It was August 1945 and my 8-year-old father was finding out that he was not Japanese.Born and raised into a well off doctor's family in Tiawan, my dad had only ever spoken Japanese. He went to a Japanese school. His family had a Japanese name. Japan had occupied Tiawan for some 70 years and had instituted an aggressive assimilation campaign among Tiawan's educated class. Now, as Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender and withdrew its people from Tiawan, my dad's only question to his parents was, "Are we going home?" It turned out he was home, and though he was staying put, his life was beginning anew: he would have to learn Mandarin and the Tiawanese dialect, his family name was returned to its Chinese original, Peng, and 14 years later he would be required to serve 2 years of duty as a Lieutenant in the Tiawanese army.
Because he had attended university, he was trained as an officer - six months of basic and six months of artillery - then active duty on one of the two small islands Tiawan held off the coast of mainland China, in the Taiwan Strait, where the presence of the U.S.'s 7th Fleet helped deter China's ambitions to take back the island nation. Chiang Kai-shek had brought more than a million refugees and the entire Chinese national gold and foreign currency reserve to Taiwan in 1949. Ten years later, in 1959, my dad found himself within cannonshot of the Red Army.
"If you looked through binoculars," he told me, "you could see the Red Army soldiers playing basketball on the shores when they were taking a break from shooting at us."
For five months, this was his routine: shoot artillery at Mainland China, then hide in a bunker while they shot artillery at you. "I never actually saw anybody get killed, though", he says.
When death came, it was in a subtler and more terrifying fashion. One morning my dad's men got up to relieve the night patrol and found every man laid out dead on the beach. No one had heard a single gunshot. No bullet holes were found on the bodies. In the dead of night, Red Chinese frogmen had stealthily emerged from the ocean, slit every man's throat, and slipped silently back into the waves.
All of today's images can be seen at full size in my WWII and Red Menace Flickr sets.