Monday, July 16, 2018

Air war in the Cold War era

July 23, 1954, a Cathay Pacific Airways DC-4 Skymaster airliner en route from Bangkok to Hong Kong was shot down over the international waters east of San-ya, Hainan, China by two Chinese Liberation Army Air Force's Soviet-made La-11 fighters. Ten on board were killed and eight wounded.

Three days later, at 10:05 a.m., July 26, 1954, two La-11 fighters of PLAAF’s 29th Air Division were downed by US Navy aircraft in an engagement over eastern waters of Hainan. Chinese pilot Zhou Zheng-dong and his wingman were both killed in action. The US State Department protested to the Chinese authorities; however, the statements issued by both sides appeared to be conflicted as to how the incident actually happened.

The relationships among Britain, US, France, and China immediately became rather tense after this incident. Receiving the British protest, Chinese foreign office expressed her regret, indicating that the July 23 incident was caused by mistaken identification. Beijing alleged that the two La-11s were on an escort mission for Eastern bloc vessels and found a big-sized aircraft. They mistook it as a Republic of China Air Force bomber when the ground control asked them to identify the aircraft. PLAAF fighters then took the liberty to open fire and shot down the DC-4. China pointed out that it was an accident and expressed sympathy and condolences to the families of the dead and the wounded and agreed to compensate for the damage done. China later paid an indemnity of 251,400 pounds to Cathay Pacific Airways and 367,000 pounds to the British government.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Why can’t we make good war films?

Following his 2016 box office hit Hacksaw Ridge , a story about a war hero Desmond Doss, the medic who refused to bear any arms, director Mel Gibson is going to shoot another war picture about heroes. Titled Destroyer, his new film is about USS Laffey, DD-724, a ship almost sunk by Kamikazes but her captain refused to quit and led his men to fight relentlessly in the Okinawa campaign.

I am looking forward to watching this movie, for  ever since my childhood, I have been very interested in watching all sorts of movies using war or anything military as background.

As a veteran moviegoer, my only regret is that there are really few war movies locally produced.

I can understand the producers’ excuses---no one wants to invest such movies and no one wants to see them. These excuses suck.

I don’t expect local producers to make epic films like The Longest Day or The Bridge on the River Kwai, though. I mean are not there any good stories about our military after KMT lost the civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and withdrew to Taiwan in 1949? 

From 1949 to 1987, the year when the martial law was lifted, our armed forces paid dearly fighting the communists. We are all familiar with their heroic actions. The air battles against People’s Liberation Army Migs, the Black Cat Squadron and the Black Bat Squadron launching long-range recon missions, the frogmen infiltrating behind enemy lines, and the ordinary foot soldiers guarding those tiny off-shore islands etc., there are tons of good stories about devotion and sacrifice. Unfortunately, neither the government nor the film producers care less about the history of our struggle against the communism and for protecting our freedom and democratic way of life and our freedom.

In addition to its entertaining effects, movies, in my opinion, are the best media to educate our generations to remember our history.

It seems, however, too much of a request to ask the ruling party now to pay a little attention to this idea.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Who else attacked Taiwan during World War II?

During World War II, Taiwan was air-raided by the US, the Republic of China, Soviet Union and Royal Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The latter sent carrier-based aircraft to attack Japanese targets over Taiwan in the end of 1944 and early 1945. However, nothing could be more exaggerating was the fact that Mexican Air Force was also among the raiders over Taiwan.

Nicknamed “Aztec Eagles”, the Mexican Air Force’s 201st Fighter Squadron, then affiliated to the 58th Fighter Group of the US Fifth Air Force, based at Clark Field in the Philippines operating on P-47 Thunderbolts, launched four powerful sweepings from July 6 to 9 1945 to the island. On August 8, a week before Japanese surrender, “Aztec Eagles” dive-bombed Japanese vessels anchoring in Hualein Harbor.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Way to go, students of Ruesiang High

It was the second time that a scheduled lecture by Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association had been cancelled, an NGO in Taiwan dedicated to promoting gay rights and gender equality. To protest the cancellations, students of Kaohsiung Municipal Ruesiang High School decided to hang rainbow flags outside their classrooms.

According to the school authorities, the first time the lecture was cancelled was due to the time conflict with a school basketball game. As to the second time, it was because the lecture contents were not reviewed beforehand. It was required by the city education bureau that all contents of the lectures by speakers from outside the campus should be examined by a review board formed by teachers. However, the school found that such procedure was overlooked after having authorized the lecture. The school reiterated that the lecture had not been cancelled and the review board would meet again on May 30 to give a green light to the lecture.

The students stressed that they were upset about the school using technicality to interfere their rights to acquire knowledge about gender pluralism. They said their voice should be heard and that was why the rainbow flags were raised.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Focus on the small things

After a paratrooper was badly injured due to his unopened chute during a rehearsal jump for the coming war game, the Army Headquarters released a film on Facebook urging all to “focus energy” for the unfortunate parachutist.

Zhao Wu-ling, a military commentator, questioned the military on the China Times two days ago whether “focusing energy” had become its SOP anytime when things were screwed up.

Zhao said what the military should have done was focus their efforts to institutionalize the know-how about dealing with various scenarios that could happen to our service men and women. For example, instead of boasting on the Facebook film that how courageous our special ops soldiers were when they begot blisters to their feet on long-distance training march, Army should study carefully how to minimize hazards like these from happening to soldiers.

In my book, I agree with Zhao. Spending tons of tax payers’ money to buy state of the art weaponry, though deemed necessary in our national defense, the armed forces need to pay more attention to trivialities because the lives of hard recruited men and women depend on them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ROCAF F-16s escort PLAAF bomber

The photo above shows a Republic of China Air Force F-16 “escorting” a People’s Liberation Army Air Force Hong-6 bomber while the latter was conducting a flight circling the island of Taiwan some time last week.

The pilot who took the picture was a student of mine. When he was in the school, he was always dreaming of becoming a fighter pilot flying F-16. He entered the Air Force Academy’s special training program to make his dream come true soon after he graduated from our university. After a series of challenging training, he had the pilot’s wing pinned on his chest. I was so proud of him when he told me that he was later assigned to fly our topnotch first-line combat aircraft.

He told me that it was rather difficult to steer his plane and focus the camera at the same time. He and his wingmen were worried that such picture might upset their superiors. However, people in Taiwan got quite excited when the Ministry of Defense decided to release their shot to the press.

I thank him and all the men and women serving in our armed forces for protecting this island and our way of life. And I do hope that our leader could be smart enough to prevent any conflicts from occurring with the other side.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Discloser

The Discloser is a 2017 Korean thriller film directed by Hong Ki-seon. Based on a true event, this film boldly tells about a corruption case involving high-ranking military officers.

Lieutenant Colonel Park Dae-ik (Kim Sang-kyung) has everything a career officer could wish for. Married to a beautiful wife and having a lovely daughter, he is transferred to the Ministry of Defense to take charge of the procurement of aircraft components for the new generation fighters, an important assignment which would guarantee his promotion to be a full-bird colonel. As a patriotic soldier, he works as hard not to fail the expectations of his superiors. However, he gradually discovers that the arm deal is but a big black hole. His superiors enjoy luxurious lives way past their pay grade could afford, while the frontline combat units receive nothing but discrepant parts for their equipment. His attempt to conduct an investigation for such matter is discouraged. After a young fighter pilot was killed in action because of faulty parts of his plane, witnessing the top brass tried to cover the whole thing by defaming the pilot, Park resorts to exposing such corruption to the public through a young TV station reporter Thus the biggest scandal in the Korean military history is uncovered.

Korean film producers and directors are admirable to produce films of such theme.

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.