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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Early Days at Kung Kuan Air Base

John Kmetz, who is now living in Indiana, writes about his tour at Kung Kuan AB later CCK AB in the mid 1960s.  You will find some interesting memories of the old days at CCK  just as the base expanded with the arrival of thousands of newly assigned USAF personnel.

I was with the first group of airmen to arrive at Kung Kwan Air Force Base in Tiachung, the name of the base was later changed to Ching Chuan Kang ,when they found out that Kung Kwan meant Air Base, Air Base Air Base did not make sense. While I was there they built most of the permanent structures; barracks, mess hall, etc.

When they built the mess hall and started decorating the inside they bought two large urns to put by the front doors and filled them with sand to use as ash trays. They found out later, when we had a bunch of pissed off civilian KP's made know that these were burial urns.  The translator explained that it would be like them putting caskets by the front door to use as ash trays.

Also one of the new barracks was built was on top of a burial ground area.  The local folks mostly buried their dead in large clay pots.  These pots made perfect cool dens for the snakes which were coming up through the air vents in the crawl spaces under the barracks.

After the medics treated a few personnel for snake bites, they discovered the problem and tore down that barracks and sprayed the area with some type of poison.  I believe that first barracks was an Officer’s barracks. I know the enlisted guys were still living in Quonset huts; there was no air conditioning back then.

I have no pictures.  I took a bunch of movies only to find none of them turned out. I want to say I was there in late 65 possibly early 66. If you can get an exact date as to when US first occupied the base, it would be very close as we were the first ones there. In the early days the base commander had a Motto Cross track built right on the base for guys with their motorcycles. (Ed Note: First Mess Hall was constructed at Kung Kuan by Navy Sea Bees, floors and screened wooden frames for TENTS.  Construction completed 14 May 1965.)
When I was there we had a tent for the mess hall, another for a mail room.  There were very few permanent structures.

I also remember a C130 that was carrying mail and payroll went down on the side of the mountain.  They sent Air Police and volunteers up there to recover the money etc. that was scattered everywhere.  A lot of it was coins that had been in wooden boxes. (Ed Note: I find no record of a C-130 loss in 1966)

We also had a tent for a movie theater.  I still remember the first movie that showed, Billy the Kid Verses Dracula.  It sucked but I think every one on the base went to see it.

I remember when I arrived they told us that we could not spend US money down town.  I had a month of vacation pay along with one regular check waiting for me, which I cashed in for NT Taiwan dollars. Well,  I then found out that I needed real money for the base, so I stood by the window and caught guys coming up to get Taiwanese money and sold it to them.  What a mess. At that time the rate of exchange was 40-1.  I looked like a really rich drug dealer.  A pack of cigarettes cost $40.00 NT down town.

I still remember going in to buy my first pair of shoes in a down town shoe store.  They had hundreds of different styles to pick from, so I picked out a pair I liked, told him size 9 ½.  The man told me to sit down.  He brought out a large piece of white poster board, told me to take my shoes off and stand on the paper.  Then he then took a pencil and traced around both of my feet, as he said, one foot is always different from the other. I was the told to come back in one hour to pick up my new custom made shoes.

It was almost the same with all our clothing, as it was just about the same price to buy a shirt as to take them to the laundry on the base (we did not have washing machines or dryers yet.)  And if you did take them to the laundry, which was run by a Ti family, your clothes came back with a really strong fish smell, as they washed them off base in a stream.  Who knows what else they used that stream was used for.

 I am 64 almost 65 and live right outside Chicago Illinois in Indiana. I was also stationed at good old Rantoul (Chanute) AFB in Illinois for a short time, right by home.  I think in all I was at about 6 different bases. Got out as a Sergeant or Airman First Class as they used to call it, 3 stripes.

When we first arrived in Taipei, 136 of us, they told us they did not know of a base in Taichung that was because; there was not one there yet. They kept us in Taipei at about four different hotels.  I think we were there about a week and a half while they figured out what was going on.  We had some of every one in our group, I was a baker & cook, my buddy was in pest and rodent control.

When we got to Kung Kuan AB it was a tent city except for a few single level barracks

I still remember them evacuating everyone who was not on duty one afternoon.  There was a fully loaded B-52 coming in with no instrumentation, they did not know what was working and what was not, so all of us who were off-duty went down town.

 Later we found out, my buddy from pest rodent went threw the aircraft and found that a rat had chewed threw a wiring cable, cooked himself and all instrumentation.

The only other time most of us where told to leave was when Chiang Kai-shek check came to visit the base. They stationed Air Police on the roofs and all of the barracks had to be empty, so off-duty personnel had to leave the base.

One thing cool was they had an area on base where there were a few Taiwanese soldiers lived.  You had to walk past it to get to the temporary BX we had. Well in a tree they had a pet monkey who loved hats.  There were branches over hanging the path; the monkey got one of my fatigue caps.  He also had an officer’s hat, baseball caps, even Taiwanese soldiers hats. He hung them all over in that tree.

4 comments:

JD said...

I believe that our 435th Tac Fighter Squadron from George AFB CA was the first group to get to Kung Kuan (except for 7 MAAG families that lived downtown. We went over in about April of 1965 and when we got there we didn't even have tents. We had cots for a few hundred of us and we were wall-to wall in the old theater that had a leaky roof. Cots were about a foot apart in every direction. Our FOB was Danang, Vietnam and we came in with F-104C's while the Chinese 104's were G-models.I went over three times - Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand with the 104's last time,coming back from Thailand in May of 66. We put up those tents (same kind we had in Danang. It felt great to get out of the leaky theater. On a later trip, we felt it was great that they had built the wood sides and floors for our tents. It was the same sequence of tents in Kung Kuan, Danang and Udorn Thailand.. - John Davis

Anonymous said...

I was an Army brat and from 1962-64, my father was stationed in Taichung, Taiwan. Kung Kuan AB was an active airbase when we were there with a number of pilots and support personnel. If I remember correctly, Lt. Col. Charley Davis was the AF C.O., and I believe they flew F-104's. A separate facility (run by the Navy) housed a small PX, Commissary, movie theater, and a 4 lane bowling alley. Another facility, known as the Officer's Compound had an O club, about 30 houses, swimming pool, softball field, tennis courts, and a Teen Club.

smdavis said...

yes, lt. col. charley davis was the af c.o.. we lived on the officer's compound. I'm his son.

Anonymous said...

I believe our F105 squadron from Okinawa was at Kung Kuan Air Base for a Firepower demonstration, in 1964.
Does anybody else remember this?