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Camp 5

 Summary of the locations of Camp Five

  •  Camp Five was established late in August, 1944, in Nanning [lat. 22-48, long. 108-18], Kwangsi (now Guangxi) Province

  •  In November, 1944, Camp Five was moved 130 miles northwest to Poseh (now Bose) [lat. 23-55, long. 106-34], in western Kwangsi Province

  •  Near the end of June, 1945, Camp Five moved back to Nanning

In May, 1944, LT Joseph D. Bennett, the new commander of Unit Two, and 1st Lt. M. S. MacGruer went to the Nanning area at the request of Gen. Shu, the head of the newly-formed Column 3, to teach guerrilla tactics.  Despite the fact that the local language was Cantonese the classes were very effective.  Approximately 1,000 troops, in two class groups, had been trained by the time that the decision was made to place a SACO camp in Nanning.

Camp Five was established late in August 1944 at Nanning [lat. 22-48, long. 108-18], Kwangsi (now Guangxi) Province.  Unit Five was made up with some Unit Two personnel; they occupied an old three-story French Mission.  Lieutenant Commander J. S. Shaver was in command and Lt. V. B. Farr, Jr., the exec.

Their mission was to train and support Columns 1 and 3, Cantonese-speaking guerrillas operating around Canton (now Guangzhou) and Wuchow (now Wuzhou) along the West (now Xi) River.  In the first week in September classes were started in aircraft identification, demolitions,  ambushes, street fighting, tactical indoctrination, and weapons – Thompson sub-machine gun, carbine, .45 pistol, and .38 revolver.  There were three ranges already available for practice outside the city of Nanning.

The food in Nanning was different than at most of the camps. Pop's "Lucky Cafe" served stateside-style hamburgers.  Fresh seafood and fruit, as well as French Indo-China beer; local wines were plentiful.

By early October Kweilin (now Guilin), 200 miles to the northeast had fallen to the Japanese and probably Nanning would follow close behind.  Unit Five ran a class of special assassination troops for work in enemy-occupied towns and helped with demolitions at the airport.

In November 22, 1944, just before the fall of Nanning, Camp Five was moved 130 miles northwest to Poseh (now Bose) [lat. 23-55, long. 106-34], in western Kwangsi Province.  The new site was close to the Hsiang River, which flows through Nanning.

Food was scarce; the region produced only one rice crop a year.  Building materials were depleted, the drinking water very unhealthy and all of the “oriental diseases” were endemic.  The normal fare was rice, bean sprouts, pork, and eggs; except in February when lack of funds forced the men to rely on “K” and “C” rations from the airfield.

At Poseh the American contingent was reduced by dysentery and malaria at times to only three healthy men.  Lieutenant Farr was evacuated and command went to Lt. James C. Witt.  There was a shortage of radiomen and only one was allotted to Unit Five; Chief Radio Mate Clinton L. Landreth was relieved in December by Radioman R. T. Cunningham.

Every day from 0700 to 2400 the lone radioman kept seven radio schedules, made reports on intelligence about Indo-China and South Kwangsi Province to both Chungking and Column 3, and maintained the aging equipment.  At the request of  the 14th  Army Air Force, Unit Five, with no weather instruments, broadcasted  “weather by inspection” reports for southern China every three hours.  The coding and decoding duties also fell to the solitary radioman.

Camp Five supported Columns 1 and 3 of the Chinese Commando Army.  Despite difficulties in communications the columns were effective; their January accomplishments were recounted by VADM Miles (1967, p 363-364) and are quoted below.

Column One succeeded in keeping at least one Japanese division in place.  In seventeen actions during January 1945, they attacked the railroad seventeen times, destroying three locomotives, thirteen cars, and about five hundred meters of track.  They burned two warehouse buildings as well as some aircraft repair shops.  They even captured a whole Japanese radio station, complete with a military radio school, and in doing so they broke up a class that was made up of soldiers who were specializing in radio, but in the process killed all the pupils.

 

Meanwhile General Shu and his guerrillas were active, but we in Chungking knew very little about it.  The reason was that Column Three’s units were operating so far from their headquarters that their reports didn’t come in for months.  But in April 1945, General Shu himself brought the January reports in to Chungking.

 

During three days—January 10, 11, and 12—they had had six battles, and had killed 210 Japanese.  A week later a scrappy Chinese major whose name was Yip, was out with only two soldiers when, coming upon a Japanese party of two officers and seven men, they had killed six but reported that the others got away.  On January 26 a battalion of Column Three guerrillas found two hundred Japanese and in a five-hour battle killed ninety.

On April 23, 1945, Unit Five grew from 6 to 21 men; enough “extras” for some to join to with the guerrilla outfits.  On May 11 two Americans, the first of this unit to be deployed with the Chinese, were attached to 130 “Special Operations” troops operating in and around Nanning.  On May 27th these troops were among the first to enter the recaptured city of Nanning.

Near the end of June, 1945, the camp was moved back to Nanning.  The Japanese had departed in a hurry and both the power plant and water works shortly were at full operating capacities.

In July, Kweilin and its airfield were recaptured; Column 3 was part of the attacking force.

By August, 1945, Unit Five had grown to a total of 33 men, of which 19 were operating with Chinese troops.  Among the important and timely intelligence gained from the field was the fact that the Japanese had a severe supply problem.  Only three or four rounds of ammunition were found on the dead and many of them wore clothing taken from civilians.

When the Japanese sued for peace in mid August, Column 1 and Unit Five were tasked to assume the military and civilian control of the Canton-Hong Kong area.  Column 1, with LTJG Robinson arrived in Canton on August 19.  Unit Five took possession of Wuchow on August 26 and then continued 135 miles east-southeast to join Column 1 in Canton on September 1

 

COMBAT RESULTS FOR COLUMNS TRAINED BY UNIT FIVE

  Column 1 Column 3
Japanese

     Killed

2,691 3,151
     Wounded 957 1,529
     Captured 28 9
Engines 11 0
Cars 36 0
Track (Sec) 959 1
Railroad Bridges 11 0
Highway Bridges 25 2
Motor Vehicles 24 0
Military Buildings 52 5
Boats 20 10
Steamers 12 1
Cars 0 0

 

Cited reference:

            Miles, M. E., 1967, A Different Kind of War, Doubleday & Co, Garden City, NY. 629 p.

 

Provided courtesy of Charles H. Miles on November 20, 2010

 

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