January 9, 1945 – was the date of the bombing of the hellship Enoura Maru at Takao Harbour, Formosa, with the loss of more than 300 American POW lives. On January 9th 2005 – the 60th Anniversary of that tragic event, the Society held a special memorial service to remember the Enoura Maru and the men who suffered and died that day. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the City of Kaohsiung Cultural Affairs Bureau at a pier at Kaohsiung Harbour. Following the service on the pier, wreaths were laid on the water over the place where the ship was anchored at the time it was bombed. Many friends and supporters joined with us to remember the men and the events of that day.
In December of last year (2004) Michael Hurst, the director of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society in Taipei, was sharing some thoughts via email with several of the family members whose fathers had been among those American POWs on the hellships the Oryoku, Enoura and Brazil Maru. The topic of the various 60th anniversaries of events that occurred during the last year of World War II was discussed, and the idea came up to study the possibility of holding some kind of memorial service on January 9th this year to remember the men who had suffered and died in the bombing of the Enoura Maru in Kaohsiung Harbor 60 years ago to the day. It was also suggested that a search should be made for the location of the site at the harbor where the POWs who died in the bombing were first buried.
Michael went to work, and with support and assistance from the City of Kaohsiung Cultural Affairs Bureau, the plan for the memorial event began to take shape. It was decided to hold the first part of the service on one of the piers and then take a boat out into the harbor to the location where the Enoura Maru had been anchored when it was bombed, and lay a wreath in honor and tribute to the men.
By January 3rd, everything was in place and Michael went to Kaohsiung on Thursday January 6th to meet with city gov’t. officials to finalize the details of the event. He also met with a local historian and an eyewitness who had lived in the area when the bombing took place and had seen where the POWs were buried, and discussed with them the site of the mass grave. On Friday January 7th, after much research, cross-checking of records and reports, the party made its way to the location and the site of the former burial plot was verified. On Saturday another visit to the site and the area was conducted and further exploration and documentation took place.
On Saturday morning one of the survivors of the Enoura Maru, former POW Charles Towne, arrived at the Kaohsiung Airport. He had decided to come at the last minute and his visit was a great surprise, but everyone was certainly happy to have him there. Sunday morning was a bit hazy as everyone made their way to the appointed rendezvous down at the harbor. The ceremony got under way shortly after 10:00am with the playing of a march on the bagpipes as rendered by Scottish piper George Boyle. Master of Ceremonies, Jerry Keating, one of members of the Society’s board, welcomed everyone and the service got underway.
In the opening address Michael Hurst shared the story of the Enoura Maru and what happened on that fateful day with those present, and following this Terry Crutchfield read the poem “The Man We Never Knew”. Robert Forden then brought greetings on behalf of the United States Government, followed by another poem, “We Will Remember Them” recited by Keith Burell.
Charles then attempted to speak to the group but after only a couple of lines was overcome with the memories of that fateful day and the loss of his friends and was unable to continue. In closing he simply and tearfully said “I thank you all for being here today to remember me and my friends. . .”
Director-General of the Kaohsiung City Cultural Affairs Bureau Ms. Melody Yeh, then brought heartfelt greetings and best wishes from the city and read a moving poem dedicated to the former POWs in her speech. By this time there were not many dry eyes on the dock.
Orville Humfleet, the Commander of District VFW Post # 272 read a poem “What is a Veteran” before Rev. Craig Clark brought a short message and then led in a prayer of remembrance for the victims and their families. This was followed by a closing poem “POW Tribute” read by Mark Wilkie.
The group then boarded the boat and proceeded to the location where the Enoura Maru had been anchored at the time it was bombed. On the way out it was noticed that there were two ships anchored in the harbor – side by side – in a “two-ship nest” similar to, and nearly in the same location, where the Enoura Maru and the tanker that lay beside it, had been anchored on that fateful day 60 years ago. Needless to say there was a bit of a feeling of déjà vu.
The former position of the hellship had previously been established and verified by the local historians, so on reaching the spot at just a few minutes after 11:00 am, the ship’s horn blew and two wreaths were laid on the water in memory and honor of the men of the hellships. Taps was then played and a minute’s silence was observed, following which the soft lilt of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes echoed across the Sunday morning stillness of the harbor.
In his closing remarks Michael thanked the Kaohsiung City government and all those who had worked so hard to make the day the success that it was, to Charles for making the courageous trip back, and he wished God’s blessing on the survivors and their families – with the promise that these men had not, and would not - ever be forgotten!