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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Taipei, Taiwan, Terminal Station, Grass Mountain, 1968-69

Tucked away in a corner of the Grass Mountain DCS Major Tape Relay was an area known to all of us as "the terminal." It was the center for all punched tape messages for Taipei coming and going. 

Theoretically, it was supposed to be as separate from the relay floor as any of the Air Force locations we served. In reality, terminal operators were actually involved with both Tech Control and the relay floor.

When we 16 arrived in June of 1968, we were split up into groups of 5 each. A few of us were fortunate enough to be assigned to the Taipei Terminal, where we really put to practice much of what we were trained for in signal school.

We prepared messages and sent them out to the relay floor. We received messages and printed them on rolls of mimeograph paper to be run off for whomever they were meant.

There were three teams working in the following rotation: Team A worked three days in a row from 08:00 to 20:00 local time. Then on day four,Team A came in at 20:00 hours and worked the next 3 days until 08:00. This was followed by three days off. Teams B and C did the same and the rotation was set.

The only non-draftee was quickly assigned to USTDC and worked banker's hours downtown. So, Baby-san, you certainly drew the long straw on this one!

The terminal had a Smith-Corona-Marchant/Kleinschmidt teletype which was attached to a printing punched tape reperforator. The reperforator also had attached to it a transmitter which sent messages we had prepared out to our receive station on the relay floor.

There was a monitor reel which made copies of all of our sent messages. Army security would keep us on our toes by randomly checking the rolls of tapes which were saved. 

In addition, there were also two printers, which were receive only, meaning no keyboard. One of these made a hard copy for our files and the other was for the mimeograph messages.

Taipei had a four-letter prefix which told routing equipment or personnel where to send the message. This routing indicator was RUAG. The terminal had a designated address of RUAGST.

All of our Air Force locations had a similar address. For instance, Tainan AFB had an address of RUAGTN. And so it went. It was easier to do than to describe.

This "address" allowed those working the receive bank to know the exact location to which a message would be sent.

Finally, all messages received from Taiwan locations or from the Univac 1004 ended with several blank lines, followed by the four letters, NNNN which meant "end of message."

This is the model ASR-28, made by the Teletype Corporation, which was the basic machine used for decades to follow. The teletype machines WE used had a Smith-Corona badge logo and had only three rows of keys.

All letters were in CAPS. Our teletype's numbers were on the top row when the shift key was used. Symbols and punctuation were basically on rows two and three.

The ASR-28 actually had round keys and an auxiliary row of keys at the top. This is how our Smith-Corona-Marchant/Kleinschmidt printed when connected to a transmitter, sending the message to the relay floor. We never saw one of these machines on this link.

The printer on the right looks like the ones we used in the terminal. They certainly made a racket when the cover was off. Other than that, they were heavy duty machines.

Most of this equipment was an upgrade from that which was being used during WWII and Korea. The company that made all of this equipment was the Teletype Corporation in Skokie, Illinois.

In 1930, the Bell System purchased the old Kleinschmidt Company and the name was rettained as Teletype Corporation. It was a division of Western Electric.

However, in 1931, Edward Kleinschmidt decided to restart his company and sell mainly to the military. The machinery itself was still made in the Chicago suburb.

In 1956, Smith-Corona-Marchant became the parent company of Kleinschmidt Laboraties. This was then part of the SCM Corporation.  Again, we didn't use this particular printer, but the various speeds will give you an idea of what we were dealing with.

Easily attached to the teletype machine was this tape reader. This transmitter was similar to what we used in the terminal.

When the message was complete, it was put in the reader and transmitted to the relay floor. A hard copy was made for our records.

Shown above is a composite of all the machinery for the ASR-28. Notice that the logo is the Teletype Corporation. 

Teletype Corporation, under ownership of Western Electric, competed with SCM/ Kleinschmidt. Teletype Corporation's machines were known as "Chicagos."

After searching for months and months, we found this picture of our Smith-Corona/Kleinschmidt equipment at the signal school at Fort Gordon. What we used may have been a fortified version of an already existing Kleinschmidt model.

The history of the teletype indicates that so many were produced during WWII and afterwards, that a huge surplus existed and was used during the Korean War, Vietnam and into the 1980s. 

The important thing is that the tape code used by all the services was the same and, although different, the machinery was compatible with what was being used in the Air Force and Navy.

Those of you who were STRATCOM Army teletype repairmen and service techs, please let us know exactly what equipment we used. 

Clicking on this picture will show you the military designation given to this SCM/ Kleinschmidt combination of teletypewriter and reperforator/transmitter.

Shown is a photo of a like new Smith-Corona/-Marchant/Kleinschmidt unit that Randy and Sherry Guttery had in a bedroom in Guam in 1974.  I commented on his dresser and he assured me that it was full of parts.

These folks are carrying on the teletype and radio communications history for all of us who are RTTY buffs. At the lower left, you can see a restored KSR-28.

So, what was under the hood certainly was a Kleinschmidt, with a skin that said Smith-Corona. If you want to see tedious, dedicated work restoring a Model 28, Click on Randy's website HERE.

Easily attached to the teletype, this printing reperforator knocked out the punched paper tape as we prepared messages for transmission.

Rolls of paper are shown beneath this equipment as well as rolls of paper tape on top of the teletype.

Again, this machinery looks similar to what we used. Funny how the rolls of paper tape and spools of copy paper have faded.

Actually typed during our training at Fort Gordon, this message was then run off on a printer during sending.

It was then sent home, so my wife and both sets of parents could see what we were doing.

It has been in our Taiwan scrapbook for over 40 years. Incidentally, this message, and all others, used the Murray Code.

Made by the National Band and Tag Company of Newport, Kentucky, this chicken toe punch was our low-tech tool. 

If a message couldn't be corrected easily at the terminal station or relay floor, we simply put thin, adhesive tape over the area to be corrected.

Then, the correct letters, numbers, and symbols would be punched into the tape using this punch. The size of the punches made coincided with holes already on the message.
If you have a dog, cat or any possible animal that can be tagged, then you may have bought it from National Band and Tag. They are still in business and going strong. Check their website at

We always heard that the Air Force went first class. They seemingly had the best quarters, mess halls and equipment.  This young guy in the 1980s is actually using an ASR-28 model that was described in the literature above.

Also, notice the 24-hour clock set to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) or Zulu time as used by the military. Using this time made it easier to understand when messages were actually composed, sent and received around the world.

Out there somewhere are thousands of folks who, being in the Air Force and Navy, received training similar to what the Army gave us at Ft. Gordon. Relations with our Air Force locations were very cordial.

The teletypes shown in these pictures are in a museum on a Navy ship and are actually under glass! 

Thanks go out to the following communications museums:,,,,, and

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grass Mountain, Taipei, Taiwan, Tape Relay, 1968-69

This is the official job title we attained after an 8-week training period at the Army's Southeastern Signal School at Ft. Gordon, GA, outside Augusta. 

We learned the alphabetic code for punched paper tape, typing on a military teletype machine, message composition, transmission, receiving, and a little cryptography. 

There were tests after each week. Graduation was at the main movie theater. 

We left with a MOS (military occupation specialty) of 72B. After a leave of one month, we all sixteen managed to show up at Ft. Lewis, Washington for deployment to Taiwan. 

When we arrived in early June, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy had less than a week to live. 

The relay center had too much equipment to describe. Rather, clicking on the THIS LINK will give you an excellent idea as to what tape relay center looked like. This is from our counterparts at Phu Lam in South Vietnam.

So, the essentials of a tape relay center were a receive bank, a send bank with a monitor reel for each location, and a message repair area.  This equipment and rolls and rolls of tape, gave us our nickname.

Frenchman Emile Baudot configured this code in the 1790s. There was no practical application for it until the turn of the 20th century. 

This is the original Baudot code. By the 1900s, American inventors began constructing equipment which could make a practical application of the code on punched paper tape.

Using the Murray code, this is how letters appeared on the paper tape we used.
These machines are somewhat similar to what we used.

When this machine was installed in the relay center, a bottleneck was eliminated. When we arrived in June of 1968, all messages sent and received were, at most, 100 words per minute.

The Univac, we were assured, sent and received punched paper tape messages from Clark AFB in the Philippines at 1000 wpm.

This allowed us to switch from 3 teams working 12 hour shifts to 4 teams working 8 hour shifts. Checked once a week by Sperry Rand reps, the machine seldom malfunctioned.

Do any relay guys remember the twin DTS machines which ended up in the Signal Compound warehouse? 

This plug board was the last Univac model without an internal hard drive. These spaghetti plugs were quite colorful.

The reps from Sperry Rand were glad to show us this board as they checked for tightness and then ran tests off-line.  It had just a few kb of RAM.

This is as close to our relay station as could be found. Most photos of the Navy and Air Force relays didn't have the exact equipment we had.

Grass Mountain relay was at least 4 times larger than the picture shown.

Before the Vietnam War, civilians with a security clearance ran this relay in Hawaii. At 100 wpm, messages would accumulate quickly as shown here.  

Stepping on the tape caused problems as did kinks in messages being sent.

We were called the Grass Mountain "Tape Apes" which was entirely appropriate in Taipei, Taiwan and around the world.

Once every 24 hour working day, all taped messages and chad (confetti) had to be gathered and burned. It was all considered classified material. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Grass Mountain, Taipei, Taiwan, 1969

Taken in August 1969, these pictures show the Grass Mountain facility from several different views.  Three of these have been added in September, 2011.

Gary Roske, who worked Tech Control at Grass and Gold Mountains contributed them. They are in the 1969-70 time frame.

The first picture is the classroom and office building along with what I think is the sewage plant in the background.

About 1/2 mile up a steep, narrow road, the site was carved from the side of a mountain.  Looking at the background, you can appreciate the beauty of the area. 

The equipment we had was state of the art.  Built like a fortress, the main building housed the punched paper tape relay, tech control and NARC (Non-Automatic Relay Center), and teletype repair. 

There were offices throughout the place, but most of us only saw a few rooms based on the need to know.

So, in early June of 1968, 16 of us became USASTRATCOM Long Lines Battalion members.  We had a home for the next 15 months, at least. 

*Since this was first posted, Dan Tsuhako, who was with Carrier Microwave in Taipei from 1967-1970,  identified this building as the power plant. So, now the question is what happened to the sewage?

The classroom building is plainly visible at the right. There were offices in the building as well. 

Servicemen on TDY from Southeast Asia honed their skills in the classroom. They stayed in hotels in Taipei and were transported to and from work by the Army bus.  

There was a General Court Martial held in the main classroom. Three STRATCOM soldiers were found guilty of assaulting a soldier on R and R in Taipei.

Windows were papered over, and guards were posted outside the doors. They were all found guilty.

Upon entering the main building, we were given our ID tag by the MP. We then went to our work stations. 

We at DCS major tape relay were at the extreme back end of the building. We served all the Air Force locations on the island. 

A large glass wall separated us from Tech Control. Further up the hall was NARC which used punched cards to send and receive messages.

All of these pictures were taken about 06:00, Taipei time. I witnessed the MP from our building and a Chinese Army guard from his barracks appear at the same time for the raising of the flags.

They saluted each other, then ran their respective country's flag up the pole. They each secured the rope, saluted each other again, and the day officially began. 

Photo by, and courtesy of, Gary Roske

The day shift at Grass Mountain always filled the main parking lot with cars jockeying for a good parking spot. 

Some vehicles parked at the side would be waiting for a soldier when the shift ended.

Blown up from the panorama collage, you can see how the main road at the front gate looked.

The perimeter of the entire place was enclosed by a chain link fence with a few strands of barbed wire at the top.

The guard shack looks pretty forlorn, but it wasn't used much as our ROC Army friends spent most of the day shift on their feet.

The vapor lamps that lit the place up at night are visible. They were also placed around Grass Mountain's perimeter.

Notice how overgrown the vegetation was and how narrow the road outside was. No vehicles accidentally came up this road.

Photo by, and courtesy of, Gary Roske

Once a year we had to take a fitness test. This looks like the guys have made their way outside the main gate. The water plant is in the near background.

Up and to the left was Gold Mountain JOSS. There is evidence that the overseas switchboard building, called Gold Mountain, is still standing today somewhere nearby.

Photo by, and courtesy of, Gary Roske

This picture was taken on the tennis court which was on a hill overlooking the Grass Mountain work site. It looks like part of the training is taking place here.

The fence with barbed wire can be seen clearly. It surrounded the entire complex.

To me, this is an interesting picture. The flag raising ceremony had not yet taken place, but the ROC guard is ready.

The area by the tennis court/basketball hoops had a deep trench to carry away the sometimes monsoon downpours that fell during the rainy season.

Here, also, is the water treatment plant directly down the hill from where I was standing. We had a couple of 10-gallon jugs we would fill from an outside spigot of the classroom building.

Finally, the ROC barracks can be seen in the background.

On the far left is the back entrance road. If it had to be used, it was an emergency or else something couldn't be brought up to the main entrance.

It was a long ride down, possibly twice that of the main road. Travel was slow and the road was extremely narrow.

It descended into a neighborhood of white houses and the exit was south of the main road exit of JingShan Road and GeZhi Road.

I believe the back road down is now called ZhongYong Road.

You are looking at the first floor mess hall. The rest of the building consisted of the barracks on the first and second floors.

Most of us began living here after processing in. Later, many of us found other quarters. The barracks was a cheap place to live if you didn't mind the noise, bad beds and lack of privacy.

There was a mail room next to the mess hall. The detached day room, in the background, had a pool table, sports gear storage area and a barber shop. 

The mess honcho was on a budget and he worked it to his liking. No matter what brand of beer we ordered on our off hours, all that he ever seemed to have was Lucky Lager. Two of the waiters were Jones and Snuffy.

For the Chinese Army guards, this was good duty. Their barracks building was down the hill behind the classroom/TTY repair building.

After midnight, they had the Day Room to themselves. There, they were able to hone their pool playing skills.

This is a literal cut and paste of the entire site. On the far right is the main entrance gate, guarded by ROC soldiers. 

Directly down the hill from the tennis court was the water plant. Notice the tower which was pointed directly at 7-Star. The back entrance is at the extreme left of this panorama.