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.
It was 70 years ago today - September 2, 1945, that the Japanese government and military signed the unconditional surrender of all their forces to Allied Forces on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. It ended nearly four years of conflict in the Pacific and finally brought World War II to an end.
For the Chinese however, it was the end of fourteen years of horror and strife since the Japanese launched their attack in Manchuria in 1931. It was a day of rejoicing for all people around the world and the end of the most devastating war the world has ever seen.
The sacrifice and suffering and death of millions here in Asia and around the world cannot really be fathomed, and we must never forget what it cost to win that victory and the freedom that we so often take for granted in our world today.
As on Remembrance Day / Veteran's Day and Memorial Day, let us pause to honour those men and women who suffered and those who died for what they believed would be a better world. Let us strive for peace so that what they endured will not have been in vain.
Allied delegates at the surrender ceremony - (L-R) The Republic of China, Great Britain, Russia, Australia, Canada and France.
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.
NOTE: The first part of this article covering the dates from January to May can now be found in the "Articles and Stories" Section of the website.
2nd Shirakawa Camp was strafed by US Army Air Force P-38 fighter planes – no damage was done and no-one was killed or injured.
In early June 1945 the Japanese authorities at the main Taihoku Camp # 6 decided to send a group of POWs up into the hills north of the city to build a temporary camp to “protect the prisoners from the extensive bombings of the capital”. In fact the POWs were to be killed up there when the Allies landed on Taiwan.
12th - Approximately 100 men were sent up into the hills north of Taihoku and a camp was set up and named the Oka Camp.
The group arrived at a small village on the mountainside and from there had to hike the rest of the way to the camp area. They began to build huts for the rest who would follow in a couple of weeks.
16th – The last party of men left Kinkaseki Camp and travelled the same arduous route to the jungle camp at Kukutsu. They joined their mates in what was to become an even worse time for them than at Kinkaseki, with forced hard labour, beatings, starvation and increased sickness and disease. Their only means of obtaining food and supplies was through the daily “town parties” who would walk the six miles to and from Shinten, bringing them into the camp.
19th – At 6:00 am the fourteen American airmen found guilty in the mock trial of May 29th were led out into the courtyard of the Taihoku Prison and shot to death by a Japanese firing squad. The youngest was only 19 years of age. This was a needless execution as the Japanese knew they were losing the war which ended 57 days later. They could have kept the men in prison with the rest of the airmen who they released at the surrender.
On June 20th 2009 (June 19th in the USA – 64 years to the date of the execution) a memorial plaque was unveiled on the wall of the old prison in memory of the men who were imprisoned and those who needlessly died there.
Taihoku Prison During Wartime . . . The former prison wall today . . .
1st - Oka Camp opened and 50 more men came up from Taihoku Camp 6 on July 2. By this time most of the first group of 100 men was too sick and starved to work, but the building of the huts continued. By the end of July out of the 150 men in the camp only about 40 were fit for any kind of work. Ten men would die in this camp by the time the Japanese surrendered and eight more died within a couple of days of their return to Taihoku Camp when the war ended.
Conditions for the men from Kinkaseki at the Kukutsu “jungle” Camp continued to worsen as the summer wore on. Forced to work on the mountainside planting sweet potatoes and peanuts (which they never got to eat) and though they were starving, if caught eating when planting they would be severely beaten – a risk which many took and suffered. The men had to scrounge for food, eating snakes and snails and local grasses shown to them by the Taiwanese. Their only real food was rice which was hauled up from Hsinten City every couple of days on the backs of the emaciated prisoners. Most have testified that this was their worst time as a POW.
Conditions worsened as well at Shirakawa Camp in the south of the island, and although the camp was supposed to be a sort of hospital camp, food was getting scarcer as the blockade tightened around the island. Rations were cut further and men continued to die despite the efforts of the camp POW medical personnel.
The misery of the POWs everywhere continued while the allies tried to persuade the Japanese to surrender. Finally the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, forcing the Japanese to give up the fight. The official surrender came on August 15th.
However, despite the rumors that the war had ended, conditions in the camps remained almost the same for another week. Although the work details ended and the food rations were increased slightly, the POWs were still under the thumb of their captors. The POWs at Taihoku Camp 6 were the first to learn of the war’s end and the men from Oka Camp returned to Taihoku on the 21st. Ten men had died in this camp in just 2 ½ months and eight more died within a couple of days of their return to Taihoku Camp.
The men at Kukutsu didn’t know the war had ended until the 24th- just after the second man died in the camp on the 22nd. Then they had to endure another arduous journey back down the mountain to Taihoku carrying many sick and dying men. They were promised boats and trucks to help them but none ever came. By the time this group reached their new temporary camp at Churon near the Matsuyama Airfield in Taihoku two more men were dead.
The men at Shirakawa were finally informed that the war had ended in a speech by the camp commandant on the 25th. On the 26th they were sent north by rail to Taihoku and placed in an evacuated Japanese hospital camp called Maruyama.
28th – US Army Air Force B-29’s from Tinian Island dropped food on the Taihoku 6 Camp and the Churon Camp located near the airport. The planes came in too low for the drop and many of the parachutes didn’t open in time so the canisters came crashing to the ground in the camps causing a lot of damage and injury. At Taihoku Camp 6 a canister came through the hospital hut roof and two men were killed, and at Churon several canisters hit the POWs’ building and killed three men who were in the hospital area on the second floor. Several more were injured.
30th – More B-29’s returned for a second drop on the camps but this time there were signs laid out on the ground telling them where to drop and no-one was injured or killed. The food and supplies dropped on the camps were a life-saver for the sick and starving men. Notes were dropped telling the POWs that rescue was on its way.
1st - A party of American Marines arrived in Taihoku by boat from China to assess the immediate needs and arrange for the evacuation of the POWs.
2nd– The formal Japanese surrender took place on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay bringing World War II to an official close.
4th – A group of US Navy ships arrived off Keelung Harbour to begin the evacuation of the POWs. Two Escort Carriers - the USS Block Island CVE-106 and the USS Santee CVE-29, anchored about 20 miles out at sea while escort ships patrolled nearby.
5th – Fighter aircraft from both carriers flew sorties over Taihoku and Northern Taiwan to make a show of force to the Japanese while two US Destroyer Escorts – USS Thomas J. Gary DE-326 and USS Kretchmer DE-329 navigated their way through dangerous minefields and entered Keelung Harbour. Supplies for the POWs were also landed by some of the carrier aircraft and dispersed to the Maruyama Holding Camp.
In the afternoon the ex-Kinkaseki POWs from Churon Camp were taken by train to Keelung Port and put on the two destroyer escorts and taken out to the waiting carriers. The men had to transfer from the DE’s in fairly rough seas but all were loaded safely.
6th – The following morning the Gary and Kretchmer were joined by DE’s USS Brister DE-327 and USS Finch DE-328 in ferrying the POWs from Camp 6 and those who had been at Shirakawa and Maruyama from Keelung to the carriers. Also during the day, transport aircraft from the Philippines took POWs out by air.
Later in the afternoon as the Americans were nearly finished evacuating all the prisoners they could take, a group of British Royal Navy ships – including the famous cruisers Belfast and Bermuda, entered the harbor with the New Zealand hospital ship Maunganui to take off the remaining hospital cases who were too sick and weak for the Americans to handle. They remained at Keelung for the next two days gathering up sick prisoners from the hospitals before sailing for Manila.
Once the American DE’s had delivered the last of their precious cargo to the carriers and loaded approximately 50 POWs each, the task force departed for Manila, arriving there on September 9th. The POWs were offloaded and taken to a hospital repatriation depot run by Australian Forces where they were given medical treatment and care before being allowed to return home again.
Within a few weeks as transport could be found, the POWs were on their way home. Some went by way of Singapore, Ceylon and the Suez Canal while the majority went across the Pacific to the US and also to Canada, with a great many going across Canada by train to the east coast where they boarded ships like the Queen Mary for their final journey back to the UK and home. Most arrived home in November and before Christmas.
Some of the POWs required further medical care and treatment and so were taken by the Maunganui and other ships to Australia and New Zealand where they recovered and rested until being shipped home – some as late as the spring of 1946.
The men who were imprisoned on Taiwan as POWs can not and will not ever forget their experiences, and we who seek to tell their story and honour them must not forget either!
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!
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.
Two days after it appeared on the JAPAN TODAY newspaper website, the story - and all internet links to it, were pulled - certainly because of pressure from the Abe government. It just shows how Abe and his extremist gov't are trying to control the Japanese media, and also that they have no respect for and totally disregard the Emperor - who unfortunately and sadly has no real power or influence in Japan today.
Fortunately we downloaded and saved the complete newspaper article and you can read the full story HERE in the Articles and Stories Section - scroll down to the article.
Despite critical meetings held in the Diet and conferences with Japan's top constitutional experts and myriads of lawyers in early June, all of whom rule his actions unconstitutional and un-democratic, and with complete disregard for the will of the Japanese people, Shinzo Abe and his Right Wing extremists are still trying to make changes illegally to Japan's constitution and in particular Article 9 which prohibits Japan from being a military power. All too sadly this also has huge support and backing from the US Government.
For the latest in this saga check out Lawrence Repeta's timely article in the Asia-Pacific Journal at the following link: http://japanfocus.org/-Lawrence-Repeta/4335/article.html . One wonders where this will all end, but as of now it certainly looks like Japan and its people are headed for a future run by a "dangerous ultranationalist dictator unrestrained by the law".
August 24, 2015 - Update to the story "A Family Connection" in the Articles & Stories Section.
July 2, 2015 - Spring-Summerr 2015 newsletter uploaded to the site. Click here or go to the Society Section and click on the newsletter in the Newsletters box.
June 14, 2015 - "70 Years Ago - Taiwan's POW History - January - May" added to the Articles & Stories Section.
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.
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?
Welcome to the ASIA WAR GRAVES PHOTO GROUP.
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!
Click here...to find out further information on the ASIA WAR GRAVES PHOTO GROUP, the war cemeteries and memorials covered, and the other services that are provided - FREE OF CHARGE!
We are pleased to announce that since the creation of the ASIA WAR GRAVES PHOTO GROUP in JULY 2012, we have distributed more than 15,000 FREE war grave and memorial photos!
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 and information we can get.
USS Santee - CVE-29 USS Brister - DE-327