2015年4月6日 星期一

Umbrella Soldiers

When the first Corps of the Nationalist 70th Army arrived in Keelung on Oct 17, 1945, the welcoming Taiwanese were amazed to see umbrellas as the standard issue, and promptly called these soldiers from the Motherland, Umbrella Soldiers雨傘兵.

Worse, according to contemporary reports, the soldiers looked as haggard as street beggars who carried, in addition to weapons, pots and pans, satchels of rice, and who also wore torn/mended clothing and filthy straw slippers - hardly the appearance of a victorious army. The umbrellas were wishfully associated with mythical power; some folks truly believed that these umbrellas were bullet-proof. Others, however, could not help but notice the stark contrast in discipline shown by the Japanese army, then standing at attention on the docks, to greet the Chinese. It was a major let down for the Taiwanese.

Some photos have now surfaced and with which has emerged an argument that the original Taiwanese eyewitness accounts were incorrect, a smear in fact. This needs to be clarified.

The photos in question were taken by the "Wide World Photos from US Navy", and one of which has an accompanying short release (dated Nov 14, 1945, see below). It did not specify if the first or the second contingent of the 70th Army was photographed. In fact, there was the arrival of a second group on Oct 26. Its soldiers were transported directly to Hsinchu to relieve the Japanese force of their weaponry. The first group of 3,000 men was already sent to greater Taipei area to perform the same duty.
A truckload of the 70th Army in the always rainy Keelung
Defenders have pointed to the photos and argued for a Chinese military might. They, however, seem unaware that the first group had arrived wearing winter gears, a miscalculaion. In the subtropical heat of Keelung/Taiwan, they were forced to take off padded uniforms and were in various stages of undress, hence the dilapidated look. In addition, the seasickness en route did not help.

According to the recall of a surviving old soldier, the 70th was issued new uniforms and shoes, and straw slippers were banned before boarding the US transport ship to Taiwan. And the umbrellas? They were a generous gift from a merchant in WenZhou溫州, who originally came from Hokkien, in support of his fellow home-towners. These are clearly depicted in the photos, smartly dressed soldiers with umbrellas.

Indeed, the 70th Army was re-structured from a security force based in Hokkien ChangChou. Before dispatched to Taiwan, it was merged with another security force in NingPo寧波 area (the old soldier's unit). The first group now appears to be the old and tired unit from Hokkien and the second, younger and healthier, from NingPo. The Wide World photos were most likely taken of the second group on Oct 26, in no way contradicting the eyewitness accounts of the first group's arrival on Oct 17.

At that time, KMT regular armies were busy elsewhere, unavailable for the Taiwan take-over mission. Selection of the 70th Army was a monumental mistake, and the repercussion persists to this day. The 70th Army, downsized to a division, was sent back to fight the civil war in China in Dec, 1946. It was annihilated by the Red Army.
, Umbrella, brand new uniform and new shoes
[Source: http://taipics.com/mediapubs_50s_war2.php]

8 則留言:

  1. I know what you mean by the 70th annihilated by the Red Army. In the movies Red Army was the Russians. The Chinese communist army was the Eighth Route Army (八路軍). I should know since I lived in LiuMingChuan road before. The street next to it was Aiqi road. By progression my street should have been named Aiba road, or 爱八路. Of course that wouldn't do.
    Trust the American brass to make a proper pronunciation of places. KIIRUN! Same as George Bush calling Iraq iWreck. Good riddance.

  2. And in Taipei, the No 8 city bus roue was also re-named, so people would not yell out "八路來了".
    US military maps of Taiwan at that time showed city names in Japanese pronunciation. Kiirun was one of them.

  3. From the accounts in her book 'Da Jiang Da Hai 1949' by ex-minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai, I gathered that the plundering conduct of the 70th Army in Taiwan was criminal. At the same time I can sympathize with them. For what can one expect of those chronically hungry, dirt-poor, ill-disciplined soldiers do at a dumpling shop? No money to buy. Gnawing hunger... Of course the welcoming Taiwanese were disappointed by the sight of those ragged Nationalist soldiers. But were there no insightful Taiwanese elites who could fathom the conditions those soldiers were in? They were the third pickings from KMT army that for 8 years been fighting against the JIA while barely able to hold on. How does one imagine the KMT were left with, after surviving those years of superior military onslaughts of JIA, till the tide was turned?

    "At that time, KMT regular armies were busy elsewhere, unavailable for the Taiwan take-over mission." Oh, yes! What were they busy about? If the history buff, Taiwan-loving, pro-democracy expats (looking at you, Michael Turton et al) have the stomach to take a close look at this critical juncture, this time immediately after the surrender of Japan, in China, they might have a new perspective on the following 228 incident, a one that is drastically different from the accounts of the current DPP charlatans and cohorts.

  4. Just to add a few more points to the post:

    The "insightful Taiwanese elite" were quickly removed by the incoming Chen Yi administration and replaced with "半山".
    The choice of the 70th (from Hokkien) and the 62nd armies (mostly Cantonese who arrived in Kaohsiung in Nov in no better shape than the 70th) was deliberate, since (1) both armies were somewhat battle-tested and their commanders apparently loyal to CKS and (2) they were also dispensable, in case the 200,000 Japanese soldiers still stationed in Taiwan decided not to yield. What's truly missing, though, was that no one had bothered to inform the soldiers not to behave as conquerors. Even if that was done, it was certainly ignored. By April, 1946, Taiwan descended into chaos.
    The 228 Incident was put down by the 21st Army which was wiped out, to a man, in 1949 in Shanghai by the Communist army. Among the latter, Taiwanese soldiers originally served in the IJA (long story).
    It was a very complicated time, even more difficult to comprehend because KMT still refuses to admit its defeat in the civil war, thus allowing the CCP to re-write the Sino-Japanese war history while ignoring Taiwan history at the same time. As long as the archives on the 228 remain selectively released, at slower than a snail's pace, the topic will stay open. At least we are beyond the stage when the 228 was labeled as a Communist-led plot and/or an IJA-aided revolt. Now it is officially "官逼民反".

  5. I agree that the soldiers behaved as inexcusably greedy conquerors. I don't know 半山, and would like to know what they did. What I meant by insightful Taiwanese elite was that someone could have seen through these soldiers as greedy poor illiterate ill-mannered soldiers, not as the kind of people to reason with, but as someone to pay gifts to. Kind of like shop owners paying protection money to gangsters in order to have some peace. Am I to understand that after 50 years of Japanese Rule, Taiwanese no longer have the concept of buying peaceful relation with 江湖人士?

    I remember Minister Lung's book did mention two good Taiwanese friends who fought in China, one conscripted by KMT and the other CCP. It's not hard to understand in battlefield how quickly fate could change hand and people falling into opponent's camp.

    Please elaborate on the state of chaos in April 1946. Was it the result of Chen Yi's governance? Or was it the doing of the unruly soldiers? I heard one account saying that Chen Yi was not in total command of those soldiers. That the soldiers were under the command of other factions who were corrupt.

    Finally regarding the IJA stationed in Taiwan, did they get repatriated back to Japan? Did the Taiwanese soldiers serving IJA in the Pacific theater return to Taiwan? By one account I hear that these were numbered 30,000 and they did return to Taiwan.

  6. Here are a couple of wikipedia posts that may be useful for you:
    (1) 半山: http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8D%8A%E5%B1%B1%E4%BB%94
    (2) 台籍日本兵: http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%8F%B0%E7%B1%8D%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E5%85%B5
    30,000 was the number of Taiwanese servicemen who perished in the Pacific War. The rest did return after spending months in POW camps. And the fate of those served in the IJA and IJN was far more tortuous than the two gentlemen described in Prof Lung's book. Also, every single one of the 199,031 Japanese soldiers then stationed in Taiwan were repatriated.

    The two Armies did do a lot of damage, but more so by Chen Yi and his cronies overall. The commanders of the 70th and the 62nd did not get along. Chen had given preferential treatment to the 70th that did not sit well with the 62nd. These hot potatoes were tossed back to China by the end of 1946 leaving Taiwan guarded by a few thousand security and garrison forces - amidst the rising discontent of the Taiwanese.

    The 江湖人士 had already been killed off by the 1920s, replaced with the state police (and secret police) together with a network of 保甲. The latter relied on the cooperation of the Taiwanese elite, the 仕紳 class. Chen Yi dismantled the law and order infrastructure so quickly that the common folks had no authorities to turn to.

  7. Thanks for the kind and patient answers. I'm learning. And please excuse my way of speaking when it becomes inappropriate or insensitive. Please point that out when it happens. I am reading your references and still have many questions. To be continued.

  8. No sweat. Even though blogs are not a good place for in-depth discussion and many sentences will be left dangling, it is still worth a try.