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United States Navy Memories Part Two: My Taiwan Duty Assignment November 1968 - August 1969

Updated on April 23, 2020
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul served in the U.S. Navy from 1967-1971. He was stationed in Illinois, California, Texas, and on bases in Taiwan, Japan, and Maryland.

Flag of Taiwan, also Known as the Republic of China

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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. Before 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

Front gate of the Shulinkou Air Force Station where I was stationed.
Front gate of the Shulinkou Air Force Station where I was stationed. | Source

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 Songshan 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 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 Officer's 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 several 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

At the intersection of Chungshan N, Rd. Section 3 and Minchuan Rd looking east.
At the intersection of Chungshan N, Rd. Section 3 and Minchuan Rd looking east. | Source

Fushun Street in Taipei

My shipmates and I went to some of the clubs on the left side of the street.  Our favorite was the Mona Lisa which is in the extreme bottom left corner.
My shipmates and I went to some of the clubs on the left side of the street. Our favorite was the Mona Lisa which is in the extreme bottom left corner. | Source

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 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

4 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Taiwan Duty Assignment

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Jim, I enjoyed reading Catch 22 and especially liked the lead character Yossarian.

      I will check out asiasailor.com and contact you at your yahoo email

    • profile image

      Jim Valk 

      3 months ago

      The Sand Pebbles!! One of my favorite movies. I saw that before going to Taiwan, along with The World of Suzie Wong, another fav. They may have had a subliminal effect on choosing Taiwan. After all portions of the Sand Pebbles was filmed in Keelung. Another fav is Catch 22. Better book than movie.

      I can't say that I ever heard of the 'engineer'. I think there was a movement to promote the Major to Colonel.

      My email is a200user@yahoo.com. I would rather not have it posted on your hub page though.

      There is a website called http://asiasailor.com/. You have to register (free) to access anything. I don't know the guy, but there is a member/moderator there named Lee Thayer that shows his location as Pak Phanang, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. Sounds like a remote place.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I remember Keelung very well, Jim. When my buddies and I got sick of running bars in Taipei, we would either take a bus or taxi to run the bars next to Keelung harbor. On many a night, it was raining when we arrived. I liked the bars there because they were old and reminded me of the bars portrayed in the movie the Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen. Do you remember the Engineer? She specialized in erections just like the Major. Since retiring from teaching English in Bangkok in 2014, I have been living in Udonthani or Udorn which is in northeastern Thailand maybe 300 miles from Bangkok and only 65 km or less than 40 miles from the Laotian border. During the Vietnam War, Udorn had a base like LinKou that was called Ramasun. Some Chinese linguists were sent there and maybe it is a place where you could have gone. It is now a museum that is open to the general public! Please give me your email address.

    • profile image

      Jim Valk 

      3 months ago

      Paul,

      My first return trip to Taiwan as a civilian was in 1977. Things had already started to change. That was the year Shu Linkou shutdown. We went again in 1983. My wife went back in 1986 to see her mother for the last time. Then it was several years until after I retired when we went in 2011. We flew through Narita (Tokyo) on the Tuesday before the Sendai earthquake and tsunami. We stayed in Keelung where my sister-in-law's family maintains an apartment for visiting family. Keelung was put on a Tsunami alert, but where we stay is up in the hills a little southwest of that 'KEELUNG' sign that you can see from the harbor. It's not the most convenient place relative to Taipei and it's always raining in Keelung. In fact the locals call it the rainy city. My brother-in-law lives in Kaohsiung. He is a retired Commander in the ROC Navy. One of my wife's close friends is also from Kaohsiung. She married a guy that worked for Air America back in the day; he had some interesting stories, but passed a few years ago. We stayed with them for a few days when we went back in 2014. Our last trip was 2015. Every trip back we seem to get woke up by a minor trembler in the middle of the night. Still scares the crap out of me. We were planning a trip for next week. My wife wanted to take my son, daughter-in-law and 3 grandkids to see where grandma grew up, but this coronavirus threw a monkey wrench into those plans. Oh, and yes, I remember the Major's. It was on the unofficial Navy tour guide list of 'must see' places along with Beitou. So you are located in Thailand, hope you are safe and healthy.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Hi, Jim! I am very happy that you read my article and are now on Hubpages.

      Yes, we certainly were blessed to have had the experiences that we shared in Taiwan a half-century ago. I remember the China Night from 1969 and a young woman named Anna who worked there. Do you remember Major Betty? Since leaving Taiwan on March 1, 1970, I have been back many times and each time Taiwan had lost some of the magic it had when I was there with the Navy. After I got out, I lived in Kaohsiung and taught English there 1973-1979. I also was in Taiwan 84-85, 1990, 2005, 2010, and most recently in 2014. If you search through my Hubpages articles, you will see ones about my being in Kaohsiung in the 70s and also studying Chinese at Yangmingshan 1984-85. In the future, you will see articles about my experience in Taiwan in 1990 and 2005. Taiwan has lost its charm over the years and it is too much like an American city today. You can't go home again!

    • profile image

      Jim Valk 

      3 months ago

      Hey Paul, great read and exactly how I remembered it. I was a Navy CT(R) arriving at 'Linkou' at about the same hour of the afternoon as you did, except a few years later (Feb '71). I was a watch stander on that same 2-2-2-80 sched. At some point during my tour the watch standers convinced the powers to be that it would be better if we started our string with 2 day watches, then 2 mids, and ended the string with 2 eve watches. Nothing better than catching the last bus down the hill after that second eve watch for a 3 day party. I recall the Mona Lisa still being there, but I hung out mostly at the Kings Club (adjacent to the Kings Hotel) the China Night, ABC, Imperial, Napoleon, Queens … well there were at least 44 clubs within a square mile. I remember walking into the China Night on my first evening in Taipei and saying to myself, 'this is going to be a great 15 months'. I volunteered for a TAD to NAVCOMSTA Phil, and Det Bravo Phu-bai. Only got to spend a few months in the P.I. (May-June '71) before things started winding down in Vietnam and got sent back to Shu Linkou. R&R flights into Taipei ended shortly after that. The day after I got back from the P.I. I ran into a local gal I knew and took her to a movie. We've been together ever since. I was offered a 6 month early out too, but I turned it down. Been back to Taipei several times. You wouldn't recognize it; clean, modern, but to tell you the truth, I liked it better the way it was back in the day.

      Coincidentally, I was there with Glen Nelson who commented below.

      Looking back at it all, I can't believe how blessed we were to have had those experiences.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      19 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Glen, your Navy experience is very similar to mine. I only had a 15-month tour to Taiwan which was cut short by an almost 5-month TAD to Japan. After that, it was to Fort Meade for the last nine months where I hated it. I got almost a 6 month early out.

    • profile image

      Glen Nelson 

      19 months ago

      I got to LinKou October 1970. I was 19. What a place for someone full of testostorne - I enjoyed my tour except it was interrupted for 4 months for a TAD to the Philippines - girls not as good looking but just as open. I loved the P.I. because it was not as stuffed shirt as Taiwan. I am from Tennessee. I should sue to government for sending me to Asia for such a short time. A 4 year tour would have been better. They sent me to Northwest, Virginia after LinKou. No wonder I did not stay in..

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I'm extremely happy you enjoyed reading about my service assignments. When I think about my mom and dad, I wish they would have written some memoirs before they passed away.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Peggy, I'm happy you liked this hub and found it interesting. I will be writing more with my next hub accounting for my last five weeks stationed on Taiwan. Thanks for the up votes and sharing this hub!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Sharing your Navy memories is a great way to document your service assignments and provide a clear history for your family to enjoy. How I wish my Dad had written out his memories of WWII and his twenty plus year service career. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is very interesting Paul learning about how it was for you while in service during those turbulent times of the 60's. Being a linguist definitely kept you out of the more dangerous places like Vietnam. Looking forward to reading more. Up votes and sharing.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Au fait, I am very pleased that you found this hub a wonderful memoir. I tried to tell the story as it was, but I'm sure a few of the facts are a little off or incorrect. Yes, when I eventually write the story of my life, I will seriously consider publishing it on Amazon/Kindle. Thanks for the votes, pinning, and sharing with followers. I hope you like my recently published Part three as well as Part two.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      What a wonderful memoir! I love that you don't seem to leave anything out, and tell it like it is (was). I think this will be a great history piece for your children/grandchildren, and I think if you plan to write more you should seriously consider publishing the works when they're all done, in a book on Amazon/Kindle.

      Voting this up and BAUI, pinning to Amazing HubPages, and sharing with followers.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Mary, I'm extremely happy that you found this hub very interesting. Other than Vietnam, there were a lot of really great assignments in the Far East in the 60s and 70s. My experiences in Japan weren't nearly as exciting as those in Taiwan. Thanks for voting this hub up!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Very interesting Paul. We think all duty assignments for service men are horrible, however, when they go overseas things are much different as you've pointed out. Can't wait to see what happens in Japan.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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