This is the story of the Japanese prisoner of war camps on the island of Taiwan (Formosa) during the Second World War and of the men who were interned in them.
It seems that many people know about the hardship and suffering of the POW's working on the Death Railway in Thailand and Burma, but few know about the "hell-camps" of Taiwan. We hope to tell the story of the suffering and deprivation endured by the POW's so that all will know - and hopefully never forget!
Our site contains descriptions of the prison camps, a detailed list of all the former prisoners, an honour roll of those who died, and the story of the
Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society.
2015 is the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II, and we want to share with our readers a chronology of events that took place in 1945 relative to the Taiwan POWs, to help commemorate their suffering and sacrifice.
9th – As General Macarthur’s forces made the second major amphibious landing on the Philippines in the Lingayen Gulf, aircraft from the US Navy carrier Hornet attacked Takao (Kaohsiung) Harbour. The hellship Enoura Maru was bombed and more than 350 POWs were killed. They were subsequently buried in a mass grave on Chijin Island. In 1946 the American War Graves Recovery Team removed the remains and sent them to Hawaii for permanent burial.
In 2005 the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society held a memorial service at Kaohsiung Harbour with one former American POW from the Enoura Maru present. It was then decided to build a memorial to the almost 30,000 POWs who had suffered and those who died on the hellships in Taiwan waters.
In 2006 the Taiwan Hellships Memorial – co-sponsored by the Society and the City of Kaohsiung, was dedicated at Chijin Beach with several family members of the former POWs who died present for the ceremony. Ironically the location of the memorial is right across the road from the site of the former mass grave. The memorial has now been incorporated into the new “War and Peace Park” which was dedicated on May 20, 2009 and honours the Taiwanese veterans of three conflicts - WWII, the Chinese Civil War and Korean War.
15th – Approximately 1100 POWs who had come to Taiwan in November 1944 on the Hokusen Maru and had spent the previous two months in various camps on the island, and a few who had come on the Enoura and Brazil Marus, were gathered together at Takao and Keelung and sent to Japan on the Melbourne Maru and the Enoshima Maru. Many went to Kyushu, while others went to the Tokyo, Osaka and Sendai areas where they finished out the war.
28th – A PB4Y-1 aircraft the “Queen Bee” of US Navy Squadron VPB-117 based in the Philippines was shot down over Tung Kang Harbour south of Kaohsiung while on an anti-shipping bombing mission. Four of the crew died in the crash and the others were captured and taken prisoner. One more crewman died the next day from injuries suffered in the crash and another was sent to Japan for interrogation and medical care. The other five were sent to Taihoku (Taipei) and were incarcerated in the Taihoku Prison. They were later given a mock trial, found guilty and executed by the Japanese just 57 days before the war ended.
7th – During an attack on southern Taiwan – once again by aircraft from the USS Hornet, Heito Camp was bombed and 30 POWs were killed and about 80 injured. The Japanese provided no medical care for the injured POWs resulting in more deaths over the next two months. In early March Heito Camp was closed and the POWs dispersed to Taihoku Camp 6, Toroku and Shirakawa.
21st – 213 POWs were sent from Kinkaseki to Keelung and then to Japan on the hellship Taiko Maru. With the departure of those men, around 400 POWs remained at Kinkaseki Camp. In total about 700 men from various camps on the island left Taiwan at this time. This was the last shipment of POWs to leave the island. Most went to camps on Kyushu with some going to Hakodate in northern Japan.
5th – 43 POWs from Inrin Camp – most of whom had originally been in Taichu Camp, were moved to Toroku Camp which formerly contained American POWs off the hellship Hokusen Maru. The majority of the American POWs had left the island in January on the Melbourne Maru and Enoshima Maru, but a few sick men remained and were joined by the British POWs from Inrin.
9th – The infamous Kinkaseki copper mine was closed as the ore could no longer get through to Japan for processing. The POWs just stayed in the camp with their food rations cut and awaited an unknown fate.
12th – A number of POWs from Heito Camp came to Toroku Camp following the closure at Heito. Two American and two British POWs died in the following month the men spent in Toroku Camp.
22nd – 86 very sick men left Kinkaseki for Shirakawa Camp in the south-central part of the island under the care of Dr. Wheeler. By this time, and with the departure of most of the senior officers to Manchuria in October 1944, Shirakawa had become a sort of hospital camp. Fifteen of the former Kinkaseki men died later at Shirakawa from malnutrition, various diseases and overwork in the mine.
30th – 35 more men left Kinkaseki for Taihoku Camp 6 where they remained til the end of the war.
11th – Toroku Camp was closed and all the men were moved to Shirakawa Camp were they finished the war.
In 2009 the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society erected a memorial to the men who were interned in Toroku Camp at the Gou-ba Elementary School near Touliou – the site of the former camp. (See our Spring-Summer 2009 newsletter for more info.)
In late April the Japanese decided to re-locate all the remaining POWs at Kinkaseki Camp to the hills south of Taihoku. Kinkaseki would first need to be cleared of all supplies and stores and the POWs were detailed to do this task. For the next three weeks they carried material to the railhead in preparation for the move. A group of 100 men was selected to be the advance party to get the new camp ready for the rest of the men who would follow at the end of May and in June.
16th – The “advance party” left Kinkaseki and travelled to Taihoku and Shinten by train and then were forced to march six miles up into the hills carrying whatever supplies they could. A camp was set up at Kukutsu and the men began to build huts as there was no accommodation for them in the jungle environment. At Taihoku the men were joined by a group of 5 American POWs and 1 British POW – all medical personnel, who were attached to the group at the last moment. Now there were doctors in the camp again.
29th – A mock trial was held at the Japanese Military Court in Taihoku for fourteen of the American airmen who had been shot down over Taiwan in the previous eight months, five of whom were from the PB4Y-1 Liberator “Queen Bee” that had been shot down over Tung Kang Harbour on January 28th. Although the charges were all trumped up and they had no defense, all were found guilty and sentenced to death by the Japanese War Crimes Tribunal. They were returned to Taihoku Prison to await their execution.
30th – The second group of men left Kinkaseki and joined the initial group at Kukutsu. In addition to helping with the construction of the huts, some of these men were also put to work digging up an old tea plantation on the hills near the camp and planting sweet potatoes and peanuts. This was terrible, back-breaking work given the near starvation conditions they were living in.
The site of the former Kukutsu Camp was discovered in 1997 and in 1999 the second POW memorial in Taiwan was erected to the men who suffered there. In 2004 the memorial was re-located to a better and more secure location and every year a memorial service is held there by the POW Society and the local residents of the area.
. . . . more to come
The dates for this year’s Remembrance Week Event have been finalized.
Our event will take place from November 11 – 18, 2015.
As usual, we will have visits to the former POW camp sites complete with memorial services, local sightseeing tours, and of course the Remembrance Day service at the Taiwan POW Memorial on the site of the former Kinkaseki POW Camp in Jinguashi. More information will be forthcoming later in the year.
We hope that former POWs and their families will make an effort to come as we have a special program prepared for these guests. If you are interested in attending, and for more information, please contact the Society by email or mail (please see the "contacts" page). Hope to see you in November!
On February 23rd Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito, son of the present Emperor Akihito, grandson of wartime Emperor Hirohito and heir to the Japanese throne, spoke out in stark contrast to the position that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his right wing extremists are taking in Japan today with regards to issues on WWII.
His speech has been widely praised on social media around the world and many Japanese see this as hope for better future relations between Japan and the rest of the world. However the majority of Japanese media did not cover the event very well in keeping with the present regime’s suppression and manipulation of freedom of the press now raging in that country.
It is wonderful to read the Crown Prince’s comments, and also the support for them by the public in the article published in Japan Today. It is hoped that Naruhito’s speech will embolden the Japanese people to take a stand against Abe and that it also may be a warning to Abe to back off from his present extremist and revisionist policies – time will tell. Here is the story -
Crown prince warns of need to remember World War II 'correctly'
JAPAN TODAY - Feb. 23, 2015 - 04:00PM JST
Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II “correctly”, in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s historic crimes.
In an unusual intervention in the discussion, Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimise the institutionalised system of wartime sex slavery.
“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I believe it is important to look back at our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who knew the war to the generation who don’t,” Naruhito said.
The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday, come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil relations with China and South Korea, and cause unease in Washington.
Abe has openly said he wants a more sympathetic telling of the history of the first half of the 20th century, a period marked by brutal expansionism in Asia and warring with China and the West.
The prime minister last week appointed a 16-member panel to advise him on a statement he is set to make later this year to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.
Abe has said he will largely stand by Tokyo’s previous apologies, but amid growing anger in China and South Korea over the “comfort women” system, speculation is mounting that he will seek to downplay the issue.
While Japan’s newspapers remained staid in their coverage of Naruhito’s comments, social media users leapt on them. “This definitely contains a warning against Shinzo Abe, doesn’t it?” tweeted @Kirokuro.
“It is a regular recognition (of history), but these comments by the crown prince stand out because Prime Minister Abe’s views on the constitution and history are outrageous,” said @kazu_w50
Asked about his views on war and peace, Naruhito told reporters: “It was very painful that many precious lives were lost, many people suffered and felt deep sorrow in the world including in Japan. It is important that we never forget people who died in the war… (and we must) deepen our appreciation for our past so as not to repeat the horrors of war and to foster a love of peace,” he said.
Abe is having his people begging American textbook companies to whitewash the sex slavery issue and meanwhile the Crown Prince is saying those actions must not be forgotten by today’s generation.
Hopefully the Prince can blunt the fascist efforts by Abe to turn Japan into the country his grandfather created. And we all know how that turned out.
Democracy took root in Japan nearly 70 years ago after the end of World War II. Who would have thought that someone could overturn it so easily? But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has done just that !
For the past two years we have featured articles on the homepage regarding the sweeping changes taking place in Japan under the LDP government of Shinzo Abe and his Right Wing extremists since they came to power in December 2012.
We have shown from reports and studies, first hand news accounts and references, how the Abe government wants to return to the extreme Right Wing policies of former times, how they want to rescind the so-called apologies made by former prime ministers and renounce the previous stand on the Comfort Women, now saying that they were simply prostitutes and that they were necessary and that they were not co-erced or forced by the Japanese military to perform services for the troops. In this time they have forced new laws through their parliament limiting the rights and freedoms of Japanese people, and in a similar manner this spring have by-passed Japan's pacifist constitution in order to make it possible for Japan to wage war again. Even more alarmingly, they will continue to limit or abolish human rights and freedoms, so they can persecute those who differ with their opinion or who want to peacefully gather in protests.
If one looks back at the history of the 20th Century, one can clearly see that these were also the policies adopted and propagated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis when they came to power in Germany 82 years ago in 1933! After being in power only 2 years many Japanese people are already calling Shinzo Abe a "Fascist" and "Public Enemy No. 1".
All of the previous articles from the homepage have been saved together in our Articles and Stories Section of the website. For those who are interested, please CLICK HERE to read the series of articles which reveal the startling changes which have taken place, and which will continue to take place in the near future under this extreme regime. Things have happened so fast in Japan in the past 2 years that is has been hard to keep up and one wonders what the future holds for the people of Japan and as well, its Asian neighbours!
April 17, 2015 - Report - "The Taiwan POW War Graves Project is Finally Completed" - added to the Articles & Stories Section.
April 16, 2015 - "Hirohito's Responsibility for the End of World War II" - added to the Articles & Stories Section.
April 13, 2015 - More photos added to Kinkaseki Camp in The Camps Section
January 31, 2015 - Update to "Asian War Graves and Memorial Photos" article in the Articles & Stories Section - new cemeteries in Bangladesh and Afghanistan - Camp Bastion Wall added.
January 8, 2015 - Update - "18 Years of Researching, Remembering and Honouring the Taiwan POWs" in the Articles & Stories Section.
December 6, 2014 - Fall-Winter 2014 newsletter uploaded to the site. Click here or go to the Society Section and click on the newsletter in the Newsletters box.
November 30, 2014 - The "A LOOK AT THE WAR CRIMINALS' MEMORIALS" feature added to the Articles & Stories Section.
November 25, 2014 - Update to "Asian War Graves and Memorial Photos" article in the Articles & Stories Section - new cemeteries in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and more added.
Sept. 12, 2014 - The "September 1944 Hellships" feature added to the Articles & Stories Section.
Sept. 11, 2014 - Update to the Collection of articles and reports on Shinzo Abe and his Right Wing Gov't. and the downfall of Japan's democracy - in the Articles & Stories section.
May 20, 2014 - Collection of articles and reports on Shinzo Abe and his Right Wing Gov't. and their return to former WWII attitudes and the downfall of Japan's democracy under this regime. Click here to read the articles which are constantly being updated.
March 3, 2014 - Addition of the "Remembrance Day at Kinkaseki" slide show - link on the homepage and story in the Articles & Stories Section.
February 13, 2014 - Updates to almost all of the articles and stories in the Articles & Stories Section with more information as well as addititional and enlarged photos. In particular the articles on the hellships, the further Japanese atrocities and the memorial to the American airmen at the old Taipei Prison, the Other Commonwealth POWs and the forgotten South Africans.
We would like to remind our viewers that this website is a work in progress, so be sure to check back often.
In 2009 six former Taiwan POWs returned to Taiwan to join in the annual Remembrance Day service at Kinkaseki. Society supporter and good friend Chen, Hsiao - Fang produced a slide show of the event and we invite you to watch it and remember these men to whom we owe a debt that can never be repaid. Click here to view the presentation.
Lest We Forget!
LISTEN TO THE POWS' STORY
Society director Michael Hurst is featured in two radio interviews with Radio Taiwan International. We invite you to:
To listen to these programs click the links below -
UPDATE JAN. 2015 - MORE CEMETERIES AND MEMORIALS ADDED !
Do you need a photo of a loved ones' grave or name on a memorial in the Far East?
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We are a group comprised of FEPOW organizations and researchers located in the Far East and we are dedicated to providing good quality photos of war graves and the names on the various memorials from the war cemeteries located all across Asia - FREE OF CHARGE - with the sole aim of keeping the memory of the veterans alive, so present and future generations will not forget the sacrifices they have made so far from home.
We specialize in photos of the names on all the memorials across Asia. We have all 25,000 names on the SINGAPORE / KRANJI MEMORIAL, all 27,000 names on the TAUKKYAN / RANGOON MEMORIAL, as well as all the other memorials such as SAI WAN, YOKOHAMA and LABUAN. We are happy to be able to supply names from all the memorials as well - FREE of CHARGE!
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Another great source for FREE worldwide War Grave & Memorial photos . . .
An excellent organization in the UK with a website offering thousands of FREE war grave and memorial photos worldwide is British War Graves - War Graves Photographs. Founded and operated for over 10 years by Mick McCann in the UK, the site provides photos for almost all the world’s war cemeteries and more FREE.
Click here for more information on free war grave and memorial photos and to visit their website.
The Society has been urgently seeking information regarding the POWs who were evacuated from Taiwan on September 6, 1945 on the aircraft carrier USS Santee CVE-29, and the Destroyer Escorts USS Brister DE-327 and USS Finch DE-328. We have searched various archives to try to find the ships' deck logs and service records, but up to now nothing has turned up.
However, thanks to some help from a researcher friend in the US, we have found the complete list of men carried on the USS Finch. So that just leaves the USS Brister and USS Santee that we still need complete lists for.
If there are any former crew members of these ships who know of the lists that were made and where they might now be, please kindly get in touch with us.
We would also like to hear from former POWs and their families if they have any knowledge that their relative or anyone they knew sailed on either of these two ships. We would be very grateful for any help we can get.
USS Santee - CVE-29 USS Brister - DE-327