Morris Cohen file photo [28970]

Morris Cohen

Given NameMorris
Born3 Aug 1887
Died7 Sep 1970


ww2dbaseAbraham Mialczyn was born in Radzanów, Russia (now Poland) in 1887 to Josef Leib Miaczyn, a wheelwright, and mother Sheindel Lipshitz. In 1889, the family emigrated to London, England, United Kingdom to escape anti-Jewish persecution. While in Britain, his father changed the family surname to Cohen for the ease of pronunciation; in turn, he now went by the name of Morris Abraham Cohen, with Morris being an approximation of the Yiddish name Moishe. He attended the Jews' Free School in London, but poor behavior and an arrest in Apr 1900 (suspected of being a pick pocket) led him to be transferred to the Hayes Industrial School, which also served as a sort of a juvenile detention center. He was released from Hayes in 1905, and his parents sent him to western Canada for a new start. In Saskatchewan and Alberta, he earned a living at various times as a farm laborer, a carnival worker, a gambler, and a con artist. Once settled down in Edmonton, Alberta, however, he seemed to have turned his life around a bit, becoming a real estate broker with good reputation, so much so that Attorney General Sir Charles Wilson Cross appointed him to serve as the Commissioner of Oaths of the province. During this time in western Canada, he befriended a number of Chinese railway workers, something unusual among Caucasians at the time. He joined a Canadian chapter of the Tongmenghui, a political organization originally established by Sun Yatsen which aimed at overthrowing the Qing Dynasty of China in order to establish a democratic republic. Cohen soon became a firearms instructor for fellow Tongmenghui members. During WW1, he served with the Canadian Railway Troops in Europe, supervising Chinese laborers while not directly engaged in active fighting. He returned to Canada after WW1. In 1922, he was personally recruited by Sun Yatsen's staff. In Shanghai and Guangzhou, he trained men loyal to Sun Yatsen in hand-to-hand combat and the operation of firearms. He also at times served as Sun's personal bodyguard. Around this time, he acquired two additional names. "Ma Kun", an approximation of the first syllable of "Morris" and the syllable of "Cohen" that was easier for Chinese speakers; "Ma" also happened to be a surname common among ethnic Hui people in far western China, thus somewhat fitting for a foreigner. The second name, "Two-Gun Cohen", came out of his habit of carrying two guns. He remained in China after Sun's death in 1925, working in various capacities for various employers, including a number of warlords who had no intention of continuing Sun's ideals), though Cohen was still viewed as a westerner who had the interest of the Chinese people at heart. In the 1930s, he was given the rank of honorary lieutenant general (zhongjiang) by the central government. When WW2 began in 1937 with the Japanese invasion, Cohen worked with the Chinese Army in the field of logistics, while he also gathered casual intelligence from western circles regarding Japanese sentiments and troop movements. The British Special Operations Executive, established in 1940, secretly hired him for a number of intelligence gathering missions in China. In Dec 1941, he was present in Hong Kong working for the British government as Japanese troops advanced. He arranged the narrow escape of the sisters Song Qingling (Sun's widow) and Song Ailing (wife of Vice Premier H. H. Kung, aka. Kong Xiangxi) out of Hong Kong, and then remained at the British colony in a counter-intelligence capacity. He was captured by the Japanese in late Dec 1941 and was imprisoned at the Stanley Prison Camp on the southern side of Hong Kong island. Although ill-treated by the Japanese guards, he was fortunate enough to be part of a rare prisoner exchange between the Anglo-Indian Army and the Japanese Army in late 1943. Returning to Canada, he was awarded a large pension by the United Kingdom and Canada. He settled in Montreal, Quebec and married businesswoman Judith Clark. In 1947, while the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was being debated, upon learning that the Chinese delegation was planning to oppose the partition (thus opposing the creation of a Jewish state), he traveled to San Francisco, California, United States in an attempt to persuade the Chinese delegation to vote otherwise; while Cohen later claimed credit for China having abstained from voting on this issue, it was generally agreed that it was the US government's threat to withdraw a $60,000,000 aid package that actually changed China's vote. Cohen's habit of telling exaggerated, and sometimes outright false, tall tales grew during the post-war years. He often claimed great deal of credit for the modernization of China in the 1920s and 1930s. He even claimed to have had an affair with Song Qingling. After China split into two countries after 1949, he befriended political leaders on both sides. In 1955, after boasting that the Communist government was among the most capable in modern Chinese history, most leaders in the Republic of China (Taiwan) broke ties with him. He and his wife divorced in 1956, after which he moved to Salford, England and lived with his widowed sister Leah Cooper. He worked as a consultant for several firms, including Vickers and Rolls Royce. In the late 1960s, he proclaimed support for the Cultural Revolution, a disastrous sociopolitical movement that resulted in the death of 500,000 to 2,000,000 people in Communist China; this further distanced himself from his former colleagues in Free China. Cohen passed away in 1970 and was buried at the Blackley Jewish Cemetery in Manchester. Official representatives from both China and Taiwan attended his funeral.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia

Last Major Revision: Feb 2020


Morris Cohen and Chiang Kaishek, Taiwan, early 1950s

Morris Cohen Timeline

3 Aug 1887 Abraham Mialczyn was born in Radzan√≥w, Plock Governate, Russia (now Poland).
7 Sep 1970 Morris Cohen passed away in England, United Kingdom.

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Morris Cohen and Chiang Kaishek, Taiwan, early 1950s

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