SACO [Sino-American Cooperative Association] in China During World War II


Related Resources:
Vice Admiral Milton E. Miles, USN biography
Rear Admiral Murr E. Arnold, USN biography
SACO Oral History


NAVY DEPARTMENT [Press Release]
HOLD FOR RELEASE
PRESS AND RADIO
UNTIL 8:00 P.M. (E.W.T.)
SEPTEMBER 13, 1945
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD!
AMERICAN NAVAL GROUP AND CHINESE GUERILLAS
OBTAINED VALUABLE DATA
WHILE OPERATING AMONG JAPANESE FORCES IN CHINA

Japanese surrenders in China today had progressed so far that the U.S. Navy and the Chinese Government felt safe in lifting the curtain from another of the "best kept" secrets of the war - a U.S. Naval Group with members serving in scores of Chinese units all over China - a united effort that has produced a vital contribution to the smashing blows of the Pacific Fleet against Jap-held Islands, the Jap Navy and, finally, the whole of Japan.

Secrecy meant life to this Allied organization while many of its units lived and worked in Jap-held areas. Now those Japs are disarmed. Now friends and families can be told their men's proud secret.

This is the tale of an amazing military achievement made possible only by the natural and basic friendship of Americans and Chinese, and by their unwavering determination to defeat the common enemy. Friendship was truly its basis - friendship was the secret of its power and "Friendship" was the code name that protected its members.

The story of Friendship Project begins back in the first few weeks after Pearl Harbor when the Navy and the National Military Council of China, laying immediate foundations for offensive action against Japan, moved to establish a weather service in the Jap-held areas out of which the weather comes across China and Japan into the Pacific.

After preliminary discussions, the importance and possibilities of the project were recognized by all concerned. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek assigned the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics of the National Military Council to cooperate with the American representatives and provide the backing of the forces and facilities which it operated in all parts of China, while Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, U.S.N., Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations, and General of the Army George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff Of the Army, sent Rear Admiral (then Commander) M.E. Miles, U.S.N., to complete the arrangements and head the American participation.

Thus aided by the Chinese Government, the Fleet was getting regular weather reports from many occupied areas in the Far East by the end of 1942. Further, it was discovered that this weather project opened other important possibilities both to the United States and to China.

For the Navy, it expanded readily to provide coastal intelligence - for the Chinese, to improve general intelligence. China assigned substantial under-cover forces to protect American observers. The Navy, using Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel also, gave these men training and equipment, and they became the best organized and most effective of all Chinese guerillas engaged in fighting the Japs. Army cooperation, including Air Transport from India over the 'Hump' benefitted Friendship from the start. The Office of Strategic Services also contributed greatly in many ways, notably in the assignment of particularly well qualified personnel and the establishment of special courses which augmented the normal naval training of candidates for duty with the project. The Chinese requested Friendship training and equipment for additional guerilla forces, the United States obliged.

Cooperation in Friendship Project grew closer and its scope became more broad. As each good turn done by one side opened new opportunities to the other, this informal Chinese-American organization soon found the United States Fleet and Chinese military organizations relying on its continued efforts.

Soon the joint activities had so expanded as to need substantial and dependable logistic support, and the responsible heads of the informal enterprise, General Tai Li and Rear Admiral Miles, proposed a solid basis for continued operations. Their proposals found approval in both Governments and early in 1943 were incorporated in a formal agreement which was negotiated by Premier - then Foreign Minister - T.V. Soong and the late Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, and approved by the Generalissimo and the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This agreement created the Sino-American Cooperative Organisation - "SACO" - which ever since has integrated the common interests of the Chinese Central Government and the U.S. Navy in the war against Japan. General Tai Li was appointed Director and Rear Admiral (then Captain) Miles was appointed Deputy Director.

Under this agreement, China and the United States operated what is probably the most closely integrated allied organization that ever surmounted a language barrier.

Chinese and American personnel lived, worked and fought side by side, knowing that they were the only source of essential intelligence in China for the prowling U.S. Fleet and for our submarines just off the coast.

SACO units set up weather, communications and intelligence stations all the way from the borders of Indo-China to the northern reaches of the Gobi Desert, with a concentration of activity along the China Coast behind the north-south Japanese lines.

Usually it was possible to enter or depart from Japanese-held territory by air, but SACO Americans became adept at Chinese disguises and, guided by SACO Chinese, they slipped safely through enemy lines whenever and wherever they chose. Through months and years not one SACO member was detected.

SACO weather observers and other agents equipped with radio communicated intelligence promptly to SACO headquarters where the information was analyzed, condensed and flashed directly to Pacific Fleet Headquarters and to listening air, surface and submarine units at sea. Fleet operations in the Western Pacific made the most of China weather reports, especially in planning and executing hazardous carrier strikes despite the treacherous weather conditions prevailing near Formosa and the Japanese home islands.

SACO coast watchers played an important role in the submarine campaign against Japanese shipping, providing the United States undersea craft with exact information which enabled them to intercept enemy ships and take a heavy toll of destruction. They also served the 14th Air Force, reporting not only Japanese shipping but troop movements, supply concentrations, airfield developments, bridges and other strategic targets which the hard-hitting Army flyers promptly attacked. In addition, all SACO intelligence and weather reports were furnished promptly to Chinese and American Army Headquarters.

During the critical Japanese drive on Kwellin in August 1944 when Major General Claire L. Chennault's planes were having difficulty in locating enemy columns advancing through rugged terrain northeast of the city, Lieutenant Stanley E. McCaffrey, U.S.N.R., of 1126 South Friends Avenue, Whittier, California, a SACO officer attached to the 14th Air Force, joined front-line Chinese forces, established air-ground communications and stuck to his post only a few hundred yards from the enemy for 19 days in spite of injury from the constant mortar and artillery fire. An officer of the 14th reported, "It was as if our planes were being led by the hand." For his feat of bravery and endurance, which aided the Army flyers to kill 3,000 Japs and knock out 11 75 millimeter guns, Lieutenant McCaffrey received the Army Bronze Star.

Sparked by Naval Group China, which provided trained mine warfare officers, the 14th Air Force began aerial mining, of enemy-controlled waters as early as October 1943. SACO forces furnished intelligence for Major General Chennault's LIBERATORS to plant mines along the coastal shipping routes, in Jap-held harbors and on the vital inland water routes of the Yangtze River. As thousands of tons of enemy shipping was sunk, transportation routes were paralyzed and ports were closed for weeks while the frantic Japs tried to clear them of mines. A principal achievement of these mining operations and of SACO coast watchers was to force Jap shipping routes far out to sea - in deep water where they became prey to U.S. submarines.

A Naval Photographic Interpretation Unit provided by SACO assisted the 14th Air Force in recognizing and destroying Japanese vessels and facilities.

SACO played a major role in the 14th Air Force System of patrol in the China Sea-Phillipines Sea area which was of direct operational value to the Pacific Fleet. In October 1944 it gave the first intelligence of an approaching Japanese Carrier Task Force during the crucial battle for Leyte Gulf.

On their side the Chinese provided guerillas to protect the American observers. For their role the Navy trained and armed these guerillas, who later used their new weapons and "new skills in modern warfare and formed demolition squads to kill Japanese, blow up trains and destroy or capture great quantities of enemy material and equipment. Soon they wanted American observers to accompany them and requested that the American instructors whom they admired so much should plan their operations with them and assist in leading them in combat. SACO demolition squads became an important force in the war in China, giving reliable and effective service in many assignments under the campaign plans "of the Generalissimo and Lieutenant General Albert Wedemeyer, his Chief of Staff and Commander of all U.S. Forces in the China Theater.

In the early years of the war, Chinese guerillas had lost in combat approximately three men for every Jap killed. SACO-trained and equipped guerillas promptly increased the toll of Jap losses in casualties, equipment and supplies and in 1945 reversed the ratio and killed more than 2,000 Japs a month at a cost of less than one Chinese for three Japs.

Used chiefly in ambushes, raids on outposts, patrols and small garrisons these troops struck repeatedly against roving Japs out on search for food in rural areas. By repeatedly wiping out these foraging groups, SACO guerillas cut enemy food supplies and made the Japanese afraid to venture from their strongholds except in force, in some areas the guerilla pressure was so great that Japanese soldiers were weakened seriously by starvation.

Demolition work against highways, railroads and river traffic was effective in cutting enemy communication routes. Sabotage experts employing explosives did wholesale destruction to barracks, assembly halls, factories, storage dumps and warehouses.

Raids against anchored Japanese vessels and small craft resulted in the sinking of many vessels and capture of others. In one of many such raids a sabotage unit of Chinese and Americans attacked a freighter of 1,000 tons docked in Amoy at night early this year, using delayed charges to kill or injure all personnel aboard, destroy the freighter and throw the Amoy area into confusion. Other sabotage units developed special tactics for operations against river and lake craft in the Yangtze River Lake area and were successful in attacks on this Japanese supply route at many points.

SACO guerillas from June 1, 1944, to July 1, 1945, killed 23,540 Japs, wounded 9,166 and captured 291. They destroyed 209 bridges, 84 locomotives, 141 ships and river craft, and 97 depots and warehouses. SACO activities have been inspected in recent months by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, United States Ambassador Patrick J. Hurley and Lieutenant General Wedemeyer and received high praise from each.

Maintaining constant pressure against Jap garrisons along the China coast, SACO troops were prominent in the liberation of Foochow and Wenchow. Some SACO units, including several Chinese Naval Officers were trained in the United States for amphibious work. These units captured and occupied several of the smaller Jap-held islands along the China coast.

Recognizing the special difficulties in keeping Japs and puppets from infiltrating into Free China, SACO Chinese stressed assistance in identification and security. Aided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the Navy provided a training unit manned by officers and men with experience in the various technical phases of United States law enforcement. Improvement in Chinese security was rapid. SACO's amazingly light losses while working in Jap-held territory, and the very fact that this story is a disclosure today, both testify to the value of this effort.

The Navy provided SACO with medical personnel and supplies not only to care for SACO Americans but to overcome critical shortages which had handicapped the Chinese. Small hospital units set up in some forward areas saved the lives of many SACO men wounded in combat.

Despite operations in some of the most disease-ridden areas of the world, Navy medical officers by rigorous preventive measures maintained a high standard of health among the personnel of SACO and were able to bring modern medical care to thousands of Chinese allies who had never known it before.

Working closely with other rescue agencies and loyal Chinese civilians, SACO aided in the rescue of many Allied fliers brought down in Japanese territory. Up to July 1 these included 30 pilots and 46 aircrewmen, both American and Chinese, and Don Bell, a United States civilian war correspondent.

In a report on the rescue of his party, Bell wrote, "Imagine our gasps of amazed delight when told that there was a U.S. Naval Station just 80 li (about 27 miles) away. Here we had been shot down less than a mile from a Jap garrison, we had been shelled, we had been chased by motor boats and searched for by Jap planes less than two hours ago - and here was a man telling us that we were within a few hours of safety. We met the Navy within 24 hours. Boatswain's Mate Howard W. Tucker, Jr., of Randall Street, West Annapolis, Maryland, was out looking for us. When we saw Tucker, swinging along with a Tommy-gun over one shoulder and a bag of iron rations over the other - well, you can talk about a sailor's welcome, but you haven't seen anything."


Source: Vertical file, SACO 1942-1945, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command.