Taiwan Commemorates Far Eastern Prisoners of War (FEPOW) Day
Friday September 12, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.
While Taiwan's media vacillates between focusing on President Ma Ying-jeou's dismal performance in his first 100 days and the US$ 20 million dollars that Chen Shui-bian admits he profited from by using the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) system to advantage, believe it or not a lot of other things are going on in Taiwan besides those two events. One such was on August 10, when the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society hosted a gathering to celebrate the first ever Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOW) Day in Taiwan.
Commemoration of those who served in WWI was set on November 11, Armistice Day, the day that that war ended; in the United Kingdom this was later changed to Remembrance Day and extended to all military who served in wars; while in the United States it became Veteran's Day. However, FEPOW day extends beyond this and beyond those who served in World War II in Asia. It is to remember the tens of thousands of allied prisoners of war as well as civilian internees captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. It commemorates all held as prisoners whatever nationality, color, or religion and that includes the civilians or romusha (Asians pressed into slavery by the Japanese who overran their countries.) The servitude and deaths of Asian prisoners far exceeded military POW deaths. All these suffered extreme hardships and yet are often overlooked by Armistice or Veteran's Day.
It is fitting that Taiwan commemorate this day since first there were specifically 15 POW prison camps (holding some 5000 prisoners) on the island during World War II, but also many Taiwanese were pressed into service (as members of Japan's colonial rule) and Taiwanese women were forced into servitude as "comfort women," an often forgotten factor. August 15 was selected as the official day of remembrance because it is the day that Japan surrendered and officially ended the war, imprisonment and suffering though the after effects carried well beyond that.
War is a horrible thing; so many families and innocents suffer from it. They should be remembered. The FEPOW Prayer states:
And we that are left grow old with the years
Remembering the heartache, the pain and the tears
Hoping and praying that never again
Man will sink to such sorrow and shame.
The price that was paid--we will always remember
Every day, every month--not just in November
We will remember them.
In Taiwan, Jerome F. Keating, a founding board member of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, introduced the program as emcee; he was followed by Mike Hurst, the President and founder of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society who explained more of the background and purpose of the day. Mark Wilkie, another board member spoke of his own experiences in war and colleagues who were prisoners. The documentary film "A War Story" about Major Ben Wheeler, the Canadian doctor imprisoned at the Kinkasecki Camp was shown. Afterwards attendees viewed memorabilia of that period and discussed the day. Ms Tina Chen of the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Taipei City Government graciously assisted in providing the venue at the Taipei Film House along with Ms. Susan Hsu of the Taipei Film House. It is hoped that this will be an annual event. Some photos of the FEPOW commemoration held on Sunday August 10 can be found here.