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

Saturday, April 14, 2012

US Marine Security Guard Detachment - Taipei

In 1948, the Department of State (DOS) and the United States Marine Corps (USMC) signed a Memorandum of Agreement whereby the Marine Corps would supply active duty Marine Corps personnel to protect classified materials, American lives and property in U.S. Diplomatic Missions worldwide.  These USMC personnel, to be designated as Marine Security Guards, would report directly to a DOS Foreign Service Officer at each mission.  

The last "Ambassador" to "China"  (on the west side of the Taiwan Strait,) was appointed on July 4, 1946, John Leighton Stuart, who was born in China in 1876.  As the US Ambassador, he worked in concert with General George C. Marshall to mediate between the Nationalists and Communists. After Marshall's departure from China in January 1947, he led the mediation efforts that changed from all-out support of the Nationalist government to mediating the coalition government, to negotiating an understanding with the Communist party.   When the Nationalist government fled Nanjing, and Communist forces entered the city in April 1949, Stuart maintained the U.S. Embassy in Nanjing. He sought accommodation with the Communist Party in an effort to maintain U.S. presence and influence in China. On August 2, 1949, he was recalled from Nanjing, and some 3 years later on November 28, 1952 formally resigned as Ambassador to China. The U.S. mission in Nanjing had not followed Chiang’s government to Taipei but had remained at Hong Kong.

On July 28. 1950, the Department of State announced the assignment to Taipei of a diplomatic representative with the rank of charge d’affaires.  Ambassador Stuart maintained the title of Ambassador to China at this time.

In diplomacy, chargé d’affaires (French for “charged with (in charge of) matters”), often shortened to simply chargé, is the title of two classes of diplomatic agents who head a diplomatic mission, either on a temporary basis or when no more senior diplomat has been accredited.

Karl L. Rankin was appointed as chargé d’affaires in the office of the US Ambassador to China in August 1950 and oversaw the US Consulate in Taipei.  Where Mr. Rankin maintained his residence between August 1950 and the opening of the US Embassy in Taipei, in April of 1953 cannot be confirmed.  I have looked but cannot find the answer, some suggest he resided at the US Mission in Hong Kong.

The Consulate in Taipei was upgraded to a full US Embassy in 1953, and therefore the Ambassador to China maintained residence at Taipei, Taiwan, in the Republic of China.

Karl L. Rankin was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to China, arrived in Taipei and the US Embassy was opened in April 1953.  There were Marine Security Guards assigned to protect the Embassy staff, property and material.

To the best of my knowledge, these were the first Marine Security Guards assigned to the United States Embassy in Taipei.  No records I can locate show the guards being at the Taipei Consulate between 1950 and 1953, although I suspect there were guards at the Consulate, because it was a US Diplomatic Mission.     

Where the Taipei Consulate was located in the early 1950s remains a mystery.  Some write that it was the same building on Chung Shan North Road that later became the Ambassador's official residence.

When did the large US Embassy Compound, as seen in photographs below, actually open?  Who owned the property before it became the Embassy.  There is some discussion of property for the Embassy discussed in George H. Kerr's book, "Formosa Betrayed, " but it's not clear to me when, what property, who owned it, and how it came into or was always in, the hands of the US Government.  One mystery after another.

 All of the following rare photographs are courtesy of the Marine Embassy Guard Association.unless otherwise annotated.  We appreciate their support.

1953 - The 178th Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebration, 10 November 1953.
           Taipei Marine Security Guard Detachment personnel.
Left to Right:  Corporal Ray Whitlock, Corporal Gerald Genovese, NCOIC Technical Sergeant Henry Brown, Naval Attache Lieutenant Colonel Tegau, Corporal Robert McDonald and Corporal Lawrence Derrah.

Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat attend the 178th Marine Corps Birthday Ball Celebration in Taipei, November 1953.

Celebrating the Marine Corps Birthday with a toast.

Guard Post # 1.  The Front entrance, US Embassy, Taipei.  Photo circa 1953. 
 US Embassy Compound Taipei.  photo courtesy Gary Wilson circa 1965.

Guard Post #2 - The Union Building.  Photo circa 1953.

The Union Building was also referred to by the Taipei Embassy Marine Guards as the MSA Building. I have no explanation of what MSA stood for. UPDATE - 2 July 2012:  MSA stood for Mutual Security Agency.  You can look it up on the Internet.  The agency was only in existence for a couple of years in the early 1950s.  Question answered courtesy of Steve Craft.

A friend suggested there were various US Government offices located in the Union Building.  US Embassy Offices, CIA, and other US Government entities, such as US Aid to Taiwan, and other similar organizations. 

Another view of the Union Building, center building in this photo with 2 flags on roof.         

Next door, on right, building with maroon colored roof, was the MAAG Taiwan Headquarters.        
Photo courtesy Alice Winans.  Circa 1952.

A new "Annex" building opened at the US Embassy Taipei in 1955.
If you look at the Embassy Building, third photo above, it appears this new building is just to the left of the original structure. 

Many of us visited the US Embassy, these very buildings, but I cannot remember much about them.  I seem to recall a small restaurant either in the basement or possibly close to the entrance where visitors entered the building.

 1954 - Corporal Hung Lei Quan going on Duty.
This photo looks like it was taken from outside the New Annex building in photo just above, notice curved curbs and roadway.

The Sacking of the American Embassy
The following paragraphs were extracted from Chapter 19 
of the 1965 book, written by George H. Kerr.

      The sacking of the American Embassy on May 24, 1957.  The unofficial story has been retold by Captain William Lederer (USN, ret.) in A Nation of Sheep and by Formosans publishing at Tokyo. 

      On the night of March 20 an American Army sergeant shot and killed a prowler discovered in his garden at Taipei. 

      An American military court tried the case, acquitted the sergeant on May 23, and flew him out of the island. 

      The victim was described as a minor employee in a Chinese government agency and a reserve officer.

      In time-honored Chinese custom his widow demanded "consolation money" which was not promptly forthcoming. 

      On the day following the acquittal (May 24) she took up a position in front of the American Embassy gates to scream hysterically that she had been denied justice. This, too, is a time-honored Chinese custom. 

      According to the official story her noisy clamor attracted a crowd, the mob spirit took over, a stone was thrown, and soon the crowd poured into the Embassy compound. The American flag was torn down, cars were overturned and the offices were sacked. Some local employees and American officers were injured before they could retreat from the premises. The rioting began about one-thirty in the afternoon and continued with brief lulls until well after nightfall. Files were broken open, cipher books and coding equipment were tossed about, and confidential and secret papers were strewn through the building.

      After many hours of uninterrupted rioting Chiang Ching- kuo's security forces took over the gutted Embassy. 

      Ambassador Rankin returned from Hong Kong during the height of the riot. He visited the site during a lull in the affair but was asked by the Chinese to leave the premises; for they anticipated further violence. 

      When he returned soon after daylight next morning, accompanied by Embassy officers, he was gratified to find the Chinese had been so helpfully attempting to restore order to chaos and to sweep up some of the debris within the building. Approximately fourteen hours had elapsed. 

      The ladies of the American community promptly volunteered to assist in sorting scattered file materials. Some 90 per cent were recovered. No classified materials "of consequence" were missing and enough of the cryptographic material was recovered to satisfy the Ambassador that the codes were intact. 

      Prompt official protests brought equally prompt apologies and indemnities.

      The unofficial accounts add disturbing detail to this story and raise troublesome questions. According to Captain Lederer certain Chinese and Formosans and some foreigners had been warned of possible trouble days in advance.

      It is maintained that the dead "minor official" was a Major in one of Chiang Ching-kuo's secret organizations and that other members of Chiang's organizations were identified as ringleaders whose faces appeared in news photos made during the riot. 

      The screaming widow is alleged to have been provided with a prepared text which she obligingly read into a recording apparatus conveniently at hand when the riot began. 

      Behind all this lay the odd circumstance that so spontaneous a riot took place precisely on the day when Madame and the Generalissimo were far away at a mountain retreat, the Ambassador was not on Formosa and the chief officers of the Army administration were across the channel on the offshore islands.

      In a city notorious for its elaborate secret services and policing agencies -all under Chiang Ching-kuo - why was a riot such as this permitted to go unchecked for hours? And why was not a strong police cordon established around the premises, leaving only Americans or Embassy employees to handle scattered cryptographic materials and secret papers? 

      Was someone seeking for documents recording American views on the internal situation or confidential notes which might incriminate anti-Nationalists in communication with the Embassy? 

You may want to read the complete book, "Formosa Betrayed," by George Kerr.  
HERE is copy, free of charge. Much to discover in this book!

This photo taken during the 1957 on-going riot, notice men inside the embassy building.   Photo courtesy of Taipics

Armed Police (or soldiers) arrive at Embassy grounds, 1957.  Photo courtesy of Taipics

1957 - the 182nd Marine Corps Birthday Ball Cake Cutting Ceremony, American Embassy, Taipei, with Taiwan Marine Security Guard Detachment members.

From left to right: Corporal Ken Swinson, Sergeant. Fred Siverly, Rear Admiral Read (Executive Officer, US Taiwan Defense Command), Lieutenant Colonel Holt (Senior Marine on the island, therefore MC), Major General Frank S. Bowen Jr. US Army (Chief MAAG Taiwan), Lieutenant Colonel Thomas C. Dutton, USMC (Assistant. Naval Attache), Sergeant Gerald Winters and Corporal Thomas Schultz. 

Left to right: Mrs. Pauline Rankin, Ambassador to Taiwan the Honorable Karl Rankin, 

Detachment NCOIC, Master Sergeant Hiram S. Range and Mrs. Norma Range. 
1957 - The 182nd Marine Corps Birthday Ball Celebration.


From left to right: NCOIC Master Sergeant Hiram S. Range, Staff Sergeant Billy K. Grove, Sergeant Fred Siverly, Corporal Thomas Schultz, Sergeant Gerald Winters, Corporal Virgil Johnson, Corporal Kenneth Swinson and Staff Sergeant Richard McNutt. 
1957 - Marine Security Guard Detachment, Taipei

From left to right: NCOIC Master Serveant Hiram S. Range, Staff Sergeant Billy K. Grove (former Acting NCOIC), Sergeant Fred Siverly, Corporal Thomas F. Schultz, Sergeant Gerald Winters, Staff Sergeant Richard McNutt (Acting NCOIC), Corporal Virgil M. Johnson and Corporal Kenneth Swinson. 

1957 - Marine Security Guard Detachment, Taipei.


 From left to right: Sergeant Ken Swinson, Sergeant Tom Schultz, Sergeabt Bill Dams, Staff Sergeabt Richard Aitken, Staff Sergeant Leo Bates, Sergeant John Rackovan, Sergeant Norman Vachowiak, Sergeant Ronald Tuttle, Sergeant Wilson Baker, Sergeant Virgil Johnson, Corporal John H. Johnson and NCOIC  Master Sergeabt Berle Garris. Berle Garris retired a Warrant Officer 4. 

1959 - American Embassy Taipei Marine Security Guard Detachment 

1957 - American Embassy Taipei - Marine House Bar.
Tom tells us a well stocked bar contributes to high morale, any doubters? 
And today, wonder if you can find a Bud Light in the fridge at AIT?

 The men who served at the Taipei Embassy in these photographs, have aged nearly 60 years!  You wonder, how many are still around today.

We honor all men and women who wore the uniform and served our country!

We've discussed the US Embassy all through this article.  Here is a rendering of the new, can we say, US Embassy... NO...? 

OK.... a rendering of the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) building presently under construction in northern Taipei.

Quite a change and upgrade from their present facility, which is still housed in the old HQ MAAG Taiwan compound.

Special thanks to  David and Marc. at Taipics who have assembled the most comprehensive file of photographs and information available on Taiwan that you see anywhere!

And, more special thanks to George H. Kerr for sharing his book,"Formosa Betrayed"
His book is available to download or read directly off the net free of charge.

Please leave you Comments and notes in a Comment below.


Peter said...

Good stuff!

Looks like Karl Rankin also wrote a book about his time in Taiwan:

新聞老鳥 said...

Photo 5

Perhaps MSA stood for Military Support Activity. Maybe yes, maybe not. Just a wild guess.

Photo 10

I wonder what are the weapons on sitting soldiers' shouders?

Thompsons with bayonets? I'm curious.

新聞老鳥 said...

Photo 5

Perhaps MSA stood for Military Support Activity. Maybe yes, maybe not. Just a wild guess.

Photo 10

I wonder what are the weapons on sitting soldiers' shouders?

Thompsons with bayonets? I'm curious.

titojohn said...

The rifles in photo 10 are likely U.S. supplied M1 Garand rifles.

Taipei Air Station said...

I ordered and have just received confirmation that Karl Rankin's book, "China Assignment" is in the mail to me.

I will up-date the blog story soon. Never know what Mr. Rankin had to say after he retired and was able to write of his days of being involved in the politics of Taiwan.


security guards said...

The agreement brought a service detachment by both affairs. In getting involvement to help each other create a tight relationship between the mentioned countries and personalities in act that time of ingratiating.

security services canada said...

Interesting photos, looking at the pictures is very nostalgic. Hope Taiwan gets its full recognition from international community against PRC.

Mrs. Berle Garris said...

I can vouch for the fact that Warrant Officer Berle Garris is still around, doing well, happily retired in Clearwater, Florida and proud great grandfather of 7 little folks far.
If I can find our pictures I have some to add to your collection.

Anne (Mrs. Berle) Garris

Taipei Air Station said...

The following Comment was received via Email:

I served in the Office of the Naval Attaché, U.S. Embassy to China, from Nov. 1951 to Dec. 1954.
On 28 June 2015, on a whim, I Googled "1953 U.S. Embassy to China". One of the sites that popped up was "Taipei Air Station"...I had to click on that one. I was stunned when I saw the pictures of the 178th Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I was the photographer who took and processed those pictures. I was photographer for the Naval Attaché and the only official photographer there on that occasion.
LtCol Pegau's name is spelled incorrectly in you caption.

I am 85 years old, doing well, and would like to hear from any of the Marine Guards in the photo who are still around. SCPO Gene W. Johnson USN (RET)

SCPO Gene W. Johnson USN (RET)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kent Mathieu. I found your USMC Taipei Marine, Berle S. Garris, age 88, alive and well with his wife, Mrs Berle Garris in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Berle spent 30+ years in the Marine Corp. Never returned to Taiwan after his tour. He lives in Clearwater Beach, about 10 miles from me...Hopefully Mrs. Garris, who is a writer and journalist (they bought a local beach paper, called the Clearwater Beach Bee), will touch base with me later, and I can convince her to get a free FB account. I told him in a lengthy phone conversation, I doubt if he would remember Taipei now. He would be shocked. So I eased the changes made since his 1958 tour. He looks forward to you touching base with him. As he and his wife are a treasure trove of Taipei, Taiwan memories. He wishes to set up a meet and greet with me and Katie this weekend or next. Think we made his day, or two or three !

Naomi said...

My dad was a Marine. He was one of the Montford Point Marines. Those are the equivalent of the Tuskegee Airmen for Marines. He's a tough, tough guy. ~ Naomi from