Sun, Jan 20, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The ‘warrior who knew no fear’

Huang Chin-tao, who died last week, led a feature-film worthy life as he fought for the Japanese, resisted the KMT troops during the 228 Incident and later joined the ROC Marine Corps before being thrown in jail for 24 years

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The official poster graphic for the 27th Brigade Documentary, which was released in 2017.

Photo courtesy of 27th Brigade Documentary

Jan. 21 to Jan. 27

Although he died peacefully last Tuesday, the press referred to him as the “eternal warrior” in their obituaries. The Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) probably offered the most impressive moniker for him in its report: “The 228 warrior who resisted repression and knew no fear throughout his life (一生不知怕是什麼228抗暴戰士).”

Joining the Japanese Army in 1942 at age 16, Huang Chin-tao (黃金島) would not know peace until 1975, because he was fighting, on the run or in jail. And the adventures continued upon his release as he and his wife, Wang Chao-e (王昭娥), became involved in Taiwan’s budding democracy movement, later investigating the truth of the 228 Incident, an anti-government uprising that was brutally suppressed, and advocating for the rights of fellow Taiwanese who served in the Japanese Army.

Huang is probably best known for his role as frontline commander during the Battle of Wuniulan (烏牛欄) in Nantou near the end of the 228 Incident, where he and a band of about 30 student guerrillas for the 27th Brigade clashed with the government forces on March 16, 1947, holding out until they ran out of ammunition and disbanded.

Anything related to the 228 Incident was taboo for the next four decades, but fortunately, Huang lived long enough to see this piece of history come to light. A monument to the battle was erected in Nantou in 2004 and another in Taichung in 2017 honoring the 27th Brigade. His exploits are also featured in heavy metal band Chthonic’s song The Guardian of Wuniulan (烏牛欄大護法), as well as the 2017 production The 27 Brigade Documentary (2七部隊紀錄片).

JAPANESE SOLDIER

Huang was born Huang Tsuen-tao (黃圳島) to a middle-class farming family in Taichung, later changing his name after he was wanted for his role in the Wuniulan battle. He headed to Japan to study medicine in 1941, but Japan was gearing up for World War II and he ended up joining the Imperial Japanese Navy’s transportation division.

Huang writes that he officially joined the Japanese Army for one reason: he resented the fact that the Japanese discriminated against Taiwanese and wanted to prove that he could serve like a Japanese. It was a difficult process with a one out of six chance of being admitted.

He first saw action after a few days at sea when he was sent to help rescue the crew of nearby ship hit by a torpedo. However, his lifeboat flipped over, and he had to wait to be saved as well.

A month after arriving on China’s Hainan Island, the Americans bombed the Japanese base where Huang was stationed. He survived, but recalls in his memoir seeing shrapnel and body parts scattered everywhere. Many Taiwanese died in the raid, he writes.

During one mission, Huang managed to stop his Japanese comrades from firing on innocent Chinese civilians. Half a century later, he would still mention this exploit while criticizing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) army for killing civilians during the 228 Incident.

Like most Taiwanese, he was also overjoyed to return to the “motherland” after Japanese defeat. But instead, the KMT rounded up the Taiwanese soldiers and their families and placed them into camps around Hainan, where sickness was common and food was scarce. While the Japanese soldiers were sent home by the end of 1945, the Taiwanese remained in the camps for another year.

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