Taiwanese Guards at POW Camps

Lin De-hua (林德華), World War Two vet and keeper of war records at 
Taichung's War Shrine (台中寶學寺)

In literature regarding the topic, much has been made about the brutality of Taiwanese guards at the POW camps located in Taiwan and other places across Southeast Asia during World War II. The camps in Taiwan mainly held British and Commonwealth troops captured with the fall of Singapore in February 1942. A handful of Americans also ended up here, shipped in from the Philippines after they went down in April 1942. I'll put up a few accounts of what was happening to the POWs: 

"We christened [the Taiwanese guards] the 'Runabouts' or 'Goons.' They seemed to be the lowest type in the army. Very young, they jumped at the commands of the lowliest [of] Japanese privates, who did not hesitate to slap them in the face. Face slapping seemed to be allowed from officer down through NCOs to privates in the Japanese Army. The Formosans were below privates and as we soon learnt, we were at the end of the line . . . These young 'Runabouts' reveled in their power, and they loved to rush into the hut, trying to catch prisoners too slow in bowing and coming to attention." - Jack Edwards, British POW at the Kinkaseki (金瓜石) and Hsintien (新店) camps  

"They certainly went to great lengths to please their masters; one way in which this manifested itself was their treatment of us, the prisoners. They had the right to beat us, and this they did at the least provocation. They were like dangerous children attempting to ape their dangerous parents." - Arthur Titherington, British POW at the Kinkaseki (金瓜石) and Hsintien (新店) camps  

"The 'Runabouts' were also given nicknames: 'The Christian" . . . Rampu or 'Lampu,' because one day he bashed all of us while pointing to a lamp, Rampu (he was an ugly vicious character who seemed to grunt instead of talk) and 'Scarface' or 'The Mad Carpenter,' because he had an old scar on his face, and was in charge of the prisoners assigned to carpentry repairs (he had a violent temper and a vicious punch, as I found to my cost in the first days)." - Jack Edwards

"[Taiwanese guards] were just as cruel. They emulated the Japs very well. The guards would strike you for the most trivial things. You had to stand at attention while they hit your head with their fist. If you didn't, trying to dodge it, then you'd end up with a rifle butt on your head or on the ground while getting kicked. I saw them murder a man, hit [him] on the head with a sword scabbard -- he died that night from the wounds." - Jack Butterworth, British POW at the Kinkaseki (金瓜石) and Hsintien (新店) camps 

"In April, 1943 that changed [at the POW camp in Sandakan, Borneo] with the arrival of Formosan (now Taiwan) guards. The Formosans, like the Koreans in other camps, were brutal . . . My gang would be working and then would be suddenly told to stop. The men would then be stood with their arms outstretched horizontally, shoulder high, facing the sun without hats. The guards would be formed into two sections, one standing back with rifles and the others doing the actual beating. They would walk along . . . and smack us underneath the arms, across the ribs and back. They would give each man a couple of bashes -- if they whimpered or flinched they would get more." - POW, name not recorded

It seems officers interned in the various camps also suffered. Major General Jonathan Wainwright of the US, who was left behind by a fleeing Douglas MacArthur to surrender the Philippines, was for a while at a camp in Pingtung. Dealing with diarrhea one day, he tried to make a dash for the latrine. Almost there, a Taiwanese guard called him to attention and scolded him for not bowing. As a member of the cavalry, Wainwright had become bow-legged, so much so that his legs "looked like warped bamboo" (Daws, Gavan. Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific. 97). Taking note, the guard jabbed at them with his bayonet and began to laugh. When Wainwright tried to hold his knees together, his feet splayed out. Amused, the guard jammed his legs together and let go. With a scrunched up face, the American general was forced to bear these antics, all the while struggling not to dirty his pants. 

Were these acts simply the expected consequences of war? War-atrocity investigators did not seem to think so. In 1945-46, many of the Runabouts were themselves incarcerated at the very POW camps where the shenanigans occurred while evidence was being collected to unknot the story. All told, 173 Taiwanese individuals, including many of the POW-camp guards, were charged with war crimes. Of the 173, 26 were executed for their conduct. 

In trying to figure out why Taiwanese guards behaved as they did (as part of my master's thesis), I talked to Lin De-hua (pictured above), a World War II veteran himself and keeper of records at Taichung's war shrine. The following is what I came away with:

1. Taiwanese conscripts, as Edwards points out, were at the bottom of the food chain. The pressure of their situation on occasion brought out the worst in them. Beating up on POWs served as a kind of release.

2. Take this job and shove it: Taiwanese conscripts serving in Taiwan did not receive pay. The guards blamed the POWs. Simply put, no POWs meant "bye bye, crummy job."

3. The guards saw the POWs as an obstacle. They were the reason the guards could not return to their homes. 

4. Taiwanese guards were also bullied. Since they experienced violence on a regular basis (face slapping and so on), they assumed it was normal or even okay. To play the devil's advocate, I think I'll point out that this order, given by the Chief of Prisoner of War Camps in Tokyo to the Chief of Staff of the Taiwan Army in a letter dated August 20, 1945 (or six days after the Japanese surrender) was used as evidence by the International Prosecution Section of the British Division 2011 (labeled Exhibit J): "Personnel who mistreat soldiers of war and internees or who are held in extremely bad sentiment by them are permitted to take care of it by transferring or by fleeing without a trace." Many of the guards took this advice. The guards, and the Japanese military for that matter, had to have known their behavior was wrong and this detail seems to support just that. 

5. The worst of the Taiwanese recruits became guards. The best were sent out into Asia to fight. According to Lin, Taiwanese boys were typically drafted at 16 or 17 years of age. Before receiving official conscription notices, called pink slips, which came from the local police station via their bao jia (保甲) head, all male adolescents underwent three physicals. In addition to having their health checked, administrators subjected the youngsters to various fitness exams to test strength and endurance. Upon being conscripted, Taiwanese males were sorted for combat or homeland defense based on these tests as well as their school grades. Lin says kids actually competed to be chosen for the front lines. Why? While combat was obviously considered more dangerous, it was not without its perks. Combat soldiers were the only conscripts that were paid. Soldiers sent off to the front could in certain instances (such as pilots) achieve rank while those who remained, as already mentioned, could not. Making the grade translated into prestige. As a result, the strongest and the brightest served abroad. The dregs went on to distinction as 'Runabouts' and what have you.

6. From October 1944 until August 1945, Taiwan was bombed almost daily. Around 75 percent of the colony's infrastructure was destroyed and many innocent civilians died. This had to have been annoying.

7. Some people are just sadistic. Every country has its fair share of Runabouts and Goons.


Solar Library and Energy-Optimized House, Wanhua (萬華)

With the Solar Library and Energy-Optimized House (太陽圖書館暨竭能展示館), Youth Park (青年公園) is adding to its collection. This impressive destination in southern in Wanhua (萬華), Taipei already includes a baseball stadium, swimming pool, spate of playgrounds, driving range for practicing golf, cross country jogging track, tennis courts, badminton courts, handball courts, basketball courts, amphitheater, greenhouses, KMT guardhouse replete with watch towers and statue of Chiang Kai-shek on top of a monstrous stallion. There's probably even room for more. During the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945), or so I am told, this was the city's airport. To their credit, Taiwan's new colonial masters have put the space to good use. 

The new library (pictured below) seems alright. There's a decent amount of magazines and vast selection of children's books. There's also a big toadstool for the kids to crawl on. I went over the political section and it turned up a few books on Chiang Kai-shek and son, plus one with Ma Ing-jeou hugging Vincent Siew on the cover -- nothing too risque. There's next to nothing on Taiwanese history, but if you are interested in what may have gone down in China the last 3,000 years, you're in luck. To borrow one of these publications, you must first apply for a library card. It's a pretty easy process. Fill out a half-page application form and provide a single piece of ID, give it to the overseer and Bob's your uncle. With your library card, you are entitled to take out five items. You sign them out and demagnetize them yourself via a computer near the exit.

As an interesting aside, at least to me, I will point out a Chinese tour group was headed in as I was leaving the Solar Library and Energy-Optimized House (太陽圖書館暨竭能展示館). They were posing in front of the sign indicating the new library (above), so I decided to take a shot too. I was saying in a post or two back that certain places in Taipei are targeted on the itineraries of such groups. I think I should amend that: any place in Taipei appears to be fair game. Chinese tourism in Taiwan has got to be on the upswing. I'm guessing Taipei is absorbing most of their NT (though I am lacking stats to back this up).

I'll put a link up to where the Solar Library and Energy-Optimized House (太陽圖書館暨竭能展示館) is roughly. Note: it won't show up on Google Maps because it's new: http://g.co/maps/y85wn. It's close to the corner of Qingnien (青年) Road and Gaoxing (國興) Road.

Solar Library and Energy-Optimized House (太陽圖書館暨竭能展示館), Wanhua (萬華), Taiwan


KMT Soldier Housing in Taiwan

Soldier Housing, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.

My wife says this is a lane in Wanhua (萬華) that contains the homes of many soldiers who escaped China in 1949. Luckily for them, Taiwan has been generous in taking them in. Some have prospered while all have been measured stability and a decent quality of life. In Taiwan, there is something close 100,000 KMT soldiers still receiving pensions for their service in China during the 1930s and 40s right now.

Black Matsu (媽祖)

北極神宮: The Spirit of the North Star

I took this shot from the grounds of my apartment complex facing south in Wanhua (萬華), Taiwan this rainy Sunday afternoon. I guess I have looked at this spot countless times, but it never registered there was a gate with Chinese characters rich in religious content. This comes from leaving in the opposite direction for the office in morning every day, I suppose. I pass by the lane only at night. 

The characters read 北極神宮, or the Spirit of the North Star. They are advertising a temple inside the lane and inviting people to come. I went to have a closer look and one of the proprietors told me the temple (below) mostly focuses on Matsu (媽祖), Taiwan's Goddess of Fishing (though obviously the Spirit of the North Star would also be relevant to this topic). When I asked her why their Matsu was black, she said: "There are three versions of Matsu," she told me. "One is how She was in life. [Matsu lived in China and after Her death was deified.] The second is gold while the third is black." 

"Why?" I asked. 

"There's no why," the woman at the temple said. "This Matsu is black. It is as it is."

Actually, an explanation exists. According to Internet sources, all Matsu statues once started out as the color She was in real life. Later, when the temples gained wealthy benefactors, it was possible to see more snazzy, gold-faced Matsu statues. Black Matsu statues originally meant the temple had a lot of patrons in general, not necessarily rich. Over time, the statues were smoked black because many incense sticks had been burned in worshipping Her.

We need to be wary though. Recently, Matsu statues have often been made with black wood. Repeated burning by countless and appreciative worshippers have thus done little to bring this about. 

Gaining worshippers is it seems a competitive business in Taiwan, as it is for religions and their institutes all over the world. 

Black Matsu (媽祖), 2.5 centimeters from the right, back row 


My colleague has a new blog called The Cycling Canadian up. It looks interesting and well-written: http://www.thecyclingcanadian.com/  Doug is a pretty expressive individual. This should be worth following.


Taiwanese Banks Against Minorities

I continue to receive emails off this old post (below in italics, with translation) asking me follow up. The main point I've been getting at is this: Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託) isn't putting in the effort to include all of the people located in Taiwan in the process of receiving credit cards or, for that matter, a complete portfolio of banking services. In fact, it seems Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託) is entrenched in a concept that requires discriminating against out-group individuals who are simply looking to receive a modicum of service. Taiwan's banks, generally speaking, seem to be rejecting anyone who doesn't look right in terms of race. In other words, if you don't look Taiwanese or Chinese, you're not likely to receive the full range of services afforded to people who are able to measure up. This comment is not easy for me to make, but I have to make it nonetheless. 

One (actually several, but I'll bring up my favorite for the time being) of the many responses I received on my last related post underlined some of the negativity that persists somehow in our Taiwan: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/11/foreigners-getting-credit-card-in.html. Naturally, I feel the need to focus in and point out his or her misguided comment right now:

"You are using words in ways that are not normal. Foreigner in Taiwan means non-citizens. You are not a Taiwanese citizen. What are you railing against? Just because foreigners are a diverse group of individuals doesn't mean you aren't one. Maybe Taiwanese should be careful of their stereotypes of foreigners and foreigners should be careful of their stereotypes of Taiwanese. Sure, but doesn't mean you aren't a foreigner. Nothing in your story indicated that you were discriminated against due to the color of your skin. They rejected you because you are not a citizen. If you think it was racist, prove it. Someone say, of Japanese ethnicity and not a Taiwanese citizen is able to get a credit card and you aren't? And then the really weird usage--why do you appear to mean Minnan by Taiwanese and classify Hakka or waishengren as non-Taiwanese (or conversely that Taiwanese don't include Hakka and waisheng)? That is the only prejudicial/racist thing I can find in your whole story and comments. (That you're informing foreigners that they can get a credit card if they make a lot of noise about it is a good service to the community, but again, it has nothing to do with racism)."


Well, I think it is time to respond. At the end of the day, I received a credit card. All it turned out I had to do was write to the American company Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託) was cooperating with and explain their tactics.... A day or two later, one of Chinatrust Commercial Bank's VPs was in my office and presenting a credit card. All I had to do was write my name down. My salary and assets were neither here nor there as I did not have to account for either.

I have it on good authority that Americans of Taiwanese descent who do not have Taiwanese passports can still receive credit cards based simply on basis of them looking like they are of the Chinese or Taiwanese race. This seems to be enough for Chinatrust Commercial Bank. 

Here was my last post on on Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託):

Banks in Taiwan generally refuse "foreigners" credit cards. I guess they're afraid they won't be able to recoup money (I would think this line of doubt should be extended to any customer, regardless of his or her skin color). Taiwan's constitution states in Chapter I, General Provisions, Article 5: "There shall be equality among the various racial groups in the Republic of China (Taiwan)." But it doesn't seem to have had much bearing on this issue. The card hawkers who set their tables up at the doors of Taiwan's department stores, outside theaters or even on sidewalks seem to shiver with fear when they see a "foreigner" approaching. I've discussed the absurdity of this with a local friend who works for a bank in Taiwan, a bank that also denies people access based on their skin color. He told me: "We really don't have any way to make locals pay us back any more than we do 'foreigners.' Credit cards should be issued on salary, whether people have collateral, appear normal, etc. But I just don't want to rock the boat."

About a month ago, I was leaving Costco (Cheng Ho branch) in Taiwan. Chinatrust Commercial Bank (Chinatrust Commercial Bank 中國信託) had set up a booth at the door. Their sales rep., seeing my Taiwanese wife out in the lead, immediately came up to her with an application in hand. My wife, who hates credit cards, turned him down flat. When I had caught up, I said: "I'll apply. What's the process?" These words sent the Chinatrust Bank rep. into a stuttering state of confusion. Aghast, he told me:

"You're a 'foreigner'! It's not possible". Actually, I figured this kind of response was on the way. Several of my friends have been turned down at Chinatrust Commercial Bank Chinatrust Commercial Bank 中國信託) on their credit card applications based on race. One friend, who speaks Chinese, was even offered a card. After he'd finished the application, the teller informed him, upon conferring with her superiors:

"We can't give you a credit card because you're a 'foreigner.'"

Naturally, the whole "you're a foreigner" stuck in my craw. After considering my options, I decided to write to Costco and explain the situation - namely, they were cooperating with a bank that discriminates against out-groups. I asked: "Do you really want this attached to your brand?"

The next day, and for a week following, I received a flurry of email replies from Chinatrust Commercial Bank, who assured me that their bank didn't discriminate. They told me: "It was just a big misunderstanding. We'd like to process your application pronto". They were even willing to send a rep. over to my office at my convenience. When their rep. did show up, a VP no less, he explained: "It was just a big misunderstanding. They're afraid to speak English!"

"But I was speaking Chinese," I countered, "just the same as I am speaking Chinese to you. Plus I can name people who have been told they couldn't apply at your bank because of the color of their skin."

"It's just ignorance," was the reply. "BTW, let me have the name of the rep. so he can be punished."

"That's not necessary [especially if he's following company policy]." I liked the guy and didn't want to get into it. I could see he was trying, and that he didn't agree with what had transpired.

My application was passed seamlessly. I didn't even have to, oddly, submit information about my salary, assets or what have you. Some of my friends have pointed out that I was just being bought off. I can't really verify this. When I emailed Chinatrust back about statistics, in particular, how many "foreigners" have credit cards at the bank, I received no reply whatsoever. In fairness, I suppose it would be violating the bank's confidentiality code and undercutting security. I do, however, now have another credit card, my first Taiwan-based credit card. Did I receive it to shut the f*&^ up? Maybe. I still believe that it could mean that Chinatrust has had to rethink how it deals with its customers. If so, this is great news.

Let me know if you've had problems with Chinatrust Commercial Bank in getting a credit card. They have stepped out into the light to clarify their position. This post, or an email to the bank, might speed things along.

在臺灣的銀行,一般來說,會拒绝發給「外國人」信用卡。 我猜測他們害怕他們無法收回金錢(我認為應該延伸疑慮這一行到所有顧客,無關他們的膚色)。 臺灣的憲法宣示,在第I章裡的總條款下第 5條款: 「在中華民國(臺灣)裡,所有不同的種族,一律享有平等的待遇」。 但是情況不見得如此。 辦卡人員會在百貨公司劇院的門口甚至在路邊,設置他们的桌子,來進行申請手續,當他們看見「外國人」接近時,充滿恐懼。 我和一位在臺灣一家銀行工作的朋友談論過,基本上,銀行也否認發卡與否,是根據他們的膚色。 他告訴了我: 「我們真正地,沒有任何方式,可以使當地人償還多過於『外國人』。 發行信用卡應該取決於薪資上及人們是否有擔保品,看上去正常等等。 但我就是不想要晃動小船"打草驚蛇。

一個月前,我正要離開在臺灣Costco(中和區)。 中國信託商業銀行,設立一個攤位在門口。 他們的銷售人員,看見我的臺灣老婆,走在前頭領路,立刻地伸出手中的申請表來。 我老婆討厭信用卡,斷然的拒绝。 當我往前去,我說: 「我要申請,辦卡過程是什麼?「中國信託銀行人員,聽了這些話,馬上陷入一個混亂地口吃狀態。 嚇呆,他告訴了我:

「您是『外國人』! 它是不可能的"。 事實上,我已預料到這種反應。 我的幾個朋友,在中國信託商業銀行裡,去申請他們的信用卡,都因為種族的原因被刷下來。 一個朋友會講中文,甚而提供了一張個人明片。 在他完成了申請表之後,承辦人員通知了他,經與她的主管商談:

因為您是『外國人』」, 「我們不可能給您信用卡。
自然地,整個「您是外國人」的話揪住我的胃 。 在考慮我的選擇以後,我決定寫信給Costco和解釋情況-那就是,他們與歧視外籍團體的銀行合作。 我問: 「您是否真正地想要此附在您的商標上」 ?

次日,和接著一個星期 ,我收到了大量的電子郵件回覆,從中國信託商業銀行寄的,向我保證,他們的銀行沒有歧視。 他們告訴我: 「它是一種大誤解。 我們希望僅快地處理您的申請"。 為了我的方便,他們甚至是願意派辦卡人員到我的辦公室,來辦理信用卡申請。 當他們的辦卡人員出現, VP沒有,他解釋了: 「它是一種大誤解。 他們害怕講英語!

我反駁的說,「但是我講中文」, 「同樣地我與您用中文交談的。 加上我可以說出是那些人的名字, 他們被告知無法在您的銀行申請,由於他們的皮膚的顏色"。

回應是「它是一種忽視」,。 「BTW,讓我有辦卡人員的名字。 如此他可以被懲罰"。

「[不必要如此,特別是如果他遵照著公司的政策]」。 我喜歡這人,並且沒有想要他牽涉進去。 我看的出來他想設法解決,並且他沒有認同這樣的事件發生。

無聲無息地我的申請通過了。奇怪地,我甚至不需要交出有關我的薪資單,財產或您有什麼的文件。 我的一些朋友指出我是被收買了。 我無法真正地確定如此。 當我回覆電子郵件給中國信託,對於統計來說,特別是,到底有多少「外國人」 在銀行辦到信用卡,我沒有收到回應。 在公正上,我假設它將違犯銀行的機密代碼並且暗中破壞安全性。然而,我現在有另一信用卡,從臺灣發出的第一張信用卡。是否我接受它閉上我的嘴f*&^ ? 也許是, 我仍然相信它可能意味中國信託必須重新考慮怎麼處理它的顧客。 如果那樣,這是了不起的新聞。

讓我知道,如果您與中國信託辦理信用卡有發生問題。 他們須站出來說明他們的情況。 對銀行來說,這個發表或者電子郵件,也許會加速事情完成。

注:登廣告者在2011年2月與我聯繫。 他們希望我加入這個鏈接。 我沒有任何問題 對於多年來我是在我自己的口袋(部落格)來投稿發表 。 加上,我至少沒找到他們的公司有任何麻煩。 如果您對這個理念持相反意見,請告訴我。 無論如何,這裡去: 它是為修復信用(credit repair)的公司。


2011 OEC Taipei Ladies Open

The final of the 2011 OEC Taipei Ladies Open (2011 臺北海碩國際際女子網球公開賽) in tennis was staged this afternoon at the Taipei Arena, Taipei, Taiwan. The family went to watch, but we only stayed for a couple of games. My four-year-old daughter had a sore throat and incurred the stink-eyed wrath of the aisle monitor for coughing a couple of times. 

The finalists this year were Kimiko Date-Krumm (Japan), a former top-ten player, and Ayumi Morita (Japan), the 2009 winner. Actually, I really can't talk about this match much because I was only able to see about 15 minutes of play. I'm just out to post a couple of pictures and then get on to my segue. Here are my observations: The crowd for this year's final was bigger than last year's. The bottom section of the arena, minus the end zones, was packed. There was a long line of people waiting to come in on every changeover. Matches for the Taipei Ladies Open (2011 臺北海碩國際際女子網球公開賽) were, as in previous years, free with the same deal for the final: donate a receipt (in Taiwan, receipts have lottery numbers on them) in exchange for an entrance ticket. Today I witnessed bad serving and long rallies. Morita was stronger while Krumm had more finesse, though she was having trouble getting the slice backhand to work. The former's strength advantage shouldn't be that surprising: I just googled and she is Krumm's junior by 20 years! Morita is currently ranked 54th in the world. Krumm checks in at 114.

Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan returns service at the 2011 Taipei Ladies Open 


Victoria Linchong's documentary on Taiwan post-WWII is coming out. I'll throw up some links: www.almosthometaiwan.com. If you want to RSVP, please go to http://almosthometaiwan.eventbrite.com/   


Old Warehouse

Old Warehouse, originally uploaded by Patrick Cowsill.
I took this shot on the grounds of the Chiang Kai-shek's Shilin Residence (士林官邸) for a story I did for Culture Taiwan: http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2152&Itemid=156