A Different Kind of War

Title:                      A Different Kind of War

Author:                Milton Miles

Miles, Milton (1967). A Different Kind of War: The Little-Known Story of The Combined Guerrilla Forces Created in China by The U.S. Navy And The Chinese During World War II. Garden City, NY: Doubleday

LCCN:    67010399

D769.64 .M5


Date Updated:  February 16, 2016

The original manuscript of this book was in Chinese and the English was prepared by Hawthorne Daniel from the original manuscript. Foreword by Arleigh Burke.

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Admiral Miles co-headed the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO), the joint Chinese-American organization designed to create intelligence, coast watching, meteorological intelligence, sabotage, communications intelligence, and guerrilla warfare capabilities against the Japanese. Published after Miles’s death, this book was based on his original manuscript but prepared by Daniel Hawthorne. Miles was assigned to China by the U.S. Navy with only a very broad and general directive to guide him: to prepare the China coast for a future U.S. Navy landing and do what he could in the meanwhile to help the navy “heckle the Japanese.” He saw it as his duty and proper role to cooperate with an ally without reservation or guile. This conviction was a fundamental cause for his disagreements with other segments of the U.S. presence in China, apart from organizational jockeying for position of primacy in intelligence in the area, profound differences over the merits of the Chinese Nationalist government and its intelligence chief, and personality clashes.

What Miles has to say is partisan, and his conclusions in many instances are controversial. His claims of the strategic efficacy of certain of the SACO operations, especially in human collection, have been questioned, and his belief that SACO might have shortened the war in China if it had not been interfered with would be hard to prove. The book’s main value lies in its accounts of such matters as the organization and development of his Navy Group China, the history of jurisdictional battles of U.S. intelligence components there and of the rivalries that prevailed, the problems of liaison and joint efforts with an ally, and the difficulties of fusing clandestine intelligence and conventional military outlooks and organizations in China. See Smith’s OSS[2] or Caldwell’s A Secret War[3]. For an opinion running counter to Miles’s on the intelligence picture in China see Holmes’ s view from the navy’s headquarters in Hawaii (Double-Edged Secrets[4]). Strattons SACO—The Rice Paddy Navy[5] is another look at SACO by one of its veterans. Volume 2 of the U.S. War Department’s The War Report of the OSS[6] gives a good précis of the OSS’ s side of the story and its evaluation of SACO’s accomplishments.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[7]

Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Miles, who was then a commander, was ordered to establish weather stations in China and a coast watcher system to support the Pacific Fleet, and to collect information for possible landings on the China coast. From this original intelligence mission, the activity grew to the creation of the Sino-American., Cooperative Association (SACO), an organization for the training, equipping, and operation of an extensive guerrilla .force against Japanese occupation troops that eventually had more than 2,500 Americans and between 50,000 and 100,000 Chinese fishermen, pirates, police, and regular guerrilla forces. Miles also relates how jealousy and distrust of the Chinese head of SACO, General Tai Li, led the U.S. Army, State Department, and the Office of Strategic Services to duplicate intelligence and guerrilla operations in China.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 328-329

[2] Smith, R. Harris (2005). OSS: The Secret History of America’s First Central Intelligence Agency. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press

[3] Caldwell, Oliver J. (1972). A Secret War: Americans in China, 1944-45. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Univ. Press

[4] Holmes, W. J. (1979, 1998). Double-Edged Secrets: U.S. Naval Intelligence Operations In The Pacific During World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press

[5] Stratton, Roy Olin (1950). SACO—The Rice Paddy Navy. Pleasantville, NY: C. S. Palmer

[6] United States. War Department Strategic Services Unit. History Project. (1976). War Report of the OSS. New York: Walker and Co.

[7] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 65


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3 Responses to A Different Kind of War

  1. Pingback: A Secret War | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: SACO | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: OSS—The U.S. Office of Strategic Service, Chapter 18 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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