TAIPEI AIR STATION
Hans Gerstacker Remembers….
Thanks for your website- it brought some memories back. My dad was stationed in Kaohsiung from 1966 until 1969 and then in Taipei until 1971.
I went to Stephen B Luce Elementary School which was on the Naval Base in Tsoying, in the US Navy housing there.
There was also a big Quonset hut that was used as a Church and movie theatre and they also had USO shows there. There were two clubs I remember very well, the first one was KRC which I believe stood for Kaohsiung Recreation Club. It was an NCO club with full bar and restaurant. Our neighbor was the manager there and his last name was Sadler. The other one was the Officer's Club in Tsoying. On that compound was a swimming pool, library, tennis court and a bowling alley as well as the Officer's Club that my parents were members of. It was really nice and well maintained and most of the folks were Navy or Marine Corps with a few Army and Air Force folks that were with the Signal Corps. I remember that sodas were 10cents, beers 15 and cocktails were 25 cents- Hot Dogs were a dime, Hamburgers 20 cents and cheeseburgers a quarter.
Those were fine days and I'm still in contact with several people from those days. The Principal at Stephen B. Luce School was a really excellent gentleman named Douglas Campbell.
(I asked Hans about this photo that had been ID’d as being the Commissary and/or PX (NEX)
I'm not totally sure but it could be either one. The building was on Pier 17 right on the harbor and the PX (everyone called it that) was upstairs. Later- in about 1967 or 68 it moved from there. It must have been a Navy Exchange because Navy pretty much ran the place. I remember the supply ships. They'd come into Pier 17. The building at the right of the picture used to have the PX in it. You had to go up the stairs because it was built on stilts.
At Pier 17 all of the Navy ships on liberty from Vietnam would tie up and we often got to tour everything from baby flat top carriers hauling helicopters to the occasional submarine and all kinds of Destroyers and Destroyer tenders like the USS Piedmont and the USS Samuel Gompers. I remember those very well because I got mauled by a neighbor's dog pretty badly and they took me over to the USS Piedmont and sewed me back together.
The main drag down to the Harbor was Fleet Street and that's where the Bars and Cat houses were- and there were plenty. The Ships officers would come out to Tsoying and hang at the Pool and the Officer's club.
As far as the HSA building goes-I don't know what all happened in there but I do know a Provost Marshal was stationed there and it seemed like a pretty busy place. I assume it was just all of the administrative stuff for the area.
Thinking back, there were a lot of Americans in Kaohsiung. There was also a beach in Tsoying just south of the Tsoying Breakwater that was called Cheatham Beach and was pretty much reserved for the Americans. There was a nice Clubhouse like building there with showers and a snack bar. The Caretaker/Lifeguard was a retired Chinese UDT guy named George Ai who was a wonderful guy and spoke perfect English. He must have trained with some of the UDT guys mentioned in your blog.
We kids had the run of the Tsoying Navy Base- nothing was off limits to us and we often got invited to eat with the troops at mess time if we were around. It was like we were little celebrities. All of us spoke enough Mandarin to get by pretty well and cuss like sailors. They used to crack up when they taught us all the cusswords. I still remember most of them even though I don't get a chance to swear in Chinese any more.
In 1967 I got to go to Okinawa with the Boy Scouts for an Aquatics camp. We were flown there in a C-47 and flew right into Kadena Air Base. It was impressive to us because the runway on both sides was lined with B-52's that were about the biggest thing we'd ever seen. We were billeted at Camp Butler and all of the activities were at this pristine Beach called Kin Blue Beach. I remember that every morning about 5am all of the B-52's would depart over the base and right over our barracks and then come back in the afternoons from bombing missions over Vietnam. Our Boy Scout Leader was a tough Army Master Sergeant and when we went to the range for Marksmanship merit badges we got to shoot just about everything they had there. You don't get to do that anymore.
I believe the woman who wrote you was Sgt. Veasey's daughter. (See Veasey story HERE)
I went to school with her brother and they lived in the Army Compound which was housing for the Army families in Kaohsiung and it was near the KRC Club. At the Army Compound they had an outdoor movie screen set up and once a week they'd show movies and everyone would show up with grocery bags full of popcorn. Cool stuff for us kids.
Many of the Navy and Marine families lived in Tsoying and in those days you'd think you were in some American small town. It was very tidy and a nice place to live. There was a golf course, ball fields, handball courts and everything. The elementary school looked like any elementary school stateside. I guess it was like a little microcosm of America.
Since there was a high school in Tainan there were Teen dances there and they'd bus us up there with the Navy School bus. All the drivers were Chinese Navy Chiefs and like other posters on your site have stated, the people there were very pro American and very friendly and hospitable. Interestingly enough, we got a tour of the Air Base in Tainan while I was in the Boy Scouts and saw the only operational B-29 Bomber I've ever seen in my life. They rebuilt jet engines and everything there-quite a big facility.
We always lived in Kaohsiung near the HSA (Headquarters Support Activity) building.
There were lots of other foreigners, mainly Americans in our neighborhood and I'm still in touch with some of the old friends. Everyone agrees that Taiwan was a very special place.
After 3 years in Kaohsiung we moved to Taipei for two more years and lived in Tien Mou up there. I guess all of that is gone and was replaced by high rise apartment buildings now.
I'd love to go back to Taiwan- we all have wonderful memories and loved the people. I envy you for being there now. The closest I get to that now is going down to San Francisco and hanging in China Town and shopping the Asian Markets in Daly City. Can't use my Mandarin much, most of the folks here are Cantonese speaking. I do stuff myself with good Chinese food though.