The 823 Artillery Bombardment was a shock to Taiwan as well as the international community, but it did not deter reporters from wanting to go and get first-hand information, former war correspondent Yao Cho-chi (姚琢奇) said on Thursday at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei ahead of the 53rd anniversary of the battle.
On Aug. 23, 1958, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) launched an intense artillery bombardment on Kinmen, sparking the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis — also called the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis — as the PRC attempted to seize Matsu and Kinmen from the Republic of China (ROC).
Yao, then a war correspondent for United Press International (UPI), was present on Kinmen when the ROC Armed Forces landed.
“We all knew it was dangerous, but all the war correspondents wanted in anyway,” Yao said, adding that during the ROC landing, there was an incident in which six correspondents went missing.
On Sept. 26, 1958, a group of reporters first took an ROC Navy landing craft and approached the outer waters of Liaoluo Bay (料羅灣), where they then transferred onto an amphibious Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT), which was to take them to the beach amid the bombardment.
However, a failure with the landing mechanism on the LVT resulted in the vehicle sinking. Of the eight reporters onboard, only Youth Warrior Paper (now known as the Youth Daily News) war correspondent Yan Chung-tse (嚴重則) and a Japanese reporter with UPI survived.
The Japanese reporter eventually swam to shore after four hours, while Yan was rescued after floating in the sea for 30 hours.
To mark the anniversary of the bombardment, the Ministry of National Defense said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) have invited all the correspondents who reported from the front lines during the bombardment to Kinmen, in recognition of their contribution in reporting on an important part of the nation’s history, to revisit the island.
A memorial was held on Thursday last week at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei in commemoration of the six correspondents who went missing in the line of duty.
Yao, who led the commemoration, said he never forgot the six reporters, and after great effort, had finally succeeded in getting them enshrined in the Martyrs’ Shrine in 2008.
Returning to Kinmen and paying his respects to these brave colleagues touched him deeply, Yao said, adding that the events on Kinmen should remain fresh in people’s memory.
Yao said while reporting from Kinmen, he witnessed how the navy’s seamen all worked together to defend the island from invasion, recalling that he even saw a medic helping other wounded soldiers despite having been hit in the stomach by a stray bullet.
“At that time, everyone helped each other and didn’t think about life or death: It didn’t really matter,” Yao said. “It might sound strange now, but at that time it was the norm.”
According to Hung Chin-tseng (洪縉曾), a Broadcasting Corp of China correspondent who had been with Yao in Kinmen, an indicator of how bad the situation was was the fact that everyone had to sign a form saying they understood the life and death situation they was entering.
Hung said before the plane he took to Kinmen landed, the exploding artillery was causing water to splash up against the windows, and the moment they had got off the plane military personnel shouted at them to run to the end of the runway to try and find a spot were the artillery could not hit.