Back in December, Les Halfhill described his experiences in the aftermath of Carter's announcement and today Barbara Auch shares her account of those events. By the way, Carter made his announcement while congress was out of town, on a Friday (in the States), ten days before Christmas. If he thought no one would notice, read this account:
As I recall, the day that Jimmy Carter made the announcement was either a Friday or Saturday. Either way, I remember that it was the beginning of the weekend because that fact alone hindered information getting out to our personnel and their dependents -- information that I felt would have kept many of our people out of harms way had they known beforehand about Carter’s intentions. Our military personnel found out the same way the locals did: AFRTS radio! It caught everyone off guard.
I was working in the comm center when it happened and we were notified that we shouldn’t expect our relief watch to show up because there were 10,000 demonstrators outside the gate and the base was “locked down”. We were told that rioters were throwing balloons full of paint over the entrance gate and that things might get ugly. Off base was a different story. It did get ugly.
[At this point, Barbara refers back to the PACOM document that I posted several months ago]
The article said: “Some of these demonstrations resulted in minor personnel injury and property damage, but nothing serious.” I can tell you that there was LOTS of property damage at the EM (enlisted men’s) club. The rioters showed up there and cars were destroyed, flipped, smashed, or burned. There were only three cars that remained undamaged. One Chief Petty Officer tried to make a run for it and ended up with a spear in his side!
The on-scene Taiwanese Chief of Police was telling all the locals to leave the club. When a few of the local women there responded that their (American) husbands were also inside the club, the Chief of Police said, “if you want to stay in there with the Americans, then you can die with the Americans.”
Elsewhere, there was a group of dependents trapped inside the movie theater. Also, I had a friend who worked at Personnel or PAO (can't remember which or even remember her name now) but her husband was walking down the street when the violence broke out and he got knifed in the back, which punctured his lung! He ended up leaving the island via ship instead of a plane because of his injury (cabin pressure in the plane could have killed him).
After the rioting calmed down, my husband (also a CTO) and I had already pulled a double shift, (standing watch for 24-plus hours) before a relief watch made it in. I believe that was made possible (although I don’t know for sure) through the efforts of Adm Linder, who sent his car AND driver to take us to our home in TienMou! I remember the trip on our way home. There were protest signs and banners all up and down Chung Shan Blvd. There was one in particular that sticks in my mind. It was a really big long banner near the University. It was a picture of an eagle and a long dotted trail leading to a chicken with a caption that read, "See Americans turn chicken".
Afterwards, Jimmy Carter decided to send an entourage from CINCPAC to "smooth things over" with the locals. Admiral Weisner and his right hand and left hand men had arrived on the island and were met by 100,000 demonstrators at the airport. Their car was destroyed by demonstrators and Weisner’s right hand man had been hit in the back of the head with a tire iron (after it went through the glass of the car).
They abandoned their demolished car and arrived at the base in a Yoolung cab. When I arrived at work for my shift that day in the comm center, I was given a blow-by-blow account of how Adm Weisner showed up covered in eggs and various vegetable & fruit matter. But that was not nearly as shocking as the words that came out of his mouth. He asked our people “Why are they (the locals) so angry?”
Unbelievable! This admiral didn’t have a clue about the history of how the ChiComs forced so many people to flee from the mainland to , or the deeply held belief on Taiwan that “Someday, we will take back the motherland."
In the days following the , many people were concerned that they would have to make a hasty departure from the island, leaving all their worldly possessions behind. That was a very real prospect at the time, but things cooled down rather quickly. The following weeks were incredible because things were moving so quickly. I think there were something like 100 families per week having their household goods packed up and leaving the island. It was quite a strain trying to pack out that many households per week. Things were closing down very quickly and near the end of my tour, you couldn’t even get anything to eat over at that cafeteria near the Exchange.