Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekly Links of Interest

Life In Taiwan writes about a rainstorm and flying termites.

Taiwanese Secrets Travel Guide explains to manners-impaired westerners how to get on well with the Chinese people of Taiwan.

Alton's Images has photographs that range from the bizarre to the beautiful.

Andre In Taiwan takes his daughter to the Taipei Zoo.

Taiwan News reports that a group of retired Taiwan military officers are on a golf tour with their former adversaries in The People's Republic.  As Bob Dylan wrote, "The times, they are a'changin'."   Yeah, well...maybe.

Neil Wade's Photography Blog tours Yangming Shan and Taiwanese volcanoes.  Awesome!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Taipei MAAG Officers Open Mess

I've been corresponding with Bob Loiselle, the son of Air Force Chief Warrant Officer V.W.Loiselle, who was the club manager of the MAAG Officers Club from 1959 until 1961.

He sent along a couple of items, including this invitation to the inaugural celebration of the new Civil Air Transport aircraft, "The Mandarin Jet," which was a Convair 880-M.

The second item was a photo of a pool patch, which was sewn onto swim trunks.  Bob thinks this one was his sister's.

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

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tempus Fugit

I received some Corona satellite images of Taipei via  Corona was a US military reconnaissance satellite system operated by the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology with substantial assistance from the US Air Force, used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union, China and other areas from June 1959 until May 1972.  The images were declassified during the Clinton administration.

The first image here is a diagram of buildings in the HSA East Compound as they appeared around the 1970s.  If you click on this same image down the right-hand column of this page, you'll be able to view a much larger version in which you can read the purpose of each building.  USTDC is at the top of the page.

The next image is from 1966 and shows the same general area.  You can just make out some of the buildings, as well as the river at the top of the page.  The three "H" shaped buildings to the right should help you get oriented.

The next image is from 1969, three years after the one above was taken.  The image is noticeably clearer, showing the technical improvement in spy satellites in that relatively brief period of time.  The large white building toward the north and slightly to the east was the TACF and the main USTDC building was to its left.

Finally, here is a modern satellite photo of the area.  The structure toward the upper left -- the one that looks like it was constructed with Lego blocks --  is the Museum of Modern Art.  To the east of that was the approximate location of the US Taiwan Defense Command.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More TDC Memorabilia

Vic Gerlach (USTDC, '74-'75) sent in these photos today.  Here's his description:

The photo you posted of the brass ashtray from the 63 Club reminded me that I have a brass ashtray also.  Mine was presented during my departure ceremony/party and is engraved with signatures of some of the personnel assigned there at the time.  Some of the legible names are VAdm Snyder, BGen Williams, Col Peters, Lt Col Blanton, Major Delano, CPO M Johnson and others.

We were also presented with a USTDC necklace.  It's the USTDC metal logo badge mounted on a piece of green jade.  I am also enclosing a photo of the necklace.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Links of the Week

I try to check out Taiwan-related blogs from time to time, and I thought that each week I'd post a few links to some of the ones I thought might be of interest to the folks who drop by here.

Here are three to get things rolling and I'll try to post more around the end of each week.

  • TAIWANAIRBLOG has a nice set of aerial photos of the former Shu Lin Kou Air Station.
  • A Hungry Girl's Guide To Taipei highly recommends DING WANG MALA GUO for spicy mala hotpot and other delights.
  • Life In Taiwan has a very nice piece about overseas (including American) teachers finding respect and opportunities teaching in Taiwan.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Birth of USTDC -- November 1, 1955

Bill Thayer sent me this Associated Press article from October 23, 1955. It shows that Vice Admiral Alfred M. Pride, who was Commander of the US 7th Fleet, announced that the Formosa Liaison Center was being changed to the United States Defense Command on November 1st of that year.  VADM Pride was Commander of the US Seventh Fleet from December 1, 1953 until December 19, 1955.  This link goes to the history of the Seventh Fleet and it shows VADM Ingersoll holding that position after VADM Pride.

Also, note in the article that when they created USTDC, they renamed the Military Assistance Advisory Group from MAAG Formosa to MAAG Taiwan and the name of the radio station from Voice of MAAG Formosa to Voice of MAAG Taiwan.

From the second article displayed here -- also from Bill -- it appears that the Commander of  the US Seventh Fleet was concurrently Commander of USTDC because those two commands were not separated until early in 1957.  That may mean that VADM Pride was technically the first COMUSTDC, at least for about 19 days until the arrival of VADM Ingersoll, though I don't know if VADM Pride was actually designated as such.

Click on either article to view the full text of each.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Club 63 in 65 and 66

Len dropped by here at the TDC quarterdeck yesterday and left this note about the Club 63:

From some of the comments on your page, sure am glad I was there before the Navy pulled the slots (1965 – 66).  They provided the revenue that paid for a lot of 10¢ drinks and great acts plus monthly non-family entertainment!

Here's a picture of a brass ashtray from the day!  I lived in the Signal Compound right behind TDC – the good old days waking up at 0200 covered by termites twice a year when they swarmed!

4799th Signal Communications Agency, Taiwan
Thanks, Len.  I've seen photos of these ashtrays on eBay before and have always wondered if they were given to departing club members or if they were just "liberated" from time to time.  Of course back in those days ashtrays were everywhere.  When I was a kid, some would make them in school as a gift for their dads.  That's hard to believe today.

If my memory is accurate, it seems to me that when I was at TDC during 1973-74, the Club 63 had a MAAG logo on the outside, but I'm not sure who ran it (Army?  Air Force?).  All I know is that the Navy took over its operation during my stay, removed the MAAG logo and changed the name to the China Seas Club.  Among other changes, they installed slot machines.  I think both the Army and Air Force banned slots from their clubs sometime in the late 1960s because a club manager or two started raking off profits for personal gain.  The Navy already had slot machines in the Headquarters Support Activity (HSA) west compound when I arrived at TDC.

I remember plenty of cockroaches and small lizards (geckos?) but this is the first I've heard about swarming termites.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Request for Information -- Life in Taiwan During The 1950s

I received a note this weekend from Dr. Stephen Craft, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University regarding a book project he's been working on.  He explains it here:

I am a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where I teach military and aviation history.  I lived in Taiwan for many years in the 1980s and 1990s, and go back there every two years.  Over the last several years, I have published a book on V.K. Wellington Koo and another on Embry-Riddle's role during WWII.  Over the last ten years or so, I have been working on a third book project that deals with MAAG-Taiwan and the Reynolds Riot of 1957.  I am really interested in interviewing Americans who lived in Taiwan in the 1950s to get a feel for expatriate life at the height of the Cold War.  I can always be contacted at
Take care.

Steve Craft

Stephen G. Craft, Ph.D.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
HU/SS Department
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
 If you were in Taiwan during the 1950s, and would be interested in contributing to this work, please drop Steve an e-mail.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

TDC Chiefs of Staff -- Update

During the past three years I've tried to assemble an accurate list of all the Air Force brigadier generals who served as USTDC Chief of Staff.  Some of them were fairly easy because their official Air Force biographies showed when they assumed that position.  But a few of them were just my best guess, usually because their biographies mentioned only that they were assigned there, but didn't specify when.  That was the case with  Brigadier General William G. Lee Jr., and I listed him as being assigned there in 1957.  It now appears that I guessed wrong.

Today I found a biography for Major General Harold Huntley Bassett (photo at left), which shows he was assigned as USTDC Chief of Staff in 1957, so I replaced General Lee with General Bassett.  Bill Thayer recently provided confirmation that General Lee departed TDC during 1960.

My updated list of USTDC Commanders and Chiefs of Staff can be found here.  I'm sure the list of admirals is incomplete but I've never been able to locate an on-line archive of flag officer biographies like the Air Force has.  If you spot any other errors or omissions, please let me know.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

US Military Housing In Taipei

I've written several times previously about the American military housing areas in the Taipei area.  Today I received an interesting link from Klaus Bardenhagen, a German reporter who lives and works in Taipei.  You can view his website (with a link to his blog) at

The link he provided is to an article in Taipei City's tourism magazine titled, "The US Military’s Cold War Housing in Shanzihou & Tianmu."  It goes into some detail about the architecture of the old structures and how they were perceived by local citizens.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Taiwan Furniture

Many of us purchased locally made furniture when we were in Taiwan.  A couple of years ago, I wrote about the coffee table and end table set I bought during 1974.  I can't recall the name of the shop, but I know it was within easy walking distance of the compound.  As I wrote earlier, I started looking at these shortly after my arrival in 1973 and finally bought this set a few weeks before my departure.

When we decided to downsize about four years ago, one of our daughters asked for the set, which she and her husband hauled up to their Minnesota home.  We drove up to the Frozen North a few days ago for a visit and I took a couple of pictures to post here.

This is an example of what was called an "APO set" because the coffee table could be disassembled into three sections and mailed through the post office back to the States.  The set is made of teak and camphor woods with marble set into the tops and solid brass pulls on all doors.  It is quite heavy and I tried to avoid moving it around the house as much as possible.  After several household moves and exposure to numerous kids and grandkids, it has a few small nicks and scratches, but it still looks almost as good as the day it was delivered.

I don't have any idea what a similar set would cost today -- if you could find one -- but I think I paid about $120 for it in 1974.  That was still a princely sum in those days, but very reasonable for something of this quality.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

April 30, 1979 -- Zàijiàn

There's not much new in this United Press International article from April 30, 1979, but I thought I'd post it as a matter of general interest.

Admiral and Mrs. James Linder had already departed for Hawaii when this article was written.  It says that there were a few military officers who stayed until the end of April, the mandatory departure date ordered by President James Earl Carter.

I have often thought about what it was like for the final few American military people to depart Taiwan.  Speaking at a conference twenty years later, Admiral Linder said that the people of Taiwan felt that we were going away and they were in deep trouble.  He went on to say, "We sort of felt the same way."

Click on the article for a larger view.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

TDC Nooners League

I've written once or twice about the TDC Nooners League.  We bowled one day a week (Wednesdays, I think) as part of our physical training program (honest!).  During my time it was common for several of us to stop off at the China Seas (Club 63) after bowling.  Some at TDC who weren't bowlers just avoided the hassle of organized exercise altogether and went straight to the club for their PT.

My team was called Granny's Guys, named after that old cartoon character in Playboy, and our shirts had her image embroidered on the back -- very tastefully done, of course.  Office mate John Cranford (Army) was on my team, along with DOD civilian Larry Marcum.  I believe there was an Air Force major whose name escapes me, and probably one or two other guys.

I just received these two photos from Vic Gerlach, who arrived at TDC around the time I left.  He was also in J-1 (Personnel) and became a Nooners League member.  His team was called the Combines and the shirt was made by Mr. Loo the tailor, as I think most of them were at the time  It's exactly like mine...except for Granny of course.