Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Club 63 Lighter

Bill Kling spotted this item over on eBay. I don't know if anyone here would be interested in it, but I thought I'd mention it just in case. It looks like another one of the going-away gifts that the Club 63 used to hand out. This one was supposedly from the 1950s.

All I know is that the building looks quite different from what I remember from the 1970s, so it was probably either expanded or possibly moved from somewhere else. Anybody know?

Anyway, here's a link to the item if you're interested.

Technical Expertise

Okay, this is way off-topic but I could really use some advice from the knowledgeable folks who read this blog.

Long story short: I'm taking a little non-credit creative writing course and am working on a short story that includes an American military guy who divorces his Taiwanese wife, while still in Taiwan. In the story, the guy also gets custody of their two kids -- let's say they're maybe three or four years old. Let's say she did something really bad to lose the kids in a custody fight. Obviously this would have taken place somewhere between 1955 and 1979.

Two quick questions:
  1. Would a divorce like this have been handled in a Taiwanese court or an American court, or would the government have just sent her (and/or him) back to the States?
  2. Would there ever be a circumstance under which she could have lost the kids?
This is all fiction, so whatever I write becomes the reality. But it always bugs me to read a novel and see something that I know is just simply impossible, and I'd like to avoid that.

If anyone has a thought on this, either post it here or just drop me an email.

Thanks much,


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sartor JSCM

I received this newspaper clipping today from Jim Sartor, who was a Yeoman 1st Class in USTDC's Intelligence branch. The article describes his award of the Joint Service Commendation Medal (JSCM) from Vice Admiral Beshany, who was Commander of USTDC at that time. You can get a better look at the article by clicking on it.

I was there around the same time as Jim, and it was my experience that the award of a JSCM to anyone below pay grade E-7 was not all that common. This was a pretty big deal. Congrats, Jim -- about 34 years after the fact!


In addition to the joint-service USTDC staff, the building also contained representatives from other agencies as well. I used to see some of those guys coming and going but I don't think I ever knew any of them very well.

One such outfit was NSA/CSS, where Dennis McNelis was assigned. He recently sent a photo of a paperweight from that outfit, along with some recollections about the office itself.

Below is a pic of a scan I took of the top of a paperweight. The pic depicts what was our office logo in Taipei, Taiwan at TDC. NSA/CSS stands for National Security Agency/Central Security Service. We use to give these paperweights out to guest that came into our office. This particular paperweight I found at my mothers house recently. I remember sending her this item back in 1973 and can't believe she held on to it. The paperweight is made of brass. I don't know how they etched the top with the colors. The actual paperweight is much nicer looking than the pic depicts. I believe we all remember how much good brass stuff one could buy in Taiwan. After all these years the paperweight still works - just tested it - still holds paper down on the desk!!!!

I use the word office to describe our group at TDC as we where really not a cohesive unit. NSA/CSS office was dominated and run by civilians. The number one man was a GS 15 or 16 civilian followed by a LT Cmdr Navy man. Then came approximately six GS 13 and 14 civilians with a civilian female secretary followed by a Navy Chief and last on the pecking order were three enlisted (1 Air Force and 2 Army guys). The military guys were there working for the NSA and the civilians. All the civilians were with the NSA. The Army guys came from the Army Security Agency (ASA). I cannot remember where the Navy guys or the Air Force guy came from but I do know it was some security unit in their respective service.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dogs & Beer

Dennis McNelis comes through again, this time with absolute proof that one could enjoy a cold Bud with his hot dog on a rainy day in the Headquarters Support Activity East Compound.

No wonder so many people look back on Taipei as the perfect assignment!

By the way, I'm still looking for more photographs of the USTDC building, inside or out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Naval Hospital Taipei

Somebody recently mentioned the Naval Hospital and I've been trying remember where it was located. I vaguely remember going there for immunizations and I think I may have gone there on one or two other occasions, but I can't even picture the place. The name NAMRU-2 seems to ring a bell for some reason.

Does anyone out there remember where it was?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Dining In The Compound

Dennis McNelis has submitted information for this blog before and today he adds more info on the FASD Mess Hall and also the hot dog vendor who used to be in front of the Navy Exchange. Check out the pouring rain in the photo! Look familiar?

With regard to George Dean's posting "Dining In The Compound" Jan 12 2008 on the TDC Blog:

I remember the Foreign Affairs Service Division (FASD) Mess Hall in the East Compound very well. It was open during 1973 and as late as Nov 1974 when I was stationed at TDC. I ate there many times and drank a lot of ice tea as well. As George mentioned in his post the food wasn't bad and the convenience was great - walk out the back gate of TDC by the baseball field and you where there.

I knew two of the waitresses that worked there during 1973 and 1974. One was Casey and the other Cindy (Kim Kaw Yur). I dated Cindy throughout 1974. Casey married an Army guy who was stationed at HAS and the last time I saw her in 1978 they had one baby (I returned to Taipei as a civilian in 1978 working as a merchant mariner). I lost Cindy to an Air Force Guy from TAS whom she married in 1975 - my fault not hers (anyone have any info on Casey or Cindy please feel free to contact me at

If I recall correctly the food at the FASD Mess Hall was served on the military style silver trays. I do not remember much else about the food. I guess I was going just to flirt with the waitresses.

Here is a pic of the Hot Dog vendor and his cart in front of the Exchange in the East Compound. The hot dog cart was good for a quick lunch if you were shopping during your lunch hour. I remember that this Chinese gentleman also served chili dogs. The cart was operated by the Navy Exchange and the Chinese man was an employee. I remember him as being very nice and friendly.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Club 63 Patch

Just found this item listed on eBay (listing is HERE). I'm guessing that it's some sort of commemorative thing, maybe for a unit reunion or something. Has anyone seen this before?


After doing a little more digging, I discovered that this is just one of a large number of patches that someone makes and sells on eBay. There are active units, closed units, and a few like this one that have to do with military clubs. I'm not trying to promote the seller, but I just wanted to answer the question of where this one came from.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Speed Traps In Taipei

You may have noticed that there are headlines from the Taipei Times and the China Post, both Taiwan newspapers, to the right of this blog. Every now and then a headline grabs my attention, like the one in today's Post that announced Speed sensors to be disbanded.

What surprised me in the story wasn't that they decided to discontinue the use of sensors, but that they ever installed them in the first place. That just doesn't mesh with my recollection of Taipei traffic where the only thing approaching traffic control was a cop standing on a box in the middle of an intersection staring off into space -- a sort of elevated state of meditation, you might say.

The use of sensors was discontinued because they were determined to be inaccurate, but a police spokesman responded to that charge by saying, "...although Taiwan has no standard for speed-detection technologies, its underground sensors are all required to have been produced [by] certified Taiwan factories or other authorized facilities. This fact testifies to their accuracy in speed detection."

In other words, "They're accurate because we built them."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Selective Memory

One thing I'm discovering as I record some of these memories is how I seem to be able to recall some of the most insignificant things about my tour during 1973-1974, but I draw a complete blank on things such as the layouts of the various buildings like TDC, the bowling alley, the Navy Exchange, the Commissary, etc. I came across a good example of one of these Trivial Pursuit memories this evening.

My boss was an Army lieutenant colonel (that's Commander for all you Navy types out there). I remember quite a bit about him: his voice, his manner, his American and Taiwanese secretaries (Helen and ??), and how he had his office arranged.

But for some reason, what I remember most clearly is that he had this print hanging over his desk. I'm assuming he was an artillery officer at some point in his career and I guess I was just fascinated enough by this thing that it stuck in my memory. Don't ask me where I usually ate lunch over there, but I've always remembered that quote from Frederick the Great.

Club 63 Ashtray

I stumbled across a website today called The Dog Tag, which offers all kinds of old military items for sale.

I don't know anything about the site or its owner, but I was quite surprised to see an old brass ashtray (under the Lighters category) from the Club 63 for sale...for $200.00!

I don't recall seeing any of these things while I was there, and I'm wondering if maybe they were some sort of promotional item. Does anyone recall if the Club 63 had a gift shop where something like this might have been sold, or if they were they actually used in the club?

In any case, it's certainly not something you see every day.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Vice Admiral Gentner

I came across this photo at the Naval Historical Center website. You can see a larger version by clicking on the photo. In the center is Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who was the Chief of Naval Operations (Designate). To his left is Vice Admiral William E. Gentner, Jr., who was Commander of the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command and to Admiral Moorer's right is Admiral Feng Chi-chung, Chinese Navy Commander-In-Chief. The photo was taken on 7 July 1967.

I previously posted what I believe to be a fairly accurate listing of Air Force generals who served at USTDC Chiefs of Staff, but I've never been able to locate information about Navy admirals who served as USTDC Commanders. If anyone knows where I can find such a listing, please let me know.


Bill Kling sent me a note that included some of the recreational activities that he and others participated in while in Taipei. I think I mentioned earlier on this blog that I was on the "TDC Nooner's League," which headed out to bowl at noon one day each week (Thursdays, I think). My team was Granny's Guys, named after that old cartoon character in Playboy and our shirts had her image embroidered on the back.

Here's Bill's list:

I remember very clearly all of the great activities in Taipei if you were sports minded. Among the things I did in my almost 5 years were:

Mens Bowling in Taipei, also Captains Cup Tournaments

Men/Women Bowling in Tien Mou.

Played slowpitch softball for USACC – they were call the Grass Mountain Outaws. I am sure TDC had a team.

Played in the paddleball tournaments. All services were represented.

Took numerous trips to Camp McCauley, sometimes on picnics with my unit, once with TDC as a guest.

I watched Fast Pitch softball, I remember TDC, Taipei Air Station, and Shu Linkou all being very good. I wasn’t good enough to play!

Horseshoe Tournaments on the West Compound. Again, I watched only.

More Memories -- STRATCOM

I recently heard from Rick Courtney, who was in Taipei during 1967-1968, and I thought that today I'd turn over the keyboard to him. Most of this stuff will be familiar to all who served in the HSA area, including the TDC folks:

I was in Taipei from May of 1967 thru July of 1968. I flew into Taipei on a Sunday afternoon, on a Northwest Orient commercial flight with a couple of Navy guys. None of us spoke any Mandarin. We finally found an information desk manned by a person that spoke a little English. They dialed the telephone and handed it to me. I was relieved to hear an American voice answer. After explaining the situation, the voice on the other end said to go outside and they would send a vehicle to pick us up.

Outside, what is that SMELL?? We all experienced it, but that first time really catches you by surprise, nothing quite like it. Anyway, a little time passes and a grey Navy vehicle shows up with a Chinese driver and he tells us to get in. We are driven to the East Compound and put up in the EM barracks and told to report the admin building next door the next morning.

I was US (a draftee), only been in the Army for about eight months, still a PFC (E-3), half way around the world from home, trying to figure out what the heck is going on. The next morning I get up and go over to the admin building and start processing in. When I go by the mailroom I discover I have mail waiting for me, orders from my old company at Ft. Bliss , Texas promoting me to Specialist Fourth Class (E-4). I have been promoted while I was on leave pending transfer!

It turned out to be good luck. Since I was a freshly minted non-comm, I was eligible to live in the hostel instead of having to live in the barracks. I was put up in the front hostel, on the street side of the north end. My roommate was another SP4 from the outfit I was assigned to.

I was assigned to the Taipei Military telephone system. It was really kind of a world unto its own. On paper at least, the unit was part of the Army Stratcom Long Lines Battalion (ie: Grass Mountain - Joint OverSeas Switchboard) but was assigned to Stratcom Operations Battalion. It was one of those deals where everyone needed us, but nobody wanted us. In reality we provided telephone service for everybody in the Taipei area that had anything to do with the US , including all branches of the military, MAAG, and various embassies. If when you picked up your phone and dialed Operator, a Chinese voice said “Taipei Military” that was one of our phones.

We had a telephone exchange located in the Sugar Building , in the Ximeding area (It was adjacent to the First Company Department Store, the only multistory department store I saw while I was there). The AFNT studios were located in the Sugar building also, on the back side of the lobby. All of our switchboard operators were Taiwanese. There were usually a couple of GI’s that worked at the Sugar Building, maintaining the exchange and anywhere from six to eight of us that worked outside, installing cabling and telephones, and fixing troubles.

The outside group met in the motor pool that was close to the rear entrance to the East Compound. I could walk south from the hostel; go past the Chinese guard and into the main entrance to the East Compound, past the Navy Exchange and theater, and thru a little alley and come out next to the motor pool. All of our vehicles had Chinese military drivers; the Army didn’t want to take any chances on us being involved in an accident driving a government vehicle. So, we would meet at the motor pool every morning, call the exchange at the Sugar Building to get our assignments, and away we went. We usually worked in two man teams, for safety.

One of the benefits of having the Chinese drivers was that if we were anywhere close to the 63 Club around lunch time we would get the driver to drop us off and go back to the motor pool. We could have a leisurely lunch, enjoy the air conditioning, and maybe play a little pinball afterwards. Then we would catch a cab back to the motor pool.

We worked all around the greater Taipei area. East and West HSA compounds, Linkou, the airport, various MAAG compounds, Grass Mountain , Tien Mu, you name it. It was really pretty good duty. It was more like a civilian job than being in the military. We could occasionally play one organization against another to our advantage. As long as the phones kept working everybody was happy.

I wish I had taken more pictures while I was there. All I have are a few Polaroid’s that are pretty badly faded. I have enjoyed the photos on your site as well as several others; they bring back lots of memories.

One of your contributors was commenting about places we ate. I ate at the FASD mess hall in the East compound a couple of times and a few times at the Linkou Club Annex but have no clear memory of either. Mostly, I ate at the 63 Club or the snack bar in the West compound (bowling alley). I remember there was a small snack bar at the rear of the lobby in the hostel. Occasionally I would get a sandwich after work there if I didn’t feel like going to the club. There was also a really small snack bar off the rear lobby of the Sugar Building that we would eat at if we were there picking up supplies.

There was a barber shop just off the lobby of the hostel I lived in. I remember getting a haircuts and manicures there. What a treat to sit and relax after having been out in the heat and humidity all day.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dining In The Compound

George Dean asked me to post his inquiry about dining facilities in the HSA compound. I wrote some time ago that I just couldn't remember where I ate my meals, except for the China Seas (Club 63) in the evenings sometimes. I had a fridge in my room at the hostel, but I doubt that I ate very many meals there.

In his inquiry, George wrote about getting food poisoning. The only time I remember that happening to me was the time I stopped by the Linkou Club Annex late one night to order some fried chicken and fries to go. I ate it back at the hostel and turned in for the night. About three or four o'clock, I had to make a quick run to the porcelain altar and returned there off and on until almost time to go to work. That was the last food I ever ordered from the Linkou Club!

Anyway, here's George's note:

Anyone remember the Foreign Affairs Service Division
(FASD) Mess Hall in the HSA East Compound behind the
Theater near the play field? It was run by the
Chinese Military with civilian employees and I
remember it was open as late as 1972 when I went back
as a civilian on vacation, but then I lost track of
it. I remember that they sold Chit Books for a months
worth of meals so you wouldn't have to pay with NT
cash. The food wasn't all that bad, but it seemed to
be a combination of Chinese and American styles and I
guess we knew about "Fusion" cuisine long before
anyone discovered it! I remember typos on the menu
such as "Fruits Pie" that I used to joke with the
waiters (How many fruits are in this pie?" We spent a
lot of time in that place when we were too lazy to go
to any of the Clubs. Yes, I was only food poisoned
once after a dinner meal I developed a fever and
nausea, and took a cab to the Navy Hospital in Tien
Mu. There was also a snack bar in the HSA West
Compound (near the bowling alley) that we went to for
lunch as our office was close by. Since TDC was only a
stones throw away, I'm wondering if anyone remembers
the FASD Mess Hall or even the Snack Bar?

George Dean

Sartor And Friends Photo

I received this photo from Jim Sartor showing some TDC people at a party. He's on the far left and his wife is next to him. YNC Roger Ringle and his wife are also in the picture.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Life In And Around The HSA Compound

George Dean wrote me today about his time with the Headquarters Support Activity (HSA) in Taipei:

I was stationed at HSA (Headquarters Support Activity) in the West Compound and served as a Navy YN3 between 1965 and 1967. My home was the barracks across the street in the East Compound, so that meant I had to cross Chung Shan North Road several times daily. I remember the strange local guys trying to lure us with "hey joe" or whatever and we basically ignored them. You will never see this now if you've been back to Taipei lately.

We hung out in the East Compound at the Theater, and spent a lot of time at Club 63 and the Linkou Club Annex just outside the compound gate. What a life changing experience that was. I learned some basic Mandarin, made many wonderful friends, and eventually earned an MA degree in Chinese Language at San Francisco State in 1974. I married a local girl and now my son is grown and also speaks Mandarin.

It's really ironic that all we heard back then was complaints about this and that, and now we are all old guys looking back with fond memories of our service time in Taipei!!

George Dean

Main Entrance

Okay, all you old guys whose memories are sharper than mine, I need your help.

Some time ago I posted diagrams of the East and West HSA compounds. These came from a military telephone book, published somewhere around 1977, that was provided to me by Les Duffin, who worked in the TDC building until about six months before it closed.

This is a cropped version of the East compound that shows USTDC and some of the surrounding structures. The top of this diagram is approximately due north. According to the map legend, circled number 18 was "TACF" and circled number 19 was "TDC." The area that's circled 17 is where the tennis/basketball courts were.

First of all, what did TACF stand for? Next, where was the main entrance to the TDC building? I'm defining the main entrance as the door that the Admiral and the General usually entered and departed through. As you came in that door, the J-1's office was to the left and the BMC's office was directly ahead. The "ship's bell" was on the porch area and to the right. I think the entrance must have been where I've marked #1 or #2, and I think that it was probably at #2.

If you can help, please click on "Comments" at the bottom of this post and share that info with the rest of us.

I doubt that anyone has an actual diagram of the building that shows what was located where, but if something like that exists, I'd sure love to be able to post it. Also, if anyone has any photos of the interior of the building -- or the exterior, for that matter -- please let me know.

There's almost nothing on the web about USTDC, except for the Unit Page, and of course my ramblings and your comments on this blog. That's why I always welcome input from those who served in or around the place. I'd hate to see this important part of military history just disappear.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bus Stop

Here's another one from Jim Sartor:

One rainy day, as usual, the local bus company had a repair spot on the street in front of the Taiwanese police station at the top of Road One in Tien Mu. After doing a brake job on one of their busses, one of their 12 year old mechanics took the bus down our street to test the brake job.

He jumped on the brakes, the bus went 90 degrees left, off the road and into our master bedroom, narrowly missing our yard boy. When we got home, the Taiwanese Police were there and a very nice Taiwanese Police Sergeant told us that the bus company was owned, not by a Taiwanese but by a Chinese man and if we wanted our house repaired as well as compensation for the destroyed furniture in the bedroom we shouldn't let the bus company take the bus until AFTER we have been paid.

Sure enough, the next day, a big black American sedan pulled up and out got a very officious Chinese and his driver/translator who informed us that it was his bus and a tow truck was on the way to get it. Remembering what the Taiwanese Police sergeant said, we told the bus company owner that they could have their bus ONLY after we had been paid for our damages. Much yelling, faces reddening and translations later, the bus company owner demanded his bus. I calmly told him that I was going to the Taiwanese Police station to get their help and, unless and until we were paid, we were going to keep their bus exactly where it was and, if necessary, I was going to paint it green and make a flower planter out of it. This was translated to the Chinese man and I thought he was going to have a heart attack.

At about this time, the Taipei newspaper crew showed up and started taking pictures of the bus in our house and the Chinese bus owner immediately agreed to pay anything we wanted and we agreed and said he could have his bus when we got paid. The next day the same Chinese gentlemen showed up, cash in hand, followed by his tow truck.

Ah yes, just another Taipei tale. One must have a sense of humor to last for 4 years in Taipei.

AWOL And Hiding Out At USTDC

Here's another one from Dennis Page:

Thought I’d share with you a little story that sort of sums up the lengths that USTDC shipmates would go through to help out one another. In May of 1969 I was getting ‘short’. My 15 month tour in Taipei was about to end and so I went to the hospital for the shot card updates and the chest x-rays we were required to get at the time of departure. The Navy doctors also decided to do upper and lower GI tract tests on us as well. I guess they were bored and wanted to do doctor stuff.

Well they discovered that only one of my kidneys showed up on the tests so they decided to ship me out to the Navy Hospital in Yokuska , Japan for further tests. Wow!! R&R in Japan ! I flew out of Taipei on a medevac from Viet Nam that had stopped to refuel. Being ambulatory and free to walk about the cabin I helped the flight nurses tend to the wounded on our trip to Tachikawa Air Base, Japan . Once there I made a helo flight to Yokuska and spent a week there where I had what was called “Cinderella Liberty”, which meant I had to be back in the hospital ward by midnight.
The tests showed that I really only had one kidney to begin with and so it was no big deal. I was then shipped to the transit barracks where I hoped to catch a flight back to Taipei . It was there I was told that I would be shipped out to whereever the government felt I was needed and it didn’t look like I’d get back to TDC.

While I was in the hospital, Admiral John Chew, our senior officer at TDC, had to make a trip to Japan for official Navy business and so he flew into Tachikawa aboard his own DC 10. He brought with him our leading Petty Officer, Mel Pennington, RM1 who stopped by to visit me in the hospital. He also stopped by to see me in the transit barracks and I told him my problem.

He made a phone call (I believe to the Admiral) and then told me to be outside the barracks with my seabag at 1700 hours. As the hour approached I threw my bag out the window and told the security guard that I was going outside for a smoke. (I don’t smoke) At 1700 hours the Admiral’s staff car pulled up and he told me to throw my gear aboard and climb in. We went through the security gate with me on the floor in the back of the car and drove out to the airfield where his plane was tied down.

Several hours later we were airborne and on the way back to Taipei . I was never so glad to smell the binjos and feel that humidity as we deplaned. I think that in some logbook somewhere I must be listed as AWOL but I was home.

Keep up the good work with this blog.

Well, I've had my share of experience with people going AWOL, but I don't think I ever met anyone who went AWOL to his own base!

Sand Pebbles

A few days ago I heard from Dennis Page, who was a Navy E-4 Electronics Tech in J-6 Maintenance at the TDC comm center in 1968-69:

I found out about your blog from an old shipmate who also served there, Ted W. I had not heard from in 38 years and today he calls me on the phone from the other side of the US and he told me about this blog. It was really great to find out what had happened to the old place. There has to be many more stories out there and I hope to be able to contribute some in the future.

For example, some of the short-timers when I got there told stories about how during the filming of the movie, The Sand Pebbles, Steve McQueen and a few of his fellow actors would visit the 63 Club and go motorcycle riding together. I even had tailor Loo, the East Compound tailor make me a set of liberty cuffs identical to the ones McQueen had on his dress blues. I still have them along with many great memories. Thanks.

If anyone was in Taipei during The Sand Pebbles filming, and has a story or two about it, I'm sure we'd all love to hear about it. I think I read somewhere that they used some local Navy personnel as extras in the film. Any truth to that?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Surprise Reunion

Jim Sartor sent me some more stories that he remembered from his USTDC days. I got a real chuckle out of this one:

One of the Navy draftsmen at TDC came to Taipei, leaving his new wife in the U.S. One fine evening at the Club, the place was jam packed and this particular Draftsman was there with his "local friend". His wife had, unbeknownst to him and everyone else, flown into Taipei on a commercial airline and had tracked him down at the club. Believe me, it was truly a sight to see when American wife meets "local friend" and American wife's hubby in the middle of the Club 63. Needless to say, this got back to the Admiral at TDC and hubby and American wife were on the next plane back to the U.S. Much amusement for one and all that were there that night.
I'll bet!

I don't think I ever saw anything exactly like this, but I did know a couple of American wives who packed up and headed back to the States because their marriages fell apart in Taipei. It was an easy place to go wrong, that's for sure.

One of my favorite stories that made the rounds while I was there concerned a married military guy who left his family in the States while he served the shorter, unaccompanied tour. Well, before long he had himself a "special friend" with whom he shared his apartment.

But at some point he and his wife decided that he should apply to have her join him, which of course meant that his "friend" would have to make other housing arrangements.

Well the wife arrived, got moved into her new digs, and everything was sweetness and light.

But then this genius decided that he would hire his "ex-friend" to be the family's amah, or maidservant.

The next morning at breakfast the amah poured our hero a cup of coffee and started to add cream. The wife spoke up, "Oh, he doesn't take cream in his coffee." To which the amah sweetly replied, "Oh yes he does!"


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lots More Memories

I just heard from Jim Sartor, who was in J-22 (Op Center) at USTDC from 1968 to 1972. He wrote about some of his experiences during that time and I’m pleased to pass them along here:

My wife and I landed in Taipei after a long flight from Travis AFB and as soon as the doors on our plane opened we were hit with the "Taipei smell." I found out later that it was mainly the open benjos and humidity. Even after 4 years on Taiwan, we were reminded of the smell on returning to the US when our household goods crates were opened and EVERYTHING smelled like Taipei.

Spent our first nights in a guest house near the Linkou Club and we were awakened the first night by the sound of rats running through the AC ducts. Our first welcome to the idea that "If it creeps, crawls, or slithers, Taiwan has it in spades.”

Bought a '62 Impala on our third day in Taipei and, after having driven in MANY countries in the world, I was truly scared to death the first time I hit the streets. Traffic rules in Taipei were "different.” The first person to blow their horn had the right of way. If a driver didn’t look at you, well then you just didn't exist and he could, and did, do anything including running you off the road. Traffic rules were only "suggestions" and didn't apply to taxis.

Rented our first house in Tien Mu and since it had just been completed we (wrongly, as it happened) assumed everything was going to be great. Wrong!!! The nice new aluminum framed windows looked great until it rained! That was when we found out that the Taiwanese didn't bother with rubber seals around the glass and the rain water just poured in around the edge of the glass. All of our towels were used to soak up the water as it poured into the house. The steps to the second floor were not of equal height and we constantly banged our shins going up stairs.

By the way, how many of you remember having "grass mats" made up to cover the floors? Also, do you remember having to hire a "guard" for your house? Either you hired one or you would mysteriously have your home broken into by one of, as the guard called them, sneaky boys. One night, we heard our German shepherd growling and woke up to find Bonzai, our dog, sitting under a window with a piece of someone’s pants in his mouth and a screwdriver and pair of pliers on the window ledge. We never had anyone try to break in after that.

We moved to our next house in the BOT housing at the top of Road One in Tien Mu. These were built by the Japanese during WWII and even had a bomb shelter in the yard. Ours was sort of "U" shaped and, after getting several of the Navy CB neighbors drunk, they came over one weekend and built us a family room in the open part of the "U". Made a very great house and only cost the materials and the beer. Also, we could restock our bar at the Double Ten Store for about 20 dollars. This was great when my wife would invite the entire bowling league to our house after bowling at the lanes in Tien Mu.

We had all of the furniture in our house made by a Taiwanese in Tien Mu by the name of Singer Le. We still have most of it even after all this time. For example, we had a curved bar built, including brass foot rail and four swivel stools, for about $200.00. Helluva deal!!!

You could go to the book/record store near HSA and buy bootleg copies of LPs and books for 20 NT.

I remember hiring an amah for $40.00 a month and she cleaned, cooked and baby sat for 6 days a week for that. Yard boys were about $30.00 a month.

The Club 63 is good for several stories if anyone would believe them. So was the Linkou Club. The "Stag bar" at the 63 was great when the new copies of Laugh-in came in. Whenever they got a new stock, we would go for "lunch" and stay the rest of the day watching Laugh-in. One day, just before Christmas, one of the regulars came out of the Mens Room, turned left and walked right into the Christmas tree. Since he has been telling war stories just before going to the mens room, I guess he was still thinking about Nam when he hit the Christmas tree and he immediately proceeded to attack it and ripped it to shreds before we could stop him. You could also get your car washed at the club for 20 NT while you were in the club and you also could fill your household water jugs at the outside tap at the Stag Bar.

"Chops" were another interesting idea they had. We had chops on everything! A friend of mine, however, did pull a "swifty" on the buy-sell men on his car. The night before he was due to turn his Ford over, he had one two many adult beverages and wiped out the right side of his car. Being a clever sort of chap, he parked the car, right side against his house and played dumb. A couple hours after the buy-sell man picked up the car he returned screaming about the damage. My friend simply said, gee it looks like someone hit YOUR car and went back into his house, leaving the buy-sell man screaming in the street.

Cars were a great source of entertainment in Taipei. I had a 65 Mustang coupe that was bronze in color and I had baby moon hubcaps and cream painted "mustang coves" on it. Last car was a 72 240Z that had everything!! It was red and had spoilers, mags, custom exhaust built by a guy near the Navy Hospital and EVERYONE on the island knew the car. My wife, daughter and I went to Camp McCauley one weekend and, after returning on Monday, got a call from the PMO who was complaining that I had "escaped" from pursuing Military Police on the way to McCauley. I told him, truthfully, that I had never seen them and I probably didn't since they were in an old, worn out, Dodge panel truck.

How many people remember the little tailor shop just outside the back gate of TDC? We used to go in there and get shirts custom made for $2.00 for short sleeve and $2.50 for long sleeve. Don't remember the cost of suits, etc., but they were dirt cheap. The only thing you had to remember was to provide your own thread from the States. The thread they used wasn't really good and I even had the seat of my suit pants pull open once as I got out of a car to go to a party at the Club 63 one night. Not a good thing.

Do you remember the "typhoon parties"? When there was a severe typhoon scheduled to hit Taipai, we knew from past experiences that the power would go out and be out for several days. We would pick one couples house and everyone would get together there and cook all of their perishable meats so they wouldn't go bad when the typhoon hit and the power went out. We would then party thru the typhoon since there wasn't anything any of us could do about the storm so we might as well party.

Remember the outside hot water heaters that the amah had to build a fire in so you could have hot water?

I still remember the child mechanics. When you took your to a local garage to have some work done, it was usually done by a gaggle of kids that looked to be about 12 years old. They did absolutely great work though.

Thanks for the chance go remember so much about a wonderful time that we had in Taipei and thanks for the blog that lets many of us tell others about our times there.

Jim Sartor
San Marcos, Ca.

I don't like to publish private email addresses on this blog because they tend to become a magnet for spam. But if you'd like to contact Jim, just drop me a note and I'll pass it along to him.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Aussies at the 63 Club

I don't have a lot to write on this topic, but I just wanted to mention it while I was thinking about it. Maybe some others will chime in later with more info.

One of the occasional "drop-ins" at the 63 Club (China Seas) stag bar was a group of Australians who worked on the offshore oil rigs around Taiwan. I don't know how much time they had to spend at their work site, but every now and then they would come ashore to blow off a little steam. Nobody ever checked club membership cards at the stag bar so it wasn't a big deal for non-members to be there.

I just remember them as a friendly and hard-partying bunch who consumed large quantities of adult beverages, buying occasional rounds for the house along the way, before heading out for town later in the evening.

They'd sometimes get a bit rowdy, as you might expect from a group of guys who'd been isolated for weeks or months at a time, but I don't think there were ever any serious incidents at the stag bar when they were in town. They'd mostly just shoot pool, play shuffleboard, drop quarters in the jukebox, hit on any female sailors who happened to be there and keep bartenders Pete and Bobo very, very busy.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Christmas & New Years in Taiwan

A few days ago I mentioned that I spent the Christmas holidays back in the States with my family in 1973, but I wondered what it was like for the American military folks who spent the holidays in Taipei.

I just received another excellent piece from Bill Kling, who earlier wrote about military people selling merchandise in Taiwan back in the 1970s. Bill was in Taiwan during the 1973, 1974, 1977 and 1978 holiday seasons and here are his holiday memories of that period:

I can remember spending 1973, 1974, 1977, and 1978 holiday seasons on the island. Among the things I experienced was trying to get my one year old son the latest toys in 1973. A new Toyland had just opened on the HSA compound across from the USACC HQ’s and next to the FASD eating facility just down the street from the back of USTDC. It was always tough to get toys and when the Navy Exchange held a grand opening of the new Toyland I stood in line on a rainy Saturday morning hoping to get some of the toys that supposedly just arrived. Also important was to get my son a picture with Santa Claus. Well, as only the military can do, the rumor spread about this BIG shipment of toys and although I got to Toyland at 7AM for a scheduled 10AM opening there was already over fifty people in line to get in the door first. As it turned out the BIG shipment of toys did not arrive and the grand opening was a major letdown for everyone involved. We were told to check back often as the toys would be in soon. Between myself, my wife, and friends we checked daily until finally almost two weeks later on a weekday (don’t remember which day, mid December) we got the word that the toys had arrived. My wife frantically drove from our BOT house in Tien Mou and was successful in getting a few of those important toys.

I must say that the holidays in Taiwan brought out many emotions. I worked shift work on Grass Mountain in the Tech Control area and we always felt “Why do I have to work XMAS eve, or New Years Eve”, but such was our duty. The Tech Control handled communications off the island and I remember playing XMAS Carol’s over the circuits to Okinawa, Japan, Korea, and the rest of the world. We were able to call the “States” and speak to our families and also help friends do the same. It seemed like a big deal back then, as we didn’t all have cell phones, IM, or email. Many people were sad as they missed their homes and loved ones, but we also enjoyed many parties thrown by our buddies, the 63 Club, and the Linkou Club. I do not remember prices, but I do remember that normal prices were slashed and we all were able to share XMAS I still have the “fake” XMAS tree that I used in Taiwan in 1973. I haven’t taken in out of the box in several years so it may be in pieces but I do have it. The available XMAS ornaments and lights were not of a very high quality on the island but they were always better than nothing. I remember attending XMAS Mass at the St Christopher church down the street from the HSA compound. We had the holiday and almost everything we would have had in the States, except our families. It seemed there was always some military person either leaving during the season or a new person arriving and those people really had a challenge to learn a new job, get them and their family settled, as well as remembering the season.

On XMAS Eve 1974 the USACC personnel from USTDC Tech Control actually invited us “down” to the compound to share some cheer. As we were not allowed to have liquor in the building we actually met outside the back entrance to TDC (by the tennis courts) and had a drink and/or toast or two. Perhaps we had more than a few as the off duty Chinese guards joined in the fun as we sang Carols and laughed and joked. I remember that several of the USACC team visited an orphanage and someone played Santa and we had a good time helping those little Chinese kids. As the years went by and the US presence was reduced it seemed much easier to get toys, appliances, BOT housing, etc.

New Years Eve was a little different story. If you were married you either went to parties held by your friends in their homes or maybe you went to the 63 Club for a more fancy night. Single people seemed to gravitate towards either the Linkou Club or go down town to Sugar Daddy Alley. Either way we were able to share a night of cheer. That is unless you worked shift work, and many Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel had such jobs. In my section we tried to split the duty up so you either got XMAS Eve or New Years Eve off. Again, married people preferred XMAS off and the single people preferred New Years Eve.

New Years 1978 was interesting as my family and I were in the Guest House waiting to leave the island in early February. We had shipped all of our household goods by mid-December were just waiting for our flight assignments. During that time President Carter recognized the mainland and it was decided that all troops would leave the island by 4/30/1979. So while it was the holidays, some of the fun was taken out of it as the US forces were looking forward to their new assignments, but with a some concern about the Taiwanese reaction to the drastic reduction of the American military population between 1975 and 1978.

If any other former military people have any stories that they'd like to share about their Christmas holidays in Taiwan, please let me know.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christmas & New Year's In Taipei

During my tour at USTDC, I flew back to the States to be with my wife and kids in Colorado during the 1973 Christmas season. So how did the rest of you in Taipei celebrate the holidays? Did the military clubs and local watering holes have special New Year's Eve parties? Okay, silly question. Tell us about it.