Summary of the locations of Camp Three
Camp Three was commissioned in October, 1943 three or four miles north of Linju (now Linru) [lat. 34-09, long. 112-49], 50 miles south of the Yellow River in Honan (now Henan) Province. They moved into four abandoned living quarters of an old Buddhist Monastery which the men, having survived a grueling month-long-transit highlighted by heavy downpours and poor roads, named “The Temple of Wind and Rain.”
Captain Arden (Rowdy) Dow was the first camp commander; the executive officer was Lt. Frank Gleason. Food was abundant and healthy – eggs, mutton, potatoes, carrots, and bread – but the Americans found it monotonous. Mail, a problem throughout SACO, did not reach Camp Three until three months later on February 3. The radio equipment occupied a dirt-floored cave along with “exactly 17 Buddhas 2½ to 3½ feet high” (Miles, 1967, p 390).
Most of the class work concerned tactics, small arms, and demolition – the normal preparation for guerrilla activity. The training of the first class of 421 men began in November, 1943. There was only one interpreter and instruction was slowed by misunderstandings. One student who was asked “What is T.N.T.?” replied “It is one-third long and yellow” (Miles, 1967, p 391). The first class graduated in three months but the lack of equipment delayed their going into combat until the beginning of March, 1944.
In May, 1944 the Japanese appeared ready to move into the area. As a precaution the camp was moved 165 miles west to a middle school compound in Shang Hsien (now Shangxian) [lat. 33-51, long. 109-46], Shensi (now Shaanxi) Province.
On September 23, 1944, Camp Three was moved further west 80 miles from Shang Hsien to Niutung (now Niudong) [lat. 34-07, long. 108-42] which was 18 miles southwest of Sian (now Xian), Shensi Province. The camp was electrified in March. The chow was augmented during hunting season with pheasant, squab, ducks, venison and rabbit. The men especially liked to eat in town at the Sian Guest House and at Al Fay’s Welcome Restaurant. Nearby was the home of the 52nd Fighter Group, 114th Air Force.
Three more classes, one with 800 students, were completed by the end of December, 1944. Unfortunately many of the students were afflicted with scabbies but they were cured by a three-day treatment in the famous hot sulphur springs at Sian. The students were deployed to Chinese Columns 5 and 6. The Japanese offensive was such that the facilities at both Shang Hsien and Linju were able to be utilized.
Unit Three achieved good results despite shortages of equipment but COMO Miles noticed a few problems.
All of our camps, of course, were limited so far as supplies were concerned, though in this regard Camp Three was less unfortunate than most. But it had more than its share of troubles just the same—troubles that arose because, early in its existence, some of its officers and men were suspicious of their Chinese co-workers and impatient with them. Confronted by this unsympathetic attitude, the Chinese who were assigned to the camp responded in their usual imperturbable manner, walling in the Americans and telling them nothing. The result, naturally, was that Camp Three, for a long time, was less effective than it should have been. (Miles 1967, p 389)
In February, 1945, two Marines – Maj. Vincent R. (Dutch) Kramer, commander and Capt. James J. Hanley, Jr., executive officer – were assigned to, and did, bring the unit out of the early doldrums.
A group of 28 Americans and 28 Chinese were trained to be coastwatchers for the area north of Shanghai. These courses started in Mid April, 1945 and dealt with ship and plane recognition, radio, and aerology.
Unit Three trained 876 men for Column 5 and 732 for Column 6. A fifth class, of 1,443 men, was given accelerated training and sent to the regular Chinese Army because of the expected invasion of Sian. By the Spring of 1945 Unit Three had trained about 4,000 men. These troops played a significant part in retarding the Japanese advance.
COMBAT RESULTS OF COLUMNS ASSOCIATED WITH UNIT THREE
In August 1945 when the Japs capitulated, the unit was disestablished and the personnel flown to Shanghai to join other Rice Paddy Navy personnel. However, in proceeding to Shanghai, the commanding officer, Major Kramer, commandeered a Jap “Betty” plane with crew and proceeded to Tsingtao, Shantung, to collect intelligence for the Navy and, when Rear Admiral Settle arrived with his squadron, became a one-man reception committee for the seagoing Navy. (Stratton, 1950, p 136)
Miles, M. E., 1967, A Different Kind of War: Doubleday & Co, Garden City, NY. 629 p.
Stratton, R. O., 1950, SACO – The Rice Paddy Navy: C.S. Palmer Pub. Co, Pleasantville, N.Y., 408 p.
Provided courtesy of Charles H. Miles on November 20, 2010
Revised: May 13, 2011