The RICE PADDY NAVY
U.S. Sailors Undercover in China
By Linda Kush
This book covers the little known US Naval presence in mainland China during World War II. In the early stages of World War II the Japanese used the weather coming from the Asian mainland to their advantage. The advance towards Pearl Harbor was covered by storms crossing the Pacific at that time. This allowed the Japanese to travel the Western Pacific without the chance of being spotted by American warships or aircraft. The concern is Washington was that we had no information coming out of mainland China as to the weather conditions in that area.
In 1942, Chinese liaison Colonel Xaio, proposed to the US Navy to send a man to China to organize weather reporting stations. Commander Milton Miles was pegged to be the man. Miles was an “old China hand” as he had served aboard the gunboats in China before the war. He was however, compassionate about the Chinese and their culture, and would go out of his way to not make the Chinese feel inferior, as many “old China hands” did.
He was briefed about who he would be working with in China, notable Chang Kai-Shek’s spymaster Dai Li. The dossier on Dai Li marked him as a hard man, who had an evil character. Since this was compiled by people with little compassion for the Chinese, Miles reserved judgment. After traveling to India and then finally getting space on the Air Force transports “over the hump”, he landed in China. He was approached by agents of the spymaster and finally got to meet the man himself. They formed an instant respect for each other. Some of the items in the dossier on Dai Li had said he had his mother killed for working against him; this was not true, as were many of the other items in the dossier.
Miles and Dai Li traveled around China, through Japanese occupied areas and Communist areas as well picking out the sights for the weather stations, some of which would also become training bases for demolition teams and for commandos and policemen. The organization formed by this partnership became the Sino-America Cooperation Organization, or SACO.
During the course of its life SACO trained some 97,000 Chinese guerillas to carry out raids on Japanese positions and supply columns. While doing this, they still provided the Navy with some three weather reports per day.
During the course of the war, the OSS tried to take over SACO with its philosophy that the Chinese were inferior and needed to be led by the nose. Miles fought this and the SACO group continued to be an independent organization. SACO personnel, some 2,500 sailors’ marines and soldiers endured military attacks, harsh conditions and much political in-fighting.
Another job of the SACO personnel was to prepare plans for the naval invasion of the Chinese mainland so China could be used as a staging area for the eventual invasion of Japan. The dropping of the Atomic Bomb and the subsequent surrender of the Japanese prevented those plans from being carried out.
I recommend this book to any and all readers with an interest in the clandestine operations during the Second World War. This book opens new vistas into 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.
This book is available from Osprey Publications.
This book is available in three formats and they are;