2010年5月31日 星期一

Collateral damage

A bronze commemorative plaque showing the position of the French fleet downstream (left on the map) from the Chinese fleet on Aug 23, 1884, when the Battle of Foochow took place.

As a major part of the Sino-French War, the Battle of Foochow has been exceedingly well-documented, in large because it was fought on Chinese mainland. From the Qing's POV, this was another painful lesson from dealing with Western gunboat diplomacy. The pessimism was so prevailing that even with the victories in Oct, 1884 in Danshui and in March/April, 1885, in 鎮南關 (i.e., the Battle of Bang Bo), the Qing Court sued for peace and ceded Tonkin to the French. That of course attracted even more attention from other nations then looking to carve up China. On the other hand, it had also inspired a generation of reformers and revolutionaries. The former ran into resistance from the old guards and failed miserably. And the latter finally succeeded in overthrowing the Qing and established the Rep of China in 1911.

A quick summary of the battle of Foochow: Shortly before the invasion of Keelung and Danshui, Adm Amédée Courbet destroyed a Chinese squadron in 閩江River Min, off the 羅星塔Pagoda Anchorage in 馬尾Mawei Harbor, southeast of Foochow City, and also bombarded the Foochow arsenal.

This attack was scheduled for 2PM at low tide, a condition that favored the French as the Chinese fleet routinely turned their bow upstream at low tide with the unarmed stern facing the French downstream. This weakness was known to Courbet. The Chinese commanders were also under the order not to strike first, because the high officials were expecting a peaceful resolution through the American mediation and they even informed the French of the no-first-attack policy. The mediation unfortunately had failed. And the battle started at 1:55PM instead, on Courbet's order, when a Chinese mineboat with unclear intentions approached the French fleet. The battle lasted until 5PM. The French, with guns and torpedoes from a fleet of 13 ships [7 warships, 3 gunboats, 2 torpedo boats, and one transport], destroyed the bulk of the Fujian Fleet. Lost were 9 ships including warships 揚武, 濟安, 飛雲, 福星, 福勝, 建勝, and 振威. And Gen Gao Teng-yun參將高騰雲 and 796 sailors under his command went down fighting. They were buried here:
The picture above shows the Chinese counterattack with one round hitting through the commanding group on the bridge of Courbet's flagship Volta. Lie dying was British pilot Thomas and the one wounded was Lieutenant de vaisseau Ravel, Courbet's aide de camp. Several sailors were also killed or wounded. The Chinese did not give up so easily. They staged a night attack with two torpedo boats but both failed when they were detected. And the French suffered a loss of 10 men, from Chinese sniper fire during the descent from River Min.

In the River, there were also ships from other nations. A little known story was recorded in "The royal navy: a history from the earliest times to the present", Volume 7. By Sir William Laird Clowes, Sir Clements Robert Markham, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Herbert Wrigley Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Leonard George Carr Laughton (1903). On page 374:

"...The hostile action of the French Admiral, Courbet in China, in 1883-84, was indirectly responsible for the death of a promising young British naval officer. On September 6th, 1884, the gunboat Zephyr [note: launched on Feb 11, 1873 and sold in 1889], Lieutenant Charles Kerr Hope, was proceeding up the River Min, with her colours flying, when, nevertheless, she was mistaken for a French vessel, and fired upon by a Chinese fort. Lieutenant Godfrey Hubbard, who had been promoted less than three months before, was mortally wounded ere the error was discovered, and died on the 13th. The commandant of the fort was promptly disgraced ; and the Chinese government behaved so well over this unhappy affair that its good faith could not be impugned. A seaman was wounded on the same occasion, but fortunately recovered..."

The "Chinese government behaved so well" (tongue in cheek perhaps?) We wonder why.

2010年5月28日 星期五

Farewell to old 重建街


2010年5月30日下午4點 在淡水福佑宮後方重建街,有一個「站滿重建街」行動,我們要一起站在重建街上,拍一張環境肖像的大合照!


This is an invitation to all who have ever walked on Chung Jian Street, the hundred-year old and the very first Old Street of Danshui. Please join us for a commemorative group photo session:
"Packing Chung Jian Street" at 4PM, May 30, before all the old sights are gone - Taipei County has decided to re-construct and broaden this beloved street, starting on June 16.

Come one and come all!!

Update 6/1/2010: see 不要說再見,重建街

2010年5月22日 星期六

高砂義勇軍 The Takasago Volunteer Army

[A map showing the advancing routes of the Americans in the Pacific.]

Below is the theme song of "サヨンの鐘" (The Bell of Sayon, 1943) performed by 李香蘭Li Ko-lan of 滿洲映畫Manchuria Film Production. This was a very popular propaganda movie intended for the Aborigines in Taiwan who often enlisted in the IJA after attending the picture show. It had a simple yet effective plot of patriotism and sacrifice with Li's character Sayon, an Atayal girl, dying in a flash flood while sending her Japanese teacher off to the war:

There have been theories on why the Aborigines accepted Japanese militarism so soon after the 霧社Wu-She Incident of 1930 when members of the Atayal tribe were mercilessly suppressed. Only they themselves are in a position to tell others why.

Also, very little about the 高砂義勇軍 is known outside of Taiwan; in fact, not even within Taiwan itself. It is part of the Taiwan heritage that must not be lost. Luckily, oral history has been and is still being preserved; although, much as the rest of the fading WW2 generation, it'll become too late soon enough. The least we can do here is to try to provide a little overview:

The Japanese had experienced first hand the fighting skills of the Aborigines in many previous conflicts. It was natural for the military to regard them as a potential source of fighting men. In the beginning, the Aboriginal warriors were recruited into the IJA as 軍夫 to serve as laborers to ferry military supplies. The exact date of their departure for the Philippines was unclear; although it was before 1942, before the draft laws became official. Between 1942-43, there have been 7 contingents/brigades sent to the Pacific war theaters, each consisted of a few hundred men. The first brigade of 500 distinguished themselves in the battle of the Bataan Peninsula on May 7, 1942. With the victory, the ranks of the Aboriginal soldiers were elevated to 軍人, i.e., bona fide soldier, with equal rights to the Japanese. This status was accorded to the subsequent 6 groups of enlistees. And in 1943, two teams of 500 men each recruited from those already in service were even trained as special forces; they were sent to Luzon Island and suffered heavy losses there. For example, none of the 80 薰空挺身隊paratropers led by Lt 中重男中尉 survived the mission on Nov 26, 1944. All together, a conservative estimate of about 4,000 served in the Pacific War.

In the photo below, the 薰 soldiers in training can be seen carrying a long Aboriginal knife/machete (番刀, also known as 義勇刀, with a 48-cm blade and 16-cm handle) and the Model 38 rifle with its bayonet. Also, the star emblem on the steel helmets was painted with fluorescent dye for easier identification at night.
It is said that an Aborigine can survive anywhere in the wild with a box of matches, a packet of salt, and his personal knife.
Each of the 9 Aboriginal tribes has their own design of the knife which is given to the newborn-boys as a gift to last a lifetime. They are allowed to wear the blade at age 12. It not only is a deadly weapon, but more important, it is also a multifunctional tool. It figured prominently in the Pacific War, a war essentially of perfecting survival skills in hell and this tool was absolutely indispensable. There was also a spiritual bond between an Aboriginal man and his knife, not unlike that between the traditional Japanese samurai and his sword.

The Aboriginal soldiers saw action in 4 different battle theaters:

The Philippines: On Dec 22, 1941, the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf and encountered fierce resistance from Gen Jonathan Wainwright's army. The bulk of the US-Philippines forces quickly retreated south to Bataan Peninsula where they were eventually defeated and forced to surrender on April 9, 1942. The infamous Bataan death march was its aftermath. Earlier in March of 1942, 500 Aboriginal enlistees reported to duty in Kaohsiung and formed the 高砂挺身報國隊. They shipped out on March 15 and arrived in San Fernando for 5 days of basic training. Then they were assigned to various Japanese units to carry out duties that included transport and supply of ammunition, transport and care of the wounded, collection of salvageable weapons, construction of camps and field hospitals, communications, and burial of the dead. Often, however, they also pick up rifles and become scouts as well as participate in fire fights. Because of their bravery, resourcefulness and endurance on the battlefield, the high command decided to grant them the regular army status, and renamed them 高砂義勇軍. After Bataan, they went to Bagio to construct roads and bridges. And 6 months later, 100 of them joined the 橫山先遣隊 and went on to fight in New Guinea.

East New Guinea: The battles at New Guinea were a total waste. There was no coherent war plan. They were fought more for attrition to draw in the Americans. It was in fact the Japanese military's attempt to shift the national attention from the humiliating defeat in the Solomon islands. On July 21, 1942, the 橫山先遣隊 arrived in Buna in preparation for attacking Port Moresby. This task force consisted of the 15th Independent Engineers Company and the 144th Infantry Company of Osaka with the 55th Artillery Company, the Aboriginal soldiers, and the Korean laborers in support. They were 96 Paiwan tribesmen from Kaohsiung-shu and 5 Amis from Taitung-Hualien. Also, on June 26, 1942, the 5th Aboriginal brigade as part of the 18th Army landed in Hansa Bay, north of Papua New Guinea, moving south to assist in the attack of Port Moresby. They were 85 Atayals from Hsinchu-shu. The march south took almost 6 months through Wasu, Madang, then downhill to Aitape where they were re-supplied by the 7th Aboriginal Brigade, under the IJN, with food and ammunition transported from Wewak. In March, 1943, the supply convoy for the 18th Army was annihilated in the Dampier Strait, the Army had to retreat to Wewak and then But. This was also a time when cannibalism crept in. The orders of no Japanese flesh allowed were also ignored. Except the First and the Third Aboriginal brigades, the other five had all been thrown into this hellhole. By the end of the war, 160,000 Japanese POWs were detained at Musu Island, and among them, around 2,500 Aboriginal soldiers.

The Solomon islands: The battles at Tulagi Island and Guadalcanal on Aug 7, 1942 are well-known (see, for example, here). Relevant to this blog is that earlier in July, the Third Brigade (600 men) under the IJN departed from Kaohsiung and stopped over Manila for 3 days. Upon learning the news of the American attacks, 200 were diverted to defend Guadalcanal by way of Rabaul. After the defeat in Guadalcanal, they ended up on Bougainville Island growing rice and after the war they were confined to a concentration camp on Fuaru Island.

Pulau Morotai: The Battle of Morotai started on Sept 15, 1944 and continued until the end of the war, or, technically until 1974. The island was defended initially by 500 Taiwanese soldiers, the main component of the 2nd Provisional Raiding Unit. They faced an overwhelming invading American force by a ratio of 100 to 1. As in other battles in the Pacific, the defenders and the reinforcements suffered greatly from diseases and starvation. The Americans needed Morotai to stage the invasion of Mindanao to re-take the Philippines, hence the all-out assault. Private Teruo Nakamura, the last confirmed Japanese/Aboriginal holdout on Morotai or elsewhere, was captured by Indonesian Air Force personnel on Dec 18, 1974.

As those Taiwanese war-dead, the Aborigines are also enshrined in 靖國神社Yasukuni Jinja in Tokyo.

There have been numerous movies and TV programs about the Pacific War. The most recent one is the HBO mini-series, "the Pacific" (April, 2010); its first 3 episodes depict the battle of Guadalcanal - exclusively from the American perspective of course.
Not only the Aborigines, men and women from Taiwan were also part of this history. The Taiwanese enlistees have often been portrayed as guards of POW camps, while in fact most of them, 80,433 to be precise, fought on the front line. Their stories still remain untold.

2010年5月19日 星期三

Manchuria 1945-6

To read this post, pro-lifers please remember that this was wartime in 1945-6. And in Northeast China and North Korea, hundreds of thousands of defenseless Japanese settlers were desperately trying to return to Japan.

The pictures below show a tiny shrine located on the grounds of 済生会Saiseikai Hospital in 二日市Futsukaichi of 筑紫野市(Chikushino City) in Fukuoka. It commemorates the unborn - from the unwanted pregnancies, terminated without anesthesia of women brutally raped by Soviet soldiers and N Korean Security Forces. They were among the 1.39 million refugees arriving in the nearby 博多港(Port Hakata) by ships sailing from Korea and China who escaped from 満州Manchuria. Some of these women were so distraught that they chose to drown themselves right before docking.
This is the rest of the story of the abandoned Japanese orphans in China [see previous post here].

In 1937, the 廣田内閣Hiroda Cabinet under the pressure of the IJA announced the Seven National Policies. One of them was migration to Manchuria with the goal of moving 1 million families or 5 million people in from Japan. They were organized as Frontier Developing Corps. And by the end of the War, 80 such corps (population: 270,000) settled in Manchuria occupying 2 million hectares of land forcibly taken from Chinese farmers. The latter either became hired-hands working for the Japanese settlers or organized into armed resisting groups (called "匪賊bandits" by the 関東軍Kanto Army). On July 7, 1945, all Japanese adults between 18-45 years old were drafted to serve in the IJA, leaving behind old folks, women, elementary school pupils, and little babies to fend for themselves. And in August, 1945, Soviet Union declared war on Japan and proceeded to invade and occupy Manchuria and N Korea. The Japanese began to flee and in the process, died at the hands of the the Soviets, Chinese, and the Koreans.

The map below (Northeast China) shows the settlers retreating (thin arrows) and joining into larger groups (thick arrows). The general plan was for most to reach 奉天Koten (now 瀋陽Shenyang) quickly and then board the train to Seoul. The black dots denote, however, where the Japanese were ambushed.
For example, it is known that a group of 2,000 women and children refugees on their way from 葛根廟 (near 興安) to Shenyang was attacked by Soviet tanks and machine-gunned. Only 150 survived the massacre. Some of whom became the "abandoned orphans". And in 麻山 (near 牡丹江), 720 evacuees, facing Soviet tanks and Chinese bandits on both front and back sides, all committed suicide.

The Soviets also blocked the escape route for the Japanese, i.e., the Shenyang -> 丹東Dandong -> Pyongyang -> Seoul railroad (thick red line), thus trapping the refugees in Shenyang:
In this city, in the bitter cold of the winter of 1945-6, an estimated 110,000 Japanese perished.

Those who later managed to trek from China to N Korea found themselves assaulted/raped/killed by the Soviets and the N Korean Security Forces. The survivors crossed the 38 degree parallel (dash-dot line at the bottom of the map above) into the American-controlled S Korea and reached 開城Kaesong/板門店Panmunjeon and Seoul area, and eventually were shipped back to Japan.

A quarter of a million Japanese did not make it back to their homeland alive. And 4,000 elementary school pupils and babies were left behind in China. These abandoned children sued for compensation from Japanese Gov't in 2004. The lawsuit still continues today [for more, see here]. There are so many bureaucratic red tapes to cut through indeed.

Anybody interested in motion picture portrayal of this period should see ”赤い月” (東宝, 2004, see posters below) which begins by showing a family from 北海道 on their way to 牡丹江 via 南满铁路. The protagonists went through the prosperity as business owners, the panic before and during the war, and the escape as refugees from the advancing Soviets.
Not too surprisingly, this mass repatriation remains relatively unknown outside of Japan.

A postscript: The Russian atrocities against enemy civilians, i.e., the Japanese in China and the Germans in Germany, were committed on the specific order of Josef Stalin. For more info and the source of this post, click here.

2010年5月14日 星期五

In memory of 蔡坤煌醫師Dr Tsai Kun Huang

by ChoSan It was the first summer after the War [note: 1946], the highway to Taipei was destroyed by a series of storms, and the only way to get out from Hualien was by the ship. #2 brother, #3 sister and I were the only passengers on board a lumber company owned ship since the captain was brother’s acquaintance. The ship was doing its routine run that transporting lumber from Hualien and Tamsui. We boarded the ship on the afternoon without any preparation, physical or mental. There were some actions when crews were preparing for the sailing. After leaving the harbor, only sound we could hear was the monotonous engines sound. We sat on the deck and just waited for the time to pass. At dusk, they caught 2 fish by the lines they towed when the ship run across a school of fish. They chop up the fish and made soup then started their dinner. It was not until the captain showed up he offered a bowl of rice with few pieces of the fish to #2 brother. #2 in turn ate half and offered the remainder to me. It was the most delicious meal I could remember. Lying on the coil of big rope I watched the stars in the sky and fell into sleep. Late next morning, we reached Tamsui. Anchored in the middle of river we waited for the inspection. Although we were from the other corner of the same island, we were treated as if the passengers on a foreign ship. Young doctors in white robe showed up by a small boat and started inspect us. It was the first time I encountered with Dr. Tsai, I was 14, and he was 10 years older than I was. When mother was stricken by the stroke we called him for help. He suggested drawing the blood to low the pressure. He had tried but it was too late to draw the congealed blood from mother’s blood vessel. After mother’s death, it was not easy to bear through the rainy winter nights suffering from repeated tonsillitis. The treatment for my disease was penicillin shot, and I went to see Dr. Tsai often since his private clinic was opened after hours. It was one evening after the shot and I returned few minutes later to ask a question that if there was a thing called penicillin shock. Instead of answering he got panic and kept me sitting in his office under observation. Then it was my turn to get panic, thinking I might had a shock and was afraid to leave his office. “Well,” he said finally “let us give the treatment shot even though it looks not a shock.” It was a funny experience we both had shared together in a cold winter night, now to think about it back. Years later, he was the one to do my physical examination for the drafting. He screamed when he measured my blood pressure, “210 is only for a heavy drinker,” he said. Nevertheless, I had passed the test and officially drafted to the ROTC. Married with a local girl he settled in Tamsui and worked for the Health Department all his life until his retirement on 1973 at age 51. I was surprised to discover him as an amateur photographer in the Internet one day while browsing the topics under Tamsui. His pictures were all in B/W and the subjects were limited to old Tamsui [click here for Dr Tsai's pictures]. Based on the fact that the oldest picture shown on the Internet was taken on 1968, there was no doubt that he started his hobby after I left Taiwan. He was born in a small town named Jisui [二水] on August 6, 1922 and died February 22, 1994 after a fire that destroyed his clinic and all his negatives. We might have shared our hobbies if I were to stay at Tamsui.