What was Taiwan's role during WW2

It is funny how only in these few years Taiwanese have had a say in their school curricula and how the previous history has all but been ignored. For example, how many democracy activists were incarcerated, tortured and shot in the 70s and 80s. That is 1970 and 1980, BTW.

1 Like

If you are interested in the prisoners of war held by Japanese in Taiwan visit this website:

Michael Hurst who runs this website has been doing research about Taiwan POWs for many years. He has established memorials at each POW camp. He organizing various POW events every year…just put your name on his mailing list. (society@powtaiwan.org)


Taiwan was a colony of Japan for 47 years when the Pacific war began and 50 years by the end of the war. Plenty of Taiwanese people had accepted that they are Japanese subjects. Some would work especially hard to prove they are as worthy as actual Japanese. Years of imperialistic education had also convinced some that they have a duty to protect the God Emperor.

Granted most Taiwanese people were aware of the discriminatory aspects of living in Taiwan as a Taiwanese. Most schools were segregated. Workplace usually gave Japanese an unfair advantage. Many Japanese showed casual discrimination towards the Taiwanese people. The Japanese police also often tortured Taiwanese who fought for a more democratic rule. However, some Taiwanese probably still did volunteer out of their hearts because they rightfully believed they are Japanese, and were proud to be a member of the strongest nation in Asia.

That being said, the Japanese have always maintained that all kamakazis and comfort women volunteered. History has proven that as false. So just because some Japanese record said someone volunteered, you shouldn’t take it at face value.


You may need to update your ‘history’ books.

Wow. That’s a lot to take in. According to the research quoted in the website Taiwan POWs had a 10% chance of death before liberation.

The US had a whole plan to invade Taiwan instead of the Philippines, called Operation Causeway. The plan was the brain child of Admiral Nimitz, and was submitted March 1944, which planned to take Penghu first, then land at Kaohsiung and sweep upwards towards Taipei. Kaohsiung was the first target because it was a major Japanese naval base.

Admiral Nimitz saw Taiwan as a great threat to the US navy, especially since Taiwan’s position makes it the perfect Japanese airbase to attack US ships and bomb China. Taiwan also served as the major food supply for Japan. Admiral Nimitz had a priority to neutralize it. The plan had President Roosevelt’s support, and the Tenth United States Army was formed to accomplish the task.

In case Northern Taiwan proved too difficult for the Tenth Army alone, the US planned to bomb Taipei into submission with mustard gas or the atom bomb.

The Japanese also learned of this, and began distributing gas masks all over the island.


General MacArthur had a different plan though. He wanted to make good of his “I’ll be back” promise, and fought Nimitz over whether to invade Taiwan or the Philippines.

By June of 1944, the US retook the Mariana islands, which allowed B-29s to bomb the Japanese mainland. So there was less of a need to use Taiwan as an airbase to bomb Japan.

MacArthur argued that the Philippines would be much easier to retake, as the US had ruled the islands for a long time, and there are plenty of friendly guerilla fighters that would be on the US’s side.

In the end, Roosevelt was persuaded by MacArthur to cancel Operation Causeway. Instead, a series of bombings of Taiwan commenced to pave the way for the invasion of the Philippines. All major naval bases were hit, including Hsinchu which produced naval fuels.

To further eliminate aerial threats from Taiwan airbases, the US navy launched a full air assault on the island with 17 carriers. Formosa Air Battle began on October 12 1944. During the battle, the US navy realized it had full air superiority. Most skilled Japanese pilots were killed in previous engagements, and although the Japanese were able to put together over 1,000 planes, very few pilots were skilled enough to do anything with them.

The Japanese navy also realized it no longer can stand up to US fighters. Both the Formosa Air Battle and the failed Operation Sho to destroy the American navy was a turning point for Japanese tactics. Kamakazi was devised after the Formosa Air Battle. The first Kamakazis were flown from Taiwan (usually Hualien) to stop the invasion of the Philippines.

The Formosa Air Battle dismantled Taiwan’s air defenses, and opened up Taiwan for future bombing raid. The largest one being March 1945’s Raid on Taipei, which killed more than 3,000 civilians. The raid also damaged the Governor-General’s Building (today’s Presidential Palace) and Longshan temple. Duds from the raids were excavated even well into 2009.

There are many ruins of Japanese fortifications around Kaohsiung to prepare for Operation Causeway.

Someone mentioned the Takasago Volunteers, which were a special unit made up of Taiwanese Aboriginals, were especially effective for island battles. At least 500 of them joined the Japanese efforts to invade the Philippines as early as 1942. By the end of the war, more than 4,000 Taiwanese aboriginals had fought in WW2. More than 3,000 of them died in the jungles of New Guinea. Although called Volunteers, towards the end of the war, Japanese were forcing teenage Aboriginals to fight in the Philippines.

The last Japanese holdout to be found after WW2 has ended was a Pangcah from E’tolan (Dulan Taidong). I’ve written a thread on him here:


Bravo. Fascinating. Thank you for posting that!

Wow, so the late senator John McCain’s father, Vice Admiral John S. McCain was in charge of bombing Taiwan early 1945.

I’ve read that Roosevelt was ready to go along with the Navy, until Japan’s invasion of the south China coast in 1944 upset the whole calculus. Here’s a somewhat similar take

1 Like

There’s one detail about late 1930s till the end of the war that confuses me. Did Japan have control over Amoy (Xiamen) in the late 30s?

Because by then Japan was obviously at war with China, yet plenty of people from Taiwan traveled to and worked in Amoy as if they were traveling from Taipei to Taichung.

It would appear to me that Japan had control over Amoy at least since 1938. That’s way before the Pacific war and shouldn’t have played into the US’ decision to abandon Operation Causeway.

It is a bit confusing. I guess with Taiwan in US possession, Amoy and other minor outposts on the coast could have been dealt with relatively easily, air bases established, and a Japanese push into the region would have become difficult. But with the Japanese already in possession of more significant areas, the whole conception became problematic.

Japan did have possession according to this by the way. They may well have had a presence in other ports? Gulangyu sounds interesting


It was “I shall return.” The Terminator promised “I’ll be back.”


The governments (not all of them are KMT) in China after the Ching dynasty (1911) always recognize Taiwan as part of Japan, so lots of trade and travel are going on between China (Shanghai, Amoy or even Hong Kong) and Taiwan.

By the 1930s there was only the KMT.

There was an unusual amount of highly educated Taiwanese people living and working at Amoy for the Japanese government after 1938. It was a direct result of the Japanese having control of the city after the Amoy Operation.

The Japanese left the Kulangsu International Settlement alone at first. However, after they bombed Pearl Harbor, they immediately moved in to take control as well.

I didn’t know the Amoy Operation. But you’re right, Japanese encouraged Taiwanese professionals to move to Japan occupied territories such as Manchuria.
For example, lots of Taiwanese went a long way to attend this school, not to mention lots of pro from Taiwan working in Manchuria.

1 Like

The largest naval battle during all of WW2 was the Battle of Lete Gulf.
The reason the Allies won a decisive victory was that the Japanese lost so many planes in the Battle of Formosa that Japanese ships had little air cover in the Battle of Lete Gulf.

When I first came to Taiwan heard an old man pushing a stroller singing a song at DaAn park. I asked my gf if that was a Mandarin song. She said the old man sings the songs he learned as a child and these would have been Japanese songs.

1 Like

Nothing is black and white, just the hazy grey, especially for history and politics.

Lots of intellectuals in Taiwan moved to China (during the “conflicts” between China and Taiwan in 1930’s) for different reasons. For example, this Taiwanese woman, who’s definitely an idealist, moves to China to join the communist so she can fight for the poor.

"Lin Litao, born in Taichung before World War II, was brought with her family to live in Kobe, Japan, because his father was dissatisfied with the colonial discrimination from Japanese he suffered in Taiwan. She and her family were completely disappointed by the Kuomintang government after the 228 Incident in 1947. With ardent blood and the zeal of reforming the motherland, she, who was educated in Japan since childhood, decided to return to her “motherland” and build “new China” after graduation from high school.

In the early days of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese Communist Party lacked talents who were familiar with Japanese and Japanese culture. This young Taiwanese girl, who knew Japan and was fluent in Kansai accent, became an interpreter of Japanese for Zhou Enlai. "

Amazing story.

The example you gave was post WW2, which is out side of the scope of the original discussion about Taiwanese working in Amoy from the late 30s till the end of the war.