Saturday, November 23, 2013

The war and peace of the Hsinchu air base

(ROCAF's 34th "Black Bat" Squadron)

November 25, 1943, taking off from their base on mainland China, a squadron of B-25s of the Chinese-American Composite Wing of the U.S. 14th Air Force flew across the Taiwan Strait and raided Shinchiku (now Hsinchu) air base, destroying 42 Japanese aircraft. The 14th Air Force, under the command of General Chennault, was formally the American Volunteer Group, the well-known Flying Tigers, of the Chinese Air Force, American mercenary pilots hired by the Republic of China (ROC) government to defend her southwestern air space before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  

Soon after the end of World War II, the civil war between the ROC under the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party broke out. After four years of bitter fighting, KMT lost the Mainland and was forced to withdraw to Taiwan.

Beginning in the early 1950s, unarmed B-17s of the Republic of China Air Force’s 34th Squadron, the famous “Black Bat” Squadron, took off from Hsinchu air base from time to time. The 34th flew deep-penetration reconnaissance missions to gather valuable intel about Communist China’s air defense, electronic warfare, and electronic countermeasures. Over one hundred men of the 34th failed to return. Some were taken prisoners and spent a hard time in the communist labor camp before being released twenty years later.

This Saturday there is going to be a ceremony held at Hsinchu air base commemorating the raid seventy years ago, which President Ma Ying-jeon acclaimed as it as a model operation of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). The grand-daughter of General Chennault was invited to attend as a distinguished guest.

A few weeks earlier, a group of the descendants of the commanding officers of Chinese Liberation Army’s Fourth Field Army, one of the main communist forces that drove the KMT troops out of the Mainland in late 1949, visited Taiwan. They visited the Martyr’s Shrine, Tsihu where Chiang Kai-shek, their forefathers’ No. 1 enemy, was buried, and the Air Force’s Black Bat Memorial Hall where they shook hands with two surviving Black Bat pilot officers signifying the dissolving of belligerency.

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