We gathered just beyond the 3 trees by the truck, about 11:00 AM, on Memorial Day 2018.
I arrived before anyone else. It was overcast with slight threat of rain.
Here's the end of the old prison wall.
Looking back toward the end of the wall.
During the ceremony, you will hear Michael Hurst talk about what happened to the bodies of those executed inside the prison.
Here is that old gate, now bricked-up, where bodies were placed.
During the ceremony, Michael Hurst talks about the prison wall being constructed from the stones that once were the wall around old Taipei, torn down during the Japaneses period and used to construct the wall surrounding the huge Taipei Prison.
Here, some of the people who came to the service, talking story before the ceremony commenced.
Courtesy Michael Hurst Here some of the folks that came out for the Memorial Day gathering.
Courtesy Scott Ellinger Last photo taken this Memorial Day 2018. The Memorial Day gathering was organized by:
Michael Hurst MBE Director, Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society
Thank you Michael. Before you watch the video below, I would like to mention that the portable audio system that is usually used was not functioning. Apparently the batteries were gone, and there was not time to replace them.
As the ceremony began, the wind begin to blow as the rain clouds blew over the site. A sprinkle of rain here and there, but the largest problem was the wind whistling past the camera as I was recording, blocking out the speaker, Michael Hurst occasionally.
What's important, we gathered to remember those who were men who lost their lives here at the prison and all around the world.
Memorial Day 2018 along the wall outside the old Taipei Prison.
On May 24th 1957, the United States Embassy in Taipei was ransacked. This week marks the 61st anniversary of that unfortunate incident.
In a story I wrote back in April 2012, looking back at some of the many U.S. Marine Corps Security Guards stationed at our Taipei Embassy, I included a number of photos taken inside and around the embassy complex after the incident came to a close.
Interestingly, in June 2018, less than two weeks away, the United States will open a large, new complex of buildings housing the American Institute in Taiwan, which, in my opinion, should have very large signage on it's new street facing, main building, announcing:
The United States Embassy
It's time to re-name our official United States government agency in Taiwan.
If anyone can change the name, it will be President Trump..... Amen.
Today, we have a refreshing and wonderful story in words and photos of the John Yeager family's assignment in Tainan.
We were contacted by Eric Yeager, son of Captain John G. Yeager a few weeks ago. Eric sent along dozens of photographs and included his mother's written remembrances of their assignment.
Eric's Mother, Starla, begins her written commentary(in green throughout this story) It was quite a trip! In April 1973, we left San Antonio to begin a 2-year tour in Tainan, where John, (Captain John G. Yeager) was assigned as the Chief of Personnel at Tainan Air Base. With only 6 weeks notice that John's assignment was "Accompanied," I (Starla) and our two preschool children (Melanie and Eric) hastened to get our papers in order. Then of course, we had to sell our house. Arriving in Taiwan on May 1, we setup housekeeping, first at the Oriental Hotel and later in an empty house in 20-House Compound while we awaited the arrival of our household goods; they were finally delivered in late July.
Life in the Oriental Hotel had its challenges. Our main adjustment was to get our days and nights back on schedule. The children were awaking at 2:00 am, ready to start the day. It took about 5 days for our sleeping and eating habits to return to normal. John left each morning for work, and it wasn't long before the children and I began to feel too much togetherness in that small, dark hotel room. By the second day I gathered enough courage to take a taxi by myself. After that, we went out every day to wash clothes, to attend story time at the library, or to go swimming and, of course, to eat every meal.
The train ride from Taipei to Tainan had enabled us to see much of the rural areas of Taiwan and we had observed that the countryside was green and beautiful with mountains, seashores, and gorgeous flowers.
As for the city, our hotel room on the 8th floor provided us a good observation point for life in Taiwan. From our window we saw that some families kept chickens on the roof and goats in the yard, if there was a yard. The day's washing was hung on bamboo poles which were placed on porches or roofs. The hospital personnel across the street lined-up for exercises daily. Every morning the garbage pick-up truck came by playing music much like the neighborhood ice-cream trucks in America. The street in front of the hotel was converted each evening into a night market, much like a mile-long restaurant and sidewalk sale. People seemed to live in every available space. Most families who owned shops lived in the shops with one or two rooms for sleeping in the back. The shops were open about 18 hours a day. Most houses had no yard and were surrounded by a six-foot high concrete fence. When people left home, they had to have a house-sitter to protect their possessions, The streets were lined with benjos (drainage ditches). While most of the benjos in the city were covered, some were not. Wouldn't you know it: more than once son Eric managed to fall into one of the open benjos up to his knees! Of course, that called for a bath with a disinfectant!
The Garlic sales lady, weighing-up a bunch of garlic.
Notice the open "Benjos" drainage ditches along this street, common all over Taiwan years ago.
Today, these drains are covered.
Don't forget, all of the photos in this story are much larger, just click or double click on each photo to see the Big Picture!
After 3 weeks in the hotel, we were delighted that a house in 20-House Compound became available for us. This compound was owned by The Bank of Taiwan and rented to American families. So, we moved from the hotel.
Just where was the, "20 House Compound" located?
20-House Compound can be found in upper right side of map, circled in red.
Click or double click on the map for larger view.
The green circle - the first home the Yeager's occupied. The red circle, just across the street from 1st house, is the second home the Yeager's occupied. The blue circle is the Guard Shack.
Photo of 20-House Compound above, courtesy Victor Cheng via Aerial Survey Office 航測所.
The Yeager's first house, inside the 20-House Compound, iscircled in greenon aerial photo above.
The road and gate to 20 House Compound from Nanheng Road enters the compound just above the Guard Shack -blue circle.
Someone will probably notice that the street names on the Tainan City Map above shows the street running just north of 20 House Compound as Kai Yuan Road and today's Google Earth map shows the street name as Nanheng Road. I have no idea what happened, the city probably changed the road name.
2d Question? Why is the housing area called 20-House, when I can count only 12 homes?
That's a good question, again, probably the only people who know that answer are the officials at Bank of Taiwan, the builders of the compound. Anyone familiar with this mystery? UPDATE: Victor
W Cheng, pointed out the 5 black homes just south of the 12 homes in the
upper portion of the photo above. There were 3 duplex homes and 2
single family homes. So 8 families lived in the black roofed homes and
12 in the light colored roofed homes which equals 20 family homes in 17 structures.
Click or double click on this (and all photos in this story) to see a very large view.
The Yeager's First Tainan Home... Notice the "Taiwan Taxi" can be partially seen, parked on the driveway, on upper left side of photo.
With a few dishes, a coffee pot, some beds, table and chairs borrowed from Family Services, we set up housekeeping in an empty house until our household goods arrived.
The rooms were spacious with large windows. The house reminded me of a beach house with 6 sliding doors from ceiling to floor that opened into a porch. This was great for fresh cross-ventilation air and cool breezes , but not so good for privacy.
We quickly got tired of streaking from the bathroom to the bedroom, so I improvised curtains for the 20 feed of floor-to-ceiling windows in our hall; four double sheets pleated without a hem did the trick nicely.
The area was very spacious, with lots of grass and trees. One yard merged into the next yard and there was a feeling of "no boundaries" except for the 8-foot-high concrete fence with 3 feet of barbed wire at the top that surrounded the compound.
What an inviting carefree playground for children! At one time I counted at least 20 children under the age of 10 who lived in the compound - no problem with finding a playmate.
Eric and Melanie standing beside one of the 20-House Compound Guards, at the guard house.
The Yeager's First Tainan Home... Notice the "Taiwan Taxi" can be partially seen, parked on the driveway, on upper left side of photo.
I appreciated that two guards were on duty 24 hours/day at the gate and kept our curious children from wandering into the busy, dangerous street immediately outside the compound gate.
City street, just outside the guard house and gate.
onder who planted the Poinsettia, it's been growing for some time.
A Department of Defense school (kindergarten-12 grade, located within the compound, was a great benefit to families; our children could safely walk or ride their bikes to school. The school along with the attractive, spacious play areas and feelings of small-town community life compensated for the daily commutes to Tainan Air Base across town.
The J.M. Wainwright School area at southeast end of 20-House Compound. Date unknown.
Courtesy J. M. Wainwright High School Facebook Site
Courtesy Tainan Air Base Facebook site.
But even the commutes were adventures; there was always the faithful shuttle bus to transport us to the Air Base and points in between.
After two months, our household goods finally arrived, giving us just enough time to get settled in before school started, and daughter Melanie, began kindergarten. What a great place to start her school career!
Within a year we moved AGAIN, this time across the street in the compound to a larger house (with no leaks). We learned that moving across the street was almost as much work as moving across the ocean! At least, I had enough curtains to cover all those windows in the new house.
The Yeager family, outside of their 2d House.
The "shoeshine" man taking care of business in front of the Yeager's 2d House.
Back-in-the-day everyone had shoes to shine, especially the military shoes, so business was always good!
Neighbors and friends in 20-House Compound, looks like everyone's dressed in Sunday's best.
A better look down the street inside the compound. A bit of red color in this photo, so the color is not as deep as photo just above.
The traffic was unbelievable! The most common modes of transportation were bicycles and motorbikes, but there were enough buses, taxis, cars, and oxen-driven carts to complicate the situation.Driving etiquette seemed to consist of blowing one's horn often to say, "I'm here-watch out!"
We had shipped our big, green, mid-60s station wagon (nicknamed: "The Taiwan Taxi"), and after 3 months we succeeded in getting our driver's Licenses. It took about that long for me to get up enough courage to drive.
It sounded crazy to ship our station wagon to Taiwan, but it turned out to be very useful. It seemed to always be loaded with people and/or groceries. I notified friends in the compound when I would be going to the commissary/BX, invited them to meet me with their groceries, and delivered them back to the compound.
On Sunday's we loaded the Taiwan Taxi with everyone who wanted to attend the only English-speaking church in the city, Trinity Baptist Church.
Photo courtesy J.M. Wainwright Facebook Site
Camera being set-up in front of Trinity Baptist Church on "Photo Day"
Our Pastor, Rev. Bob Beard, composing church members on the Church steps, for a perfect photo.
Most recent photo of Tainan's Trinity Baptist Church
Many times we transported friends and all their luggage to the airport or train station and told them farewell on the first leg of their PCS move.
Groups of use went in search of basket factories and shoe factories and took day-long trips, always looking for a good deal.
An abundance of anything you might want can be found at the market stalls.
Look! Stop! it's the Brush Man - He's bound to have something we need!
On one trip, I took a shortcut down a lane only to discover that the lane kept getting narrower. I thought it would be too difficult to back out of the lane. Finally, I found an intersection where I tried to turn around. A light pole in the center of the intersection and the benjos and high walls lining each side of the lane limited the amount of space to maneuver...but I tried to...an inch at a time...back and forth as my friend stood outside giving me directions. People came out of their homes to watch these crazy American women in their big car trying to turn around. Two hours later we were on our way home, exhausted, and ready to call it a day. On the day we packed out (shipped our household goods) in 1975, we sold this memorable vehicle and left her in Taiwan.
Below, a number of photos of the street just outside the gate at the 20-House Compound. Most of these photos were taken during the Double 10 celebration.
"Double Ten" celebration on-going, on the street, outside the 20-House Compound.
The 20-House Compound gate, is just up the street in front of the water-tanker truck, on the right shoulder.
Down-town area, Tainan street sign talks about "Cleaning-up everything"
Looks like water (large metal pipes) ready to be laid along the street.
Once the trash is picked-up, it's hauled to the "Sort and Re-Cycle" point.
Wonder if they're burning trash close to here, looks like a smoke stack in the background.
More material for re-cycling, kind of looks like "Cotton", I don't recall seeing any cotton fields in Taiwan.
What's this? Something to do with sorting and selling vegetables maybe. Are those cabbage growing?
Can't tell what's on this farmer's cart. Looks like stalks, cut down after corn has been harvested? The field across the road sure looks like sweet corn.
We never left the island of Taiwan while we were stationed at Tainan Air Base. We had young children and wanted them to experience as much of the culture of Taiwan as possible. Sometimes we traveled by car; other times by train. The most exciting trip was one around the island on a rented Taiwanese bus with a local driver - seen below...
Our pastor at Trinity Baptist Church, Tainan, planned and arranged the trip. We had a bus full of families. We carried our water and some snacks, but we usually ate local food. The bus was not equipped for suitcases, so each person was assigned one small box for 6 days' worth of clothes and personal needs; the box had to fit on the overhead rack. It was a great way to see parts of Taiwan we normally would not have seen. We did this around-the-island-trip twice. It was a great adventure!
Favorite places we visited at other times were the Taroko Gorge, the Sun Moon Lane, an aborigine village, the marble factory and the basket factory.
Taroko Gorge - early 1970s below...
Inside Taroko Park. This photo, taken from the road, above one of the rivers that flows through the park. The white rock in the center bottom of this photo, just touching the water, is huge.
Unless you've visited the park, it's impossible to describe the grandeur of the park, a new view around every corner in the road. Your heart skips a beat when you realize the boldness and beauty surrounding you.
Along the road in Taroko Gorge. Notice how the stone has become polished by the water flowing down the river. The tunnels were originally blasted and dug by hand, by Taiwan soldiers.
photo taken from the parking lot, along the river, usually
on your way out of the park. You walk to the left, then walk all the
way up to the water fall area. You can go further, but most people stop
around the water fall area. Quite an area to explore and take in the
The Yeager's and others on the trip walked down onto the river bed at this stop. Notice the size of the white boulder across the running water in the river. This boulder is large, but up in the area of the lodge are much larger stones.
Farther up the park we come to the Pagoda.
This photo close to the river around the Hotel and Hostel area.
You cross the river, begin a long climb up the steps to the Pagoda.
Also, notice the enormous rocks in the river bed.
Who's walking across the bridge in this photo? Look below....
And who is this, crossing the Pagoda bridge? Eric, Starla and Melanie.
The Pagoda roof can be seen above, right side, poking through the trees.
There's the Pagoda, up on the hill, seen just above the children's swing.
There is a river just to the side of the swing, over the trees.
This was the hotel and hostel taken from the Pagoda area, in the back, up on the hill.
Looking for the kids swing, don't see it.
I'm adding some additional photos of this area, not taken by the Yeager's but, are interesting to readers who also visited this hotel and hostel through the years.
Of course, today, the area has changed dramatically!
Old photo of the Tien Hsiang Lodge. Notice the church on the hill above.
Many of the local people of this area, are Christians.
Inside the Lodge grounds.
Same are as above, before the pool was constructed.
Closer view of the Lodge at a different time. Notice sign above the door.
A more modern view of the area. This was probably taken higher up, above the Pagoda.
Today there are many more buildings in this area.
Typical Lodge Room back in the day, no television,, just ice water.
Father, up the mountains, above Taroko Gorge, driving west, you come to Li Shan Hotel. This area is about half-way between Taichung and Hualien.
It's cold up here in the winter, and many people come to this area to snow ski when the snow is on the ground after a front has passed through the area. One of our most exciting trips was to Oluanpi. In September 1974, a group of us, including children, planned a trip to the beach at Oluanpi at the southern tip of the island. We checked the weather and were told that here was a tropical depression in the Pacific headed toward Hong Kong, but that we should be okay at Oluanpi. We arrived at about 7:30 pm and settled into at the Hostel to stay 3 days.
Here's the Oluanpi Hostel the Yeager family reserved, showing it's age, way back then. Photo courtesy Keith Wadley, via J.M. Wainwright High School Facebook page There was a beautiful new Guest House, with bungalows, build later to replace the old facility, and it was closer to the beach. Here is a link below to an article with photos in Chinese of the "New" Guest House. You might want to open the article below in Google to get the automatic translation into English. Article on the new Guest House courtesy 黃隆正 via J.M. Wainwright High School Facebook page. The article about new Guest House here:
During the night the winds and rain became fierce, and the electricity and phones went out. Unfortunately, no one had a flashlight. It was so dark I count not see my own hand! The caretakers of the hostel had gone home for the night.
The next morning when they arrived, we learned that the tropical depression had developed into a typhoon and was headed in our direction. They advised us to leave immediately or we could be stranded for a week if the roads and bridges washed out. We felt safe at the hostel because it was high on the mountain in a secure building. However, all the guys knew they needed to be at work at the base on Monday morning.
So we headed back to Tainan; it was an adventure in faith to leave and not know the condition of the roads; however, we all agreed we should leave.
In fifteen minutes flat, we were all packed into the bus/van. We rode a few yards and realized we had a flat tire. So, we went back to the hostel, changed the tire, reconsidered whether to go or stay, decided to go, and packed back into the bus.
The water flowed over our ankles, and the rain drenched us as we boarded the van. We all got soaking wet. A few placed on the road were covered with water waist high, and the water came up a little in the bus.
However, it wasn't as bad as we had expected. Fortunately, the mountains protected us from the winds.
When we arrived home, we learned we had definitely left at just the right time and made the right decision; we learned that things got much worse. We realized then that at no time were our lives in danger, but, it was the uncertainty of not knowing when there might be danger made us a bit apprehensive. That's the closest I want to be in riding out a typhoon.
The trip was not a flop because we were with a good group of friends, and we still had fun and much to talk about when we got back to the base.
More photographs taken by the Yeager family of the Oluanpi area...
This huge rock stands alone, nothing close to it in size.
Obviously rolled down from the mountains above this area.
A tourist photo opportunity, forever....
The Lighthouse in the Oluanpi area more toward the southeast point of Taiwan.
A visit to a Aborigine Dance Exhibition.
There's a sign in the back toward the right side, in English, can't read it.
A wonderful show.
Chris Wang, a man who has helped my tremulously through the years on all sorts of questions in identifying photos and locations said he believes this Aboriginal dancing show theater, with numbered seats and seat covers like this, was located at Sun Moon Lake. There is a very large Aboriginal village up there. Today, they have a cable car from the lake to the village that's just over the hills there.
Below, these two photographs were taken by the Yeager's in秋茂園 (Qiu Mao Park) located in Miaoli County.
Thank you Chris Wang for identifying these two photos and also naming the park where they were taken.
Chris said these statues have been changed and today are different.
Here's a 2017 photo of the sameQiu Mao Park, some changes and new statues.
Visiting a Marble Factory..
Lots of different things going on at the marble factory area today.
These ladies look to be working on slabs of marble inside the factory area.
We visited a marble factory in Hualien a few years ago.
The outside are was full of large marble pieces for outside areas.
Inside, rooms full of everything you could imagine, all made from marble, including jewelry.
The 2 photos below, were taken on an Around the Island trip in 2011, courtesy of Gene Hirte.
In November 1974, John's position at Tainan Air Base was eliminated, and he took an unaccompanied assignment at CCK Air Base in Taichung.
The children and I were given permission to stay in Tainan (at 20-House Compound) until John completed his new assignment in July-August 1975.
Things went well until it was announced that the Tainan Air Base would close by June 1, 1975.
Almost immediately, everyone was filled with anxiety, grief and uncertainty. It was a tough time. One by one, base services, including the commissary were closed. And one by one, our military personnel were moving out.
One of the families with whom we had become good friends were sent to the Philippines although they had only been in Tainan only 6 months. Their daughter, a senior in High School, was going to miss her graduation exercises because of the move. It was hard to think about her missing such an important event, so we invited her to stay with us for the 3 weeks until graduation. Her parents consented and we all were thrilled. An interesting pattern developed as friends packed-out. They usually moved to the hotel. Then the day they checked-out of the hotel, they came to our house, washed clothes, ate lunch, and piled into the Taiwan Taxi with their mounds of luggage. At the airport or train station, we said our fond and sad farewells.
By May 1st, the children and I were the only family living in the 20-House Compound. However, we survived nicely. Bennie, the grocer on his motorcycle, delivered anything I ordered. John still visited each weekend with his suitcase full of Oreos, chips, and peanut butter. We had become good friends with some missionaries who were living in Tainan, and they took us under their wings. Additionally, I hired a guard for our house, and we still had transportation. So, my attempt at living off the local economy worked very well. Yeager Piano sold.
The family piano is loaded on the 3-wheel bicycle and heading out the gate to a local Tainan family.
Notice the "Taiwan Taxi" on the left side of this photo...
I would guess the man wearing a shirt and long trousers is a "buy and sell man" or maybe the new owner of the piano. Another view of the "Taiwan Taxi" and the gate shack in background.
It looks like the piano was sold before the family discovered the roof leak and moved across the street.
Moving the high upright piano out the gate, nice!
Look just behind the speed limit sign just in front, isn't that the Poinsettia plant we saw earlier in the story, out of bloom now, it looks like it's high summer in this photograph.
During the Yeager's travels around the island they photographed these two Buddha statues.
Iwas not sure about these two statues, so I asked my friend Chris Wang and he identified this photo and the one just below.
This statue is located in the Po Kok Temple, in Taichung.
Since this photo was taken back in the 1970s, the statue has been painted gold color.
This statue, located in the Chung Hwa area, was most often referred to as, "The Big Buddha" by foreigners. Chances are, if you were stationed in Taiwan, this is one of the places you visited.
Photos below taken in the Taipei area during the Yeager's tour.
One of the most photographed buildings by military folks, The Grand Hotel. Circa 1973-1975.
The white pedestrian walkway seen here, is the same walkway seen in photo just above.
Just below the red light, through the tree, you can see the Navy Exchange roof.
The same white pedestrian walkway seen in the 2 photos above, seen here again, going of to the right.
Looking straight ahead in this photo, is the Grand Hotel.
I think this photo was taken on the east side of Chung Shan North Road, across the street from the MAAG Officer's Club.
Not exactly sure where this was taken, but, know that it was taken on Chung Shan North Road.
If you look at the first photo, showing the Grand Hotel, and look at the street, I couldn't see yellow paint - seen next to the watermelon man, painted on the road anywhere.
OK folks, anyone stationed in Taipei after the mid-60s will recognize this one.
Today, the book store on the corner, in front of the white helmeted policeman, is still open, in business and it's now named, "Caves Books".
This corner, is maybe 20 yards from the old entrance/exit to the Taipei Navy Exchange and the East Compound.
Another smile to your lips, everyone in Taipei wishes the traffic seen here, was the same today!
Good Luck on that dream huh?
We packed-out about June 15th, 1975 and the children and I moved into a furnished apartment rented for short-term missionaries by Trinity Baptist Church (where we were members). The apartment was going to be available until August.
Perfect timing! It was next door to our pastor and his family and had a large play area nearby. The arrangement was ideal for us.
The children and I left Tainan on July 13th, 1975, to spend a week in Taichung at Morrison Academy, a school for children of missionaries.
When John joined us on July 21st, we took one last train ride to Taipei, boarded the plane for our new assignment at Goodfellow AFB, Texas; and with wonderfully memories, left beautiful Taiwan. ADDENDUM:
Last month, Eric Yeager, returned to Taiwan for vacation with a friend. They made their way around the island seeing many things he probably didn't remember from his sojourn in Taiwan so long ago. One of sites he visited was the area of the old 20-House Compound, his old home. Here are his photos.
This looks like the other side of the gate entrance in the two photos below.
This appears to be the gate just outside the Yeager's two homes, the homes were across the street from each other. Remember the Yeager's had to move to the house across the street because of a leaking roof in their original home.
Looks like the same gate as photo just above.
This Panorama shot of the 20-House Compound, looks toward where the 2 homes the Yeager's occupied would have stood. Look at the marker on the lawn in the center of this photo, then go up 2 photos, and you see the same marker. I think "nailed" the house locations.
Here's an enlargement of the sign seen in the 4th photo above.
Someone had it made to recognize that there was a High School, for that matter, a 1st grade to 12th grade school, that once occupied this area.
Kind of makes you sad to see this sign and realize that it's just a matter of time before it all disappears.
Before we leave.......
A couple of pictures I kept to close out the story.
It looks like the Aborigine girls like the colors of Melanie's outfit.
I suspect Melanie and Eric thought this was the best place of any they visited.
UPDATE: Gene Hirte confirmed photo above as being, The Tianren Amusement park in Tainan.