2009年4月25日 星期六

Bombing of Danshui, 1944

(Left: an F6F Hellcat ready to take off)

Because of the strategic location, not only the Sino-French war, WWII also came to Danshui.

The 1944/45 map of Danshui posted under Mr Chang's "Memories of 濱栗 and more..." has been brought up before because the US Navy bombed Danshui in 1944 for reasons unclear to me.

According to Mr Chang: "You mentioned several times about the small sea plane base next to train station. The lot belongs to GO-SHA, the fifth son of the rich man, before Japanese takes over and converts to airport. I also met Mr. Iwamoto here in SF bay area, he was a pilot of the Zero fighter converted sea plane at that base. It is interesting that his only memory about Tamsui is fried BeeFunn 炒米粉."

The intended targets actually were the oil storage tanks of the old British (Dutch?) Shell Oil Corp near the seaplane base. The oil storage was hit and my youngest uncle remembers seeing the sky over Danshui orange red from a distance at 北投仔 where the family was evacuated to, and figured that the whole town had been destroyed. The fire actually burned for 3 days. Mr Chang recalls that one of the 20+ casualties was a driver minding his own taxi business near Danshui Station when the area was hit by an off-the-target bomb.

The date of the bombing was Oct 12, 1944, the first day when the whole Taiwan was attacked. The F6F fighters would have been from US Naval Task Force 38/58 (based on the carriers). There is still some confusion whether the B-25s or the B-29s from the land-based USAAF were involved. The intended target was actually 迺生產石油株式會社淡水油槽所, the "Rising Sun Petroleum Co" on the US Navy map. This event was known as "火燒臭油棧" to Danshui-ren. 臭油, because of the foul oily smell. The seaplane base was apparently a secondary target.

The oil company site is still around albeit somewhat neglected. For a quick tour, see here.

Addendum: The attacking aircraft were carrier-based, most likely the F6Fs. According to CINCPAC COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 150, OCTOBER 13, 1944:

"Carrier aircraft of the pacific Fleet fast carrier task force striking Formosa on October 11 (West Longitude Date) shot 124 enemy aircraft out of the air and did heavy damage to enemy shipping and shore defense works. Preliminary pilot reports and photographs show that 97 enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Initial reports indicate the following damage to enemy shipping

Ships sunk:
Large cargo ships‑2
Medium cargo ships‑2
Small cargo ships‑12

Ships damaged:
Large cargo ships‑2
Medium cargo ships‑7
Small cargo ships‑10

In addition to the foregoing, extensive damage was done to hangars, buildings, oil dumps, warehouses, docks and industrial establishments at Einansho臺南安南區, Okayama岡山, Tamsui淡水, Heito屏東, Reigaryo苓雅寮, and Taichu臺中.

Our losses were 22 aircraft. There was no damage to our surface ships."

18 則留言:

  1. Thanks for involve me into your blog.
    I was not aware of the participation of B-25 in the first full scale Taiwan air raid, October 12, 1944. Now I have to believe the story that there were many “big bombs” dropped in Tamsui since they are all from the bombers not from the fighters.
    The oil company attacked, I thought was Shell Company since local people call it as 掃手牌 (broom brand); to them, the shape of shell looks much like a broom without the handle bar.

  2. Dear Cho-san,

    With your total recall of the history of Danshui (and Hualien), there is no way for this blog not to involve you. Please continue to participate, to preserve history of Danshui (and its neighbors).

    You may still be right about the non-involvement of the B-25s. The US Navy record mentioned that the full-scale attack on Taiwan occurred on Oct 12th, 14th, and 16th, 1944. The USAAF bombers were deployed only on the 14th and 16th (and it was B-29s), not the 12th. The F6Fs from TF38 did sink many ships on Oct 12; however, there was no mention of their attacking land targets. If Danshui was attacked on Oct 12, then the bombs would have been the 1,000-lb ones from the F6Fs, heavier than the 500 pounders carried by the B-25/29s. If the B-25/29s were involved, then the bombing date would have been either Oct 14th or 16th. And to add even more confusion, many Danshui-ren remember seeing B-29s (i.e., not F6Fs or B-25s).

    So this part of history is still unclear. Most likely, Danshui was hit on Oct 12th by F6Fs and since not many Danshui-ren were trained to identify enemy planes at that time, they were easily mistaken and confused with bombing raids by the B-25/29s on their way to other cities later on. It also makes sense to use F6Fs on such a small targeted area, the oil storage tanks and the neighboring seaplane base.

    It was the British Shell Co under a Japanese corporation name, kind of a strange arrangement. There were still some property right disputes until recently when the "company" simply donated the site and walked away.

  3. That is my mistake in believing the air raids have continued for three days from October 12, 1944. Interestingly, the fact is that the bombings are executed every other day and amazingly exactly on the regular working hours, 8 to 5. Have you heard that there was a misfired 500# bomb dropped in the backyard of Ma-Tsou Temple? 媽祖廟

  4. For Danshui, it was 10/12/1945, indeed starting at 8AM. And the second time on 05/13/1945.

    I don't recall any damages to 媽祖廟 - unless they were minor and were repaired quickly. I'll go visit the temple again and find out, maybe this coming weekend.

  5. "The US Navy bombed Danshui in 1944 for reasons unclear to me."

    From what I know, the US originally planned to land in Taiwan instead of the Philippines. This seems to make sense, as the Japanese offensive into Southeast Asia was coordinated out of Taiwan. For example, the Japanese were flying out of Tainan to hit the Philippines in early 1942 as part of their offensive in taking Bataan and Corregidor Island. Don't forget that Taiwan was a colony of Japan, which the US was fighting. The US seems to have landed in the Philippines was so that MacArthur could keep his "I shall return" promise.

    That the US started hitting Danshui seems obvious. It would've been part of a softening up of Taiwan setting up for an eventual invasion. Interesting post - good first hand info here.

  6. Yes, I agree, that was the general US strategy. And in fact, the crack 9th Corp from Kanazawa was re-deployed from Ryukyu (Okinawa) to Taiwan in preparation for such an invasion which never materialized.

    I was referring much more narrowly to why the postage stamp sized seaplane base was targeted at all when in fact it was the oil storage areas next to it. Much more astounding to Danshui-ren is the fact that the US Navy map contained so many details about our little town.

  7. Yes, that is astounding, especially considering how little the US had on Taiwan. This is what George Kerr wrote in 1942, in an article called Colonial Laboratory: "there was a map of Keelung [H]arbor, sent over from the Navy files, dated 1894, and a few photographs of Keelung taken before 1914. We had standard hydrographic charts available to all navigators and a set of Japanese Imperial Land Survey maps, which could be bought at any larger stationers in Tokyo. The most interesting item in the Army’s ‘Formosa File’ was a report on Japan’s alleged plan to use Formosa as a base for a push southward into Indochina.” (Kerr, p. 10). Kerr claims the file was based on a series of newspaper articles published in Paris in 1905.

    So, how did they have so many details on Danshui? I'm guessing from the English Consul, who was there until fall, 1941. He was writing confidential reports on the goings-on. Or, did you have Taiwanese-American spies in Taiwan? I'd be quite interested to know.

  8. There were quite a number of these 1944/5 US Army (not Navy which just used them) maps, each of a different city in Taiwan. Presumably they were produced with aerial photography and from intelligence sources. For the latter, your guess is as good as any. British tourists were known to provide geographic information on North Africa during WWII. So spies, in the secret agent sense, may not be absolutely necessary. Some Taiwanese were falsely accused of "sedition" by the Japanese special police unit at that time, spying for outside forces was, I believe, part of the charges.

    The details on the maps, even now when you look at them, still provoke a sense of awe.

  9. Charlie Mallory who had participated in the October 12, 1944 campaign wrote that his allocated area was northern Taiwan and the targets were Tamsui and Chin-Chiku 新竹airport. It is clear that the primary purpose of the air raid is to eliminate the Japanese air power in Taiwan before MacArthur’s Leyte landing a week later.
    By the way, the air raid we experienced was nothing compared to the bombing and naval gunfire support before the landing that changed the shape of the whole island on the battle of Iow Jima.

  10. Dear Mr Chang,

    It turns out that my memory is OK. 媽祖廟 was not bombed/damaged (nor was any of the major temples in Danshui) on Oct 12, 1944. My cousin puts it best: if the temple was hit, who's gonna worship 媽祖 anymore if she could not even protect herself.

    媽祖廟 was the Chinese military headquarters during the Sino-French war, also where the 3 severed heads of the French infantry marines were displayed. Some of the Chinese soldiers later settled down in Danshui, never to return to the mainland.

    And the seaplane base is still closed to the public. There is a military weather station on site.

    There are many personal accounts of the war of Iwo Jima from the American side but very few from the Japanese side (not many survived). Perhaps Mr Chang can share some of those survivors' stories.

  11. The Chinese soldiers stayed and mixed with the locals are called 河南勇阿 in Taiwanese.
    We hard a lot of stories about the one lived in our front, now named 清水街.
    The aged and blind soldier was murdered by his daughter-in-law with a 6 inch nail driven into his head. The mysterious murder case was finally solved when she could not take the pressure and made confession.

  12. Hi ChoSan,

    Thank you for the 河南勇仔 info, we only know they had lived around 沙崙 area.

    And I thought the murder occurred in that area too, did not realize it was so close to town center. Do you remember when that happened?

  13. This is completely off topic, but I'd be interested to find out how many kids from Danshui High served in WWII? Do you think some figures are available?

  14. That would be near the end of the war in 1945. As far as I know, the number is still classified by the Japanese Gov't. A local survey may produce the number quickly. It'll be one or two classes at most, or around 60. Mr 李登輝 and all his classmates definitely were drafted. Incidentally, Mr 紀 was the top ranking student and Mr 李 was second in their class.

  15. At this time, I'm guessing that the teachers were Taiwanese and they taught in Japanese. Is that right?

  16. Around this time, yes; although there were also many Japanese teachers. Public schools were all headed by the Japanese.

  17. I've read 35 percent of the teachers were Japanese. Did Danjiang High ever have an English-based curriculum? What was it before Japanese?

  18. It depended on the locale. Also, most teachers were from Kyushu - hence the Kyushu accent in the Japanese spoken in Taiwan to this day.

    Danjian High was established long after the Japanese occupation. Rev Mackay's grandson Seth Ko graduated in the very first class from this high school where he later taught English grammar. I don't believe there was ever any English-based curriculum.