by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D., Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society Board Member
Taiwan abounds with historical sites, many of which residents pass by everyday with scant recollection of what went on there. One such place in Taipei is the old north wall of the former Taipei Prison. Located beside the Chunghwa Telecom Building on Chinshan South Road about a block south of Hsinyi Road, this prison served heavy duty during the Japanese period and the subsequent Kuomintang (KMT) White Terror period. Nearby residents still recall hearing the gun shots of executions within the prison courtyard in both of the above periods.
On June 19th, 2005 the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society met to commemorate one such execution, that of fourteen American airmen by a Japanese firing squad on June 19th, 1945. Like the January 9th remembrance service of the Enoura Maru in Kaohsiung, the POW Camps Memorial Society is continuing its series of commemorations marking events in the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The above fourteen airmen ranging in age from 19 to 24 years, were either individual fighter pilots or members of bomber aircrews (Army Air Force and Navy) who had been shot down and captured while attacking Japanese targets in and around Taiwan in the closing year of WWII.
One of the fourteen airmen was John Roberson Parker a gunner on the Queen Bee, a Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator flying out of the Philippines. His plane had been shot down on January 28, 1945 in a raid on Japanese shipping in southern Taiwan; he and four others of the crew were later sentenced and executed.
Piper Mal Turner led the group of friends, relatives and interested persons to the ceremony. Master of ceremonies, Jerome Keating, board member of the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society gave the opening remarks. Michael Hurst MBE, Director of the Society and organizer of the event, narrated the story of the execution. Mark Wilkie, another board member read the poem, “We Will Remember Them”. Laurence W. Mitchell III, Chief of the Liaison Affairs Section, spoke on behalf of the American Institute in Taiwan. Members of the Parker family presented their thoughts and messages. Sally Mitchell read the poem, “Miss Me”, which had been sent by Sarah Parker McAdams the sister of Airman John Parker.
This commemoration was special because of the presence of Charles Parker (Gainesville, Florida, USA) and his sons Jeff and Rob Parker. Charles, the younger brother of John Parker, had been 17 years old when his brother was executed. This remembrance service helped in bringing some closure to that episode of their family history.
There was a touch of irony in the commemoration since June 19th 2005 happened to be father's day in the United States and most of those executed had never had the chance to become fathers; likewise the war would end less than two months later making the execution seem almost pointless.
Robert Weir gave a message and prayer and the ceremony ended with the laying of wreaths, the playing of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and a few closing remarks by the director and some of the friends.
The names of the executed airman are:
US Navy - J.C. Buchanan, Delbert H. Carter, Donald K. Hathaway, John R. Parker, Wayne W. Wilson, James R. Langiotti, Harwood S. Sharp, Harry H. Aldro, Charles E. McVay, Freddy McCreary
US Army Air Corps - Ralph R. Hartley, Bobby L. Lawrance, Harry U. Spivey and Merlin W. Riggs.