPITALS
    (pp. 201-211)

    As the Chinese wildly celebrated Japan’s defeat, Emery wrote soberly, “The war is over but I don’t think that the Chinese really realize what it means yet. All of these millions of soldiers who have grown up in the army, and know nothing else. How are they to be returned to normal civilian life? It is different from American boys who have home ties and something to go back to.”¹

    When Japan surrendered in 1945, there were 1.75 million civilian Japanese in China and over 2 million soldiers, not counting puppet troops.² Repatriation was not simply a matter of finding...

  24. chapter nineteen THE RETURN OF THE MISSIONARIES
    (pp. 212-221)

    As 1945 ended, missionaries, even experienced men already in West China awaiting transportation and permissions, were having difficulty getting to Honan. George Holm of the Lutheran United Mission managed to reach Sinyang, the southernmost Honan city on the north-south (Pinghan) railroad, but he wrote that “the Chinese government has declared Honan Province a war area, and until after September 1, 1946, it does not favor the return of foreign missionaries to the province.”¹

    Both the oss reports from western Honan during the summer of 1945 and Emery’s letters about his trip to Sian with the Japanese truck in October give...

  25. chapter twenty “IF WE LIKE THEM COULD DIE FOR THEE”
    (pp. 222-236)

    The peace negotiations, which were failing by the end of 1946, were resoundingly over the following year. General Marshall gave up and went home in January 1947, on 1 February the Communists renounced all agreements made since 10 January 1946, and the Nationalists reciprocated by kicking out the last of the Communist representatives in Nanking, Chungking, and Shanghai.¹

    Fighting escalated. The main thrust of the conflict was still in Manchuria, where the Communists had consolidated their control over five provinces containing half the region’s population. The Communists also controlled almost all of Shansi province, to the northwest of Honan, and...

    (pp. 237-240)
  27. NOTES
    (pp. 241-266)
    (pp. 267-274)
    (pp. 275-276)
  30. INDEX
    (pp. 277-292)