Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ground Surveys from Grass Mountain -- 1958

I was recently contacted by retired Air Force Major John J. Molitaris, Jr.  John was part of a ground survey team at the top of Grass Mountain in 1958.  Here's his account of that deployment:
My experience on Grass Mountain occurred as a member of the 1370 Photo Mapping Group, home based at Palm Beach AFB, Florida.  The basic mission was to upgrade previous ground surveys conducted with tripods and sextants.
The group consisted of four (4) squadrons: (1) 1371 Sqdn – RB-50 (4-engine bomber) Operations, (2) 1372 Sqdn – Logistics Support, (3) 1373 Sqdn – Data Analysis, and (4) 1374 Sqdn – Radar Ground Stations.  I was a member of the 1374th which deployed remote ground station teams consisting an E-5/E-6 Electronic Tech Chief (3073), E-3/E-4 Electronic Tech Deputy Chief (3053), E3 thru E-5 Ground Radio Operator, and an E-3 thru E-5 Ground Power Operator/Maintenance man.  Each team member was cross trained in the other disciplines to maintain operational status in the event of illness or medical evacuation.  Survey missions involved two ground stations with a RB-50 flying between them at several altitudes.  Surveys were accomplished with the Short Range Navigation (SHORAN) radar.  Site deployments usually lasted three to six months.  I was the E-4 Electronic Tech when I deployed to the Grass Mountain site in March 1958 for three months.

Grusome-11 was housed in the wooden Formosa Government fire watcher hut located on top of Grass Mountain.  The site required portable AC/DC power generators, UHF/HF radio sets, 55 gallon barrels of drinkable water and aviation gasoline, 5 in 1 field rations and folding cots.  The only road ran beyond the Grass Mountain Hostel to an elevation of 2,500 feet (approximate).  Laborers were paid to sling all the site items on bamboo poles another 2,500 feet up a narrow trail.  The fifty (50) foot Receive/Transmit antenna mast was quite visible on clear days.

Our contingent was certainly a curiosity to the local citizens and especially the university students who hiked up to the site often.  We were able to exchange cultural facts about US and Formosa because the students spoke English reasonably well.  I still remember going outside in the mornings to see we were above the clouds and listening to the Formosa Army artillery practice echoing through the mountain ranges.

I remember the Grass Mountain Hostel well.  It was the great R & R escape from a cold hut, 5 in 1 rations, AND bathing in a dish washing tub with the cold wind blowing in around the windows.  5 in 1 rations beat out C-rations but couldn’t touch the filet mignon with eggs breakfast at the Hostel.  Those dual temperature hot sulfer tubs were the greatest once you learned how to use them.  It was embarrassing the first time when I stayed too long and my 195 pounds had to be rescued by 2-3 staff.  The only downside occurred when I and my Argus camera wandered down the road towards the mountain residence of Chiang Kai-shek.  The sudden appearance of an air-cooled 30 caliber machine gun was a heart stopper.  Grass Mountain was one of the top deployments of my enlisted service.

Unfortunately the slides I took on Grass Mountain were misplaced or lost.
John J. Molitaris, Jr.
Major, USAF (Ret.)   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great memories. My father, CWO3 David Jackson "Jack" Thornton werved at TDC from June 1958-June 1960. We lived in Taipei for the first 8 months, then got a house in TienMou. My sister and I were 9and 10. My mother used to take us to the MAAG Compound for lunch once a week. We went to school in TienMou. We spent lots of time at Grass Mountain and Sun/Moon Lake. CWO4 Thornton retired with 21 Years in 1961, was murdered November 12, 1983 and is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA.