WWII KMT Veterans, On September 3 of each year, China commemorates the anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II. Back then, the Chinese forces were composed of a tense alliance between the ruling Kuomintang Nationalists (KMT) and members of Mao Zedong’s Communist Party of China (CPC), who had been fighting a civil war since 1927.
KMT soldiers suffered the lion’s share of casualties, with deaths and injuries counted in the millions. Shortly after the end of WWII, China’s civil war flared up again, continuing until Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. As a result most KMT veterans fled, relocating to the island of Taiwan. KMT soldiers and loyalists who remained in mainland China were subjected to mass trials, forced labor, and execution.
The few veterans of the war who survived these campaigns are now in their 90s, most living in poverty. And the government has long downplayed or denied their role in World War II. Their service has gone unrecognized for decades—many have only been eligible for pensions since 2013, and some have yet to collect. Only in the past few years have Chinese officials even grudgingly acknowledged the presence of WWII KMT Veterans, let alone their contributions to the country they call home.
Here is the story Chinese veteran Sun Yibai, then 97. This was recorded during an interview at his home in Beijing on July 20, 2015. Sun once served as a translator with the storied Flying Tigers aviation brigade. But after the war he found himself on the wrong side of the Communist historical narrative. Along with thousands of others who fought for the Nationalists, he was part of enemy. Under Communist rule, their service led to imprisonment, persecution, and often death in the years after the 1949 revolution. Sun doesn’t have much time for the Communist Party’s claim to have led China to victory against Japan in WWII. “The Communist Party didn’t fight Japan,” he said. “They made up a whole bunch of stories afterward, but it was all fabricated.” That view challenges a basic premise underpinning this week’s lavish celebrations in Beijing of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat: that Mao Zedong’s Communists were the saviors of the nation, battling against Japanese forces that began occupying parts of China in 1931 before launching a full-blown invasion in 1937. WWII KMT Veterans (continue reading)