Taiwan ‘soul of a soldier’ is MIA
It’s a little more than seven months ago that the Ministry of National Defense published in its organ, Strufight (
Struggle Monthly), an article on the Soul of a Soldier ( ). It is the name of a dagger Chiang Kai-shek, superintendent of the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton, gave to every cadet on graduation as a present. The dagger is also known as the Dagger for Suicide.
Generalissimo Chiang, who attended a Japanese military academy, knew the soul of samurai, which is better known as bushido. He wanted his cadets to emulate Japan’s samurai warriors of yore. Gen. Hideki Tojo, who ordered a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, codified it in the Military Code, which taught soldiers and sailors to kill themselves rather than surrender to the enemy in battle. As a matter of fact, it paved the way for the Kamikaze suicide attacks toward the end of World War II.
Chiang’s Soul of a Soldier daggers reminded his former students that they had to observe the five martial virtues of wisdom, honesty, benevolence, bravery and resoluteness. The virtues were all cited in
Japan’s 1882 Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, which had two more virtues Chiang left out. Emperor Meiji required all military personnel to pledge absolute loyalty to the Mikado and practice frugality. Perhaps, the omission cost Chiang the defection of his armies to Mao Zedong in the Chinese civil war and has led to the loss of the soul of a soldier among officers of Taiwan’s armed forces, exemplified by the Apache tour scandal.
It came to light when photos showing TV entertainer Janet Lee sitting in the cockpit of an AH65E Apache attack helicopter were posted on her Facebook page. Internet searches also found a photo of Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng, chief pilot of the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade who guided her family and her wealthy friends in an unauthorized tour of Apache hangars in a base in Lungtan near the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Internet searches also found Lao wearing his Apache pilot’s helmet at a Halloween party.
Under pressure from an indignant public outcry, the Ministry of National Defense ordered an investigation and found another unauthorized tour of the brigade’s base and a cover-up for the breach of military discipline. Col. Lao was not court-martialed, because court- martialing was abolished during peacetime after the death by abuse of Cpl. Hung Chung-chiu in 2013, for which Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu resigned and President Ma Ying-jeou apologized. Lao is under investigation by Taoyuan district prosecutors.
Altogether 16 Army officers involved in the scandal were disciplined. Lao was fired. Disciplined top brass included Gen. Yen Tefa, chief of the general staff; Gen. Chiu Kuo-cheng, commander of the Army; Lt. Gen. Chen Chien-tsai, commander of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command; and Maj. Gen. Chien Tsung-yuan, commander of the 601st Brigade, which is under Chen’s command. Adm.Kao Kuang-chi, minister of national defense for a little more than two months, offered to resign to take responsibility, but was persuaded to stay on by President Ma Yingjeou.
The military is overreacting. Col. Lao has to be disciplined, of course. He shouldn’t have taken those visitors to the Lungtan base, but he did not compromise military security because the cockpit of the helicopter gunship is not secret. Security compromise is a very serious court-martial offense, the pun- ishment for which is execution by firing squad. In fact, Maj. Gen. Luo Shao-he, MND spokesman, went on the record by stating, “According to information provided by the United States, all information that was allegedly revealed through the photos had already been reviewed and approved by the United States Army.” There is no breach of security for anyone in the United States, for anyone can get online to take a good look at the inside of the Apache cockpit.
Col. Lao was wrong because he let his rich friends tour the base without approval. But the chances are that if he had asked for an approval, his superiors wouldn’t have given it. So, he thought he could get off scot-free in the Army with lax discipline even though he guided an unapproved outing or two for his friends. Military discipline is lax in Taiwan’s armed forces. As a matter of fact, nobody would have known of Lao’s offense without the naive but vain celebrity posting the photos on her Facebook page to show off her vainglorious sally.
Lax military discipline has resulted from the loss of the soul of a soldier Generalissimo Chiang tried to cultivate in officers. But can the public blame them?
Few youngsters want to be career soldiers. Still fewer parents wish their offspring would go to service academies. Time has changed. Shortly after President Chiang reopened the Military Academy in Fengshan in 1950, preschool children sang with zest “So Long as I’m Growing Up (
) a la “I Love Soldiers Very Much” in pre-war militaristic Japan. Taiwan’s children’s song urges his father and elder brothers to go to war without worrying about the family, so long as he is growing up. Many high school graduates went to service academies, then.
The siege mentality made native Taiwanese and newly arrived Chinese mainlanders work hard together to work Taiwan’s economic miracle of the 20th century. Taiwan has become prosperous, and prosperity has made people change what they expect of life, while the communal harmony has been lost in the process. Taiwan is divided. However, practically all of them think life is for them to enjoy. Why should they go to service academies to be trained to defend the country that in all likelihood won’t go to war against the People’s Republic of China? Isn’t President Ma’s China policy “no war across the Taiwan Strait”?
So, don’t be too harsh on military officers for losing their soul of a soldier.