Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Embassy Shop

The Embassy Shop was located in building 302 in the West Compound, just around the corner from the service station. It was basically a discount liquor store, and without all those bothersome federal and state taxes that you have to pay here in the States.

No doubt there are many stories to be told about this place, but I'm afraid that mine isn't among them. I think the only time I was ever in the place was when I purchased a bottle of Napoleon brandy there. I had been invited to a local home for Moon Festival dinner and someone told me that it would be an appropriate gift to bring.

I know that booze was rationed, but I don't recall if there were separate ration cards for the commissary, certain Navy Exchange items, liquor, etc.

It's probably safe to say that some of the alcohol purchased at the Embassy Shop found its way downtown to the local clubs. For the record, I have no personal knowledge of any such goings-on.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Assault in Taichung

I've mentioned Michael Turton's blog, "The View From Taiwan," which is mostly about what's going on there today, with an emphasis on political and social issues (and some excellent photographs, by the way).

Michael recently wrote a piece entitled "Foreigner Victimized By Gun Toting Tough in Taichung" in which he describes an incident involving a local thug who assaulted a foreigner, first with a BB gun and later with a handgun! The foreigner was a teacher who was promptly fired by his school administrators because they feared gang retaliation against the school. Incredible.

Though this all took place in Taichung, I was surprised that it could occur anywhere in Taiwan.

I remember walking the streets of Taipei late at night in the seventies, never giving a thought to my own safety. It just never occurred to me that someone might come after me, with or without a weapon. Of course the Gemo kept the place under martial law in those days, which dealt very harshly with crimes like robbery and assault. I'm not justifying martial law here, just making an observation about how things were.

That's not to say there was no crime there -- theft and burglary, for example -- but some punk attacking a foreigner in the streets, with a gun? I don't think so.

The U.S. State Department website provides a lot of information about visiting Taiwan, including crime information:

Although the overall violent crime rate in Taiwan is relatively low, travelers should avoid high crime areas, such as areas where massage parlors, illegal "barbershops," and illegal "nightclubs" run by criminals prevail. In contrast to their counterparts, legal barbershops prominently display the usual grooming services. Illegal nightclubs have no advertisement and are publicized by word of mouth only. Public transportation, including the buses and the subway, is generally safe in Taiwan, but women should exercise caution when traveling alone in taxis late at night. In several parts of Taiwan, incidents of purse snatching by thieves on motorcycles have been reported.
In other words, like anywhere else in the world, if visitors keep their eyes open and don't do anything stupid, they should be okay.


Speaking of visitors, yesterday was quite a milestone here. On July 18, 2007, I wrote the first piece for this blog, titled "The Watch," which was a sort of grumpy summary of a detail that many of us had to pull every now and then at TDC. Since then, more than eleven thousand visitors have dropped by to read the next 271 posts and look at the photographs, most of which came from others who were kind enough to share them.

I originally thought that I'd publish a few columns to share some personal memories about USTDC, since there was almost no information on the web about the place. I fully expected to run out of ideas after a few weeks -- if I even got that far -- but at least there would be a public record that something called the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command had indeed existed.

What I didn't know was that a lot of other people would also want to get involved in the project, sharing their own memories and, of course, those great pictures. Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive of this effort.

I'll continue posting until I finally run out of material, but if the past thirteen months or so are any indication, that just may be a good long time.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Club 63 -- Today

*** UPDATE ***

I just received a very gracious note from Lily Chang, who is the Membership Services Director of the American Club.

She confirmed that the Club was originally located behind the Rainbow Hostel in the current Fine Art Museum area.

I was pretty sure that I had seen their tennis courts from the second floor of the hostel when I lived there.


Here are more great photos from Bill Thayer. This used to be the Club 63, which later became the China Seas Club when the Navy took over its management. Today the building is owned by The American Club in China (ACC), a private club that's mostly for international business people.

The ACC began in 1968 and moved to its present digs after the China Seas folded. I believe that it was located right next to the East Compound (just north of the hostels) when I was there in 1973-1974. I may be wrong about that (wouldn't be the first time on this blog) so if anyone knows for sure, please let me know. I've emailed them a couple of times, but they apparently don't respond to nonmembers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The East Compound -- Today

Bill Thayer was an Army personnel specialist at Shu Lin Kou during the early 1960s. In 1973, he returned to Taiwan, this time to the HSA Compound (Signal Compound) as the Army personnel officer, where he provided personnel support to the Army folks at USTDC, MAAG and USACC (formerly STRATCOM).

He has provided a number of photos that he took during a return trip to Taipei in 2004, showing the area as it appears today, and his comments follow:

These photos are of the area which used to be the HSA East compound that contained the commissary, PX, theater, library, etc. The area shown in the photos also includes what used to be the Signal Compound which contained the softball field and the rear area of the US Taiwan Defense Command (USTDC).

The entire East Compound has been replaced by a park, as seen in the pictures. The TDC building has been replaced by an art museum.

The first photo is taken from approximately where the entry/exit front gate was for the HSA East Compound. It is now the entrance to the park. In the background, you can see the art museum and, looming above it, the Grand Hotel.

This photo was taken from about where the commissary stood.

This photo was taken from about where the old softball field and signal compound were located. You can see some folks taking a wedding photo shoot as well as the Grand Hotel in the background.

The next two photos were taken from the rear parking lot of what used to be TDC and is now the parking lot of the art museum. In these two photos are the only two remaining remnants that I found of the US military existence in Taipei. The first one shows the shack where guards used to stand to let people drive down into the TDC parking area from Shin Sheng North Road (also called Canal Road). The second shows the wall that runs from the guard shack along Shin Sheng North Road. The guard shack and wall are the only items that I recognize from my tour in the Signal Compound from January, 1973 through December, 1977 as the Army personnel officer. All other vestiges of the compounds have been eradicated and replaced by the park.

This last photo was taken about fifteen feet to the right of where the first photo was taken at the entrance to the park.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Youngster's Memories of Taiwan

There's a very interesting letter over at Kent's Taipei Air Station blog from a man whose family lived in Taiwan when he was a kid back in the late 1970s.

He talks about exploring the deserted U.S. military facilities after the withdrawal and about his interaction with Taiwanese kids when the withdrawal was first announced.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chapel Interior

A few days ago I wrote a short piece about the Navy chapel that was located in the HSA West Compound, and I posted a couple of photos of the place.

Today I wanted to add a couple more pictures, one of the exterior with some of the surrounding buildings (courtesy of Les) and one of the interior (courtesy of Sarj, who was the groom in the photo). You can see the Taiwan and U.S. flagpoles toward the center of the top picture. They were located directly in front of the chapel.

Sarj says he thinks that about half of the structure was offices with a reception area in the front with the sanctuary taking up the other half. In the photo you can see the raised platform where the chaplain is standing and part of the wooden rail in front of it. Lithographer 1st Class Don Moak and his wife are the other two people in this picture.

If anyone else has any interior shots of the chapel, or remembers more details about it, please let me know. Of course I'm always on the lookout for photos and/or descriptions of most anything in or around the East or West Compounds -- especially the USTDC building itself.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tien Mou Housing

*** UPDATE ***

Jim Sartor just reminded me of the piece I wrote a few months ago that included a photograph of a bus that had plowed into his BOT house. I'll bet that brought some excitement into the neighborhood!


Several people have mention BOT (Bank of Taiwan) housing here. These pictures show old BOT, new BOT and private rental quarters in Tien Mou.

I recall that a number of my single friends had apartments and I assume that some married people did as well.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Original Gate?

This photo is of poor quality, but it's the only one I've ever seen like it. It's the main entrance to USTDC, but with a much different arch from what was there during my assignment in 1973-74. I also notice that there appear to be floodlights on either side of this arch, which weren't on the later version.

I believe the photo was taken sometime around 1956, though I understand from Stev and Sarj that there was no arch at all during the late fifties and early sixties. I think that perhaps they may have had to remove this arch to allow the passage of construction equipment when TDC was remodeled.

If anyone has any information on this structure, like when it was built, when/why it was removed or when the more ornate red arch was constructed, please let me know.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

U.S. Military Units in the Taipei Area - Part 3

This wraps up the list of organizations that appeared in Taiwan Report.

I would only add one more: Detachment 14, 1131st USAF Special Activities Squadron. That's a long title for the relatively small organization made up of Air Force personnel assigned to the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command. It was more of an administrative channel than anything else, with our support coming out of an Air Force installation in Hawaii.

Detachment commanders in the Air Force were usually lieutenants, captains or majors, but because the senior Air Force Officer at USTDC was a major general (the USTDC Chief of Staff) he was also designated as Detachment Commander of Det 14.

That meant that his signature was required on even the most routine administrative and personnel actions. I remember having to prepare staff summary sheets and routing them up through three other offices for coordination and comments, just to get the general's signature on immunization rosters and other routine documents.

Friday, August 22, 2008

U.S. Military Units in the Taipei Area - Part 2

Today's unit descriptions include Headquarters Support Activity (HSA -- the folks who ran the compound), USASTRATCOM Signal Support Agency, 6987th Security Group (the guys up at Shu Lin Kou), U.S. Army Taiwan Materiel Agency (where were these guys?), and the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit #2 (NAMRU-2).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

U.S. Military Units in the Taipei Area - Part 1

For the next couple of days, I'll be posting pages from Taiwan Report that describe the U.S. military organizations in Taiwan. These were current as of 1973 when the booklet was published.

Today's pages describe the U.S. Taiwan Defense Command, U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group, 327th Air Division (Taipei Air Station) and U.S. Army Forces Taiwan.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Welcome Letter

This is another jewel from the Taiwan Report booklet. It's a welcome letter to new arrivals from the Commander, U.S. Taiwan Defense Command. At the time this was published, the COMUSTDC was Vice Admiral Beshany.
Sort of makes you want to pack your bags and go, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Useful Maps

These are maps that were included in the Taiwan Report, a glossy booklet that was mailed to individuals pending assignment to Taiwan. This edition was published during FY 1973 and it was the source for most of the recent compound photos I've been posting.

As always, you can click on any image to see a larger version.

Many thanks to Les, who held on to a copy of the booklet and who took the time to scan some of its pages for us.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Theater and Library

The base theater and library were located to the east of the parking lot in the HSA East Compound.

I remember the library as being somewhat small, but with a decent selection of books. I know that I checked out Formosa Betrayed from there. Someone had scrawled on the inside of the front cover, "Is Lie!" I don't know if it was all true or not, but I think that much of it probably was.

For some reason, I don't remember going to see movies in the compound. But if it was like other military theaters of the period, admission was cheap and the movies were fairly current. The National Anthem would have preceded each feature -- while everyone stood at attention, of course --and smoking would have been permitted.

If anyone disagrees with any of these fading memories, feel free to straighten me out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hostel Rooms

There were two hostel buildings, one behind the other, located just to the north of the East Compound main gate. I've written several pieces here about the place, but I wanted to post this photograph of a typical single room.
I believe the front hostel had mostly two-person rooms, while the one I lived in (in back) had single rooms like this one. It was slightly larger than it appears here because there was a combination closet/dresser/storage cabinet just inside the door and there was also a private bathroom with stool, sink and a shower.

The room was air conditioned and because electricity was included in the rent, I kept the place very cool during the summer months. I remember one weekend I noticed one of those large cockroaches, that seemed to be everywhere, coming into my room under the door. He stopped for a few seconds, apparently decided it was way too cold for him, and skittered back out again.

The hostel was adequate, fairly inexpensive, and just a short walk to USTDC and all of the Headquarters Support Activity facilities in the compound. I've circled the window in this photo where I believe my room was located. To the right of this photo, you can see some of the East Compound. You can just make out the striped antenna slightly to the right in the background that marks the location of the US Taiwan Defense Command building.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


This first picture is of the entrance to the West Compound. If you look toward the center of the photo, you can see two flagpoles rising above a small picket fence several yards ahead on the left side of the street. That was where the chapel was located.

I was never inside this building, I'm ashamed to admit, but I did attend services at many other military chapels around the world. They typically had several rows of pews, or sometimes just chairs, with an aisle down the center of the room. There was usually a platform at the front of the building and that's where the chaplain delivered his messages. Sometimes there was a choir loft and usually a piano, organ, or both up there.

Because military chapels were for worshipers of all faiths, the interior was fairly neutral. I've seen some that displayed a large crucifix behind the platform during Catholic services, a plain cross during Protestant services, and a Star of David during Jewish services.

If anyone remembers what this particular chapel was like, please let me know.

Friday, August 15, 2008

USTDC Main Gate

This was the main gate to USTDC. You're facing east (more or less) here and just across the road to your left was the river. I don't recall the name of the road, but perhaps some kind soul can provide that in Comments.

Because I normally walked to work from the hostel, I very rarely went in or out this gate.

If you were to look to your right from this spot today, you would see the Fine Arts Museum.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


These photographs are of the Navy Exchange Cafeteria, which was located in the HSA West Compound. I think someone told me that it moved over to the East Compound after I left in 1974.

To be honest, I don't really remember this facility, which probably means that I didn't spend much time there. Come to think of it, I don't believe I spent much time in the West Compound, except for the usual license and identification requirements. I do remember the bowling alley in that area, but I think I only bowled there a couple of times during my 15 months at TDC.

I recall that there were a few slot machines in a small room next to the cafeteria. The reason that stands out is because the Army and the Air Force had removed slot machines from their enlisted clubs at that time because of some problems they had with misappropriation of profits, mostly at bases in Vietnam. I didn't realize until I arrived in Taipei that the Navy still allowed the machines in their clubs.

When the Navy took over the Club 63 from MAAG during my TDC assignment, they renamed it the China Seas Club and did some remodeling, including the construction of a game room filled with slot machines. I wrote about these "one-armed bandits" back in September.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Provost Marshall

If you were assigned to USTDC, or anywhere else in the Taipei area, you undoubtedly passed through the Provost Marshall's Office (PMO) in the Headquarters Support Activity west compound. That's where you received the various identification cards and licenses that you needed to survive in the city.

The sign for the first station in this photo has to do with some sort of license, registration and passes. The second sign reads "Chinese ID Cards, Chinese Drivers License and Military Drivers License." The third sign reads "POV Import." The fourth sign reads "License Plate Issue, POV Registration and Change of Title." The fifth sign reads "POV Export and Sale of POV."

I can't make out the last three signs, but you can see the general types of services that were provided here.
I once left my wallet in the backseat of a cab and had to visit PMO the next morning to replace all of my cards. I think I had to fill out a statement saying where I thought I lost it, etc., but that was about it.

About a month later someone turned in the wallet and I had to go back over to PMO to pick it up. It still had all my old cards and a couple of NT in it, but of course the few dollars I had in the wallet were gone.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Grand Hotel Evolution

We recently had some discussion here about the changes to the Grand Hotel over the years. Les recently sent me these photos that document those changes.

Here are his comments:

I have photos of the four phases of construction outline in the Wikipedia article. Here are the original building, the Jade Phoenix (Ch'ui Feng Ting) -- both photographed in 1962 -- and the Chi Lin Pavillion, which I shot in 1965.

Finally, here's one of the current out-sized building taken in 1975. When that was finished in '73, a Chinese commentator quipped that they now needed to build a higher mountain behind it in order to restore a sense of perspective.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Exploring Sun Moon Lake

These are the rest of the photos from Sarj of his early 1960s trip to Sun Moon Lake. The ladies shown are Sarj's wife and some of her friends.