Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Ceremony in Taipei - UPDATED

As Memorial Day approached this year and I thought of the day, I was interested to know if there were any US Military Personnel resting in Taiwan soil.  There is the Foreign Cemetery in Tamsui. 

I contacted the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society  and spoke with Michael Hurst, the Director.

Mr. Hurst said there may be some very old graves of merchant seamen in the Tamsui Foreign Cemetery, but as far as he knew, no US Military Personnel rested there.

During World War II the Japanese held many Allied Military Personnel in Prisoner of War (POW) camps throughout the island of Taiwan.

Many US Military Personnel in these POW camps died and were buried in Taiwan soil.

At the close of WW II., the US Army Quartermaster Corps, Graves Commission went through Taiwan to repatriate the remains of US personnel.  If they could be identified, they were sent to their families in the US.  If the families did not claim the men, they were sent to either the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu or to the Manila American Cemetery located on the grounds of Fort William McKinley. 

One group of American POWs who were killed when the hellship Enoura Maru was bombed in Kaohsiung Harbor on January 9, 1945 were buried in a mass grave at Chijin Beach. After the war their remains were recovered and most could not be identified so they were returned to the Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu and buried together in a series of graves marked as “Unknowns”.

Interest has been shown by family members of the men whom lie in those unmarked graves to have some kind of plaque erected on the site to tell the story of the men and their suffering and death on the hellship. The Punchbowl Cemetery has been approached and has basically agreed giving the parameters for building such a memorial, but so far no real action has been taken. The effort to place a plaque on this series of graves at Punchbowl Cemetery in Honolulu is a work, just beginning.

In my conversation with Michael Hurst of the Taiwan POW Society, I told him of my desire to visit a place in the Taipei area where I might find a grave of an American Military person.  I wanted to stop by and honor these men.

When I discovered that there was no scheduled Memorial Day gathering any place in the Taipei area, Michael said that he and I could visit the Old Taihoku Prison wall, which is the only thing remaining of the Taihoku Prison.

The Japanese Military considered those Allied flyers from the US Navy and Army Air Corps not as POWs but rather war criminals and held them in the Taihoku Prison in Taipei.  Less than 2 months before Japan surrendered at the end of WW II, Japanese military personnel took 14 of the American airmen before a military tribunal and held a mock trial, found them guilty, and subsequently executed all 14 men on June 19th, 1945.

Michael Hurst, the Director of the Taiwan POW Society, along with some friends, had a plaque made with permission from the Taipei City Government, and placed the plaque on the old stone prison wall which stands along an alleyway a short distance south of the Chiang Ki-shek Memorial. It was formally dedicated on June 20, 2009.

Today, May 30th 2011, Memorial Day, we met at the wall about 12:00 PM to hold a service for the 14 men who were murdered by the Japanese on 19 June 1945 and for all other US Military Personnel who have suffered and died, giving the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

 Below are my unedited videos, taken at the ceremony today.

Video 1

Video 2

As Michael Hurst said at the end of this video, the old stone wall, with the plaque, on the east side of the old Taihoku Prison grounds will become the gathering place for those who would come out on Memorial Day, the last Monday in the month of May each year, to honor and show our respect to all our US military personnel. 

I was not aware of the number of POW Camps the Japanese maintained in Taiwan.  If you are interested in the history of these Taiwan camps, please visit the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, a fascinating web site.

Although the ceremony was put  together by Michael Hurst of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, I would like to thank everyone who came out this afternoon to participate and/or observe the time of remembrance.

UPDATE - 31 May 2011..

The Taipei Times Newspaper ran an article in the print edition of the paper this morning concerning the ceremony.  You can read the article HERE. 


Anonymous said...

I'm shocked when I viewed the "ZH" version of the news and events on AIT's website regarding the Memorial day ceremony in Kingaseki.

AIT have greeted veterans as "War Criminals" [戰犯]in the news text.

It's so sad to see pow's suffering and ultimate prices they paid for the freedom we enjoyed today. It's even more sad to see they were called "War Criminals" by the AIT's web publication.

I sincerely hope this is just some kind of flute of incompetent translation rather than a conspiracy to degrade these American's contribution to the world.

Fellow American Citizen from Taiwan

Anonymous said...

As June 27, 2011, AIT has corrected her "zh" version of news text on POW's interned in Kinkaseki as
戰俘(Prisoner-of-war)instead of
戰犯"War Criminal".