Tue, Dec 14, 2010 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Former soldier seeks justice from Japanese

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwanese World War II veteran Chien Mao-sung gestures during an exclusive interview with the Taipei Times in his apartment in Tokyo last month.

Photo: Loa Iok-sin, Taipei Times

The story of what happened to former Japanese solider Shigerumastu Takeei after he served in the military during World War II and was jailed for five years in Papua New Guinea as a prisoner of war (POW) may sound difficult to believe, but it is 100 percent true.

“Japanese people respect the emperor, but so what? He owes me money!” Takeei told the Taipei Times in an exclusive interview in his apartment in Tokyo last month.

His real name is Chien Mao-sung (簡茂松). He is Taiwanese, born in what is now Tucheng City (土城), in 1925, when Taiwan was a Japanese colony.

At the age of 15, Chien adopted his Japanese name at the encouragement of the colonial government. When he turned 17, he voluntarily joined the military as a non-combatant.

“Of course I condemn Japanese imperialism, and right now, I would definitely say the education we received was brainwashing, but at the time, we truly believed in what we were taught,” Chien said. “When in high school, my classmates and I admired Japanese soldiers and we always said we wanted to take part in the war as non-combatants.”

Though it recruited Taiwanese to serve in the military during World War II, Japan initially used them as non-combatants. Only toward the end of the war were they drafted for combat duty.

In 1942, Chien was sent to Borneo to serve as a guard at POW camps, but was transferred to a combat unit in June 1945 as Japan’s situation became desperate.

At a POW camp in Kuching, Borneo, Chien said that he got along well with most Allied POWs and locals.

“The Japanese soldiers treated the POWs cruelly; they slapped them, or ordered us to beat them or slap them, just because POWs made small mistakes or upset them,” he said. “But since those POWs from Allied forces weren’t enemies for us Taiwanese, most guards from Taiwan were very nice to them and they also became friendlier with us over time.”

Many Taiwanese guards turned a blind eye when POWs took breaks during forced labor, he said. Others would even pass cigarettes or extra food to POWs. From time to time, Chien would even go out to fish with locals to bring extra food for POWs.

There was one time, though, when Chien slapped a British POW who had passed him without saluting, as POWs were required to do.

“I decided to let it go, since I didn’t think it was a bad thing to let them have some dignity,” Chien said. “But a Japanese officer saw it and stopped both of us.”

The officer shouted at Chien for letting the POW not salute him and ordered him to slap the British officer.

“I hesitated and the officer threatened to penalize me for disobeying his order, so I decided just to slightly touch the POW’s face. The Japanese officer wasn’t satisfied and ordered me to hit hard,” he said, adding that he had no other choice but to follow the order.

“To this date, I still remember the anger and humiliation in the British officer’s eyes,” Chien said.

Soon after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, Chien and other members of the Japanese military were arrested by Australians and was then transferred to Labuan, where a military trial took place.

“Soon after we got on the boat, the Australian soldiers turned off the light and started beating us,” Chien said.

Chien and others were sent for what was in his view an unfair trial. The court was a tent on the beach. The prisoners were brought into the tent and listened to the accusations, Chien said.

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