Warning of War: A Novel of the North China Marines


The New York Times Bestselling Author of The Marines of Autumn

Late November of 1941.

Half the world is at war and with the other half about to join in, a thousand U.S. Marines stand sentinel over the last days of an uneasy truce between ourselves and the Imperial Japanese Army in chaotic North China.

By November 27, FDR is convinced Japan is about to launch a military action. Washington doesn’t know where, ...

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The New York Times Bestselling Author of The Marines of Autumn

Late November of 1941.

Half the world is at war and with the other half about to join in, a thousand U.S. Marines stand sentinel over the last days of an uneasy truce between ourselves and the Imperial Japanese Army in chaotic North China.

By November 27, FDR is convinced Japan is about to launch a military action. Washington doesn’t know where, isn’t sure precisely when. But the Cabinet is sufficiently alarmed that War Secretary Henry Stimson and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox are authorized to send an immediate and coded “warning of war” to American bases and units in harm’s way.

In Shanghai two cruise ships are chartered and 800 armed American Marines are marched through the great port city with enormous pomp and circumstance and embarked for Manila.

Another 200 Marines, unable to reach Shanghai, and serving in small garrisons and posts from Peking to Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, are caught short by this “warning of war”.

This is their story. Of how a detachment of American Marines marooned in North China as war erupts, set out on an epic march through hostile territory in an attempt to fight their way out of China and, somehow, rejoin their Corps for the war against Japan.

James Brady dazzles us once again with a stunning and unflinching look at America at war. Warning of War is a moving tribute to sheer courage, determination, and Marine Corps discipline, and is a wonderful celebration of America in one of its darkest but finest hours.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Brady has emerged as one of the best novelists of his generation.”—Dan Rather

“Brady has stormed publishing high ground to become, arguably, our foremost novelist currently writing on the subject of Marines at war. Authentic atmospherics and crackling action are sure to keep fans turning the pages of this newest Brady combat thriller.”—Publishers Weekly

“Brady sculpts an image of an ideal Marine.”—The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Colorful and pithy, Warning of War is the most enjoyment one can have reading an adventure war novel.”—Leatherneck magazine

“An enthralling read! James Brady captures the proud swagger of real Marine esprit-de-corps and the true hard-edged violence of close combat during a time that deserves the Brady spotlight. Warning of War is a must-read.”—General James L. Jones, U.S. Marine Corps

“James Brady”s tremendously engaging tale has captured the drama and desperation of a unique and nearly forgotten facet of American history.”—Lieutenant Colonel Jon Hoffman, U.S. Marine Corps, author of Chesty: The Story of Lieutenant General Lewis Puller, USMC

“James Brady has written another gripping military novel.... [A] page-turning adventure.”—The New York Post

“James Brady is a skillful novelist and journalist who excels when he writes about the U.S. Marine Corps. Warning of War...is a thrilling, enjoyable adventure.”—Chicago Daily Tribune

“Captain James Brady has once again brilliantly employed the medium of the historical novel to poignantly capture the timeless reality of Marines at war. Set in one of the most storied periods of Marine Corps history – but among the least known outside the Corps – Warning of War transports the reader to the world of the China Marines. In so doing, Brady provides a window into the culture and ethos of the Marines – a lethal assemblage of diverse and often colorful personalities forged as one by an indomitable commitment to mission accomplishment and each other.”—Lieutenant Colonel Ward E. Scott, II, U.S. Marine Corps

Publishers Weekly
A Marine veteran of the Korean conflict, Brady (The Marines of Autumn) has stormed publishing high ground to become, arguably, our foremost novelist currently writing on the subject of Marines at war. Here, the distinguished columnist and author brings under close scrutiny the sorry disarray of the U.S. military during the two months (beginning November 27, 1941, and ending Jan. 27, 1942) just before and after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. Playing tennis by day with his friend, an American-born Japanese colonel, and by night enjoying posh clubs with his White Russian mistress, Marine Capt. Billy Port, a Back Bay Bostonian, sees his pampered life among the cosmopolitan set in exotic, Japanese-occupied Shanghai come to an abrupt halt on November 27, 1941, when FDR orders the complete evacuation of all Marines stationed in China under an official "warning of war." A decorated veteran of the 1920s Nicaraguan campaign, Port is given the task of taking a rifle squad of combat-seasoned Marines and rounding up a scattering of isolated detachments and leading them over the Great Wall and across the Gobi into icy Siberia. Taking his personal majordomo, a naval lieutenant, a French former Grand Prix race driver, and an exiled White Russian general, he loads four military trucks and his own Bentley touring car aboard a rusty Portuguese ship and sails north to rescue the isolated Marines, unaware that his Japanese tennis partner will become his relentless pursuer. Authentic atmospherics and crackling action are sure to keep fans turning the pages of this newest Brady combat thriller, which succeeds equally as entertainment, history and morality lesson. (Apr. 10) Forecast: The Marines of August was a New York Times bestseller, and Brady's latest looks likely to follow in its footsteps. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In November 1941, U.S. marines were stationed in North China and fighting the Japanese well before the attack on Pearl Harbor. This novel tells the story of the days just before and shortly after the "official" fighting began. Capt. William Port, 4th Marines, is stationed in Shanghai, a city wracked by poverty, corruption, and intrigue, as the Japanese army looms on the horizon. Wealthy and educated, he is comfortable with his White Russian girlfriend, Natasha. While some members of his regiment are ordered to the Philippines and to the subsequent horrors of Bataan and Corregidor, Port is left behind with a small group of marines whose task is to rescue American missionaries trapped in the far reaches of the Gobi Desert. Port's trek through the desert constitutes the heart of this story of adventure, conflict, heroism, and tragedy. A former marine and magazine publisher, Brady (Marines of Autumn, The Coldest War) offers a fascinating tale of a virtually forgotten time and place. For all general collections. Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brady returns to his beloved Corps (the memoir The Coldest War, 1990) to write his second Marine Corps novel (The Marines of Autumn, 2000). Here, Brady retells the traditional story of "Billy Port's Ride"-an epic about US Marines stationed as sentinels in chaotic North China. No authority, in the States, Mongolia, Japan, or Moscow, however, will admit that Billy Port's ride ever took place. By 1941, four years into the Sino-Japanese War, the treaty cities of Shanghai, Canton, Peking, Tsingtao, and other places flourish, with black Chicago musicians playing swing at Jimmy's Place in Shanghai, despite Japanese occupation. For ten years, Marines have defended US business interests, doctors, missionaries, nurses, and teachers. Brady is right at home with the tony set at the clubs and on the tennis courts and quickly draws us into China's wartime atmosphere. Born to Boston Back Bay wealth, Port chose Annapolis over Harvard, then the Marines, was written up for the Medal of Honor for killing Sandinistas in Nicaragua, became known as a blooded killer and barfighter. Port is ordered to move his troops out on a hired tramp steamer; instead he heads an armed convoy (and his Bentley) toward the Great Wall and the Gobi Desert, where he faces "bandits and warlords, Mongol separatists, food riots and fuel shortages, Chiang and the Reds fighting each other, [and] the Japs fighting both. . . ." On the road they hear of Pearl Harbor, know they are at war, see Zeroes flying over them and know that 50 miles of rough country lie ahead. Passing through the Great Wall allows Brady to drum up a wonderfully amusing scene as Port, smiling and saluting with his Navy sword, beheads a bandit general who demands amachine gun as tribute. And then it's into the frigid Gobi and a trek to the Russian border. After many hurdles, they reach the border and, fatally for Port, the KGB. Shapely, an absolute natural for film.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312303327
  • Publisher: St. Martins Press-3pl
  • Publication date: 4/16/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 911,623
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

James Brady was a baby-faced marine commanding a combat platoon during the Korean War. He captured these experiences in his highly praised memoir The Coldest War and the New York Times bestselling novel The Marines of Autumn. His weekly columns for Advertising Age and Parade magazines were considered must-reads by millions. He lived in Manhattan and in East Hampton, New York.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 3, 2010

    Warning of War by James Brady

    There is a legend within the United States Marine Corps named " Billy Port's Ride". As many legends, it has the distinct ring of truth. There are some known facts. One, there was World War II, two, there were Marines stationed in Shanghai, China at the outbreak of the war. Third, there was a "Billy Port" who had served under the command of then Major Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller in Nicaragua. Billy's full name was Captain William Hamilton Thomas "Billy" Port. James Brady has written a novel around this story that leaves you believing this legend is more than a "story".

    Stationed in Shanghai, China leading up to WWII, Billy, apparently, was a colorful character, enjoying his status in Shanghai as an unmarried Marine, a commanding officer, and as someone from a Bostonian family of means. Billy enjoyed a lifestyle, supported by his civilian money and fostered by the pre-war atmosphere of Shanghai, the Imperial Hotel (a favorite hangout of Russian expatriates), and beautiful Chinese and Russian women.

    In November 1941 an official "War Warning" had been issued and the Marines in Shanghai were preparing to evacuate by sea. Billy, evidently, was ordered to take a small group of Marines and head out to the hinterlands of China. Their mission was to gather up the Marines who were on assignment outside of Shanghai (in northern China), thus out of communication and not aware of the "War Warning". Billy's party left Shanghai on or about December 1, 1941. From Shanghai, Billy and his small contingent sailed on a commercial freighter to Tsingtao, then on to Tientsin. From Tientsin they traveled by rail to Peking (modern day Beijing), then began traveling by truck. They headed North from Peking early the morning of December 7, 1941, hours before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Along the way they were able to gather up some of the Marines they were searching for and were making a beeline for Russia (an ally at the time) to escape the Japanese. Their trip took them through northern China, the Gobi desert in Mongolia and to the Russian border somewhere south or southeast of Lake Baikal in Russia. The overland journey from Beijing to the Russian border was approximately 700 miles, through desert, while being chased by the Japanese Imperial Army, through warlord country, in frigid weather and without the benefit of 7-11's, Starbucks and Holiday Inn Express. Brady does an amazing job of putting you right there during the grueling travel and firefights with the Japanese and the Mongolian warlords.

    Billy's group numbered about 2 dozen at its highest and arrived at the Russian border with about half that many (about half were lost to firefights). They actually crossed the Onon River (Russian border) under fire from the Japanese. They reached the Russians and were fed, housed and medically treated. From there it is a mystery. Billy and 2 of his group were picked up by the KGB and were never seen alive again. The rest of the group did make it back.

    There is more to the story, however, I'm not going to spoil Brady's excellent book by providing any more details. I do have to say that you can't read this without wondering if the story is more fact than fiction. This a very different WWII story that leaves you mulling over what our previous generations actually went through during a very extreme time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    Warning of War

    I enjoyed the book overall. Not as much as I liked The Marines of Autumn. As a Marine I sometimes get irked when referred to as a soldier. Really good for all those historical fiction buffs.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    Brady pulls the reader into the novel with exotic characters during a chaotic time. The only flaw is that he doesn't bring out the point that Shanghai was an international city, where merchant marine sailors of different countries battled each other long before Pearl Harbor. It might help explain some of the emotions of the population when Captain Billy Port marched his Marines out of Shanghai. He talks about the make-up of the city's administration with the Japanese and international politics. This impersonal distance is left behind as Capt. Port makes preparations for his unit and for the young, White Russian mistress that he had inherited. Brady shows the stress, of needing to leave, but waiting for isolated marine units to join up. Many decided to go to the Phillippines. This is a good look at a gutsy leader that's savy. By the time, Capt. Port reaches Peking, I felt Port's anguish over the commanding officer's refusal to join the escape to the USSR. I often wondered how the Marines were going to escape one trap after another. The book is realistic in that some of Port's decisions were wrong, and he lost men. As always, Brady ends the novel with a bitter sweet moment that is unforgettable.

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    Posted February 22, 2011

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    Posted June 7, 2010

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