Taiwan Hellships Memorial & War and Peace Memorial Park, Qjin Island, Kaohsiung
Over the course of World War II, almost 26,000 Allied POWs were moved to and from Taiwan aboard various 'hellships', including the 4,300 men who remained imprisoned at the 15 camps throughout Taiwan. To commemorate all those who were transported and died in such horrific conditions, a memorial was built in 2006 at the War and Peace Memorial Park on Qjin Island.
The conditions on board the 'hellships' were considered to be some of the worst ever experienced by prisoners throughout World War II. Dark, damp, overcrowded and short of fresh air, the men were unable to sit or lay down and as a result, disease spread rapidly throughout the ships. The men onboard these ships were to be sent to various labour camps throughout the Pacific, mainly in Japan, to work at factories, mines and shipyards. Traveling the ocean in typhoon season wrecked many ships and killed large numbers on board. Even more prisoners were killed as a result of Allied torpedo attacks that were aimed at unmarked Japanese ships which, unbeknownst to the Allied crews, carried Allied POWs.
One such ship was the ‘Hofuku Maru’ – a large vessel that underwent repairs at Manila harbor for two months with the prisoners kept on board. When the ship finally did sail, it was bombed two days later by the US Air force, sinking the ship immediately. Of the 1,289 prisoners on board only 249 survived. All were recaptured by the Japanese and either sent to prison camps in Taiwan or put back on other 'hellships' destined for Japan.
The ‘Enoura Maru’ was another 'hellship' that suffered a similar fate. The ship transported around 1,000 men from the Philippines to Taiwan, including many who had survived the sinking of the ‘Oryoku Maru’, to Kaohsiung Harbour on New Years Eve 1944. Even though the boat had docked, the men were kept on board in the hold for another 9 days until attacked by the US Air Force. 300 POWs were killed in the bombings and were buried in a mass grave nearby Kaohsiung Harbour. The other 900 or so were put back on 'hellships' and transported to Japan.
The Taiwan Hellships Memorial was built opposite the former mass grave of those men killed on the ‘Enoura Maru’ (the bodies of the dead moved to a US War Cemetery in Hawaii following the conclusion of the war). It was erected the same year the World War II Hellships Memorial and Museum was opened at Subic Bay in the Philippines. A commemoration ceremony took place on the 26th of January 2006 to remember those who died upon the ‘Enoura Maru’ and to unveil the memorial. A number of military officials attended and spoke at the ceremony, as well as two of the descendants of two of the men who died upon 'hellships' leaving Taiwan in 1945.
In 2012, the memorial was dismantled due to threat of coastal erosion. After two years of park renovations, the memorial was re-set into a stone wall and a dedication ceremony was held to mark the occasion. In recent years, a small exhibition was made available to visitors at the Veteran’s Museum in the War and Peace Park. The display features a number of photographs and details the experiences of those transported on the 'hellships' to and from Taiwan during World War II.