The Rice Paddy Navy: U.s. Sailors Undercover In China by Linda KushThe Rice Paddy Navy: U.s. Sailors Undercover In China by Linda Kush

The Rice Paddy Navy: U.s. Sailors Undercover In China

byLinda Kush

Hardcover | August 11, 2015

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After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy knew it would need vital information from the Pacific. Nationalist China was particularly well-suited to provide vital information about the Japanese and the Pacific weather patterns. Captain Milton 'Mary' Miles journeyed to China to set up weather stations and monitor the Chinese coastline-and to spy on the Japanese. After a meeting and a handshake agreement with Chiang Kai-shek's spymaster, General Dai Li, the Sino-American Cooperative Organization was born.

SACO consisted of nearly 3,000 American servicemen (from the Navy, Marines, and Army), 97,000 organized Chinese guerrillas, and 20,000 "individualists," including rival pirate groups and lone-wolf saboteurs. This top-secret network worked hand in hand with the Nationalist Chinese to fight the Japanese occupation of China while it erected crucial weather stations, intercepted and cracked Japanese code, blew up enemy supply depots, laid mines, destroyed bridges, sank scores of vessels, and trained Chinese peasants in guerrilla warfare. Its work supplied critical information to the U.S. military, rescued more than seventy-five downed aviators, and contributed to the felling of more than 26,000 Japanese-while losing only five of their own men. SACO-"the rice paddy navy"-was one of the best-kept secrets of the war.

Miles and his SACO men battled military attacks, harsh conditions, dangerous weather, and political in-fighting to provide unprecedented intelligence and training that helped further the Allies' cause in the Pacific. Working at times in tandem and at odds with the OSS, SACO helped build bridges between the Americans and the Chinese in a fight for the security of Asia. In The Rice Paddy Navy, Linda Kush reveals the story of this covert operation, uncovering the military accomplishments, diplomatic ties, and political wrangling that colored one of the most successful-and little known- efforts of World War II.

LINDA KUSH is a freelance writer and reporter whose work has appeared in World War II magazine, The Boston Globe, Weatherwise magazine, and community newspapers in the Boston area. She is a staff assistant for the HBS Alumni Bulletin at Harvard Business School.
Title:The Rice Paddy Navy: U.s. Sailors Undercover In ChinaFormat:HardcoverDimensions:316 pages, 9.46 × 6.36 × 1.16 inPublished:August 11, 2015Publisher:Osprey PublishingLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:184908811X

ISBN - 13:9781849088114

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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The U.S. Navy Mission in China
When America entered World War II in 1941, the U.S. Navy faced a long fight in the Pacific, and accurate weather forecasting would be one key to success. The weather data would have to come from China, which was occupied by Japan. Adm. Ernest King of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent Capt. Milton Miles to China to set up weather stations, monitor the Chinese coast, and spy on the Japanese.

Chapter 2: A Handshake Creates the Sino-American Cooperative Organization
Naval intelligence arranged for Miles to meet Gen. Dai Li, deputy to Nationalist Chinese Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. In China, Miles sought the cooperation of Dai and Chiang to establish and protect his weather and espionage network. Dai asked that in exchange, the U.S. Navy would train and arm Nationalist Chinese soldiers. Miles and Dai shook on the deal, and SACO was born.


Chapter 3: China in Political and Military Turmoil
China in 1941 was a virtual minefield of international and internal conflict. The Japanese occupied about half the country and were working their way west, while the Chinese Nationalists and Communists fought their foreign enemy and each other.

Chapter 4: Dai Li and Milton Miles
Dai, dubbed "the Himmler of China," headed the Chinese secret service under Chiang Kai-shek and had thousands of agents throughout Asia. Miles found in Dai an honest, no-nonsense partner. Their personal trust and friendship became the foundation for SACO, and their enemies placed million-dollar bounties on both their heads.


Chapter 5: The Perfect SACO - Fit, Intelligent, Skilled, and "a Little Crazy"
About 2,500 men fitting Miles' special profile were tapped to volunteer for "prolonged and hazardous duty on foreign soil." Most did not know where they were headed until they received Chinese language lessons en route. Long and lonely journeys landed them in Calcutta and then China.

Chapter 6: Calcutta and Over the Hump
Camp Knox in Calcutta was the jump-off point and support base for SACO. Men received training in Chinese culture. The Navy ran everything from a printing press to a battery factory. Flights "over the Hump" across the Himalayas in bare-bones aircraft were, for many, the scariest experience of their service.

Chapter 7: SACO Headquarters at Happy Valley
Miles and Dai established headquarters at Happy Valley in Central China, where Dai had a residence and what was reputed to be a prison for his personal enemies. Thousands of Chinese troops were trained there surrounded by flowering hills and armed Chinese sentries.


Chapter 8: SACO and the OSS: a Doomed Marriage
Col. William Donovan saw SACO as a way to achieve a foothold in China for the fledgling OSS. Miles was made Far East Coordinator of the OSS, but it didn't last long because Dai trusted only the Navy. In the aftermath, Donovan viewed SACO as an obstacle and worked against it in Washington.

Chapter 9: Army vs. Navy
Gen. George Stilwell, Commander of the China-Burma-India Theatre, didn't trust the Chinese and didn't like the Navy operating on the ground on his turf. SACO depended on the Army for transport of supplies, which Stilwell quietly kept bound up in Washington red tape. Though sanctioned by the Joint Chiefs and President Roosevelt, the State Department and the Army objected to SACO for choosing sides in a civil war and working in subordination to Chinese leaders. Inter-service conflict plagued the operation until the end of the war.


Chapter 10: Creating a Guerrilla Army
American Navy personnel taught Chinese recruits to use American firearms and disrupt enemy supply lines with explosives, plus photography, medicine, and other skills. Navy teachers led field missions against the Japanese with the freshly trained troops.

Chapter 11: Weather Forecasting
SACO fulfilled its original mission with 70 weather stations all across China in monasteries, caves, and urban centers. Navy and Chinese aerologists gathered weather data every day and radioed it to Happy Valley, where meteorologists analyzed it. They compiled forecasts and weather maps and sent them to the commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Chapter 12: Espionage and Coast Watches
Radio operators intercepted Japanese messages, agents received intelligence from Chinese police and shopkeepers, and mapmakers surveyed the countryside. Lone sentinels scanned the Chinese coast, monitoring Japanese shipping and naval military maneuvers.

Chapter 13: The Life of a SACO
The standard SACO uniform was army fatigues without insignia, but in the field, Americans adopted peasant clothes and yo-yo poles to blend into the landscape. They got around by rickshaw, sampan, sedan chair, and on foot, ever awed by Chinese peasants who could walk them into the ground. SACOs lived in military camps, Buddhist temples, and chicken coops, and they wore their rice rations in canvas tubes around their necks.

Chapter 14: War Stories
SACOs came home with stories fit for adventure comic books. To repair a generator, a mechanic walked hundreds of miles with a team of Chinese porters who carried a crankshaft. An officer commanded a motorized sampan carrying mysterious cargo that turned out to be dozens of gold bars. An American and four Chinese swam across a bay carrying explosives on their backs and sunk a huge Japanese freighter docked at Xiamen Harbor.


Chapter 15: Yangtze River Raiders
At the intersection of China's most important barge and rail traffic, demolition specialists mined shipping channels and blue up freight trains, disrupting Japanese supply lines.

Chapter 16: The Fightin' Forecasters of Camp Four
On the fringes of the Gobi Desert and a month-long journey by truck from the nearest city, 12 Americans gathered priceless weather data and created their own universe. They recruited and trained Mongolian nomads to join the fight against the Japanese and mounted bazookas on the backs of ponies to attack the enemy.

Chapter 17: SACO and the Flying Tigers
Gen. Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers counted on SACO to interpret their reconnaissance photographs, share intelligence, and rescue downed pilots.

Chapter 18: SACO Chaplains
A Roman Catholic priest and a Presbyterian minister logged thousands of miles on foot and horseback to meet the spiritual needs of SACOs all over China.


Chapter 19: Japan Surrenders
In the confusing days after Japan's surrender, the final naval battle of World War II was fought by two Chinese junks, one manned by Japanese, the other by the U.S. Navy. SACOs were ordered to the coast and secured it from Shanghai to Xiamen. Army and Navy personnel stuck in Shanghai after the war staged an Army-Navy football game in November 1945.

Chapter 20: Conclusion
SACO is praised for accomplishing more with fewer people and resources than any other group in the Far East. But some believe Milton Miles knowingly or unknowingly made the U.S. an accessory to a reign of terror by Chiang Kai-shek. Today in the People's Republic of China, Happy Valley stands as a museum similar to Auschwitz in Poland. But for the Taiwanese who bear the legacy of the Nationalist Chinese, SACOs were heroes who rescued China at its darkest hour. Taiwan government officials still attend the SACO veterans' annual reunions in the U.S.

Editorial Reviews

"Linda Kush masterfully presented the rich history of SACO, of its commanding officer Milton 'Mary' Miles, and its Chinese sponsor Dai Li. She vividly described the WW2-era America which understood so little about China (in fact, most Americans probably cared to understand) about China, and how Miles differed from most of the Americans who looked down on the Chinese. The Rice Paddy Navy offered a great deal of new information about the war behind Japanese lines and about a theater of war that many western readers would be unfamiliar with. I highly recommend this title to all WW2DB visitors." -C. Peter Chen, World War II Database"There is so much depth and insight here, that it is an unparalleled achievement based on source materials and key to any definitive collection covering events of the times." -The Midwest Book Review (February 2013)"The U.S. Navy conducting intelligence operations in the inner regions of China? Including arming and directing guerrilla bands to fight the Japanese? As far-fetched as that might sound, such is exactly what happened in World War II, in what was one of the best kept secrets of the war. Although several books have been published about the 'rice paddy navy,' Linda Kush's book is the most thorough exploration of the work of an extraordinary joint venture, the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO)." -The Washington Times"The Rice Paddy Navy imparts illuminating insights into the secret organization of US Navy personnel and Chinese guerillas during one of the darkest periods in the 20th century." -Jonathan Veres, (January 2013)"I recommend this book to any and all readers with an interest in the clandestine operations of the Second World War. This book opens new vistasinto what went on behind the scenes and how they affected victory in the Pacific in the long run. Anyone with an interest in military history or little known naval operations will truly enjoy this book." -Richard Mataka,"...Linda Kush reveals the story of this covert operation, uncovering the military accomplishments, diplomatic ties, and political wrangling that colored one of the most successful--and little known--efforts of World War II." -Reading Room Book Reviews (June 2013)