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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

MAAG Taiwan 1956

George Marcy continues his remembrances ..

Five of us left Camp Gordon, GA for Taiwan in December 1955. With a delay-in-route for a Christmas at home, we met up after Christmas at the Oakland Army Terminal and from there to Travis Air Force Base, to process for the trip.

This sounds easy today, but this was the propeller airplane era and it took us from January into February 1956. We were on the 13th flight to leave Travis and the first not to have to turn back for some repair. We finally arrived at Hickam Field in Hawaii just in time to see our connecting flight to Clark Field leaving the end of the runway we had just landed on. Oh well, seven days in Hawaii wasn’t bad even back then.

Leaving Hickam we stopped in Kwajalein, Guam and then on to Clark Field.

We finally got to Clark Field and the only thing I remember there was the vast number of flies. We overnighted there and instead of turning off the lights they told us to make sure the netting was around us when we lay in our cots. The flies were so thick they covered the top of the netting and darkened it enough to sleep.

Our CAT flight from Clark to Taipei was the first time most of us were introduced to the Chinese.

The stewardess was nice enough to teach us to say ‘I Love You’ in Chinese. Also ‘Thank You’ both of which I still remember and use the ‘Thank You’ when we are in a Chinese restaurant, surprises the staff most of the time. Of course I learned some other words when we were in Taipei, but most of those I have forgotten. Back then most of the pilots for CAT had been with General Chennault and the Flying Tigers.
On our first attempt to land in Taipei, in very overcast conditions, he darn near put us in a rice paddy, so we flew south to Tainan and returned when the weather had cleared.

The road to my Grass Mountain Hostel

Entrance to my Hostel at Grass Mountain, Hostel #12 and the great sulphur baths.
Accommodations for us then were on Grass Mountain, just below the home of Chaing Kai-shek. For this we were given $45.00 per day per-diem for the first 90 days. A bunch of money for a Pfc back then. Base pay for a PFC in 1956 was $99.37 per month. My first few months were spent in the Comm Center in Taipei. Not the most exciting job I have ever had. Commander Brazil was the Comm Center chief. A frustrated Navy Line Officer, who really wanted to be on a ship, a real OK guy though.

My buddy Al Leonard and I.
My buddy, and the only one I really remember, 50 odd years later, Al Leonard came to work one day and found we were being been sent to the off shore islands. Al to Matsu and me to Quemoy (Kinmen) .

In one of our Jeeps off to some where.
Duty on the Islands (Kinmen) was considerably different than in Taipei. The Nationalist Chinese and the Mainland Chinese were fighting a war. Kinmen was shelled regularly and a couple of cows or other livestock would get killed. The only other deaths were from fools who thought it would be fun to drive thru the area that got shelled and dodge the shells. Cost us two officers just before I arrived. The story was they tried the drive got half way and decided it would be better to take cover in a shell crater shell never hits the same place twice, but parked their jeep next to it. The next shell hit the jeep and dumped it in on top of them. This coward never tried it. I did however attempt to fire the 45 I had to carry at all times. The target I tried to hit is probably still there in the same condition as it was before I tried.
Never thought the weapon I carried would do me much good as I couldn’t it the broad side of a barn door with the darn thing. Looked good in pictures though.

Uniform of the Day in Kinmen, 1956 - less my .45 caliber pistol.
I was on the island during Chaing’s 1956 May Day visit They took away all our weapons and even took our cameras. We later got the cameras back with new film in them so we could take his picture. They also returned the film that was in the cameras when they took them. We had dinner with Chaing, and I never thought I would see what I saw, except in a movie. We sat down to steak and fixin’s as they say here in Texas. Chaing sat at the head table and they brought him out a plate of scrambled eggs. The soldier standing behind him reached over and tasted them. Chaing waited a few minutes, saw the soldier was still alive, and then ate them. When you have the power he had you can’t be too careful.
For the rest of my stay on the Island I was usurped from the Signal Corp to help the Commander type his quarterly report. I always got good duty because I could type 70 to 80 words per minute and you could read it. Col Kaiser wrote a great Letter of Appreciation which I still have.
On my return to Taipei it was back to the Comm Center in this building..

Guard at our Taipei MAAG Compound in 1956.
When I look at Taipei today I don't recognize it. We had a MAAG Compound where all our activities were. There was the usual Bar street in the downtown, off Chungshan Beilu, the main road.
I remember when Chaing came down off Grass Mountain and drove down the street the population was required to turn their backs to his entourage or face serious consequences.

If one met the civilian population, which I was fortunate to do because some worked in the Comm Center, you could get invited to some of the better eating places in the City, otherwise it was not recommended that you eat the local food. I found all the folks I met to be very nice, but there was some rivalry between the Native Taiwanese and those who came over from the Mainland.

Our best transportation in Taipei.
I’m sure there were a lot of other things that went on. We did go thru a Typhoon, but it didn’t do much damage just brought a bunch of rain. Right before I left they had built barracks for us, but it was a short stay for me as I was on my way home in December of 56.
Editors Note:
I want to thank George for taking time to send in his photos and also for writing down some thoughts and remembrances of his time in Taiwan. Had George not contributed, we may never have read about things that occurred during 1956 on Kinmen and in Taipei.
Have you got pictures of your time in Taiwan? Send them in, I will scan them and return them to you in just a few days. Thank you for helping keep our history chronicles. We can also scan your slides. Kent.


Anonymous said...

Our family lived in Taiwan during this same time period (the mid-50s)but we had a brand new American-style house in Taichung with a high wall and a gate with a MAAG sign on it. My father was captain in the U.S. Army then and he was also sent out to Matsu and Quemoi, for 6 months one time. My brother and I attended a convent school run by Chinese nuns.

We flew into Taipei to the Commissary and the Dispensary once a week.

Christine Roth

jenjlee said...

Thanks for this post, I'm doing some research on this time period in Taiwan and this helps a lot!

Don said...

I arrived at ATF 13 MAAG Compound in March 1958. I left in May 1959. I arrived there as a Radio Operator, but soon earned my second AFSC as a 29350 surveyor. I spent my time in the design and rehab of ATF 13 buildings and writing specifications for contracting. My last assignment was rehabbing the temporary air base at "Chaiy Yi" in the mts. above Taipai.

bambera said...

i am in the process of writing a book on the time my family spent in Taipei 1956-1963. As a Black family we had several experiences that are/were very memorable. We have tons of pictures because my father was an amateur photographer. I will share some as we go thru them. My Mom is still alive, my Dad passed in 1967. He was stationed at Shu Lin Kou. We lived in Taipei and the kids attended Dominican School.

Projet Kinmen said...

Dear sir,
I am an English teacher in Paris subburbs. A few years ago I launched a penpal exchange between pupils of my junior high school and pupils of Jinhu junior high in Kinmen.
Lately I have been contacting US veterans who served in Kinmen at some point and who would be willing to be interviewed by my pupils.
All data collected will be worked on by both French and Taiwanese pupils before being handed over to Kinmen museum.
If you, or any other veteran, were willing to entrust us with your stories, your films and your photos, it would be a great honour for us.
References to "Projet Kinmen" can easily be found on the net and US veterans Fynis Eugene Briddle and Wayne Kleidosty were kind enough to participate already.
Looking forward to hear from any other veteran or decendant of veteran willing to share.
English Teacher
Collège P.Neruda