By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday paid his respects to tens of thousands of R.O.C. soldiers who died in Myanmar during World War II. As part of the nation’s Armed Forces Day, the president was attending a memorial ceremony held at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives while serving their country. It is the first time an R.O.C. president has paid homage to the spirits of soldiers who died fighting alongside the Allied Forces against Japan in Myanmar during World War II. The ceremony was attended by senior government officials, ministers and families of the R.O.C. soldiers who fell for the R.O.C. during World War II. The ceremony was held a week after Taiwan held a special ceremony to welcome home the spirits of the around 100,000 men who fell between 1942 and 1944 fighting in Myanmar. According to the Ministry of National Defense (MND), around 300,000 R.O.C. servicemen were sent to Myanmar, then known as Burma, where they played a major role in deterring westward operations into India by Japanese forces, thereby playing a significant role in securing the Allied Forces’ victory in World War II. For years, Taiwan has been trying to hold ceremonies in Myanmar to call back the wandering spirits of R.O.C. servicemen who died there during WWII. The hope was finally realized late last month when officials from the MND, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Community Affairs Council visited Myitkyina — the main battlefield in Myanmar at the time — and held ceremonies to call back the wandering spirits of R.O.C. servicemen with the help of a religious master there. During yesterday’s ceremony, an 18-minute memorial film made by the MND on the R.O.C. expeditionary forces was screened and witnessed by Ma, senior government officials and families of the soldiers.