A series of activities were held in Taiwan Saturday (Aug. 15) to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the sufferings of thousands of prisoners of war (POWs) of the Japanese in Taiwan during that bloody conflict.
The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society (TPCMS), dedicated to researching the history of former POW camps in Taiwan during WWII and the stories of their surviving inmates, hosted the 13th Far East Prisoner of War Day event in the Taipei Spot Theatre. More than 60 Taiwanese and people from the foreign community attended the event.
The half-day program included a presentation on allied forces' air raids against Taiwan between 1943 and 1945 by Taiwanese military aviation historian Chang Wei-bin (張維斌), and another presentation on stories of the POWs in Taiwan by Michael Hurst, the TPCMS director. That evening, a memorial service was held for those POWs who perished in the camps, followed by a screening of the American war movie "Empire of the Sun," which tells the story of an American boy living in Shanghai who becomes separated from his parents and ends up in a Japanese POW camp.
On Aug. 15, 1945, Victory over Japan (VJ) Day, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan. The formal surrender document was signed on Sept. 2 of that year. "I am thinking that this could be one of the few actual live gatherings on the 15th of August anywhere in the free world, so we're pretty proud of that," Hurst told CNA, attributing it to the Taiwanese government's good handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the cooperation of the Taiwanese people.
Hurst, a Canadian ex-pat who has dedicated more than two decades of his life studying the history of POW camps in Taiwan, said that aside from today's activities, a remembrance week for POWs will take place in November, to be highlighted by a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of a former POW camp in New Taipei City. According to TPCMS research, more than 4,000 POWs, including American, British, Australian, and Dutch prisoners, were held at 17 camps or related facilities set up by the Japanese Imperial Army in Taiwan between 1942 and 1945. Up to 42 percent of them were killed or died in captivity.
Hurst told CNA that he hopes to finish writing and publishing a book on the stories of the POW camps in Taiwan, titled "Never Forgotten," by November.
"I have a lot of personal things in the book. It is not just all about war in prison camps," he said. "[There will be] a lot of personal stories and I think the human side that I tried to put in will make it very attractive to a lot of readers," he added.