Don Ady writes in, asking if anyone knows if his father had any connections with the BAAG [The wartime "British Army Aid Group", described here]:
It occurs to me now that my father might have had or at least had ought to have had some BAAG contacts. You probably could not verify that, but I would be delighted to have any such info if you have it.
After Stanley [Don and his family were interred in the Stanley Civilian Camp in early 1942. As Americans, they were repatriated later that year.] he in 1943 started a long process of returning to China. He was a workaholic and wanted to get back to his (evangelical) mission. Long hold ups in Portugal and in India.
In India he happened to encounter a man he knew well, Dr. Robert Lynn, of the Presbyterian mission whom he knew as a mission colleague from Canton and possibly from his station in Yeung Kong (now Yangjiang). In the recent past Dad and my mother and I had been room mates of Lynn's wife and daughter in Stanley.
Lynn had some outstation HQ assignment with the OSS, the CIA predecessor. Lynn who had managed exfiltration from China after Pearl Harbor knew that Yeung Kong had a large Japanese garrison, so Dad could NOT go there. He talked Dad into a very arduous OSS assignment of which I know the very barest of bones.
Dad took his blood curdling secrecy oaths with the utmost seriousness. (E'dda told us but then e'dda adda kill'd us?). Also he hated to toot his own horn or talk of himself, so it was quite difficult to pry out the vaguest of hints.
I don't actually know every bit of this, but am doing educated guesses: His job was prearranged intelligence gathering with a band of 1800 Communist guerillas in S. China - Kwangtung and I think too some adjacent provinces. I gather (or assume) that he questioned many scouts in their own language, vetted their reportings, abbreviated, encrypted, and radioed them in to Chungking. Purpose for general intel background and for bombings also.
I am speculating but am supposing that they let him into their evening leadership councils where he gave them useful advice. He could have given them not only good day to day advice, but good military advice. As a young man he fought in WWI in France, going from private (lowest rank) to field commision as 1st Lieutenant in the field artillery. Had he been willing to do so, he could have taught them better now to lay their field fire of mobile guns and more. (In France his outfit sported horsedrawn wagons - caissons).
Dad did say they were on the move all of the time, daily forced marches through mountains (he was then nearly 50 years old and it was especially hard on him despite that he had walked and walked the dusty roads so often for the mission to small Christian outposts etc.)
Another story he told:
'We stopped in a village one night for a special restaurant treat. In the dim light my mouth watered when rice pudding showed up with raisins in it! I had had nothing sweet for a whole year. But, when I put my chopsticks to the bowl, the "raisins" flew away!'
He was instrumental in helping shot down Flying Tigers or other pilots getting back to Chungking. I met one of these men years later, but he was very close mouthed, too!
Dad left the band at the end of the war. What is really a bit surprising it that they presented him with a Samarai sword taken from a Japanese general killed by them in battle. That is a much stronger praise that a pallid commendation the CIA gave him.
The sword a few years later ended up in Japan, returned to family via the embassy. Dad thought bygones should be bygones, though he had eyewitnessed nasty stuff. I feel fortunate not to have seen some things that he saw.
On departure back in Canton a sniper tried a head shot on him, but missed. He suspected a Kuamintang mistake, and it didn't recur after embassy protests.
Regards, Don Ady
OSS & Lantau Guerillas ?
Don Ady writes:
There is one matter that (might) connect [the BAAG and my father]. Lantao. I have Chan Sui-jeung's book, "East River Column Hong Kong Guerillas in the Second World War and After". This is about the Communist guerillas, and much of the book was also about their persecution post war, for 40 years, re bogus charges of "foreign adventurism".
Chan mentions that BAAG brought up the possible matter of BAAG sponsored espionage activities - of ship observations from the visually excellent location of Lantao. For diplomatic reasons working with the Kuomintang, it had to be brought up with the KMT. Relations between the Communists and KMT were toxic, and bringing up the matter produced a volcanic reaction from the KMT who were interested only in extermination of the Communists. So, at least nominally, BAAG backed off of this project.
Chan does mention but not in any real detail that there were Communist guerillas active on Lantao. If they shared intelligence with anyone, it might very well have been with my father. Either on Lantao or by sending messengers to somehow hunt him up somewhere on the perpetual rapid move in the mainland NT. He had a radioman with him and often they broadcasted coded intel messages to Chungking, based on scouts' reports (which is really about the sum of my actual knowledge of his activities in the most general way).
Once my Dad casually mentioned to me that he had seen a little skein of ice in puddles atop Lantao in wintertime. At the time I thought he might have gone up there postwar, probably early 1946, to check up on our stone shack which had its roof torn off in the war (presumably to extract the scrap iron of the reinforcing rods within the flat concrete roof). But, now in retrospect, I think it at least equally likely that he was up there at least a little in (most likely) 1945.
If [Mr. Lawrence Tsui] runs across any rumors of Communist guerilla activities on Lantao, I would be interested. As BAAG had officially "hands off" that project, it does not seem too likely he would have heard about that from his father, though.
Comment: Observations of activities from Lantao most usefully would have been of SHIPPING in the Pearl River Delta. Speaking of toxic relations, the cooperation between US Army and US Navy in WWII was not what it should be. OSS was nominally connected (in China at least) to the US Army, which had then the US Air Force as an Army branch organization. So any delta shipping intel would have passed much more rapidly and surely for attacks from the air, rather than by likely more effective submarines. I don't know if the inferior torpedo bombing (the Japs at least initially were far better at that) improved enough or if they used that torpedo mode for attacks from the air in China. Properly launched torpedoes would have outperformed more chancy bombing accuracy.
There definitely were communist guerillas on Lantau. There are a few references given here. Are there any more out there?
I haven't seen mention of any western people on Lantau during the Japanese occupation. Has anyone else? It would have been a memorable event at the time.
Did US submarines ever make any attacks in Hong Kong harbour? With relatively shallow water, a confined space, plus Japanese ships & harbour defences, it would have been a risky place for a submarine to be.
OSS Ady BAAG SUNSET FRIGATE
I’ve come across the name of Ady of OSS here & there in my reading of the BAAG papers. However, I’ve not taken down notes as the OSS was not one of my focuses. The BAAG interacted with the Allied 14th USAAF and its main partners were the AGAS & MIS-X. There were less interactions with the OSS. There were a couple of mentions of Ady if my memories serve me right; I would keep my eyes open for them in my revision of the voluminous materials. The Red Guerrillas in SE Kwangtung (Guangdong) apparently regarded Ady as its main liaison man with the OSS as shown in their verbal history of their war efforts.
In the early part of the Pacific War (1942 to Mid-1943), the BAAG was apparently the only Allied unit operating in S.China vis a vis Hong Kong. However, its effectiveness was severely clamped by its own lack of resources, but more so by the curtailment imposed by the Nationalist authorities with respect to its interactions with the Red Guerrillas. The BAAG had to co-operate with the Reds as they hold the New Territories through which BAAG agents infiltrated occupied Hong Kong. The Reds were eager for Allied recognition of their forces as well as to receive any operational support. The severe opposition of the Nationalist forced the BAAG to withdraw from its Post Y at Chek Keng Village, Sai Kung in mid-1943. However, a curtailed co-operation with the Reds continued throughout the War.
While the BAAG was set up as an MI9 / MI19 operational unit, with a focus on the PWs and refugees, the intelligence aspect of its activities, because of a lack of other Allied capabilities in region, qucikly grew into significance. One important intelligence focus was Japanese shipping. The Japanese were using HK as an entrepot for its Coastal Supply Line connecting its southern resources base to its core in NE Asia. The BAAG had a few lines collecting shipping & dockyard intelligence. These were very well appreciated by the USA forces with respect to its submarine & air attacks on enemies’ ships. The Japanese coastal supply line was so disrupted that it had to resort to establishing a north-south land corridor in 1944 (Operation ICHIGO) to ensure its strategic supply.
The Lantao operation of the BAAG – ‘SUNSET”, was planned in mid-1943 to augment this capability by sending a BAAG Team (consisting of all Chinese members) to set up a shipping Observation Post at the peak of Lantao, equipped with wireless telecommunications to enhance timeliness of reports. The Red Guerrillas at Lantao agreed to provide protective security. The Nationalist authorities vehemently forbade BAAG co-operation with the Reds. Instead, it directed the BAAG to set up another OP at Koling of Dapeng Bay which was purportedly under the control of Pro-government guerrillas.
In the autumn of 1943, an all-Chinese BAAG team Operation ‘FRIGATE BIRD’ led by Francis Lee was sent to Dapeng Bay. However, the team & its equipment were immediately captured by the Red Guerrillas of Lau Pui (who became a Rear Admiral of the PLA Navy post-war). A hefty ransom was demanded. Ronnie Holmes, supported by others including key liaison person of the Reds, Raymond Wong Chok-mui MBE (BAAG Agent No.99) (Director of NCNA Post-war), conducted negotiation. The hostages were kept at one time at Tung Peng Chau. They were released late in December 1943 after a reduced ransom was paid. The ‘FRIGATE BIRD’ OP was not mounted.
Where the BAAG were frustrated, the Americans stepped in and was able to do the very things the BAAG was impeded from undertaking. However, I have not any impression from my readings that the American intelligence were active on the ground in Hong Kong. The rescue of downed US Pilot Lt. Kerr in HK in early 1943 provided a golden opportunity for the Reds to chnage tack to approaching the US authorities directly with their United Front Work. I believe Ady of OSS emerged active in late 1943 as a result of this initiative. Where the BAAG failed, the Americans had the resources & the clout to pick up, including the licence to use secured telecommunications in China as well as an aerial supply line for the Forward Areas. From then on there were increasing inter-allied agency competitions, rivalries & turf-battles, including those with other British intelligence units, which seriously frustrated the efforts of the BAAG in the later part of the War – an aspect I am not keen to address until after the many positive aspects of the BAAG stories have been told.
OSS on Laan Tau?
I have no very specific knowledge of my father's activities and movements. In general he interviewed scouts of the East River Column, condensed their information, encoded it, then with a radio operator named Utz sent the information to Chung King. He said they were almost constantly on the march, a lot of that in mountains. I believe that for their own security they would move as far and as fast as possible because the Japs could use radio triangulation to spot their location where radio transmission had been done.
If information came from Lantao to Chungking it almost surely went through my father. Most likely scouts went to the mainland on boats to report to him when new valuable information was available. He knew much of Lantao and we had a stone summer shack quite near Sunset Peak. He once mentioned to me having seen ice on Lantao. Was that on a war time trip up the mountain? I do not know but eventually came to believe that is likely. As most contacts would have been for observations on the mainland, he is more likely to have spent more time on the mainland than on Lantao (if he ever wne to Lantao at all). I don't know if any of his intelligence went to BAAG. Because BAAG was constrained to work with the KMT by the politics then, and because the OSS was secretive and working with the Reds, I guess there was little or no direct sharing of information - except notably when doing a pilot rescue. Pilots went from the Reds (sometimes starting with a pirate boat, then maybe to KMT guerillas in some cases, then probably next to BAAG for further transfers to Chungking.
I think some of the Red guerillas were in Kowloon at least, or near it. Dad saw some after the war in the NT. They always pretended not to see him. I think it was fear. Comrades across the then colonial border were being persecuted for "foreign adventurism", and for them there was fear even in the NT of retribution for meeting wi†h foreigners then.
War stories - BAAG & OSS as AGFRTS
From Edwin Ride’s book on the BAAG, OSS operated as AGFRTS (5329th Air Ground Force Resources Technical Staff) under the 14th USA Airforce intelligence net. AGAS operated as MIS-X.
The Japanese Operation ICHIGO had a second push in September 1944, threatening BAAG & US airbases at Kweilin and SW China areas. BAAG intelligence assessment presaged the Japanese advance and recommended demolition of roads & bridges of the route to Kweilin at Chuanhsien to slow down the Japanese advance. This eventually obtained the concurrence of the Chinese garrison 4th War Zone Commander Gen Chang Fa-kwei (CBE) and the 14th USAAF. The demolition was carried out successfully by a BAAG operation team with the explosive commandeered from the British Military Mission store and flown in by the Americans. The job was later completed by an OSS team sent from Liuchow.
In late 1944, a new Allied China Theatre was set up under Gen A.C. Wedemeyer & his team. They were preparing for the planned Allied landing along the Dapeng to Swatow coast with concurrent capture of Hong Kong & Canton using US-backed Chinese troops. OSS maintained direct contact with the HQ of the Red Guerrillas. The OSS Commander at the Hingning Forward Post in Eastern Guangdong was Major Freeman in 1945. By this time, OSS had posts all through Guangdong including Red Areas.
There were various mentions of Ady from the book ‘The Defence of Hong Kong – Collected Essays on the Hong Kong-Kowloon Brigade of the East River Column’, published by the HK Museum of Coastal Defence 2004:
Major B.M. Ady was described as a Military Observer posted to Xian in July 1944. He was sent to the East River region in October to contact the Red Guerrillas. He went in as the Representative of AGFRTS, carrying credential from Gen Chennault & the 14th USAAF seeking co-operation with the Reds. He was described as a PhD who had participated in WW1. Later he became a preacher in Yeung Kwong & Yeung Chun areas. He was very familiar with S.China as he had been working there for some two decades. He spoke fluent Cantonese. He was interned (in Hong Kong?) but was released on exchange between the Japanese & the USA. He re-enlisted and was trained in Hawaii.
The East River Column Guerrilla Brigade reciprocated under direction from the Party Central and set up a 200 persons network in support of the Americans under Yuan Geng assisted by Raymond Wong Chok-mui MBE (BAAG Agent No.99) & his team. Ady was with the Red Guerrillas for about 10 months. He was to set up AHQ in Wai Chow also. The work was perceived to be preparation for Allied Counter-offensive landing at the SE Coast of China. The Red Guerrilas collected intelligence which were transmitted by the Wireless Radio Posts. The co-operation between OSS & the Reds were described as excellent. Ady left before the end of the War in August 1945.
However, there were no mention of Ady in any of the essays regarding any of his activities in HK including Lantao.
There's a mention of Lynn in
There's a mention of Lynn in this BAAG document from April 1944:
3. I informed you in my cipher signal 212 DON dated 27 March, that the Americans were setting up their own W/T Station in WAICHOW. This has now been confirmed by RONNIE who has received a communication to that effect, requesting "cooperation", from Captain LYNN, 14 U.S.A.A.F. Liaison Officer with VIT War Zone H.Q. at KUKONG. I have questioned the local Americans about this and they say they know nothing about it and imagine it must be done direct by General CHENNAULT from KUNMING.
4. Further, I have just heard from ARCHIE HUNT, who has been unable to return to his Forward Post at TSINGYUN as VII War Zone H.Q. will not renew his pass (my Signal 198 DON of 24 March) and must therefore wait for his new National Military Council pass from CHUNGKING, that LYNN has informed him that he will shortly be setting up a W/T station at TSINGYUN also.
Torpedoes and U.S. Submarines in the PRD
It seems that U.S. Navy submarines did not operate in Hong Kong waters or the Pearl River Delta. One factor was the shallow coastal water, which was dangerous for submarines and poorly suited for torpedoes. However, another factor was that the South China Sea was divided up into zones by the U.S. military--some zones were assigned to U.S. aircraft (primarily China-based 14th AF B-24s equipped with radar) and some were assigned to U.S. submarines. The goal was to keep U.S. aircraft on anti-shipping sweeps from accidentally sinking U.S. submarines. Hong Kong and the PRD were zoned for the 14th AF, so submarines would have avoided these areas.
As for air-dropped torpedoes, land-based U.S. aircraft of the 14th AF and Phillipine-based FEAF dropped bombs and mines on HK and the PRD, but not torpedoes. The U.S. Army Air Forces aircraft flown by these units were not configured to drop torpedoes.
The only U.S. Navy attack on Hong Kong on January 15 and 16, 1945, did involved carrier-based torpedo aircraft. However, it seems that the Grumman TBF Avengers carried bombs, not their usual torpoedoes, because the shallow and constricted nature of Victoria Harbour precluded the use of torpedoes. Instead, the Avengers carried bombs, including 2,000-pound blockbusters. One of these bombs failed to explode and was unearthed by a construction crew in Happy Valley at start of this year and defused by the bomb squad (an incident described elsewhere on Gwulo as well as in the SCMP). After-action reports indicate that one reason the navy raid failed to wipe out the Japanese convoy in port at the time was that the U.S. aircraft had to rely on traditional bomb runs rather than torpedo runs.
Bombs scramble up the superstructure and innards of ships, but often fail to breach the hull, so ships can take multiple bomb hits and remain damaged but afloat. Torpedoes, on the other hand, blow holes below the waterline and send ships straight to the bottom. Skip-bombing, a special tactic perfected by U.S. Army Air Forces B-25s that "skipped" bombs into the sides of ships, was highly effective against Japanese vessels because it ruptured their hulls, but U.S. Navy aircraft did not use this particular tactic during the raid on Hong Kong.
British XE midget submarines operated in Hong Kong at the very end of the war. A Royal Navy midget sub severed the Singapore to Hong Kong to Tokyo undersea cable in 1945. This interesting military footnote is detailed in David Jones and Peter Nunan's U.S. Subs Down Under: Brisbane, 1942-1945 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005).