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A Plain Sailorman in China: The Life and Times of Cdr. I. V. Gillis, USN, 1875-1943

Overview


A Plain Sailorman in China is a biography of Cdr.Irvin Van Gorder Gillis, USN that recounts both his extraordinary family history - a fascinating slice of Americana in the 1800's - and Irvin's multi-faceted career as a naval officer for 25 years and then as successful rare Chinese book collector. Son of a U. S. Navy Rear Admiral, as a U.S. Naval Academy graduate in 1894 he distinguished himself academically at the Academy and soon operationally while serving aboard his first U. S. Navy warships. Assigned to a ...
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A Plain Sailorman in China: The Life of and Times of Cdr. I.V. Gillis, USN, 1875-1948

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Overview


A Plain Sailorman in China is a biography of Cdr.Irvin Van Gorder Gillis, USN that recounts both his extraordinary family history - a fascinating slice of Americana in the 1800's - and Irvin's multi-faceted career as a naval officer for 25 years and then as successful rare Chinese book collector. Son of a U. S. Navy Rear Admiral, as a U.S. Naval Academy graduate in 1894 he distinguished himself academically at the Academy and soon operationally while serving aboard his first U. S. Navy warships. Assigned to a torpedo boat in the Spanish-American War, he was hailed a hero for disarming a live Spanish torpedo while it was still floating in the sea. A talented naval engineer as well as leader of men, Gillis rapidly was selected to command a series of U.S. Navy warships, initially the torpedo boat in which he served during the war. His second command, USS Annapolis, took him to Asia for the first time where he saw action in the Philippines during the insurrection there. After another tour in command of a monitor assigned to China and service in two battleships, he was assigned as Assistant U. S. Naval Attaché in Tokyo to observe the Russo-Japanese War.

Following more sea duty in the Atlantic he was sent to Peking as the first U. S. Naval Attaché to China, a job he held three times over the following 12 years. Following the second of these tours, and during his first period of retirement from the Navy in 1914, he was designated as chief intelligence officer for the Navy in China - and perhaps for other government intelligence collectors as well - while simultaneously working for Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Electric Boat Company as their China representative to sell warships to the Chinese Navy. In 1917 he was recalled to active duty for his third tour as U. S. Naval Attaché to China to replace the incumbent who was reassigned to command a destroyer in World War I. Following the end of the war, Gillis was released from active duty and settled into his life as a civilian. Married to a Chinese princess - possibly with two children - he remained in China from 1914 until his death in 1948, primarily collecting, sorting, cataloguing, binding and shipping tens of thousands of volumes of rare Chinese manuscripts that ultimately were to reside in Princeton University's East Asian Library. During World War II, he and his wife were interned at the former British Embassy in Peking, returning after to war to his old home near the Forbidden City until his death a few years later.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612511054
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2012
  • Pages: 255
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


BRUCE SWANSON was a China specialist for forty three years. Fluent in Chinese Mandarin, he held an MS degree in the subject from Georgetown University, and then earned an MBA degree from Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland. As a U. S. naval officer he served in Asia for six years and traveled extensively in that region.

A well-known authority on Chinese maritime affairs, Swanson lectured at the U. S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His many articles on the Chinese navy and his frequent participation in conferences related to the maritime environment in Asia earned him international respect.

A well-known authority on Chinese maritime affairs, Swanson lectured at the U. S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His many articles on the Chinese navy and his frequent participation in conferences related to the maritime environment in Asia earned him international respect.

VANCE MORRISON 30-years as a Surface Warfare Officer. Commanded an ASW Frigate and a Guided Missile Cruiser. Was an Intelligence Subspecialist and Mandarin Chinese linguist, served six years in Japan and China, and was U. S. Naval Attaché, as well as five months as Acting Defense Attaché, to the Peoples Republic of China from mid-1987 to mid-1989. Was Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Joint Matters (Senior Joint Planner) from 1989 until retirement from the Navy in 1992. As a civilian following retirement, was a systems analyst and manager for, initially, SWL Corporation, then GRCI Corporation and ultimately AT&T Corporation, providing support to the Navy Space Program and the National Reconnaissance Office.

DON MCDOWELL After commissioning at the Navy's Officer Candidate School in 1954, Rear Admiral McDowell served on Staff, Commander Seventh Fleet embarked on heavy cruisers stationed in the Far East. He served on USS Wasp (CVA-18) for two years. As a staff officer with Commander amphibious Squadron Seven, he was embarked on various amphibious ships. In 1961, he was assigned to the Naval Security Group Command, the Navy's worldwide cryptologic organization in Washington, DC. In 1963 he served on the Staff of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In 1965 he was assigned as Commanding Officer at Hakata, Japan. Transferring to the National Security Agency for three years, he was next sent to be the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Cryptology, U. S. Naval Forces Europe. He returned to Washington, DC and the Staff of the Naval Security Group in 1974. His next assignment was to the Staff of Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Cryptology. He was selected for Rear Admiral in 1981 and transferred to the National Security Agency as Chief of Support for Military Operations. In 1983 he was assigned as Commander Naval Security Group Command in Washington, DC and retired from the Navy in 1986. He has worked in the defense industry since that time and resides with his wife, Helen, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

DR. NANCY TOMASKO Prior to her recent retirement, Dr. Tomasko was Editor of the East Asian Library Journal at Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

List of Maps x

Preface xi

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Education, Sea Duty in the Atlantic, and Trial by Fire: 1875-1900 5

Chapter 2 Sea Duty in the Pacific (I): 1900-1904 35

Chapter 3 The Lure of Naval Intelligence: Ashore in Asia and Back to the Atlantic, 1904-1907 56

Chapter 4 China Naval Attaché and Rocks and Shoals: 1907-1908 82

Chapter 5 Sea Duty in the Pacific (II), Then Dollar Diplomacy in China: 1908-1914 104

Chapter 6 Career Decision: Gillis Retires and Returns to China, 1914-1917 122

Chapter 7 World War I and Recall to Active Duty: Naval Attaché in Peking, 1917-1919 137

Chapter 8 Gillis as a Civilian in China: 1919-1948 160

Appendices A I. V. Gillis, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and the Age of Navalism 193

Appendices B I. V. Gillis' Record of Naval Service 205

Appendices C Gillis Family Tree 207

Appendices D U.S. Naval Academy Course of Instruction, ca. 1895 209

Appendices E Chinese Names (Systems of Romanization) 213

Notes 215

Bibliography 239

Index 245

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