As war loomed between the United States and Imperial Japan, the US Navy began laying the groundwork for a network of coast watching and weather stations throughout the coasts and inland areas of China and Southeast Asia. Following Pearl Harbor, the US Navy dispatched Captain Milton Miles, an officer with pre-war experience in China, to establish what became known as the Sino-American Cooperation Organization (SACO). The organization contributed greatly to the war effort, but one of its biggest successes didn’t come until January 12, 1945.
SACO’s coast watchers observed a 26 ship convoy drop anchor in Cam Ranh Bay in French Asia. The convoy joined numerous other Japanese vessels and SACO quickly informed Admiral Bull Halsey and his Task Force 38 who were conducting operations (Operation Gratitude) in the South China Sea. Halsey worked up an assault plan and dispatched 82 TBM Avenger bombers to destroy the Japanese convoy. By the end of the day, more than 40 ships and 120,000 tons of enemy shipping lay at the bottom of Cam Ranh Bay. Thanks to a handful of American and Chinese SACO coast watchers, thousands of tons of much needed war material were destroyed and the noose tightened ever so tighter around Japan’s home islands.