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Military holds ceremony for the spirits of ROC WWII soldiers

TAIPEI -- Military personnel, officials, and long-retired service personnel gathered at the National Revolutionary Martyrs' Shrine in Taipei Wednesday for a special ceremony to “welcome home” the spirits of tens of thousands of Republic of China soldiers who died fighting in Myanmar in World War II.

Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) presided over the ceremony, held one week ahead of Taiwan's Armed Forces Day, to pay respect to the Chinese troops who gave their lives to fight alongside Allied Forces against Japan between 1942 and 1944.

Though the deceased likely never set foot in Taiwan in their lifetimes, their contributions to the fight against Japan helped ensure the continuation of the R.O.C., which today governs Taiwan and its outlying islands.

Yen led the attendees, which included lawmakers and scholars, in bowing before a memorial tablet for the soldiers.

“Welcoming them 'back' to the martyrs' shrine was a very touching moment,” lawmaker Chen Chen-hsiang (陳鎮湘) of the ruling Kuomintang told the media after attending the ceremony. A retired Army general, he was behind the proposal to bring the spirits back to the country they died protecting.

“They will not be forgotten,” he added.

Chen said the R.O.C. servicemen sent to Myanmar played a significant role in protecting an important supply chain between the southern Chinese province of Yunnan and northern Burma, a British colony at the time.

“It was great,” Wu Chao-yu, a retired lieutenant general, said of the event. Although the wheelchair-bound 92 year-old has limited mobility, he felt he had to be present Wednesday because the ceremony was a “must.”

Wu entered the battle against Japanese forces in Myitkyina, northern Myanmar, in 1944, and said one of his friends died during the fighting.

The Taipei ceremony followed a trip last week by officials from the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Community Affairs Council to Myitkyina — the main battlefield in Myanmar at the time — for ceremonies to call back the wandering spirits of R.O.C. servicemen with the help of a religious master there.

The group returned to Taiwan earlier Wednesday after apparently recalling about 60,000 heroic spirits, said delegation leader Maj. Gen. Huang Chin.

During the fighting in 1942-1944, more than 300,000 R.O.C. servicemen were sent to Myanmar as the Chinese expeditionary force to fight alongside forces from the United States and the United Kingdom.

The battles there helped secure the Allied Forces' victory in World War II.

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Sun Li-jen (孫立人), a renowned general, poses in this undated photo. Sun helped defeat the Japanese army and rescued over 7,000 English soldiers in Myanmar, which won him a CBE medal ...

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