Taipei, The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, on Wednesday hosted a commemorative ceremony to unveil a memorial in its new Neihu compound in Taipei to honor the 126 U.S. service members who lost their lives defending Taiwan since 1949.
The memorial includes medals and two framed certificates of the Republic of China Commemorative Medals of the Operations of Defending Taiwan conferred posthumously to Lt. Col. Alfred Medendorp and Lt. Col. Frank Lynn in February 2016 by former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The medals and certificates will be displayed in the AIT’s lobby to honor all U.S. personnel — past, present and future — who participated or will participate in the U.S.-Taiwan strategic partnership and support Taiwan’s self-defense, said AIT Director Brent Christensen at the ceremony.
U.S.-Taiwan relationships continued following the conclusion of World War II and after the first Taiwan Strait crisis. At its peak, the U.S. military commanded a combined 30,000 service members, Christensen said.
“Many of those troops brought families with them to live in Taiwan and forged some of the people-to-people ties that have long served as the backbone of our partnership,” he added.
“We often forget that U.S. service members were stationed throughout Taiwan, including on Kinmen and Matsu. Their partnership meant training side by side, fighting side by side and sometimes dying side by side.
“During this time, 126 U.S. service members perished while providing assistance and support to Taiwan’s armed forces,” Christensen said.
The unveiling of the memorial came after he attended for the first time an annual ceremony on Aug. 23 that commemorates a battle known as the Artillery Bombardment of Kinmen, in which Taiwan fended off an attempted invasion by China 62 years ago.
On that same day, Christensen, the top U.S. envoy to Taiwan, laid wreaths at monuments at Kinmen’s Shuitou Wharf, which honor Medendorp and Lynn.
They two were killed in combat at Shuitou Wharf during a Chinese artillery bombardment on Sept. 3, 1954 on Kinmen, which triggered the first Taiwan Strait crisis.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense erected a monument at the wharf in 2011 to commemorate Lynn after a cenotaph in honor of Medendorp was installed there in August 1992.
Ma subsequently in February presented posthumously the commemorative medals to the two military officers.
The AIT move has attracted great attention, as people are concerned about U.S. security assurances to Taiwan amid increasing Chinese military activity in the strait.
In addition, Christensen also reiterated his priorities for his tenure as AIT director, which are promoting U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation, promoting U.S.-Taiwan economic and commercial ties, promoting Taiwan’s participation in the international community, and promoting U.S.-Taiwan people-to-people ties.
He said the progress on security cooperation is particularly noteworthy.
“When we discuss our security relationship with Taiwan, we tend to focus on arms sales, but it is the people-to-people ties that are the real foundation of our security relationship.” Christensen said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel