Sun, Mar 17, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The Lost Army’s final retreat

The KMT’s anti-communist guerrillas in Myanmar began their second retreat to Taiwan in late March 1961, with many of them resettled around today’s Cingjing Farm, contributing to the development of the area

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

This monument in Kaohsiung was built by General Lee Mi after his retreat to Taiwan to commemorate the anti-communist soldiers who died in Myanmar. The inscription reads: “Died to fight the communists and recover our country.”

Photo: Hung Chen-hung, Taipei Times

March 18 to March 24

After fighting in the jungles of Myanmar for 12 years, Yang Tien (楊沺) did not want to come to Taiwan, which was much further away from Yunnan, his homeland. But by 1960, things were not looking good for him and his anti-communist troops loyal to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). They had kept the Myanmar Army at bay for many years, but the enemy had now joined forces with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The Second Army Yang belonged to eventually fled to Laos, where they were ordered by KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), who was under US pressure, to retreat to Taiwan.

“The Third and Fifth Armies insisted on staying, and I wanted to stay too and keep fighting the communists,” Yang said in an oral history published by Nantou County’s Cingjing Farm (清境農場). The government resettled him in the Cingjing area long before it became today’s tourist hotspot, famous for its sheep shearing shows. “But an old comrade told me that he saw my wife getting on one of the planes. Only then did I change my mind.”

Yang arrived on March 27, 1961, reuniting with his wife a day later. By May, more than 4,000 troops and their families had joined him. Those who were married but childless or only had one child were settled in Cingjing, while the rest were sent to Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Taoyuan or continued to serve in the Republic of China (ROC) Army. Back then, the area around Cingjing was mostly uncultivated forest land, and life was tough even with government assistance.

But they no longer had to fight.

THE ‘LOST ARMY’

Unlike most of his comrades in Myanmar, Yang did not participate in the Chinese Civil War. The Yunnan native fled south after the communist victory and joined the thousands of KMT troops who refused to surrender. They were led by General Lee Mi (李彌), who organized them into the Yunnanese Anti-Communist National Salvation Army (雲南人民反共救國軍), which reported directly to the Minister of Defense.

In 1951, Chiang sent a telegram to General Lee, stating that the KMT had built up Taiwan as “Asia’s strongest anti-communist power,” and were ready to strike back to reclaim China.

“The government cannot provide much aid to you … but when we do retake China, all organized anti-communist forces will enjoy the same privileges and rewards as the regular army … To save the country, save our people and save yourself and to fulfill our sacred duty of eradicating communism, my dear revolutionaries, you must stay strong and endure so we can claim the final victory.”

The army successfully invaded Yunnan that year, but were driven back to Myanmar in just two months. In March 1953, the Myanmar Army launched an offensive against the troops, only to be defeated. Realizing that they couldn’t win by force, Myanmar submitted to the UN a “Complaint by the Union of Burma regarding aggression against her by the Kuomingtang [KMT] government of Formosa.”

To appease the UN, Chiang ordered 2,000 of the soldiers and their families, as well as POWs and refugees, to retreat to Taiwan in 1953. However, this only involved one-third of the KMT forces as another 4,000 were secretly instructed by Chiang to remain in Myanmar. The government explained to the international community that it had no control over the troops who declined to return, painting them as rogue soldiers.

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