Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Situation in 1972

This news article from 1972 is a fairly good overview of the status of American forces in Taiwan at that time.

It states that USTDC contained "a few hundred" personnel, but I don't believe the number was quite that high when I arrived in 1973.

MAAG had about 300 personnel, according to the article, but the 1972 CINCPAC History included some discussion regarding the possibility of combining MAAG and TDC.  I don't know if that ever happened.  If you happen to know, please leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.

Click on the article for a larger view.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Lady And The Tiger

A few days ago John Quinn alerted me to a book entitled "The Lady And The Tiger" by Patricia Linder. If that last name sounds familiar to readers of this blog, it's because Patricia is the wife of Rear Admiral James Linder, the last Commander of USTDC.  As I wrote a few months ago, RADM Linder passed away about a year ago.

The book received the 2006 Silver Medal for Memoirs and a five star rating from the Military Writers Society of America. Their reviewer had this to say about the book:

"Linder does a masterpiece of reporting from her own heart and soul. She sounds like someone who not only was there physically, but was fully aware of all the political and social issues that surrounded what was happening. She has an intelligent grasp of what happened and why. She writes with great passion and skill to weave the facts and emotions together to give the story lots of energy and movement. This book, at times, reads almost like an action novel. You will get hooked from page one and will have a hard time putting down the book.

She faces riots, mobs and angry people all with great courage. She has to deal with tapped phones, and armed guards that she cannot fully trust and even rooms in her own residence that are bugged with listening devices. The events and culture that she found in Taiwan are not what this wife of a Rear Admiral was expecting. This was a tour of duty that was going to really test her soul!"

I completely agree with the reviewer.  I enjoyed this book immensely and highly recommend it.  Many of the places and day-to-day circumstances that she wrote about will be familiar to many here.  I often found myself nodding my head and laughing as I read her accounts.

You can read more reviews and purchase a copy of the book at  You can also visit Patricia's own website at

Modern Taiwan Tourism Video

This is somewhat off-topic, but I thought it was a very nicely produced video promoting travel to Taiwan and thought I'd share it with you.

Is everyone ready to book the next flight? Maybe you can check out the Flora Expo at the old compounds while you're there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Flowers in the Compounds

Old friend Kent sent me to some links to websites for the Taipei International Flora Exposition.  The Exposition, scheduled to open later this year, is located in the old HSA east and west Compounds.

This view shows both the east and west compound areas.  The rainbow colored area is in the west compound.  I understand that the stadium that was built after the US military's withdrawal, has been mostly unused in recent years.

This very slick eBook has some nice illustrations of the sites.  Be aware that it takes a while to load and you have to click in the upper right-hand corner to turn each page.

*** UPDATE ***

Kent also sent a link to this promotional video for the exposition.   Looks like it's going to be quite a place.  It's hard to believe that much of this ground was once the east and west Headquarters Support Activity compounds, populated by American military folks.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Congressional Approval of Carter's Taiwan Decision

This Associated Press Article from March 17, 1979, shows that President Carter's decision to withdraw from Taiwan easily passed both houses of Congress.  After some Republican opposition, it passed the House 345-5 and the Senate 90-6.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Official Word in March 1978

I found the following article in the March 28, 1978 edition of the Lodi (California) News-Sentinel.  This was only about nine months before President James Earl Carter announced the US withdrawal of all American forces from Taiwan, but the feeling at TDC was that "...we're probably two years away from folding up."  It's just my opinion, but I think at that point in time, they really believed it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Auto Insurance Applied

I wrote a piece a few days ago about auto insurance and how it was handled for American military people in Taipei.  In response to that, I received a note from a guy who was in Taipei during the 1960s.  He described an unusual accident that he was involved in and how things sort of went downhill from there.

I only had one occasion to use my insurance while in Taiwan. I was visiting a friend and his wife at their home. The street was very narrow, as most were in those days, and it was also a dead-end.  There was no room to even turn the car around, especially at night when you couldn’t see because there were no street lights. Upon leaving, my friend said I had no choice but to back up to the main street and stay to the one side away from the houses where the benjo ditch was.

With my wife watching the ditch side, I slowly backed out toward the main street. About half way to the cross-street I felt a bump and not knowing what it was I pulled forward, felt another bump, and then heard someone scream in pain.

My first thought was that someone had thrown himself under my car. It was near Chinese New Year and we had all heard stories of nationals doing this to collect money and not enter the New Year in debt. Americans passed this story around but I don’t know if there was any truth to it.

My wife and I got out of the car, with a flashlight, to see what had happened. Half way in the street was a man in a chair who I guess had been napping. I’ll never know if he did this on purpose or not. Very soon after, another man appeared and was shouting something in Chinese. I could his leg was broken but it was too dark to see a lot.

I told my Chinese wife to tell them to hurry into the car and I would take him to the hospital. He got into the car along with his friend who later I found out was his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law was shouting a lot of stuff at my wife. I’m probably glad I didn’t understand it. I’m sure it would have angered me.  Finally with translation from my wife I was told the brother-in-law insisted we go to the Chinese police before going to the hospital.  Even as I drove to the nearest one (as I remember it was on the corner of Nan King E Rd and some other road) I tried to argue that it was best to go to the hospital first.  He wouldn’t have it so I went to the Police station.

As soon as the brother-in-law finished with the police he got back in the car and asked to go to the hospital.  I was quite upset with him and told him, "No.  Now we will go to my police."  So although he talked all the way I went to the Provost Marshal in the compound and reported to them what had happened and then went to the hospital.

Inside the hospital they just laid the guy on the floor in the hallway along with all the other people who were laying and sitting there up against the wall.  I went to the admittance window and showed them all my IDs, including my insurance card.   I insisted they put him in a room, but to no avail. I guess I thought I was different -- maybe somewhat entitled? Because I had insurance and was able to pay, I thought I would get special treatment, or rather the injured man would get better treatment. Well, it didn’t work out that way and I finally said goodbye to all and left. It was a very strange evening full of confusion and made me wonder about the differences in our cultures.

This all happened on a Friday evening and when I got to work on Monday my friend told me “Thanks a lot buddy. The neighborhood is picketing my house now with signs saying 'Go home Yankee', and asking me for money to help the family since the guy can’t work now." I told him what had happened because we were far enough away from his house when it happened that he didn’t know anything. He said it was the brother-in-law who approached him about money and came by daily until my friend told him to stay away or else.

Thinking back now I wonder how the guy knew that I was at my friend's house.   I guess I’ll never know, and I’ll also never know if the Insurance paid for his hospital bills etc.

*** ADDED ***

Old friend Kent Mathieu reminded me that back in December 2007 I posted an account of his experience with Taiwan Fire and Marine Insurance when he wrecked his 1965 Mustang.  

It still breaks my heart when I think about that poor Mustang!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Leo Mason

I received a note from Les Duffin regarding the passing of Leo Mason, who was assigned to USTDC in the late-1970s.

Les wrote, "Leo Mason was a Navy LDO (limited-duty officer, something that apparently was common with Navy mustangs) assigned to TDC while I was there (1976-78).  I also knew him off-duty because we, and one of his sons, were members of the China Sea Dragons scuba diving club.  I don’t remember to which office in TDC he was assigned, but he was one of the good guys."

His obituary can be found here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Auto Insurance In Taiwan

Page 88 of the Taiwan Report, the newcomers guide to living in Taipei, described the procedures for registering and operating a motor vehicle in Taiwan.  It stated the minimum insurance requirements as well, and said that your insurance had to be through a company that had a claims agent in Taiwan. I didn't own a car during my tour at USTDC, but I'm wondering if anyone who did can recall what company he/she was insured by.  Also, where was your agent located -- in the compound, in Taipei or elsewhere?

Does anyone recall how much you were paying for insurance in Taipei back then?  I remember that as a young airman with a clean driving record, my car insurance rates in the States were through the roof.  I was stationed in Sacramento when I turned 25 and got married in the same month and my car insurance rates plummeted.  It was like I magically became a model citizen overnight.

*** UPDATE ***

Sarj Bloom just submitted his insurance card from 1961-62.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Requium for a Command

I recently heard from Dick Worsena, who was at USTDC from September 1977 until the final withdrawal of American military forces from Taiwan in early 1979.  Here is his account of that period:

My name is Richard "Dick" Worsena. I was the last Navy Supply Corps Officer assigned to USTDC. I went there as a new Commander to be the Logistics Section Head under Air Force Colonel Bruce Ferrier (J1/J4).  I reported in September 1977 for a two year tour which got shortened by our leaving the island in April 1979. RADM James Linder had just reported as the COMUSTDC.

When the MAAG closed in 1978, the Personnel Officer, an Army lieutenant colonel went to run the Club since he had been a hotel management graduate from Cornell. Ferrier had me then double-hat as the dreaded Personnel Officer and the Navy Logistics head. I had an Army major, Bob Fox, now a retired Colonel, and an Air Force captain that ran the J4 area full time.

It seems to me the USTDC Chief of Staff, the Air Force brigadier general, was replaced by an Air Force colonel, since we were downsizing in rank. We were required to do a couple of all island personnel decreases and my Logistics group was directed to coordinate the plan back to CINCPAC.

Finally in December 1978 we got the word that we were all to leave by April 1979. I happened to be playing golf that Saturday morning when I was called back to TDC. It was an interesting weekend. Fortunately, we had developed a withdrawal plan and so had a head start in planning our departure in a short period of time.

I was one of the 23 military officers under the command of the USTDC Chief of Staff, the Air Force colonel, to be sent to Hawaii to finish the withdrawal and turnover of assets for the best price possible to the Taiwan military. The Mutual Defense Treaty remained in effect until December 31, 1979. We were set up as a separate group at CINCPAC and called the Provisional Plans Office (PPO), code J78.

My next tour was to be as the Supply Officer of the Destroyer Tender Bryce Canyon (AD-36) homeported at Pearl Harbor. Since I was not to report until April 1980, I was tasked as the sole survivor of J78 to prepare the last Command History. Working with the CINCPAC Command Historian I completed that assignment and found I did not know the whole picture of what had happened since December 1978. The document was classified.

Many thanks to Dick Worsena for providing his first-hand account of the final months of the US Taiwan Defense Command.

As I've written previously, the CINCPAC Command History for 1978 has been declassified and can be found at the website.  It's a very lengthy document, but it's clear that Commander Worsena, RADM Linder, and all those working at USTDC were kept very busy during that period.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More on the Melody Maids

A few days ago, I posted a story about a couple of musical groups who appeared at the Linkou Club Annex in Taipei, along with some photographs provided by Les Duffin.  One of those groups was called The Melody Maids, but Les couldn't remember where they were from.

After posting that piece, I dug around a bit and finally located information about the group in the Handbook of Texas Online, a website maintained by the Texas Historical Society.  Here is another photo from Les, and a profile of the group:

In 1942 Eloise Milam was asked to help arrange entertainment for a bond rally at the Jefferson Theater in Beaumont. As a private music teacher, she had a group of voice students, whom she presented as a choral group, all dressed in white. Since the newspaper insisted on having a name for the group, they decided to call themselves the Melody Maids. They became a self sustaining, nonprofit organization consisting of teen age girls and were a great hit.

They began to travel from coast to coast singing for organizations, but mostly they performed at military bases and military hospitals. The group made four tours of Europe, several to England, three to the Far East, seven to the far North, four to the Caribbean, five to Mexico, seven to Hawaii, and four to Bermuda, Iceland, and the Azores. The girls financed some of the tours themselves by holding bake sales, style shows and other fund-raisers. After 1956 all of the Melody Maid tours were financed by the Entertainment Branch of the Department of Defense. Of all the performers who traveled with the Entertainment Branch, the Melody Maids were requested the most. They sang for the troops at military bases and hospitals from 1942 to 1972.

The Melody Maids and Eloise Milam wore identical costumes. Their routines called for a variety of costume changes, depending on their location and the content of the show. The group had a book of rules for conduct and etiquette. This book, the Melody Maid "Bible," taught them how to act when presented to royalty and the correct way to present themselves at formal affairs. Milam always said she taught the girls morals, manners, and music, in that order. To help celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901, Milam wrote a musical production, Song Saga of Spindletop. The work contained twelve original songs written by Milam to salute the oil industry of Beaumont. The first performance was on the anniversary (January 10, 1951) of the Lucas Gusher and was lauded by Gulf Oil Company. The Melody Maids appeared on the television show "We, the People" in 1952 to perform the musical.

Many of the Melody Maids kept in touch and established a tax exempt Melody Maid Foundation, which sponsored a $10,000 scholarship fund at Lamar University. There were around 1,500 Melody Maids through the years. The group received many awards over the years. The Eloise Milam–Melody Maid Rose Room at the Julie Rogers Theater in Beaumont opened in 1990. Scrapbooks, souvenirs, photographs, and other memorabilia are housed there. The room is open to the public by request. In 2000 the Melody Maids performed Song Saga of Spindletop at their annual reunion as a tribute to Eloise Milam.