General Order #1 issued by General Douglas Macarthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, established the surrender schedule of Japanese military forces in the Pacific.
President Harry Truman’s War Department was eager to get American soldiers and sailors back home after the fighting stopped but had large numbers of Japanese soldiers to process across the far reaches of the Pacific battlefield.
Formosa, now more commonly called Taiwan, was Japanese territory at war’s end and had been a colony of Japan for a half-century, During the war the United States was the only country to battle the Japanese on the island with aerial bombardment. Under international rules of war the U.S. was the principal occupying power of Formosa as the only combatant nation.
The first Americans to land on Formosa after the Japanese surrender to General Macarthur were special operatives working with the Republic of China secret police. U.S. spy operations on the island predated the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Recognition of American responsibility over occupied Formosa was later ratified into treaty law with the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended World War II between Japan and the Allied Powers.
However, General Order #1 left Japan in control of Formosa until October 25, 1945, when the Japanese would formally surrender to Kuomintang troops of Chiang Kai-shek. The U.S. Navy landed Chiang’s troops on the island ten days before the surrender ceremonies.
The Republic of China was permitted to occupy Formosa despite American concerns about ROC corruption under Chiang’s despotic rule. Sovereignty of the island was left undetermined even though the ROC was permitted to control day-to-day life in Taiwan.
When early reports of harsh treatment of islanders by the Chinese reached Washington, D.C. they were ignored in favor of supporting the ROC which was waging a losing civil war with the Chinese Communists for control of China.
America’s hands-off policy emboldened Chiang Kai-shek and his occupation forces. Because of Formosa’s half-century status as a Japanese colony the official language of the island was Japanese. China had suffered at the hands of the Japanese during World War II and the Kuomintang regime left in control of the island by the Americans treated the Taiwanese or Formosans harshly.
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