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 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. 

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