Forgotten Taiwanese Veteran’s Memory of Compulsory Service

December, 2020

This article presents an account of a veteran, exploring memory, identity, trauma and the experiences of one veteran within the context of Taiwanese compulsory military service.


Having withdrawn in utter defeat in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek militarized the island of Taiwan with the express purpose of retaking China. Compulsory military service of every able-bodied man, except Chiang’s grandsons and those of the elite ruling class, had been implemented soon after. Averaging two to three years, such military service was either hailed as turning boys into men or scorned as a total waste of the best years of one’s life. This rite of passage generation after generation symptomized Taiwan’s repetition compulsion in the wake of Chiang’s primary wound of having lost China or of Chiang as the primary wound, an abscess of obsession over recovering the mainland. Chiang embodies calcified homesickness over what one had, blind to what one has. A shared civic duty, compulsory service culminated the K-12 military-style education, particularly weekly classes of military drills that closed with the annual or biannual bang of target practice with World War II Mauser-style rifles that required a hard pull after each shot. Because of universal conscription, military service in Taiwan was such a collective experience among males that being a veteran was taken for granted. Only those who were not became subjects of interest and suspicion. The veteran status was barely acknowledged in Taiwan other than part of manhood in enduring and outgrowing life’s discomfort.

Full Reference

Ma, Sheng-mei. (2020). Forgotten Taiwanese Veteran’s Memory of Compulsory Service. Journal of Veterans Studies, 6(3), 23–29. DOI:

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