Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Nanyang Transport Volunteers Monument a lonely and seldom-visited relic in Air Hitam

[Pixs copyright Ewe Paik Leong]

Every month, thousands of visitors pass the Nanyang Transport Volunteers Monument in Air Hitam while on their way to Kek Lok Si Temple, to go up Penang Hill, to eat assam laksa and to buy heoh piah and tau sar piah. Yet few visitors stop to look at the monument. Sad. The patriotism of these volunteers to the Motherland has been forgotten.

From February to August 1939, during the Second Sino-Japanese war, a total of more than 3,200 Chinese, including a Sikh (named Dara Singh) and a few Malays, left Malaya for China to offer their services as truck drivers and mechanics. They drove army trucks to ferry military supplies from Lashio in Burma to Kunming in Yunnan Province as China's seaports had been blockaded by the Japanese navy. The dangerous route, called Burma Road, was 1,150 kilometres long, and was often strafed by Japanese fighter planes. More than half of the volunteers died in the course of duty, many remained in Yunnan after the war, few came back.

Li Yumei was the most famous female volunteer from Penang and was given the moniker "Hua Mu Lan." However, fate was cruel to her. After the war, the new Communist government persecuted her for being a Kuomintang supporter. Unable to put up with the continual harassment from the new government, she committed suicide.

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