Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where is the Ship's Bell?

I have often wondered whatever happened to the ship's bell that was located just outside and to the right of the main entrance door at TDC.  I suppose it probably was either given to one of the last senior naval officers assigned to the building or else it's on display somewhere.  Does anyone happen to know?

The bell was on some sort of stand, I believe similar to the one shown in this photo and of course it had a rope attached to the clapper.  As I recall, the bell was only used when we raised the flag at the far left corner of the parking lot on Monday through Friday mornings at 0800 hours (8:00 AM, eight bells).  On weekends, when BMC Gagne (in my day) wasn't there, the person on watch just blew a whistle (one long blast) to raise the flag and then three short blasts to signal whoever had raised it that it was okay to drop his salute and return to the building.  I don't think they trusted us with that bell.

I think I mentioned a couple of years ago that one day another chief in the building had to do the honors of ringing the bell when Chief Gagne had an appointment elsewhere.  Now the backup had never done this before and apparently forgot that it was supposed to be done in four groups of two rings:  ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding, ding-ding.  So when his little radio beeped the 8:00 AM signal, he just clanged out eight bells...all at once:  dingdingdingdingdingdingdingding!  It sounded like the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

I happened to have flag detail that morning and I clearly remember watching the J-1 (a Navy captain 0-6 at that time) flying out of his office door in the lobby and getting up in the chief's face, inviting him back into his office for a little talk after the ceremony.   The captain was not happy and the chief was definitely not happy.  But the rest of us, including the Chinese color guards who I'm pretty sure were laughing as they raised their flag, all thought it was pretty cool.  But I always felt badly for the chief, who was a really nice guy.  Sometimes these things just happen.

So if anyone knows where the USTDC ship's bell is today, please let me know.  I'd love to ring it a time or two, if only because I wasn't allowed to back in the day.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Boudicca's Voice

I received a very nice note from the author of a blog called "Boudicca's Voice" a day or two ago.  Her dad was assigned to USTDC and the family was in Taipei for a couple of years, up until the withdrawal of American forces.

She came across my article about the Grandee Hotel and  wrote a piece on her blog about her family's experiences there as they were preparing to leave Taiwan.  It's a fun read and you can find it HERE.  Oh, it would help you to know that TGOO is her father (The Great Omnipotent One).

In her email to me, she mentioned a Baskin Robbins in the east compound that her family often visited, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't there in 1973-74.  Believe me, old Don definitely would've remembered something like that.  Anyone know when it opened?

Friday, January 29, 2010


[Added on 1/30/2010]:  Please see my comment (#11).  Cathy had great success as a result of the suggestions provided here.  I'd also like to thank everyone who helped her find her way around her old neighborhood.


I just received an email from a woman who is visiting Taipei and wants to visit her old neighborhood today.  If you can help her, please either post a response to this piece or email me at USTDC(at)yahoo(dot)com.  Here's what she had to say:

Thank you for your website.  I live in Taiwan 1969-71 as a dependent.  For the 1st time in 40 years I have returned and have a day off tomorrow to go back to Tien-Mou where I lived.  It was near the US complex that had a theater, swimming pool, bowling alley, and teen club.  I’m hoping you remember this and can help me with the location as my house was very near to this site.
So far, in browsing maps, I am unable to find it.  So I have nothing to tell the cab driver who will probably be too young to remember it.  Of course, it is very likely that it no longer exists, but if I can get a street name, that may be close enough for me to begin my exploring.
Thanks for any help you can provide.

Nights in the TDC Building

One of my earliest posts to this blog was about pulling watch duty at USTDC.  During normal duty hours, the Master at Arms sat behind the "glass cage" in the lobby, which was referred to as the quarterdeck.  We Air Force people had no idea what a quarterdeck actually was but at least we knew what they were talking about.  To the left is my very poor sketch of how I remember the area.  You're looking down from just above the main entrance and that would be the chief's cage directly ahead with the stairs to the second floor just to the right of it.  The J-1s office was to the left.  I don't remember there being an office on the right side, across from the J-1.

BMC Gagne spent his days there on the quarterdeck during most of my tour and he departed not long before I did in 1974.  I don't recall whether he was reassigned elsewhere or retired.

During evenings, weekends and whenever the chief had to be somewhere else, the quarterdeck was staffed by other available enlisted people, I think in grades E-4 through E-6.  Certain shops were exempt from the duty, but I believe that all of us in J-1 were scheduled for it.

The reason I'm writing about this again is that I just remembered one of the duties of the watch that I'd long forgotten about.  I may not have the times right, but I believe that somewhere around 8:00 PM (2000 hours; eight bells), we came out of the cage, took a right down the hall to where it hooked to the left and continued on to the other front entrance door.  We locked that door and then pulled down a steel overhead door.  At about 10:00 PM (2200 hours; four bells) we did the same thing back at the main entrance.  At some specified time the next morning, we raised the steel doors and unlocked the entrance doors for the new day.

Okay, so maybe none of this is of any interest to anybody but me, but I can still hear the clatter of those doors echoing up and down the deserted hallways of TDC late at night so I guess it's still part of the history of the place.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ray's Mementos

I posted some comments from Ray Richardson a few days ago.  He was an Army E-5 who worked in the Command Center from March of 1978 until USTDC was closed in early 1979.

Ray sent me images of a few items that he brought home from Taipei.  The first two have to do with the Meritorious Unit Commendation that was awarded to USTDC for the period 1 May 1977 through 30 Apr 1979.

I hadn't thought about it before, but I wonder if the US Taiwan Defense Command received any other unit awards during its existence.  They would most likely have also been Navy awards.  Does anyone know of any others?

Next is Ray's certificate of Achievement for his time spent at USTDC.


Finally, here's the chop that he bought while there.  These were a very popular item with American military folks and they probably purchased hundreds (thousands?) of them over the years.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top of the Ambassador -- Conclusion

These are the rest of the outstanding photos that Les took from the roof of the Ambassador Hotel during the 1960s.  It's funny how we sometimes do things that don't seem terribly significant at the time but that gain importance as time passes.  In this case, we're fortunate to have a remarkable record of the city of Taipei as we knew it years ago.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top of the Ambassador -- Continued

Here are a few more of the photos that Les shot from the roof of the Ambassador Hotel during the 1960s.  I'll post the rest of them tomorrow.



Monday, January 25, 2010

Top of the Ambassador

Les sent me a batch of photos that he took from the roof of the Ambassador Hotel back around 1965 or 1966.  He said that he went into the hotel, took the elevator to the top floor and was surprised to find that he could walk right out onto the roof.

I think I was most struck by how "flat" the city looked in those days.  The Ambassador towered over most other structures in that part of the city.   I'm sure the landscape looks quite different today.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ambassador Hotel - The Early Years

Les sent me several photos of the Ambassador Hotel that he took somewhere around 1962-1964, not long after it first opened.



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Roma Hotel

I just came across this item on eBay.  It's a luggage tag from the old Roma Hotel that was located on the northeast corner at the intersection of Min Zu East Road and Chung Shan North Road.

I've written about the old Roma Hotel before, which had a small restaurant located near the front entrance.  The hotel was on the corner just south of the HSA East Compound where the exchange, commissary, theater and numerous other buildings were located.  The US Taiwan Defense Command was at the far northern end of that compound.

Here's an image of that building today on Google Maps Street View.  You're facing north from in front of the Caves bookstore and the old Roma Hotel building is across the intersection to your right.  Just beyond it was the HSA East Compound.  To your right from this vantage point was the Linkou Club Annex and Linkou Hotel.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Temple Next To (Former) President Hotel

John Quinn sent this shot from his recent Taipei visit.  He said this temple used to stand next to the President Hotel.  The hotel is gone now, but the temple is still there.

[The following photo was added to this post.  See Misty's comment below.]


Thursday, January 21, 2010

National Grandee Hotel

I received the following photos and comments from Les Duffin:

I just saw your post from Ray Richardson.  The National Grandee Hotel was actually at the southwest intersection of Min Tzu East Road and Lin Sen North Road, across the street from the “back gate” of the HSA East Compound, the gate that pointed straight into the signal compound.  The gate was located sort of behind the theater and library.  I returned to Taipei in 1984 and took the attached photos.  By that time the East Compound had become headquarters for the Chinese Military Police and their main building was directly inside that same gate.  The first photo is looking north along Lin Sen Road; that’s the CMP hqs in the center and the white building on the left corner is the hotel.  The second shot shows the same two buildings from a little closer perspective.  The third shot is the hotel itself from the diagonally opposite corner.

The funny thing is that I didn't even recall a back gate on the south side of the east compound, but if you look at that area on Google Maps, it's right there.  Search for "Riviera Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan" and go to Street View, which will put you at that intersection and you can look around from there.

Thanks again to Ray and Les for all this good info.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chiang Kai-Shek's Cadillac

John Quinn sent me these photographs and wondered how many here remember seeing it in Chiang's motorcades around the city.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Memories of USTDC

I've been corresponding with Ray Richardson, a retired Army SFC who served at USTDC from March 1978 until the day it closed.  Here's some of what he had to say:

First of all, Thank you for what you have done for the past members of the Taiwan Defense Command. I was so thrilled to find the site and have thought about the neat things I have found there since I discovered it. I was there as a member of the U.S. Army Element from March 1978 until the end. I was on the last plane taking the military members out of the country.  The flag was lowered by SSG D. J. Gemmecke (USMC). At that time I was a single E5 and was assigned to the Command Center at USTDC. If the assignment was still open, I'd still be there!

As I remember when you came in the front door, the Master of Arms office was straight ahead and the J1 was off to the right.  [Ray and I discussed this and I think the J-1 was to the left as you came in the front entrance.  Anybody else remember?]  If you went to the left you walked down a hallway and had to take a set of stairs to get up to where the J2, J3 and the Command Center where I worked. The USACC Comm Center was in the Basement of the building. The photoshop was still in a quonset hut out back of the main building.

There is a large hotel across the street from the entrance to the West compound on Min Zsu East Road. They built that hotel while I was there and it opened shortly after then President Carter made the announcement.  In the final days, they moved a large amount of the military that was left into that hotel so we were all in one place.  Nothing like putting all your eggs in one basket!  Across the street was a store, not sure what kind of place it was; could have been a restaurant or a bar but the name was "Carter" something.  Well, they changed the name shortly after the announcement...I found that hilarious at the time.

Seems to me that somewhere on the blog I read about a guy who got stabbed...His last name as I remember was Collins and he worked in the USACC comm center in the TDC Building.  I think you and I may have lived in the same hostel room...LOL  Imagine that!!  My houseboy loved Hennessey Cognac!

I think I've mentioned this before, but if any of you out there think you have a pretty good idea how the TDC building was laid out -- upstairs, downstairs and basement -- I'd sure like to hear about it.  If you could sketch out a floor plan as you remember it, then scan it and send me a copy, that would be great!  To be honest, I'd forgotten what even the exterior of the building looked like until people started sending me old photographs of it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today's Ambassador Hotel

John Quinn just sent these photos that his wife took of the Ambassador Hotel during their Taipei visit in September 2009.  You can visit the hotel's website HERE.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ambassador Hotel

I just noticed this 1973 postcard on eBay of the Ambassador Hotel on Chung Shan N Road Sec 2.   I don't think I've seen this particular shot before.  I believe the camera was facing north and the HSA compound was several blocks ahead.

Here's an image from Google Maps at approximately the same location.   The hotel is just to your right.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I've recently had problems with spammers adding totally unrelated comments to the posts here -- usually links to their own websites where they want to rip you off.  I've been deleting them as soon as I spot them.

To end this nonsense, I've changed the settings so that all comments have to be cleared by me before they're displayed.  I've hesitated doing this but it's reached the point where I really don't have any choice.  Those who prefer to post anonymous comments can continue to do so, though I'd appreciate it if you would at least use a screen name.

I check in here at least three or four times a day so your comments should appear fairly quickly.  I'm really sorry that this inconvenience has become necessary.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

1958 Quemoy Crisis -- An Oral History

On August 23, 1958, the People's Republic of China unleashed a bombardment against Kinmen (Quemoy) which began the artillery battle that continued until January 7th of the following year. During that time, more than 474,000 artillery shells rained down on Kinmen and its outlying islands. With the assistance of US troops, the ROC armed forces managed to withstand those attacks.

I recently received several copies of the book "The 1958 Quemoy Crisis," published during 2009 by the Ministry of National Defense, Republic of China. The book contains 391 pages of first-hand accounts of some of the personnel (16 ROC and 12 US) who participated in the defense of Quemoy. The book includes numerous photographs of people, places and mementos from that period.

These books retail for NT$400, or about $13.00 each, plus shipping, but I'll be happy to send out copies (US addresses only) for just US $7.00, cash or check, to help cover my costs.  My supply is limited so I can provide just one copy per request and requests will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis.  My goal is simply to place these historical records into as many hands as possible.

If you would like a copy, just send an email to: USTDC[at]  Include your name and mailing address.  I'll respond with the address for your payment and I'll mail your book within one or two business days.  Allow about ten business days for it to arrive.