Did Americans run a concentration camp in Chongqing in the 1940s? My first post at James Fallows' Atlantic site went up yesterday - Another Kind of American History in Chongqing, 1: Prologue
Update: the 2nd post is up - Another Kind of American History in Chongqing, 2: Evolution
Update 2/2: the 3rd post is up - Another Kind of American History in Chongqing, 3: Puzzle
Update 2/3: the 4th post is up - Another Kind of American History in Chongqing, 4: Explorers
Update 2/4: the final post is up - Another Kind of American History in Chongqing, 5: Revision
Fascinating story - I can't wait to see how it comes out.
It's interesting to read Graham Peck's thoughts on SACO (in 'Two Kinds of Time') and what he saw of Milton Miles while he worked in Chungking in 1942. Peck had been hanging around in Chungking since before the war and ended up working for the US Office of War Information (OWI). He was scathing about SACO and its work with the "Chinese Gestapo" ... but he also notes that the US gave massive aid to China at the time, and that Stilwell was China's best general - he had to do all the talking for Chiang Kai Shek at the Cairo conference in 43, because Chiang didn't have a clue about the details. The US also put massive resources into building a new Burma Road from Ledo, and to taking the fight to the Japanese by deploying B29s in places in new airbases built in Chengdu and Guilin. I don't suppose the SACO museum says much about the many US lives lost in bringing supplies in to China over the treacherous Hump route (supplies that often ended up on the black market instead of being used against the Japanese invaders).
So yes, the US State Dept got it totally wrong in backing Miles and the 'unsavoury' SACO operation, but this has to be balanced out by the huge amount of positive effort the US put into China during WW2. The real villains were the KMT and the Chungking elite, the profiteers etc.
Graham Peck goes into great detail about the real world repercussions of KMT oppression on his friends - liberal journalists who were tortured and murdered, etc. Ironically the KMT are now the PRC's 'hao pengyou' because they support the One China policy.
Thanks for the comments, Michael. Re:"the US State Dept got it totally wrong in backing Miles and the 'unsavoury' SACO operation," I don't think the State Department did. Lots of the things Miles did were against the US government policy at the time. Or perhaps you could provide citations?
Or if you meant the funding of SACO, that's a different issue. SACO did contribute to fighting the Japanese as well.
I'm fond of Xujun's writing. This one is clear and very informative. I don't think outside of mainland China, SACO had the bad image. Here's an interesting story. Go to
and click Camp 9. I'm not sure what the Happy Valley is in Chinese, even though I grew up there many years ago. The last part of the article about the orphans is quite touching.
Suggestion to Xujun's articles. I wish all Chinese names were written in Chinese (in addition to pinyin). Journalist style of writing could well be used in history research. Names in the original language make it easier.
I may have been wrong about State Dept backing for SACO. Graham is scathing about the 'conservative, blinkered, business-focused' attitude Embassy in Chungking and the Ambassador Clarence Gauss in particular. He says Gauss vetoed a plan to use Rewi Alley to distribute radios that would disseminate the US view of the war in China, but he approved the Miles guns-for-intelligence scheme with Tai Li. However, he then says that Miles program was soon dropped by the OSS (pre-CIA) because it was an 'unsavory plan of questionable value', and it was then taken up by the navy.
Peck makes the observation that most Americans had been won over to the KMT cause by Madame Chiang Kai-shek even though the evidence in Chungking was clearly that the KMT were hopelessly corrupt, ineffectual and had done deals with the Japanese.
Hi Yong Huang, "Happy Vally" was named by the SACO men and I'm not aware of a Chinese translation. It is where the SACO headquarters were (around today's "Red Crag Soul Square"), part of the Gele Mountain (歌乐山), and I suspect the Chinese name inspired the English one.
Your suggestion about giving Chinese names in Chinese characters is a good one. I do that on my blog, but was concerned it might not show well on the Atlantic website. Let me know which names you'd like to see in Chinese and I'll write in this space.
By the way, Yong Huang, I've linked to your translation blog. I'm interested in future discussions of translation issues with you.
Thanks for linking to my blog. I'm not nearly as productive and insightful as you. The first time I came to your site was when I wrote my travel diary:
BTW, there's probably only one place at saconavy.com that mentions the "white house"/"Bai Mansion" (白宫馆), at www.saconavy.com/Camps/Happy_Valley.htm:
"Sadly the “white house” currently is a tourist attraction, Baigong Guan, in which are showcased the “atrocities” of the Gen. Tai Li, the Nationalist party, and even SACO."
You can tell the China-friendly author's feeling toward what the local government is doing.
To Michael: I haven't been to SACO Museum for more than 30 years. But "many US lives lost in bringing supplies in to China over the treacherous Hump route" is well known to perhaps 90% of Chinese adults, and very well exhibited in most history museums across China. It's sad SACO Museum is still having a multi-decade hangover not admitting it.
Fascinating research, excellent writing (as usual). I had never even heard of SACO; I have spent most of my time in China in the north, where the popular atrocity exhibit is Unit 731. Far as I can tell, the story surrounding that seems to be more accurate, but now I'm curious what deeper research might already be out there...
Hi Charlie, I'm pretty sure Iris Chang had done research in that area when she was writing "The Rape of Nanking." I also think the story around unit 731 is pretty accurate.
A wonderful writing and presented the true facts about the one of most famous mythes in modern China.
Thanks for the efforts.
Thanks for reading!
Thank you for an interesting and readable piece. Your portrait of the maddening Li Hua is memorable. Reminds me of what people used to refer to as Ronald Reagan's "Teflon" persona; nothing ever stuck to him.
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