USASTRATCOM

This blog was created for USASTRATCOM Long Lines Battalion Army personnel who served in Taiwan during the 1965-72 time frame. Specifically, those who lived and worked in and around Taipei are the target. If you worked at the Grass Mountain or Gold Mountain facilities or anywhere in downtown Taipei, we would like to hear from you. All are welcome to visit and contribute to this blog. Your comments and pictures are encouraged.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Gooodbye, Bonnie Beauty Salon; Taipei, Taiwan

This picture has been posted before, but now it means even more since the northeast corner of Chung Shan North Road and Min Chuan East Road is shown.  

We took this picture because there was a motorcycle accident in front of the bank.  Also shown is the Northwest Orient office on the corner and Bonnie Beauty Salon at the left.  

The buildings in this area stood for over 40 years after the Viet Nam War.  


Crowds gathered quickly back then and accidents like this one were far too frequent.

This picture was taken before the accident photo above.  Bonnie's place is on the left. 

It was a full service salon with manicure, pedicure, wigs and all the usual salon services provided by the friendly staff of males and females. 

They treated their American customers particularly well.


Pacific Stars and Stripes Sept. 1, 1969
As you can see, Mrs. Bonnie S. Ko was a one-stop business for all hair or hairless issues.  




Throughout the years, as has been said, this corner may have changed businesses, but the buildings stayed the same.

In fact, Starbucks has moved into the former Northwest Orient building.  The big change was inevitable since the buildings were so old and Taipei was becoming so modern. 

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu  

Everything behind Starbucks has come down with taller and stronger buildings on the way.

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu  

Fortunately for this blog, my friend Kent Mathieu is a frequent visitor to Taipei. 

He knows how much time we spent back in the late 60s and early 70s roaming around this intersection.  Thanks to Kent for keeping us consistently updated.


                                                   
 Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu 
No longer any motorcycle accidents, no more banks and, sadly, no more Bonnie Beauty Salon.  

Pin your hopes on Starbucks remaining on the corner.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Gold Mountain

When looking at the previous post those of us who are interested found that Gold Mountain is still in the same location as it was in the 1960s.  

Gary Roske tried to get closer to it, but was turned away by Army guards.  

A call went out from this blog to ask for help in finding the location of the tower in Gary's two pictures.  


To the rescue came Victor W. Cheng, who has been a follower of this blog since its inception in August of 2010. 


From the 1973 overhead photo of Grass Mountain, Victor was able to find the exact location of Gold Mountain.  

Just as I had been way off on the location of Grass Mountain, it took Victor's skill to home in on the place.  It is south and east of the Grass Mountain complex. 

  
All these years, my assumption was that it was north and east of Grass Mountain.  

Now, it makes much more sense as to why the operators at the Gold Mountain JOSS (Joint Overseas Switching System) lived and ate at the Grass Mountain barracks.  



Photo courtesy of Kent Mathiieu

Here again is the 1973 overhead photo of Grass Mountain with Mandarin characters written on it. 

An overhead shot of the Grass Mountain station shows the coordinates and the much improved road system around it.  


Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng

Also from 1973, you can see the Grass Mountain station in the upper left corner of this picture and the Gold Mountain relay at the lower right. 



Using the same photo as the one above, we have drawn a large marker on the road south of the Grass Mountain gate to the Gold Mountain building which is circled. 


Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng

This current photo indicates the relationship of both the Grass and Gold Mountain complexes. 

Just in case you missed the circled Gold Mountain station in the picture above, here it is again.









Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng

A zoomed in photo of Gold Mountain shows the facility more clearly.



Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng


To provide a modern day closeup of Gold Mountain, Victor has sent this picture.  Now you can see the tower that Gary Roske had shown in the two pictures of the previous post.


The official coordinates of Gold Mountain
The unofficial coordinates of the entire Gold Mountain area

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gold Mountain Lives! Taipei, Taiwan, 1967-2014

First of all, my apologies.  From the time that this blog began, your host assumed that Gold Mountain JOSS was no longer standing.  Nothing that was sent to the blog proved otherwise until now.  

Gary Roske, the first USASTRATCOM contributor had spent time at Gold and Grass Mountains.  Photos of the Gold Mountain microwave tower gave no indication as to where it was located in relationship to Grass Mountain.  

Now we have proof that it still stands although its location is still a little obscure and its microwave tower has changed from our military days. 


Photo courtesy of Gary Roske  

Waiting for their assignment to Taiwan are PFC Gary Roske at the far left and Dan DiThomas third from left.  They and their friends had recently graduated from Tech Control school at Ft. Monmouth, NJ. 



Photo courtesy of Gary Roske   

Here is Gary as a Sp5 at his Tien Mou home with his faithful dog.


Photo courtesy of Gary Roske  

Many servicemen sold American cars to other military men so that getting to work was made much easier.  Here is Dan working on his 1956 Chevy, making it purr like a kitten.


Photo courtesy of Gary and Amy Roske

A few decades later, Gary and Amy are shown here at a beautiful shoreline near their home.  Notice also their faithful dog. 


Photo courtesy of Gary Roske  

Wow!   Talk about moving up in class!  Here is Dan DiThomas, 45 years later with his Stutz automobile.  

These cars were very popular in the early 20th Century until the Great Depression closed down the plant.  Maybe one of the most famous Stutz was the Bearcat. 


Photo courtesy of Gary Roske

Shown here are Amy Roske and Mary DiThomas at what appears to be a registration table for a Stutz  car show in Stillwater, Minnesota.

 If nothing else, this blog helped get two friends reunited after many decades.  


Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu

Getting back to the 1970s, this photo shows the Grass Mountain complex as it looked in 1973.  The war was still on and the site was still being used as a microwave send/receive complex.  

I like this picture in particular since it shows the back gate road as it begins to wind down into the village.  

Dan, Gary and I had long before left Taiwan, but this picture indicates the road which may have lead to Gold Mountain.  I never saw the place and just assumed it was nearby. 



The present day overhead shot of the Grass Mountain complex and thee surrounding area demonstrates how much the entire area has changed. 




The orange line in the street was my understanding of the route taken by the men who worked at Gold Mountain.  I am counting on many Gold Mountain alums to set things straight. 


Photo courtesy of Gary Roske

Gary began a trek to the Gold Mountain site in 2014.  His goal was to get as close as he could to see just how much the place had changed. 

Photo courtesy of Gary Roske

This is as far as Gary got.  The Taiwanese Army guards were more than a little less friendly than Gary had hoped.  This is how the tower looks today which is much bigger than the Gold Mountain tower of the 1960s and 70s.  

I tried Google Earth in an attempt to try to find it.  From what the ruler indicated, the tower and site was at least one half mile away.  That would coincide with Gary saying that Army vans took them to and from work.  My calculations may be way off as well.



Friday, July 18, 2014

He Never Got The Chance To Grow Old

From the moment he took his first breath at birth, until the day some 22 years after when his life on earth ceased, he was a "Kenny." Some people have names that don't quite seem to fit.  

His name was perfect.  Everyone I know called him Kenny, even his teachers.  He had no enemies and always had a smile. 

As with other guys in our small Midwestern town, boys our age met each other by playing Little League baseball.  That was the case with Kenny and me.  We were both second sackers for our teams.  

We complemented each other in that he had a great glove and I had a decent bat.  That was the way it was for the next several years.  
 
 


It was 1962 and Elvis was still a big deal.  In our high school, most of us wore our hair very short.  Kenny Thornton chose a modified "DA" for his senior picture. 




Like many young men, Kenny joined the military right out of high school.  Nobody looks happy in their basic training photo, and his was no exception.  Through the eyes of an older person, he looks extremely young.


Kenny attained the rank of sergeant in the Marines after a couple of years.  By now, he was a grizzled veteran.  



This is information from the Virtual Wall found on the internet.  Think of where you were when you were 22.


There was a great deal of controversy over the Vietnam War Memorial.  One was the use of black granite, the plain design,  and the architect, Maya Lin.




A hometown memorial honoring the men who gave their lives stands in Shelby.


A Selfie On Grass Mountain

After our very first blog post in August, 2010, an Army Lieutenant Colonel introduced himself in a comment.  Thus began my correspondence with Scott Ellinger.  

Over the next three years, he provided me with many leads to information regarding the Grass Mountain area.  He also expanded on pictures and copy in some of the blog posts.  

After more than two decades with the Army, Scott retired and is now still living in Taiwan.

Picture by and of Scott Ellinger

Here is Scott stopping for a self-portrait in front of the road leading to the apartment we had rented over 40 years ago. 

Not only did he find our apartment, but Scott also found the Grass Mountain STRATCOM complex where many of us worked for 15 months or more.


Here is the Google Earth picture of the same background in the previous picture.  Scott talked his way past the guards and easily found where we had lived. 
On the left is our old apartment as it appears today.  On the right is a 1968 picture of our third floor apartment.  Thanks to Scott for the side by side photos. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I Think That I Shall Never See Another Building With So Many Trees

Before beginning this blog in 2010, I sent Kent Mathieu some photos, some of which he published in his blog, taipeiairstation.blogspot.com.

My photos of these two buildings eventually made it into this blog. They can be found in other Taipei military blogs and websites.

Over the years. Kent was kind enough to take several shots of these two buildings. Their longevity is in doubt.

Photo by Jack Hornbeck in the late 1960s.  Courtesy of Kent Mathieu.
This crisp picture of the Kings Hotel and the 77 Club building was taken on a sunny and clear day in Taipei.  

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu

In 2014, Kent took this picture of the same two buildings shown above.  The King's Hotel is now a bridal shop and the 77 Club building is a vacant.  

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu


Taken that same day, this photo shows the trees growing atop the 77 Club building.  Next to the building is a lane which led to the Monte Carlo Club. 

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu

Here you can really see the forest which has been sprouting for a long time.  This would indicate the future of the building as fairly short.  

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu


Taken from a different angle, not only do we see the two buildings shown above, but also the building which once housed the Pink Bar. 

Across the street stands the Shanghai Savings Bank which once was the Majestic Hotel.   

Photo courtesy of Kent Mathieu

Here is the entire SW corner and the view to the south.  That is not the old Central Hotel behind it.  It was demolished over a decade ago.  



Sunday, April 27, 2014

Before The Naval Hospital, Taipei Taiwan

So you are stationed in Taipei during the 1950s and early 1960s. Where did you go if you were sick or injured?


Photo courtesy of William Dawson




For those of us who were around the Taipei area during the Vietnam War, the thought of not having the Naval Hospital around never occurred.  

Built in the Tien Mou area in the mid-1960s, the facility was first rate and really took good care of not only men and women in the service, but also their dependents. 

An e-mail from William Dawson, who was the son of David and Jean Dawson, brought up an interesting take on primary health care for Americans in Taiwan after WW II and during the Korean War.  

William and his family lived near Grass Mountain, but not in BOT housing.  He became ill in 1960 and spent a couple of nights in the Grass Mountain Clinic shown above.  

His memory puts the clinic on the east side of the main drag near the movie theater and bowling alley.  If anyone out there remembers this clinic, please let us know.  

In case of a serious injury, illness and maternity needs, the folks around Taipei had MacKay Memorial Hospital to depend upon.  Still functioning, the location still remains in Section 2, Chung Shan North Road, Taipei.

Monday, April 7, 2014

We Laughed, We Cried, We Drank, We Didn't Re-Enlist: Taipei, Taiwan, 1969

Near the end of our 15 month standard tour of duty in Taiwan, we had to talk with the recruiter in case we  wanted to re-enlist for another go around, this time as Regular Army.

Honestly , my thoughts turned to staying in the Army and going to OCS school. I had talked with some officers who were thinking of making a career with the Army.


So, we filtered into the Signal Compound, east of the Commissary Compound. To his credit, the recruiting sergeant (E8) MSG respectfully went through the process of explaining re-enlisting. 


He knew the drill and may have been looking forward to his 20th year. So, to the Grass Mountain Hostel, with its graffitti filled walls we eventually gathered.




This again is the list of the sixteen of us who served their fifteen months in Taiwan.  Thinking back, a couple of them extended, but most of us left on a military contract flight with Northwest Orient on September 1, 1969.



There were advantages to us who worked the Taipei Terminal station.  One of them was proximity to the bulletin board where messages such as this became my property after a short length of time.  


I actually talked this guy who signed the form.  He lived in our apartment complex with his wife.  He had been a teacher, but indicated to me that remaining in the Army was financially more beneficial than teaching.  

Considering the subject matter, it is easy to see how short notes like this always reminded us how picky the military could be.  Check out his title.



This was the new military pay scale as it was revised in July of 1969. Including overseas pay, it was more than adequate for the single guys.



That is  Andy with his back to us. He was simply the best in every sense of the word. We all probably miss being around him, our leader and catalyst.


Photo by L. Andrew Savin


The guy holding the Schlitz bottle wasn't too jovial as word had not yet come down about the legal status of the incident where  he struck a woman with his car. THUMP!


Photo by L. Andrew Savin
As the crowd got smaller, things got a little raucous.  Who cared? We were "short!"


Photo by L. Andrew Savin



This would be about one week before we left Taiwan.  Most of the original sixteen who arrived in June of 1968 are pictured here.