This article was written by my father, retired Lt. Colonel Howard O. Smith, who served in Taiwan during the mid-60’s, and who traveled back to Taiwan this past August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Chinese’s bombardment. The People’s Liberation Army of Mao Zedong fired more than 450,000 shells on Kinmen Island and several other smaller islets in a 44-day artillery bombardment beginning on August 23, 1958.
After many thanks to our hosts, we boarded the ROC AF C-130 and flew to Kinmen. You can imagine our surprise when we were met at the ramp by a very large group of greeters and media personnel. We were all given leis and ushered into their briefing room for refreshments and a very warm welcome. Then we were taken to a memorial for a US National Guard Lt Col killed in an artillery bombardment in 1954 which overlooked the mainland only 1200 meters away. Unfortunately the weather was still not the best and we could only just make out the mainland. We were taken to a factory that forges knives from old artillery shells left over from the communist bombardments. We watched as the owner forged a piece of shell into a knife. Many in our group bought items in the shop, including Wade. He purchased a steak knife set that was then engraved with his name and the 8/23 date. A fitting memento!The next day saw us ushered into an underground hall that had been set up for a speech by the President of Taiwan. Most of the speech was in Chinese but President Ma switched to English a number of times to thank us for coming and to thank the US for the assistance our country has provided to maintain the freedom of the ROC over the years. After 50 years of sometimes contentious times he felt recent changes have “…created the conditions of reconciliation…” between Taiwan and Mainland China. He noted, however, that he has “…maintained the security relationship with the US…” and will purchase weapons systems from the US for military preparedness.
After the speech we all went to a cemetery for Taiwanese military personnel killed during the bombardments in 1958, where we participated in a ceremony commemorating these men and their service. After the service the President took the time to come over to our group and shake hands with a number of us, including my wife and myself. Quickly, however, the mass of media personnel surrounded the group and we were blocked from seeing or talking with him at that time. The eleven members of our group who had been there in 1958 were invited to lunch with the President. The rest of us continued with a tour of the island.
Shortly we were taken back to our C-130 and flew back to Taipei, bidding farewell to our MND escorts who did an excellent job of hosting us. We will certainly have fond memories of the experience of those few days.
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