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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So Long, Farewell, Goodbye Taiwan...

You've lived on the beautiful island of Formosa for 13, 24, maybe 36 months or more, and now it's time to pack-up your goods and move on.

Many 1st Termers were leaving the military, others of us were heading to a new assignment and a few, hanging up their uniforms and retirement.

All of us who called Taiwan home experienced leaving Taiwan at least once. Many returned for second and third assignments, and a few "home-steaded"

When the time came to take the last drive to Taipei International Airport or Sung Shan Air Force Base, many of us, myself included, had mixed feelings about leaving this wonderful place.  The thoughts that ran through our minds and the smiles in our hearts remembering our sojourn in Taiwan.

But, now it's time to go, so we sucked up those thoughts and feelings, put them in the back of our minds for another day, and got on with the business of going through the red-tape of getting-off the island. 

Perhaps you took the train to Taipei, some flew up in a military aircraft, many drove up in a military vehicle, we all made our way to the airport in Taipei.  

Depending when you left, or where you were headed, the departure facilities, were different.

Those flying to CONUS on a military charter flight, many charters were Northwest Orient Airline aircraft, were processed and boarded at Taipei International Airport terminal.  

Many of us, having arrived at the airport hours before our scheduled departure, were on-hand to see our charter aircraft unload a group of people, many arriving in Taiwan for the first time.  The things than ran through our minds, seeing those folks make their way to the terminal and a new assignment in Taiwan. I remember thinking, I could do this all over again! 

If you were headed for another destination other than Hawaii or CONUS, you might have reservations on an Air America/Southern Air Transport flight that ran back and forth from Japan to the Philippines a couple of times each day.  If you got on one of these birds, you processed through Sung Shan AFB, military terminal, then flew to Clark, Kadena or Yakota for a connecting flight.

And for those who could not fly for some medical or other reason, some were able to book passage on one of the US cruise line ships that stopped at Keelung harbor, throughout the year, or in earlier years on a US Navy vessel.

The photographs below, were furnished by Jack Hornbeck.  Jack was assigned to Taipei Air Station and worked at the US facility at Shihmen, on the north coast, 1966-1969.

Stepping out the Taipei AS barracks door for the last time.. 
Mixed feelings for many. 

The Military Terminal at Sung Shan AFB.


 Lots of folks sitting around, WAITING...  It seemed they always wanted you at the airport 4-6 hours before departure.

Notice that Pepsi-Cola can on the floor..  
A case of beer at the Embassy Shop, less expensive than Pepsi!

Some of the tarmac on the International side of the airport. 

CAT was still flying. 

Up in the restaurant at Taipei International.  A family, waiting on the Northwest Orient charter to arrive.

Dad, hanging-in there.  

The fellow in the straw hat and a greeting party is walking out to welcome someone, and it's probably not a military individual. 

 So, our plane has arrived.  Now we have to wait while the aircraft is cleaned, serviced and made ready for our trip back to CONUS.

Mean while, downstairs in the terminal main room...

There's lots of noise in the lobby right now.

Notice the floor above the Travel Accident Insurance doors.
 I suspect that's the floor where the restaurant is located.

We'll follow this group around the room for a few minutes.

The young woman in the blue suit - she's happy.

What's in the newspaper article?

These last conversations, stories of our time in Taiwan, bring laughter and joy to many hearts.

Smoke-up if you got-um..

This couple was captured in many photos.

Wonder what that sign is in the background?  Looks like you can write on it with red grease pencil.

A beautiful silk lei.

 Time to get those sun-glasses on, we'll soon be walking out to our plane.

I wish there were more photos to share today.  

These probably, in some way, mirror you departure day from Taipei.

Most of us who served in Taiwan, no matter where or for whom, will always remember our days on the beautiful island of Formosa.

Perhaps someone who was assigned at Sung Shan can talk more about how Sung Shan and the International Terminal fit together for US folks.

In case you're a bit nostalgic right now, you might enjoy this video. 



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Club 63 - Fond Memories Abound

The best known and most frequented US military club in the Taipei area - Club 63.

How did it all begin?

MAAG Taiwan was formed in 1951 with an initial strength of 116 men.

Shortly thereafter, another 400 to 500 "instructors and advisors" arrived.

MAAG was initially formed as an advisory group which would operate as a part of the U.S. Embassy in Taipei and would perform usual duties connected with the furnishing of military assistance by the United States to foreign governments.

Where did our men eat during those first few months after their arrival in Taiwan?
There were a number of "hostels" located throughout the city.  I believe some, if not all the facilities offered some type of food for our personnel in addition to offering rooms and dorms. As I recall the hostel just outside the HSA East Compound offered some tasty breakfasts..

George Marcy, standing above, assigned to MAAG Taiwan in early 1956, spoke of receiving US $45.00 each day as Per DiemHe resided in Hostel 12, on Grass Mountain, seen here.

Who could complain with that amount of money coming-in each day?

The Foreign Affairs Service Department (FASD) was established in 1951 as the Taiwan government agency to administer support to the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) only.  During this time, MAAG was the only US Military unit on Taiwan. George's home, in Hostel 12, was run and administered by the FASD.

The first, MAAG NCO Open Mess, Club 63, opened shortly after US MAAG Taiwan came into existence, sometime in 1951.

It was located in, what we called, in later years, the HSA West Compound.  In the early days, it was called "The MAAG Compound" or "MAAG" for short.

In those days, just about everything flowed through MAAG. 

Vintage 1952 photo of the MAAG NCO Open Mess, Club 63.

This facility, above, was probably the first NCO Open Mess, Club 63.

When did this facility open?

Was there an "earlier club" located in some MAAG building before this building opened? Chances are, there was.  There was some place inside the MAAG area where "you could get a drink."

I assume the club's existence was predicated on the necessity to have a "mess" facility available to our enlisted personnel.

The "club" part came along with the "Open Mess" dining facility.

Until recently, the idea of military personnel coming together to eat and enjoy an "adult" beverage was important in the military. 

Just think back to all the films you've seen of our military.

There were always scenes of military men in a facility of some sort, drinking and/or eating.  Relaxation, which involved eating and drinking and being together, was always a major part of life for many of our military.

What a change, from those days until today!

Good or bad decision - it's up for discussion....

Just have a look at this old,  June 1968 Club 63 calendar, as an example.

It was loaded with things to do at the club.  I particularly remember playing cards many Monday nights at Club 63.  There was something for everyone, all you had to do was show up and enjoy.

And, family was included in everything for those who were accompanied.

I'm remembering back to the mid 1960's and  "Membership Nights."  If you were late arriving, you might not get a table, and the steaks may be gone, but your quota of "free drink" coupons were always available.
You will recall, after dinner, when the family members left, there was generally, how will I describe it, "less than fully clothed" floor show of some sort, often accompanied by the house band, and always providing loads of laughs, on-stage antics from one of more of the intoxicated club members, and a roaring crowd in the house, chanting for, "More!"

My friends, think-back, --  to those "Membership Nights."

I believe you have a smile on your face.....

This photo was taken by Don Irwin, circa 1955.

This would have been the "2nd"  location for Club 63 in Taipei.

I wonder if the club was operating at this facility when the photo was taken.

The "Daily Program" sign outside the entrance is blank.

The center entrance door is ajar, something could be happening inside.

The Club 63 facility sitting along the Keelung River, just down the hill from the Grand Hotel,  opened in late 1954 or early 1955.

I have never run across anything talking about how the land on which the building is located was chosen.  Logical reasoning would put the club within a short distance of the US headquarters area, which was always on Chung Shan North Road.

Having the Club 63 just across the Keelung River, placed it within a mile or so of most of the US headquarters facilities, easy to reach for dining.

Today, the old club facility, still exists, having undergone many renovations and additions, siting on prime property along the river, surrounded by the Grand Hotel and various Taiwan Military facilities.  Today, the facility is know as the "American Club Taipei."

I frequent the American Club on occasion when I visit Taipei.  The club has reciprocal agreements with a number of private clubs throughout the world, where, if you have membership in one of those clubs, you can visit and use the facilities of the American Club Taipei.  The club limits the numbers of visits to 30 days per year.  More than enough while visiting Taiwan.

Perhaps you have some thoughts or additional information, corrections, regarding Club 63 and how it became "the" club in the US military community. 

Please leave a "Comment" below.

577 "Empties" (or are they full?) inside the Shihmen hostel mid 1960s, courtesy John Hornbeck.