Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letters Home

Stev Pitchford was a Navy photographer at TDC during 1959-60.  Many of his excellent photographs have been enjoyed by countless visitors here.

Stev recently went through a stack of letters that he wrote to his parents years ago.  What follows are his comments about the letters, followed by excerpts from some of those that he wrote during his time in Taiwan.   I really enjoyed them because I think they're typical of letters written by young men far away from home years ago, and probably similar to letters written by today's young men and women stationed around the world.  Of course most of today's letters are probably typed on a keyboard and received by Mom and Dad within seconds after they're sent.

Mom and Dad saved the letters I wrote to them while I was in the Navy.  After about 50 years, I've gotten around to reading them.  Some things I remember pretty well, but there's a lot I don't recall.
A few remarks about Chiang Kai Shek (Gemo) and President Eisenhower (Ike) were a little impertinent, but I was a teenager at the time.  Looking back, I realize what a privilege it was to have come into personal contact with two of the most significant figures of the 20th century.

July 29, 1959  (Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA)
. . . . I leave at 6:30 AM August 1, by plane.  I’m not sure where I’ll wind up, but it will probably be Taiwan or Japan
. . . .The next time you hear from me it will be from across the Pacific. . .
August 6, 1959
. . . . Well, I’m here.  I got in Taipei at about 4:00 this afternoon.  There is no base here.  Taiwan Defense Command is one building on one side of town. . . .  It could be very nice.
. . . . I don’t know if I’ll stay here or be shipped to some other part of the island.  I’ll find out tomorrow. . . . .
. . . .Tomorrow . . . .  I’m staying here.  And I’m beginning to like it even more.  There are 11 people in the photo lab, and it isn’t too busy. . . .
. . . . I went to a Mongolian Barbecue for lunch today.  9 of us went across town on 5 motor scooters to the place.  I don’t know what it was but it was good.  We ate with chop sticks, which proved to be interesting. 
August 17, 1959
. . . .There aren’t many cars here, but that doesn’t mean anything.  There are plenty of bicycles, rickshaws, and people to make up for it. . . .
. . . . Seeing as how we get pretty good money and things are so cheap here, we live pretty high.  I’m going to be spoiled when I get back. . . .
. . . . They have American movies here.  Most of the theaters in Taipei are comparable to those in the U. S.  I’m told that one will show up anything in the states. . . .
August 30, 1959
. . . . I get mail in the oddest ways here.  Commanders bring it to me, I get some on days the mail isn’t supposed to come in, and yours just came in the middle of a typhoon. . . .
. . . . 4 of us are keeping the photo lab tied down during this big wind.  Right now it’s supposed to be blowing about 100 mph outside.  It’s 1:30 AM and I’ve got nothing better to do, so I’m answering your letter.  I’ll bet this is the first letter you’ve received written in the middle of a typhoon. . . .
Sept. 7, 1959
. . . . Probably tomorrow, I’m leaving for Matsu for about a week.  It’s an island 2 miles from the mainland.  So now I’m going to see Communist China. . . .
Sept. 16, 1959
. . . . I was on Matsu for 5 days.  That’s a group of islands 5 miles from the Communist coast.  It’s from right out of the war movies.
I even had my own personal jeep and driver till the last day.  Then I had to share it with an officer. . . .
And to top it all, I got $70 extra pay for going. . . .
I finally made it on board ship.  I came back on a Chinese destroyer.  I was all over the thing shooting pictures. . . .
Sept. 24, 1959
. . . . I went swimming for the first time last Sunday.  They’ve got a wild diving board at this pool.  Usually you use a diving board to put you where and how you want to hit the water.  Not so with this one.  It throws you any ole place it feels like.  Very exciting.
Monday is Confucius’ birthday, so we’ve got a long week-end. . . .
Dec. 17, 1959
. . . . Last week we really put out the work.  I didn’t even get one day off - - - except for the weekend.  Things like that don’t happen very often though.  We’ve been about half busy this week.
We’ve had a pretty cold week.  A raincoat feels pretty good now.
Jan. 26, 1960
. . . . I don’t know about this command.  One of our idiot generals thought it would be nice to stand an inspection once a month.  Not that that wasn’t bad enough - - - we have to wear uniforms to and from work and any other time we leave the compound.  Since we have to work in dungarees (uniforms would get stained), this will involve changing clothes every 5 minutes. . . .
Feb. 10, 1960
. . . . Our general’s ideas just went out the window Monday - - - hooray!  We’re back to normal now. . . .
Feb. 29, 1960
I went to the Admiral’s house again Saturday.  I showed “Auntie Mame.”  And I had pop corn for the first time since I’ve been on this island.
I was out shooting pictures all Saturday afternoon.  The Admiral’s aide got me a car to use all day, so I saw some new territory.  I thought that was pretty nice of him.
May 1, 1960
. . . . Gemo is throwing a tea party at the hostel tonight, so I think I’ll go bowling again.  I don’t like crowds. . . .
May 21, 1960
. . . . I learned today that I got my fourth stripe May 16.  I’ve been a PHG3 for almost a week now. . . .
June 16, 1960
. . . . I’m mad at Ike.  Just because he’s coming here, I have to work this weekend.  That messes up my swimming and I might miss a good movie. . . .
June 23, 1960
. . . .Ike sure messed up my weekend.  I didn’t even get to go swimming once.  And the weather was perfect.  This place looked like Ripley on the 4th of July. . . .
July 19, 1960
. . . . I got myself a Zenith Trans-Oceanic radio last week.  It is an awfully potent short wave radio.  I haven’t even hitched an aerial to it, and I can get as far east as Delano, Calif. and as far west as Paris, France. . . .
Aug. 4, 1960
. . . . The basic reason I decided to get a recorder is that in this part of the world I hear things (on the short wave radio) I’m not sure I’ll be able to pick up in the states, and they’ll be interesting to me and maybe you to hear later.  Radio Peiping, from Communist China, is my main target here.  They tell me how horrible we “imperialist Americans” are. . . .
Aug. 11, 1960
. . . . I may be sitting on that front porch with you in about 25 days.  My orders came in yesterday.  I’m going to the Norton Sound - - - which didn’t shock me too much.  I leave August 30 - - - which really shocked me. . . .
Aug. 21, 1960
. . . . I’ll see you sometime next week.  I fly out of here on the 29th. . . .

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taipei Volunteer Fire Department

Jim Sartor, a frequent contributor to this blog over the years, worked in J-22 (Op Center) at USTDC from 1968 to 1972.

Some time ago Jim asked me if I'd ever heard of the Taipei Volunteer Fire Department, a social organization that he belonged to during his tour in Taipei.  I'd never heard of it, but Jim recently discovered that they're still around, and have been since 1955.  You can find their website HERE.

Sounds like a fun group.  Anyone else here who remembers them?

Monday, March 21, 2011

MAAG Officers Open Mess - Part Two

A couple of days ago I posted some excellent photographs of the MAAG Officers Club that were taken in 1960 and that were provided by Elizabeth Feldmann. She has now sent me some additional images from that period.
Article from Far East Club Activities about the MAAG Officers Club and U.S. Army Captain Jerry Feldmann.

Dining Room Menu Cover
Club Menu - First Page

Club Menu - Second Page

Paul Kuo was a Taiwan artist who frequently drew cartoons under the heading "Formosan Vignette" for the China Post Newspaper.  This one depicts Jerry and Elizabeth Feldmann and their four children departing Taipei. 
Elizabeth says that she had many great experiences during their assignment to Taiwan.  Because of her husband's job, they were invited to the British Embassy for Queen Elizabeth's birthday observance.  They were also invited to the Korean ambassador's home because Captain Feldmann used to brief him some years earlier when he was stationed there.

She continued, "We used to go to Sun Moon Lake with a picnic lunch, haul all the kids and our amah and get rowed around the lake for a few hours.  I remember going roller skating at a park not far from the river. We had three of the children with us and we gathered quite a crowd watching us. (I think they were waiting for my husband or myself to fall down.) Thank goodness we didn't!

I remember going down-island to a glass blowing factory.  The bus was so old and rickety I wondered if we would make it back.  I found out what happened to all of our old coke and beer bottles.  Very young children were blowing them into big round  green and brown balls that were used with the fishing nets.  All of us women had to buy some of these so the bus was really overloaded on the way back!

There very few cars, but boy did they blow their horns...and just race all over!  I never drove over there; I was too scared!  I felt much safer in a pedicab!

We were never robbed, but the Provost Marshall who lived across the walk from us was -- his name was Capt. George -- so we hired guards and never had a problem."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

MAAG Officers Open Mess

I received a very nice note from Elizabeth Feldmann, wife of Captain Gerald Feldmann, the MAAG Officers Club Officer during 1960-1961.  His club manager was Air Force Chief Warrant Officer V.W. Loiselle, whom I mentioned about a year ago.  She wrote about the exciting times in Taiwan and the beauty of the country.

Elizabeth provided these great photographs of the MAAG O-Club that were taken in 1960.

There is the front of the building, the main bar, the dining room and the lounge.  She writes that there was also a stag bar, swimming pool and a barber shop at the facility.   She and her family lived across the street in a compound that she believes was referred to as MAAGville back then.

According to old friend Kent Mathieu (Taipei Air Station blog), who was night manager at the O-Club Annex, the main club was located on Chung Shan North Road, across the street from the FASD Hostel and about a hundred yards or so to the north.