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.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The China Post Classified Ads, September 1, 1969

Before we left Taiwan after 15 months of active service, we had to wait a little longer because of engine problems on our Northwest jet at Taipei International.  Many of us went back to the Club 63 for dinner as repairs took a few hours.

That must have given me time to buy this issue of The China Post. We didn't have a subscription to this newspaper so it was definitely bought in Taipei on September 1, 1969..

The only reason this is even being brought up is that 10 hours and one International Date Line later we were in Fort Lewis, WA awaiting our orders for the next 4 years of our obligation.

I recently looked at my DD-214 and it was dated September 1, 1969.  That Date Line gave us another day, of course. Our reaction when we landed in Tokyo15 months earlier was along the lines of what was the date and local time.

Four years later, September 1 would become a pivotal day in my life.

Here's hoping some of the ads might awaken a few memories and a few smiles.

Did any of you read his dissertation?

Really fresh ham sandwiches

Note to Wu Chou: Competition drives down prices.

Corfam shoes and Banlon shirts--my wardrobe

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Some Of Us Read The Obituaries

We all have our hobbies and particular interests. One of mine happens to be reading some obituaries.It started as a daily event when we moved down here.

The counties along the west coast of Florida are packed with service veterans and their families. Almost daily there was an obit about a former member of the Armed Services.

Then, the word spread that of the WWII vets, some 1,000 were dying daily around the world. This increased the number of obituaries in our local newspaper.

They were from all branches, and names like Battle of the Bulge, Bataan Death March, and Iwo Jima would pop up frequently.

Below is a recent obituary of a WWII veteran. These are becoming less and less frequent as these groups of veterans are now near or in their nineties.

Obituaries, like funerals are for the living. Generally it's the living relatives of a veteran who writes the entry. Some are puffed up to exaggerate the person's life.

With that being said, the family of this man loved and respected him. The Taiwan connection is what got it on this blog.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Our Brush With Encryption

During the seventh week of signal school punched paper tape training at the USASESS at Ft. Gordon, GA, we entered an area surrounded by a chain link fence.

We had heard what was inside this enclosure, but now we found out. First, there was a sign inside the fence next to the buildings.

It read something like this----What You See Here, What You Do Here, When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here. And it wasn't Las Vegas!

So, for a week, we found out why we had a security clearance. For the majority of us, this would be the last time we used this equipment directly.

The history of encryption, decryption and cipher technology is more than expansive. Pictures and links will be shown throughout this post.

One of the most comprehensive websites for crypto machines is Jerry Proc's personal collection. Hours can be spent looking at his site by clicking HERE.

Another great site which encompasses the cipher machines of many different countries can be seen by clicking this  LINK.

The National Cryptologic Museum is in Fort Meade MD. To view its attractions, click HERE.

The Crypto Museum is also loaded. See it by clicking HERE.

To view a very intricate collection click HERE. 

The capture of the USS Pueblo in January of 1968 had great future significance for United States intelligence. Much of the encryption and decryption equipment was confiscated by the North Koreans.

This changed the future of American spy equipment and software. Of course, this was unknown to us in April of 1968 when we were finishing Signal School. 

The Pueblo incident can be read by clicking HERE.

Photo from

Inside the restricted area in Ft. Gordon, GA, you can see the teletypewriters and encryption equipment. What we learned was very basic. 

We used our regular teletype and had the encryption equipment plugged into it.

Then, we began typing basic script. Looking up at the printer, we saw five letters, followed by a space. And that's how it continued. We would see DYMQU FPZEY AGVLS HNPMI, for example.

The perforated tape also was in five letter code groups, followed by a space.

Then, we were instructed to type the encrypted encoded message. So, by typing the five letters in their groups, followed by a space, we decoded the message.

Again, we just knew the basics, not the technology. My friend and I typed the same letter over and over and never got a repeat of any letter groups.

During active duty, I saw several of these messages being sent through relay.

Word was that an encoded message could be hand delivered or even sent by mail in an envelope. As long as the date the message was shown, then it could be deciphered.

There was a sheet for each year with 365(6) number setups for the 6 rotors.

All of the pictures below came from one of the linked websites above. unless otherwise noted.

The workhorse of the Armed Forces during WWII was the M209 and its variations. Below are just a few pictures of this machine.

This pretty much shows why the M209 was so efficient. Lightweight, small, portable and sometimes battery powered only, it fit the bill on many different levels.

From the Crypto Museum, this version did not have a motor.

With the wheels removed, this shows the exposed M209.

Photo from

Here's another closeup of the spinning wheels removed from the M209.

With the lid open, and from a distance, the M209B was an impressive cipher machine.

Finally, the M209B is shown up close.

The Man From Dayton

During information gathering regarding cipher machinery, I came across a series of articles from the Dayton Daily News,  a famous Ohio newspaper.

During WWII, the U.S. government had almost total control over wages and prices. It also had the authority to convert factories and businesses to wartime production.

We may think of the sacrifices made by the military which are unparalleled. With that being said, this series was devoted to a man who was an engineer at NCR, the National Cash Register Company in Dayton.

After decades of silence about his and his company's role in code breaking during the war, an ailing Joe Desch was finally able to tell his daughter secrets that once took his emotional stability due to the circumstances.

To me, it's fascinating reading and shows the sacrifices all Americans made during WWII. To read this summation, click HERE.

A much more detailed view of the strain on a company, its engineers, scientists and employees, click HERE.

From the Crypto Museum

This is the famous American Bombe code breaking machine which helped crack the German Enigma codes and lessen German U-Boat effectiveness..

The British Bombe

The Allies had their own code breaking machines. In fact, it's fairly common knowledge, we discovered that the Japanese codes were broken before  the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Take a look at the British Bombe. Think of the heat from the tubes these machines produced. Click HERE.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The last week of our 8 week course toward becoming a Communications Center Specialist was devoted to learning Z Codes. This would be followed by a test, which was a weekly event.

Our orders for Taiwan, Korea, Germany and Vietnam had already been cut, so this was just playing out the string and awaiting graduation at the big movie theater.

Then it was off for a month's leave before reporting for duty. For us 16, the destination at the end of May was Fort Lewis, Washington. 

The theory behind Z Codes for teletype communications was simple enough. Not all messages received, resembled the original message sent from somewhere.

Power surges or outages, equipment malfunction, and acts of nature such as earth tremors could mess up a message before it was finally received and printed. 

There are hundreds of these Z codes and we are showing just a few. If you would like to see them all, click HERE.

If a message received and printed was flawed, then we had 3-letter codes, beginning with the letter Z which described the problem with the message received and suggested what the original sender might do to correct the situation.

Shown here are the codes which began with ZE. For most of us throughout the world, receiving a message that wasn't entirely legible meant one simple step.

We would reference the message in question and attach the code  ZES-2, which highly encouraged the original creator of the punched paper tape message to send it again. 

Most of the time this meant fishing the message from a bin and resending it the same day. Sometimes it required typing the whole thing over. 

One night my co-worker at the Taipei Terminal (RUAGST) on the midnight shift sent a message with the last paragraph left off. The next morning, after I had taken over the shift, in came a message with a Z Code foreign to me.

So the scramble began to find the Z code which explained that a corrected copy of the noted message was being sent. It was found, attached, and the retyped message was sent on its way.

It must have worked since nothing else came back. The front offic(ers) was/were happy.

Z codes, incidentally, are still in use, mainly in radio communications.

My thanks to our Canadian friends for compiling this distinctive collection shown here.

Just one more thing about Z Codes. Our signal school class was an unusual mixture of students. College grads, high school dropouts and everyone in between went through this eight week grind together.

Two guys were neck-and-neck through the first 7 weeks to determine the highest overall grade.

It came down to the Z Code test, with the higher of the two competitors named the top graduate and saluting Colonel Moran after walking to the middle of the stage at graduation.

The post band kept playing Watermelon Man as hundreds of us with various MOS designations filed in. Check out the song HERE.