I was recently contacted by Bill Gray. Bill asked to be included in our Taiwan Personnel Listing.
Bill was at Tainan Air Station for two different, 2 month TDY assignments with the 311th Fighter Bomber Squadron out of Osan AB, Korea, in the mid 1950s.
If you've read our series of posts on the History of the US Air Force in Taiwan, you saw the details of the 311th Fighter Bomber Squadron's TDYs at Tainan. HERE
We were happy to add Bill to our listing, and will add anyone else who was in some way, associated with the US Military in Taiwan during our years there after WW II. You can E-mail us HERE to be added to the listing.
In Bill's E-mail, he included a link to a Web Page he constructed in memory of one of his friends who was a pilot in the Korean War.
On his Web Page, he writes of his two TDY periods in Taiwan and talks about some of the things that he encountered while there.
I asked Bill if I might re-print his Taiwan writings for this Blog.
Below, Bill's writes of his days at Tainan Air Station.
TDY TO FORMOSA (TAIWAN)
The three squadrons in the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing --- 311th, 69th, 310th — rotated to Formosa for two month TDY tours. On the first of June 1956, the 311th packed up all our gear, loaded aboard C119 Flying Boxcar aircraft and moved to a Chinese Air Force base located at Tainan, Formosa (now called Taiwan).
The interesting aspect of our TDY tours to Formosa is that, at that time, our government called it a training exercise for us, to train us for quick deployment. Twenty-five years later, our government finally admitted that we were there as a determent to mainland China; to discourage them from attacking Formosa. And to support Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Chinese military in case of an attack.
At this point, it might be good to take a closer look at why the three squadrons of the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing were keeping a constant presence in Formosa. In the late 1940s, the Nationalist Chinese Party, under the leadership of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, was being driven out of mainland China by the Communists. The last refuge for Chiang's Nationalist Army was the island of Formosa.
Because Formosa had been under Japanese rule for fifty years, until liberated by the Allies during World War 2, the Formosans did not consider themselves to be Chinese. Actually, after fifty years, they were a mix of Chinese and Japanese; and considered themselves independent of China, and to be Formosans, not Chinese.
The Formosans did not want Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Chinese coming to their little island. To them, this was an invasion by mainland Chinese. Chiang sent some of his leaders and troops to Formosa to prepare the island for their occupancy. By prepare, he meant to subdue any Formosan dissent. Although Chiang and his wife claimed to be Christians, possibly for U. S. political leverage, the way the Nationalist Chinese treated the Formosans was severe, as bad as any human rights charges the Western Nations have made against Communist China today.
By 1948, President Truman and his Democratic Administration were ready to write off Chiang and his Nationalist Chinese Party, who, by now, were near the point of being driven completely off the mainland of China to Formosa. Chiang knew his only chance to maintain leadership of his Nationalist Chinese Party and troops was to keep his promise of returning to the mainland a constant hope. Any hope he had of returning to the mainland was dependent upon the help of America; and now America was writing him off.
Two things kept Chiang Kai-shek alive politically. In 1950, Communist North Korea invaded South Korea and America became involved in the Korean Police Action. President Truman did not go to Congress to seek a declaration of war, but he had the power to send troops to aid an ally under the heading of a "police action." With the onset of the Korean War (or Police Action), Formosa became an important Asian base for America, and we had to prop up Chiang once again.
During and after the Korean War, Chiang, knowing that Truman was not his champion, had to try to influence the next American presidential election. It is estimated that Chiang and his family had an accumulated $600 million to $1.6 billion war chest, mostly from American Foreign Aid. He spent a huge amount of this war chest on high priced public relations firms in America, in his attempt to influence the American presidential election. Did it work? Until then, the Democrats had been in the Oval Office for about 25 years. In 1952, General Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, won the election and became our president. How much of this was due to Chiang Kai-shek's publicity barrage we will never know.
We do know this. Chiang Kai-shek knew that the only way he was ever going to be able to return to power in mainland China was if he could get America totally involved in a war with Communist China and let America win it back for him. That was his goal; and much of his activity was aimed at getting America involved in a shooting war with China. That is why the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing had a constant squadron stationed on a Chinese air base at Tainan, Formosa — and why there were several thousand MAAG (Military Advisory and Assistance Group) personnel throughout the island of Formosa.
When I look back on
incidents which occurred while the 311th Fighter-Bomber Squadron was TDY on Formosa, I can
now see Chiang's hands in much mischief. The normal routine of a fighter-bomber
squadron is to keep the pilots and ground crews sharp through simulated
firing-bombing runs --- and to improve their air-to-air firing accuracy, a
flight of four planes would go up to fire at a long white target towed by
another aircraft. Each of the four planes in the exercise were loaded with 50
caliber rounds with paint on the rounds. Each plane had a different color paint
which adheres to the white tow target when it is hit. The pilot's firing
accuracy can be graded by the his number of hits.
Obviously, when a pilot is going up to fire at a tow target, he does not need
bombs on his plane. However, when the Chinese pilots, flying American F-84s,
went up to fire at a tow target, their planes also carried bombs. And,
surprise, surprise — the tow target must have fired back, because the Chinese
pilots frequently returned to base with holes in their fuselage. And all their
bombs were gone — while shooting at a tow target.
One evening, during our second TDY tour on Formosa
(December 1956 - January 1957) we heard on the radio news that Communist China
had attacked Burma.
None of us knew just where Burma
was in relation to us sitting on Formosa; but we had an idea that
things were about to heat up. The next morning, as we drove down the flight
line going to work, we saw about a dozen bombers. I can't remember now if they
were B17s or B25s; but they were ferocious looking — with gun turrets on the
top, on the bottom, at the rear, and in the nose of the aircraft. I am fairly
sure they were B17 Flying Fortresses.
B-17G Flying Fortress courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force
Needless to say, this made quite an impression on us; when, overnight, there were a dozen big bombers sitting all over the tarmac --- on a fighter base. We were sure we were sitting in the middle of a war between Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Chinese Army and the Communist Chinese from the mainland. And being the bottom people on the totem pole, we GIs sitting on that Chinese air base on Formosa had to just wait and see. Possibly diplomacy prevented it; possibly a threat from the U.S. — but, I now know that, if Chiang Kai-shek had his way, there would have been a shooting war that day, with the U.S. right in the middle. Nothing would have made the Generalissimo happier.
TDY MOBILIZATION TO FORMOSA
If you have never flown in a C-119 Flying Boxcar (they have this name because that is what they resemble, as you can see from the photos below) — you have missed an experience. We sat in web seating along each side of the plane, just as you have seen paratroopers in the movies, and the only toilet facility was a funnel looking device attached to a rubber hose and hanging on a pole in the rear of the plane. No other facilities were available. So, if you had to do anything except urinate; good luck! The story is always told, though I never witnessed it, of a gullible young GI, who was told that the plane was in trouble and the pilot had to be notified. He was told to pick up the microphone (the urinal funnel cup), hold it tight against his face, and yell a loud warning to the pilot that the plane was in trouble; but he had to hold the cup tight to his face so that the pilot could hear him. Yes, there are people who are that gullible.
Loading up at Osan AB for our trip to Taiwan
C-119J Flying Boxcar courtesy of the National Museum of the US Air Force
While Korea, still ravaged from the war, was a rather desolate place; Formosa was a tropical paradise. Actually, Formosa (Taiwan) is a tropical island off the coast of China and about four hundred miles north of the Philippine Islands. During our first TDY to Formosa, we lived in squad tents, each tent being home for about ten guys. At night we had to get into our bunks, tuck our mosquito netting in all around us, then spray mosquito spray inside the netting to get any mosquitos that had snuck in with us. One guy in our tent let his elbow slide out from under the netting one night as he slept; and his elbow was one big red welt the next morning.
My bed/tent at Tainan. Shortly after this photo was taken, it was blown away in a typhoon.