Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, has said that Taiwan is a beautiful place, because the US armed forces did not attack it during World War II, but attacked Okinawa instead.
It is astonishing that someone who was born and grew up in Taiwan, whose salary is paid by Taiwanese taxpayers and who is running for president does not know about the US Air Force’s heavy bombardment of Taiwan. It is regrettable that the KMT could nominate a candidate who cares so little about the nation’s history.
In a single mission — the May 31, 1945, air raid over Taipei — the US Air Force bombed and seriously damaged the Office of the Governor General of Taiwan, which is now the Presidential Office Building, killed more than 3,000 Taipei residents and left tens of thousands injured or homeless.
During the war, places in southern Taiwan, including Chiayi and Tainan, as well as Kaohsiung’s Gangshan (岡山) and Zuoying (左營), were home to Japanese army, navy and air force bases, making them prime targets for US bombing raids, so US B-29 Superfortress bombers began targeting them in November 1944.
I was five years old at the time. We lived in a three-story building opposite the main branch of the Third Credit Cooperative on Daren Road in Kaohsiung’s Yancheng District (鹽埕). Downstairs was my father’s Cidetang traditional Chinese medicine clinic.
When the Americans started bombing Taiwan, the Japanese colonial officials ordered Kaohsiung residents to evacuate to outlying mountainous areas as soon as possible. My parents took me, my three brothers and our baby sister to take refuge in a village called Chelongpu (車籠埔) in the foothills of Kaohsiung’s Dashe Township (大社), which is now Dashe District.
My father had a distant, unmarried cousin whom we children called “uncle,” and he had hired him to make herbal remedies in the pharmacy. Uncle volunteered to stay behind and look after the ingredients. My father tried to persuade him that life is more important than anything else, but he insisted on staying behind, saying that if there was an air raid warning, he would take refuge in the nearest bomb shelter.
From our refuge in the foothills, I saw B-29s flying toward Kaohsiung several times. Kaohsiung harbor was a strategic point where there was a concentration of Japanese navy and army units. In those days bombers did not drop their payloads very accurately, and on every mission they had to drop all their ordnance before returning to base.
Consequently, many Taiwanese were killed by US bombs. One day my father was informed that a 500kg bomb had fallen on our home, reducing most of it to rubble. He was devastated to hear that Uncle had lost his life because he had not gone to the air raid shelter. A few months later, the emperor of Japan announced Japan’s unconditional surrender, but we had lost our home and Uncle.
Over the past few centuries, Taiwan has played host to one ungrateful guest after another. There were the Dutch, the Tungning Kingdom, the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese and the KMT’s dynasty of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). The KMT, now in opposition, frequently adopts an attitude of surrender to communist China. It has forgotten the dying wish of its great leader Chiang Kai-shek to fight communism and never stand alongside the “communist bandits.”
What a shame that today’s KMT would rather make Taiwanese someone else’s slaves than the true masters of the nation.
Shih Ming-hsiung is a political victim.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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