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Taiwanese soldier in Japan army dies after long, eventful life

2013/11/14 19:01:00

Eiji Miyahara (left)

Jakarta, Nov. 14 (CNA) Eiji Miyahara has died of heart failure at the age of 91, ending a long life that saw him battle Chinese Nationalists and other Allied forces before being transplanted from his native Taiwan to Indonesia, where he fought the colonial Dutch.

Born Lee Po-ching in Tainan in 1922, he took up the name Eiji Miyahara when his family adopted a Japanese surname.

He joined the Japanese Imperial Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and fought across the Pacific and Southeast Asia, including tours in the Philippines, Burma and Indonesia.

Miyahara continued to fight even after Japan's surrender in August 1945. He and hundreds of other Japanese soldiers choose to stay in Indonesia to launch a guerilla war against Dutch colonial rule, staying even after hostilities ended and Indonesia achieved independence.

There, he eventually adopted the Indonesian name Umar Hartono.

It was in 2005, at the nation's 60th independence day celebration, that he was decorated by then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, making him the first foreign-born person to be recognized for contributing to Indonesia's independence.

Miyahara finally returned to his birth place of Taiwan in 1974 but did not stay long. He later said in an interview that he left following a brief meeting with his parents because he feared for his safety, as he had fought against Chinese Nationalist troops in Burma during the war.

He is remembered in Indonesia's Japanese community for his dedication to service, including keeping the Japanese language alive among the younger generation by teaching it to them.

Japan decorated him for his contribution in 2009.

Miyahara died of heart failure in a hospital on Oct. 16 and was buried at the Heroes Cemetery in Kalibata, South Jakarta.

(By Jay Chou and Jay Chen)