Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Walking Around Taipei

I mentioned in my last post that Kent (Taipei Air Station) is thinking about coordinating another visit to Taiwan for Taiwan veterans during November 2011.

I just discovered that he has also made a series of short videos as he walked around Taipei earlier this month.  He explores parts of town that were familiar to many of us from back in the day. The videos are on YouTube and can be found at THIS LINK.

Enjoy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Returning to Taiwan

I recently learned that my good friend Kent (Taipei Air Station website and blog owner), is considering another group excursion to Taiwan, probably during November 2011.  It will be an opportunity for former military types who served there over the years to once again experience the sights and sounds of Taipei and other locations.  He helped assemble a similar trip last year and this one promises to cover a lot more territory.

If you think you might be interested, contact Kent directly at:  taipeiairstation@yahoo.com.


For more details, here's the link to the trip announcement.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Historical Images

Marc and David have assembled more than 3200 historical photographs and postcards at taipics.com.  There is a wide variety of subjects and the site is nicely indexed for easy browsing.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Larry Fields Memories

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a platform for others to talk about their assignments in Taiwan.  I recently heard from Larry Fields, who was with US Army Stratcom Taiwan from 1977 to 1979.  Though he wasn't assigned to USTDC, many of his memories are familiar to those of us who were.
We arrived in Taiwan on 12/09/1977 and I was one of the last USAStratcom members to be assigned to the island (maybe even the last one).  We stayed in a guest house located outside the back gate of the West Compound.  It was a nice enough place but I was glad to get into a house.
We moved into our house on Super Bowl Sunday (Monday in Taiwan) when the Broncos played Dallas and lost 27-10.  I had a small radio that I unpacked first thing so I could listen to the game while we unpacked (I was a Denver fan, and I ended up living here in Denver for the last 28 years).
We lived in Tien Mou , originally in the old BOT housing that was off of the circle at the end of Chungshan Bei Lu.  I’ve seen some pictures of an older house called the “White House” in Tien Mou and that may be the house I lived in.  It was in that area across the street from an orphanage.  We lived there for about 6 months then moved to the newer BOT housing that was down by the movie theater and ball fields, where the new Taipei American School is now.
We went through one major typhoon while we were there.  I had to drive up to work, stayed for about 30 minutes, then they told us to go home.  I had to give another member a ride down to the compound, and on my way home a lot of the streets were flooded so it took me a while to wind my way around the streets.
We also had earthquakes, one that did a lot of damage.  If I remember right, it killed six or seven people.  A new building being constructed by my house caught fire and was burned pretty badly. I don’t remember if it collapsed or not. Earthquakes were a way of life there as we all know.
We had a couple of Amahs; I still have pictures of them, but over the years we lost contact with them.
Like a lot of others I stocked up on teakwood furniture (some that I still have), some
rattan furniture, lots of fishbone carvings (still have those too), some marble pieces, and some pottery from Kinmen (which I think you could only get at certain times from one place in Tien Mou).  The fishbone we got from a Chinese guy who was mute, but would deal with you by writing everything down on a tablet.  He rode around on his motorcycle and would stop by the house about once a month.
My favorite place to eat was the old Tien Mou BBQ.  We also used to eat at a BBQ place across from the China Seas club, but after one of the floods the food started tasting bad so we quit going there.
We did spend a lot of time at the China seas, where my wife dealt with a lot of the locals exchanging money and stuff for the slot room. Caught a couple of good shows there, but mostly hung out and played pool, watched TV or played the slots.
There wasn't much TV:  Donnie and Marie show, Starsky and Hutch and Baa Baa Black Sheep (played on Thursday nights and I never missed an episode).  There was a movie in English on Saturdays and I think two on Sundays, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. We also started watching a reality type show from New Zealand and a Chinese talent show (that we actually started understanding).
Chop men would stop by the house every Saturday. We had my oldest son trained to
Say “Nothing to chop.”  I sold a nice refrigerator, some stereo gear, and miscellaneous stuff to the chop men before we left.
I worked at US Army Stratcom.  I worked shifts for a while then got assigned to quality control team.  I flew to a missile site down-island where we climbed up on the MW tower and could see the mainland.   We got fogged in and had to drive back -- 45 minute flight up, 11 hour drive back. We did get to see a lot of the island.
I made a trip to CCK Air Base to do QC testing and got to spend three or four days there. Dave Wyandt and I went down.  We had a great time, since work only lasted three or four hours a day and the rest was play time.
I did a little work in downtown Taipei (where the main switch was) and at Seven Star Mountain. I was supposed to go out to one of the islands, where at one time there was a communications site.  As they were making the arrangements for me, there was a shelling of the island and everything was destroyed so I ended up not going (which was a good thing).
I also got trained as a customs agent, and when someone would leave the island I’d go out and inspect the outbound shipment.  I think I did this four or five times.
I attended the University of Maryland Taipei campus.  I became friends with some local Chinese
students who attended classes, one of whom eventually married Chiang Hsiao-wu, Chaing Kai-sheks grandson.  I still have some of the grade slips and some of the Instructors' names. One of the instructors was Ellen Klossen whose husband at the time worked at the American Consulate.   In the last few years I’ve been able to get in touch with a couple of them, thanks to the internet.

I played softball  on the Grass Mountain team for one of the seasons then got to play on the TDC team.  I didn’t play much; mostly coached first base.  After the Carter announcement, we regularly had softball games against the Chinese unit stationed at the compound. We shared gloves and bats and had a very good time with all of them. They were very professional in every way.

I golfed at Peitou.  The course was across from a military base and once in awhile they would
fire off  a cannon. There was also one hole that you hit across a wide ravine.  The first time I played it I thought I hit a good shot but it went about halfway over then straight down.  I didn’t try to find my ball.  You couldn’t go out of bounds either because of snakes etc.   The last hole had a big rock in the middle so you had to go to one side or the other.  I think I bounced a few shots off of that rock.

I drove a 1978 Ford LTD, which I bought for $8,000 and sold for $11,500.   I never did any maintenance on the vehicle and wore the tires down to nothing before I sold it.  Driving was quite an experience but once you got used to it, it was easy.   I remember the lights turning from green to amber to red and if you were going the other direction, it was all about who could beat whom through the intersection.
I had one accident while I was there.  Coming home from the China Seas, I rear-ended a guy -- $2500 damage to my car but not much to his.  I didn’t get into too much trouble.  By the time the FAP’s got there (it was a cool night) I was sober ( I think).   Dealing with the insurance company was an experience.  I remember having to take my car to a repair shop on a little back street that was barely wide enough for the car. They did a good job on it though.  What was the insurance guy's name?  Jimmie something, I think.   Oh yeah, still have my Chinese drivers license.

One of my sons was born at the Chinese Naval Hospital in Tien Mou (Sept 1978).  It was a real experience since none of the doctors or nurses spoke English.  On the night he was born, I was waiting in the hospital and saw a young nurse come to the door and look at me three or four times but she never came out.  After about 5 hours, the Chinese interpreter assigned to US personnel came out and congratulated me on my new son.  My response was, “Huh?”  The young nurse was supposed to have come out to inform me but her English was poor and she didn’t want to embarrass herself.   When I went to see my son for the first time, I had to walk outside of the room that was round, with all of the newborns inside.  Since I didn’t speak Chinese I had no  clue what to do, so I just started walking.   All of a sudden one of the nurses came running up to the window and instructed me to go back.  My son was the only non-Chinese baby and she recognized that. My wife didn’t like staying in the hospital because she didn’t understand the language and all they served was Chinese food.
I had to get my son's birth recorded so I got all of the paperwork from the hospital, got it translated, and took it to the consulate.  I don’t remember how long it took, but I had to go back down to the consulate after the Carter announcement, and there were long, long lines of Chinese.  I managed to work my way to the front where one of the Marines saw me and let me move to the head of the line.

After Jimmy Carter's announcement, we stopped driving our cars and took a van to work every day to be safe, but still had rocks and other things thrown at the van.  I heard a noise one night at my house and thought someone was breaking in.  I got up to check it out and there were six or seven police officers sitting on the bumper of my car in my carport.  Eventually the Chinese army moved a company of soldiers into the area and we had no problems from then on. There were a couple of stabbings and one or two servicemen were assaulted during this time frame but for the most part the Chinese were pretty decent to us.
Near the end, the post office stopped processing any shipments being made by personnel that weren’t stationed in Taiwan (Lots of folks would come from the Philippines and  elsewhere to buy stuff to ship back).  My wife became friends with a couple of them, so I would stand in line and ship their stuff for them (and sometimes it was a lot of stuff).  Then they would send us stuff from the Phillipines (or Okinawa or Japan).   We ended up with some nice stuff from those places.
I came back with a bunch of pirated record albums that I got from the record store across the intersection from the Roma hotel.   We would buy them cheap and record them on tape because they only lasted three or four plays on the turntable.

We departed 3/21/1979 and were on the next-to-last plane to leave. Our Amahs rode out to the airport with us.  There were lots of tears, knowing that we probably wouldn’t ever see them again.  It was pretty rough leaving, more so for my oldest son, who was four years old when we left.