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Milton E. Miles Papers, 1942-2011 (bulk 1942-1946): Finding Aid

Published in December 2013

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 420
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Milton E. Miles Papers
  • Dates: 1942-2011
  • Bulk Dates: 1942-1946
  • Size: 3.33 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box, 3 flat boxes
  • Creator: Miles, Milton E., 1900-1961
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Milton E. "Mary" Miles was an officer in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1922. The Miles Papers span from 1942 to 2011 and focus exclusively on Miles' role in and the activities of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) and the United States Navy's role in China during World War II.

Biography of Milton E. Miles

Milton E. Miles, a career officer in the United States Navy, was born on April 6, 1900 in Jerome, Arizona to George A. and Mae Belle Miles. Following graduation from high school, Miles enlisted in the U.S. Navy on April 11, 1917 and was appointed to the United States Naval Academy a year later.

After graduating from the Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1922, Miles was assigned to the Asiatic Fleet, where he served for five years. In May 1927, he was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis for further instruction in electrical engineering. From there, Miles' studies continued at Columbia University, from which he received a Master of Science degree. After wrapping up his studies and instruction in September 1929, Miles returned to the fleet.

Back with the fleet, Miles was attached to the U.S.S. Saratoga (Aircraft carrier: CV-3). In May 1932, he was transferred to shore duty in the Design and Construction Division of the Bureau of Engineering. After serving a tour aboard U.S.S. Wickes as Executive Officer, Miles returned to the Asiatic Station in 1936. Three years later, in July 1939, Miles returned to Washington, DC as a Member of the Interior Control Board.

Following America's entrance into World War II, Miles served briefly as Chief of the Office of Strategic Services for the Far East. After returning to the States, Miles' skills and familiarity with Asia, and China in particular, came to the attention of both Assistant Chief of Staff to Admiral King, Captain Willis A. "Ching" Lee, and Chinese officials, including Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's lieutenant, General Tai Li. As as result, Miles was ordered to China as Commander, U.S. Naval Group China. There, Miles' nominal goal was to work with the Chinese to set up a network of weather stations and coastal observation posts. The resulting Sino-American Cooperation Organization (SACO) paired American and Chinese forces together to collect intelligence for the U.S. Fleet, operate weather and communications stations, and establish a set of camps for the training of guerilla forces. Immediately following the War, Miles was ordered to the Office of Naval History in order to complete a history of U.S. Group China.

In late 1948, Miles was promoted to Rear Admiral. For the next two years, he served as a cruiser division commander, commanding Cruiser Division Ten, Six, and Four. On June 1, 1950, Miles transferred to the Office of the chief of Naval Operations where he served as Director, Pan-American Affairs and US Naval Missions. Four years later, he was appointed Commandant of the Fifteenth Naval District, headquartered in the Canal Zone. In July 1956, Miles was assigned his final duty as Commandant of the Third Naval District and Commander, Naval Base Brooklyn. Miles retired from the United States Navy on February 1, 1958 and was advanced to the rank of Vice Admiral. Milton E. Miles died three years later, on March 26, 1961 at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Vice Admiral Miles' decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit with Gold Star (Navy) and Oak Leaf Cluster (Army); the Purple Heart Medal with Gold Star; the Navy Expeditionary Medal; the World War I Victory Medal, Convoy Clasp; the China Service Medal with one Bronze Star; the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe and Asia Clasps; the National Defense Medal; and the order of Yun Hui of the Government of China, which he received three times.

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Description of Contents

The Milton E. Miles Papers, comprising 3.33 linear feet of documentation, span from 1942 to 2011. The papers focus exclusively on Vice Admiral Milton Miles' role in and the activities of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) and the United States Navy's role in China during World War II.

Included in the collection are photograph albums, historical sketches, activity reports, DVDs, and indexes to both the albums and DVDs.

The Miles Papers are organized into two series by document type. The first series, SACO Subject Files, consists largely of historical sketches and other textual documentation on the development, activities, and final days of SACO, much of which was compiled by Charles H. Miles, Ph.D. The series also includes reprints of the activity reports filed by U.S. Naval Group China, which offer an official summary of U.S. Naval activities in China. The series is rounded out by a collection of films of SACO activity, shot during the War, and edited by Vice Admiral Miles while serving as Commandant of the Third Naval District. The second series, SACO Photograph Albums, consists of four photo albums compiled by Vice Admiral Miles. The albums, which consist of black-and-white photographs, chronicle Miles' journey to China, the establishment of SACO, the construction of SACO headquarters and training camps, and the training of Chinese guerilla fighters by SACO staff.

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The Milton E. Miles Papers are organized into the following two series:

  • Series 1: SACO Subject Files, 1945-2011
  • Series 2: SACO Photograph Albums, 1942-1946
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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Milton E. Miles Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The motion pictures in the collection require the use of a computer for playback.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Murray E. Miles and Charles H. Miles, Ph.D. in September 2011. Accession No. 11-15.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Material pertaining to Mile's time as a midshipman at the Naval Academy may be found in his Personnel Jacket and Alumni Jacket in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library. Additional material pertaining to Miles' service can be found in the Milton Edward Miles Papers, 1923-1958, Collection No. 68028 ( at Stanford University's Hoover Institution Archives.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Milton E. Miles Papers, MS 420

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Biographies in Naval History: Vice Admiral Milton E. Miles, USN 1900-1961. Washington, DC : Naval History & Heritage Command, Department of the Navy.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in December 2013. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in December 2013.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Cairo (Egypt)
  • Chiang, Kai-shek, 1887-1975
  • Chongqing (China)
  • Dai, Li, 1896-1946
  • Darjeeling (India)
  • Dongfeng Xian (China)
  • Guilin (Guangxi Zhuangzu Zizhiqu, China)
  • Hangzhou (China)
  • Huang River (Qinghai Sheng, China)
  • Kano (Nigeria)
  • Karachi (Pakistan)
  • Kolkata (India)
  • Miles, Charles H.
  • Miles, Milton E., 1900-1961
  • Mumbai (India)
  • Nanjing (Jiangsu Sheng, China)
  • Nanyang Shi (China)
  • Shanghai (China)
  • Sino-American Cooperative Organization
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- China
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Underground movements -- China
  • Xiamen (Xiamen Shi, China)
  • Yangtze River (China)
  • Zhijiang Dongzu Zizhixian (China)

Genre Terms

  • DVDs
  • Histories (literary works)
  • Manuscripts
  • Motion pictures (visual works)
  • Photograph Albums
  • Photographs
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Contents List

Series 1: SACO Subject Files, 1945-2011 Box 1

Series Description

General documentation and historical sketches on the activities of the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO), largely compiled by Charles H. Miles, Ph.D. using Milton Miles' SACO Photograph Albums and book A Different Kind of War: The Little-Known Story of the Combined Guerrilla Forces Created in China by the U.S. Navy and the Chinese During World War II. The documents compiled by Charles H. Miles focus on the general history of SACO, Vice Admiral Miles' role in SACO, SACO Headquarters at Happy Valley, and the closing days of SACO activity.

The series also includes a six-DVD documentary of SACO activity created by Vice Admiral Miles in 1956-1957 from 16mm film shot during World War II, as well as reprints of activity reports for U.S. Naval Group China. The documentary film, which was converted from 16mm color film to DVD, features narration by Vice Admiral Miles.

Series Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by topic and document type.

Box 1 Folder 1

Documentary Film - DVDs, 1957

Documentary produced by Vice Admiral Miles from 16mm film shot between 1942 and 1945 of SACO activities in India, Happy Valley, Calcutta, Kunming, Kweiyang, Lanchow, Hangchow, Shanghai, Chengtu, Suchow, and at the various SACO camps.

Box 1 Folder 2

Documentary Film - Index, 2011

By Charles H. Miles, Ph.D.

Box 1 Folder 3

The Final Tacks of SACO, 2011

By Charles H. Miles, Ph.D. History of the closing days of SACO activity during World War II.

Box 1 Folder 4

Happy Valley, 2011

By Charles H. Miles, Ph.D. History of the SACO headquarters at Happy Valley, northwest of Chungking (Chongqing), China.

Box 1 Folder 5

Sino-American Cooperative Organization - Historical Sketch, 2011

By Charles H. Miles, Ph.D. History of Vice Admiral Milton Miles' participation in SACO and a brief sketch of SACO activities.

Box 1 Folder 6

U.S. Naval Group China - Summaries of Activities: Part 1 of 2, 1945

Activity reports for Operations and Naval Units One through Ten.

Box 1 Folder 7

U.S. Naval Group China - Summaries of Activities: Part 2 of 2, 2011

Activity reports for the Yangtze River Unit, Naval units attached to the 14th Army Air Force, Fleet Radio Unit, Naval Communications, Technical Air Intelligence China, Intelligence Section, Aerology, Staff Communications, U.S. Navy International Aid and Disbursing Office, Postal Service, and U.S. Naval Group China Eastern Command.

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Series 2: SACO Photograph Albums, 1942-1946 Boxes 1-5

Series Description

Photograph albums, compiled by Vice Admiral Miles, depicting the Sino-American Cooperative Organization's activities during World War II. The albums include photographs of SACO Headquarters at Happy Valley, individual SACO training camps, gunnery training, explosives training, training camp graduation ceremonies, radio operations, riverine operations, troop inspections, convoys, recreational activities, local customs and agriculture, and various Chinese localities, such as Shanghai and Nanking. Notable individuals represented include Vice Admiral Milton Miles, Admiral Thomas Kincaid, Ambassador to China Patrick J. Hurley, Chiang Kai-shek, General Tai Li, Cardinal Francis Spellman, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Fourteenth Dali Lama.

The series also includes a full index to the albums, compiled by Charles H. Miles, Ph.D.

Series Arrangement

Arranged by volume number.

Box 1 Folder 8

Album Index, 2011

By Charles H. Miles, Ph.D.

Box 2 Folder 1

SACO, Volume 1: Headquarters, 1942-1943

Includes portraits of RADM Willis A. "Ching" Lee, Chiang Kai-shek, CAPT Milton E. Miles, Lt. General Tai Li, and Colonel Hsiao Sin-Ju. Includes images of Nigeria, Cairo, Oman, Karachi, Bombay, Ceylon, Trichinopoly, Chungking, bomb damage in Pucheng, crossing the Ou River, Nehru and Gandhi in Bombay, SACO headquarters construction at Happy Valley, SACO staff, meetings between CAPT Miles and Chiang Kai-shek, signing of the SACO agreement (July 4, 1943), Chinese operas, the Dalai Lama (February 1943), a trip into Thailand, and Halsey's raid (January 1945).

Box 3 Folder 3

SACO, Volume 2, 1944-1945

Includes images of Miles' promotions to Commodore and Vice Admiral, construction at Happy Valley, storekeeper's school, radio operations, operational report maps, first USO show, Christmas 1944, General Tai Li, Chinese operas, the Li Jen Primary School orphanage, Chiang Kai-shek reviewing SACO forces, memorial services for President Roosevelt, SACO staff, Ambassador Patrick J. Hurley, firearm training for Chinese troops, messenger pigeons and dog units, Naval Unit Nine, Cardinal Francis Spellman, oxygen production in Assam, Camp Knox, Naval Printing Unit at Calcutta, views of Calcutta, New Delhi, and Darjeeling.

Box 3 Folder 1

SACO, Volume 3, 1943-1945

Includes images of Camp Two at Nanyo, training exercises, Golden Mountain temples near Nanyo, Hengyang, Column Four headquarters, Japanese prisoners, Third Guerilla team celebrations, the Yangtze River Unit, General Shen Yu, Kweiyang, the Burma Road, Naval Unit Five, Camp Ten, General Tai Li, General Tang En Po, crossing the Huang River, flooding at Jung Chiang, the advance of Column Ten, Commander Naval Forces Central China (COMCENCH) headquarters, Naval Unit Two troops at Chih Kiang, Naval Unit Fourteen at Kunming, parachute school, local agriculture, Fleet Radio Unit China, convoying on the Stillwell Road, Kweilin, Camp Three, graduation at Camp Three, Sian, Lin Tung hot springs, Navy Weather Station Hanchow, Camp Four, General Ma Hung-kwei, field surgery, gunnery training, captured Japanese equipment at Shempa, General Fu Tso Yi, and General Wedemeyer.

Box 4 Folder 1

SACO, Volume 4, 1943-1946

Includes images of U.S. Naval Group China's operating area, Camp One, demolition and combat training, General Tai Li, Tai Li's family and hill house at Kiang Shan, Pao Lin, General Li Chow, Tung Feng, Camp Seven, Chekiang hospital, Camp Six, rocket training, General Lieu Cheng-Chung, burial of an unknown American airman, river patrols, Changchow, Japanese prisoners, mass funerals, final days of the war at Camp Six and Amoy, Nan Tai Wu, Camp Eight, capture of a Chinese Junk, COMNAVCHEK headquarters in Kienyang, Shunan, river convoy toward Hangchow, peace treaty preparations, capture of Japanese officers at Shanghai, peace treaty signing at Nanking, Japanese gunboat Akota, Admiral Kincaid, arrival of U.S. Fleet in Shanghai, meeting between Admiral Kincaid and Chiang Kai-shek, Admiral Kincaid visit to Happy Valley, awarding Miles the Order of the Cloud and Banner, Double Ten Day celebrations in Shanghai, awarding Miles the Distinguished Service Award and Legion of Merit, and the funeral of General Tai Li in Nanking.

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