Taiwan: My Initial impressions …
Tainan AS was my first Air Force assignment. I was just a very green 18 year old kid at the time, and thrilled to be heading to the exotic Orient.
I left my home in Massachusetts in a blizzard, flew to California, and then on to Hickam in Honolulu. This was about the time the Elvis movie: Blue Hawaii was popular, and I couldn’t believe I was actually standing in the area of Diamond Head. The layover at Hickam was not long, and we caught the next flight out to Clark AB, via a scary landing at Wake and then Guam. After an overnight at Clark (it was Christmas, HOT as the dickens, and “Santa” was making the rounds in a Jeep), we flew on to Taipei. The thing that sticks in my mind so clearly to this day was the landing at Taipei. Coming in low, I saw a farmer, conical hat and all, with a WATER BUFFALO … tilling his field. Man, THAT was something I didn’t see everyday in Massachusetts! I couldn’t wait to hit the ground and enjoy my time there in Taiwan!
Catching yet another flight, I moved on to Tainan. I was met plane side by a few guys from the Squadron. They came in a large truck, and I just threw my duffel bag into the back, hopped in, and off we went across the flight line to the very modern dorms there on the Station. We had two-man rooms, the setup was very nice.
I can recall our Orderly Room was a Quonset Hut, but can’t seem to recall whether our Comm Center was also in a Quonset or was housed in a more permanent type building. One night, working the Midnight Shift, I had to visit the latrine. It was housed in a Quonset, across the street from the Comm Center. It was around 0300, I was all by myself in there. As I was walking out, two Air Policemen passed me, went in, they had shotguns in their hands. I heard a loud BOOM! They came out with the longest/biggest SNAKE I had ever seen. That THING was in there with ME! I didn’t go back in there during the off-hours again without making a racket to see if anything moved!
A few of the “perks” there were the excellent MOGAMBO CLUB (U.S. Military), and an outstanding beach setup restricted for U.S. military and dependents only. It was through a wooded area with a small dirt path, and leads me to the following:
A lot of us had motorcycles/mopeds. A few of us headed off to the beach one day via that dirt path. It was totally surrounded by thick vegetation. I was in the lead that day. All of a sudden I spotted a large dust cloud in front of us. In the midst of that cloud was a HUGE water buffalo. He/she/it was kicking the ground with one hoof, like one sees in the movies. I was fascinated, but put up my hand to stop the guys behind me. There was not much room on that path to maneuver, due to the woods … and snakes … etc. So we were pretty much restricted to the small path. The beast did not move, so I did … inching up more and more. I got to within about eight feet and then, since it didn’t move, hit my horn button on the handlebar … beep-beep. THAT got the monster in motion … right at ME! There was a tree overhanging the path, and I caught an instantaneous glimpse of a big branch. I jumped straight up off my seat, grabbed the branch, and was hanging there as the buffalo approached. Then I saw a LITTLE guy behind it. He walked up, grabbed the thing by the ear, laughed at me, and off they went. The other guys had jumped into the woods, but one wise acre had a camera and took my picture … hanging upside down … with the little guy laughing at me. It was posted in the Dining Hall the next morning when I came in. It took me awhile to live that down.
I can recall the city of Tainan, more/less. In viewing the movie: THE SAND PEBBLES, there was a scene when the Americans were coming back from the Consulate, under guard from the Nationalist troops, marching through town and getting pelted with all sorts of garbage. That street reminded me EXACTLY of the main street in Tainan at that time (1961). I recall a restaurant we all seemed to frequent, it was named The White Bear. The owner had a gorgeous daughter around the age of 15, I think.
I also recall the Air Station was surrounded by farms, and we drove past the fields from the Station in the shuttle bus to get to the main road to town/Mogambo Club.
And, of course, the Chinese girls were lovely …..
It was a superb assignment!