The August 23 Artillery Battle in Black & WhiteReturn
TELDAP e-Newsletter (October, 2011)
The August 23 Artillery Battle in Black & White
TELDAP e-newsletter/Chen Tai-ying
A “duck” amphibious assault vehicle full of the supplies desperately needed by the servicemen and citizens on Kinmen slowly exiting a landing craft under the guidance of a controller.
Recently, the history of Nemoto Hiroshi, the White Group and other Japanese military advisers to the ROC military has once again attracted the attention of the media, also making the cross-straits stand off of the Cold War era a hot topic once again. Without doubt, the August 23 Artillery Battle of 1958 was the biggest military confrontation across the Taiwan Strait after 1949. What traces of the crossing of swords between Mainland China and the ROC on Taiwan can be seen in the digital archives of the Chinese Taipei Film Archives?
After the Battle of Gunningtou in 1949, the situation that saw China and Taiwan under separate governments was basically fixed and Kinmen became the main outpost of the ROC, just a few kilometers from China’s Fujian Province, transforming from a small island society into a military stronghold with tens of thousands of servicemen stationed on it.In this propaganda film filmed in 1958 we can see Kinmen before the battle, with schools, banks, markets and other infrastructure developing rapidly. Who would have thought that, after a short period of tranquility, the guns of the PLA would target this small island and tens of thousands of shells would mercilessly rain down on it?
At 6.30pm on August 23, the guns of the Chinese Communists in Fujian suddenly began an all-out barrage directed at Kinmen. In the Kinmen command structure only the commander of the Kinmen Defense Command had the power to order a counterattack but, seeing the mounting casualties being inflicted by the Communists without a response, Lu Feng-san, the commander of the 692 artillery company, ordered the 20 guns in his company to return fire at 6.35pm. This was the start of what became known as the August 23 Artillery Battle. In this battle the Communists tried hard to blockade Kinmen on land, sea and in the air, however, the ROC military, assisted by the US, kept supply lines open. In this film “The navy supplies Kinmen” we can see various landing craft sailing to Kinmen under the protection of the ROC and US navies, see them arrive off Kinmen’s Liaoluo Bay,then land on the beach, constantly at risk of being hit by enemy fire. The inability of the Communists to cut Kinmen’s supply line meant that reinforcements and new-type US-made 8-inch howitzers flooded into Kinmen, ensuring that the island would not fall.
To deter the communists and send a powerful political message to Mao Zedong, in September 1958 the US Marines were deployed to defend Taiwan in unprecedented numbers. As well as providing equipment and technical support to assist the effort to supply Kinmen, the US forces also took part in a military exercise called “Shout at the Mainland” with the three branches of the ROC military. In the film we see the men of the 3rd Division of the US Marines during an exercise in Pingdong as they jump from their landing craft,then drag recoilless rifles through the coastal protection plantation, heading inland. According to an oral history of the August 23 Battle compiled by the ROC Ministry of Defense, as well as sending ships to protect ROC supply vessels the US navy also dispatched elite Marine snipers to Kinmen to hunt down Communist targets.
After a fierce artillery battle lasting two months, the Communists unilaterally announced that henceforth they would “firing at odd-numbered days and ceasing at even-numbered days”, bringing to an end this show of military power that shocked the world. At least for the people of Taiwan, Kinmen became a heroic island. Hollywood also jumped on the bandwagon and a studio made an anti-Communist propaganda film. “The 11th Commandment” on Kinmen. In the film, a left-leaning US female university student visits Free China and hears the stories of how refugees had been oppressed by the Communists and also sees at first hand the death and devastation caused by the Communist’s shelling of Kinmen, after which she changes the way she thinks and decides to fight for freedom and democracy. According to Mr. Huang Ren who worked in films, although the film received the full support of the ROC Ministry of Defense when it was being made, it was not shown in Taiwan because an image of Mao Zedong appeared in it.
Today, Taipei’s Songshan Airport has dozens of flights between China and Taiwan. As a stream of tourists from Mainland China emerges from the terminal building, the era when the two sides were at daggers drawn has been consigned to the distant past. The August 23 Artillery Battle of 1958 not only decided today’s cross-straits political situation, it also significantly affected the collective memory of the people of Taiwan. After seeing the historic films in the Chinese Taipei Film Archives we thank the servicemen who were involved in the battle for their sacrifice and celebrate today’s peaceful relations across the Taiwan Strait.
Publisher：Fan-Sen Wang, Vice President of Academia Sinica Editor-in-Chief：Zong-Kun Li Publishing Department：Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program, TELDAP Executive Editor：Sub-project: Digital Information - the New and Creative Way of Communicating Mailing Address：The Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
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Issue：TELDAP e-Newsletter (October, 2011) Publish Date：10/15 /2011 First Issue：02/15 /2007（Published on 15th every 2 months）
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