Mike Shi-chi Lan Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Email: email@example.com , 2007 - This paper studies the history and historiography of Taiwanese World War Two veterans (commonly known as Taiji Riben bing or Taiwanese-native Japanese soldiers), who served as Japanese paramilitary fighting against the Chinese and Allied forces during the Second World War.
Hundreds of thousand of Taiwanese were recruited to serve in the Japanese forces during the war, serving in Taiwan, mainland China, the Pacific islands, and across Southeast Asia. After the war, however, the experiences of Taiwanese fighting against the Chinese (and the Allied)—and vice versa the experience of the Chinese (and the Allied) fighting against the Taiwanese were largely repressed and ignored in official and scholarly accounts of the war. Consequently, the Taiwanese veterans was absent in postwar discourse of veterans and public memory of the war. This politically imposed amnesia in public memory served as an amnesty on the Taiwanese veterans—its former enemies on the one hand, and on the other hand allowed the KMT government to redeem the Taiwanese veterans and re-represent the latter as a force in its anti-communist campaign since 1949. Overall, forgetting the history of Taiwanese-native Japanese soldiers helped to create and maintain national and social unity in postwar Taiwan under the KMT rule. As a result of this amnesia, the Taiwanese veterans have been rather insignificant, if not completely absent, in the postwar discussion of war-related issues such as Jus post Bellum (war crimes, compensation to the civilians and veterans) and commemoration of the war till 1990.
In the 1990s, with the publication of oral history projects and autobiographical works, history of the Taiwanese veterans gradually emerges out of the private domain and begins to draw more attention in the public discourse of the Second World War. This paper will argue that the emergence of a new discourse of Taiwanese veterans since 1990s has served as a (long-overdue) redemption for the Taiwanese veterans and the beginning of recovering (and re-constructing) the long-neglected general wartime history of Taiwan.
At the same time, however, this new discourse of Taiwanese veterans (and recovered memory of the war) becomes a challenge to the national and social unity created by political amnesia in postwar Taiwan. Issues related to the historiography of the Taiwanese veteran such as the recent controversy over Lee Tang-hui’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine continue to stir debate over the legacy of the Second World War in Taiwan and to generate conflict over the already divisive national identity in Taiwan.