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. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Raid on Myitkyina

The Raid on Myitkyina
Translated from Pan Lei’s Private First Class

That morning, over one hundred sorties of aircraft took off incessantly from two air bases at Moian and Jorhat, India, to bomb the airfield located west of Myitkyina. When the Japanese garrison was taking refuge in the air raid shelters, a large number of transports and towed gliders then landed under cover of fighters. At the same time, the troops of Sino-American Composite Group and the 150th Regiment hiding nearby launched attacked. My friend Shen Bing-hua's mission and I was to repair the vehicle, left by the enemy when they retreated in a hurry, for our use.  

Immediately after getting off the planes, the men of the 89th Regiment of 30th Division were making full efforts to sweep the remaining enemy near the airfield, and the 150th Regiment tried to take the Myitkyina Train Station. Unfortunately, due to poor communication that failed to call for resupply, Japanese took the advantage to counterattack. Out of ammunition, our men had to use their bayonets to break through and retreated to the airfield. As a result, Japanese used this opportunity to regroup and redeploy, reinforcing their fortifications of four defense zones of Myitkyina. Thus saw the setback of our surprise attack, which might achieve victory in one day but instead, take us three months to capture Myitkyina.

The transport that carried us landed after the infantry when Myitkyina airfield was under heavy fire. Japanese garrison hurried out from their air raid shelter to engage. Some of the plane-towed gliders landed in the first wave having their pilots killed in the air; some gliders lay on the treetops, and all combatants on board were machine-gunned down by the Japanese. Their dripping blood dyed the whole tree red. Some gliders went wrong when landing and swirled out of the runway killing all on board. There was no way to tell the foes from friends. When our plane stopped near a slanted transport, jumping out of the aircraft, I felt that we were trapped and yelling killing sound was all around. However, the panic soon subsided, and I felt I almost could not hear anything. Until a dozen of us dug some foxholes underneath the trees up front and hid us in them, I heard “Mule” warn me in a trembling voice, “Stay down, stay down.”

The moment I shrank my head, a shell fell some thirty yards near us. When I woke up, I found my face was covered with sand dust.

From that instant, my hearing recovered. I feared nothing but felt something burning inside me.

After dark, I felt hungry. It seemed too dangerous to stay here for the night, so we moved to the left flank and linked up with guys of the 30th Division. Nevertheless, the situation at that time was at the most disadvantage. The 150th Regiment that took the Myitkyina train station was about to break through and pull back, and reinforcement and supplies were cut off.

The next day, the reinforcement of the 42nd Regiment of 14th Division arrived by air, but the situation was yet to be stable. The perimeters of the airfield we were holding were still under enemy attacks. The situation was only settled when we eliminated the hostile elements of the two flanks and the back of the airfield.

Then we changed positions two times before stationing behind 30th Division Headquarters.

Although “Mule” and I took part in this campaign*, in fact, we did nothing all day but ate, slept, and got shelled.

*The Myitkyina campaign started on May 17, 1944, and ended on August 3, 1944.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Air War over Taiwan 3

September 10, 1945, less than a month after the Japanese surrender, a U.S. military aircraft carrying 20 just-liberated Allied prisoners of war crashed in the mountainous area of Taitung because of the typhoon. None of the twenty POWs and five crew members survived.

The twenty POWs on board were eleven Americans, four Dutchmen, and five Australians then being flown from Okinawa to Manila, where they would be shipped home.

Seventy-two years later, Liu Rui-cheng, a retired Republic of China Air Force general, along with a few zealous civilian friends of his, formed “The Wreckage Expedition” team and climbed on the steep slope of the crash site. They spent three days and two nights using their bare hands and simple tools to dug and find some debris of the plane wreckage including machine gun, engine pipes, and aircraft skin.

This aircraft, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator numbered 44-42052 affiliated to the 886th Squadron of the 494th Bombardment Group, was one of the two B-24s assigned to ship POWs to Manila. Due to the typhoon, the other plane crashed into the sea.

The story did not end here.

Eight days after the crash, the Japanese officials, who still remained in Taitung, mobilized an 8-man rescue team to search for survivors. Nine days later, another rescue team of 89 men was formed and left for the mountain for logistic matters. On September 30, when the two teams were about to meet at the crash site, another typhoon hit Taiwan. On the 3000-meter high mountain areas, the tropical storm took 26 lives, including twelve Amis, seven Japanese military policemen, two local policemen, several aboriginals of Ping-pu, Bunun, and Puyuma tribes, a few Hakkas and Hoklos. According to academic research records, in October 1945, another team was deployed who buried the killed Allied POWs nearby a pond. The bodies of the Allied POWs were all retrieved and reburied in different military cemeteries.

The incident not only took the lives of 25 Allied soldiers but 26 lives of rescue team members. These 26 men might be the pillars of 26 families. General Liu lamented that it was pretty sad that they had never been mentioned after their death.

Some of the wreckage found were placed at the side of the mountain trail leading to the crash site. General Liu hoped that the local government could erect a monument or something to remind people that the incident was a part of the history of Taitung. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

New uniforms for armed forces personnel

Defense minister Feng Shih-kwan announced recently that our military personnel would be issued new uniforms beginning December next year. Controversies over whether it is necessary to spend about 200 million NT dollars immediately arose.

The new uniforms were jackets for winter wear. It was a copy of U.S. Army’s M1944 jacket, also known as “Ike’s Jacket”, for it was the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower’s favorite.  

Do our men and women in the military need to change their uniforms? We are not opposed to giving them new uniforms to make them look more handsome and smarter. However, we do not think that new jackets are not priority number one.

What our military needs now is to win more trust and respect from the people the army is trying to protect. The armed forces also need more caring eyes from their commander-in-chief, our President Tsai.

Ever since the DPP took power, it has been trying to cut the retired soldiers’ annuity pay. That is not the way to treat these veterans. We understand that the government is facing financial difficulties and the national annuity system has to be reformed, and we support the reform. Nevertheless, it is very dishonest not to honor what had been promised. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just some maji! No big deal!

Two air force pilots on a training exercise were photographed that, as seen in the canopy, they had brought with them two boxes of maji, a local specialty of Hualien county, often used by visitors as a gift. Many criticized that they should not use the F-16B fighter belonging to the taxpayers as their personal cargo carrier, and the Air Force Headquarters promised to probe into this matter.

Personally, I don’t consider it a big deal. I can live with it as long as those flyboys know what they are doing. I believe that Army soldiers also use their trucks to haul something personal and it won’t be the first time our Navy sailors trying to smuggle some stuff onboard their vessels.

The ubiquitous internet is what made this a fuss. Some netizens just hide behind the screen all day trying to play the role of inquisitors. Their common features are lacking enough knowledge background of the thing they want to criticize and training in objectivity to do the criticism right. Therefore, the remarks they have made are often biased ones.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Salute two heroes

1.     Two weeks ago a gas leak ignited a serious explosion in Taichung City’s Feng-Jia Circle. Wu Hao-bang, 30, a curry restaurant owner, despite his injuries, stayed at the blast site and helped ten customers of the shop next to his who were trapped in the fire to flee. Wu was pronounced dead yesterday due to multiple organ failures.

2.     An owner of a soybean sauce factory in Yunglin county had been keeping his words to pay the retirees monthly pension for over twenty years until the recipients told him to stop because they had had enough.

The owner, who inherited the factory from his father, was troubled because his hand-made soy bean sauce was beaten hard by other soy bean sauce made using chemical methods. Despite the fact that his factory was losing money, he could not bear to see old workers leave the job without labor pension. For he was not able to pay the retirees in full, he promised those senior workers that he would pay them by installment.

Comparing with President Tsai who is trying to strip of retired government officials their annuity, this factory owner is more trustworthy.