Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 2 News List

British POWs return for remembrance ceremony

CAMP SURVIVORS Three men who lived through the experience of working as slaves for the Japanese in Taiwan during World War II attended a memorial service


Three POWs who were held at the Kinkaseki POW Camp in 1942 returned to Taiwan for a dedication and remembrance ceremony held yesterday at the POW Memorial Park


Three former prisoners of war (POWs) who worked as slaves for the Japanese during World War II in the copper mines of the Kinkaseki POW camp, returned to attend a remembrance ceremony held yesterday at the POW Memorial Park in Jinguashih (金瓜石).

From August 1942 until September 1945, the Japanese held more than 4,300 Allied prisoners of war in 15 POW camps around Taiwan. Many suffered mistreatment and malnutrition at the hands of their captors, while more than 10 percent of the POWs died from abuse and starvation. A memorial service for POWs has been held every November since 1997 in Jinguashih, the site of the Kinkaseki Camp, reportedly one of the most brutal of the Japanese camps.

This year, marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Taipei County Government decided to reconstruct the park around the memorial to make it a place of remembrance for Taiwan's POWs.

Three British ex-POWs returned this year to pay homage to those who suffered and died in Taiwan, as well as to share their own stories so that they will not be forgotten.

Former POW George Reynolds, 87, returned to Taiwan this year for the fourth time to honor those who sacrificed their lives. Reynolds was at the Kinkaseki Camp in 1943, where he worked at the copper mine in "atrocious" conditions.

"I was a driller in the mine. Some parts of the mines were so cold and some parts were so hot that we had to cool off with the water in the drains, not knowing what kind of water that was," Reynolds said. "The Japanese also fed us potato stems, which were poisonous."

Reynolds said that he had been so sick and disoriented that he did not even recall how he was moved to the Shirakawa Camp, another POW camp further down south.

Ernie Agass, an 87-year-old ex-POW returning to Taiwan for the first time, said that the worst part of being held captive was "day after day of continuous hunger."

"The Japanese took every opportunity they could to make our lives as horrible as they could," Agass said. "They didn't care, they had no compassion and no sorrow. We were merely a name and a number to them."

Agass, about 1.8m tall, weighed a mere 44kg when he was rescued by the US Marines in 1945 and sent to Manila for medical treatment. He weighs 72kg now.

Looking up at the mountains surrounding the memorial park in Jinguashih, Agass said that they looked "even grimmer" than in 1942.

"These mountains have always been and will always be like a desert to me," Agass said with tears in his eyes.

Meanwhile, to former POW Adam Houston, 84, the mountains look green and beautiful now, even though back then the POWs had to march up and down them to the mines.

"The Japanese used to parade `thin men,' sending us the ones who were too skinny and of no use to the camps down south," Houston said. "I wasn't much of a worker. There was a Japanese honcho in the mines, whom we nicknamed `Golden Fang' because of his fake gold tooth. He would hit me on the back with a pick handle and I would collapse."

Houston said that the POWs were given riceballs according to the amount of work they did in the mines.

"Occasionally we got rice with soy paste in wooden lunchboxes with lids. We had to chase away the cockroaches [in the box] before we could eat them, though," he said.

"Hatred only destroys the person who does the hating," Houston said. "The reason we want POW stories to be told is not to hate, but to let everybody know what this place was like and prevent the same thing from happening once more."

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