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The Rice Paddy Navy: U.S. Sailors Undercover in China

The Rice Paddy Navy: U.S. Sailors Undercover in China Book Review

By Jonathan Churchill Veres

Date of Review January 2013 Title The Rice Paddy Navy: U.S. Sailors Undercover in China
Author Linda Kush Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2012 ISBN 9781849088114
Format 304 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $24.95


"What the hell is the Navy doing here?"

Linda Kush explores the conception and creation of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) in her Osprey book, The Rice Paddy Navy, with this question. Conceived from coffee conversations in Washington D.C., and birthed by a handshake, SACO grew from one man to nearly 3,000 American servicemen, 97,000 organized Chinese guerillas, and 20,000 "individualists" – private saboteurs, Chinese pirates, et al.

Kush begins coverage with a concise introduction on SACO's conception. On December 8, 1941 US Navy Commander Milton "Mary" Miles woke from his sleep to a phone call from Rear Admiral Lee ordering him to go to China. Not picked at random, Miles made himself known for his coffee conversations in which the idea of an American-Chinese cooperative first found foothold. His mission: to collect weather data and relay it to the Navy, record Japanese movements and naval routes, and to hamper the Japanese occupation in any way.

The plot thickens. To achieve his daunting duty, Miles first had to earn the trust of Dai Li, head of Nationalist Leader Chang Kai Shek's Military Intelligence Service. Labeled "The Himmler of China" by journalists, Dai appeared ruthless and despised all foreigners. Through respect, patience, and a snub-nosed pistol, Miles won Dai's utmost confidence – and achieved the birth of SACO with a handshake.

What follows can only be described as an awe-inspiring account of stealth, struggle, and strength. Beginning with one base that evolved to 14 mobile camps, SACO exemplified speed, swiftness, and strategy. While demolishing Japanese railway lines, factories, and boats, SACO still provided the Navy with essential weather information that assisted in planning operations at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Leyte Gulf.

Kush regales the reader with fascinating facts and stimulating specifics. 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. Through cooperation, respect, and military genius, SACO proved that even a sleeping giant could evade the light of the Rising Sun.

Intensely indorsed.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!