2010年1月17日 星期日


Here are two short silent footages documenting the involvement of Taiwan in the Pacific War, both dated 1945.

The first film shows Taiwanese enlistees reporting to the training camp with family members anxiously looking on and a bugle squad blaring away nearby:

And the second shows two American F6Fs falling separately from the sky and another dropping a bomb; the last scene was the fiery carnage on the ground:

How did the Taiwanese get invited/dragged into the war - officially?

Compulsory military service in Japan actually started during the Meiji Era, in 1873. This was the beginning of a modern army. The conscription was, however, selective - in part to preserve the old feudal samurai tradition. And there were loopholes, for example, the only son (could be an adopted one) of a widower was exempt and the rich could pay to get out of the service. By early 1900s, the draft became universal, all Japanese nationals between 17-40 years of age must serve. Depending on the fitness, the conscripts were separated into three groups: active duty 1st class, the reserves (both 1st and 2nd classes), and the territorial reserves. It should be noted, however, that the military training of the Japanese in fact started early, from the third grade on, all the way through junior and senior high schools. In a way, entering the military service was merely an extension.

During the colonial rule, the Taiwanese (and the Koreans as well) not being Japanese nationals, were in fact not legally eligible to serve. When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937, some Taiwanese were hired to perform supporting noncombat duties. With the mounting losses in the South Pacific after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military had to open other sources of manpower. To get around the legality issue, a Special Volunteer Army System (陸軍特別志願兵制度) was enacted in Taiwan in 1942, followed by a similar one for the Navy (海軍志願兵制度) a year later.

A whole generation of Taiwanese, having grown up and educated under the Japanese rule, signed up in great numbers to take the qualifying exam. The immediate reward was that a Taiwanese soldier of the Imperial Army would become a true Japanese citizen. A good analogy is the current US volunteer army, a foreigner-enlistee can become an American citizen almost overnight to enjoy the full rights.

However, near the end of the war, young men were more reluctant to join up and were often "persuaded" by their superiors or worse, the local police to enlist. By 1945, all were drafted into the military anyway - to prepare for an all-out invasion by the US military. The US attacked Okinawa instead thus sparing Taiwan huge losses of lives. The first film above is a rare glimpse of the not too distant past; the volunteers/draftees were all sent to SE Asia to fight. And of the 207,083 who went, 30,304 did not come home.

On Oct 12, 1944, the American Navy bombed Taiwan; this was to continue until the end of the war. On that day, the carrier-based F6F Hellcats dropped bombs all over the Island that included Danshui and Hua-lien (see previous posts by Eyedoc and ChoSan, respectively).

On Aug 15, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced, through radio broadcast, Japan's unconditional surrender - in a classical language incomprehensible to the common folks.

Rumor has it that, after the war, the US paid compensations to losses owing to the bombing raids. It was probably just that, a rumor. At least no one in Danshui was ever compensated.

Mandatory military service law in Taiwan was re-instituted on Dec 28, 1949. And the Taiwanese were again conscripted, this time to fight Communist China. In addition, military training courses also started in senior highs for boys and girls alike. Besides military drills, each student got to fire several (typically 6) rounds with the Type 38 or later the M1 rifles. The M1 semi-automatic weighed about 10 lbs, way too heavy for a Taiwanese teenager to handle. And the bullets from the Type 38 often left the silhouette of a bullet, instead of a round hole, on the paper targets, suggesting an expanded bore size and worn rifle lines from previous heavy uses, causing the bullets to tumble. [Note: The Type 38 rifles were confiscated from the Japanese army at the end of WW2 and the M1s were turned over by the Americans after the Korean War.]

A 1950 photo taken by Carl Mydans (1907-2004; Life Magazine photographer) shows two draftees from Taipei, identified by sashes across the chest, being sent off by friends (below center). The banners are still in the Japanese style, a carry-over from 1942-45 (for comparison, a similar Japanese banner is shown on the lower left, click to enlarge).

In Danshui, the draftees were loaded onto decorated flat-bed trucks and paraded on Chung Cheng Road with school children cheering on from the sidewalks waving small triangular paper flags (not unlike the scene shown below).

The men then traveled all the way south by the slow train to the training camps in 鳳山Feng-shan.

[1950, Taipei Da-Tung District, also taken by Carl Mydans]

Least we forget: In a cruel turn of events, some of those who returned to Taiwan from SE Asia in 1946 were shipped at gunpoint to Mainland China to fight the civil war there.

13 則留言:

  1. The compulsory education, military service, and paying taxes are commonly known the citizen’s three duties though they may differ from country to country and time to time.
    I remembered well, the day when the first Taiwanese was drafted to serve the emperor’s army, my Japanese elementary school teacher explained to us that emperor had finally granted the honor for Taiwanese to serve the country. He added that contrary to the common belief that serving the country was a duty, indeed it was a right that only available for those proud citizens of an independent country.
    I was confused then and am still confused today.

  2. Let me give it a try:

    Perhaps the elementary school students were already regarded as (future) citizens, the three duties were therefore inseparable as one. Older people were still colonial subjects whose loyalty to the emperor, the pre-requisite to serving in the military, therefore must be demonstrated. Voluntary enlistment fit the bill quite well and participation in the kominka reform also worked. Once in the military, they then became full citizens.

    The backdrop was still the Japanese military was running low on manpower by 1942. And the recruitment of the Taiwanese turned out to be a huge success thanks to the pro-Japan educational system.

  3. "I remembered well, the day when the first Taiwanese was drafted to serve the emperor’s army, my Japanese elementary school teacher explained to us that emperor had finally granted the honor for Taiwanese to serve the country." Taiwanese people served on a voluntary basis in the Japanese Army dating back to 1932 (at this time it was strictly logistics). They also served at Nanking in 1937-38, when the massacre was taking place. As far as I know, they were working in agricultural works. The fall of Nanking was celebrated in Taiwan with, as the British consul in Danshui pointed out, "monster celebrations".

  4. Actually, I was curious about why Iris Chang, who's parents came to the US via Taiwan, did not point out that Taiwanese soldiers were also at Nanking in "The Rape of Nanking". I wonder how she missed this.

  5. She did not miss it. There wasn't any.

    I'd like to see you source(s) of Taiwanese soldiers at Nanking.

  6. Jarmon, Robert. Taiwan: Political and Economic Reports - 1861-1960, Volume 7: 1924-1941, page 512: In January, 1938 "monster celebrations were organized to [celebrate] the fall of Nanking, in which all classes loyally participated" (British consul at Danshui). On p. 510, I think, the consul described how either 500 or 1,000 (the book is not in my hand) Taiwanese volunteers were in Nanking as farming recruits.

    Important dates:
    1. September 12, 1937 (five days after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident) the first steamer of Japanese recruits from Taiwan leaves for China via Keelung.
    2. September 28, 1937, British consul Archer makes the following admission: "Formosans are not yet liable to military service, but a number have been called up to serve in labor corps, and have been sent away to the front (Jarmon, 533). Archer stresses the impetus for volunteering was financial. In addition to rations, recruits received 1.20 yen a day.
    3. Late December, 1937, a Tainan-based regiment of Taiwanese recruits returns from China through Kaohsiung (Jarmon, p. 563)

    Around the same time as the "monster celebrations", 200 prominent Taiwanese businessmen gathered to pass a resolution supporting the provisional Japanese government in northern China. Interestingly, on February 23, 1938, Chinese bombers appeared in Taiwan's skies, nailing both the Taipei Airport and Shinchiku Oil Fields without fielding as much as a scratch. Damage to the country's infrastructure was minimal. Damage to Japan's prestige among the local population was great.

  7. More dates:

    1. Consul Archer reckons by the end of September 1937, 1,000 Taiwanese are in China, though their service has caused "some disquiet among the Formosans" (Jarmon, 533).
    2. April 26th, 1938, 1000 Taiwanese farmers comprising the Patriotic Agricultural Corps" sent to Shanghai. Number of volunteers greatly outnumbers the final total taken (Jarmon, 599).

  8. Very nice, Patrick. But they were not combatants. I thought you had evidence showing that the Taiwanese actually participated in the sacking of Nanking. The Japanese army divisions responsible are well-known, none from Taiwan.

    I am not sure the point of Jarmon's account on celebrating the fall of Nanking. The Taiwanese, colonial subjects at that time, had no say in which occasions to celebrate (even that for the Chinese New Year was banned). I have seen old newspapers with headlines declaring Japanese victories here and there, complete with photos. That would have been what the Taiwanese knew and also the other side of the story (vs, e.g., Archer's version).

    And "...on February 23, 1938, Chinese bombers appeared in Taiwan's skies, nailing both the Taipei Airport and Shinchiku Oil Fields..."

    David Koh, a friend of ours, witnessed the attack on Hsin-chu (Shinchiku). The Taipei Airport was/is Song-shan (Matsuyama in Japanese) airport.

  9. "Very nice, Patrick. But they were not combatants. I thought you had evidence showing that the Taiwanese actually participated in the sacking of Nanking." Of course not. I have no evidence of them doing anything but logistics. The celebrations for the fall of Nanking were probably organized by the Japanese. Then they were witnessed by the British consul.

    BTW, Jarmon is just the editor of Taiwan: Political and Economic Reports - 1861-1960, Volume 7: 1924-1941. It is ten volumes of the letters written by the British consul in Danshui back to England. In fact, it's close to 10,000 pages of spying on Taiwan from Danshui, I'd say a must for anyone concerned about the history of Taiwan (and Danshui).

    I wonder if any of these early recruits to China are still alive. They have a fascinating story to tell; this is also a story that isn't written down.

  10. An old-timer in Wanhua told me that Youth Park used to be an airport during colonial times: "The Taipei Airport was/is Song-shan (Matsuyama in Japanese) airport."

  11. Yes, the 南機場, a tiny military airbase during the colonial time. The main target was 松山機場, though. 南機場 later became a settlement for the KMT air force personnel. The weather station group in Danshui was relocated here after their dormitory in 淡水公會堂 burned down (in the 50s).

  12. "南機場 later became a settlement for the KMT air force personnel." And there are still barracks / a compound in the middle of the park. Most people walk by it without giving it a second thought.

  13. I have read Mr Koh's account on the air raid again. It was Taipei not Hsin-chu that was bombed. With some more digging, the story is now posted.