Saturday, February 03, 2018

The predecessor of the New 38th Division: The Tax Police Regiment

During World War II, in the China-Burma-India theater, a Chinese combat unit was renowned internationally, and that was the New 38th Division. This unit was the main force that saved the British troops trapped by the Japanese in Yenangyaung oil fields, Burma. The New 38th was also the backbone of the New 1st Corps, the elite of the Chinese Army in India, which later played quite a crucial role in the counteroffensive of Burma.

Many felt extraordinarily interesting that the New 38th was originally a paramilitary unit specializing in anti-smuggling. The story went back to the early years after the founding of the Republic of China.

In late 1920s, the Ministry of Finance had trouble collecting enough salt tax, the main tax revenue used partly to pay for the indemnity by the humiliating treaty signed by Qing government after the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901).

In 1930, Soong Tse-ven (1894-1971), the finance minister of China, proposed to Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950), US Secretary of the State, to retain part of her indemnity in China. Soong would use the money to form a tax police force for striking smugglers and guarding saltern, so China would be able to expedite her payment. Stimson agreed.

Thus, a 13000-strong Tax Police General Regiment was established in Shanghai in 1930. At first, it was composed of three regiments equipped with automatic rifles, machine guns, 60mm mortars, and short-distance radio sets, etc. Under American and German advisors, these regiments specialized in small unit tactics. Because it was affiliated to the Ministry of Finance, the men were better paid than those of regular army.

After the Shanghai incident of August 13, 1937, three more regiments were added along with a special-task battalion, an artillery battalion, an anti-aircraft artillery battalion, and a communication battalion.

In March 1938, the Tax Police General Regiment was reorganized as the National Revolutionary Army’s New 38th Division in Guizhou province, and its commander, General Sun Li-zen (1900-1990), was named the commander of this division.

Friday, February 02, 2018

General Zhang Zhi-Zhong (1891-1940)

Among all fifties allies that took part in the struggle against Fascist aggressors during WWII, General Zhang Zhi-Zhong of the Republic of China was the highest ranking officer killed in action.

Born in a family of renown in Northern China at late Qing dynasty, Zhang was well educated in Confucianism and was indoctrinated that loyalty to his country and filial piety to his parents were both indispensable to a man.

When he was young, he first chose to study law and politics. Several years later, he turned to develop his career in the military.

He first joined the Northwestern Army, at that time a warlord’s territorial armed forces of China and started from the bottom.

After the Zhong-Yuan War, a civil war between the ruling Nationalist and warlords in 1930, his troops were reorganized, and he became the commander of the 38th Division of the 29th Army.

In 1933, the 29th Army beat up the Japanese trying to occupy Xifengko, a strategic point of the Great Wall. For their gallantry in battle, Zhang and eleven officers of the 29th were awarded the Order of Blue Sky and White Sun, the highest award of the Republic of China.

On July 7, 1937, when the Marco-Polo Bridge Incident broke out, and China launched a full-scale resistance war against Japan. Zhang was ordered by Chiang Kai-shek, the head of the Nationalist government’s military committee and de factor ruler of China then, to stay behind and become the acting mayor of Peking(now Beijing). His job was to deal with the Japanese as long as possible to gain the time for the 29th to withdraw. However, the public and the media, unaware of the ins and outs, labeled Zhang as a traitor.

His name was finally cleared as Chiang Kai-shek appointed him as the commander of the 59th Army after he managed to escape to Nanjing.

In 1938, his 59th beat the Japanese hard and paved the way for the Battle of Taierzhuang, China’s first major victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Thus Zhang was promoted to become the commander of the 33rd Army Group.  
Zhang then led his troops to win battle after battle. In 1940, Japan intended to take China’s wartime capital Chung-king and launched a major offensive. On May 16, Zhang led his men to attack and unfortunately was surrounded by the enemy. Badly wounded, Zhang still fought to the last moment and attempted to commit suicide but was stopped by his subordinates. He later died of severe wound.

The Japanese buried him and honored him as China’s god of war. Chiang ordered a commando to retrieve Zhang’s body and held a state funeral to commemorate his sacrifice. Chiang personally wrote his epitaph 英烈千秋 meaning everlasting glory for this national hero.

On April 16, 1982, the People’s Republic of China officially recognized Zhang as a revolutionary martyr. On May 16, 2010, on the seventieth anniversary of General Zhang’s death, a ceremony was held in Chungking to honor his sacrifice for the nation. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Organization of the Combat Units of the Republic of China Air Force

Since the commission of the fourth-generation fighters, F-16A/Bs, F-CK-1s, and Mirage 2000-5s, the ROCAF no longer has “squadrons” on its table of organization. Instead, the Wings and Squadrons were combined to form the Tactical Fighting Groups, TFG, which has 20 fighters each.

Each of the squadrons of non-combat wings, however, has fewer than 20 aircraft. For instance, the Electronic Warfare Wing based on Pingtung has only seven aircraft divided into two squadrons.

As the United States Air Force, our combat units are home-based upon air bases. There is a wing on each air base, and the wing commander is a major general. Each wing has three groups: flight group, maintenance group, and base service group. The commander of each group is a colonel.

According to the old table of organization, take fighters, for example, each group had about 60 fighters affiliated to three squadrons. Each squadron had about 20 fighters; the squadron commander was a lieutenant colonel. Under the squadron were flights. Each flight had about 6 to 7 fighters, and the flight leader was a major.

Since 2002, the changing of the fourth-generation fighters saw the need for a great number of experienced pilots with more flight hours. However, the old channel of command forced many experienced veteran fighters with the rank of lieutenant colonel to leave first-line squadrons to take the staff jobs at headquarters of groups, wings, and other commands. Consequently, the well-trained veteran pilots could only sit at the desk without any planes to fly.

Since 2004, after the reorganization to combine groups and squadrons under the wings into Tactical Fighting Groups, each TFG has had 20 aircraft, and the rank of its commander is a colonel. There are three flights under each TFG, and each TFG has six or seven aircraft. After such reorganization, about 44 veteran pilots with ranks of lieutenant colonel or colonel got to go back to the air base and became first-line pilots.

However, some non-combat wings, like the 439th Wing of Pingtung Air Base, which operates transports, AWACS aircraft, and electronic warfare aircraft, still has their groups and squadrons. The 737th Wing of Pingtung Air Base, which operates on third-generation F-5E/Fs, still keeps its squadrons.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Operation Grand Desert: The Republic of China Air Force’s peacekeeping mission in North Yemen

(Arm patch of those taking part in the Operation Grand Desert. It is a combination of the military emblems of the Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen with "Tiger II in Sanaa" underneath. )

From 1979 to 1990, the Republic of China Air Force, upon the request of Saudi Arabia, conducted a 12-year long covert mission, code-named Operation Grand Desert, to aid the air defense for North Yemen on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The mission was so secret that it had not been known until recent years.

Years of turmoil led to the start of Operation Grand Desert.

Yemen, called “the Garden of Eden” in the Old Testament, was a rich and fruitful land with moderate climate. Even in the times of Arabian empire, it was still an “Empirical Paradise.” However, political and religious clashes never seemed to cease even at the end of World War II. In 1962, the Yemen Arab Republic, also known as North Yemen or Yemen, was established; South Yemen was still a British colony. Inevitably, a civil war between pro-British and pro-Russian factions broke out. In 1967, the pro-Russian People’s Liberation Front finally prevailed and set up the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1967, commonly known as South Yemen.

Worried that South Yemen might export revolution across its border, South Arabia promised to aid North Yemen including providing US-made F-5E fighters for its air defense. Nevertheless, the pretty much Sovietized North Yemen had opinions about Saudi Arabia’s support for old Yemeni royal family and did not allow Saudi Arabia personnel to enter its country. Saudi Arabia then turned to the Republic of China Air Force to seek help since both air forces flew F-5Es. And that help lasted for 12 years. 

According to those who were involved in the Operation Grand Desert, our men joined North Yemen Air Force’s 112th Squadron and were mainly responsible for instruction, guidance, and assistance to missions. Normally, our people were not directly engaged in combat. Even so, as hostilities in South Yemen increased, our pilots were constantly found themselves locked on by enemy radars even during training flights.

May 1990, the two Yemens reached an agreement to unify. On August 2, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Middle East situation grew intense, so our crew left and ended this historic mission.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

A traitor or a patriot?

Dr. Zhang Xian-yi was the key figure in charge of nuclear weapons research in the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, Taiwan’s top-secret military research unit. On January 8, 1988, with the help of CIA, after having first arranged his wife and three children to sightsee in Japan, the good doctor used a fake Singapore passport and secretly fled to America, thus ending Taiwan’s nuclear project. Zhang and his family were later joined in the US. For he was also an army officer, Zhang was charged with desertion and posted wanted by the Ministry of National Defense.

30 years later, when the retroactive legal period for his arrest was terminated, he published a book alleging that he did not betray Taiwan and his choice of revealing Taiwan’s nuclear secret was, in fact, an act of patriotism. According to Zhang, he stressed that China might use it as an excuse to attack this island should Taiwan own its nuclear weapons. 

In the mid-60s of last century, to cope with Communist China’s threat, Taiwan started her own development of nuclear weapons. Fearing that such development would result in more tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and consider it a direct contradiction to the US interests, CIA was tasked to end Taiwan’s plan. In 1982, the US intelligence service successfully recruited Zhang and was able to get a better picture of Taiwan’s nuclear project.

Under US pressure, Taiwan had no choice but reluctantly gave up its nuclear project.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Double Twelfth Day

Yesterday marked the 81st anniversary of Xi’an Incident, an eventful day that had shaped China of today.

On December 12, 1936, Zhang Xueliang, the commander of the Northeastern Army, along with Yang Huchen, the commander of the Northwestern Army, launched a military remonstration in Xi’an, Shaanxi province when Chiang Kai-shek, the chair of the military council of the Nationalist government and then the de facto ruler of China, was there to inspect their troops. Zhang and Yang held Chiang Kai-shek as a hostage and tried to coerce Chiang to change his policy of “stabilizing internal security prior to resisting foreign aggression.”

At that time Chiang was about to completely clean up the remaining Communist insurgents led by Mao Tse-tung. However, Zhang and Yang wanted Chiang to stop fighting fellow Chinese and turn his gun to the Japanese invaders.

How did it all happen?

For years Zhang’s father Zhang Zuo-ling had been the governing warlord of northeastern China; however, he refused to cooperate with the Japanese and was subsequently killed by a train bomb plotted by Japanese secret service in 1928. After his father’s death, Zhang Xueling, nicknamed “Young Marshal,” took over the command of his father’s army and pledged his loyalty to the Nationalist government led by Chiang. In 1931, when the Japanese-backed puppet state Manchuguo was established, fearing the outburst a total war with Japan, Chiang ordered Zhang to withdraw his troops and deployed Zhang’s entire Northeastern Army in the north of Shaanxi province to help him eliminate the retreating Chinese Communist forces.

The “Young Marshal” was not very happy about his job, for he was carrying the burden of being blamed for not firing a single shot to save Northeast China from falling into the Japanese hands. He never quit the idea of leading his men to return to his homeland.

National sentiment was burning with rage when the people heard that Chiang was abducted by Zhang and Yang. The Communist Party of China, of course, supported Zhang’s action because they would get the chance to gasp for breath and regroup their armed forces if Chiang stopped attacking them. Joseph Stalin, too, also hoped that Chiang could fight against Japan, so to prevent the Japanese from threatening the Far East regions of the Soviet Union.

In the following two weeks, Chiang stood very firm not to give in but agreed to reconsider Zhang’s demands. Under domestic and international pressure, Zhang released Chiang on December 26 and accompanied him back to Nanjing. Zhang was immediately put into house arrest for the rest of his life, and Yang was assassinated by Chiang’s secret service people right before the Nationalist government lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Without a doubt, if not for the Xi'an Incident, the Communist Party of China would never be able to develop itself substantially powerful enough to later defeat Chiang in the armed struggle. 

Seven months following the Xi’an Incident, on July 7, 1937, Japan attacked Chinese garrison at Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing, thus started the Second Sino-Japanese War.

When the Double Twelfth incident broke out, the military police fought gallantly with Zhang’s men to protect Chiang. In 1951, December 12 was designated as the Military Police Day of the Republic of China to commend their loyalty and bravery.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Stupid, irrational, or courageous?

In a BBC interview, a former Japanese Kamikaze pilot recalled that he had felt great relief when his plane engine sounded weird and started puffing black smoke. The engine failure got him pulled out of the one-way mission to dive American warships, and he got to live yet another day. Unlike about 4000 fellow flyers, he survived the war.

The interviewer then randomly interviewed a few young Japanese in the street asking how they thought of the sacrifice their forefathers had done. “Stupid,” “courageous,” and “irrational” were the responses.

In Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), lacking substantial anti-tank weapons, Chinese soldiers would be shouting words like “another good guy twenty years later,” before jumping out of their trenches and crawling under the belly of attacking Japanese tanks and detonated the grenades they had carried to destroy the armored vehicles.

What made those Japanese aviators and Chinese warriors sacrifice their own lives? Patriotism, extreme ideology, or foolishness? Honestly, it would be very unfair for our generation to judge the deeds of those brave men simply because the times were different.

Japan was not divided and occupied like Germany by the Allies after World War II. Some historians said that was the price paid by Kamikaze pilots, for the Allies had to consider the serious consequences if one hundred million Japanese rose and fought against the occupation. Instead, the symbolic occupation forces composed mostly of the U.S. troops later became a chief income source of postwar Japan, and her economic recovery had to be attributed to the outbreak of Korean War five years after. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The price of freedom is never low

Three days ago an air force Mirage2000 fighter piloted by Captain Ho Zi-yu was reported missing during a night training exercise. Despite the extensive rescue attempt immediately launched after the plane disappeared on the radar screen, nothing has been found so far. Unfortunately at the times of fast online news, vicious rumors of the accident including one that said the pilot had defected to the other side of Taiwan Strait soon spread. Such rumor fuelled Feng Shi-kuan, the defense minister who himself was a veteran fighter pilot, to burst out swearing at a legislature meeting.

It is believed by some former combat pilots that Captain Ho might have suffered spatial disorientation, a very lethal phenomenon frequently happened to pilots who were going through nocturnal missions, and dashed his French-built fighter into the sea.

The price of freedom is never low. While expecting a miracle of the young officer’s being rescued, the best for all of us to do now is pray for the good Captain and his beloved family.   

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Localize English teaching and learning

Halloween is a traditional festival when when many a Western country celebrates it to commemorate the dead the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed on 31 October. As “Westernization” has been rampant in this country, kids as well as adults also wear scaring makeup and put on exotic costumes “trick-or-treating” on this particular day. Many local English cram schools for children would seize this opportunity to propagandize their schools hoping to lure more to enroll. However, have you ever seen any local English isntitutes or kindergartens organizing their kids to celebrate the Zongyuan Festival, our ghost festival, on the fifteenth of lunar July every year?

Dr. Yen Yuan-su (1933-2012), former chair of the Department of English Language and Literature of National Taiwan University, advocated that English teaching here should be “localized,” because the main teaching objective should be for our students to acquire the linguistic skills to introduce Taiwan to foreigners. Our students should learn how to introduce the Zongyuan Festival to Westerners.

I know it would be fun for kids to dress up and to go around asking for treats; nevertheless, as far as the teaching goal is concerned, I tend to agree with Dr. Yen. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Bring them home

A village chief is Taiwan’s lowest elected public servant. Despite his low rank, Liu Wen-de, a village chief in Zuo-ying District of Kaoxiung City, has been doing something quite extraordinary. For twelve years, he has been travelling to over twenty provinces in China to escort over fifty urns of cremains of the deceased veterans of his village to their hometowns, helping these old soldiers fulfilling their last wish---“A falling leaf should return to the roots,” which means that “in old age, an expatriate should return home.”

Soon after Liu took his office, he found that there were a number of veterans born in mainland China living in his village. These veterans, some of them had been forced to join the army against their will when they were very young during the Chinese civil war from 1945 to 1949. After the Nationalist lost the war to the Communist, they came to Taiwan with the retreating troops. It was not until 1987 that they were allowed to visit their relatives in mainland China. Before then, some had married and had their families in Taiwan, but many of them remained single and lived alone.

Liu found out that the very last wish of these single old veterans was to have their cremains buried in their hometowns in mainland China. Liu decided to help these old soldiers and make their dream come true. And Liu has been doing it for the past twelve years. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

“Taiwan to participate US Navy drill”: Taipei Times Sept. 11, 2017

What a sensational headline! 38 years after cutting off formal diplomatic ties with us the United States finally came to its senses? No. Those guys in the State Department and the Pentagon still have very clear minds not to offend China. The report only said that Taiwan observers were invited to present at the drill and clearance was given to board navy helicopters to watch the anti-submarine war game. I read the report three times which had not mentioned whether these observers were permitted to watch the drill in their uniforms or not.

China has known that the US never stops unofficial contacts with Taiwan militarily. As long as such connection infringes Sino-American communiques signed, China would turn a blind eye to our cooperation with the US. For instance, China knows perfectly that the US has been training Taiwanese air force pilots. Nevertheless, China will take no action if these flyboys do not pilot their F-16 fighters beyond the central line of the Taiwan Strait.

Another report the other day was about Taiwan’s military strength. As the year 2017 would see the last time the practice of compulsory military service, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) is worried that the military might not get enough men or women to serve if full voluntary military service is put into practice next year. The MND said it needed at least 175,000 men to defend this island. Well, some said it would not be necessarily using so many troops if the military knows better about how to use their existing human resources more effectively.

My readers who have been in service must have remembered the time you were ordered to lawn the grass in the boot camp. It was a typical act of wasting manpower. Why not hire civilian contractors to cut the grass and let the recruits learn about their soldiering skills? 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What happened to the Navy…and the Marine?

Two weeks ago a sailor was found dead by swallowing pesticide. According to a media report, Senior Chief Petty Officer Chiu of Navy’s 164th Fleet Command was assigned to recruit sailors from high school graduates. Chiu, who was married, however, had affairs with two high school girls. He had sex with both girls and told each of them that it would be easier for him to be with them if they volunteered to enlist the navy. Both girls did as told. Coincidentally, at Navy’s Recruit Training Center, these two girls were placed on the same squad of the same company. In their free time, they told each other about their own boyfriend and found that they were talking about the same person. Both girls reported Chiu to the authorities, and he was therefore held under probe. It was believed that Chiu had committed suicide because he was under grave pressure.

Another scandal happened in the Marine Corps. The commanding officer of the Medical Company of the 99th Marine Brigade and the female company sergeant, both married, had affairs. Being the CO’s favored concubine, she acted like an underground company commander and got herself involved in the unit’s job assignments, which annoyed the whole company. According to the media report, they checked in a motel in Henchun in southern Taiwan where their company took part in the annual war game of the armed forces. The company commander even used the official notebook to record the fee spend at the motel and his physical changes before and after taking Viagra. Navy Headquarters said that the CO and the sergeant had been removed from their post and ordered to discharge from the service.  

Monday, September 04, 2017

Nine shots? Is it excessive use of deadly force?

This morning, migrant workers groups along with human rights groups staged a protest against the police for using deadly force that led to the death of a migrant worker in front of National Police Administration building.

Last Thursday in Xinzhu County a runaway Vietnamese migrant worker surnamed Nguyen stoned the police to resist the arrest while he was being rounded up for attempting to steal a pickup truck. Under attack, the police fired nine shots to stop him. The police said that Nguyen was trying to grasp their weapons and kicked and broke the nose of a fellow vigilante. The suspect was shot six times. He was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived.

According to a spokesperson for the human rights group, the police did not need to use such firepower to contain Nguyen, for he was then naked in his upper torso and unarmed. They demanded that the NPA conduct a thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, Xinzhu prosecutors said that a probe is now underway.

We believe that the safety of the police officers on site is priority number one. We also support the police to use any legal means necessary to protect themselves while enforcing the law. However, we urge the NPA to restore the truth and nothing but the truth, to the public as soon as possible.  

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Mosquito airport

Don’t get this title wrong. It’s not about an airport for the Mosquito, a famous RAF light bomber of WWII, to land, but an airfield without being used by any plane, which is like a habitat for mosquitos.

Yesterday, Heng-chun Airport celebrated the debut of the landing of its first aircraft after its opening three years ago. Nicknamed “mosquito airport,” Heng-chun Air Terminal is another example of “money-for-nothing” infrastructure built under political pressure, or to be more precise, under ballot pressure.

Numerous such buildings can be found all over Taiwan. There are “mosquito museums,” “mosquito activity centers,” “mosquito libraries,” or “mosquito parking lots,” etc.  All were the promises made by local politicians during their campaigns once they were elected. However, none paid any serious attention to the usefulness of these buildings or how these places should be run once built. It is not news to see a museum without a curator or exhibits, or a library without books and librarians.

Precious taxpayers’ money was wasted in such a way.  

Back to our Heng-chun Airport, there are a couple of ways to use it though. In wartime, of course, it can be a reserve airfield for fighter planes. In peacetime, it can be used as a landing ground for light/ultra-light aircraft, the venue for kite-flying contests, tracks for car races, flight training site of UAVs, and training tracks for heavy motorcycles, etc.

One thing that worries me is that if these places or buildings are put to good use, where can our mosquitos find their habitats?  

Friday, September 01, 2017

Females in the military

On the eve of the 93 Armed Forces Day, at a ceremony held to commemorate this great day, President Tsai Ing-wen in her speech praised, in particular, the contributions made by our female soldiers. Among the examples given were an artillery captain of a rocket company, an F-5 fighter pilot, and a leader of an amphibious recon team. She said that the services rendered by female members of our armed forces constituted a significant part of our national security.