Eiko Airfield, Formosa. Note bomb-drop pattern following strike by planes from USS Essex. January 4, 1945
Tainan is a historical city, the seat of power of the 17th century Dutch East India Co colonialists, the Ming-Cheng Kingdom founded by Koxinga, and the Qing, barbarians from the north. And since Koxinga's time, with the establishment of the very first Confucius Temple, the city had become the educational/cultural center of Taiwan. This venerable tradition continued even under the Japanese rule of between 1895-1945.
This, however, did not seem an issue of concern to the US military. Similar to the bombing of Dresden in Feb 1945, for the American planners, the decision to bomb Tainan was a military one that targeted not only Tainan Airfield(s), but also military installations and war-material-producing factories. Apparently also targeted were the Tainan-shu prefectural gov't and the headquarters of the Taiwan 2nd Infantry. "Targets of opportunity" that had caused the most civilian casualties, unfortunately, appeared to be any building that had anti-aircraft placements on the rooftop or adjacent to it. This in fact meant most of the city. By the end of the war, 51% of Tainan City had been wiped out. Yet, curiously, there was almost no official post-war record of the Tainan bombing as if it had never happened. We are left with only some personal recalls and remembrances.
Here is a chronology of the events:
12 October 1944: At dawn, between 7:20 to 7:45, 3 dogfights between American and Japanese fighters broke out above Tainan City, witnessed by a number of very surprised residents. On the same day, the whole Taiwan saw at least 1,100 US bombing runs. Older folks still remember that the Americans came early in the morning and quit at around 5PM, office hours, in fact. Sensing the impending doom, large-scale evacuations to the countryside started. In Tainan, residents moved to towns such as 大内 and 關廟, some even further away to 玉井 and 楠西.
1 March 1945 (the "Longest Day" in Tainan City history): Carpet bombing with incendiary bombs; 1,520 houses destroyed, 90 dead, and 146 wounded.
3-17 March 1945: By the 17th, the symbol of power, the building of Tainan-shu Admin Office had been reduced to rubbles. A large bomb shelter behind it received a direct hit and 40 people killed as a result. The buildings nearby including the tallest building in Tainan, the 5-story Hayashi Departmental Store, were all damaged.
|The Hayashi Departmental Store today|
20 March 1945: The FEAF chronology had stated simply "B-24s bomb the town of Tainan", when in fact, around noontime, 18 B24s attacked Tainan Normal School and its affiliated elementary school and dropped 126 incendiary bombs on the campus. The area erupted into a gigantic fireball that continued to burn for 2 hours. The ammunition stored in one of the buildings (possibly the real target) also exploded, further adding to the destruction. 90% of this campus quickly went up in smoke. In the city itself, along 西門路, 南民權路, and 永福路, most houses were burned to the ground. The Railroad Station, Tainan Hospital, Dept of Justice, several Buddhist temples, and a number of factories were all severely damaged. The 東岳殿 slum area, apparently mistaken as military barracks, was attacked 3 times. Miraculously, the temple itself remained standing with only minor damages, not the hapless residents, though. In fact a still unknown number of them had perished. Not only the East District, the historical An-Nan District was also hit for it was where a major chemical plant was located. Luckily, Ft Zeelandia and Ft Provintia were spared.
The intended targets therefore had included not only the Tainan Airfield(s) but equally important, the admin center of Tainan-shu and the barracks of one of the two garrison forces, the Taiwan 2nd Infantry台湾步兵第2連隊, then headquartered in Tainan.
The multiple bombing of Tainan Airfield in the US records can probably be explained that it actually meant 2-3 targets. On the other hand, the dogged efforts of the defenders in repairing the damages probably should not be overlooked. In fact, the last FEAF entry on July 10 1945 stated: "B24s bomb Tainan Airfield destroying several planes", this seems to indicate that the airbase remained operational despite the umpteen attacks.
|17-18 year-old Kamikaze pilots from Kyushu, some stationed briefly at Tainan Airfields|
A little bit of a long-forgotten history here: The Taiwan 2nd Infantry was commissioned in Japan in 1907 and sent to Taiwan to be the garrison force. In 1937, the 2nd and its sister army the Taiwan 1st Infantry, then stationed in Taipei, were both dispatched to fight the KMT force in Shanghai. The 2nd had quickly returned to Taiwan while the First had fought all the way to 武昌, and subsequently, re-deployed in southern China, Hainan Island, Indo-China, the Philippines, and finally Java. At some point, the 2nd Infantry had also joined in. Both eventually surrendered in E Timor. Taiwanese soldiers were promptly separated from the Japanese in POW camps.