Taipei Air Station - 1966 - - - " What you have in the end are memories"......... Photo Courtesy of Richard Reesh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Taipei Air Station Alumni Writes

A wonderful e-mail was sent by Dave Schleife.
Dave served here during 1966-1967.
Here is his letter.

Ah yes... The updated photos from mid 1970's showing P-31 on the annotated photo was where I worked in the Single Sideband (SSB) station, and the microwave tower was built while I was there. About where the new main gate is on the photo, was a very large antenna (looked like an oversized tv antenna (110-ft long, 100-feet high) that we could 'work' virtually anywhere in the world with 15,000 watts of transmitter power. More than a few MARS contacts to Riverside CA were made 'unofficially' on this system for emergency traffic? The 'new' chow hall was built and opened while I was there. Before that, we took all our meals at Club-13. This was 1966-1967. I lived in the barracks, 3rd floor, right next to the latrine, overlooking the main compound. Your opening photo could have been taken from my room, for the view is the same. Eddie was the house boy? (Biggest black market operative on the compound?)

The only people I remember was our unit NCO, Msgt Bacon, Ssgt Knippel, and one of my trainee's, I.J. Blevens. And of course, 'The Joz' (Joslin) from AFNT, who lived down the hall. I taped his evening show for him, and when he got back, he'd drop in to listen to the tape to 'critique' the show. His show was the ONLY rock music heard on AFNT. His show went out on AM/FM for the Taipei area, and on 2 shortwave frequencies for the SEA theatre.

The microwave tower left a lot of short pieces of conduit, which we used on Chinese New Year, as bazooka's for our bottle rockets. Our Chinese guard, who had a rifle with no ammo, talked one of our guys into holding his rifle while he went to get bottle rockets, and then proceeded to shoot bottle rockets from his rifle barrel? And with about 10 of us (2 shifts off duty) we out-numbered him. And yes, there was just a wee little bit of beer involved?

Sideband operators where known as 'ditty-boppers', since we had to know Morse Code? "SNOOPY" did a ditty-bop, when his feet were flapping and his ears were flying? I left a magic-marker 'short-timers calender' on my room wall 4-feet tall, on a light green paint? Snoopy was doing the 'ditty-bop'... Wonder how many coats of paint it took to cover it up?

I did a 90-day TDY to Tainan while there, but Taipei was my first choice. I've taken the McArthur C47 out to the Matsu islands, then back to CCK and Tainan several times. I often walked the 7-miles from TAS to the Navy compound, to shop the many little shops along the way. A rest stop at the Ambassador Hotel was a must... On a clear day, with a 400-mm telephoto lens, the mainland was visible. Didn't happen very often, due to smog? Or fog?

Yes, TAS has a very special place in my heart, and in my life. I loved the place. Go out on the street, and school kids would practice their English on me, and I'd practice my Chinese on them. My name was translated several times to the same, or SHU' Da-WE', or David Shu. I could sign it in Chinese. If I could remember how? I'm getting old, and forget a lot of things. I have Parkinson's, and even typing is difficult. Today, I am having a GOOD day, and am trying to share some of my thoughts on a very fond memory.

I tried, after getting orders to a SAC base in Michigan, to extend in Taipei? Nope, SAC has priority? They needed me... SAC didn't know what to do with me? Six months later, I did a 180-day TDY back again. LOVED it even more the second time, because I missed it so much.

I really appreciate your site, since it brings back so many very good memories? The people of Taiwan were so innocent and open? They were honestly friendly, not just after our money?

I used to go up to the University just North of TAS, sit on a bench, and take pictures of beautiful girls walking by? MOST of them would stop and talk to me, and most asked for pictures? I got a lot of dates that way? When they want pictures, they give you a phone number? And yes, Taiwanese women also are vain... And usually hungry, since they are students? When the film is developed, you call them, and take them to dinner. Very nice evening, even if it doesn't go further? VERY beautiful women!

Really love your site. If you can use my aged ramblings, feel free...

SSgt Dave Schleife, Sideband shift supervisor

Our Taipei Air Station Web Page is here....

2 comments:

John Hurst said...

Dave,

I worked as radio relay maintenance from Nov 1971 – Feb 1974, about 5 years after you were there. When I first arrived at TAS, the MW radio and mux had just been removed, and replaced by a dedicated 300 pair cable – I think there were too many buildings to keep the MW path clear. I’m guessing building P-31 didn’t change too much from your time to mine. Just as you entered the main door, to the left was Tech Control, and behind that was the radio relay shop. The NCOIC’s office was on the right side of the main hallway (opposite the tech control doorway), and at the end of the main hallway was the latrine.

The ground radio shop was to the right of the main entrance and down a short hallway. Ground radio had a good sized work area. Behind the offices – sort of the middle back of the building - was the area where the MW radios and mux once were; this was the cable main frame area that we expanded.

The P-31 building was fenced in with a combo brick and wire wall, just like the wall behind the dormitory. We had a small cement courtyard between the road and the main door – I think that was the original MW tower area (?). This area was clear and large enough to park one or two (military) vehicles. We always had a ROCAF guard at the front gate, any GI could come and go – but Local Nationals were checked. Inside the gate and to the right, we had some old CONEX shelters for chemicals and paint, a small covered area, and a standby generator. I’m sure we had some poles for HF radio antennas, but my memory of that area is rusty!

During my time at P-31, the NCOIC of Radio Relay was TSgt Eino Lehtio (my boss), and the NCOIC of Ground Radio was a TSgt Jim (?) Ingram. Some of the others in my shop: SSgt Dave Thomas, Dick Skoy, and John Arbuckle; some of the guys in your shop were SSgt Strickland and Mike Schmidt. In Tech Control – Walter Chee was the lead guy; he made MSgt in 1972. SSgt Joe Sims, telephone maintenance, was one of the old timers in the Group; he held up a barstool every night at the Falcon Club. The Chief of Maintenance was Major Heim, and the Maint Supt was CMSgt Stokes. I think our commander’s name was Col McKinney, don’t remember the 1st Sgt. In NCMO, I worked for TSgt Bailey and later TSgt Joe Roberts. I’m guessing most of these folks got there after you, but you might remember Lethio, Chee, and Ingram.

Besides Tech Control, radio relay maintained Site 4 - a MW site at Taoyuan AB, about 30 – 40 miles NW of TAS. This place was originally staffed by STRATCOM (US Army), but the rumor I heard was that they couldn’t keep the equipment on the air, so the Air Force assumed maintenance responsibility in 1970. Working at Site 4 was extremely good duty – basically, we worked on site for 2 days, and then had 4 days off!

In 1972, they broke ground on the new 327th AD HQ building; for 3 months I worked with Telephone Maintenance guys pulling cables all over that building. We also put in the main cable frame and tied it back to P-31. In 1973, I worked NCMO for 9 months, was sent TDY to NKP Thailand for 3 months, then went back to work in P-31 for the remainder of my tour.

After TAS, I went MacDill in Florida, and immediately applied to go back to Taiwan – and did 18 months later. By 1975 though, TAS was in shutdown mode, and they were diverting people to other PACAF bases, mostly Clark AB. After living in temporary quarters for 6 months in Taipei, I was reassigned to Clark AB in Jan 1976, not my first choice – but it worked out okay. In just the short 18 months I had been away, the place had changed a lot – although the Taiwanese were as friendly as ever, the writing was on the wall, and they knew we were leaving. In little things (where you would live) as well as big things (how long would you be there), we all felt an impending loss of a way of life.

At its high point, TAS must have had about 500 people assigned; that was the rough level during my time there 1971 – 1974. When I returned, it was more like 300, and declining. Site 4 had closed; and both the Navy HSA compound and Shu Linkou AS were cutting personnel. By the time I left for the Philippines, I think TAS was down to 250 people, maybe less. The TAS Club was a ghost town, only a few diehards in the bar every night. Even the downtown clubs were starting to change – looking for more Japanese or Australian tourist….

When Jimmy Carter announced the US was establishing full diplomatic relations with China, I felt like we really betrayed a friend – I can’t imagine what the average Taiwanese thought (you guys left Vietnam, now you’re leaving us….). Even though Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act in 1978, I thought our lack of loyalty and principle was a slap in the face to the people of Taiwan. IMHO, we should have told China that if they wanted normal relations with the US, they would have to get on with life without Taiwan, and we should have told the KMT in Taiwan to reapply to the UN as Taiwan, and forget about reclaiming the mainland.

Rick Ferch said...

John Hurst wrote that he was in Radio-Relay from 1971-1974 at TAS. I was there from April '65 until I mustered out of the AF in July of '66. I can't believe that Dick Skoy was still there at TAS at that time. He was there before I came.

TSGT Puckett was the NCOIC of Radio-Relay then. On his staff were SSGT Lewis, SSGT Hand, SSGT Harris and SSGT Fricke. I don't know what all those NCO's did.

John will be surprised to know that Site 4 was run by the Air Force lots sooner than 1970, since I was site chief there from the summer of '65 until I left the next year. We were housed in the old shack that is pictured on the Site 4 web page. The building was in 3 sections, with the generator shed on the left, the living quarters in the middle and the equipment in the right section.

Our new quarters were being built while I was there, and I almost extended my tour just to get into the new facility. John undoubtedly enjoyed the new place.

I wonder if John or someone stationed at Site 4 knows what kind of radio gear was in the new building. We still had the old TRC-24's and TCC-7's in the shack. All tubes, of course, and so there were powerful blowers built into the cases to dispel the heat. That made for a very hot room. On the hottest summer days, we had to open the radio room door and use one of those huge pedestal mounted fans to blow on the equipment. One of the first things I requested as site chief was that the Fedders air conditioners in the living and radio quarters be repaired. It didn't seem to cool the radios much, but it made us happy in the living quarters.

Richard Ferch