CHAPTER IX

THE FINAL PHASE OF THE REBELLION

 

 

When we arrived in the town of Takao once more, we found that our flag had quite a different effect from what we intended, as we were frequently stopped by people who had been robbed of all their food by the soldiers and were short of several meals. Whenever we stopped the crowds soon collected, and we heard many tales of distress. Typical was that of a girl who was doing her very best not to break down, and her story was punctuated by periods of silence while she regained a grip of her emotions. Her father was an important personage in the town and was not in favour of an armed rebellion. He had, however, been taken off by the soldiers and no-one had heard of him since. She had inquired of all her friends and persons with whom he was likely to meet, but he had disappeared. The soldiers had come and plundered the house, including food and belongings, and her mother was prostrate with grief. She, the only child, was trying to find her father. But what could we do? Reluctantly we had to tell her that we could do no more than she had done.

A journey through a certain part of the town, which normally took about ten minutes in the jeep, took us nearly an hour due to the various holdups we had from people seeking relief and news of relations. We returned first of all to the original hotel in which we had stayed at the beginning of the rebellion, intending to stay there, but we were informed that they had no food whatsoever and did not know where to obtain any. So we moved off to the hotel from which we had been removed by the military, again being stopped many times on the street.

Our arrival at the hotel was apparently a very popular event. The only men there were the soldiers who had first come to the hotel and they were talking with the occupants, all women, in the entrance-way. I greeted the soldiers as though they were old friends. In the course of the conversation we said that we did not intend to stay the night, but this was greeted with such consternation that, although at that time I did not understand the position, I told my interpreter to tell them that we had changed our minds and would stay there. I did not know, of course, what was going on, as my interpreter was too busy himself trying to find out. However, I saw the proprietress slip a bundle of notes into the hand of the leader of the soldiers, all of whom shortly after departed. Then my interpreter turned to me and said that the soldiers had come along to take the girls away to sleep with them for the night and our arrival had caused them to give up the idea. The leader was intent on taking one particular girl, who of course was very much distressed. As we could see no real reason for the soldiers withdrawing, especially as they evidently did not stop at murder to obtain what they wanted, we thought the withdrawal was only temporary, and after a few minutes the girl whom the leader had picked out ran away to stay with a friend in another part of the town. There was a very strained atmosphere in the hotel for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and everybody came and sat in our room. Their talking was interspersed with sighs and shuddering. After they had left we could still hear them talking well into the night.

The stories they told were all of the same strain, that is of reports of the soldiers shooting their way into homes exactly as they had done in this hotel, but in addition the first one (who was of course usually the head of the house) who came to greet them was shot and they all maintained that I had saved somebody's life by greeting the soldiers. This dastardly notion of the soldiers was apparently not done all over the town, but only in certain blocks. No-one knew whether it was on account of the fact that those blocks were considered to be more rebellious or whether it was the whim of certain groups of soldiers. Whatever the reason, there were many red-eyed and sorrowful women in our locality.

An interesting fact was that, the night that I had left, the hotel was very thoroughly machine-gunned, especially the upper stories, the bullets going right through the building and at times passing completely through four walls. They must, therefore, have been armour-piercing.

The following day we were besieged by requests to help find if relatives were alive and where they were imprisoned. So we went round the various prisons making inquiries. The gates of each prison were surrounded by women who were bringing clothes and food when they found where their menfolk were imprisoned. We of course were able to vouch for the fact that the men who were taken away from the hotel by the soldiers had had no part in the rebellion, and a day or two afterwards they returned back to the hotel.

Many men had been taken in the middle of the night in their night clothes and were suffering from cold, as there was no accommodation for them in the prisons. Similarly, the onus was on the relatives to bring them food, and the food containers were always returned back to the waiting womenfolk outside the prison gates. It was interesting to see that the distribution of these containers was done in a very orderly manner. On one occasion, when driving away from a prison in the jeep, somebody cried out in English, "Thank you", as we went past and it was taken up by the crowds which lined the roads. Evidently our efforts had been appreciated. But it was little we could do in the face of that sorrow and misery.

Among the requests for help was that of the wife of the lawyer friend of ours who was against the rebellion and whom my interpreter thought he had recognised in the fortress being ill-treated by the guard. We went round to his office to meet his wife and she had the usual sad tale to tell. Her husband had harangued the mob and exhorted them not to fight, but had raised so much antagonism that he had to flee, and the mob went round to his place to burn down his home. While there, the wife was brutally attacked by the mob, and she showed me her legs blackened all over with bruises and said that her body was like that all over. She was in a state of nervous collapse and it was obviously not the time nor the occasion to tell her of our suspicions at the fortress. She said that two other good friends of his were also helping. One was already up at the fortress. As there was still no sign of our spare wheel, we thought it was time to make another trip there and also to consult with the friend. When we arrived we met one of our officer friends who had visited us the first night we were there. He, of course, inquired our business, and when we told him of whose whereabouts we were inquiring, he exclaimed, "Oh, he's a leader", in a tone of voice which indicated that there was no hope for him. Although I explained that he tried to lead the people away from rebelling, it apparently made no difference. Obviously leaders of any type were being much sought after for liquidating. (In parenthesis I wish to point out that this was the first indication that I had that there were signs of a systematic extermination of leaders irrespective of any other reason but just that they were leaders). I also said that I was inquiring for our spare wheel and wanted to know whether the shed was open yet, and what the chances were of getting it. We were handed on from one person to another and obviously were "getting the run-round". I therefore asked to see the Commander, whom I had previously met, giving as my reason that I was officially informing him that our equipment was being used for military purposes and I was going to report the matter to Nanking. This had the desired effect. Telephones soon began to buzz and various posts were being contacted. However, it was not located but I was promised that it should be returned to our hotel faithfully within the hour. I reminded them that they had already made a similar promise and that it was therefore not worth much. However, they assured me that all would be well this time. It was obvious they meant business and I went off content.

On making inquiries for the co-helper of our lawyer friend, I was informed he was in the refugee camp, so with an officer as escort we eventually found him and discussed the situation. I was careful to state that I was not asking for his release but only checking that all the facts would be brought out in the trial which I assumed he would have. In this connection I was therefore prepared to make a statement myself that I had met him several times and believed him to be a law-abiding citizen. Our co-helper also said that he had made inquiries and that, due to his good offices, our mutual friend was being well looked after in the fortress.

We reported to our friend's wife and returned back to our hotel. We learned that a jeep full of soldiers armed to the teeth had in the meanwhile brought our spare wheel but, as we were absent, they had returned back with it to the camp with the promise to return an hour later. This they did, and in exchange for the receipt I got back the wheel.

The authorities were keeping a close watch on us too. I was stopped by an official and asked if I knew all the UNRRA personnel in Takao. On replying that I did, he said, "Well, there was a Formosan dressed in UNRRA uniform who, on the night of the 3rd demanded 100,000 yen from a certain person". (He obviously was referring to my interpreter).

I said, "The only other UNRRA person in Takao is a Formosan who is dressed in an UNRRA uniform, but he has not been out of my sight for practically the whole time. Furthermore, he is not the kind of man who goes round demanding money. Either somebody has been masquerading in UNRRA uniform or you have been seriously misinformed".

He then apologised and said, "but of course, we cannot be too careful."

"Yes," I said, "that is so. You will have to more careful in accepting statements like that again."

On describing the incident at the hotel we were informed, from the description we gave of our interrogator, that he was reputed to be the head of the secret police.

As very little firing could now be heard, we thought the rebellion was about over, but there were still no trains running and still no telegraphic communication, as all the telegraph wires had been cut. We had, however, been able to send a brief message to our office at Taipei through the military channels, saying that we were both safe and well.

In this locality there was an UNRRA doctor and his wife in Tainan and three UNRRA nurses in Haito. Inquiries at headquarters showed that Haito was still a dangerous place, but things were getting back to normal in Tainan. So, as it was too far to drive the jeep with my sprained ankle, we engaged a boy from the hotel to drive us to Tainan. On our way we were stopped by two Chinese men and a Chinese lady, who asked for a lift to Tainan, which we gave them. It turned out that they were walking to Tainan from Takao, having escaped from the Tonyan Hotel in Takao just before the rebels arrived. We found Tainan a city of the dead. At every street corner there were machine-gun posts and not a civilian to be seen. I felt very insecure driving through the streets as there is a large amount of illiteracy in the Chinese Army and our white UNRRA flag might mean nothing to many of the watching soldiers. At this time, too, they seemed to consider it advisable to shoot first and ask questions afterwards. We visited several places where we might have had news of the doctor before we eventually learned that he had already left Tainan to carry out the next stage of his itinerary. So we returned to Takao.

Next day we visited Haito, where the three UNRRA nurses were working in a hospital. We found them safe and sound, but very much upset as they had had some harrowing experiences. But they were greatly relieved to see us as they had thought they had been entirely forgotten. We pointed out to them that we also, except for our radio through the military, had been out of touch with Taipei and had received no reply. The hotel in which they were staying had originally been the headquarters of the rebels, and therefore came in for particular attention from the Army. At one stage they were caught by machine-gun fire and took refuge behind a large post at the entrance-way, one bullet striking the post.

When the rebels had been driven out of the hotel, the nurses were left entirely alone and the officers billeted themselves in the hotel. Later they obtained girls and turned it into a brothel. The officers only stayed one night and then the nurses were left on their own, the staff, except for the janitor and his wife, having fled. They had given the janitor 3,000 yen to buy provisions, but the night before we arrived, soldiers had come to the hotel inquiring for the proprietor and, as the janitor did not know where he was, they had beaten him and taken the 3,000 yen. The nurses then appealed to the Mayor who had them transferred to the municipal Guest House where he also was staying. But there was more trouble ahead. A soldier had died that morning through being shot in the head, and the military then arrested three doctors and three nurses because they said, he had not been looked after properly. As one of the UNRRA nurses, a Formosan, had seen him on admission she was implicated, so we all appealed to the Mayor to straighten matters out. Under the circumstances, the other two nurses, who were Canadians, felt that they could not leave the other nurse in this difficulty and decided to stay.

We returned to Takao to see whether we could get in touch with Taipei. Instead, the next day a telegram arrived dated March 4th, "Request you return Taipei immediately". We argued that, as the telegram had come in, obviously one could go out, but inquiries at the telegraph office showed that the telegram had come down by train and road and had passed through many hands before we received it, having taken eleven days to reach us. The next day we returned to Haito and brought the two nurses back to Takao, having heard that there was a train on Monday, the following day. The Formosan nurse was now out of difficulties regarding the dead soldier and, as she had not quite finished her work in establishing a training course there, she decided to stay on till it was finished.

During all these days I had been visiting a Japanese-trained Formosan doctor who was treating my ankle, and this day he had several interesting visitors. There was a man staying in the house who was frightened to go out as the military police might pick him up. They told interesting stories of the looting that was carried on by the military. In general this was done, not only to make good deficiencies in food and equipment, but also with the idea of re-selling and making money. Therefore, nothing was really exempt from the attentions of the soldiers. But more serious was the fact that there were lying about the streets in the mornings, the dead bodies of important people who had been dragged from their houses at night and shot. The military police had been making inquiries for a certain Council member who was over at Taito. He had gone to Taipei via Karenko and Suo while the trouble in Takao was on. He had, therefore, no connection with the rioting in Takao at all. But what he had done frequently was to ask the Government to establish law and justice in place of the travesty that was now being foisted on the people. He was therefore a marked man.

The next day the train actually was running and we were on it. Of course, it was guarded by soldiers who rode in the carriages; and to the time of my departure in November soldiers still occupied the seats at one end of a carriage. Of course, the stations were all heavily guarded with machine-guns at all vantage points. On the train a very inquisitive official came up and, by various means, tried to find out what we knew of the events that had been going on in the Island, both before and during the rebellion. Apparently he got the impression that our knowledge was very slight and, as he spoke perfect English, he proceeded to give up the "facts" including the work of the "communists." Particularly was he disparaging concerning the Mayor of Takao. We felt we could not let that pass and told him what we had done in an attempt, at the invitation of the Mayor of Takao, to help bring about the cease fire in Takao. Shortly after that he left us, but one of our party said, "If they keep telling themselves that the rebellion was caused by the communists, sooner or later they and the world will believe it".

In Takao we had thought that our experiences were grim enough, but they were as nothing compared with what went on in Taipei. One UNRRA official, a woman, had her house attacked by the Army, although she had the American flag flying, and a Westerner driving along in his jeep and seeing her predicament rescued her. As a result he now drives round his jeep with several bullet holes in it and a portion of the steering column shot away. This was typical of the attitude of the Army.

Governor Chen Yi kept the rebels at bay with promises until reinforcements arrived from the mainland. Then they began a systematic murder of the populace, shooting on sight. Truck loads of troops armed with machine-guns and automatic rifles quickly sped from the port of Keelung to Taipei. Not content with firing at people on the street, they fired indiscriminately into shops and houses. In one village between Taipei and Keelung twenty youths were castrated, their ears were cut off and their noses slit before they were bayoneted. Their bodies joined lots of others for many days to come. It was not an uncommon sight to see bodies floating down the river. A boy riding a bicycle apparently did not get off quickly enough when ordered by the police. They made him hold out his hands and slashed them with a bayonet before running him through.

In Taipei, also, it was the custom for troops, when searching houses, to shoot the first one to open the door.

Early in the rebellion a party of middle-school students went to Manka station to see about a train going home, and two tried to inquire from the station-master. The military police called them and would not let them come out of the station. The other students, waiting outside and wondering what had happened to them, decided also to go into the station. The four or five military police then fired on them without warning and about twenty were killed.

For days manhunts went on, and for months people kept disappearing. No-one knows how many were killed.