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Pirates

There were three important pirate leaders that operated along the east coast of China; two of the three worked closely with SACO.

In May, 1944, Gen. Tai and COMO Miles went to Tung Feng (now Dongfeng) in Fukien (now Fujian) Province, While visiting a school for agents located in a temple compound they held secret meetings with representatives of two pirate bands.

A grim-looking man with a handlebar mustache represented the “Brethren of the Circle,” also known as the “Green Circle Brotherhood.”   His important message was that the head of the Brethren, Mr. Chang Kwei-fong, wished to commit to Gen Tai.

A certain Chang Kwei-fong had a fluid force known as the “Brethren of the Circle” that was said to number somewhere between eighteen hundred and twenty-five hundred, and his headquarters were on Tsungming Island off Woosung at the mouth of the Yangtze River.  In addition to these, he also controlled some eighteen thousand operators who did many things, including smuggling and, probably, opium passing.  So powerful was this somewhat vaguely organized outfit that it more or less controlled the coast throughout the three-hundred-mile section that extended from Shanghai south to Wenchow. (Miles, 1967, p 248)

The Brethren also were active up the Yangtze River as far as Kiukiang (now Jiujiang) in northern Kiangsi (now Jiangxi) Province, a river distance of 450 miles.  Many of the members were merchants, inspectors, and cargo carriers; they lived ashore and could be mobilized for large operations.

The Japanese used the Tsungming Island facilities as their headquarters and had made Mr. Chang Kwei-fong a member of the Japanese general’s staff.

The chief of staff of the Brethren already was working with Gen. Tai’s Blue Shirts in Shanghai.  She had organized women couriers into a patriotic bicycle corps which smuggled information, material, and even escaped prisoners through Japanese lines.

This female chief of staff also was a qualified junk master.  About this time a popular comic in the United States, “Terry and the Pirates” by Milton Caniff was running a story line about a lady pirate helping the Americans; the comic exploits were close enough to the true ones that the higher-ups in Washington suspected a “leak.” 

Captain J. C. “Jeff” Metzel, in charge of the Washington end of SACO, called on Mr. Caniff and determined that the lady-pirate story was a work of pure fiction and Caniff’s imagination.  The cartoonist was told that the Japanese might read the comics and immediately wrote the swashbuckling lady out of his script.  In 1956 Milton Caniff sent a poster to the SACO reunion at Hartford, Connecticut; his principal character, Steve Canyon, announced “The Japs never did learn of our real secret weapon in World War II . . . ”

General Chang Yee-chow promised SACO 8,000 troops for the battle against the Japanese; he was the leader of  4,000 pirates in the area around Foochow (now Fuzhou).  His headquarters were on Matsu Island, 40 miles off the coast at mouth of the Min River, which flows through Foochow.  The fleet of this southern pirate group consisted of 18 Junks; the 14th Air Force had sunk two and damaged two more.

SACO was unable to work out a recognition signal system between the pilots and friendly junks which carried no radio equipment; in general all junks looked alike.  After the bays which were home ports for the friendly pirates were identified, the pilots overflew these areas without attacking.

General Chang Yee-chow worked closely with Units Six and Seven.  In July, 1945, his pirates aided in capturing Matsu Island from the Japanese.

These two pirate groups rescued more than one hundred downed flyers and civilians who were spirited through Japanese lines to SACO units and returned to duty.  The most famous was Don Bell, a noted radio announcer and war correspondent, who went to Camp Six at Changchow (now Zhangzhou).  Rather than endanger those who helped him, Mr. Bell told the world he had been rescued by fishermen.

Tsai Kung headed a third pirate group of about 500 men.  They operated in the area between the other two and never declared allegiance to nor enmity with SACO.

 

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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