Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Formosa Liaison Center

I've been corresponding with Tom Kirkland, retired Air Force tech sergeant, who was in Taipei during 1955-56.  He talked about the "Formosa Liaison Center," which sent me off in search of that unit.  I'm learning quite a lot and will be writing a piece later this week based on some declassified documents I've come across today.

Also, I'm adding RADM Fenno to the list of USTDC Commanders because he commanded the Formosa Liaison, which became the Formosa Defense Command for a few months before being renamed the US Taiwan Defense Command.  I'll go into more detail on that in my next article.

Here's what Tom had to say:

I was assigned to the Formosa Liaison Center/US Taiwan Defense Command from Sept. 1955 to Dec. 1956 as a crypto operator with the Communications watch.  Admiral Fenno was commander until Vice Adm Stuart H. Ingersoll took over in late 1955.  I was detached from the Air Task Force 13th Provisional (FEAF) and BGen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the commander.  Once while I was hitch hiking, General Davis  graciously stopped his command vehicle and gave me a lift up to Grass Mountain on his way to his quarters. We conversed about island life and our assignments. I was highly impressed by this extremely knowledgeable leader, and would have enjoyed serving with him. As a 19 year old recruit freshly out of basic/tech school why wouldn't I have been? Little did I know of his WWII ventures.
We had a hostel on top of Grass Mountain (Yangming Shan) which belonged to President Chiang Kai-Shek and was guarded by the Chinese Army. It consisted of a dining hall, and dormitories (open bays) -- not much privacy.
Our supplies came in at Keelung harbor on the USS General Howard. Air Force uniforms were scarce, so we combined US Navy/AF on occasion. We only had a few places we could go during those days:  Club 63, MAAG, Friends of China club, USIS, US Embassy, Lin Kou Air Station, Taipei Air Station, and some limited areas were open to US personnel. I was lucky that I spoke some Mandarin and had a Chinese driver, so I was designated as a courier when messages/mail had to be taken to other units.  Beitou, Sun Moon lake, and some areas of downtown Taipei were often off limits.

We had several typhoons hit the island during my stay, and we would have to strap ourselves to trees outside to crank up generators. We were located by the river, on Chung Shan North Road, just down from the bridge leading to the Grand Hotel.
 I also lived with my girlfriend and family across from the Confucius temple located behind the Taipei zoo. We often visited the temple to observe ceremonies. Chiang Kai-Shek's son used our apartment to take a photo of the temple. He presented me with a copy which he signed.
Since my assignment on Taiwan, I went on to duty in SAC Headquarters, Nebraska; Chelveston England; Patrick AFB (Cape Canaveral) Florida; Wake Island; Anderson AFB, Guam; Scott AFB IL;  Homestead AFB, FL; Udorn Thailand (Laotian territory) and the Presidential Support Mission, Key Biscayne White House, retiring in 1974 at Homestead AFB, FL.  I thoroughly enjoyed my career in the military, having met and served with many famous people, but my duty on Formosa/Taiwan was probably the best!

1 comment:

titojohn said...

RADM Fenno was a much decorated WWII hero. He was the Commanding Officer of a submarine.