Formosa becomes Taiwan, again, 75 Years Ago Today

Chinese Nationalist Army (Kuomintang) Gen. Chen Yi, right, accepts the surrender of disarmed Japanese Gen. Rikichi Andō, the garrison commander and governor-general of Formosa, in compliance with Douglas MacArthur’s General Order No. 1, at Taipei City Hall, 25 October 1945 as delegates from the other Allied Powers look on.

On 2 September 1945, the Imperial Japanese Forces totaled 6,983,000 troops including construction units, naval, and air forces. Of these, Army and Navy forces stationed within the home islands numbered 3,532,000, which meant that nearly as many, some 3.4 million, were still scattered around the Pacific from Manchuria to the Solomons.

One of the last large groups to lay down their arms was Ando’s 10th Area Army in Formosa.

However, it should be noted that the force, which numbered six divisions and seven separate brigades on paper– some 170,000 men– actually consisted of poorly trained reservists, conscripted students, and local Boeitai home guard militia with some units equipped with nothing more than sharpened bamboo pikes and longbows. Officially disbanded in September, the Army had largely stacked arms before Chen’s arrival.

To be sure, British and American naval assets had appeared off Formosa as early as 1 September and, liaising with the Japanese, evacuated 1,300 Allied POWs being held there. Meanwhile, representatives of the KMT landed on the island on 5 September, tagging along with an OSS team. Prior to the 25 October handover, a “Peace Preservation Corps” of 1,000 Chinese gendarmes and 12,000 light infantry of the KMT’s 62nd and 70th Divisions were carried to the island using commandeered Japanese ships escorted by the U.S. Navy.

Of note, Formosa became part of the Empire of Japan in 1895 after the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan Province in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the shellacking they received during the 1894 Sino-Japanese War. Japan only formally renounced sovereignty over Formosa/Taiwan in the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, at which point it had become home to the KMT diaspora. 

October 25, 1945, KMT officers of the new Taiwan Garrison Command photographed after the “Taiwan Province Acceptance Ceremony of the Chinese Theater” was held in the Taipei Public Hall. Note the Kuomintang party flag on the left and the Republic of China cog is hung on the right half.

In the end, Andō, who had invaded French Indochina in September 1940 at the head of his Southern China Area Army without authorization from Tokyo and had been cashiered to Formosa for his efforts, was charged by the KMT with war crimes. He had the last laugh, however, and committed suicide by taking poison while in prison in Shanghai before he could go to trial.

As for Chen, he was caught up in the fallout of the KMT’s evacuation from mainland China to Taiwan Province and, branded a spy, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a military court to sentence the old general to a firing squad in 1950, aged 67.

Meanwhile, October 25 is remembered as Retrocession Day in Taiwan, celebrating the province’s liberation from Japan and return to China. Or something like that.

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