UNRRA official in Mukden - Our Passports
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  • UNRRA official in Mukden
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UNRRA official in Mukden


1946 US passport for a possible intelligence officer.


It is always a thrill when I come across a WWII related passport or travel document. The pleasure is always greater when it is connected to the Far East and especially to China.


My long stay in Beijing has opened my eyes to events of the conflict that raged in the Pacific and in the mainland. The family connection to the atrocities of World War Two and the Holocaust has strengthened my interest and feelings to the plight of those during the long horrific years of fighting in Asia and to the suffering during the war under Japanese occupation.


My interest got very strong to the occupation of north-eastern China known as 东北, the area where the Manchurian minority was living for centuries. The area, rich in minerals and mines was always sought after by both Imperial Russia and Imperial Japan, and for some time changed hands several times, eventually being fully invaded and occupied by Japanese forces at the end of 1931, followed by the establishment of the Manchurian Empire the next year.


The puppet-state known as Manchuria and its occupation ended in late 1945, when the Soviet Red Army invaded and liberated it in August. The occupying army evacuated the North-East the next year and handed it over to the Chinese communist forces who slowly began pushing the Nationalists out of cities that they controlled. The passport in this article was used to travel in 1947-48, the period of time where the columnist forces were in near full control of China and also in a large city up north called Mukden, now days Shenyang (沈阳).


United Sates consular passport number 768 was issued to Robert Dale Barendsen aged 23 at Manila on March 27th 1946. The document was issued by consul general Paul P. Steintorf and later on endorsed by vice consul Paul J. Haldeman (page 6). His occupation is classified as “UNNRA Observer”, but I personally doubt this. On-line records indicate that he was an intelligence officer during both WWII and the Korean War with a “short spell” working for the CIA in the 1950’s, so one can assume that he was sent there not on humanitarian aid purely.


The passport has a Chinese consular visa (No.84) issued at their consulate in Manila the day after his passport was issued, and after arriving in the mainland, another 2nd visa, this time issued by the Nationalist foreign ministry in Shanghai, dating from August 25th and good for travelling up north the Mukden (Shenyang – 沈阳). Robert surely used this visa because his passport is extended by the US Mukden consulate on October 22nd 1947 by vice consul William Stokes who 2 years later was arrested by the Chinese Communists on the charges of espionage! The paper headlines screamed “Chinese Communists seize US vice consul at Mukden!”


On November 20th 1947 Robert returned south to Shanghai where he obtained his return visa back home at the US consular section at the consulate general. The journey home was to take him through the Philippines again and he boarded a boat on November 21st that temporarily stopped at the British Colony of Hong Kong 9 days later, transiting though Manila on December 2nd.


Additional material that came with this superb passport is his medical examination and inoculation papers: one issued in Mukden (!) and the other in Shanghai; both rare on their own.


Have added images of this war-related treasure.




Thank you for reading “Our Passports”.

Neil Kaplan
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