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New POW memorial set up in eastern Taiwan

2012/11/13 02:26

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, in cooperation with the military, set up a new monument Monday to commemorate senior Allied officers who were imprisoned by the Japanese in a prisoner of war (POW) camp in eastern Taiwan during World War II.

Ministry of National Defense officials, along with British and U.S. officials based in Taiwan, attended the dedication ceremony in front of a military police base in Hualien, the former site of the Karenko POW camp.

The 401 POWs held captive between 1942 and 1943 included British, American, Australian and Dutch officers, said Michael Hurst, founder and director of the society.

Taiwan was a colony of Japan from 1895-1945.

"For many years, I've had my eye on this site, hoping that one day we can build a POW memorial here," Hurst said at the ceremony.

After the establishment of a POW memorial near the location of the Taihoku POW camp in Taipei's Dazhi District last November, Hurst said he proposed to the defense ministry the idea of setting up a new memorial at the Hualien camp earlier this year.

Having the memorial at the site will ensure that the stories of the POWs who suffered and died there "have not and will not be forgotten," he added.

Family members of Maj. Gen. Merton Beckwith-Smith of Britain, who died at the Karenko camp Nov. 11, 1942, also traveled to Taiwan to attend the ceremony.

"It is wonderful to be in the place where he died," said Joanna Reed, one of his granddaughters, who was born after Beckwith-Smith died.

"(It was) a sad day in many ways," Reed said with tears in her eyes, but she added that it was nice to see the environment in which her grandfather ended his days.

"It was very moving and it was a great tribute to our grandfather and the other prisoners of war who were interned here," said Anne Beckwith-Smith.

Along with the monument, a sign was also erected telling the story of the camp in the eastern county.

Administrative Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Sun Jue-hsin said the new memorial serves as a reminder of the value of peace.

Over 4,360 POWs were held in 14 camps around Taiwan, from Taipei in the north to Pingtung in the south, the society said.

The event ended with a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial.

The Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, which has been dedicated to locating former POW camps and the former POWs since it was established in 1999, aims to "tell their stories and let them know that they have not been forgotten," Hurst said.

To date, it has set up memorials at former POW camp sites in various parts of Taiwan, including Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. The newly inaugurated Hualien one is the country's ninth, according to the society.

(By Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/J/tc