Summary of the locations of Camp Eight
Marine Lieutenants Albert P. Close and Stewart L. Pittman, Pharmacist’s Mate John Holcombe, Storekeeper Claude B. Searcy, and Sgt. Jesse E. Morriss, walked the nearly 200 miles to Tsingtien (now Qingtian) from Camp One to meet with General Chow Shih Jeh about establishing a camp in the area. General Chow had accompanied then-Commander Miles during the latter’s inspection trip to the coast in May and July, 1942; the two had forged a solid friendship.
Camp Eight began at the end of July, 1944, at Yu Jo, located five miles southeasterly of Tsingtien [lat. 28-06, long. 120-17], Chekiang (now Zhejiang) Province. This training site was on a small tributary to the OuKiang (now Oujiang) River which flowed through Wenchow (now Wenzhou), 25 miles south-southeast of camp.
Camps Six, Seven, and Eight were placed to exert control over the harbors and other strategic key points along the east coast of China from Swatow (now Shantou) in the south to Hangchow Bay (now Hangzhou Wan) in the north.
The operating area for Camp Eight extended from a point half-way between Foochow and Wenchow (now Wenzhou) to Hangchow Bay and the islands east of the Bay, including the Saddle Island group; a northeasterly distance of 300 miles. The Saddle Islands lay 145 miles east-northeast of Hangchow and 80 miles east-southeast of Shanghai. Camp Eight operated Coast Watcher Net #2.
An early task of Camp Eight was to train Chang Kwei Fong’s pirate group, the “Green Circle Brotherhood.” The initial group of 458 pirates left the Shanghai area and had to pass through three different enemy-held areas; 59 pirates died on the way to school.
The first class began August 21, 1944, after the rifle ranges, armory, and godowns were completed.
On August 30 the Japanese started a major push toward Tsingtien from Lishui which lay 35 miles to the northwest. At 0200 August 31 General Chow ordered the camp to be evacuated to Fung Shan (now Fangshanxiang), five miles to the south. The Japanese had overrun the Yu Jo site the next day and the unit was moved 15 miles further south-southwest to Yuhu (still Yuhu), which was 35 miles west-southwest of Wenchow.
Unit Eight reached Yuhu [lat. 27-56, long. 120-08] on September 9, 1944 and continued the training. The first class of almost 500 graduated December 31. The camp taught guerrilla tactics and amphibious operations.
There had been a confusion as to the name of this camp and the original members called themselves Camp “Five”. On October 4, 1944 the new commanding officer, LCDR Saxe P. Gantz, arrived with 7 officers, 65 men, and orders that read “Camp Eight.”
The enlisted men occupied a two-story house, the outside of which was finished in board and whitewash that could be mistaken for English Tudor style. On the lower floor were the galley with new open-fire Chinese stoves and carefully screened food lockers, the head, a wash room with built-in mortar-and-brick washstands and an elevated gasoline drum that fed a shower, and a mess hall that doubled as a lounge. The sleeping quarters were topside and there were sufficient windows to provide good ventilation.
The Officers lived next door in a two storey house made of brick covered with stucco. The lower floor included a mess and lounge, the Commander’s office, the radio room, and the supply office. On the second floor were sleeping quarters and a sick bay.
The main floors of both buildings were dirt, lime, and sand pounded to a hard surface. Individual vegetable oil lamps provided lighting. There was no modern plumbing; water came from a near-by river. A stone wall surrounded the hostel compound.
Food was plentiful. Pork, and less frequently beef, were the main meat; chicken and duck was hard to find. There were potatoes, both white and sweet, rice, various vegetables, tomatoes in season, and catsup year around. Local-made butter and canned milk was still available although the factories had been forced to close. The unit could easily purchase bread, local rice wine (both yellow and white) and a local brandy; Japanese beer occasionally could be found.
The men played softball, basketball, and touch football. Every two weeks two men went to Yunwho (now Yunhe) – 40 miles to the northwest, as the crow flies, through high mountainous country – for the mail.
Camp Eight was pretty well isolated. Its men had to walk eighty miles merely to get their mail, yet this task was so widely looked upon as recreation that there was a waiting list for the privilege. The return journey, however, was easier, for they were able to run the rapids of a Chekiang river which left them only twenty-seven miles to walk. (Miles 1967, p 429)
On January 23, 1945, LT Livingston Swentzel, Jr. Assumed command. The American personnel in Unit Eight numbered 8 officers and 45 enlisted men.
The second class of 810 Chinese completed their two-month-long training on 12 March. A third class of 876 men underwent a one-month-long program that ended June 4th .
On March 22, 1945, the 9th Battalion L. P. A. (Loyal Patriotic Army) was formed with the graduates of first class; seven Americans – Lt. Steuart L. Pittman with six enlisted men – were assigned to the 9th. The 10th and 11th Battalions were organized with men from the second class on May 25 and June 6, respectively. Members of the third class formed the 12th Battalion L. P. A. and a Special Service Battalion. Before long each Battalion included at least six Americans – one officer and five enlisted.
Camp Eight's Tenth and Eleventh Battalions were formed of the second class that completed the training course. They had hardly been formed into actual fighting units before they went into action, and during the month that saw the Japanese driven from the Wenchow area the enemy suffered a total of 539 dead from their activities alone, though these newly trained battalions lost only forty-eight. (Miles, 1967, p 499)
On June 14 the 10th battalion captured Juian (now Rui’an), 10 miles south of Wenchow. Wenchow was taken on June 18. On June 22 the 11th took Loching (now Yuecheng) which was near the coast 20 miles northeast of Wenchow. By mid-July the 10th and 11th had pursued the Japanese northward to the area of Haimen (now Jiaojiang) a port 65 miles northeast of Wenchow.
Japan announced their acceptance of an unconditional surrender on August 14. Unit Eight received orders to break camp and immediately proceed to Shanghai. Lieutenant Swentzel and his men headed for Haimen where the group took over two Ningpo junks with Chinese fishermen crews; LT Swentzel commanded one and he assigned Lt. Pittman to the other.
Neither junk carried any weapons, but the Camp Eight boys divided what they had between the two craft, giving each one of them a .50-caliber machine gun, two short-range .30-caliber Lewis guns, and a bazooka. Bazooka ammunition, however, was in very short supply, so each of the junks was provided with only five rounds. With this somewhat limited “naval” force, Lieutenant Swentzel set sail from Haimen at dusk on August 19 with Japanese-held Shanghai as his destination. (Miles, 1967, p 529)
The next morning just north of Chungming Island they sighted a northbound junk which they felt was under Japanese control. Captain “Swede” Swentzel ordered his men to hoist an American flag. The Japanese, uninformed of the war’s end, fired a 75-millimeter field piece which was lashed to their foredeck; the first shot took away the rudder from Swentzel’s craft. A second round cleared one mast from Pittman’s junk
The Americans put out sweeps to replace the rudder, cleared away the broken mast, and gave chase; they needed to close the distance for their own weapons to be effective. The Americans crossed the bow of the Japanese junk and raked her fore and aft with machine gun fire. Gunner’s Mate Reid hit the enemy with four Bazooka rounds.
In the second junk, Gunner's Mate Rose, firing the .50-caliber machine gun from the bow, luckily hit the recoil mechanism of the Japanese 75, putting it out of action. Meanwhile, Motor Mechanic's Mate Baker, with the bazooka, equaled Reid's record and made four of his five rounds count. But now most of their ammunition was gone and, with little but hand grenades left, they ran alongside the battered Japanese junk intending to throw some of the grenades aboard. But nothing more was needed. There were too many dead and dying Japanese already and, lacking a white flag, the enemy ran up a dirty undershirt. Nor was that all. The Japanese lieutenant who was in command formally came aboard to surrender his sword!
Aboard the battered and somewhat crowded junk only four Japanese remained unwounded. Even their doctor was in bad shape. When the count was made, thirty-nine Japanese were found to be dead and there were thirty-nine prisoners. (Miles 1967, p 530)
This battle is the last U.S. Naval battle between ships under sail. Arguably it is the last battle of WWII.
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