A new exhibition has opened in Taipei to mark the 60th anniversary of a historic cross-strait artillery battle, the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1958.
On August 23, 1958, China’s People’s Liberation Army began an intense artillery bombardment of the island of Kinmen, then better known as Quemoy. The island lies a short distance off the coast of mainland China, and had been held by the Nationalist forces of the Republic of China following their retreat to Taiwan in 1949, along with the Matsu islands further to the north.
Over the course of the following month and a half, close to half a million shells fell on Kinmen, with Nationalist forces returning fire. Around 400 Nationalist soldiers were killed, with 460 troops killed on the Chinese side. The Eisenhower administration of the United States responded to Taiwan’s request for aid by sending American naval vessels to protect supply lines to the islands.
Following the initial period of bombardment, the two sides would continue to fire shells at each other containing propaganda materials until 1979. One legacy of the 823 Battle, as it is known in Taiwan, was the formation of a local industry. To this day, Kinmen is famous for producing knives made from the metal of melted-down shell casings.
On August 10, the defense minister, Yen Teh-fa, announced the opening of a new exhibition devoted to the battle at the Republic of China Armed Forces Museum in Taipei. The exhibition, with photographs and artifacts from the bombardment, will run until December 3.