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Taiwan Memories of the Early 1970s

Paul lived in Taiwan for almost all of the1970s. He was in Taipei 1970-71 and spent 1973-79 living and working in Kaohsiung.

Taiwan Memories of the Early 1970s

Front of Taipei Songshan International Airport in 1973

Front of Taipei Songshan International Airport in 1973

The early 1970s was an exciting and crossroads period of my life. In the third week of January 1970, I had just returned to Taiwan after a five-month TDY to Southern Japan. Before my scheduled departure back to the U.S. on March 1, I only had about five weeks to enjoy Taiwan.

At that time, I was with the Navy and stationed at Shulinkou Airforce Base in the mountains outside of Taipei. My non-duty time was mostly spent in Taipei on Chungshan North Rd. Section three in the area of U.S. bases, support activities, and Taiwanese local bars, clubs, and restaurants.

After I was separated from the Navy in January 1971, I returned to Taipei and lived there for five months until June.

My final return to Taiwan was in May 1973 when I married a Taiwanese.

From 1970-73, I passed through Taipei Songshan International Airport five times. I also spent a lot of time on Chungshan N. Road.

In February 1970, I made two trips around Taiwan. The first was to Hualian and then via the East-West Cross-island Highway to Taichung and then back to Taipei. The second excursion was down the island to Taichung, Changhua, Tainan, and Kaohsiung.

I recall each of these memories in this article.

Taipei Songshan International Airport

Inside of Songshan Airport around 1970

Inside of Songshan Airport around 1970

Taipei Songshan International Airport is situated in the northeastern part of Taipei City on 182 hectares (450 acres.) It is about five kilometers from the intersection of Chungshan N. Rd., Section 3, and Minchuan E. Rd. This formerly was near the center of United States military installations from 1950-1977.

Songshan Airport was built in 1936 during the Japanese occupation 1895-1945. In 1946, it was taken over by the China Air Force. Civilian use of the airport began in 1950.

In the early 1970s, Songshan Airport served as Taipei's only domestic, international, and military airport. It had international flights to Seoul, Tokyo, Manila, and Hawaii. Air America flights from Vietnam transported American GIs to Taipei for R and Rs.

After Taoyuan International Airport opened on February 26, 1979, Songshan Airport to this day handles all domestic flights and some international flights to Seoul, Tokyo, and select cities in China.

In 1970-73, I passed through Taipei Songshan International Airport five times. Each time I experienced different degrees of happiness and sadness.

During the third week of January 1970, I arrived on a military flight from Japan. I had just completed a five-month TDY with the Navy in Japan. It was a long flight from an airfield on Kyushu because we stopped at Tachikawa Airport near Tokyo and Okinawa before finally touching down at Songshan. I had missed Taiwan so much during my Japan stay that I almost kissed the tarmac after deplaning.

Two months later, on March 1, 1970, I departed Songshan with sadness having ended my tour of duty in Taiwan. I knew I was going to miss my shipmates, girlfriend, and good times in Taiwan.

In the last week of January 1971, I passed through Songshan Airport again. This time I was extremely happy because I knew my Taiwanese girlfriend would be meeting me. When I arrived at mid-day, Susan and my friend's girlfriend were waiting for me. I was in heaven again.

A few months later, when I passed through Songshan again, I was heart-broken and headed back to the United States. Susan had decided not to marry me.

My next-to-last pass through Songshan Airport was at the end of May 1973. This time I was returning to Taiwan to get married to a Taiwanese. After I deplaned and made it into the arrivals hall, Mona was waiting and gave me the most passionate kiss of my life.

Finally, at end of January 1974, I passed through Songshan Airport again to board a domestic China Airlines flight to Kaohsiung. Mona was close to childbirth and I remember carrying her up the stairs and onto the airplane.

Planes on the tarmac of Songshan Airport in 1973.

Planes on the tarmac of Songshan Airport in 1973.

1970 Map of Taipei

1970 Map of Taipei

The MAAG HSA West Gate on Chung Shan North Rd. Section Three

Outside West Gate of the MAAG HSA

Outside West Gate of the MAAG HSA

The Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Head Support Activity (HSA) West Gate on Chung Shan N. Road, Section Three will always have a special place in my heart. MAAG had its beginning on May 1, 1951, when five officers of the U.S. Armed Forces arrived in Taiwan to establish it for the Republic of China (R.O.C.) on Taiwan.

Led by Major General William C. Chase, MAAG was instrumental in surveying the military situation of R.O.C. evacuated from mainland China in 1949. It also recognized the need for modernizing the weaponry, training, and organization of R.O.C. forces.

By August 1955, there were 2,347 MAAG personnel in Taiwan. As the R.O.C. modernized weaponry and upgraded its training, the number of MAAG personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force decreased to 800 in 1966.

MAAG worked hand-in-hand with the Taiwan Defense Command and Taipei Air Station.

During the Vietnam War from 1965-1975, the U.S. military presence all around Taiwan increased to a maximum of 30,000 in 1969.

To support the American troops in and around Taipei, such establishments as a Base Exchange (P.X.,) Commissary, military clubs, a movie theater, and a bowling alley were constructed on Chung Shan North Road Section Three 200-300 meters north of the Chung Shan Road and Minchuan Road intersection.

I was most familiar with the MAAG Head Support Activity (HSA) West Gate and Compound on the left side of Chung Shan North Road. This was a previous site for Taipei Air Station.

While stationed at Shu Lin Kou Air Force Base outside of Taipei until March 1, 1970, I would often ride a military shuttle bus between Shu Lin Kou and the MAAG HSA West Gate and Compound. The bus always stopped in front of the chapel just inside the Gate.

After getting off the bus, I was free to use the P.X., Commissary, and other support activities inside the HSA East Gate Compound right across Chung Shan Road. I could also frequent military clubs or walk up to the bar and club district near the intersection of Chung Shan and Minchuan Roads.

While living in Taiwan as a civilian from January-May 1971, I shared an apartment in a northern Taipei suburb with a former Shu Lin Kou Navy roommate. He was still in the Navy at that time working at the Taiwan Defense Command. Accompanied by my buddy, I was allowed to enter the HSA West Compound and use its snack bar and bowling alley.

Chung Shan N. Rd. Sect. 3 Bar area. Taken around 1970

Chung Shan N. Rd. Sect. 3 Bar area. Taken around 1970

Mona Lisa Club on Fushun St. was my favorite hangout.  Taken around 1969

Mona Lisa Club on Fushun St. was my favorite hangout. Taken around 1969

Travel Outside of Taipei Around Taiwan -- February 1970

During my leave time from February 15-29, 1970, I made two trips around Taiwan. The first was a two-day jaunt from Taipei to Hualien and then cross-island to Taichung before returning to Taipei. The second was a four-day journey down to Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Each trip is remembered below.

Taipei to Hualien and then Cross-island to Taichung

Entrance to Taroko Gorge and East-West Cross-island Highway

Entrance to Taroko Gorge and East-West Cross-island Highway

My first trip was around northern and central Taiwan by way of Su-ao, Hualien, across the mountains to Taichung, and then back to Taipei.

Accompanied by my best friend Rick, I made this journey around February 15-16. The trip was broken up into three parts. The first leg was a 72-kilometer km train ride from Taipei to Su-ao. The second was a 86 km bus ride from Su-ao to Hualien, The final part was a 300 km bus ride from Hualien through Taroko Gorge and the central mountains to Taichung.

I remember that we departed Taipei on a slow-moving local train about mid-morning. There weren't enough seats so Rick and I wound up standing in a crowded car for at least three hours. Fortunately, it was the cool rainy season.

After arriving in Su-ao, we boarded a bus for the trip to Hualien. Although we traveled on a one-lane mountain cliff road for most of the journey, I have no memory of the bus ride.

Early in the evening, we arrived in the eastern city of Hualien. There was a hotel near the bus station so we put up for the night there. As I registered at the front desk, the hotel manager gave me a hotel business card that had printed on it, "Welcome anti-Communist warrior to Taiwan." He also asked if I wanted a lady for the night. I wasn't too tired for that and also thought that the female companionship would help keep me warm during the night.

At about seven the next morning, Rick and I had a light breakfast before finding a bus going across the mountains to Taichung. I think it was a tour bus because it made stops at the Ta Ro Ko Gorge and TianHsiang before crossing the mountains to our Taichung City destination.

The only thing I clearly remember about this travel was eating some bad-tasting Chinese meat-filled steamed buns at TianHsiang. When Rick told me that a Chinese customer was complaining about rat meat being in the buns, I almost passed out.

After getting to Taichung late in the afternoon, we boarded a train back to Taipei, I cannot recall any of these details.

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge

Down Island Trip to Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung

After getting back to Taipei from the Hualien and Taroko Gorge trip, I made my second trip around February 20. It was a four-day journey from Taipei to Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung before returning to Taipei. Traveling alone, I had decided to break my trip up into three parts. I would spend approximately one day each in the three cities before using the fourth day to take the long train ride back to Taipei.

On day one, I took a three-hour limited express morning train from Taipei to Taichung. Having found a hotel near the train station, I set out for the Taichung City western bar district. I quickly found it and had a western meal in one of the restaurants on Wuchang Street.

It was almost mid-afternoon when I started going into some of the Taiwanese-run bars. They weren't very crowded and by early evening I met a cute young bar hostess named Angie. She kept me company for a number of hours until I left her bar and took her back to my hotel. Since I had been drinking too much, I couldn't remember where my hotel was. I stumbled around for about a half-hour with Angie before finally finding the hotel.

The next morning, Angie insisted that we take a taxi to the small nearby city Changhua to see the Big Buddha at Baguashan. We had a great time before I decided that I wanted to leave Taichung alone and go down to Tainan City.

After lunch, I checked out of my hotel , got on a train, and was down to Tainan in less than two hours. Unfortunately, Tainan did not have the nightlife that Taichung had. When I checked into a hotel, the manager suggested that I go to Tainan Air Station run by Americans to find out about entertainment.

After getting to Taipei Air Station, I was advised to check out the old Dutch Fort and Amusement Park at An Ping. I went there in the afternoon and then had a quiet evening at my hotel.

On the third day, I headed for my final destination, the city of Kaohsiung. It was only an hour train ride away. My Kaohsiung hotel was right across from the train station on Wu Fu Road.

After checking in late morning, the hotel manager suggested that I take a taxi out to Dengching Lake to see some traditional Chinese pavilions and pagodas. My afternoon was spent at the Lake. That evening I found out that there was an entertainment district for westerners on Chi Hsien 3rd Road in the Yan Cheng District. After spending a little time at a U.S. Navy Club, I pawned my watch so that I would have enough money for female companionship that night.

Luckily, I had already purchased a train ticket for the next day back to Taipei. After a six-seven hour train ride on the fourth day, I arrived back in Taipei.

Big Buddha at BaGua Shan in Changhua.  taken in 1969

Big Buddha at BaGua Shan in Changhua. taken in 1969

Kaohsiung Yancheng District

Kaohsiung Yancheng District

Kaohsiung Yancheng District about 1970

Kaohsiung Yancheng District about 1970

Sources

  • Wikipedia
  • Taiwan Today 1966 article

© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 01, 2020:

Yes, I think Biden will be more accomodating with China. I am very happy you enjoyed reading about my Taiwan experience.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 01, 2020:

Although I live in Thailand now, Taiwan will always remain in my heart!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 01, 2020:

Join the Navy, Air Force, or Army. If I hadn't gone into the Navy, I never would have had any international travel.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 01, 2020:

Taiwan is a small island but still has interesting places to visit. It has changed very much in the past 50 years

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 30, 2020:

I am pleased you found my Taiwan article interesting.

MG Singh from UAE on November 30, 2020:

I have not been to Taiwan though visited China. Early 70's was a rosy time for Taiwan as the US was backing it but I am not sure the same commitment will stand with Biden as he wants accommodating with China. It was fascinating reading your experience about Taiwan

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on November 30, 2020:

I feel that once we have lived in Taiwan and learned to love the varied scenery and the people, it will remain in our hearts forever, probably including the typhoons and earthquakes that can cause such devastation. They have done so well through the pandemic, too.

Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on November 30, 2020:

Wow, I would love to travel internationally and experience even a day of what you did.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 30, 2020:

I enjoyed reading your interesting article and I would love to visit there. Your pictures are excellent also, Paul. What a wonderful time in your life.

Liz Westwood from UK on November 30, 2020:

This is an interesting account of your times in Taiwan. It crops up periodically in the news in the UK and 'Made in Taiwan' is sometimes seen on plastic items. It is fascinating to read about your experience there.