TAIPEI AIR STATION
Pat Torguson Remembers….
REMEMBERANCES OF TAINAN AIR STATION
Hello. My name is Pat Mahoney Torguson and my father was stationed at Tainan AS from 1958-1960. He was NCOIC of Security Police, but I have no idea what his squadron was.
When we first arrived, relocating from American Village in Nagoya, Japan (we were moved there after Gifu AFB closed), the base seemed to be comprised of large old Korean War tents.
The runway was a temporary runway of those "holey" metal sheets engineers use. I think F-100's were the resident jets and flew daily, especially when Quemoy became a "hot spot".
We first lived at 25 House Compound, in one of the first completed houses, and we watched the rest of the compound being built. After a few months we moved to a house near the compound where the Magambo NCO Club was, as well as a BX. We were also walking distance to the CAT Club. My parents had a limited membership there so that my brother and I could swim at the pool. I can tell you that the CAT Club had the BEST spring rolls in all of Taiwan! My brother told me that CAT Airlines was a cover for the CIA, but I don't know if that is correct.
Right next to our school bus stop was a Japanese pill box, left over from the war. All of us kids used to arrive at the bus stop a bit early so that we could play in it. Our school, Jonathon M. Wainwright School was at 20 House Compound and was shaped like a "U". Each room had a front screen door and a back screen door, with a slow moving overhead fan. The compound was surrounded on at least 2 sides by sugar cane fields and the school had a resident gaggle of geese that the tender would run around the playground for a half hour before each recess to rid the area of snakes.
I remember one 3rd grade boy finding a Taiwanese cobra curled up in the sink when he went to wash his hands! When the nurse came to school to give the students yet another round of vaccinations, we were allowed to run out the front screen door of the room, screaming like the little kids we were, run around the quadrangle for a few minutes, and then go back quietly to class.
I was kept after school once and had to walk home. On my way home, for the first time, I walked around on Snake Circle (a traffic island that had vendors that sold snake skins and meat). It was the scariest place I had ever been. My mother was furious at me for not hiring a pedicab to get home, but I didn't have any NT with me.
The base seemed to always be on alert, because of the shelling of Quemoy. We had to have the Armed Forces radio station on all the time because the alerts would be called over the air waves. We could be in the middle of dinner and the radio announcer would say, "The pepper is hot. I say again, the pepper is hot." My father would get up without a word, change back into his uniform quickly, and leave the house.
Within minutes the jets would be screaming over our roof on their way. We seemed to live only a very few miles from the end of the runway, because I could almost count the rivets on the bottoms of the wings when the jets went over. My mother lost more than one dish falling off the shelf due to the thunderous vibrations of the jets overhead.
Our phones were Korean War field phones - the kind that you had to crank a handle several times to get service - and it was all party lines. My brother and I were not allowed to spend time on the phone with our friends because of that.
Right outside of our fence was a small Taiwanese Army relay station, manned 24/7, and always by some soldier that LOVED Chinese opera. To this day I absolutely can't stand whiny Chinese opera!
There were two American children that lived by us that died of mosquito borne encephalitis, a 6 month old baby, and a 3 year old little girl I used to play with. To save her children, my mother made me sleep in pajamas that covered my feet, down to my wrists, and up to my neck. All exposed skin was covered with Air Force issue "Off", and my mother would come in several times during the night to spray DDT.
All homes were surrounded by binjo ditches, which smelled pretty odoriferous.
When I was 9 years old I witnessed a plane crash at the base. I was at a birthday party waiting at the base theater to go into the movie and a large transport plane took off. We watched it immediately bank too sharply to the right, with the right wing going down to the ground, and then there was an explosion and a huge ball of fire. I will never forget that image. Later we learned that a sweet young airman at the pool that all of us little girls had fawned over because he let us comb his hair into curls had died in that crash. The plane was full of active duty personnel going home from their TDY at Tainan. We went into the theater to watch the movie, The Yearling. We all cried and cried.
We had a water cistern on our roof that would collect the daily rain water. We had to spend hours each week boiling it, and sieving it through cheese cloth, before we could drink it.
The only stove we had for cooking was a two-burner camping stove and our "oven" was one of those electric crocks. My mother did manage to bake cakes, but I have no idea how she did it!
My Brownie troop used to go to Kaohsiung to go to the beach. I have memories of little Brownies sitting around a campfire singing songs, while the beach was patrolled by serious, rifle wielding Taiwanese Army men, behind rolls of barbed wire strung along the shoreline.
The fellow who ran the base theater was a friend of my parents and he used to borrow films and show them at his family home, projected onto a slide screen. I remember me, and several other people, watching The King and I in his living room.
My father seemed to always have a couple of young airmen from his group that would like to hang out with us on the odd weekend. Often, he would check out a military jeep from the motor pool and, crammed with adults and my brother and I sitting on the wheel wells and hanging onto the roll bars, we'd tour the countryside. We didn't have to go far to find exotic Chinese and Taiwanese points of interest.
Not far from our house lived several older Chinese women with bound feet. Watching them totter on their tiny feet used to amuse me and it was only as an adult, when I finally understood what these women had been put through, that I was outraged and sorry for them.