United States Navy Memories Part Two: My Taiwan Duty Assignment November 1968 - August 1969
Flag of Taiwan, also Known as the Republic of China
My Navy Duty Assignments: November 68 - January 1971
My Navy duty assignments came about as a direct result of my career occupational specialty. After completing a nine-month Chinese Mandarin course at Monterey, California, I received my occupational specialty training as a Communications Technician Interpretive Branch cryptologic linguist at San Angelo, Texas. Following graduation from this security training at the end of October of 1968, I was now prepared to go overseas and apply my language and cryptologic training.
From November of 1968 through August of 1969, I was stationed in Taiwan. Prior to my discharge in January of 1971, I also saw duty in Japan and at Fort Meade, Maryland. In this hub, I vividly recall my duty assignments, living conditions, and exciting off-duty activities with my close shipmates on Taiwan.
Shulinkou Air Force Station
Duty at Shulinkou Air Station Nov 68 - Aug 69
In either May or June of 1968 before finishing my Chinese class at Monterey, I learned that two of my classmates and I had received duty orders to Shulinkou Air Force Station on Taiwan. I didn't realize it at the time, but this was the best duty assignment for a Chinese linguist.
After two weeks of home leave during the first half of November of 1968, I boarded a plane from Milwaukee bound for Seattle. Within about eight hours after reaching Seattle, I transferred to nearby McChord Field to catch a Boeing 707 charter flight headed for Taiwan. This was my first time flying overseas, and I was extremely excited as were the four other Navy personnel who were accompanying me.
We were on a very long flight which made at least one stop in Hawaii before landing at Sungshan Airport in northeastern Taipei during the early afternoon. After leaving the airport, we were taken by military bus to Shulinkou Air Force Station which was located in the mountains west of Taipei. As I looked out the bus window, it seemed like all the Chinese I saw were poorly dressed and looked the same in facial features.
After 30-45 minutes and snaking up a narrow mountain road, we arrived at my new home. Our first stop was the barracks where my shipmates and I would be quartered for the next 15 months. I was surprised at how modern they were compared to the World War II vintage barracks we had at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo.
I remember being assigned a lower bunk in a fairly new comfortable room which I shared with two other enlisted Navy personnel, Rick, and Steve. Chinese "houseboys" were assigned to all rooms in the barracks. They were responsible for cleaning the room, washing our civilian clothes and uniforms, and shining all of our shoes. We were expected to tip them, but the little money we gave them didn't really amount to very much.
In addition to the barracks, the food in the base mess or "chow" Hall was the best I had while in the Navy. Chinese cooks were hired to provide us with a lot of delicious excellent meals. Breakfast was especially a treat because we could order to our liking any kind of omelet and dishes like blueberry pancakes and French toast.
Before checking in for work, however, I was able to experience my first liberty in Taipei. About 5:00 or 6:00 on the afternoon of the first day we got in, a military bus took us down the mountain to the American military support complex on Section three of Chungshan North Road.
This huge support complex included barracks, enlisted and officer clubs, a special club for Vietnam R&R servicemen, a PX, commissary, movie theater, bowling alley. baseball field, and snack bars on both sides of Chungshan from the intersection of Chungshan and Minchuan Roads down to the Officers Club about one kilometer down the road.
Of more interest to Navy, Air Force, and Army personnel were the great number of bars, clubs, restaurants, and nightclubs located in the near vicinity of the military complex. As it turned out, the bars serviced Vietnam R&R GIs who were looking for one night stands. The clubs were for the stationed servicemen like me who wanted long-term girlfriends as possible wives.
On our first night in Taipei, Rick and I made an initial stop at the Mandarin Club which was recommended by a few of the Navy guys on base. Perhaps it was the girls working there or the music, but we only stayed at the Mandarin Club for one drink.
After leaving, we crossed the road and walked about one block before finding the Mona Lisa Club on the corner of Chungshan North Road and Fushun Street. As we ascended the narrow stairway to the entrance of the club on the second floor, we were captivated by the lights, laughter, and sight of at least 10-15 young beautiful Taiwanese and Chinese women working behind the bar. After ordering drinks, both of us immediately struck up conversations in Chinese Mandarin. We knew from that time on that the Mona Lisa would be our favorite hangout.
The next morning we finally checked in for duty back on base. We were all assigned rotating shift work which had us on duty for two-eve watches running from 1500 until 2300, then two day watches from 0700 to 1500, followed by two mid watches from 2300 until 0700. Following the second mid watch, we had 80 hours off duty. As linguists, we were translating Chinese while on duty.
I remember spending a lot of time off duty in Taipei, but when there wasn't enough time to go down into the "pit" as some shipmates called Taipei, there was certainly enough for us to do at the NCO Linkou Club on base. The club was great that in addition to serving good food and drinks, it had live band music played by a Filipino group, the Ritmo Combo, on most nights. About once a week, young women from Taipei were bussed up on to the base to serve as dance partners. Other diversions in the club included a number of slot machines and an adjoining bowling alley.
For the next nine months, we had a lot of fun at the Mona Lisa and other clubs. Friday night was often Stag Night at the 63 Club. There were strippers on stage and everyone had a great time enjoying the exotic shows and drinking Singapore Slings and other drinks for a dime apiece. After one show was over, I was introduced to the Hot Spring baths in New Peitou, a northern suburb of Taipei. For $10, a guy could get a room with a hot spring bath and choice of a young woman for companionship from midnight until noon of the next day!
Taipei in the early 1970s
Fushun Street in Taipei
Vietnam R&R Servicemen in Taipei late 60s
New Peitou Hot Springs
Preparing for Temporary Additional Duty to Japan
Although having a great time off duty on Taiwan, I hated my job and made the mistake of going over my supervisor's head in trying to get other work. When my boss found out about this action, he was furious and assigned me to the worst job in the office. I was now essentially a "flunkie" who only made coffee and waited on officers and senior enlisted people all day. There was, however, a way for me to get out of this job. I would have to volunteer for temporary additional duty (TAD) outside of Taiwan on one of the islands of Japan.
I really didn't want to give up my great off-duty pleasures in Taipei, but functioning as the office "flunkie" seemed like a death sentence. At this time, a Navy co-worker who had already been in Japan and was going there again convinced me to go on the TAD, stressing that I wouldn't find Japan as bad as I thought.
In a future hub, I will describe my five-month duty experience on the island of Kyushu, Japan.
Taiwan Duty Assignment
Hubs Related to U.S. Navy Memories
- Why I Was in The Navy During The Vietnam War
Leaving the academic world and joining the Navy during the Vietnam War was a unique, trying experience. This hub details why I was in the military and chose the Navy to spend four years of my life.
- U.S. Navy Memories Part Three: Temporary Additional Duty to Japan in 1969
In part three of a series about my U.S. Navy memories, I recall my temporary additional duty to Kyushu, Japan, in 1969. Read and find out how I liked my job, living conditions, and off-duty liberty.
- U.S. Navy Memories Part One: June 1967 - October 1968
I was in the U.S. Navy for almost four years during the late 60s. In this hub, I recall my basic training at Great Lakes and then specialized training at Monterey, California and San Angelo, Texas.
© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn