Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pete and the Taipei Journey

One of the characters that I wrote about earlier was Pete, an Army Sergeant (Sergeant First Class, I think) who worked in USTDC's J-2 (Intel) branch with Larry, an Air Force Master Sergeant. Pete and his family had been in Taipei for quite a long time and lived in a predominately Chinese neighborhood. I believe that his kids attended the local schools, rather than Taipei American School, where most American kids studied. I remember that his youngest daughter spoke mostly Chinese, much to her mom's dismay sometimes.

I mentioned in the earlier post that Pete had a rather interesting part-time job. He was a buyer for the PACEX catalog, which was the mail order catalog of the military exchange system for the Pacific region -- a sort of Sears catalog for military people. It contained a lot of items that were unique to the Far East and Pete knew a lot of manufacturers and wholesalers in Taiwan.

One Saturday morning he invited me to ride with him as he made some stops around the city. I think that was my first experience as a passenger in anything but a Taxi in Taipei and I remember that Pete drove like a local -- like a pretty aggressive local actually. But I'm sure that he scared me a whole lot more than any of the other drivers, who apparently attended the same driving school that Pete did. Somewhere in Taiwan today there may be an old rusted shell of a Volkswagen bus that still has my fingerprints pressed into the dash.

As we went from place to place, I had the opportunity to see some of the behind the scenes stuff in the city. For example, we visited a facility that produced oil paintings on canvas. None of the artists were working that Saturday, but there were stacks of completed canvases. As I looked through some of them, I saw that the images in each stack were all basically the same. Each artist apparently worked on just one image, over and over again. To this day, every time I see an ad for a "starving artists" sale somewhere, I remember that day in Taipei.

Another stop was at the Adidas shoe company. We were ushered into a large office with deep carpets and paneled walls, where we were warmly greeted by an executive type who obviously knew Pete very well. They conducted a little business and as we were getting ready to leave, the exec turned to me and asked if I'd like to have a pair of their shoes as a souvenir of my visit. Of course I said yes and he walked over to one wall and pressed on the paneling, which rotated to reveal racks of all the models of shoes that they manufactured there. He worked his way around the room, opening each section, and then told me to pick out something I liked. I picked out a pair of running shoes, told him my size, and he dispatched his assistant to retrieve a pair. They probably weren't much by today's standards, but they were my very first pair of Adidas and I wore them until they were threadbare.

Pete was eventually reassigned to a remote location in Korea sometime in 1974 and his family stayed in Taipei while he was gone. I don't know if he was able to get assigned back to Taiwan after his Korean tour, but I'm sure that he probably tried.

I held a number of part-time jobs during my military career, but never one as interesting as Pete's. Like many of the people I knew in Taipei, I've often wondered whatever happened to him.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Night of the Wrecked Mustang

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Kent Mathieu, who owns the Taipei Air Station website. He recently offered to pass along the story of how he wrecked his 1965 Mustang on the road to Beitou and I'm delighted to include it here.

I think it was in late spring of 1966 when a team from Clark Air Base flew into Taipei to inspect our Communications Squadron Personnel Office at Taipei Air Station.

We wanted to be good hosts, of course; that was part of the game. Normally someone was appointed to "take care" of the folks who were inspecting each office. I was single at the time and so was “volunteered” to host the two inspectors who were visiting our Personnel and Admin shop.

All of Inspection Team's folks were housed downtown, probably at the Ambassador or one of the other hotels on Chung Shan North Road, because there were no visitor lodging facilities at Taipei Air Station.

After our two inspectors finished their work each day – usually after a long lunch somewhere -- they headed to their hotel to rest and refresh. Most of team probably had dinner at one of the military clubs downtown and then dispersed for other recreation, the bar, the movie theater or whatever.

After the second day of the inspection, I arranged to meet up with the team at Club 63 for dinner. We ate, swapped stories for a while at the bar and then jumped in my car to visit a couple of clubs in the area -- those places we all remember down Chung Shan N. Road from the Linkou Club and Navy Exchange.

After a couple of hours of bar-hopping, I suggested we visit one of the hot springs hotels in Beitou. We discussed all possibilities of what we could do after a hot tub soak and everyone was anxious to get to Peitou.

It was drizzling as we made our way up the narrow two-lane asphalt road toward the village in my 1965, three-speed Mustang that night. About halfway to Beitou, I came upon a taxi that had stopped right on the road in front of me. This was 1966 and there were very few civilian automobiles on the road. I read in some publication recently that many Taiwan taxi drivers believed they were exempt from observing traffic laws. Most were ex-pedicab owners, who made u-turns anyplace, would drive on a sidewalk to get a fare, constantly honked their horns, and who believed that turning on their headlights caused their engines to burn more fuel. I thought of them as kamikaze drivers, living without fear or care. Who could ever forget those white knuckle rides in the back seat of a red taxi?

Anyway, I slowed down and pulled left to pass the taxi, probably shifting down to second gear to do it. In the 1960s, the asphalt type roads were constructed without the use of machines. They were built by a team of men and the surface was heavy with tar and sand. As I passed the taxi, my wheels hit a very slippery spot in the pavement. The Mustang began to slide. I tried to brake and turn the wheel; everything I did to regain control of the vehicle was useless. The car was out of control as it moved down the road. We did a slow 60 degree turn sliding along the left side of the road and onto a small dirt area, straight into a solid, heavy duty rock wall.

The whole thing happened in a few short seconds, but to me it was in slow motion. My passengers, one in the front and another in the back had consumed too many adult beverages to react to the slide, or grab something to hold onto before the impact. The collision mashed in the driver's side of the hood, front fender, grill, etc. My car was a mess. The two Inspectors had minor injuries, mostly a lot of small cuts. The inspector riding in the front seat plowed his head into the windshield. He looked terrible the next day, but there were no serious injuries to any of us.

I was both embarrassed and frightened, as these were the Inspectors from Clark Air Base and now they were busted up and I was the cause of all their aches and pains. Today as I look back on the situation, I suspect they were as embarrassed as me. Nothing official came of the incident, but I am sure the wreck story has been told numerous times by both of the inspectors throughout their lives.

I called the Navy Exchange Garage from someone's house close to the accident. The garage offered 24 hour towing service and they came out immediately and hauled my Mustang back to the HSA West Compound, NEX Garage and Gas station.

The next day, Taiwan Fire and Marine Insurance Company came and hauled my car to a repair shop close to Club 63, just next door toward the Grand Hotel. (During my visit to the area in 2006, I found the property where the garage once sat, today is a beautiful park.) The Navy Exchange garage helped me order new parts from Ford Motor Company and everything was completely paid for by the Insurance Company.

It took the repair shop 6 weeks to get the bumper, grill and other parts shipped in. The hood and fender were pounded, welded and layers of thick Bondo were applied. The paint job came out only so-so, but I was not too concerned; I had already sold the car and had another two-plus years to drive it before I turned it over to the new owner.

What I remember most about the accident were the workers in the repair shop. Most of them were very young boys; not more than seven or eight years old, with a few older boys in their teens and one or two men. Any time of day or evening I stopped by the shop to check on my car, the shop was always open. I mean any time, day or late at night, many times after I had dinner at one of the military clubs. I always found everyone at work doing something; no sitting around in this shop. My car sat for a long time waiting for parts, but the garage was always full of cars in all states of repair and it probably never closed it's doors. It seems now, as I think about the youngsters, I would guess that they were probably hired out to the shop by their parents. No child labor laws existed then and life was extremely tough for just about everyone in Taiwan. It’s a lot different today for the average Taiwan citizen.

This was another learning experience for me, and I always say that I grew up during my Taiwan tour. I began to really see things there that woke me up to the world as it really was. My life up to this time had been unblemished and free of want or need. Those years in Taiwan made such an impression on my life that I continue to feel that Taiwan is a second home to me

I had no other auto accidents during my sojourn in Taiwan, but neither my accident nor anything else could have changed this precious time in my life. How did your time in Taiwan register in your life? I'm sure most of us still alive today would put it right up their toward the top.

God bless Taiwan and its wonderful, free people!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Club 63

I received a note from Kent (owner of the Taipei Air Station website), along with some photos from the old days, and he was kind enough to let me post them here. He's obviously right about the Club 63 name which just proves that memories (mine, in this case) do tend to fade over time. In my own defense, I have to say that we always called it the "63 Club" or just "The Club," which probably just proves that our use of the English language was about as refined as our feeble attempts at Chinese.

As I've mentioned earlier, the Club 63 became the China Seas Club when the Navy took over its operation. I recall that they did some remodeling and also installed slot machines, which the Air Force and Army had removed from all of their clubs some years earlier.

Here's Kent's input:

I saw in your latest blog you referred to the club as "63 Club." When I was in Taipei, the club was called "Club 63" or the MAAG NCO Open Mess. It got its name from APO 63 which was the old APO number before the APO's and FPO's were reorganized and added the 5 digit ZIP Code. Here is a copy of the cover of the Club 63 Magazine for June 1968. Rudy Arevelo is shown in the center pages celebrating his 10th Anniversary at Club 63, probably in May 1968. The picture is bad, but you judge for yourself. It was printed on the old offset press and the quality is typical of 1968.
[...also sending a...] picture of the Club 13 band at Taipei Air Station.

[Additional Note: Kent advises that the Club 13 photo was provided by Rick Ferch, who was at Site 4 and Shihmen.]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

63 Club/China Seas Club House Band

During my two tours in the Far East (Okinawa 1963-1964 and Taiwan 1973-1974) the enlisted clubs always had pretty decent house bands that played just about every night. They could play all the popular songs of the day and many other tunes as well. Basically, if there was a demand for it, they could play it.

Most of these bands, including the two that I was familiar with, were from the Philippines. We used to joke that Filipinos must all receive horns, drums or guitars at birth.

The house band at the 63 Club when I was there was called Conrad and His Band, and they were really good. The band's renditions of popular hits like the Doobie Brothers' China Grove were very close to the originals and the dance floor was often packed.

I remember that they had a beautiful young vocalist who sang lead for some of their numbers. She articulated each word and phrase as if she'd been singing them all of her life. However, I found out one day that she spoke almost no English. I don't think that any of the musicians did either, except for Conrad. I talked with him a few times and he seemed like a good guy.

I don't know whether it's true or not, but I was told that Conrad owned all of the house bands at all of the military clubs in Taiwan. The story was that he had some agreement with someone in the Taiwan government that only he was allowed to import any musical instruments into the island.

Anyway, I'd like to hear from anyone regarding the house bands in those days. If you happen to have a picture of any of them, I'd sure like to see it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Traffic Court Justice -- Supplemental

Looking back over my last post, it occurs to me that I may have implied that American military people were more or less immune from Taiwan law. That was certainly not my intent. I never once felt that I could expect any better treatment than any of the locals if I managed to break any laws, and I'm sure that those around me felt the same.

I know for a fact that there were Americans incarcerated in Taiwan jails for various crimes. My lawyer friend used to visit them on a regular basis. In fact, I wrote earlier about Americans who were still in confinement during the withdrawal of American forces.

The one possible exception was an army guy I knew who drove his 240Z over a local guy's foot one night while drunkenly navigating out of the China Seas/63 Club parking lot. He told me about it the next morning and said that he wasn't worried because both he and his boss, an army lieutenant colonel, were Masons. I never heard another word about the incident, so apparently something magical happened to make it all go away. I doubt that it had much to do directly with the Taiwan government.


I just remembered something else on this subject: I was once told by a general officer's enlisted aide that part of his job was driving the general's wife wherever she needed to go in Taipei. This was not an ego trip on her part and it had nothing to do with her skill as a driver. It was done solely to eliminate the possibility that she might ever be directly involved in an auto accident or receive a traffic citation. Such an event might result in a delicate diplomatic situation that could be an embarrassing distraction to the command. The decision was made somewhere along the line to just eliminate that possibility.

I mention this only to further illustrate that local traffic laws did apply to all U.S. military personnel and their dependents when I was in Taipei.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Traffic Court Justice

I apologize for the thundering silence on this blog recently. I've been preoccupied with family matters, winter blahs, and writer's block -- especially that last thing.

I was just thinking about a conversation I had with one of the USTDC lawyers, an Air Force captain whose name I've long since forgotten. We were discussing an auto accident in which an American military guy driving home from work was hit by a Taiwanese, who was riding a motorcycle.

I don't know about today, but in 1973-1974 there were separate lanes reserved for bicycles, mopeds and motorcycles on the major thoroughfares of Taipei. They were usually separated from the streets by fences or traffic islands, with openings every few yards to get on and off the thoroughfare.

In this case, the American automobile driver was making a left turn at night, which of course involved crossing the motorcycle lane on that side. The motorcycle rider did not have his headlights on. The driver didn't see him and the cycle ran into the car, killing the rider.

According to my friend, a case like this would normally be resolved under Taiwan law as follows:
  • The American driver would be charged with vehicular homicide (or something similar) because he was crossing the motorcycle lane. Never mind the fact that he couldn't see the cyclist.
  • He would be fined and sentenced to a lengthy jail term.
  • He would also be ordered to pay monetary restitution to the victim's family.
The actual result, according to my friend, was normally something like this:
  • The driver would be released by the Taiwan police immediately after the trial.
  • The U.S. Government would pay the fine and the family.
  • The driver and his family would be sent back to the States.
I can't swear to the accuracy of this story, but that's how I remember it. If anyone has had experience with this sort of thing, please post it or drop me a note.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Street Characters

It's been more than thirty years since I left Taipei, but I've been thinking lately about some of the characters that I used to see on the sidewalks near the HSA compound. These were folks whose main objective was to separate a young GI from his money. It was probably easier if the young man had been hitting the local watering holes for a few hours.

For example, there was a guy who sold some sort of bird-like marionettes similar to the one shown here. It seems to me that he also sold a fuzzy snake puppet that was pretty cool.

One duo I saw all the time was a blind guy in dark sunglasses, being led down the street by a friend. The friend would walk up to you and ask for a donation. Sometimes you'd notice that the friend played the role of the blind guy and the blind guy became the friend. Hey, it's a living.

And there were kids peddling everything under the sun. You learned pretty quickly that the trick was just to avoid eye contact, hold up your hand, and keep walking. They'd quickly head off in search of someone new to the island.

I honestly don't remember any hustlers standing outside of clubs encouraging you to come inside, or at least nothing like I'd experienced ten years earlier on Okinawa. I really didn't run the clubs in Taipei, so maybe someone else can comment on that, purely in the interest of historical accuracy of course.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Selling In Taiwan

Bill Kling was assigned to an Army unit in Taipei for two separate two-year tours, and he has graciously offered to share some of his memories of what it was like to be a service member in Taipei during those years. Today he writes about the common (and legal) practice of selling certain items to the local citizens:

I was fortunate enough to serve two separate tours on Taiwan as an American Serviceman. As such, I had the ability to actually live well during my two, two-year tours and then sell many items at a good profit when I left the island.

I seem to remember that as an American serving in Taiwan we were allowed to bring into country, or purchase via the PX, items that Taiwanese could not normally obtain, such as American cars, washers & dryers, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc.

It is often expensive for service personnel to move because they often have to buy or replace many of the items listed above. However, I was able to buy new appliances, use them for my two year tour and then sell them for a nice profit. One example is a Whirlpool in-window air conditioner that cost $220. Upon leaving the country in 1975, I was able to sell it for $450. This is quite a deal when you consider it was then two years old and well used because of the sub-tropical climate.

The reason I could do that was because Taiwan had a very large luxury tax on such items. While I don’t know the exact percentage, I was led to believe it was over 100% and there was a quota on the number of units that could be imported into the country. That, combined with Taiwan becoming an Asia Tiger as their economy was really booming, meant that there was a big demand but very little supply.

The way the process worked (again, to the best of my recollection) was that shortly after an American serviceman moved into a Taiwan house or apartment, he would be approached by people who wanted to “chop” these items. This means that they would make a deal to buy your goods upon your departure, give you a deposit (10%), get you to sign a contract and then when you were ready to leave, they magically appeared, paid the balance owed and took possession of the goods.

While this was a great thing for the Americans, sometimes it got to be annoying as there were many of these chop people. Where I lived in the Tien Mu area in Bank of Taiwan housing, they used to go from house to house in this almost American type neighborhood. Some were very devious and even if you told them you already had a deal they would try to pay you a premium to get you to sell to them anyway. You had to be careful and luckily for me I was introduced to a very ethical and fair businessman the week I arrived on the island by my military sponsor. I was lucky and tried to help other new people as they arrived, but still many people had issues when they left the country due to disputes, sometimes real and sometimes imagined.

It was required to fill out an official CHOP form from your personnel office which included the terms, item description, and serial number of each item. When you processed out of Taiwan, all of those documents had to be submitted to the Provost Marshal’s Office (PMO) for review.

The hardest thing to dispose of was a vehicle. You had to return your license plates, registration, and have it inspected by the PMO prior to turning the vehicle over to the Taiwanese. I remember very clearly that during my second tour in 1977 the vehicle which got the best return would be a black or silver Ford Granada sedan. I was able to get $12,000 for my car in 1979 and it cost about $3,800 new in 1977. Another key piece of the process was getting approval to deposit large amounts of money in your Bank of America account. Since there was a black market and all transactions were paid in New Taiwan Dollars (NT) it was necessary to get approval to deposit these monies from your personnel office and the PMO. Once again you needed to take your completed contracts with the approvals to the bank for review before they accepted and converted your NT dollars to US dollars.

I think the opportunity I had to serve in Taiwan, doing a job I enjoyed, learning and soaking up a different culture, completing my college education, and making life-long friends, made my tours in Taiwan some of the most important and memorable periods of my life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

USTDC Front Entrance

At the top of this blog is a shot of the front entrance of the United States Taiwan Defense Command as it appeared around 1978. The picture is a cropped version of one sent to me by Les Duffin some time ago and I thought I'd post it as well. It gives a little better idea of the shape of the place. Click on the image to view a larger version.

I believe the flagpole for the U.S. flag was just to the left of the camera and the Chinese flagpole was in the opposite corner of the parking lot to the left.

The porch overhang in the center of the photo was the main entrance. I always called it the front entrance, but whenever the call was put out over the speakers to bring the admiral's or general's staff car to this front door, it was always worded as, "Admiral's car alongside!" Don't ask me why. Good enough for John Paul Jones, I guess.

It seems to me that I once heard someone say that the building was originally built by the Japanese. I suppose that's possible, but I wonder if anyone out there knows for sure.

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Photos

In my last post I mentioned that Dennis McNelis had sent me a few images from his time in Taipei. Today I'd like to post some of those that might bring back some memories of long ago in a galaxy far, far away:

As I said some time ago, the final approach to what was then the international airport was directly over the hostel and the east and west compounds. This photo gives some idea of what it was like, but the planes appeared much larger as you looked out the window. Now only could you see landing lights, but you could actually see the cabin lights at night, and the noise and vibration were just incredible.

Most people called this area Sugar Daddy Row. 'Nuff said.

This is a shot of his apartment building in the Shihlin district of Taipei. It was pretty common for a group of single military people to share an apartment in those days and many did. It was also fairly common for a single GI to share an apartment with a local friend.

I knew one group of apartment dwellers made up of two navy females, one navy male, and one marine male. I have no doubt that there was plenty of activity in the place, but the folks who lived there were more like brothers and sisters. Today, that would be like any campus area apartment in the US, but it was sort of unusual then. At least I thought so.

This was a view of Shihlin from his apartment. A Google search reveals quite a different picture of the place today.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Memories & Recollections

Dennis McNelis has been writing to me recently with some things that he remembers about his tour at USTDC. Actually, Dennis was one of those ASA guys who worked behind the big steel door, but he and I were there about the same time. Here are some of his comments:

I was in Taipei from Aug 1973 to Nov 1974. I was in the Army - Army Security Agency. At TDC I was assigned to the office on the first floor that had a bank vault door for its front door. It would be to the left as you faced the front of the building and down the hall from the mail room. Like you I lived in the Hostels next to the East Compound. Jerry Ball was my room mate at the Hostel. Jerry was US Army assigned to the Army unit in the building in the East Compound behind the theater and across from the baseball field. I believe it was Jerry who introduced us. Jerry married a local girl that worked in an office in the West Compound. I can't remember her name. Lost contact with Jerry.
I then moved into an apartment that was just West of the Grand Hotel ( I believe that area is Shih-Lin) with Donald Machowski. Donald was also in the Army assigned to STRAMCOM at TDC. Ski, as we use to call him, died in Taiwan after I left in Aug 75 on a Hash House Harrier. Don drowned attempting to cross a river on the run. He was traversing a low area in the river on some rocks and apparently he slipped and was dragged down river by the current. Don was familiar with this area and apparently it was just a freak accident.
I dated Cindy one of the waitresses from the FSA Cafeteria in the East Compound. She later Worked at the PX East Compound. I did return to Taiwan many times throughout the 70 and 80s as I was working as a Merchant Marine and on oil rigs in Asia. I ended up living in Thailand. Still I have to say the 15 months I spent in Taiwan was one of the best times of my life. Presently back and working in the States.

I was a single 21 year old on his first assignment overseas. I must admit though, I was a bit miffed when I first landed in TPE and recall the ride from the airport to TDC. The smells where very strong and I know you know what I am referring to. The contrast in the living conditions - looking at people living in lean-tos against modern new buildings. I said to myself, "What the hell did I get myself into?"

My office was located - if you look at the picture at the top of your blog - to the very far left at the end corner on the first floor. There was also an entrance there. I recall the ramp you are talking about somewhere off to the right after going past the main desk and if I recall correctly it also lead to the rear entrance of TDC that lead to the East Compound where the baseball field was. My office comprised of about 5 civilians and 4 military while being run by the civilians. We had a Navy Lt Commander, a Chief and two army enlisted. We where somewhat isolated from the rest of TDC although we did work closely with the Navy Intelligence Agency on the second floor. Most people remember my office because of the big bank vault type door that secured the entrance. The only person I really remember from my office is Chief Jerry Jett - everyone else kept coming and going.
Do you recall where the barber shop was in the back? Then beyond the barber shop was the graphics shop. Do you remember the 3 Navy guys that worked in that shop: Ortiz, Henry (can't remember their first names) and another guy - all enlisted? I have a slide of two of these guys.

[Yes, I do remember the print shop. It was the first time I ever saw one of those humongous machines that can slice through a ream of paper like it was hot butter! I'd completely forgotten about that place and the three guys who worked there.]
As for lunch here are some of the places I use to go to: the FAS run cafeteria in the East Compound by the baseball field, hot dog cart in front of PX, the HAS/MAAG PX run cafeteria that was in the East or West Compound. If I remember correctly the HSA/MAAG PX cafeteria was in the East Compound and then relocated to the West Compound or visa/versa. My buddies and I use to also run down to the 63 club. We would eat a quick lunch of the daily special and then go play pin ball in the game room. Like you I do not recall any vending machines at TDC but you would of thought with the military there would of at least been a soda machine.
One more note about myself that my help jog your memory: I use to drive a 350CC Honda Motorcycle. I would drive it to TDC on most days - just too lazy to walk through the compound to go to work.
If anyone has additional info on any of this that you'd like to share, please post it below, or you can contact Dennis directly at: Be sure to remove the "DELETE" portion of the address.

Dennis recently sent me a few photos that he took in Taiwan and I'll post those in a day or so.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Photos -- USTDC Area Today

Kent, from the Taipei Air Station website, just returned from a trip to Taipei. He very kindly took a few photographs of the area around the old HSA compound, including the old north entrance to the United States Taiwan Defense Command. You can click on any of these photos for a larger image.

This first picture is one that I received from old friend Les a while back, which shows the old north entrance to the USTDC compound in the 1970s. You can see part of the building in the background.

This photo is one that Kent sent from his recent trip, and I'm all but positive that it's the same area. Today it's a taxi rest area and you can see that the old building is gone. Just before this entrance and to the right is the entrance to the art museum parking lot.

Here's an overhead image of that area as it looks today and I've circled the general location of the gate and the USTDC building.

The big white building just to the left of the circle is today's art museum and the art park is the grassy area with all the paths to the south.

Here is a map of the art park, identifying the various sections. Please note that it is oriented to the east.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Property Disposal -- AFNT

Property disposal is nearly always a major issue, even when Uncle Sam decides to close a military facility in the United States. Increase that by a factor of ten or so, and you have Taiwan in 1979 where there were numerous and diverse facilities and operations involved, further complicated by diplomatic upheaval. In addition to disagreements between the two governments, there were also broad disagreements among the military services and even at different levels within the services.

Both sides simply wanted a fair settlement. The problem was in defining the word fair.

Ultimately agreements were made, some more grudgingly than others, and everything from buildings to blankets were disposed of in a way that was more or less acceptable to all parties.

One of the more interesting details (for me) was the disposition of the Armed Forces Network Taiwan (AFNT).

In March 1979, the Commander of the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command received a request from the Director General of the Taiwan Information Office to transfer, in place and cost free, the AFNT equipment and facilities. AFNT would be used to provide nonprofit English language public service broadcasting to the international community on Taiwan.

The expatriate community had strong feelings over the loss of the AFNT, which led to the American Chamber of Commerce obtaining permission from the Taiwan Government to establish a noncommercial, nonprofit English language radio station. It would be funded by contributions from the foreign business community. COMUSTDC supported this request both for the enhanced quality of life it would provide for the expatriate community and for improved relations with the people on Taiwan. It also afforded the commander the capability to have emergency communication through late April 1979 in the event of natural disaster or other emergencies which might otherwise affect the withdrawal.

CINCPAC supported that request and forwarded it to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) for approval by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) as being a "substantial benefit" to the United States. By law, it was the CNO's responsibility to make that "substantial benefit" determination. On 2 April 1979, CNO advised that transfer of the AFNT facilities and equipment to the Government on Taiwan was considered to be in the best interest of the United States and requested that appropriate procedures and instruments be implemented locally to effect the transfer upon the establishment of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Preliminary work was to begin immediately, since the American community in Taipei wanted to commence broadcasting immediately following cessation of AFNT operations on 15 April 1979. Naval Broadcast Service (NAVBCSTSVC) Detachment 31 in Taipei was directed to take appropriate actions to achieve a smooth transition.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the transfer of equipment in two phases: NAVBCSTSVC Det 31 to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and from AIT to the Coordination Council for North American Affairs (CCNAA), the Taiwan government's counterpart of AIT. This was accomplished and the International Community Radio in Taiwan began operation on 16 April 1979.

If anyone reading this was there during that time and would like to provide some "on the ground" details of how it went, I'd be pleased to hear about it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG)

As of 15 December 1978, the MAAG monitored over 400 open foreign military sales cases with a value of more than $300 million dollars. The announced termination of diplomatic relations with Taiwan that was to be effective on 1 January 1979, with MAAG closing its doors by 30 April 1979, raised some questions: How would MAAG function between 1 January and 30 April? How would the security assistance program be administered after MAAG closed? It's easy to make sweeping policy decisions in Washington, but it's always those in the field who have to figure out how to try and make it all work.

Admiral Soong, who was Chief of the General Staff, Ministry of National Defense (MND), very much wanted to retain some U.S. military presence on Taiwan past April 1979. One reason cited was the necessity to carry out Carter's pledge to provide selected military equipment to Taiwan. Admiral Soong strongly opposed replacing MAAG active duty personnel with retired military personnel, as had been proposed. He also told the Chief of MAAG that he felt MAAG personnel could remain on Taiwan, even in a low key status.

CINCPAC presented three options to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to resolve the status of the MAAG. The recommended option was to retain the function -- minus the MAAG designation -- by replacing military incumbents with six civilians familiar with security assistance. That number would be reduced to four as Taiwan personnel gained expertise in that area.

In early January 1979, CINCPAC expressed concern over the orderly transition of security assistance functions to the unofficial instrumentality. Specifically, if MAAG personnel departed on 1 March 1979, there would be a lack of qualified personnel familiar with security assistance during the transition. To remedy the situation, CINCPAC directed that MAAG personnel be attached to the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command effective 28 February 1979, the disestablishment date for MAAG China, and those personnel would remain in-country through 30 April 1979.

Reemphasizing the original recomendation for six authorizations (billets) to be MAAG-related, CINCPAC included this function in the 15 DOD-related spaces proposed for the newly named American Institute in Taiwan.

The JCS agreed with CINCPAC's plan to attach the MAAG personnel to USTDC for two months. They emphasized that the official MAAG function would terminate with the closure of the Embassy on 28 February 1979 and no variation of MAAG should be utilized in identifying the USTDC MAAG personnel. The Commander of USTDC informed CINCPAC that the MAAG Chief would become the USTDC J44.

I believe that J4 was the designation for the Logistics branch at USTDC, but I don't know what J44 would have been. If anyone has that info, I'll be happy to include it here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Termination of Employment -- Local Nationals

After President James Earl Carter's 15 December 1978 announcement that all U.S. Forces military activities were to be phased out of Taiwan by 30 April 1979, it became necessary to work out a plan for out-placing or terminating civilian employees as well. I wrote earlier about U.S. civilian employees so today I'll describe how Local National (LN) employees were processed.

Any civilian reduction in force is a difficult and emotional time for many, and such was the case in Taiwan. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) suggested that every effort be made to help Chinese national employees of the Department of Defense (DOD) find other employment. The Commander of the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command requested that someone qualified in such matters be deployed to Taiwan to facilitate this process. As a result, a U.S. Civilian Personnel Specialist from Headquarters Pacific Air Forces was assigned to COMUSTDC in late January for two months. That individual, who had previous experience in Taiwan, worked closely with host government and private sector representatives to place 300 of the 1,367 LNs employed by the U.S. government.

Within days of Carter's announcement, employee representatives from all Taiwan activities petitioned U.S. Forces with a number of demands for compensation:
  • $20,000 spiritual compensation (for the loss of reputation and based on Chinese law and custom)
  • Increased severance pay benefits ranging from one month's pay for 1-5 years of service to 3 month's pay for over 20 years of service;
  • Payment for all unused sick leave;
  • All payments in lump sum by 31 January 1979;
  • No Reduction in Force (RIF) actions taken until after Lunar New Year (mid-February 1979) and the same separation date for all, preferably 30 April 1979.
The USTDC Joint Labor Affairs Committee met in emergency session on 4 January 1979 to consider these demands and other LN reduction related matters. They agreed that any changes in compensation practices should be based on the prevailing practice principle. Local Nationals had lost some of their own government benefits while employed by the U.S. because they were not covered under the Taiwan government's old age pension Labor Insurance Act (LIA), which had been in effect since 1970. In fact, U.S. Forces were in the process of subscribing their Local National employees to the plan at the time that Carter made his withdrawal announcement. Further complicating the issue was the fact that employees had been encouraged over the years to conserve their sick leave to use for major illnesses or injuries.

Recommendations were made by COMUSTDC to CINCPAC. All of the regional U.S. commands concurred for the most part, with some alternatives proposed -- most notably by the Air Force.

Ultimately, the OSD decided on 22 February 1979 that each employee separating after 30 January 1979 would receive a month's salary for each year of service since 1970, mostly because of the failure of U.S. Forces to enroll their employees in the LIA program. The accrued sick leave program was denied, at least partly because of the fear that it would set a bad precedent for relations with civilian employees in other countries.

From January to April 1979, there were a number of work disruptions and also isolated instances of employees not reporting for duty.

Because the Office of the Secretary of Defense dragged its heels in making a decision on RIF policies, commanders on Taiwan were unable to issue notices to their employees as scheduled on 1 February 1979. They complained that 270 notices should have already been issued and another 200 should be issued by 16 February. This delay was costing them excessively in funds as well as making it extremely difficult to meet activity closure schedules.

When OSD still hadn't answered by mid-February, notices were issued. This action resulted in disruption in functions, mass requests for leave without pay, sit-down strikes and refusals to work. In response, the CINCPAC Chief of Staff asked the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civilian Personnel Policy for an early, favorable decision on the compensation proposal.

What made the whole labor issue even more difficult was the fact that there had been a number of reductions in force over the years, so that the number of Local National employees was down from a high of about 5,000 in 1970 to the 1,367 at the time of Carter's speech. Of course most of those previously cut had less seniority at the time, so the remaining workforce was made up mostly of those who had been employed the longest -- averaging about twelve years of service -- and many of them were in key positions.

Employee morale was not good during those months, but overall the civilian workforce was stable, loyal, and contributed well to the close-down operations.

Monday, November 12, 2007

USTDC Closure -- Travel Issues

Almost immediately after President James Earl Carter's announcement on the American withdrawal from Taiwan, the Commander In Chief of Pacific Forces (CINCPAC) examined issues relating to the withdrawal and the policies that should apply. One was whether any Department of Defense (DOD) personnel would be allowed to return to Taiwan in any capacity.

DOD provided initial guidance, through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to CINCPAC in January 1979. They dictated that there would be no DOD presence after 30 April 1979 for any reason, including temporary duty (TDY). CINCPAC protested, stating that there were too many unknowns at that point and pointing out that there were many areas which could require TDY by DOD experts and contract monitors to provide efficiency and protection of DOD interests. Such areas would include planning functions to support the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Foreign Military Sales case work, Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) contract monitoring and Defense Property Disposal operations.

Some policy changes came about as a result of these discussions. It was decided that, on a case-by-case basis, a limited number of DOD civilians could travel to Taiwan on a TDY basis in 1979 and beyond to perform such functions as acting as trouble shooters for previously supplied U.S. military equipment, supervising contract work at the PDM facility, administrating contracts for war reserve material, and performing property disposal and installation transfer functions. DOD civilians remaining for more than 179 days would be separated from their government service and be assigned to (and included in the personnel ceiling limit of) the American Institute in Taiwan. That requirement was waived for the seven personnel who were authorized to remain behind to supervise the PDM facility. Any DOD civilians remaining for less than 180 days, or visiting Taiwan, were to be placed in TDY status by their parent organization.

Port calls -- the flight reservations for departing personnel -- presented their own set of challenges. While normal traffic in and out of country was routinely handled by the Aerial Port of Embarkation (APOE), there was no central office in Taiwan responsible for making those reservations. CINCPAC recommended to JCS that the APOE be retained as long as possible, preferably as long as the MDT was in force. In that event, Pacific Air Force (PACAF) recommended that the Military Air Command (MAC) APOE personnel would require augmentation to support withdrawal requirements, including Tainan, Taichung and Taipei.

As the withdrawal began, commanders realized that tighter control of port calls, especially during the March-April time frame, would be necessary. So COMUSTDC assigned one officer to be the central point of contact for all port calls. That continued until 15 April. There were a number of issues that complicated the process, including personnel centers altering reporting dates and end destinations. Aircraft seat availability was not always as projected by MAC. Commanders sometimes changed departure dates based on mission requirements as the withdrawal progressed. There were also personal issues, such as births, deaths, adoptions, and passport/visa problems that disrupted previously made plans.

In mid-March 1979, COMUSTDC prevented further changes in port calls by assuming total functional control and close liaison with the Kadena (Okinawa, Japan) Personnel Reservation Center. The Center sent two personnel TDY to Taipei and they took care of everything (an "invaluable service," according to the report). In addition, COMUSTDC told all service personnel centers that no further changes would be accepted. Ultimately, a daily departure list, by name, was maintained. The report notes that if TDC had acted earlier, many of the problems would have been avoided.

Finally, both DOD civilian and military personal travel to Taiwan was authorized. Civilian clothing was required during any such personal visits. Neither the conduct of official business nor contact with local authorities in any official capacity was authorized.

In the next installment, I'll cover the local national workforce and how it was handled during the withdrawal.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Military Departure From Taiwan

Yesterday I posted most of Chapter I of Appendix I (Taiwan Wrap-Up) of the CINCPAC Command History. Because Chapter II ("Personnel") is much longer, I'll only deal with Section I, titled "Personnel."

The withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Taiwan involved far more than just taking the troops to the airport and putting them on a plane. Each Service had its own methods for reassigning its personnel (note the grumbling about the Air Force way of doing things). In addition, there were many Department of Defense Civilians and their families on the island.

Shortly after President James Earl Carter's announcement of the withdrawal, things apparently got a bit ugly. Rear Admiral James Linder was the last U.S. Military officer to depart Taiwan and, at a conference twenty years later, he described the situation:
We had a lot of discontent, and the people were very unhappy and presumed that we were going to go away and they were going to be in deep trouble. And we sort of felt the same way. There were some riots and there were demonstrations, and there were people injured. But the military and the government officials, the security people and the police were all very accommodating to Americans and the people that were out there, and the discontent went away rather quickly.
Here is the text of Chapter 2:



OPLAN 506X called for the departure of military personnel and their dependents to meet established milestones. The draft plan submitted by COMUSTDC recommended 30-day incremental milestones (D-90, D-60 and D-30). As approved by the JCS and CINCPAC, 506X provided for the following personnel milestones:

  • D-60 (28 Feb 79) - 20% personnel and dependents withdrawn.
  • D-30 (31 Mar 79) - 40% personnel, 100% dependents withdrawn. All household goods removed.
  • D-Day (30 Apr 79) - 100% personnel removed.
COMUSTDC advised CINCPAC that the approved time phasing was reasonable and provided flexibility but could be misinterpreted as maximum goals by supporting commands. Therefore, unless otherwise directed, COMUSTDC would pursue originally proposed percentages. CINCPAC responded that the time-phased percentages selected were modifications which permitted time to make decisions on major withdrawal issues and were not as restrictive during the first 30 days of withdrawal. The revised percentages were considered minimums to be used as a guide and could be exceeded in order to meet D-Day requirements.

When 506X was developed, no particular time of the year was envisioned to match the number of days required to depart Taiwan. With D-Day equating to 30 April 1979, a genuine concern was expressed as to the impact on school age children, especially high school seniors. In addition, as military personnel were identified to remain until April 1979, dependents and their sponsors sought waivers to allow families to leave Taiwan together. The plan provided for dependents to be transferred with their sponsors aboard the same carriers, when feasible. The knowledge that the spring break for schools on Taiwan was the week of 9 April, and the school year third quarter ended on April, became key factors in decisions regarding waiver requests.

Military Members

The USTDC proposed OPLAN 506X identified COMUSTDC as the on-island commander with operational control (OPCON)/administrative control (ADCON) of all U.S. Forces on Taiwan. With this authority, USTDC planned to centralize the management of personnel actions and to coordinate all personnel actions for all Services and functions on island. However, because the Service components and CINCPAC did not feel that ADCON was necessary, COMUSTDC was designated as the single on-island commander for coordination and control of withdrawal actions.

The USTDC branch was not staffed to handle all personnel actions for the 26 commands located on island. It was planned that the USTDC personnel element would be augmented from those commands on island providing personnel support functions (Navy - Headquarters Support Activity, Taipei (HSA), Army - United States Army Communications Command - Taiwan (USACC), Air Force - 6217th Air Base Squadron). Without both OPCON and ADCON authority, it became imperative that close coordination between USTDC, the three component commands and the Service personnel centers off-island be established. As a first step, COMUSTDC requested that the Service military personnel centers freeze all personnel assignments to Taiwan.

[I'd very much like to hear from anyone who was involved with the personnel processing side of things. Were additional personnel/admin types moved to the TDC building or did they process their own folks and coordinate everything through USTDC? There must have been major headaches during the process.]

In anticipation of receiving OPCON of U.S. Forces (less DAO), he also placed all personnel on Taiwan on operational hold until a retention review, to support the withdrawal, was completed. Although the Air Force Military Personnel Center (AFMPC), Randolph AFB, Texas, was the Air Force counterpart to the Navy's Bureau of Personnel, Washington, DC, and the Army's Military Personnel Center, Alexandria, Virginia, it was not the central point for issuance of orders. The majority of Air Force personnel on Taiwan were Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) assets. PACAF was designated, by AFMPC, to act as focal point for all USAF commands on Taiwan and to assign personnel against PACAF in-theater requirements first. The remaining personnel were referred to AFMPC for disposition. PACAF, in turn, delegated initial coordination to the 3rd Combat Support Group, Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, which provided normal personnel support to Taiwan-assigned Air Force personnel. With this fragmented control, personnel coordination was made more difficult for Air Force personnel. Specific details concerning Air Force related personnel withdrawal problems are contained in the COMUSTDC Terminal Command History.

The overall withdrawal of sponsors from Taiwan met the OPLAN 506X deadline. The larger number of sponsors leaving in the later portion of the withdrawal period did not create any major problems; however, additional management attention was required at the end to coordinate port calls.

Three military personnel remained on Taiwan as of 30 April 1979. Two were incarcerated with one of them being released by the end of May 1979. The third military person was an Air Force officer attending the Foreign Area Officer Language School in Taichung with the permission of his Service.

[How would you like to be the last American Military prisoner in Taiwan after everyone else had left the island? I wonder what eventually happened to him/her?]


Based on 506X, all dependents were to depart Taiwan by 31 March 1979, 30 days prior to D-Day. Initially, attaining the established milestones appeared easy because the negative reaction by the people of Taiwan to the Presidential announcement on 15 December 1978 resulted in a general consensus to leave as soon as practical. These reactions included demonstrations at the China Seas Enlisted Club, the HSA East and West Compounds, the American Embassy, and outside individual housing complexes. Some of these demonstrations resulted in minor personnel injury and property damage, but nothing serious. The violence during the Christopher mission also increased apprehensions among some dependents. After 1 January 1979 dependents had a change of heart. PCS orders arrived resulting in household goods being shipped and families moving into temporary living quarters. Living on the local economy was found to be not all that bad even with reductions in commissary and exchange merchandise and finally none at all. With more sponsors remaining into March and April than originally envisioned, dependents sought to stay longer also. As security concerns diminished and the timing of dependent departures during normal school breaks became more desirous, the enforcement of original 506X dependent departure milestones was relaxed in order to reduce family separations.

As early as mid-January 1979 the JCS had recognized that requiring all dependents to leave by 31 March could cause some personal hardships and advised that exceptions could be allowed. In the first monthly withdrawal report, COMUSTDC advised that waiver criteria had been developed for sponsors to use in submitting waiver requests. In the February end-of-month report, COMUSTDC reported receipt of waiver requests for 346 dependents to remain past 31 March. This figure included 22 dependents wishing to remain past 30 April, primarily for the purpose of finishing school. CINCPAC acknowledged these exceptions in the February report to the JCS. At the end of March, 378 dependents remained on Taiwan. Admiral Linder, COMUSTDC, presented a plan to LT GEN M. L. Boswell, CINCPAC Chief of Staff, for the withdrawal of the remaining personnel during April 1979. The plan split the month of April into three equal withdrawal increments (1-10, 11-20, 21-30). General Boswell concurred with the plan. Most personnel were tentatively scheduled to depart in early and mid-April, with only a very few to depart later than 20 April due to their special situations. The actual number of dependents remaining on Taiwan was reduced to 288 on 10 April, and 142 on 20 April 1979. By 30 April all but 34 dependents had departed Taiwan. With the exception of two incarcerated dependents and one wife remaining with her husband assigned TDY, these dependents planned to depart by the end of July 1979.

[Two incarcerated dependents? Once again, I wonder what prison life was like for them.]

DOD Civilians

When the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces was announced, 80 of the sponsors on Taiwan were DOD civilians. For scheduling purposes, these personnel were included with military members in meeting withdrawal targets. The majority of DOD civilians and their dependents left Taiwan by D-30. A few key civilians at various commands were retained until April 1979 and civilians assigned to the Consolidated Civilian Personnel Office, a part of the 6217th Air Base Squadron, remained until late April to complete all DOD civilian transactions and to assist in the outplacement of local national U.S. Forces employees.

Through CINCPAC initiatives, the Defense Department granted special reduction in force (RIF) and priority placement program authorities for U.S. civilian employees on Taiwan. Taiwan was immediately designated a major RIF area, thereby enabling all eligible U.S. citizen employees to register in the priority placement program and granting them exceptions to other normal program provisions. In an allied exception to policy, Defense authorization was obtained for special payments to employees who occupied temporary lodging beyond normally allowed periods.
From this point on, I plan to post only those portions of the report that may be of general interest. Much of the 127 page document discusses the "nuts and bolts" of the draw-down and eventual total withdrawal. If anyone has any specific questions, I'll be happy to post whatever information I have.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who was involved in any way with this issue. I departed Taiwan in 1974, five years before all this took place, but I would really like to hear from someone who was actually there at the time. It must have been quite an emotional time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Plan for Departure

The following is more from Appendix 1 (Taiwan Wrap-Up) of the CINCPAC Command History (Declassified by USCINCPAC on 10 June 1998).

Chapter I describes the early planning by military commanders preparing for the U.S. recognition of the PRC and the withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Taiwan. Needless to say, this was a very delicate issue at the time. This document reveals that very few military commanders on Taiwan, outside of COMUSTDC, were even aware of the plan’s existence until it was well along.
15 December 1978 – 30 April 1979

Chapter I -- PLANNING

Subsequent to the issuance of the Shanghi Communique of 1972, which announced on-going efforts toward normalization of relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a gradual reduction of military units and personnel began on Taiwan. Early in October 1978, the Commander, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command (COMUSTDC), RADM James B. Linder, USN, directed his staff to prepare a plan for the administrative withdrawal of all U.S. Forces from Taiwan under peacetime conditions. Because of political sensitivity, the development of such a plan was held very closely by the USTDC staff; other U.S. military commands were not advised of the undertaking. After approval of the draft by Admiral Linder, the plan was to have been distributed to other U.S. commanders on Taiwan for review and supporting plan development. The short title of the plan was USTDC OPLAN 506X, later assigned the nickname BATTERY PLATE. Although identified as an OPLAN, it was in actuality an administrative plan to provide for the withdrawal of the U.S. personnel and materiel resources. COMUSTDC set a target date of December 1978 for his approval of the draft plan; the eventual goal was approval by CINCPAC and the JCS by 15 March 1979.

The plan was drafted on the basis of two primary assumptions: that a general peacetime environment would prevail during the execution, and that the Taiwan government would impose no hindrances or undue restrictions. Thus, when President Carter announced, on 15 December 1978, that diplomatic relations with China would be established, and that formal relations with Taiwan would be severed on 1 January 1979, a withdrawal plan was already in being. The President had declared that all U.S. Forces would be withdrawn by 30 April 1979; as drafted, OPLAN 506X had provided for a “hasty withdrawal” option of 90 days or less and an “orderly withdrawal” option of up to 180 days.

When the Presidential announcement was made the plan was in draft, ready for presentation to Admiral Linder and distribution to other U.S. commanders on Taiwan. By that time, key personnel of these commands had been informed of the plan’s existence. By 17 December 1978, the original plan had been coordinated with all U.S. commanders on the island.

Because the Presidential announcement established a 120-day period to accomplish the withdrawal, specific milestones were developed for that period, but the original plan options were retained pending further guidance. The modified plan was approved by COMUSTDC and submitted to CINCPAC for review, modification and forwarding to the JCS for final approval. CINCPAC’s modifications included the retitling of the withdrawal options to “orderly”, for the new 120-day period, “expanded” for a period of 121-180 days, and retained “hasty” for 90 days or less. As discussed elsewhere in this history, CINCPAC also deleted from the plan the designation of COMUSTDC as the “on-island commander with operational control/administrative control of all U.S. Forces on Taiwan.” In lieu thereof, CINCPAC designated COMUSTDC as the “single on-island commander for coordination and control of withdrawal actions” in a separate directive on 20 December 1978. The plan was forwarded to the JCS by CINCPAC on 27 December; the JCS approved the plan for execution on 30 December 1978.

As a result of the decision to sever relations with Taiwan and terminate the MDT[Mutual Defense Treaty], the need for OPLANs associated with Taiwan would cease on 31 December 1979. For 1979 the OPLANs needed to be reviewed to determine their feasibility in view of withdrawing DOD personnel and equipment from Taiwan.

Chapter II goes into more detail regarding the departure of military members, their dependents, and DOD civilians. I'll post that chapter as soon as time permits.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Final Nail

Several weeks ago I submitted a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to Pacific Command Headquarters, requesting an official unit history of the former US Taiwan Defense Command in Taipei.

What I received in return was an appendix to the official CINCPAC history, which describes the Taiwan Wrap-Up -- a record of some of the events leading up to the closure of USTDC.

One of the tabs to the document was a transcript of President James Earl Carter's address to the nation on December 15th, 1978, in which he officially announced the recognition of the People's Republic of China by the United States. I am posting the full text here without comment:

Good evening. I would like to read a joint communique which is being simultaneously issued in Peking at this moment by the leaders of the People's Republic of China:

JANUARY 1, 1979

The United States of America and the People's Republic of China have agreed to recognize each other and to establish diplomatic relations as of January 1, 1979.

The United States of America recognizes the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.

The United States of America and the People's Republic of China reaffirm the principles agreed on by the two sides in the Shanghai Communique and emphasize once again that:
  • Both wish to reduce the danger of international military conflict.
  • Neither should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region or in any other region of the world and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.
  • Neither is prepared to negotiate on behalf of any third party or to enter into agreements or understandings with the other directed at other states.
  • The government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China.
  • Both believe that normalization of Sino-American relations is not only in the interest of the Chinese and American Peoples but also contributes to the cause of peace in Asia and the world.
The United States of America and the People's Republic of China will exchange ambassadors and establish embassies on March 1, 1979.

Yesterday, the United States of America and the People's Republic of China reached this final historic agreement.

On January 1, 1979, our two governments will implement full normalization of diplomatic relations.

As a nation of gifted people who comprise one-fourth of the population of the earth, China plays an important role in world affairs -- a role that can only grow more important in the years ahead.

We do not undertake this important step for transient tactical or expedient reasons. In recognizing that the government of the People's Republic is the single government of China, we are recognizing simple reality. But far more is involved in this decision than a recognition of reality.

Before the estrangement of recent decades, the American and Chinese people had a long history of friendship. We have already begun to rebuild some of those previous tiers. Now, our rapidly expanding relationship requires the kind of structures that diplomatic relations will make possible.

The change I am announcing tonight will be of long-term benefit to the peoples of both the United States and China -- and, I believe, too all the peoples of the world.

Normalization -- and the expanded commercial and cultural relations it will bring with it -- will contribute to the well-being of our own Nation, and will enhance stability in Asia.

These more positive relations with China can beneficially affect the world in which we and our children will live.

We have already begun to inform our allies and the Congress of the details of our intended action. But I wish also to convey a special message to the people of Taiwan, with whom the American people have had and will have extensive, close and friendly relations.

As the United States asserted in the Shanghai Communique of 1972, we will continue to have an interest in the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue.

I have paid special attention to ensuring that normalization of relations between the United States and the People's Republic will not jeopardize the well-being of the people of Taiwan.

The people of the United States will maintain our current commercial culltural and other relations with Taiwan through non-governmental means. Many other countries are already successfully doing so.

These decisions and actions open a new and important chapter in world affairs.

To strengthen and to expedite the benefits of this new relationship between the People's Republic of China and the United States, I am pleased to annoounce that Vice Premier Teng has accepted my invitation to visit Washington at the end of January. His visit will give our governments the opportunity to consult with each other on global issues and to begin working together to enhance the cause of world peace.

These events are the result of the long and serious negotiations begun by President Nixon in 1972, and continued by President Ford. The results best witness to the steady, determined
bipartisan effort of our own country to build a world in which peace will be the goal and the responsibillity of all countries.

The normalization of relations between the United States and China has no other purpose than this -- the advancement of peace.

It is in this spirit, at this season of peace, that I take special pride in sharing this news with you tonight.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Five Years After Closure

Les Duffin recently provided me with several photographs that he took of the old HSA compound area in 1984. That was five years after President James Earl Carter terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan and pulled all American military personnel from the country. You can get a larger view of each photo by clicking on it.

The FASD hostel (front building) in front of the west compound.

Another view of the front entrance to the hostel.

This is the vehicle entrance to the right of the hostel. The rear building is where I lived and I believe my upstairs apartment was the next one to the left of the one shown here.

This is a view of the main entrance to the east compound from across the street (Chung Shan North Road).

Another view of the west compound from across the street. You can see the chapel to the left and other buildings in the background.

Looking northwest toward the entrance to the west compound.

Here are a few of Les's observations from that 1984 visit:

  • I expected to find very few traces of the US military presence, and in some cases that was true. The old Bank of Taiwan military housing compounds in Tien Mu, for example, had been razed; only the swimming pool and little league baseball field remained, plus a sign indicating Taipei American School would construct its new facilities there. Across the road [was] a new Japanese school . . . .
  • The HSA West Compound was intact, just locked up and left there. The East Compound appeared to be almost the same, except that a new Chinese Military Police (CMP) headquarters had been built where the rear entrance used to be. The main entrance, on Chung Shan North Road, was still in use, with an MP guarding it; I assume it was a rear entrance for the new CMP building. The TDC compound was still there as well, occupied by some military unit and still with a pair of MPs standing guard at the entrance.
  • The FASD Hostel was still there, though the rear building (Hostel #2) had been converted into a school. And the FASD had taken over the old MAAG Officers Club across the street. I think I was told they were operating the other old MAAG club on Hsin Yi Road too, though I’m not sure who their customers might have been.

I view these old photos with both fascination and sadness, just like when I revisit any of the former military installations around the world that I was assigned to. I remember them as vibrant, well kept, self-contained cities and it's depressing to see them vacated and gradually falling apart.

Of course all that has changed now in Taipei, with the addition of the art museum and park in the east compound and the sports stadium and other structures to the west, but I'll probably always think of them as they were back then.