Dongyin Isle (東引島), one of the small islands that make up the Matsu chain, is encouraging veterans to revisit the place where they spent two years of their lives in the military.
Like Matsu, Dongyin is under the administration of the Lienchiang County Government. It was originally the base of the Anti-Communists National Army (反共救國軍), a guerrilla unit formed in 1949 to support the government’s efforts to defeat the communists.
In 1960, it became one of the official units of the army. Under martial law, Dongyin was categorized as a frontier zone. Except for military personnel, civilians were forbidden to visit the island.
In 1992, the government decided to open Kinmen and Matsu to Taiwanese tourists.
Gong Yi-ming (龔以敏), former chief commander of Dongyin, was invited to address a press conference yesterday. He said that military personnel had a hard time living on the island in the past.
“You could only go there [Dongyin] by boat, which had to be flanked by a naval vessel,” he said, “The service was only offered every seven to 10 days. Families or friends were not allowed to visit,” he said.
Gong also said that the tourist attraction of greatest interest was the man-made levy connecting Dongyin and Shiyin (西引), which took the military more than a decade to build. Some of the military facilities, such as bunkers, are famous tourist attractions, he said.
TV actor Weng Jia-ming (翁家明) was also invited to share his experiences in Dongyin as a young man serving in the Army. Weng said that he was in charge of showing movies to soldiers twice a day. On one occasion, he was given an assignment to film the entire island. His supervisor also gave him a pass, allowing him to travel anywhere without permission.
“I was there from 1985 to 1987,” he said, “During those years, I toured around the island and saw all the major tourist attractions.”
Weng said he still has fond memories of the island, particularly the camaraderie in the Army.
And best of all, because of its history as a restricted zone, the natural environment of the island is preserved, he said.