Book Review
The Rice Paddy Navy
The Rice Paddy Navy – U.S. Sailors Undercover In China – Espionage And Sabotage Behind Japanese Lines In China During World War II
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by: Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]


** What the hell is the Navy doing here? “Those were the first words U.S. Navy Radioman First Class Richard Rutan heard in June 1944 as he stepped down from a C-47 airplane surrounded by a crowd of curious U.S. Army Air Force men on a desolate airstrip in Central China. His blue jacket with the word ‘NAVY’ across the back in three-inch letters clearly identified him as a sailor six hundred miles from the sea.” This is the story of the “What-the-Hell Gang” in World War II **

** Quoted from the book’s dust jacket.


Osprey Publications Ltd has released The Rice Paddy Navy – U.S. Sailors Undercover In China – Espionage And Sabotage Behind Japanese Lines In China During World War II as a hardback book with 294 pages and comes with a paper dust jacket. Included with the text are black and white photographs, detailed captions, and a map of operations. It has a 2012 copyright and the ISBN is 978-1-84908-811-4. As the title states, the book examines and discusses U.S. sailors undercover in China during World War II.


Part 1 – Setting the Stage for the Rice Paddy Navy

Chapter 1 – The U.S. Navy Mission in China
Chapter 2 – A handshake Creates the Sino-American Cooperative Organization

Part 2 – A Strange Cast in a Strange Drama

Chapter 3 – China in Turmoil
Chapter 4 – Dai Li and Milton Miles

Part 3 – SACO From the Ground Up

Chapter 5 – Building the Rice Paddy Navy
Chapter 6 – Happy Valley, SACO Headquarters
Chapter 7 – Backstage SACO: India and Over the Hump

Part 4 – SACO’s Battle Within the U.S. Military

Chapter 8 – SACO and the OSS: A Shaky Alliance
Chapter 9 – A Landlocked Navy in Stormy Seas

Part 5 – Operations and the SACO Experience

Chapter 10 – Teaching: A Learning Experience
Chapter 11 – Doing Something About the Weather
Chapter 12 – Intelligence: radios, Spies, and Coast Watchers
Chapter 13 – Life as a SACO
Chapter 14 – Secret Adventures Revealed

Part 6 – Amazing Groups Among Remarkable Men

Chapter 15 – The Yangtze River Raiders
Chapter 16 – The Crown Jewel on the Gobi Desert
Chapter 17 – The Sailors and the Flyboys
Chapter 18 – Adventures with Pirates, a Princess, and a Priest

Part 7 – The Adventure’s End

Chapter 19 – It’s All Over
Chapter 20 – Wrapping Up and Looking Back

Selected Bibliography


Linda Kush covers the Rice Paddy Navy of World War II and the actions taken by those sailors and their Chinese counter-parts very well and goes into great detail about the events taken by them in their espionage and sabotage missions behind Japanese lines in China During World War II. It is very obvious that Linda Kush has taken the task of researching and detailing the Rice Paddy Navy of World War II very seriously. Linda Kush has prepared a well written history that will be of great use and interest to those interested in the Rice Paddy Navy of World War II. The military historian and enthusiast or the individual that is new to the study and details of the Rice Paddy Navy of World War II and wants to learn about them will appreciate this well written history. The text is well written and extremely detailed and I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors as I read through the book. Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book to their military library will be pleased with this book. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the text for yourself.


There are a total of 20 black and white photographs featured in this volume. The pictures are of American and Chinese military members, children from the Dai Li orphanage, Chinese nurses in uniform, small arms such as a Mauser Broomhandle pistol (Chinese version), a weather balloon crew with armed guard, American instructors teaching radio operation to Chinese recruits, group photographs, sampan boats with their Chinese crews, marksmanship training with revolvers, locations such as a pathway above “Happy Valley” and other such subjects that are specific to the Rice Paddy Navy of World War II. The photographs are what I refer to as event specific. I like that as opposed to random photographs from World War II that may or may not have been taken during the time frame or event discussed. As with most photographs from the World War II time frame the majority of them are nice clear, centered and focused images, however, as I usually point out in other reviews, there are a few that appear to be too dark. Most of the featured photographs are the lesser known from them event and not the same overused and well known photographs that tend to be the basic staple for some volumes on the subject. I definitely consider that a bonus as it is nice to have a reference book that contains several lesser known photographs. The photographs range from posed scenes to action scenes. As with many photographs, they tell the untold story that each individual can see for themselves upon viewing them. The photographs contained in this book will prove to be a valuable asset to the military historian and enthusiast. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the photographs for yourself


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs well. They go into detail discussing things such as specific individuals and their names, locations, dates and as with most captions; they detail the event shown in the photograph. As I read through the captions I didn’t notice any spelling or grammar errors. Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings. The captions can be brief in some instances but still provide information as to what is shown in the photograph. Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the captions for yourself.


There is 1 black and white map provided that shows the following:

- The locations of the fourteen SACO (Sino-American Cooperative Organization) established main camps in China.

Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the map for yourself.


There is 1 black and white illustration included which is of the following:

- A sketch of the “What the Hell” pennant
Please refer to the scans that I have provided so that you can judge the illustration for yourself.


This is a very nice event specific historical book that contains nice relevant photographs and well detailed captions. It details the U.S. Sailors undercover in China during World War II very well. I would have no hesitation to add other Osprey titles to my personal library nor would I hesitate to recommend this book to others as it will be a welcome addition to one’s personal military reference library.

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing Ltd. Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here when you make your purchase.






The Navy Department Library:


You can take a look at the inside of this book at the Osprey Publishing web site.


You can take a look at the inside of this book at the Amazon website.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Rice-Paddy-Navy-Undercover/dp/184908811X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359226399&sr=8-1&keywords=The Rice Paddy Navy

You can take a look at the Kindle Edition at the Amazon website.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Rice-Paddy-Navy-ebook/dp/B009MY9QYG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1359226399&sr=8-2&keywords=The Rice Paddy Navy
Highs: Well written text and captions. Nice event specific photographs.
Lows: Would like to have seen more maps.
Verdict: This is a very nice event specific historical book that is well researched and written and details the Rice Paddy Navy during World War II well.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-1-84908-811-4
  Suggested Retail: US $24.95
  PUBLISHED: Jan 27, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Randy L Harvey (HARV)

I have been in the modeling hobby off and on since my youth. I build mostly 1/35 scale. However I work in other scales for aircraft, ships and the occasional civilian car kit. I also kit bash and scratch-build when the mood strikes. I mainly model WWI and WWII figures, armor, vehic...

Copyright ©2021 text by Randy L Harvey [ HARV ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.


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