Many of those who spent about seven years clearing the tens of thousands of land mines from Kinmen County have left the islands and returned to Taiwan proper, but a memorial to their contribution remains in the form of a new exhibition hall set to formally open to the public soon.
The center, located within a military base on the main island of Kinmen, is focused on the removal of land mines in the 1950s and 1960s, when tensions with China were at a high point.
Now that the military’s largest-ever demining operation has come to a close, the division has been disbanded. About 20 professional deminers remain in Kinmen as part of a new Demining Platoon to deal with any discoveries of unexploded ordnance.
Inside the center, unveiled earlier this year, historical photos and documents are on display to give visitors an insight into the dangerous job, while a video room shows a short film that chronicles the soldiers’ efforts.
Other exhibits feature protective gear, devices used to detect and remove mines, and information on the mines that were once buried on the Kinmen archipelago.
This important part of Kinmen’s history should not be forgotten, said Major Fu Chih-hui (傅志輝), commander of the Combat Engineer Company under the Kinmen Defense Command.
Outside, a mock removal crew dressed in trademark orange uniforms and fully equipped with protective gear showed visitors how the delicate procedure of removing mines is carried out in a simulated minefield.
Fu was on the team removing the explosives over those seven years. In that time, he said, the most remarkable experience he had was watching the destruction of land mines and ordnance that were discovered in 2006, when military engineers learned how to remove the mines under the instruction of overseas experts.
The demining team did not see a single casualty during its work to clear Kinmen, thanks to the division’s strict safety procedures.
About 97,000 landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance have been cleared from the Kinmen archipelago, including the islets of Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽), Fu said, citing official data.
As the exhibition center is on a military base, only Republic of China nationals can enter.
Visitors from China and other countries can learn more about Kinmen’s dangerous past at a park on Lieyu (烈嶼), an islet to the southwest of Kinmen’s main island.
The park includes a tunnel with photos and documents on the demining efforts in Kinmen. The above-ground section of the park covers what was once an active minefield. There, a mock crew of deminers demonstrates the steps used to clear explosives.
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