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Q: HOW MANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMPS WERE ON TAIWAN (FORMOSA) IN WORLD WAR II?
There were fourteen (14) actual prisoner of war camps on the island, set up and operated by the Imperial Japanese Army from the summer of 1942 to September 1945.
Many of these camps were very severe and oppressive slave labour camps, a few were temporary camps set up to house prisoners en route from Singapore or the Philippines to Japan or Manchuria, and there were a couple of camps for the senior officers where conditions were not as bad.
After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, two temporary evacuation camps were set up in Taihoku (Taipei) to temporarily house POWs awaiting evacuation by Allied forces. They were only in use for about 10 days.
Thus we count a total of sixteen (16) POW camps in all.
Q: HOW MANY POWS WERE HELD ON TAIWAN DURING WWII?
According to Japanese records, there were 4344 Allied POWs "resident" in the Taiwan POW camps from August 1942 to September 1945.
There were also other POWs who arrived on hellships from Singapore and the Philippines who died shortly after arriving on the island and were thus never "resident" in any camp, but we are remembering them on our site.
Finally, there were the American fighter pilots and bomber crews who were shot down or crashed and captured by the Japanese from October 1944 to May 1945. These men were not considered to be prisoners of war, but rather "war criminals" and as such were not held in the regular POW camps, but were incarcerated in the Taihoku (Taipei) Prison.
When all these factors are taken into consideration, our Society is thus remembering a total of 4375 men.
Q: HOW MANY PRISONERS OF WAR DIED ON TAIWAN DURING WORLD WAR II?
According to the Japanese records, 427 Allied POWs died while being held as prisoners of war on Taiwan. This included those men who died shortly after arriving in Taiwan off the hellships, and also the fourteen American airmen executed by the Japanese in June 1945.
In 2010 the Society received information from a fellow researcher which helped to confirm the complete details of death of all 427 Taiwan POWs, including the cause of death and the first burial place of the deceased. This information is available on a case by case basis to POWs or immediate family members and can be requested by contacting the Society.
Note: in the Spring of 1946 the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) came to Taiwan and exhumed all the remains from the various camp burial sites and re-interred them in the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong where they all now rest in peace. Shortly thereafter the American War Graves Recovery Team came to Taiwan and removed all the remains of the American POWs who died. Most were re-buried at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii, some in Manila and some were repatriated to their home cemeteries in the USA.
Q: HOW CAN I OBTAIN A PHOTO OF A FAMILY MEMBER'S GRAVE IN HONG KONG OR ELSEWHERE?
In 2010 multiple photos of every former Taiwan POW's grave at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong were taken by the Society Director over a four-day period. As previously advertised in our Society newsletters, a photo of any grave can be obtained by contacting the Society and one will be sent FREE OF CHARGE to any POW or immediate family member.
We have a complete list of all the Taiwan POWs who died in the HONOUR ROLL on "The Men" page, and the entries are accompanied by a photo of the grave of all of the Commonwealth and Dutch POWs at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong, as well as the graves of the AMERICAN POWs who are buried or commemorated in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punchbowl Hawaii, the Manila American Cemetery, Veterans' Affairs Cemeteries and private sites in the USA. These are all available from the POW Society at no charge.
The grave photos are available for downloading from the website, but if you require a larger image than the one in the Honour Roll, then just send us an email and we'll send you a full-size copy. We hope this will help to give further comfort to those who lost loved ones here.
Q: WHY AND HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH THE TAIWAN POW PROJECT?
I get asked this question so much that I thought I would share it with our readers here on our site. Perhaps my story will inspire others to do what they can to make sure our veterans and what they sacrificed and suffered are remembered - forever!
When I was a young boy growing up in Canada I found out that I had a number of uncles who were in World War I and World War II. My own father was too young for World War I and was working in war materiel production at the time in World War II, so he was never called up for active service. In a way I was very lucky that he didn't have to go overseas - luckier than many, as I've found out over the years.
Several of my uncles and cousins were killed in both of the wars and I was really moved that they would volunteer and go to war to fight and give their lives for the freedom that I was enjoying as I grew up in a free land that they fought and died for. From that time on I wanted to do more than just go to Remembrance Day and wear a poppy and watch the old soldiers march. I wanted to hopefully do something tangible one day to say thank you to them and all the veterans for what they had done for me.
Many years later and half a world away, I found just such an opportunity. At the Remembrance Day service in Taipei in November 1996 information came to light about the infamous Kinkaseki POW Camp and the men - including the Canadian doctor Major Ben Wheeler, who suffered so much there, and the suggestion was made that some kind of memorial service should be held to remember those men. I decided then and there that this was my chance to finally do what I wanted to honour the veterans, even though all of my relatives had long since passed on.
In early January 1997 I formed a committee to organize such a memorial event - which was held on May 16th of that year, never realizing at the time what it would lead to in the years to come.
Following the memorial service and a visit to the former Kinkaseki Camp site at Jinguashi, great interest was shown in the expat and Taiwanese community and so it was decided to erect some kind of memorial on the site of the former POW camp. This was done and the Kinkaseki / Taiwan POW Memorial was dedicated on November 23, 1997.
Following this I decided that it was not enough to just build a memorial here in Taiwan to men who all lived overseas, and that something must be done to find the former Taiwan POWs and their families and let them know what had been done here in their honour. So in early 1998 I began to write letters and contact POW organizations, Legions, RSL's and other related groups worldwide to share the story with them and to try to contact as many former Taiwan POWs as possible.
Immediately the replies starting coming in, and over the past 15 years I have been in contact with more than 500 former Taiwan POWs and their family members. I have had the honour and pleasure to interview many personally - both here in Taiwan and as I have visited them in the UK, Canada and the USA during that time. It is only by talking with the former POWs and getting their first-hand accounts, letters and other information and articles, that their story can truly be told. I have been honoured to make friends with so many and to be able to tell their story to the world and help to ensure that they will never be forgotten.
There is still much work to do yet and I intend to continue in the years to come. May God bless them all for their sacrifice for us!
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