October 25th is the ‘Recovery Day’ (光復節） in Taiwan. November 12th is the ‘Veteran’s Day’ in the U.S. However, these historical and significant days were surprisingly no longer clear to many young people in Taiwan as well as many overseas Chinese, including Asian Americans about their meaning. Japan had occupied Taiwan for 50 years from 1895 to 1945 because China was forced to give Taiwan (Formosa) to Japan after China was defeated in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). Japan always had an ambition to conquer China. While China was struggling with her internal conflicts to form a united Republic nation, the Imperial Japan was eagerly interfering with a goal to capture China’s resource rich northeast provinces with constant military incidences since 1931. In 1937, Japan openly provoked war again China despite of the international concerns expressed by Russia, Germany and the U.S. for their self interest more than for justice. This time China, under the leadership of Chiang Kei-shek, resolved to put up a fierce resistance to the Japanese aggression with all internal factions realizing that Japan was the ultimate predator of China destined to conquer the entire China. Thus, the Sino-Japanese War lasted fourteen years with the last eight years detrimentally not only destroyed Japan’s plan of conquering China (in six months as the Japanese Imperial army wished) but also stopped Japan’s overblown ambition of conquering the entire Asia.
When Japan was defeated and surrendered to the Allied nations, (Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, India, New Zealand, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America), on August 15, 1945, it marked as the end of WW II as well as China’s victory of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1931-1945). The first Sino-Japanese War was in 1894-1895. China was defeated and ceded Taiwan to Japanat that time. On the morning of October 25, 1945, the surrender acceptance ceremony for the province of Taiwan in the China Theater (war zone) was held at the Sun Yat-Sen Conference Hall in Taipei. Rikichi Andō, the Japanese representative, signed and sealed the instrument of the Japanese surrender. Taiwan was thus returned to the motherland after having been occupied by Japan for a total of 50 brutal years. The People in Taiwan including the minority aborigines were slaughtered by the Japanese army to quench resistance and the people were ruled as a colonial subject with second class citizens treatment. To mark the event of the recovery of Taiwan, October 25 was designated as the Recovery Day of Taiwan.
"Gwang-bog-jeol" (光復節) , is a Korean word, with same Chinese characters, literally meaning "the time of the glorious recovery". This day is attributed to the Korean "memorial day of liberation" from the Japanese Occupation and the "memorial day of independence" from Japan, a day celebrated by both North and South Korea on August 15th. The Philippines has a similar Memorial Day. These designated memorial days have a common significance, that is, to remember the brutal Japanese occupation days and the final recovery to freedom, justice and motherland. This sentiment runs deep in all of the Asians’ hearts and minds and become ever deeper the more the Japanese government tries to deny or white wash the deplorable history of the Imperial Japan. On this part of history, the Americans may not have the same feeling and appreciation as Asians, but the U.S. should bear that in mind in conducting diplomatic affairs between the U.S. and most Asian nations vis-à-vis that between the U.S. and Japan. Even in the face of the nuclear threat from North Korea, one can see the different attitudes of Japan and South Korea in responding to the US call for collaboration to deal with the crisis.
The U.S. was never defeated in her military conflicts with other nations since her Independence from the Great Britain in 1776. The U.S. has never had to cede any territory to any other nation. On the contrary, she has gained territories and became trustee of some 2000 Pacific Islands including Okinawa after the WW II. After the U.S.-Spanish War in 1898, Spain ceded to the U.S. Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The U.S. granted the Philippines Independence on July 4th, 1946 after WW II. Puerto Rico became a part of commonwealth of the U.S. in 1952 and Guam remains as a military base of the U.S. On June 17, 1971, the U.S. in a major shift of her Asia policy, returned her administrative rights of Okinawa (Liujiu Islands historically named by China) and Diaoyu Islands to Japan, one decision obviously has been made with no respect and understanding of the history of Liujiu Kingdom as an independent nation conquered by Japan and the fact that the Diaoyu Islands were always a part of Taiwan, China. Thus, it is understandable why the Okinawa people is so violently opposed to the U.S. military base there and its expansion and why both Mainland China and Taiwan are adamantly protesting about the devious scheme of Japan trying to incorporating the Diaoyu Islands into Japan.
The U.S. has no reason to celebrate a recovery day but she certainly has reasons to celebrate a Veteran’s Day, November 11th, commemorating her war heroes and veterans for the wars and victories they have fought and won. Mainland China holds August 1 as the Military Day, commemorating its establishment of the People’s Liberation Army and September 3rd as the victory over Japan Day. Taiwan has a Soldiers Day on September 3rd, designated by its defense department although not designated as an official holiday. October 25th (光復節) is no longer celebrated as a national holiday in Taiwan any more. The young people in Taiwan is deliberately led to forget the Japanese occupation and WW II by the political party of pro-Japan and pro-independence (DPP) because the DPP is currently in control of the government. Ironically, Taiwan is the only place in Asia (other than Japan of course) seemingly willing to forget the Japanese Imperial Army’s atrocity in ruling its occupation territories in Asia due to DPP’s effort and its link to Japanese right-wing political party. However, the personal memory of the older generations in Taiwan and more importantly, the truth of history taught in most Asian nations will always prevail. Vietnam celebrates her Independence Day on September 2nd as Indochina was freed from Japan. Indonesia celebrates her Independence Day on August 17th commemorating her Independence on August 17, 1945 after Japan surrendered.
The entire world remembers the V-J Day, celebrated on August 14 (Japan surrenders), August 15 (Japan’s surrender announced to the whole world) and September 2nd (Ceremony of the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the battleship of USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay). The entire Asia have Memorial days honoring their ancestors, veterans and war heroes to commemorate the victory of WW II stopping the Japanese Imperialism, recovery from occupation and obtaining independence as discussed above. Understandably, the U.S. celebrates only one Veterans Day (November 11th) as she never lost or recovered any lost territory, but the Asian nations do. Although they may be celebrating on different days, but the significance is the same, it symbolizes recovery from occupation, from lost territory and freedom and gaining of independence. The Asian Americans, while celebrating Veterans Day in the U.S., should understand why Asian nations have so many different days celebrating their veterans. People in Taiwan should never forget those war heroes and veterans who died for their freedom and fought against foreign aggression, whether their current government designates the Recovery Day as an official national holiday or not.