President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will attend events on Kinmen today to mark the 55th anniversary of an artillery battle between the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-led military and China’s communist forces.
It will mark Ma’s first appearance in military-sponsored activities following protests over the alleged hazing death of an army conscript early last month.
The incident, which brought down a defense minister and triggered historic reforms in the military justice system, is widely viewed as damaging to the image and the morale of the military at a time when it is being transformed into an all volunteer force.
Despite the incident, Ma has made clear that “the honor of the armed forces cannot be trampled upon, nor their sacrifices obliterated,” said sources in the Presidential Office who preferred to remain anonymous.
Taiwanese have enjoyed 60 years of freedom and should be thankful to troops for their sacrifices, the sources said.
Ma will take part in the ringing of a peace bell and a memorial service during his trip, they said.
Starting on Aug. 23, 1958, Chinese troops fired more than 470,000 shells onto Kinmen over a period of 44 days, killing and injuring thousands of soldiers and civilians. About 200 Chinese soldiers were killed during the exchange of fire that would later become known as the 823 Artillery Bombardment.
At the end of the bombardment, the Chinese communists abandoned their plans to attack Taiwan proper by hopping from Kinmen and Matsu.
At that time, Kinmen and Matsu were Taiwan’s frontline military garrisons.
Ma is scheduled to commemorate the battle along with Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明) and other high-level military officials.
Ma will also address soldiers stationed there in a bid to boost their morale, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the military yesterday presented two performances of a musical as part of the events marking the battle’s 55th anniversary.
The show featured servicemen, singer Irene Luo (羅美玲) and theater veterans Lu Yi-lung and Berson Wang (王柏森).
Portraying the interaction between a senior officer and a young soldier, the musical tells a story of hardship in times of war and the military’s efforts to protect Taiwan against Chinese troops, the ministry said.
It included scenes from Kinmen in the 1950s and incorporates a documentary of the battle, the ministry added.