TAIPEI AIR STATION
Michael Carl Remembers….
I first arrived in Taiwan in Jan '68--I was sent TDY to CCK with a Comm Team from the First Mob out of Clark. We arrived in Taipei in the evening. We knew we had to catch a train down-island. but the team chief couldn't remember exactly what city. We spent the night in Taipei where I learned to use chopsticks--eating shelled peanuts in one of the clubs. This was my first exposure to 'bars' and 'clubs'. They weren't the same thing--but they seemed the same to me--except there was no bar fine in a club. Hmmmm.
We caught a train down island--the Ku Kuang Express, if I remember correctly. Laden with suitcases and tool boxes, we still weren't sure where to get off. An hour or so later, we showed our tickets to one of the cute stewardesses, and she pointed outside. We were in Taichung. We piled out with our gear and eventually found our way to CCK. Only to be told that there was no billeting available and we would have to stay downtown. We drew $16 a day and lived large at the Tokyo Hotel. I didn't know about the lunar new year in those days, and the lantern festival right after--and the required fireworks. Everything was so cheap, it seemed to be free. We had a great time learning Chinese, learning about new food, playing games in the Taichung building, checking out the girls in Taichung park, visiting the USO, and a host of other activities--I think we even got in some work. CCK was a SAC base in those days. The ramp had lots of KC-135s. A short 95 days later the fun ended and we caught a flight back to Clark.
I PCS'd from Clark to Tan Son Nhut--a year that went by quickly and ended with an assignment to Taipei Air Station in June of '69. As a SSgt-selectee, I was authorized to live off-base. I shared an apartment out near Sung Shan airport with Tom Rachunas (Tech Control and Job Control) and Bob Murphy (inside plant). Bob PCS'd and Tom, his girlfriend, and I shared an apartment near the base. Then Tom PCS'd and I found a place downtown.
I was looking over the aerial photo of the air station and recognized many of the buildings. As a telephone guy, I was probably in most of them. If you start at the traffic circle in the lower left of the photo--that street was Roosevelt Road. If the bus were to make a right hand turn it would go into the main gate. The building that looks a little like an 'F' was the Air Division HQ. Going past the building, on your left is the Cotton Comm building--two stories high. Sam Stancil and I put two 10-foot additions in the radio tower on that building, raising the tower from 25 to 45 feet high and increasing portable radio coverage to almost the entire city area, including Shu Lin and Bei Tou. The building to the right of the Cotton building is the 13 club. Spent many a good time there, trying to beat the pin-ball games and listening to the bands. Back in the corner of the base was our shop. In front of it was the water station. Moving now toward the upper left corner of the photo, the next building was the OSI office. Continuing down the fence line, you would find the hobby shop, the bank, and the library. In the little courtyard just above the pool was the basketball court. The little building across the parking lot from the OSI office was the barber shop. If I remember correctly, two haircuts a month came free with your club dues. And you always could get a good massage from the only male barber, George, and a manicure from one of the cute girls. MSgt Hollywood, the 2165 CG First Sgt, always made sure my hair was short. I'd come in from Viet Nam looking a little shaggy. He made sure I didn't make that mistake again! From the swimming pool and going toward the lower left corner of the photo, you would walk between the buildings. The building that has that white car with a red top was the post office. If you didn't turn into the post office and continued straight across the street, you'd be at the AF Clinic. Easily recognizable is the three story building which was the dorm. Behind that was the supply and motor pool area. Next to the dorm was base supply (under the water tower). If you look past the water tower and off the base, you will see a red and white tower. That was the radio relay site. If you look closely at the rice fields you might be able to make out the antenna poles and tower associated with the radio site. One of them is directly in the foreground of the red and white tower. That antenna looked like a giant TV antenna and was 102 feet, 6 inches about the ground. I know because I climbed it. I have a picture of Sam Stancil and me on top of it. It wasn't so far up, but it sure was a long ways down. Lastly, if you were to follow that road that you see in front of the radio site to the right (and off the picture) you would find yourself at the entrance to the AOC and CAC, an underground facility, with, believe it or not, a submarine door as its entrance. This photo brought back a ton of memories, thanks!
Ron Schriner ran the telephone shop. Bob Brammeier and I were the crew doing most of the day-to-day work. O-B OBrien was our cable guy. Sam Stancil replaced SSgt Hill as our antenna man, and rounded out the crew. Sam needed a safety observer. It turned out that I was the only one who wasn't too afraid of heights--so I got to travel down-island with him.
Besides the air station, during my tour I traveled TDY to CCK, Tainan, Taoyuan, O Luan Pi, and Ta Han mountain. Being TDY to O Luan Pi at the very southernmost tip of the island wasn't bad either. Ta Han mountain--just east of Ping Tung was challenging. The trip was only 11 KM of dirt road recently carved into a mountainside and along ridge lines. Some turns were so tight that we had to pull forward and back up to work our way around the turn. And then, late in the afternoon, we went up into the clouds. The place was soggy and dark, and we had three antennas to mount on the top of the building. We worked straight thru; sometime late in the night, the sky cleared and we could see the China Sea. The sea was speckled with lights from boats--simply beautiful. It seemed like you could see all the way to China. The only picture I have is in my mind, and it makes me smile, even again. During one trip to Tainan AB, approaching the gate on the left was a glossy back C-47. The only marking on it was a white, about 18-inch high Playboy bunny. Never did find out what that was about. Got chased off by the Chinese guard when I tried to take a picture of it. But I was persistent, and I still have the picture of the aircraft tail, taken from a moving vehicle. Being fortunate and having a car (my gold 1969-1/2 Ford Maverick), I also traveled completely around the island--that's probably another hour of stories.
May through November was typhoon season. They usually brought very heavy rains and gusty winds. Late in '69 we got a taste of a full-on typhoon, the eye passing right over the city during the night. We had to stay on-base, ready to respond, so we had a typhoon party in the shop. Things got a little fuzzy, and it wasn't until the next morning that we found how much damage had happened. Military phones were down across the island--but you could get on a commercial phone and call almost anywhere. We had antennas damaged up at the AOC and on the Cotton building. It took almost a week to get those operational. Min Chuan road had flooded between our apartment and the club area on Chung Shan Bei Lu. Bob Murphy needed a beer and some company pretty bad, so he drove his red Corvair down to the flooded are, took off his shoes, rolled up his pants, and rafted a section of bamboo fence across the 'lake.' I recall driving past a large, multi-story building under construction with all the bamboo scaffolding around it. The typhoon had knocked down interior walls in the building and swept away the green material around the outside of the scaffolding, but every bit of that bamboo was still in-place.
Shopping was always great in Taiwan, and the food was even better. You knew you could always get a good deal shopping in Hsi Men Ding. Did you ever try hot pot at one of the restaurants inside the traffic circle on Nan Ching West Road? In cool weather that was my favorite. Of course the ping guo sidra (apple cider) mixed with hsiao hsing jyou (rice wine) and huge chunks of ice also hit the spot.
Speaking of ice, how about the shaved ice? A vendor would put a small block of ice on their machine, and turn the crank. The block of ice would spin and shaved ice would fall out of the bottom. You had your choice of flavors to add to the ice--I was partial to the sugarcane juice and pineapple mix.
So I finished my tour in Taipei, and PCs'd to Eglin. Seven months and seven days later, almost to the hour, I was back in Taiwan, this time stationed at CCK. The KC-135s were gone and C-130's were flying support of Viet Nam operations. Again, I lived downtown, but had to pull standby on base. So every three or four days I had to sleep in the shop. We were right across from the flight line snack bar, next to the shop that maintained the rollers on the 130 decks. TSgt Grover Tate ran the shop--and we stayed busy. Don Moser and I were on one crew; Sgt Strickland and A1C Bob Rudzki on the other. I recall race relations issues, assaults in the dorm areas at night, burning the local purchase store, and the threat by the Chinese Base Commander to bring in a Chinese Army unit to quell the issues. And, I remember the arrival of the Colonel who put an end to it, Col Iosue (pronounced oz-way). He eventually went to four stars. He was definitely hard nosed. When C-130 crews found out that the NVA/VC had shoulder-launched heat-seeking missiles, they became very dis-inclined to make low-level drops of supplies. Some of the supplies were being dropped into enemy hands. Col Iosue flew a flight to An Loc and made a textbook low-level drop. He told the rest of his flight that they would do the same. Best as I know, they did. I also recall looking out at the flight line one afternoon and seeing a C-130 making its approach. Looking at the airplane I realized that the rudder was there but much of the vertical stabilizer was missing. Apparently the 130 had taken a hit and much of the covering of the stabilizer had peeled off. One rainy night I was walking down toward the service club when I heard a huge pop and watched a fireball come down off the top of a power pole then run horizontally along the telephone cable for several cable spans. It melted the wires holding the cable to the messenger wire and dropped the cable onto the ground. Nobody wanted to work on that line that night. Electricity was dangerous stuff at CCK. During my tour CE had one person electrocuted working on the air conditioner in the flight line snack bar. Another person was killed in the very high voltage lines just outside the entrance of the base. It took almost a full day to get him down out of the wires. CCK got her typhoon while I was there--the eye passing over the base one afternoon. Civil Engineering had just about completed putting up wiring on the telephone poles to control something in each building. The storm was so powerful that it busted much of the wiring. I remember seeing the wires on almost every telephone pole whipping in the wind as the rain came down and the storm blew. The same storm blew down a line of telephone poles down to the AFRTS radio transmitter site. I had to go out in the middle of it to try to restore service. The wind was so strong that a span of about six concrete telephone poles were blown down. The only thing attached to them was one telephone wire, mine. I've never seen anything like that since. We also started up the AFRTS television station on CCK. It was UHF and pretty weak, but it was American TV. Again, my tour finished too soon, and again I returned to the land of the big BX.
One year later, I married the girl I'd met while stationed at CCK. After 37 years, we've raised two great kids and return to Taiwan fairly often. I spent 27 years in the USAF in the telephone business--16 of those years in Asia. But Taiwan was by far the best!
If you don't know exactly what you are looking for, the Air Station will be tough to find. On Google Earth use 25d 00' 40.08" N by 121d 32' 14.63" E. That should put you at the traffic circle outside of where the air station used to be. Note that the traffic circle is under an elevated roadway and might be a little difficult to recognize. And if you know where to look on the hill nearby, you will still see the entrance to the AOC/CAC.
Your web site made my day. I hope some of my stories will bring back memories for someone else.
Mike (Shang Kuang Liang)
Michael W. Carl
1st Mobile Communications Group
2165th Communications Group
2129th Communications Squadron
1968, 1969-1970. 1971-1972
Swansea, Illinois 62226