Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Trip To Matsu

Stev Pitchford provided some photographs and a narrative of his trip from USTDC to the Matsu Islands in 1959. Those were very tense times, especially in that area. I found an interesting account on-line that discusses another PBY that disappeared around that time. I certainly can't vouch for its accuracy but it makes for interesting reading. You can find that story here.

Here's Stev's account of his trip:

I was an E-3 PHGAN [Ground Photographer Airman] when I arrived in Taipei. Commander Best was the officer in charge of the photo lab. I had only been there two or three weeks when they sent me to Matsu with the commander. I still don't know why they sent me, but I tell people it was to confuse the enemy. We flew over in a PBY (don't hold me to that because I'm not an expert on aircraft), landed on the water, and when we climbed out of the plane there were 4 or 5 MAAG guys on the beach staring at me wondering what a PHGAN was. They thought I was some sort of nuclear technician. After they found out I was only a photographer, they wandered off. I told Sarj this story earlier and he thinks the trip was so the commander could get some flight pay. He could be right, but confusing the enemy makes for a better story so I'm sticking with that.

Most people familiar with Taiwan know that Matsu is a group of islands just off the coast of mainland China near the mouth of the Min River. At that time, 1959, five of the islands were inhabited. If my memory is right, there were about a dozen Americans stationed there. They lived in, and worked out of, this compound on one of the islands.

I stayed there a week taking a couple of pictures for the commander, but mostly wandering around on my own. Spotted around on the surface of the islands were various anti-aircraft guns and artillery pieces, but the really big guns were hidden underground in caves. I understand the hostilities got serious occasionally, but for the most part they had a pretty civilized arrangement. The two sides, Communists and Nationalists, would fire artillery shells at each other that sprayed out propaganda leaflets. One side would fire on the odd numbered days and the other side would fire on the even numbered days.

After my week there, I went back to Taiwan on a Chinese destroyer with a couple of the MAAG guys.

I don't know who the Chinese mistook me for, but they had me inspect the ship 3 times on the trip to Keelung. Eight hours after we left Matsu, we arrived in Keelung's harbor.

From Keelung, it was back to my ordinary life in Taipei and the photo lab.


Anonymous said...

I recall the disappearance of the Blue Goose being a mystery, but I don't remember it being much of a secret. It was common knowledge when I made my trip to Matsu.

The story in the link above provided by Don indicates that the Blue Goose flew at an altitude of 1,000 feet to escape the radar of enemy aircraft. We flew over just skimming the water, probably at an altitude of 50 feet.

Anonymous said...

I was an Army NCO E-5 Radio Operator with the MAAG team on Matsu from May 22nd to end of Sep 1959. Around the middle of June the PBY came out and broke down and I was given option to ride a Chinat destroyer back to Keelung for my 7 day break or wait for the PBY to be fixed. I took the boat.
The picture of the 3 stripper has a remarkable resemblance to me. Can you verify the approx date you made the trip back to Keelung and why you took the Chinese ship instead of the PBY?

Anonymous said...

My trip on the Chinat destroyer was around the end of September, 1959. I flew to Matsu on the PBY and it returned the same day, so I don't know of any problem with it. After about a week, I went back to Taiwan with a couple of the MAAG guys. No special reason was given for using the destroyer. I think it was just going our way when we needed a ride.

Anonymous said...

Great! I served the army in Matsu from 1981 to 1983, 269th division.

Anonymous said...


Can you provide the story link again?


Andy Ou

Don said...

Andy, I checked the link ( and apparently the domain name aiipowmia no longer exists.



Anonymous said...

Don - I stationed in one of the smallest island, Xi-Ju of Matsu Islands 1981-1982. I'm very interested in Stev story and pictures.
Anyway, thanks

Stev said...


While the link in Don's post no longer exists, here is another link with information about the incident:

Anonymous said...

Hi Stev,

I posted first picture in this Taiwanese Veteran's website:

Trying to identify where is this island?


Stev said...


Search in Google Earth using these coordinates:



Anonymous said...

Thank you Steve.


Anonymous said...

I still don't know exactly where it is. I searched in Google and only got a rough map of Matsu with no details.

Most importantly, Matsu is the territory of the Republic of China. Only that Google wrongly remarked it as part of FuZhou, PRC.