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Buried Treasure: The Shanghai Bowl

In 1942, as Japanese forces advanced on Corregidor, soldiers from the US Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment burned the regimental battle standards and buried a silver bowl and cups. The bowl was a prized Army heirloom known as the Shanghai Bowl, and the soldiers didn’t want it to fall into enemy hands. When the war was over, a contingent, including one who helped bury the bowl, returned to Corregidor to retrieve it. It took two months of digging, but they eventually unearthed it. Today, the Shanghai Bowl remains a symbol of the heritage of the 31st Infantry Regiment and is housed at Fort Drum, New York.

The 31st Infantry Regiment Shanghai Bowl has figured prominently in the regiment’s ceremonies and social functions for nearly a century. Photo courtesy of Fort Drum.

In 1932, the 31st Infantry “Polar Bear” Regiment arrived in Shanghai. The Polar Bear nickname came from the regiment’s service in eastern Siberia during the Russian Revolution from 1918-1920. The regiment aimed to protect American citizens and property after hostilities erupted between Chinese and Japanese forces. While in Shanghai, officers of the 31st collected $1,600 in silver dollars and commissioned a Chinese silversmith to create a silver punch bowl and cups to commemorate the unit’s service. The bowl is 30 inches across by 21 inches deep and was used for special occasions, including ceremonies to commemorate the anniversary of the regiment’s founding.

The 31st kept the Shanghai Bowl at regimental headquarters overseas, so as WWII approached, it was in the Philippines. On the night of May 2, 1942, with enemy shells falling nearby, Capt. Earl R. Short led a small detail and buried the bowl and cups on a hillside on Corregidor. Shortly after, Corregidor fell to the Japanese on May 6, 1942, and Short was captured and taken POW.

Some 1,600 soldiers from the 31st participated in the infamous Bataan Death March. They were already weakened and emaciated from four months of fierce fighting without replacements or resupply. Now, as POWs, they endured torture, starvation, and horrific conditions. More than 1,000 soldiers from the 31st Infantry Regiment died in captivity.

Following the war, Capt. Short (who was promoted to major after his release) went to Maj. Gen. Robert J. Marshall and told him about the buried bowl. Marshall ordered Short to find the bowl and sent a small detail of ten men with shovels to accompany him. After arriving at the hill where he’d buried the bowl, Short found the landscape transformed from heavy shelling. After a week of digging, he called for additional heavy equipment. After a two-month search, they finally found the Shanghai Bowl.

The Shanghai Bowl is still an important symbol for the US Army. The bowl remained with the regiment while they served in Korea, and after 55 years overseas, the Army transported the Shanghai Bowl back to the United States in 1987. Today, the Shanghai Bowl is a distinguished part of Fort Drum’s collection and is still brought out for special occasions.

If you would like to learn more about the Shanghai Bowl, or the 31st Infantry Regiment, search Fold3® today.


  1. Lee says:

    Wow! A trophy for all of our soldiers that fought and many died for freedoms cause!
    So prough to be an American!

    • Kathleen Malcolmson says:

      The way the article begins, it appears to be a “trophy”, which offended me as well. But as the article continues, it explains the origin as an item that was commissioned by officers of the US 31st Infantry in 1932. So not a “trophy”, but a commemorative item of distinguished service.

  2. Thanks again for this post. Robert L. Coats, son of Clyde A. Coats, Cpl. Company A, 31st Infantry Div. # 18 050 445. Wounded 14th Feb. 1942 Bataan. Recipient of Purple Heart and Presidential Unit Citation with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters. Held in POW Camp near Hiroshima at end of War. God bless.

  3. Louis Bontya says:

    I have the complete listing of the 31st. Infantry Div. that was in the Philippines in 1941.

    • Robert L. Coats says:

      Thanks Louis,
      My email address [email protected]

    • Sandy says:

      I would like a copy to see if my grandfather was with them.

    • Louis Bontya says:

      Sandy, Please send me your e-mail. I have the organization of the unit not the roster. LOU

    • Bill Rogers says:

      Question: was there a Carlyle W Rogers, initially PFC , through 31months, Aus. ocs , finally 1st Lt, acting Capt. Spring 42-to around Feb 45. New Guinea and north. Coast artillery. Thank you

    • Bill Sheaffer says:

      My uncle, Benjamin Sheaffer, was killed on Corregidor during Japanese air raids while manning an anti aircraft gun. Don’t know if he was a member of the 31st.
      Would appreciate any info as to his unit .

    • Rick.McDowell says:

      Was 1600 soldiers a correct count?

    • Rick McDowell says:

      Is 1600 soldiers a correct count?

    • Louis Bontya says:

      Rick, I have 114 Officers, 1,986 Men. LOU

    • Robert L. Coats says:

      Louis, sounds really close. Remember that the Army Air Corp, Artillery Corp, some Marine and Navy personnel also were included in the 11 thousand + Americans that were in the March. Along with Philippine troops.

    • P says:

      Rick, I also have many of the other unit listings in the Philippines. LOU

    • Louis Bontya says:

      Rick, I also have many of the other unit listings in the Philippines. LOU

    • Becky Bowers says:

      I would like a copy. I have a great uncle who was on the march.

    • Louis Bontya says:

      Becky, I only have the complete listing of the officers. If you want a copy of the organization, I will need your e-mail. Thanks. LOU

    • Mary Brown says:

      A friend of my parents met James Stanley at Itazuke AFB in 1960-62 and continued to be friends after their return to the states. I just read this amazing story and wonder if his name is on your list. He had children that live today.
      Thank you, Mary Farmer Brown

    • Grace Daniel says:

      I would like to see the listing. I believe my uncle, Joseph Crea, may be on it.
      [email protected]

    • Anne Armitage says:

      Thanks so much for your posts. Doing some research on men from my home town who fell during World War II. I have very little about two who died in the Philippines; would love to see the lists. My email is [email protected].

      The two men are:
      William Arthur Drummond
      November 10, 1917 – April 12, 1942
      PFC, US Army
      101 Med Regt, 26th Inf Div
      He is recorded as died, non-battle.
      Drummond is buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii.
      He was twenty-four.

      Edson Henry Elliot
      1919 – May 9, 1942
      Private, US Army Air Corps, 24th Pursuit Group, Headquarters Squadron
      His official cause of death is listed as “Prisoner of War under Japanese Control, May 9, 1942.”
      He is buried at Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines (Fort William McKinley Cemetery), Plot A, Row 8, Grave 114.
      He received the Prisoner of War Medal and the Purple Heart.
      He was twenty-three.

      Many thanks—

    • Ann Riall says:

      I would like a copy. My father was captured on Corregidor.

    • Louis Bontya says:

      Ann, please send me your e-mail and I will forward you a listing of the unit. LOU

    • Shirley Walton says:

      Thanks Louis, my email address is:
      [email protected]

  4. Stephen McManus says:

    What an incredible story (and piece of, mostly, forgotten history). It is a shame that US school system does not do a better job of teaching history in a way that makes it “alive” for the students, so they can truly under and appreciated the events and people involved. Instead, of connecting to the students in a meaningful manner, they are merely fed a dry list of names and dates that are to be memorized for a test and then quickly forgotten. The Bataan Death March should never be forgotten, in all of its brutality.

    • Cindy says:

      I worked with a teacher whose dad survived this march. He is now buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Her mom is buried beside him. He passed away about 15 years ago. My coworker was our Veterans Day speaker one year not long after he passed away. She gave his story.. a lot of tears in that gym that afternoon.

  5. Garyesue says:

    It looks like glass not silver, confusing.

  6. Kathryn Mierke says:

    Incredible story of resilience and heroism by Major Coats and many others. Thank you for posting/sharing these important facts of US military history. It is good to learn this The Shanghai silver bowl and cups are currently displayed in the US at Fort Drumm. Just happened to find this post. Proud to be an AMerican!

    • Shelley Moore says:

      My mother, M/SGT E.V. Moore served with Col Grau, one of the survivors of the Battan Death March. She was on Active duty at 3 rd Group Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment , California National Guard Reserve from Dec 1950 through Dec 1952 while the unit was deployed to Korea.
      I was born while she was on active duty which was not a usual occurrence for those days as active duty soldiers were not permitted to be pregnant during this period of time in our history. (I was a surprise to everyone including my parents ) As soon as she found out about me my Mother told COL Grau ( pronounced Grow) she would need medical leave towards the end of the month as she had just found out she was expecting a baby and was due at that time, he told her that if she gave birth in the next 4 months he would pay her hospital bills! So about 5 weeks later after visiting Mom and I in the hospital he actually did pay the bill! Mother immediately went back to work, taking only 2 weeks leave after my birth.
      Very Proud to be have been a ” military brat” even though it was for a short time.

  7. John Sarkis says:

    A member of my church, Michael Nackley, served with the 31st, was on the Bataan Death March, and died at the Cabanatuan POW Camp. His body was never recovered.

  8. B Miller says:

    I make quilts for our vets. I started when Agency on Aging started vet to vet program. I would give the quilt to be delivered on a visit. I got a call from the volunteer coordinator that one of the quilts was delivered. The person visiting was only allowed in living room and kitchen. She gave the quilt to the vet and he went into the bedroom. He called her in. She did go in and he had put the quilt on his bed. He loved it and was so grateful. The coordinator said there is more “He was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.” As a military wife I knew the story and am not ashamed to say I cried with joy.

    • Robert L. Coats says:

      Great message, my email is [email protected]

      I have my Dad’s full history which he kept in a small book from 8th December 1941.
      He was transferred to mainland Japan prior to the Bombing of Hiroshima.

  9. paul silverstone says:

    Thank you for helping find info about my cousin Seymour Demby. Most helpful

  10. M L Williams says:

    I am so grateful to learn these honourable men provided the silver for the manufacture of the beautiful bowl – when I read ‘Shanghai Bowl’ I assumed it was a’souvenir ‘ (looted) from Shanghai – I am so glad to be so wrong.

  11. Bobbi says:

    What an interesting n heart breaking story.

  12. Dick Simmons says:

    Beautiful workmanship! No wonder they spent two months trying to find it… a shame if it was left to the mountain.

  13. Craig says:

    Maj Robert Wray survived the March and was then a POW. He passed about two years ago, but I think of him often. Horrific things he experienced and saw. He was a true gentleman and I am always grateful that I had a chance to meet and learn from him. Thanks for your story. May these great people never be forgotten.

  14. Don Nunn says:

    My Uncle was with in the original “Polar Bears” in Russia. I was pleased to learn that the 31st continued to carry that name and what it means to these men. As a Veteran of VietNam I do appreciate the sacrifice and service of so many brave men and women. Thank you for sharing with us.

  15. Joe Hindle says:

    I served with the 5th of the 31st at Ft Benning ( Kelley Hill) in 1970 after serving in Vietnam with the 82nd. At Benning I was in the Bn S3. The bowl was not overseas, it was on prominent display in the lobby. At Benning it was called “the China Bowl.” We also had a gigantic cement statue of a polar bear outside bn hq. It was a little odd to see in Georgia.

  16. Red Ryder says:

    “Abandoned on Bataan: One Man’s Story of Survival,” is by Oliver (Red) Allen, as told to his wife, Mildred Allen. Oliver passed away in 2015 but not before telling his harrowing story. It’s a good read!

  17. MaryAnn says:

    REPLY TO Bill Sheaffer says:
    January 12, 2023 at 8:24 pm
    My uncle, Benjamin Sheaffer, was killed on Corregidor during Japanese air raids while manning an anti aircraft gun. Don’t know if he was a member of the 31st.
    Would appreciate any info as to his unit .

    The Headstone Application for your uncle notes that he was assigned to Battery M 60th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft)

  18. ERIC G. ARENTZ, SR. says:

    A truly GREAT, EMOTIONAL, historical remembrance of a wonderful group of individual warriors!!
    As a 24-year USAF career member; half enlisted & half commissioned; 1960-1984, with five combat tours, I had a good friend at McClellan AFB in Sacramento, CA., Francis Gabor, who was a Death March member! We honored his history and ironically, he was an almost finical collector of silver coins! We lived in the barracks together and at first, he was the barracks small loan specialist! A duty I assumed when he no longer wanted the task; until I married & moved out of the barracks!!

  19. As America grows older, our history continues to grow. I was just eight years of age when we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. I can still remember the fall of Corregidor. As American’s, we shall continue to honor those that gave their lives for our freedom. Let us never forget! My bio dad served in WWI. My step dad, brothers-in-laws, 8th Army Air Force, UK, and one in India. This Silver Bowl continues to honor all men and women who served our nation.

  20. Sherry Reynolds says:

    Because my husband served with the 31st Infantry Regiment in Vietnam, we had the privilege of meeting three Bataan Death March survivors. Paul Kerchum, possibly the last Of those survivors, passed away in his Arizona home in December, 2022, just 6 weeks shy of his 103rd birthday. He loved the opportunity to speak at association reunions about his experience and relished having a lead role in celebrating the historic The Shanghai Bowl—truly a buried treasure.

  21. Having been born in 1940 & growing up during WW2 in Culver City, California – with the occasional Air Raid sirens & searchlights – since we were very near the Pacific coast with Hughes Aircraft – Douglas Aircraft nearby. In the early to mid 1940’s I vividly recall seeing & reading about the brutal Bataan Death March. I especially remember the photo of General Jonathan Wainwright when he was released & being greeted by General Douglas MacArthur. Also, the photo of him on the deck of the USS Missouri at the signing of the end of the War in the Pacific with General Mac Arthur and the Japanese delegation ( Tojo – Hirohito – etc. ) – quite moving to say the least. I had 1 cousin who was in the USN who served on a ship in the Pacific, and 2 uncles who were in the US Army who also served in the Pacific. One of them – Kenneth Sorenson was shot & wounded by a Jap sniper on New Guinea & was a awarded a Purple Heart. My wife had a cousin – Donald Mead – who enlisted at the age of 19 & was a paratrooper. He jumped on June 6, 1944 = D-Day at Normandy & was shot & wounded. After recovering from his wounds he re-joined his unit and in December of 1944 jumped with them at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He was again shot – and mortally wounded. He was buried in Belgium – but then was exhumed in 1947 & re-interred in Arlington Cemetery. When my wife & I visited D.C. in 2017 we found his headstone and paid our respects. That was a very moving experience. God Bless all of our American warriors for their service to our GREAT nation.

  22. Ray says:

    I thought the Polar Bears were the 339th who fought the Bolsheviks in North Russia not the guys who guarded the port at Vladivostok in Siberia.

  23. Jim Warner says:

    I was born in Harrodsburg, Ky. In 1946. My parents operated a general store in Cornishville, Ky. until 1953. I remember very well Dobe Whittinghill, a survivor of the Bataan death March. Several young men from the Harrodsburg area were a part of the inhumane treatment as prisoners of the Japanese.
    Mr. Whittinghill was an alcoholic, trying to drown out the haunting memories of the death march and treatment as a prisoner of war. He would tell me frightening stories of fights that would break out in the prison camps as a rat or bug would enter their confines and become a morsel of food for the starving prisoners! As a young boy, I developed a respect for him and other veterans that continues to grow over 70 years later. God rest his soul!

  24. Sharon says:

    Amazing story. My Great-grandparents and Grandparents on both sides escaped USSR to live in Shanghai, Manchuria, Harbin and Tientsin, where my Mom was born (The People’s Republic of China). These places have since been renamed. They left in 1948 to settle in Israel. . Like the bowl, not many know about Jews from China.

  25. Jessica L. Blalock says:

    Good story! So much love and gratitude for our lads and the brutal times they endured. I wish all America would pay tribute and be ever conscious of the sacrifices made.

  26. Lynn Taylor-Buccafuri says:

    Please send it to me also? [email protected]
    Thank you in advance!

  27. Lynn Taylor-Buccafuri says:

    Hoping my comment comes through.
    Please send it to me also? [email protected]
    Thank you in advance!

  28. Charles L. Seipelt says:

    I married a gal from Kentucky and many of her relatives lived in and around Harrisburg, KY. (Isons, Deans and Sanders.) During one of our visits I was told that there were more National Guardsmen from Mercer County than any other single location in the US in that Bataan Death March. I don’t think any of these names were there but they claimed this to be true. I was very impressed by this claim and proud since I was in the Ohio NG (between Korea and Viet Nam) at the time I learned of this. Part of a lucky few. Can anyone support this information?

  29. Sally Meyers says:

    The story itself is a treasure. I, too, remember the horrors from abroad related through the news reels and radio broadcasts. At home there were the screeching sirens of air raids, cousins and neighbors drafted, troop trains and ration books. But we never learn! Thank you for telling this particular story and hats off to all the men and women who have served, are serving, and will continue to serve.

  30. Rick Tracy says:

    My Mom and Dad had a good friend (he was a classmate of my Mom’s) who was a Marine and was captured at Corregidor. He was at Carbanatuan POW Camp and later sent to Palawan. He was one of eleven survivors who escaped in December 1944 when Japanese soldiers poured gasoline on over 150 of those prisoners when they made them get in the trenches. The word came down from Japanese command to kill all POW’s. That was the Palawan Massacre. After his escape, he swam 5 miles and was picked up by friendly Philippine guerrillas. It was his story about what happened at Palwan that led to the Raid on Carbanatuan by the 6th Rangers to rescue those POW’s. Hampton Sides interviewed him for his book, Ghost Soldiers. There was also a movie made about that called The Great Raid. His name was Glen McDole and my parents and him remained friends until he died several years ago. I had the pleasure of knowing him and he was an incredibly humble person. He wrote a book about his POW experience called “Last Man Out”. I have it and I cherish it because he wrote a note in it to me and signed it. It’s a must read if you want to read about a survival story as well as the brutality inflicted by the Japanese. It’s still available on Amazon.

    • Jessica L. Blalock says:

      The Japs were so cruel. Horrific endings for many of our soldiers
      What an honor for you to know Glen McDole.
      Thank you for sharing this history.

  31. Karen Crocker McMillan says:

    Between 1972-1974 my father was stationed at Clark AFB, Philippines. I attended a massive Girl Scout-Boy Scout Jamboree of both US and Philippines Scouts on Corregidor, honoring the soldiers of the death march. Throughout the week we had daily ceremonies honoring each countries soldiers. My participation was a speech with a flag raising, at the flagpole of McArthurs ship that is cemented in place in a memorial area. I was wondering if there are still such memorial gatherings happening with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts all these years later to honor the history of our soldiers at Corregidor?

    Karen Crocker McMillan
    [email protected]

  32. Patricia A Clark says:

    I have been puzzled about why I can’t remember a lot of these memories and do see in the letters why I don’t . I was 7 when Pearl Harbor, we lived on the beach in San Diego. Remember the P-38’s flying over, ration books, gas and food rationing, black out curtains and the special light bulbs we used. They were black with a small orange circle on them. Also an air raid warden would stop if even a crack of light showed. I don’t know if my dad was a service member, but he was one of a group of pilot’s who ferried planes to Australia and found their way home by anyway they could and then go back again. Vaguely remember him in a suit of khaki pants and dark jacket. Have found a hat symbol of the RAF, that was his. His name was Don H Scott. This was such an amazing history lesson for me, did know about the death march, and all the brave men who lived and died, I thank them so much and have enjoyed reading all of this article and letters.

  33. Rick Jenkins says:

    My father, Mike S. Jenkins was in the 31st Infantry Regiment. He was very proud of the bowl. I knew the story of the bowl from him before I ever started school.

  34. Anthony Young says:

    PVT Robert Lee Anders Hurst assigned to the 429th Signal Company was also part of the death march. He died as a POW on Jul 27, 1942. He was a local from Indian River County, FL. Abie Abraham was there at the Cabanatuan Camp when he died of disease. I am interested in knowing anything further of him. Was the 429th Signal Company assigned or attached to the 31 Inf Regiment? Was the Regiment associated with the 31st Inf Division of WWI? I appreciate any follow-up. Hurst is honored on our Veterans Island Sanctuary.

  35. John Hawes says:

    I served with 4th BN 31st INF from 2002-2004 and was honored to drink from the Shanghai Bowl at our unit ball after returning from Iraq. We all knew the history of the bowl well, and it was an incredible feeling to share in the history and tradition of the Polar Bears. Pro Patria!

  36. Lynn Lewis says:

    Not article related. Trying to find out how to contact Jenny Ashcraft. She’s written pieces on the Civil War, Olustee specifically, and I want to ask Jenny some questions. Taking a chance she might see this post.

  37. Hi Jenny:
    Sorry I had to post this here but I’m not sure how else to contact you. I’m a reporter for the Chino Valley Champion Newspaper. I saw your piece on Esther Howland on Valentine’s Day cards and I was wondering if we could reprint it in our paper as a column. We are in Chino, California. We’d love to use the lithograph too. Is it possible for you to email me your story and attach an image of the lithograph? Also, if you have a head and shoulders photo of yourself, we’d love that too. If you give permission, please let me know how to describe your title so that we can include it in an italicized paragraph at the bottom of the column. Thanks so much.