Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Was Going On?

It might come as a surprise to today's American military forces how isolated many of us were from events in the States and elsewhere during our overseas assignments years ago.

Oh, we had newscasts from AFRTS or AFNT, and of course there was always the Stars and Stripes newspaper.  But those certainly didn't compare to today's 24-hour news coverage, television programming and movies that are available to most of today's troops.

There's a fascinating website called that bills itself as a combination encyclopedia, almanac, atlas. biography, dictionary, thesaurus, and all-around reference source.  One of the features is a year-by-year review of noteworthy events from 1900 to the present.  If you'd like to catch up with what was going on in the world during your years in Taiwan, you can visit that portion of the site  HERE.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Linkou Annex Stage Shows

Back in the sixties and seventies there were lots of entertainers who played the overseas military club circuit.  Most every club had its own house band of course, but these acts were in addition to that.  Some played the circuit full-time, going from base to base.  Others were groups -- college glee clubs for example -- who appeared at a few clubs and then returned home.

Les Duffin sent me some photographs of two of these groups who appeared at the Linkou Club Annex, near the HSA compound.  He recalls that the first group was called The Melody Maids but he doesn't recall where they were from.

The second group was from Kansas State University and called themselves The K-State Singers.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Best Places to Eat (off topic)

One of the links on the right side of the blog is to a website called "A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei."

In the latest entry, the author has published her "2nd Annual Best of Taipei Restaurants" survey.  If you live in Taipei, plan to visit Taipei, or just remember all the great food that was served in Taipei when you were there, I'm sure you'll enjoy her selections, all of which were based on reader input.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hsiminding Random Shots

I've received a number of photos from Les Duffin recently and I want to share as many of them as possible.

The images shown below, according to Les, were shots that he took of Hsimending and the street between the Hilton Hotel and the railroad station.  He thinks they were taken sometime between 1975 and 1978, probably closer to the latter date, but they’re not labeled and he just doesn't remember much about them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

USTDC Entrance and the Blue Goose

I have been busy with a number of projects recently and haven't had time to do much posting here. Who knew retirement could be so busy?

But I wanted to post these two photos that my old friend Larry Marcum sent me recently. The first is a shot of the TDC entrance from across the parking lot (I believe that's Larry in front of the steps) and the second is a shot of the Admiral's aircraft -- the Blue Goose.

Monday, March 22, 2010

End of AFNT and Beginning of ICRT

Wang Chun was a college student at Chengchi University starting in October 1975.  While there, he heard AFNT Radio for the first time because the station's broadcast signal could not reach his hometown of Kaohsiung.  He spent many hours listening to music, especially jazz, which was his favorite.

It was during his senior year that the Carter administration announced that the US government was going to establish normal diplomatic relations with the PRC on January 1st, 1979.  A few weeks later, he decided to record some of his favorite music from AFNT during those final days.  He wrote:
When I heard this sad news that day, I knew that AFNT would ceased to  exist soon. Accordingly, I bought a small number of local-made, low-quality cassettes and started recording AFNT programs.

The programs I recorded were Mellow Rock and Jazz Album Countdown in FM and RC Show in AM.

Finally, the day AFNT signed off permanently had come. It was midnight, March 15th, 1979. As far back as I can remember, it was a cold, drizzling night. I sat in front of my study desk with a portable radio/cassette recorder waiting for the final moment.

As a matter of fact, for the last three weeks before that day all regular programs had disappeared gradually from AFNT and were replaced by soft background music because American military personnel including AFNT DJs had been withdrawing out of Taiwan at a steady speed.

However, the historical transitional moment has been recorded.  Thirty years later I still feel shocked and can't help falling into a deep sentimental mood when I once again listen to how AFNT died and ICRT was born.

Can you imagine what was the first song ICRT aired? It was "Happy Together."  For all these years, I always think it was such a big irony for Taiwan-America relations that time.

Wang Chun was kind enough to send me several mp3 files of AFNT's last day of broadcasting, but the one that I want to share with you is from those final few minutes around midnight on March 15, 1979.  The sound quality isn't the best, but you can find the file HERE.  It runs for about 12 or 13 minutes.

You can hear today's ICRT Radio broadcasts live HERE.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And Away We Went

Since I first created this blog, I've posted several pieces about the withdrawal of American military personnel and their families from Taiwan.  Some of those articles had to do with the immediate aftermath of President Carter's announcement of the withdrawal, including the demonstrations that took place in the Taipei area, and the "nuts and bolts" of the whole withdrawal process.

Bill Kling has suggested that it might be interesting for many of us to know what the departure meant on a personal level for those who were there.  I know that at least a few readers were there at (or near) the end and I'd very much like to hear from you.  Because those comments could be rather lengthy, I think it would be better for me to post them, rather than just having you use the comments section of this piece.   Of course each article would likely draw its own comments and that's fine.  Just send me an email at the address shown toward the upper-right of this page.

Here are a few ideas that Bill and I came up with to get you started:
  • What facilities in the compounds were still open and which had already closed?
  • When did the China Seas and Linkou Annex clubs close?  Did they offer full service up to the end?
  • Where did everyone stay during the last month or so, including those living in the hostel?
  • Did you and your family feel at all threatened or uncomfortable as you moved about the city?
  • Were any facilities looted that you're aware of?
  • How was your relationship with your amah, yard man, houseboy, etc., after the announcement?
  • Did you dispose of your appliances, car, etc., before departing?
  • What do you remember about AFNT and the changeover to ICRT?
  • When did the hospital close and how did that affect you?
  • Did local merchants (furniture makers, etc.) offer any special deals to those leaving?
  • Did the Navy Exchange and Commissary offer any special deals?
  • What was your feeling as you went to the airport and boarded your flight?
I'm sure there are probably dozens of other questions I haven't even considered, but these should get you started.  I'd really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to put your memories into words and send them to me.  It must have been a difficult time for all concerned and I'd very much like to record your stories about it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rest and Recreation

Some time ago I wrote about the R&R flights that brought troops from Vietnam to Taipei.  But Taipei certainly wasn't the only place for these getaways.  Popular spots included Honolulu, Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, Manila, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney.

I found a 1967 Time Magazine article titled, "Recreation-Five Day Bonanza."  It provides a great overview of the entire R&R program, how it worked and where the more popular destinations were.

I was a little surprised to read that troops arriving in Taipei were supposedly advised to "keep out of the buses or you may lose your wallet."  Though these flights ended before I arrived in Taipei, I don't recall any problems like that during 1973-74.  There was the occasional burglary, but I never heard about anyone being robbed or having their wallets stolen.

Anyway, it's an interesting article that provides a good overview of the R&R flights.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Facing China

From time to time I add or remove links to Taiwan-related blogs and websites of note.  The current batch is listed in the right-hand column under "Taiwan-Related Blogs" and "Taiwan Links of Interest."

I recently added a new blog called "Facing China -- Thoughts on Asia-Pacific Security from Taiwan."  The author is Tron, who is a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps currently studying for a master’s degree in international relations at a university in southern Taiwan.

Tron's most recent piece is about an upcoming exhibit at the Kaohsiung Museum of History that will be about the American presence in Southern Taiwan from 1950 – 1980.  This is the same exhibit I mentioned in my February 1st article.

I'm looking forward to reading more from the Facing China blog by an American military type presently living in Taiwan.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Blast from the Past

Old friend Larry Markum just sent me this photo of the two of us standing in front of what appears to be a shop that sold and developed film and slides.

Larry is on the left and I'm on the right, apparently fascinated by something around (or perhaps under) my feet.

This is the only picture I've ever seen of me in Taiwan and I don't remember anything about it at all. Can anyone identify the shop?  It was most likely within easy walking distance of the HSA compound.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Last Call: The 1958 Quemoy Crisis

I still have just a few copies of the book "The 1958 Quemoy Crisis" available.

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.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shanghai Communique

I have written a few articles in the past that were somewhat critical of President Carter's decision to withdraw US military forces from Taiwan and to close our embassy there.  Like many others, I felt that Carter deserted the good people of Taiwan in favor of their communist neighbor.

But diplomacy is never quite that clear-cut.  To be fair, Carter only executed the provisions of the Shanghai Communique that were agreed to during the Nixon administration several years earlier.    From Nixon, through Ford, and to Carter, it was just a matter of time.

This Associated Press article from the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune of February 28, 1972, describes the uncertainty in the aftermath of the signing.  One fear was that the US agreement to close all "military installations" could possibly include the US Taiwan Defense Command.

The Command held its final flag retreat ceremony during the afternoon of April 26, 1979, just over four months after the withdrawal announcementRADM Lindner, Commander of the US Taiwan Defense Command, was the last American military officer to depart Taiwan.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some Names From TDC

Old friend Larry Marcum was the Administrative Officer at TDC during my tour (current photo shown here).  He dug through his memory bank and came up with names of some of the folks who were assigned there during his tour:

VADM Philip Beshany  Sept 1972 -1973
VADM Edwin Snyder  1973-1977 ?
RADM James Linder  1977 - 1979 Taiwan Defense Command was closed

BGEN Burroughs  USAF
BGEN Don Williams  USAF
BGEN Dan Brooksher USAF

CAPTAIN James Becker USN
Col Charles Peters  USAF
Col Bruce Ferrier USAF

J-1 Staff
LtCol Clay Blanton  USA
LtCol Julian turner USA
LtCol Sam Martin
Larry Marcum, Administrative Officer, Civilian
Captain Joel Lipsett USAF

J-7 Legal
Captain Hairston USN
Captain Battagalino  USN
Captain Tam  USN
LtCol Paterson USAF

LtCommander Paul Hanley
LCDR Jay Coupe

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Info on Naval Hospital and Other Landmarks

Back in January 2008, I posted a short article about the Naval Hospital in Taipei.  Basically I said that I vaguely remembered it but couldn't remember where it was.  During the following weeks and months, several people sent me much more information and some photographs that I posted in later articles.  Toward the bottom of the right-hand column here, you'll find a section titled "Topics."  Scroll down and click on "Medical" and you should pick up most of I've written on the subject.

Today, Gene Abernathy made a comment to that original post regarding a much earlier period. He wrote:

The Hospital that served all the military in 1955-1959 to the best of my recollection was the MAAG hospital in the MAAG compound off of Chung Shan Pei Lo. Don't recall any other Hospital in the area at the time. Believe they contemplated moving the MAAG Hospital shortly after one of the typhoons flooded it pretty bad. Went back to Taiwan a couple of years ago and attempted to locate the command where I was stationed. It was COMSEVENTFLT Staff Det. Alfa, Joint Operations Center (JOC). It was located about a 1/4 of a mile past the old 13th AF Base Out a long way via Roosevelt Rd (which was a dirt road at the time). If anyone can offer a coordinate for google world check I would appreciate. I might add, the first club 63 was also on the compound and moved to Pei An Rd (below the Grand Hotel) in 57 I believe.
The O Club was a little ways outside the gate of the MAAG Compound up on Chung Shan Pei Rd. across from Hostel 2. Fond memories of different times. I completed 30 years of Naval Service in 1981 and my memories have always taken me back to the best duty station I had in Taiwan. Best, Gene Abernathy
If anyone can add anything to this, please leave a comment or drop me an email.  As always, I'd love to post any photos that may have survived the years.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Situation in 1976

I've written several pieces about the withdrawal of US Forces from Taiwan that ended with the final flag retreat ceremony at the US Taiwan Defense Command on April 26, 1979.  But a gradual downsizing had been underway well before the President James Earl Carter's speech on December 15, 1978, announcing the complete withdrawal from Taiwan of all US forces.

I found a very interesting UPI article in the Pittsburgh (PA) Press of July 18, 1976, titled "Fading US Presence leaves Taiwan at Sea."  Here's most of the text from that article, which paints a very interesting picture of the situation in Taiwan, especially Taipei, at that time:

By Charles R. Smith

Taipei, Taiwan (UPI) -- At a corner table of the American Officers' Club lounge two American military officers in civvies sipped Saturday afternoon beers.

Across the otherwise empty room sat four civilians, complaining about the slow service.

Empty seats lined the black, L-shaped bar.  In the middle of the bar a large white sign gave mute testimony to the dwindling military presence in Taiwan: "Waitress Service Only."

Only one waitress at that.  And at prime drinking time and at what was once one of the busiest American military clubs in Asia.

"The number of military personnel on Taiwan is way down," a Navy officer said.  "It's down to 2,100 now, down from a peak of 9,000 in 1972.  And it's still going down."

Only about 50 people are left in a Military Assistance Advisory Group that once numbered more than 2,000.

The Taiwan Defense Command staff has been cut from more than 200 three years ago to about 80.  More cuts are ahead.

About half of the U.S. military personnel remaining on the Nationalist Chinese Island are Air Force.  But there are no more combat planes around.

The largest single American military unit on the island is a 400-member army communications command.

Along Chung Shan Road, which runs from the magnificent Chinese-style Grand Hotel and through a burgeoning business district of new high-rise office buildings and hotels, there are many faded signs of a fading era.

The San Francisco Tailor shop ("We make regulation uniforms") is closed.

The pitch to GIs painted on the front of an antiques and art shop is painted over.  The come-on message is now in Japanese.

The girls at the Butterfly Bar still speak GI slang, but now they cater to tourists.

Government officials and businessmen are not so concerned about the dwindling number of American military personnel as they are about the continued presence of at least a token force and the continuation of the U.S.-Republic of China Mutual Defense Treaty.

"Of course we are very much concerned about what might happen," a government official said.  Our biggest worry is that the United States will break relations with us, abrogate our defense treaty and establish full relations with the Communist regime on the mainland."

If young people are as worried about the future of Sino-American relations as their elders, it doesn't readily show.  Their concern is with more mundane matters.

At a new YMCA building, just behind the Taipei Hilton Hotel, a bright young American, Greg Zurowski, sits in the coffee shop with a group of Chinese teen-agers for an informal evening English class.

What are Taiwan's young people thinking about?  What are their problems, their concerns, their complaints, their desires?

"School" is the reply, almost in unison.

"The competition is so keen and the opportunities so few," one student explains.

"Western culture is overwhelming us," one student says.  "We need a return to more traditional culture."

That's just what the government has been saying in one of its campaigns.

But he and the others admit they prefer many aspects of Western culture, expecially movies, music and lifestyle.

"Industrialization is the problem," one young man says.  It is forcing Western culture on us.

He and his friends beside him are studying chemical engineering, a profession not only involved in the industrialization process he complains about but also the highest paid profession in Taiwan.

Concerned about the vast amount of money spent on religious festivals and temples -- there are more than 7,000 temples in Taiwan and more than 300 gods who rate important festivals -- authorities instructed teachers to ask students to try to dissuade their parents from participating.

This did not seem to be working very well.

There was a bit more to the article, but part of the text was illegible in the on-line copy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rochester Plan -- 1966 Edition

This article is from the August 17, 1966 edition of the Eugene (Oregon) Register-Guard.  It describes the working relationship between the US Taiwan Defense Command and the Republic of China armed forces at that time.  Click on the image to enlarge it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Formosa Defense Command Reorganization

I recently came across this article in the September 19, 1958 edition of the Milwaukee Journal.  It describes the new role assumed by what was then called the Formosa Defense Command:


Friday, March 5, 2010

Chung Shan T’ang

Over the past couple of years, I've posted four separate pieces about the Bob Hope USO show that came to Taipei in 1962.   Hope described Taiwan as an island "bounded on the east by the magnificent Pacific Ocean and on the west by the beautiful 7th Fleet."

At the time I wrote those pieces, nobody could remember exactly where the show was held.  Until today, that is.  Les Duffin sent me some photos of the location and identified it as the Chung Shan Hall.  Here are his comments:
Here are the photos I mentioned earlier of Chung Shan T’ang – Chung Shan Hall.  We Americans had a habit of calling it Taipei City Hall, which was misleading.  We should have called it the Taipei City Auditorium or maybe just Chung Shan Hall.  This was the site of Bob Hope’s Christmas 1962 show and of many other concerts and shows.  I was there at least twice, the first time for the Hope show, and again for the Double Ten Day concert in October 1966.  I was poking around on Google Earth a couple of weeks ago, looking to see how much Hsimending has changed now that the Hsin Sheng Theater and the Chung Hua Market buildings are long gone and was amazed to see that the hall is still there.  I wonder if it is still the main venue for major concerts and state shows in Taipei?
This is a shot I took in the 70s, probably in 1972 or 73.  On the left is the tri-level Chung Hua Market and on the right the Hsin Sheng Theater.  Just behind the theater, the dull-looking brown building is the rear of Chung Shan Hall.

This one is similar to the above photo, this shows a better view of the building’s rear.  I’m not sure where I got this photo but I probably pulled it off the internet somewhere.

This is Chung Shan T’ang:  I took this badly-lighted shot of the front of the hall in 1963, not long after the Hope show.

And these two photos are ones I pulled down from Google Earth – the present day hall!

******** UPDATE ********
As a result of the comments to this article, Les sent the following additional comments and photograph.

I believe the attached photo is of a court building that was somewhere in the general vicinity of CS Hall.  I don’t recall exactly where it was, but my photos of the two buildings were sequential which means this was the next shot I took after the one of the hall.  I believe this was in fact a court building of some sort and you’ll notice how similar it is in appearance to CS Hall.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lest We Forget

A friend pointed me to this photo of a US Marines exercise in Southern Taiwan during March, 1960.  The description reads:

U.S. Marines pass amphibious vehicle on beach in southern Formosa during Operation Blue Star last week.  They took part in the biggest joint amphibious exercise staged by American and Nationalist Chinese forces.

Though I usually write about the day-to-day activities of the American military folks who were privileged to serve in Taiwan, I think it's important that we remind ourselves from time to time that the defense of the good people of Taiwan was our reason for being there.  It was a dangerous time for Taiwan.  In many ways, it still is.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Tien Mou Housing Photos

Les sent me another batch of photographs of his quarters and neighborhood in Tien Mou.  Here's what he had to say about them:

After looking through my photos, here are the ones that I think give some idea of what the New BOT housing compound in Tien Mu looked like.  As I said, we lived in BOT 106A which was the first unit in from the main street and was separated from the street by a concrete wall.  The photos were taken in 1976 and 1977, though we lived there until our departure in June 1978.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

BOT 109

Barbara sent me another shot of their quarters in Tien Mou (BOT 109), around 1978:

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Bridge -- The Final Chapter

These will be the last shots of the bridge across the Keelung River that I'll be posting here...unless, of course, somebody sends me some more.

Les sent me a batch of photos a few days ago of both the old and new bridges.  The first shots were taken sometime between 1962 and 1966 while the second group shows the construction of the new bridge when the north-south super highway was being built during 1978.

First the batch from the 1962-1966 time period:

And these photos were taken during 1978 as the new bridge was being constructed: