The Rice Paddy Navy: U.S. Sailors Undercover in China
ISBN: 978 1 84908 811 4
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 9 Jan 2015
During WW2, the United States Navy entered into the Sino-American Special Technical Cooperative Organization (SACO) agreement with Nationalist China, establishing an organization eventually growing to the size of about 2,500 Americans and 100,000 Chinese. SACO provided weather reports for the US Navy, trained Chinese guerrilla fighters, and collected intelligence on Japanese military movements. Despite these monumental achievements, history of SACO was largely forgotten in China due to the Communist takeover, and even in Taiwan (home of Nationalist China since 1949) and the United States due to the passage of time.
In The Rice Paddy Navy, 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. With the hard work performed by Miles and Dai, the intelligence provided by SACO helped the planning of major invasions such as the Philippines and Iwo Jima, all the while training a large irregular force that helped to keep thousands of Japanese troops fighting in China rather than being relocated to other war areas. WW2 in China was not as two-dimensional as just Axis vs. Allies; instead Kush successfully presented the wide array of conflicts between the Sino-Americans and the Japanese, between the Nationalists and the Communists, between the political leadership of China and the United States, and between the intelligence efforts of the US Navy, the US Army, and the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA). Unexpected stories of an Annamite Princess, the pilots of the Flying Tigers, and a US Navy outpost near Mongolia all added even richer dimensions to this already-exciting narrative.
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.
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal