Here are two short silent footages documenting the involvement of Taiwan in the Pacific War, both dated 1945.
The first film shows Taiwanese enlistees reporting to the training camp with family members anxiously looking on and a bugle squad blaring away nearby:
And the second shows two American F6Fs falling separately from the sky and another dropping a bomb; the last scene was the fiery carnage on the ground:
How did the Taiwanese get invited/dragged into the war - officially?
Compulsory military service in Japan actually started during the Meiji Era, in 1873. This was the beginning of a modern army. The conscription was, however, selective - in part to preserve the old feudal samurai tradition. And there were loopholes, for example, the only son (could be an adopted one) of a widower was exempt and the rich could pay to get out of the service. By early 1900s, the draft became universal, all Japanese nationals between 17-40 years of age must serve. Depending on the fitness, the conscripts were separated into three groups: active duty 1st class, the reserves (both 1st and 2nd classes), and the territorial reserves. It should be noted, however, that the military training of the Japanese in fact started early, from the third grade on, all the way through junior and senior high schools. In a way, entering the military service was merely an extension.
During the colonial rule, the Taiwanese (and the Koreans as well) not being Japanese nationals, were in fact not legally eligible to serve. When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937, some Taiwanese were hired to perform supporting noncombat duties. With the mounting losses in the South Pacific after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military had to open other sources of manpower. To get around the legality issue, a Special Volunteer Army System (陸軍特別志願兵制度) was enacted in Taiwan in 1942, followed by a similar one for the Navy (海軍志願兵制度) a year later.
A whole generation of Taiwanese, having grown up and educated under the Japanese rule, signed up in great numbers to take the qualifying exam. The immediate reward was that a Taiwanese soldier of the Imperial Army would become a true Japanese citizen. A good analogy is the current US volunteer army, a foreigner-enlistee can become an American citizen almost overnight to enjoy the full rights.
However, near the end of the war, young men were more reluctant to join up and were often "persuaded" by their superiors or worse, the local police to enlist. By 1945, all were drafted into the military anyway - to prepare for an all-out invasion by the US military. The US attacked Okinawa instead thus sparing Taiwan huge losses of lives. The first film above is a rare glimpse of the not too distant past; the volunteers/draftees were all sent to SE Asia to fight. And of the 207,083 who went, 30,304 did not come home.
On Oct 12, 1944, the American Navy bombed Taiwan; this was to continue until the end of the war. On that day, the carrier-based F6F Hellcats dropped bombs all over the Island that included Danshui and Hua-lien (see previous posts by Eyedoc and ChoSan, respectively).
On Aug 15, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced, through radio broadcast, Japan's unconditional surrender - in a classical language incomprehensible to the common folks.
Rumor has it that, after the war, the US paid compensations to losses owing to the bombing raids. It was probably just that, a rumor. At least no one in Danshui was ever compensated.
Mandatory military service law in Taiwan was re-instituted on Dec 28, 1949. And the Taiwanese were again conscripted, this time to fight Communist China. In addition, military training courses also started in senior highs for boys and girls alike. Besides military drills, each student got to fire several (typically 6) rounds with the Type 38 or later the M1 rifles. The M1 semi-automatic weighed about 10 lbs, way too heavy for a Taiwanese teenager to handle. And the bullets from the Type 38 often left the silhouette of a bullet, instead of a round hole, on the paper targets, suggesting an expanded bore size and worn rifle lines from previous heavy uses, causing the bullets to tumble. [Note: The Type 38 rifles were confiscated from the Japanese army at the end of WW2 and the M1s were turned over by the Americans after the Korean War.]
A 1950 photo taken by Carl Mydans (1907-2004; Life Magazine photographer) shows two draftees from Taipei, identified by sashes across the chest, being sent off by friends (below center). The banners are still in the Japanese style, a carry-over from 1942-45 (for comparison, a similar Japanese banner is shown on the lower left, click to enlarge).
In Danshui, the draftees were loaded onto decorated flat-bed trucks and paraded on Chung Cheng Road with school children cheering on from the sidewalks waving small triangular paper flags (not unlike the scene shown below).
The men then traveled all the way south by the slow train to the training camps in 鳳山Feng-shan.
Least we forget: In a cruel turn of events, some of those who returned to Taiwan from SE Asia in 1946 were shipped at gunpoint to Mainland China to fight the civil war there.