Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Travels From Taipei

Like a lot of military people, Bill Kling was able to visit a number of other countries while stationed in Taiwan. Military flights sometimes have empty seats available to military personnel and many of those assigned to USTDC and elsewhere in Taiwan took advantage of that program.

Here's what Bill had to say:

I was fortunate in that my wife was in Taiwan with me during both of my tours, 73-75 & 77-79 and we used the opportunity to travel to several countries in Asia while I was stationed at USACC Taiwan. I wanted to see other countries, but as all good military people do I was looking for other possible tours and to visit friends I had made in other locations. I should explain that being in the Army and working in communications afforded some good assignments, and since I often talked to my counterparts in Okinawa, Philippines, Korea, Guam, Hawaii, and Thailand traveling around the area is something I had to do.

I was able to use SPACE-A travel from Sung Shan Air Base during my 73-75 tour which saved an awful lot of money. On my first trip we went to Clark Air Base in The Philippines. I had a friend who was assigned to an outfit called DCA-SWP, a tri-service unit, so although I was in the Army it gave me the opportunity to serve on an Air Force base. We went to PI for four days, stayed at my friend’s house, and spent a total $150, which included trinkets and some little gifts.

We had never traveled SPACE-A before, but the guys at Sung Shan taught me how to use the system. The way I remember it worked was you had to be signed out on leave before you could get on the priority list to get a seat on a plane. Since the Air Base was very close to where my headquarters were located, I would go to the Air Base and see what the chances of me getting a flight were before going on leave. If there was a good opportunity, I would go back to the compound sign out on leave and hustle back to the Air Base. On my first trip this saved me quite a few days of leave as there were no flights for me when I wanted to go, but I just came back 4 or 5 days in a row until I could get a flight. As military people do, I made some friends at the Air Base and I helped those guys make telephone calls home to the good old USA. It is amazing how we all learned to help each other.

Without boring you with too many travel stories, one more I would like to share is my solo trip to Saigon in April 1975. As we all know the US evacuated out of Vietnam on April 30, 1975. Well, there were many military people throughout Asia that had Vietnam friends or family in Saigon that wanted to get our before the North Vietnamese took over. Word spread that if you completed documents that would sponsor someone and presented them to the US Embassy in Saigon, the US Military would fly them out to either Guam or PI. I and a friend from Okinawa ended up volunteering to take approximately 50 sponsor packets to Saigon and help get their people out in early April 1975. I got a SPACE-A flight to Okinawa and then we took a commercial flight into Saigon. Of course we never told our commanders where our destination was as they would never allow our leave. Needless to say it was not a smart thing to do, but we were able to get out almost 40 people on that trip that lasted 12 days. We got a flight from Saigon to PI, and then I got a flight back to Taipei and then to Okinawa. It is really satisfying to think our crazy act saved some wonderful people. I am still in contact with many of the military people and families we were able to help.


3 comments:

Dennis said...

Wow Bill, you and your friend are tuely wonderful people for flying into Saigon in Apr 75 to help othrs. Great job. A very brave and bold move. Well done.

Anonymous said...

That's a great story and something to be proud of.

On the subject of Vietnam it's a little known fact that one of Tienmu's more infamous residents was no less than Nguyen Van Thieu. After fleeing Vietnam he lived in an old Japanese house close to the main road not far down from the BOT housing.

I remember the gaurds who sat outside his house although at the time I had no idea who they were 'keeping an eye on'.

Bill said...

Thanks for the nice comments.

I remember President Thieu living right off of Tienmu Road 3, with rumors that he can bricks of gold he smuggled out of his country.

The trip to Vietnam has lead me to have many friends over this 30 years that I still communicate with. It is very interesting that I know those people and their extended families.