By Alesha Monteith History The Rice Paddy Navy was a secret training organization in China during World War II that included the United States and China and operated behind enemy lines. The real name however was Sino American Cooperative Organization (SACO). Its goal was to get Japan to leave China. Leaders The leaders of SACO were Admiral Milton Miles, U.S. Navy, and Lieutenant General Tai Li, Chief of Chinese Intelligence. Tai Li worked for General Chiang Kai-shek. Admiral Miles General Tai Li Chiang Kai-shek Planning for SACO started in 1942. Admiral Miles was sent to China to meet with General Tai Li. Li said, “The United States wants many things in China, weather reports from the north and west to guide your planes and ships at sea, information about Japanese intentions and operations – mines in our channels and harbors – ship watchers on our coast, and radio stations to send this information. I have 50,000 good men … if my men could be armed and trained they could not only protect your operations, but work for China too. Would your country allow you to accept a commission as general in the Chinese Army, so that we could operate these men together?” Flags joined together to show cooperation between the United States and China during World War II. SACO started in 1943 as a U.S. Navy weather and intelligence reporting project. There were twelve weather stations located from the Gobi Desert down to southern China. The weather observers and agents would send information by hand crank radios to headquarters in Chungking. Weather Station – Sian, China Chungking would then send it to the Pacific Fleet Headquarters and to U.S. airplanes, ships, and submarines in the area. These reports were used in planning when and where to attack the Japanese. SACO coast watchers watched the Japanese ships along the coast of China so submarines could sink them. Map of SACO locations in China. There were about 18 training camps in China, Burma, and India. Other locations were used for intelligence agents, guerilla columns, and saboteurs. Communication was done by radio, runners, and homing pigeons. Other Duties • Worked with Chinese guerillas and pirates to map the coast for possible landing sites from Shanghai to Hong Kong. • Photographed underwater defenses. Wore Chinese disguises so they could take the pictures. • Trained Chinese Nationalist guerillas in sabotage, underground fighting, and handling weapons and explosives. • Rescue pilots shot down in Japanese territory. Rice Paddy Navy Statistics • • • • • • • • U.S. Navy Volunteers – 2,964 U.S. military killed – 5 Chinese members – 100,000 Chinese military killed – 10,000 Japanese killed – 31,345 Japanese wounded – 12,969 Japanese captured – 349 Ships sunk – 141; Trains destroyed – 84; bridges blown up – 209 Because of what SACO and their trained Chinese guerillas did, the Japanese were afraid to go far from their camps or secure areas. Japanese Prisoners My Connection to the Rice Paddy Navy Although the Rice Paddy Navy was a secret organization, I know about it because I had a relative who was in it and trained Chinese fighters. My Grandma’s uncle, Nelson Bowman, was a member of this secret volunteer organization. Nelson was born in Level, Maryland on October 23, 1920. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Nelson joined the Navy. In 1943 he volunteered for SACO. After going through training, he traveled by train from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. Uncle Nelson’s Journey To China Washington D.C. to San Francisco, California San Francisco to India From San Francisco, Nelson traveled by ship to Calcutta, India, by going around Australia. Calcutta, India to China From Calcutta, Nelson traveled by train then airplane over the Himalaya Mountains into Burma. From there he traveled by truck to Chungking, China. Main Base - Chungking, China Uncle Nelson told my Grandma stories about the airplane ride over the Himalayas. He said the plane was cold and the air thin. They thought they would run out of oxygen. Nelson was in China from July 1943 until December 1944. While in China, Nelson moved around a lot and said he helped train the Chinese how to fight and kill Japanese soldiers. Nelson 1941 (baby is Grandma) Nelson in Calcutta Chungking Training Grenade Practice Nelson with back to camera and gun over shoulder. Nelson also said they would rescue pilots that had been shot down over China. This is not a picture of a rescued pilot, but of a Japanese plane they had shot down. My Grandma did not know if Nelson had ever shot anyone while in the Rice Paddy Navy. But he was very proud of serving in it and with the people he served with. The Rice Paddy Navy started holding reunions every year in 1956, and Nelson only missed seven between then and when died in 2007. Camp 3 Button Thank You letter from Navy Letter from Adm. Miles I learned about the Rice Paddy Navy because of a relative that was in it. High school kids in Taiwan study about the group in History class. However most Americans have never heard of the group or what they did. This shows you that history books do not contain everything about history. To learn more, you need to dig deeper on a topic or ask a relative. If we let it, some history gets lost.