13 July 1986
G.H.Kerr’s Wartime and Postwar Association with the U.S. Military
It has sometimes been suggested that I served as a “spy” in pre-war
Taiwan. because of my later wartime employment as a [unintelligible] “Formosa Specialist” at Washington during World War II.
I was never that. After living and teaching in Taiwan from 1937 to 1940,
I returned to the United States to study Japanese History under Sir George Sansom, at Columbia University in New York. and was there on December 7, 1941.
Few Americans had lived for any length of time on Formosa (as tea merchants, missionaries and consular officers) and very few had travelled about the
island as extensively as I had done. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Washington
began to search for informants. I was at once offered a position in the Military Intelligence Division, G.H.Q. and there was given the “Formosa Desk” in the
Japan-Manchuria Branch. Eventually I prepared the non-military portions of
the Strategic Survey of Taiwan (Formosa). It was my duty to assemble all
possibly useful information concerning the Island.
When Admiral Nimitze [sic] proposed to drive across the Pacific, take Taiwan and occupy the Fukien coastal region, cu[tt]ing off Japan’s lines of supply and communication to the southern front, I was commissioned in the U.S. Naval Reserve
and directed to set up a “Formosa Research Unit” in the U.S. Naval School for
Military Government and Administration (at Columbia University). There we
prepared, and the Navy published some ten Handbooks for the Island
of Taiwan (Formosa). When the “Nimitz Plan” was abandoned in October, 1944,
the Formosa Research Unit was disbanded. After a brief interval with the
Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI, Washington), I was sent to the American
Embassy in Chunking, China, as an Assistant Naval Attaché, and in October, 1945,
went to Taiwan as a member of an American Military Advisory Group to witness the formal surrender of Japanese forces on Taiwan and the Nationalist Chinese
assumption of authority in the island.
These papers are a small small sampling of the materials used in the Naval School
for Military Government.