Sun, Oct 28, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Military advice from the former enemy

Despite fighting the Japanese for many years, Chiang Kai-shek secretly recruited Japanese officers to form the advisory ‘White Group’ near the end of the Chinese Civil War, a group that remained in Taiwan until 1968

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Among the KMT officers sent to discuss the Japanese surrender ceremony with Okamura was Tsao Shih-cheng (曹士澂), who would later become the White Group’s contact person in Taiwan. Nojima postulates that the idea of “working with Japanese soldiers to fight the communists” was likely sown during this time.

Tsao’s role was kept top secret until he handed his personal account of the White Group formation to historian Chen Peng-jen (陳鵬仁), who passed it on to Nojima. Tsao headed to Japan in April 1949 nominally to work at the Republic of China Embassy. But he had a secret mission to work with the Japanese military to find ways the KMT could turn the tide against the Communists.

Tsao’s first idea was to recruit Japanese soldiers into a “International Anti-Communist United Army,” but he scrapped the plan in fear of angering the US. Instead, he suggested forming a military consultant group, which Chiang approved in July 1949.

On Sept. 10, 1949, the two sides signed the cooperation agreement with the goal of “defeating the Red Devils,” with Tsao as the KMT representative and Tomita as his counterpart. Okamura signed his name as the guarantor. To avoid detection, the words “military” and location of service were blotted out in the contract. The members were offered a lucrative salary with additional money provided to their families.

Tomita, who was hailed as a military genius during his cadet years and fought in southern China during the war, was appointed leader of the group. He shaved off his mustache — considered a uniquely Japanese feature — and adopted the surname Pai (白), which means “white,” to contrast with their “red” enemies. This also gave rise to the group’s name.

Tomita and Aratake surveyed the KMT troops at the frontlines and submitted a report to the KMT top brass in Chongqing, who highly valued their opinion and engaged them in many discussions. However, the exercise was futile. They were ordered to fly to Taiwan on Nov. 28, 1949, and Chongqing fell two days later. On Dec. 10, Chiang also fled to Taiwan, never to set foot in China again.

The rest of the White Group had arrived in Taiwan just a few days before Chiang, beginning their work immediately.

Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.

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