Japan’s prisoner of war camps in Taiwan

Our friend Jerome Keating thought some of you would find this site of interest, and he explains why:

Taiwan POW Camps: a Website That Some May Find Useful

One would have to be dense to have not noticed the rancor and venom expressed in recent weeks as strong post World War II feelings on war crimes and atrocities surfaced on the different postings.

A group of which I am on the Board of Directors is the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society. One of our goals is to provide information to researchers, scholars, museums and POW groups on the Taiwan POW’s story.

There were 15 Japanese POW Camps on Taiwan between August 1942 and September 1945. Some 4000 Allied prisoners spent time in these camps. Some were here for the duration of the war; others stayed temporarily before being moved to Japan. The majority of the duration prisoners here were from British Commonwealth countries; the Americans generally spent 3 to 5 months and were moved to Japan. Obviously many endured the suffering, beatings, and forced labor of prisoners and many died.

We have been able to locate all these camps and each year on the weekend closest to November Eleventh (Remembrance Day) we have a remembrance service where many survivors in their seventies and eighties return to visit the camps and put closure to a painful and tragic part of their lives.

This weekend we will lay a wreath in Kaohsiung Harbor for those who (60 years ago) went down with the Enoura Maru, one of the Japanese POW “Hellships” that transported prisoners in the Pacific. This ship laden with prisoners was mistakenly bombed and sunk by Allied planes as it rested in Kaohsiung Harbor on its way to Japan.

I present this site because some may be interested in this brief period of Taiwan history and others may want to see how another group comes to terms with the past. Of the POW’s, we have found that a minority are bitter and will probably go to their graves that way; but the majority are able to find their own way to make a separate peace. They are particularly thankful that their suffering is recognized and not forgotten and with that they are able to let it go. Many bring their children and grandchildren to visit what is a painful memory for them. A special communication is achieved between members of such families.

I offer no solutions. The site is www.powtaiwan.org


The Discussion: 7 Comments


i have a question about taiwan and japan during the WWII period, and the implication and connection of that past to today’s support of japan towards taiwan secessionism.

as i know, the taiwanese, in one way or another, took part into the japanese aggressions and atrosites during WWII period. old people in mainland china still remember so-called how brutal those “second devils” (refer to some taiwanese and koreans serving in japanese imperial army) are. and many taiwanese died as japanese imperial soilders.

i don’t want to humiliate taiwanese people or anything like that. i just wonder is it because of that past, some taiwanese, especially those old guys, are emotionally connected and sympathetic to japanese militarism. and, putting japan’s geopolitical considerations aside, is it because of that part of the history, taiwan secessionism wins a lot of sympathy from japanese righg wings?

personally i think the case of taiwan is very interesting, because most people have some difficulties to understand why victims have sympathies to criminals (well, i know somebody will tell me japanese were not criminals to taiwan in that period).

this part of the history opens more space for different intepretations. and that interest me a lot. and no doubt are helpful to mainland chinese when they fight against taiwan secessionism.

btw, do you read Lin Siyun’s articles?

January 7, 2005 @ 6:59 pm | Comment


In trying to addrees your questions this is something that I am developing a longer piece on, but I will try to pack it into a nutshell.

First, what I think many fail to grasp is the Taiwanese increasing awareness through the centuries that all outsiders that have come to this island (whatever their claims of bringing good to Taiwan) have always had their own interests first and that of Taiwan second.

Whether it be the Dutch, Spanish, Ming loyalists, Qing, Japanese or the KMT, each group has sought to control, manipulate and exploit the island. For the people on the mainland to think that just because the people share a lot of the same culture, they would be viewed differently just look at the immediate past. The KMT came and it took the Taiwanese 50 years before they could get martial law lifted and directly elect a president. I need not go into 2-28 and the white terror.

On the Japanese militarism, I have not met any or heard of any that relate to Japanese militarism. For those that fought for Japan, both aborigines and Taiwanese, you have to remember that they were youths, they would have been born in the 1920’s a time when the benefits of Japanese colonialism would be evident, (their standard of living across the board was much better than China) a time when there were a lot of fresh ideas in the air, and of course the fact that they were conscripted. Many British colonials fought for Britain around the world and still felt like second class citizens.

One person that I think captures the diversity of feelings present then is Peng Ming-min in his autobiographical “A Taste of Freedom” Read the early chapters of that and see how he related to the diverse type of teachers he had both in Taiwan and Japan. The book is I believe available to be read on the net.

Sympathy for war criminals–I don’t see that; one Taiwanese friend who lived in that period put it this way. “Individually the Japanese can be the most kind and best of friends. Collectively they can be like a pack of wolves.” I can understand what he means.

Why there is sympathy from the Japanese right wing, I can guess but I would leave that to someone who is more versed in Japanese politics and culture.

If you ask me, logically China should learn from Taiwan, which has a sound economy, good benefits for its citizens, a democratic government and a free press.
Hierarchically, you and I know that that flies too much in the face of too much tradition. That the people of what was at one time a backwater province of the imperial court should reverse the Confucian roles and be the teacher would be an awful big pill to swallow.

As to the writings of Lin Siyun, I have not read any; I will look for them (I hope there is an English translation.)


January 9, 2005 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

On Youth Mao Ze-dong’s Thoughts of “Hunan Autonomy “and”Hunan Republic”
PENG Ping—yi
Zhuzhou Teachers’College, Zhuzhou, Hunan 412007

Having analyzed current political situation of those times, Hunan history and
geography, young Mao Zedong put forward such thoughts as “Hunan Autonomy”and “Hunan Republic”duringHunan
Driving Away Warlord Zhang Movement and Hunan autonomy movement in 1920.
These thoughts were his plans for political reform and state govemment mode.
They reflected Mao’s anti -imperialism and anti-warlord thinking, and his attention was drawn to people and actual fight; meanwhile, they also reflected Mao’s shortsightedness in misunderstanding national theory of self determination,
thus advocating narrow regionalism and estimating natural economy.

January 9, 2005 @ 11:21 pm | Comment

thank you jerome. i will come back to this post later.

January 9, 2005 @ 11:24 pm | Comment


i traveled to western Hunan province last october and before the trip i read the history of western Hunan. no long ago, this part of the country was still regarded as a “frontier” and most residents are Miao minority people. the Qing government treat them cruelly and crackdowned several uprisings of Miao people, but at the same time, the rule of Qing government brought some good things like trade, higher education level (from Han chinese), exchanges of new ideas … one of the greatest chinese writers – Shen Congwen, whose grandma is believed to be a Miao woman, expressed such mixed sentiment in many of his novels.

well, it won’t be difficult to find many similar “delimmas” in history. here is a short story i have cited in another blog, i don’t have an answer but i think different answers to this story are the bases for different ways of interpreting history:

here is the story:

I forget where and when i heard this stroy, briefly it is like this: one year in the 3-kingdoms period, Cao2 Cao1’s troops were defeated and surrounded by the enemy, with several thousand soilders wounded, Cao Cao decided to break through the surrounding enemy troops and abandon those wounded, because if he brings these wounded soilders together, more people will die in the battle, so Cao Cao face a tough decision to make – to let 5000 die (with a 90% certainty) or to let 50000 die (with a 50% certainty). Cao Cao chose the first one, but many of his generals strongly oppose his decision. cao cao replied: you guys have the MERCY OF WOMAN, and I have the MERCY OF A KING (ÄãÃÇÊǸ¾ÈËÖ®ÈÊ£¬ÎÒÊÇÍõÕßÖ®ÈÊ)¡£

end of the story

should evilness be justified if it breeds greater goodness? if that evilness is small enough, and that goodness it breeds is big enough, will you just allow the evilness happen?

anyone has the answer?

January 10, 2005 @ 6:48 am | Comment


I am not sure if you are trying to raise the question of “Does the end justify the means?” or not.

You get into murky waters with your examples, if you are going into such; you better spell out what you see as the evil that is small enough and what you see as the good that is big enough.

In addition, I could see a die-hard unificationist trying to make the argument that Cao (instead of leaving the wounded etc.) should have just surrendered all his troops for the sake of unity of the country.


January 12, 2005 @ 2:18 am | Comment

Realy good site!

September 16, 2005 @ 2:01 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.