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

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Story - Richard MacDowell Heads for Tainan

Richard mailed his story to me some time ago.  I put it away while I worked on posting the "History of the US Air Force in Taiwan" series.

Here, Richard's words, describing his tour at Tainan Air Base.

     It's an extremely long story, but I just heard the song, "You make me feel brand new". It was very very much a part of my being in Taiwan. Someone asked me to play it, an employee of Magumbo's. She asked me twice. I played it twice.  And I also think of the song, "The story in your eyes". She had a story and it was beautiful.
     My adventures if you'll call them that started by getting orders to Yokota AB, Japan. I turned them down. I was told I'd have another set within days. I did. To a country I'd heard of in passing...Taiwan. Tainan? Never knew such a place existed.
     Don't recall much of the over the pond trip, but I do remember being put up in a Hotel in Taipei, then the next day enduring an 8 hour bus ride to Tainan. During the trip I saw things that were totally new to me, simply adding to my culture shock. I also suffered that in Korea in ' 70. I heard an expression that I'd become fairly familiar with..."fish truck".

     The next thing I remember is my assignment to the base FD.
     I made SSgt just prior to leaving stateside and as things would have it, I was made an Assistant Chief. It wouldn't have been so bad except, I had no FD managerial/supervisory experience.My experiences were limited to finding myself on crash trucks watching aircraft come in, take off and land/crash at times too.

     In Tainan, I had three chiefs I worked for. Then in March of ' 74 I think we went from AFM 92-1 to AFR 92-1. Whole new ball game, and for all intents and purposes, I still in the "dugout".

     Luckily the Fire Chief I had was extremely helpful in guiding me in my new role. Went to my fair share of incidents there...many quite tragic. Came away wiser and more cautious.

     One "job" I did not go to was a fire in Tainan City. I had a crash rig down, and a mission to protect two F-4s. That's what I did. I was chastised by many, but my follow-up "9" rated APR vindicated me! And to this day I have NO regrets about what I did/did not do that Sunday morning.

     When I left in ' 74 for Kunsan AB (ROK), I was much better prepared for my next assignments thanks to very good supervisors and staff who supported me.

     Loved my off Magumbo's and the local watering holes in Tainan City. Those experiences had a definite impact on me. Only time I was miffed, was when our Sailors came up from Kaohsiung when the "fleet was in!" Couldn't find or see an AF guy in any of those Tainan establishments!

     I only wish I'd taken more photos. I posted some of them on the site. One of the things I enjoyed was when I could see and listen to the local high school girls sing the Taiwanese National Anthem.
     On arrival, my "subordinates", so desperately tried to get me to utter certain phrases to young women on base. I never took the bait. I was afforded a chance by our Fire Chief to take Chinese classes. It was awesome. Sadly our instructor had to leave with her husband who was getting re-assigned, and the class came to an abrupt end. During one of those classes a (ROC) F-5 went in. Not a good day!
     I was offered a really sweet deal by my bosses to stay in country at the time I got orders for Kunsan. I had to go. Needed to find two people. A daughter I was told I had and her Mother. Found neither. Did my ROK tour, and PCS'd to Texas (Webb AFB-now closed),

     Then in '77 I was tortured when I was handed orders for CCK. Tortured? Yes, because the assignment got cancelled (medical concerns), and I'd spend my next 8 years up until my 20 years stateside. No way, I got out. No regrets. But then too, had I gone, if I'd have stayed till ' 79, God only knows where I'd have wound up.

     38 years have passed. I will never forget Taiwan and Tainan AB and City and the people who became part of my life there. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to serve there.

You can write to Richard at:

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