Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In The Beginning . . .

I was recently contacted by retired Marine Colonel Darrell Davidson, who was one of the first to arrive in Taiwan for assignment to USTDC.  Until now, I've had almost no record of those early days when the command was first established.  Colonel Davidson was kind enough to allow me to post some of his comments here:

I thought you might be interested in what I might contribute to those who share a USTDC heritage from one of the "plank owners."  I believe that a Navy CPO Schremsher and I, a Marine 1st Lt, both recent graduates of the U.S. Naval Photo Interpretation Center were the first two to arrive on the scene on April 1 or 2, 1955.  My orders were classified "Confidential" and directed me to report to the Formosa Liaison Center for duty with the U. S. Taiwan Defense Command.  Neither the Chief nor I had a clue as to where to find the FLC, but somehow we ended up in a hostel that housed a number of U.S. military people, both officer and enlisted.

After a day or two of nosing around, I learned that there was a Marine colonel who was the G-2 on the MAAG staff so I went to the MND where he had his office to see if he could point us in the right direction.  Fortunately, he was tuned in and told us that a Navy captain was enroute who was to be the J-2 and instructed us on how to rendezvous with him, which we did.  We were the cadre of the working party that took over what became the TDC building as Western Enterprises, the CIA cover organization, moved out to new digs and a new identity as the Naval Auxiliary Communications Center.


As more TDC people arrived, I moved to a new western style house on Chien Kuo Pei Lu that had been rented by a Maj Haggerty, USMC.  Capt Al Wilson, USMC, and Lt. Harvey Decker, USN also stayed there until Haggerty's wife arrived.  Then, I rented a new house on the same street where my wife and daughter joined me in August '55.  All of the aforementioned were J-2 types also.  We were joined on CKPL by the Schremshers, and by fellow J-2 officers Ltjg Jed Hazel and Ltjg Ed Moser and their families.  This string of houses was just a couple blocks -- easy walking distance -- from the Taipei American School where my wife later taught.

I can't for the life of me remember how we got to and from our quarters to TDC.  I recall that while at the hostel we were picked up by sedans with Chinese army drivers.  I am inclined to think that practice continued, for there was scant parking space at TDC for our private vehicles that came with our dependents.  Also, although pedicabs were the primary mode of getting around Taipei, I can't remember taking them to TDC.  Amazing what time does to memory -- very selective!!

Semper Fidelis,
Darrell Davidson
I sent COL Davidson a photo of Hostel #1 on Grass Mountain and asked if that's where he was initially quartered and he replied that it was not.  He said that they were somewhere close to the airport.

I'm really looking forward to reading more of COL Davidson's recollections in the future.

1 comment:

Nicholas Clifford said...

Interesting, and the photo brought back all sorts of memories (on a trip to Taiwan in 1984, I found the old TDC site largely occupied by a new museum of modern art).
If not quite a plank owner, I arrived at TDC (or the Formosa Liaison Center as it was then known) in the spring of 1955, after spending 18 months aboard USS Salisbury Sound (AV-13), the flagship of the Formosa Patrol Force (TF72) as intelligence officer. Our boss at TDC was Captain Fabian USN, (first name vanished from memory), and there were an interesting bunch of people there, though the only one of those mentioned above that I remember was Harvey Decker, who had been born to missionary parents in Amoy (Xiamen), and thus had some knowledge of the Fujianese dialect.
I spent a year at TDC, leaving in April 1956 for the Treasure Island Naval base where the Navy went through discharge procedures for such as I. In 1970-71 I returned to Taibei with my family for a sabbatical year, and I worked on improving my never very good Chinese. TDC was still going strong, but though one of our neighbors outside Taibei was a USN commander there, he never invited me in for a look around!
One of my pleasantest memories of Taibei in 1955-56 was falling in with the daughter of an Air Force Colonel, who allowed me to drive her around the city in her green MG.