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. 

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