SACO (pronounced SOCKO), Sino-American Cooperative Organization, was a U.S. Naval Group which operated during World War II behind Japanese lines in China. Some of the men who walked the seemingly endless berms around the flooded rice fields declared that they had joined a Rice Paddy Navy. SACO consisted of 2,964 American (Navy, Army, and Marine) servicemen, 97,000 organized Chinese guerrillas, and 20,000 “individualists” who included rival pirate groups as well as lone-wolf saboteurs.
Aided by the Chinese Government, SACO supplied the Fleet with regular weather reports from many occupied areas in the Far East by the end of 1942. The group successfully rescued 76 downed aviators. 71,000 Japanese were killed as the result of actions by and information from SACO.
The American casualty rate was noteworthy, three were captured and only five were killed. Unknown to most of the Americans was that each was “protected” by a Chinese, usually unseen, who considered the loss of his charge a great dishonor to his own family and ancestors.
The Rice Paddy NAVY
Half a century has passed and finally the U.S. Navy and the Chinese government feels safe in lifting the curtain from another on the “best kept” secrets of the war – a U.S. Navel Group with members serving in scores of Chinese units all over China – a united effort that produced smashing blows of the Pacific Fleet against Japanese held islands, the Japanese navy and finally, the whole of Japan.
Secrecy meant life to this allied organization while many of its units lived and worked in Japanese-held areas. Finally its story can be told.
This is the tale of a smashing 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.