Karenko Camp POW Memorial Hualien
The Karenko Camp was established in August 1942 on the East Coast of Taiwan. It came about after the Japanese Army decided to separate the imprisoned high-ranking officers from the regular soldiers as a means of having better control over the two groups. To start, a group of 179 American officers arrived at Karenko, soon to be followed by senior officers, governors and civil officials from the British and Australian forces that had been stationed in Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, Straits Settlements and Sumatra.
Historians state that the Japanese captors at Karenko camp intentionally tortured and humiliated the prisoners held captive there as a means of undermining their rank and breaking their spirit. Additionally, the prisoners were forced to endure minimal rations, limited medical supplies and intense heat all whilst working on farming projects suitable for healthy men half their age.
In 1943 the Red Cross planned to visit Karenko Camp to observe the type of conditions the prisoners were living in. In response, the Japanese guards moved 117 of the highest-ranking prisoners to a new camp at Tamazato, just south of Karenko. Here the men were allowed to relax, were provided with proper meals and were relieved from the threat of torture. In June when the Red Cross visited Tamazato Camp, rather than Karenko, they observed a group of healthy prisoners who were treated with dignity and respect. Immediately after the visit however, all but 28 were moved back to the camp at Karenko. Only two days later, all the men imprisoned at Karenko were sent to Shirakawa Camp and the Karenko camp was officially closed.
On the 12th of November 2012, the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society erected a memorial at the Hualien Military Police Base – the site of the former Karenko camp. The memorial commemorates the 401 POWs who were interned at Karenko between 1942 and 1943, and acknowledges the terrible conditions they were made to suffer. Family members of Major General Merton Beckwith-Smith, one of the prisoners who had died whilst at Karenko, attended the ceremony, along with official dignitaries from Taiwan, the UK and the US.