3/13/2010

Hsu Chao-jung's (許昭榮) Lost Soldiers

I came across this article about writer and activist Hsu Chao-jung (許昭榮) in a past Liberty Times newspaper: http://www.libertytimes.com.tw/2008/new/may/21/today-so3.htm. The story covers Hsu's frustration with the Taiwanese government, which, to the best of my knowledge, pays pensions to KMT veterans of WWII but not Taiwanese veterans of the same war. It also discusses Hsu's suicide in 2008 in protest to the Taiwanese government's neglect of Taiwanese veterans. Hsu's suicide note, found in his apartment after Hsu set himself on fire in his car, stresses this point. 

I remember reading Hsu's book 動盪時代的無奈 台籍老兵血淚故事 when I was doing my thesis. I don't know what the English title would be; as far as I know, it has never been translated to English. Hsu wrote 動盪時代的無奈 台籍老兵血淚故事 in Japanese because he wanted to inform Japanese people of the behavior of the KMT invaders they left Taiwan to following the Second World War. It has since been translated to Chinese.

動盪時代的無奈 台籍老兵血淚故事 tells the story of the Taiwanese soldiers who served in the Japanese Imperial Army (200,000 Taiwanese served and 30,000 died) after they returned to Taiwan in the late 1940s. As Hsu explains, vast numbers of returning volunteers and conscripts would be turned around and promptly marched back out to the Chinese front to fight Mao's communists, sometimes at gunpoint. 

From October 1945 to February 1947, thousands of Taiwanese men were recruited and redeployed to fight in China. They were guaranteed NT$2,000 a month. Once they arrived in China, they found to their chagrin they would be paid in the lower Chinese currency. Promised future government jobs, they later returned to Taiwan only to find the positions already filled by recent immigrants from China. Needless to say, the number of volunteers dried up after the 2/28 Massacre, as locals learned to distrust what they were being told. 

One account given by Hsu Chao-jung that I find particularly touching is that of of marine Luo Tung-hui (羅登輝). Born in 1920 in Taichung, Luo was shipped out to Hainan in late 1943 when his wife was eight months pregnant. In September 1945, after the Japanese had surrendered to the United States, a boat arrived in Hainan to carry Luo and 39 other marines home. When a typhoon put the boat out of service, another was promised, but for after the lunar New Year. 

In the meanwhile, Taiwan was ceded to China and orders came down the Hainan contingent was to stay put. The new government, at war with the communists for control of China, wanted troops in place to defend the island. Five years later, Hainan fell and Luo, still deployed, was packed off to China for reeducation. In 1960, Luo was sentenced once again for counter-revolutionary behavior, this time for ten years plus an additional two for re-education, his second stint since being relocated to China. 

Luo never would make it home, although he came close. In 1989, no longer considered a Taiwanese national, he was denied a visa for entry at the Taiwan Consulate in Hong Kong on the basis of age. Veterans wishing to return needed to be 75 years of age. Luo was only 69. Luo passed away in Jiangsu (江蘇) in the early 1990s, bitter over hypocritical visa policies for veterans. Taiwan had a 75 year rule only for Taiwanese vets stranded in China wishing to return. Chinese vets in Taiwan however faced no such constraint. They could return home immediately.

Whether or not Luo Teng-hui (羅登輝) ever saw his wife or child in the interim remains unclear. There are a lot of other accounts in 動盪時代的無奈 台籍老兵血淚故事. I'll have another look and put a few more up.









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