Taichu POW Memorial, Taichung City
Located close to the centre of Taiwan, Taichu Prison Camp opened in 1942 to receive Allied prisoners arriving from other Japanese-occupied territories. The first lot of prisoners to arrive were American soldiers who had been captured in the Philippines after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. The 300 men reached Taichu in September 1942, but were sent to Yokohama (Japan) soon after in the November to forcibly work in the ship building yards. Replacing the American prisoners was a group of 500 British POWs, captured in Singapore and sent to Taiwan on board the ship ‘Dainichi Maru’.
For those held at Taichu, the core task enforced upon them was the excavation of a flood diversion channel in the river that ran next to the camp. Monsoon rains threatened nearby bridges and roads frequently used by the Japanese, thus a new river channel would decrease the risk of destruction. All work had to be completed manually by hand, pick and shovel. Long days, intense heat, minimal rations and the threat of beatings led many men to succumb to illness, exhaustion and ultimately death.
The only POW escape attempt to ever occur in Taiwan during World War II occurred at the Taichu prison camp. Overnight two men, an American and a Brit, snuck out of the camp and fled into the jungle. Only two days later they were captured and returned to the camp where they were beaten publicly in front of the prisoners. The next day they were executed for their ‘crime’ and their clothes were left in the centre of the camp as a reminder to others.
Towards the end of 1943, more and more prisoners were moved to other prison camps throughout Taiwan to fulfill forced labour projects. Even with smaller numbers, work continued on the river diversion until an intense storm flooded the river basin and washed away the nearby bridges and roads, as well as part of the camp itself. Following the destruction, the camp was closed in June 1944 and the men were moved to camps at Heito, Inrin and Shirakawa until the Japanese surrender and the conclusion of the war.
Almost 60 years later in 2000, the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society constructed and unveiled a memorial stone on the site of the former Taichu Prison Camp. The memorial was dedicated to those Allied soldiers who were imprisoned within the camp during World War II. Four of the former POWs who had been interned at Taichu returned to Taiwan for the ceremony.