Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Friday, October 31, 2008

Marriage in Taipei

Sarj Bloom got married during his TDC tour and he recently sent me a photo of his marriage certificate, along with a few comments:
It wasn't easy getting married in Taiwan -- tons and tons of paperwork.

We got married in the chapel in the compound in the morning and then we went downtown to City Hall and got married at the Chinese court. You can see the signature of the American Consulate representative on the certificate.

There were about six couples getting married and I was the only American. There was no rehearsal and near the end of the ceremony we were told to bow to the judge, then turn around and bow to the people in the court, and then bow to our spouse.

Well, I got a big laugh because I got disoriented and I bowed to the back of the woman on the other side of me. I was embarrassed for a short time.
I know how you felt, Sarj. After I retired from the Air Force, my job required that I travel to many parts of the world and I was always very sensitive to local customs and tried hard not to be The Ugly American. I think I was successful most of the time, but probably made more mistakes than I was aware of at the time.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Big Bucks

A friend recently sent me this link to historical military pay charts at I was a little surprised to find that when I enlisted in the Air Force back in 1962, they paid me the princely sum of $78.00 per month. By the time I arrived in Taipei in 1973 as a technical sergeant (E6), I was all the way up to an astounding $577.80 per month plus allowances!

Check out the charts if you'd like to see what you were earning during your time in Taipei.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wainright High School Query

This is a little off-topic, but it is related to the information I posted a few days ago regarding American schools in Taiwan.

Mr. David Yang sent me the following message:

Hello Don

The city government of Tainan is now asking its citizens to send in any information (photos, stories ect.) related to the Jonathan Wainwright high school. The city government plans to turn the original site of the wainwright high school into a park with an exhibition place to introduce the once existed American school. I wonder if you know someone who can help. Thank you in advance.

David Yang
If anyone here has any information on the school and is interested in participating in this project, please drop me an email and I'll send you Mr. Yang's email address.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

MARS and Explorers

A few days ago I posted some comments from Jim Petretta, who operated the Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) in Taipei. He later mentioned to me that he started an Explorer post in Taipei with an emphasis on ham radio. Today this program for senior scouts is called Venturing, but the basic goal of providing a program of interest to young men in ages 14 through 20 remains.

Here are some of Jim's comments regarding those experiences:

I had some scouting experience of my own as a kid, so Sergeant Major Brickman of HHC asked me to start an Explorer Scout group that his son could join. Our focus was on Ham Radio. We did take a couple of camping trips with other Scouts somewhere, but I can't honestly remember where it was. We spent most of our time playing with radios and learning about different kinds of transmissions, frequencies and antennas.

I designed a cubical-quad antenna and the kids built it. I also designed the tower it went on, but Maj Barnum had the Corps of Engineers actually build that atop the MARS Station on Grass Mountain (after it relocated down slope from Gold Mountain).

The historic part of this was that during the Sino-American Scout Jamboree, our kids received a permit from the government to operate a ham radio from the Jamboree site. It was a first-ever, because of communication restrictions on their own people, and I even remember them posting a ROC military guard by our exhibit. That same cubical quad permitted emergency communication for our evacuation of Embassy personnel and their families out of Vietnam by being able to communicate directly with the embassy and boats in the harbor waiting for helicopter drops of evacuees. The drama of that entire two-day nonstop episode is indelibly printed in my mind. The roller-coaster emotional highs and lows of rescuing some, and losing some, and rescuing more was just mind-boggling. I handled much of the two-day communications and Major Barnum handled the rest. He kept saying, "Focus on the living."

MARS also served once as emergency communication for Vice President Rockefeller when he visited during Chiang Kai-shek's funeral. I did not get to handle that communication. Major Barnum took over my MARS station because of the classified nature of those communications. Remember, I had the only known direct High Frequency Radio Communication with a Ham Station in San Antonio. For me, it was big, even though I got left out, because it was made possible by my work with the Scouts.

By the way, we did not have normal scouting uniforms. The guys wore the greenish khaki scouting pants with bowling-type shirts one of the mothers designed for our Explorer Scouts. Even I had one, but I don't exactly remember what they looked like now. Hoping, some of it will come back with these memory tours.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Zoo and Children's Amusement Park

Most of us who were at USTDC, or any of the other units in Taipei, remember the Taipei Zoo and the Children's Amusement Park that were located north of the compound.

The history of the zoo can be traced back over 90 years ago. In 1914, when Taiwan was still under Japanese sovereignty, Mr. Oe, a Japanese, established a private zoological garden in Yuan-shan, in the northern suburb of Taipei City. The Japanese Government in Taiwan purchased the property the next year and turned it into a public park. After World War II, Taipei Zoo was formally taken over by Taipei City in 1946. In 1970, the amusement park next to the zoo was consolidated into a 5.8 hectare park, providing entertainment and education for several generations of children and adults.

In 1973, plans were begun to build a modern facility. Because of the limited area available at its existing location, the new facility was constructed in the Mu-Zha district in the southern part of the city. The old facility was closed in August, 1986, and the new facility held its grand opening on New Year's Day in 1987. The zoo's website can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Dennis McNelis

The Taipei Municipal Children's Recreation Center is built on the combined site of the former Yuanshan Zoo and the former Children's Amusement Park. Its name was changed to The Taipei Municipal Children's Recreation Center in 1984. The Center is divided into three theme areas with different characters: "Folk Arts World", "Amusement World" and " Science World". The Folk Arts World offers visitors the life experience of our ancestors. It was officially open to the public in January 1st 1991. The Amusement World focused mainly on the recreational activities of children and teenagers; the Science World emphasizes scientific knowledge. The IMAX Theatre was opened to the public in August 1992. The Taipei Children's Recreation Center website can be found here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chapels and Churches

Many American servicemen choose to attend worship services at on-base facilities, as well as in churches and synagogues in surrounding areas. This section of "Taiwan Report" discusses religious services that were available in the Taipei area during the 1970s.

Some of you were familiar with St. Christopher's on Chung Shan North Road near the compound. According to this website, the church's congregation is now mostly Filipino. Wikipedia has a very interesting article about the whole Zhongshan District of Taipei, including St. Christopher's.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I didn't have my family with me in Taipei, but those who did will surely remember Taipei American School, as well as some of the parochial schools mentioned here. Today's TAS website is located here. The TAS Stateside Alumni website can be found here.

The University of Maryland had a resident campus at TAS, as it had at military facilities all over the world. Though I didn't take any classes while in Taipei, sad to say, I later completed on-base course work through the University of Maryland, UC Berkeley, Park University and other schools enroute to my degree.

Once again, many thanks to Les Duffin for taking the time to scan these pages from "Taiwan Report."

Friday, October 17, 2008

SOFA, Customs and Identification

These pages are from Chapter 5 of "Taiwan Report," the 1973 publication that was mailed to incoming personnel. Click on any of the images for a larger version.

This chapter discusses the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which is an agreement between a country and a foreign nation stationing military forces in that country. Most nations that have military personnel stationed in other countries have these agreements.

Also discussed in this chapter are customs rules and identification requirements for military personnel who were stationed in Taiwan.

I just remembered that my wallet seemed pretty thick in those days. With all of those identification cards and maybe a couple of hundred $NT, it's no wonder!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

MARS Radio

I had a nice note yesterday from Jim Petretta, who was assigned to USACC during 1973 and 1974. Here's part of what he had to say:

I'm hoping to run across someone that might have known me back then. I was probably SP4 US Army, and worked for the Communication Command on Grass Mountain. I inherited the responsibilities of the MARS Station; and was privileged to handle some of the evacuation communication during the final days of South Vietnam when the Embassy was being overrun.
My accomplishments there included organizing the 1st Sino-American Explorer Scout Unit for the high school children of our combined forces. I also designed a cubical-quad antenna on a collapsible tower to withstand typhoons, and it did survive the big typhoon while I was there. I also ran emergency communication for VP Rockefeller when he came to Chang Kai Check's funeral--if I recall right, a major communication cable had been severed by a ship somewhere in a bay which caused comm outage.

I served on the joint forces honor guard which got me access to a couple of the Ambassador's cocktail parties--just fun for a kid like me. My oldest daughter was born in the Navy Hospital in Tien Mou. I also achieved the very first direct Radio Teletype contact from Gold Mountain to a Ham Radio Station in Texas. I forget the principle now--a long time ago--but it had something to do with skipping air waves on the ocean and ozone layer.

What a time. I had for sure the kewelest car ever brought over, and I chopped it for more than I paid; and I used it all while I was there.

I told him that I remembered using MARS to talk to my wife back in Colorado Springs while I was at USTDC. He may well have been the guy who handled my call. MARS is an acronym for Military Affiliate Radio System and back in those days it was also an inexpensive way to make calls back to the states. Of course you were talking via radio, so you'd say a sentence or two and then say "over," and then the person on the other end would do the same. The Army's MARS website can be found here and you can see that they are primarily "...licensed amateur radio operators who are interested in military communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to normal communications."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama's Comments on Taiwan

A few weeks ago I contacted Illinois Senators Durbin and Obama regarding the delay by the U.S. government in the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan. I stated my belief that the future of Taiwan should be determined by the people of Taiwan, not the government of the Peoples' Republic, and that replacing and updating Taiwan's self-defense capability helped ensure the safety of the people of Taiwan. The weapons delay has since been resolved, at least partially, which I'm sure was due solely to State Department timing, not my comments.

I don't generally receive replies from Senator Durbin, except for one time when he explained to me that I must be an idiot for not seeing things his way. Not hearing from him on this issue came as no surprise.

However, I did receive a reply from Senator Obama. Of course it's a carefully written and probably canned response from one of his staffers, but I thought you all might like to see what we might expect from a President Obama in regard to Taiwan:

Dear Don:

Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts on U.S.-Taiwan relations. I appreciate having the benefit of your perspective on this issue.

Over the last few decades, Taiwan has made a transition to a full-fledged democracy with a vibrant economy. Today, Taiwan is a valued trading partner and has importance for U.S. political and security interests, and I agree that we must remain committed to the advancement of democracy and the preservation of human rights of the people of Taiwan. This means maintaining our military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, strengthening our alliances, and making clear to both Beijing and Taipei that a unilateral change in the states quo [sic] in the Taiwan Strait is unacceptable.

In the 110th Congress, Senators Johnson (D-SD) and Lott (R-MS) have introduced a Senate resolution S. Con. Res. 48, which expresses the sense of Congress that restrictions on visits by high-level elected and appointed officials of Taiwan should be lifted in order to strengthen a policy dialogue with Taiwan. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, you may rest assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind as I consider this and other pieces of legislation relevant to U.S.-Taiwan relations that come before the Senate.

Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch.


Barack Obama
United States Senator
I think there are two key elements in this note. One is that any unilateral change in the status quo between China and Taiwan is unacceptable to him. The other is that he may support the Senate resolution that would allow visits by high-level elected and appointed officials from Taiwan to Washington. That is as it should be and the diplomatic tip-toeing that has been U.S. policy for many years is, in my opinion, ridiculous and should be ended as quickly as possible.

It appears pretty likely at this point that Senator Obama will be our next president. Though I personally might prefer otherwise, I feel at least a little less apprehensive about the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations over the next few years after receiving this note. Of course that's assuming that his comments evolve into actual policy.

For an in-depth discussion of our relations with China and Taiwan, I suggest you check out this excellent piece by Ambassador Harvey Feldman at the Heritage Foundation website.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Climate, Housing and Furnishings - Part 4

These are the final five pages from the Climate, Housing and Furnishings section of "Taiwan Report."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Climate, Housing and Furnishings - Part 2

Here are the next four pages from Chapter 4 of the "Taiwan Report." More tomorrow. be continued.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Climate, Housing and Furnishings - Part 1

Les Duffin has been scanning pages from "Taiwan Report," the publication that was mailed to military personnel being assigned to USTDC and other Taipei area organizations. I've really enjoyed seeing these pages again because they're really a snapshot in time. This book was published shortly before I arrived at USTDC in 1973.

Chapter 4 of the publication, as the title suggests, describes things that newcomers should know about the climate of Taiwan, the ins-and-outs of finding housing, and which items should be brought and which could be purchased after arrival.

There are several pages in this chapter, so I'm publishing four pages today and the rest over the next three or four days. Click on any page to expand its size. be continued tomorrow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Double Ten Day!

These came from Les. The first two are from 1966 and the other two are from 1975.

Merry Christmas

Kent Mathieu, over at the Taipei Air Station blog, reminded me that he recently posted an article about a book called "Dragon Hotel." The book was published in 1969 and it talks about the same place that Sarj's Christmas card came from.

Sarj provided these great images:

Here's a Christmas card I saved from the Dragon Hotel. Manager Johnny Huang was a friend of mine.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Up the Yangtze

Last night my wife and I watched an excellent film on PBS, one of their "P.O.V." series. The film was called "Up the Yangtzee" by filmmaker Yung Chang.

"Up the Yangtze" explores the impact of China's Three Gorges Dam project by following two Chinese teenagers who work on a Yangtze River cruise ship. One is the daughter of an impoverished farmer, the other is a son of China's new middle class.

We thoroughly enjoyed this film and highly recommend it. You can check with your local PBS station to find out when it's being shown again. The website for the film can be found here.

Veterinary Medicine in Taipei

Sarj submitted this a couple of days ago:

Here is a vaccination record for our dog "Lady," a cocker spaniel that is shown in the photo in the blog entry about American Village. [Photo also added below - Don]

There are three reason why I sent this:

  1. As a reminder that National Taiwan University was the source for vaccinations.

  2. I used to go there and play basketball with students. I didn't need to speak the language because we spoke basketball! They had nice outdoor courts and it reminded me of back in the States.

  3. The University was the only place you could get an American ice cream cone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Arms Sale Results In Snit

Back in July, I wrote about the U.S. delay in selling defensive arms to Taiwan.

There were some at the time who suggested the delay was to avoid embarrassing the folks in Beijing during the run-up to their Olympic games. That indeed seems (to me) to have been the case because the sale was announced a few days ago.

Now, as expected, the Peoples' Republic is in a snit over the whole thing. To retaliate, they have officially complained to our State Department and have canceled "senior level visits and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief exchanges" scheduled to occur by the end of November.

Wait a minute. They're backing out of disaster relief talks and our admirals can't talk to their admirals for a month? I don't know about Bush, but I'm sure quaking in my boots. This seems to be another case where they pretend to be upset and we pretend to care. Life goes on.

Anyway, I've always believed that the people of Taiwan should choose their own destiny. Whether they choose to remain independent or be absorbed by the PROC is a choice that only they should be allowed to make. But they'll have no choice at all if they can't continue to defend themselves against a neighbor who still considers them a "renegade province."

It took us a while, but we finally did the right thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chungshan Bridge and The Grand Shrine

Did you know that the Grand Hotel is built on the former site of the Taiwan Grand Shrine?

Did you know that today's Chungshan North Road was originally called Chokushi Road?

Did you know that the road was built as a pathway to the shrine, in preparation for a visit by Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito in 1923?

Frequent contributor George Dean alerted me to this Wikipedia article that provides a brief history of the Taiwan Grand Shrine. Included in the article is this Japanese painting of the shrine. At the bottom of the painting you'll see the bridge that I discussed yesterday.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chungshan Bridge Postcards

I sometimes poke around eBay for Taipei-related items and often find something interesting. My wife would probably say that I've found way too much interesting stuff over the years!

I found the second postcard of the Chungshan bridge in today's listings. You can see the Grand Hotel in the background in that one. Jim Sartor then tipped me off to the first photo, which was obviously taken many years earlier and there's no Grand Hotel. I think both were probably taken somewhere near where the entrance to USTDC used to be.

By the way, according to this website, the Grand Hotel rates 4-stars on a 5-star scale these days, but it's still a whole lot better than where I stayed when I first arrived in Taipei. There's also a rate table for the Grand and considering its upscale status, they don't appear to be all that unreasonable to me.

According to this article on Wikipedia, the hotel was originally built in 1953, but the version shown in the postcard was completed on 10/10/1973.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Trains and Boats and Planes

Okay, so nobody ever rode the train from the States to Taiwan, but Sarj describes his trip back to the States by ship:

This is the ship , the USS General W. A. Mann (AP-112), that my wife and I returned to the States on. We had quite a trip that took almost a month.

We stopped in Guam and my wife insisted that we go on a tour that the Navy was giving for a small price. I told her there is nothing on Guam to see except Gooney Birds (They caused a lot of problems there and are a story themselves). But as a good husband, I agreed.
The tour was conducted by a young Seaman and we rode on an old Navy bus (no A/C of course). We ended up visiting every bar around the island in order to get relief from the heat by means of a few beers.
The tour included a box lunch. You all know what that is -- an apple and a day-old bologna sandwich. Remember how good they tasted on midwatch? Ugh!
Anyway all the wives got upset and were in revolt and the trip ended sooner than planned. We returned to the EM Club at the base where all the smart people stayed in a nice A/C restaurant and lounge.

The night we left we went through a bad storm and had a fire on board. That was quite an experience.

I sent this thinking that maybe others, especially families traveled by this ship or another one to or from Taiwan. I know there were a lot of families returning on the ship we took.

I believe there were two ships that provided transport to and from Taiwan. Maybe someone knows what the other ship's name was.

It was exciting to travel under the Golden Gate Bridge on that big ship. You felt like you could almost reach up and touch it

Good story, Sarj. What about the rest of you? Did anyone else travel to or from Taiwan by ship? We Air Force guys flew most everywhere, of course, but the rules allowed you to request a ship for overseas travel. I never met anyone who took that option, but I'm sure there were some who did, especially in the 50s and 60s.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Still Here

It's been several days since I've posted anything here so I thought I'd let everyone know that I'm still on the planet.

When I started the blog last year, it wasn't unusual for there to be long periods of silence because I really didn't have much to share at the time -- no pictures at all and just a few fading memories of my 15 months at USTDC.

But as time went on, I started receiving occasional comments and photographs from readers and I posted most of them. During recent months, I was blessed with a real tsunami of great photographs from folks like Sarj, Stev, Les, Kent and many others, and they had some great stories to go along with them. The result was a new post nearly every day.

But things have slowed down again and I'm sort of back where I started. If I think of anything, or if you folks remember something long forgotten or find another box of photos or documents somewhere and email them to me, I'll be happy to get back to work.

In the meantime, if you haven't read some of the earlier posts here, you might consider going back to the first post from 7/17/2007 called "The Watch." When you get to the bottom of that one, just click on Newer Post and go on to the next one. So far there have been 295 posts so feel free to comment on any of them. I am notified whenever anyone comments on anything, as do all those who subscribe to this blog, so you might open a whole new dialogue here.

Hangin' in there,