Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Saturday, May 24, 2008

First Impressions of Taiwan

I received a nice note from Stev Pitchford a few days ago. He described his first few days as a young sailor in Taipei. I think that most of us can relate to many of the things he describes here.

Here's Stev's account:

TDC was my first real duty station. Before that, it was boot camp and schools. It was probably late July, 1959, when I finished Photo School in Pensacola. I had one or two weeks leave at home, then went to Treasure Island in San Francisco to wait for a flight from Travis AFB to Taipei. No one I had talked to in Pensacola knew where TDC was, let alone what it was. Before I left, I did learn that Taiwan and Formosa were the same place, so I had a general idea of where I was going.

After a few days at Treasure Island, I took a bus to Travis AFB to start my journey to Taipei. While waiting at Travis for my MATS flight, I was fascinated watching B-52s take off and land. The MATS flight was a Lockheed Super G Constellation and the passenger seats faced to the rear. We had layovers at Hickam Field in HI, Wake Island, and Guam. I remember standing on the beach at Guam looking out at the horizon and the water was just as deep blue at the horizon as it was at my feet.

I think it was sometime the second day after we left Travis AFB that I got off the plane and spent the night in a barracks at Clark AFB in the Philippines. The next day, it was on to another plane for the trip to Taipei. Taiwan has mountains over 13,000 feet high and as we flew up the western coast of the island, you could look out and see some of those peaks almost at eye level. You could also look down and see batteries of Nike missiles pointing up from the hillsides.

Landing in Taipei, I saw both water buffaloes and anti-aircraft guns in the fields by the runway.

From the airport, I went to the photo lab at TDC fully expecting to find a typical military base where all my needs would be taken care of - barracks, mess hall, and so forth. The Chief asked me where I wanted to spend the night. It was then I learned that I was responsible for my own housing and getting myself fed. I was an 18 year old kid halfway around the world from home with $14 in my pocket.

The Chief took me to one of the downtown hostels for the night and said we'd make more permanent arrangements the next day. The next morning, he took me to Hostel #1 on Grass Mountain and got me settled in. Fortunately, the hostel only billed me once a month, so I was able to stay warm and fed till payday.

We were back at the photo lab by noon and the guys decided to welcome me to Taipei by taking me to a Mongolian barbecue. Several of them had motor scooters, so we all hopped on and rode across town to a riverbank shed with a wok. I'm not sure what the cook threw on the wok, but it tasted good and didn't kill any of us.

By the end of the day, I had pretty well adjusted to life in Taiwan and had a great year there.

3 comments:

KL said...

Very warm to read about your first visit to Taiwan as an 18-yr. old young man. We were all very sad & disappointed to watch Nixon & others giving up Taiwan for Communist China[PRC] since 1972 and creating the biased One China policy.

You are at your prime time in life now, please do everything you can to have Washington to redefine that outdated One China policy as follows for us:

INDEED THERE IS ONLY ONE CHINA ON EARTH WHICH SHOULD CONSIST OF PRC[if not vanish as USSR did someday], TAIWAN, TIBET & MANY OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS INSIDE CHINA.

PRC represents CCP only & not the entire China.

Thank you & pass this idea around please.

Anonymous said...

FIRST TIME I HAVE SEEN GRASS MOUNTAIN MENTIONED. I WAS IN AIR FORCE AND LIVED ON GREASS MOUNTAIN AND WORKED AT MAAG HEADQUARTERS IN TAIPEI THIS WAS 1958 till1959

Jesse said...

If I were born a bit earlier, maybe I could show you around Taiwan when you first stepped this land.