Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Taiwan (Formosa)

Taiwan (Formosa), an island about 14,000 square miles in area, is located 115 miles off China's eastern coast; it was named Formosa (Beautiful) by the Portuguese who visited it in 1590. As a consequence of the 1894–1895 Sino-Japanese War, China ceded control of the island to Japan. The Japanese subsequently expanded existing military bases on Taiwan while constructing additional facilities. With the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Japan used Taiwan as a base for air attacks against the Chinese mainland. By late 1941, the island had a population of some 6 million people and served as the base for Japan's Eleventh Naval Air Fleet and its Fifth Army Air Force. On 8 December 1941, the Japanese used Taiwan to launch the first air attacks against U.S. bases in the Philippines.

As Taiwan lay deep within Japan's defensive perimeter, it was not subjected to concerted attacks until 1944, when U.S. forces pushed across the Central Pacific toward the Japanese home islands. By that time, many U.S. military officials, including Chief of Naval Operations Ernest J. King and the Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, favored an invasion and occupation of the island in order to sever the Japanese lines of communication south to the Netherlands East Indies. Air attacks by the China-based XX Bomber Command against Japanese installations on Taiwan were largely ineffectual.

Ultimately, these bombing raids proved unnecessary in the context of a prelude to a U.S. amphibious assault, for in July 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to pursue the conquest of the Philippines, followed by Iwo Jima and Okinawa rather than Taiwan. The Japanese air bases on Taiwan, however, maintained aircraft capable of reaching the Philippine Islands. Consequently, between 12 and 14 October 1944, the U.S. Third Fleet launched punishing air strikes against Japan's facilities on Taiwan in order to reduce Japanese air strength there prior to the invasion of the Philippines. These assaults destroyed more than 500 Japanese aircraft, with important effects on the subsequent Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Taiwan was attacked by Allied naval aircraft twice more during the war. The first of these strikes occurred in January 1945, prior to the U.S. invasion of the Philippine island of Luzon. The second was executed in April 1945 by air assets of the British Pacific Fleet in order to reduce the number of Japanese planes capable of flying kamikaze missions against Allied naval forces off Okinawa.

On 25 October 1945, formal surrender ceremonies took place on Taiwan, and the island reverted to Chinese control in accordance with an agreement reached at the Cairo Conference in November 1943. In 1949, the island became a refuge for Chinese Nationalist forces. Today, it is known as the Republic of China. The People's Republic of China, however, claims Taiwan.

Eric W. Osborne


Further Reading
Davidson, James. The Island of Formosa: Past and Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.; Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Two-Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963.
 

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