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Saturday, Sep. 1, 2012
Taiwan film documents Imperial suicide boats
TAIPEI — A documentary featuring two former members of the Imperial Japanese Navy who were assigned to suicide squads stationed in Taiwan's Penghu Islands toward the end of the war was publicly released earlier this week.
The documentary — in Chinese, English and Japanese — was produced by the Penghu Islands' National Scenic Area, under the Tourism Bureau, to attract visitors to the archipelago off western Taiwan. The film was released Monday.
The 30-minute movie recounts the experiences of two Imperial Japanese Navy sailors, Yoshiaki Haza and Rokuro Wakamatsu, who were stationed in the Penghu Islands during the final months of the war. Taiwan was under Japan's colonial rule until its 1945 surrender.
Haza was 20 when he was sent to the Penghu isle of Wangan to serve in the navy's Shinyo Tokko suicide unit in 1944.
The military used the term to refer to "special attacks" during the war, including suicide strikes with aircraft, submarines, Shinyo speedboats loaded with explosives, and even human suicide bombers — swimmers with mines strapped to them who swam under enemy vessels.
More than 40 years after the end of hostilities, Haza began writing about his experiences on Wangan. His memoir, "The Remaining Red of the Winter," has shed light on the history of Shinyo Tokko. He revisited Wangan decades after the war and found it has been turned into a memorial park.
Wakamatsu, a captain, commanded the 24th Shinyo Tokko Squadron based on Wangan. His duties included scouting bases there and also on Magong, another isle in the Penghu cluster.
Some believe he may be the only surviving veteran who could possibly recall how the Imperial navy constructed tunnels and selected the optimal locations to hide the suicide boats.
The vessels were deployed as Japan's campaign started to falter in the Pacific theater, increasing the naval threat posed by the Allies to territories such as Taiwan and Okinawa. According to historians, the navy built about 6,200 Shinyo suicide boats and deployed fleets of them around Taiwan, the Philippines and what is now Indonesia.
However, none of the vessels deployed to Taiwan actually carried out any attacks on Allied forces before the war ended.
A three-year probe turned up tunnels dug along the west and south coasts of Taiwan as well as in the Penghu island group.