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.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

THUMP! August 11, 1969, Taipei, Taiwan

Many of us have just been cruising along in our automobiles when, suddenly, there will be something or someone who makes contact with the front or side of our car.

It happened a couple of times to me as a teenager. Once, I took out a friend's dog as he was running loose when......THUMP!  I called to apologize about killing a dog that was running off-leash since I still felt badly.

My brother had a deer plastered all over his windshield and driver's door after the thing tried to beat traffic on the interstate during the afternoon, but....... THUMP!

With insurance taking the sting away financially, we get over these encounters. However, if you have ever struck a pedestrian, the.......THUMP.......stays with you forever. This happened to me Monday, August 11, 1969.

The date was easy to recall, because my wife had left Taiwan after her year was up on Friday, August 8, 1969.

So, after almost a year of living and working in paradise, I spent the rest of August dealing with the ramifications of a......THUMP!

Sorry for using the letter "I" so much, but this was a very personal experiience and sometimes word substitutes don't capture the mood.

Fortunately, our 1968 Toyota Corolla was built close to the ground and was considered a compact car. It had 1100 cc of screaming 4 cylinder power. 

Still, we had signed a contract in 1968 to sell it before I left the island on September 1, 1969. The laws then did not allow ROC citizens to purchase and import a new automobile.

So, those who could afford it had to pay a 100% sales tax on vehicles that were used. The price of the car alone was simply doubled to satisfy the government.

The Lincoln in front of ours in the above picture went for several thousand dollars as it, and Cadillacs, were the cars of choice for the rich folks. They were almost always painted black and had a venetian blind covering the back window.

Still, after driving our car for a year, we were contracted to sell it for the purchase price of $1400. This was a sweetheart deal for us until.............THUMP!

Picture yourself standing in front of the car, facing the windshield.

Then imagine this vehicle coming at you, brakes locked and screeching, closing in at about 35 mph.

The $100 paid for full-coverage auto insurance then became all-important.
Photo by Gary Wilson; Courtesy of

This certainly appears to be the road we took going down from Grass Mountain to Taipei on that Monday. 
There were 3 other guys in the car with me. We were headed for the Signal Compound to begin processing out.

As I made the turn at the curve, there, about 50 yards ahead of me on the road, was a woman.

She was standing with her back to me, feet on the middle stripe, talking to people on the left side of the road.

It's one of those situations when, in a fraction of a second, you realize that something terrible was about to happen.

Card photo courtesy of Mike Aschoff

Should I floor it and hope she doesn't move, OR, should I blow the horn and hope she stands still or jumps to the left side of the road stripe.

Well, I blew the horn, she looked at me and started to sprint to the other side of the road.

You know how they tell you how much ground you cover at various speeds before even touching the brake?

Slamming on the brakes, THUMP! We hit her at waist level and she was attached to the car as we slid to the side of the road.

At that point, the car stopped and she tumbled to the pavement right in front of the local police station. Getting out of the car, I knew she was dead.

In fact, I was told several times that it would have been better for me legally, if she had died right there.

Card photo courtesy of Mke Aschoff

Well, she didn't die. Her stocky build and short stature must have saved her. I don't know where Mike got the STRATCOM accident card above or the general accident card above it.

I could have used either one. Instead we stood there for about an hour until the MPs showed up. She moaned, we watched. She moaned some more and we watched. Nobody did anything to help her.

Finally, the policeman finished lunch and came out to see what all the fuss was about. After that, a taxi was flagged down and she was loaded into it and, I hoped, was off to a hospital.

Man, I could really have used one of those cards, but I'd never seen one. Neither had anyone else on the hill.

So, I was read my Miranda Rights and remained silent. That particular law had only been around since 1966, but now I began to feel like a criminal.

Only the hood of the car had any major damage as it was caved in, forming a "V" from the THUMP!

So, back to Grass Mountain we went. One of the guys had asked at the scene what I wanted him to tell the MPs.

I suggested that he might try telling the truth. Apparently, that was contrary to his usual method of explanation.

Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng via

Our NCOIC was already ticked when we left at noon since we were leaving the group short-handed. Now, this!  In other words, "Crum, how could you do this to me?"

Thanks for the support, Sarg. How about coming with me to the hospital. He had no choice.

By now, the lines of communication between us and the military police office in the West Compound was established. I was given her name which was quickly written down.

Then the hospital where she was taken was given to me as well as its location. It was the Veterans General Hospital in Pei Tou on Shi Pei Road.

So, off we went in the car with a slip of paper and a sack of fruit which was considered a showing of peace for her. Someone who knew lived with a local gal told me this.

When arriving, the picture above is how the hospital appeared to me. I just knew that the woman was there, somewhere.

Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng, via

Finally, the main administrative building was pointed out. In we went, expecting to quickly find her location. A bad day was going to get worse.

Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng, via

I don't know if the picture above is that of the lobby inside the main administrative building.  I was only in it once, so let's say it was. 

The main thing is that no one seemed to speak English.  I kept waving my little sheet of paper around with the woman's name on it, but it was about 3 p.m. and everyone seemed busy. 

Finally, a doctor who spoke English stopped and read my note.  He then asked if the person was a man or woman. 

That is when I realized that not only did last name come first, but names were sometimes used by both sexes. 

I pantomimed, without trying to be disrespectful that we were looking for a woman.  

After getting that straightened out, we went to the receptionist's desk. She gave us the building number and room where she was..  

Photo courtesy of Victor W. Cheng via

Her room was in one of the eight or so multi-story buildings on the hospital's campus.  I drove slowly around until her building number appeared. 

 I parked the car and entered the building along with the sergeant. 

We were escorted to her room where she lay in her hospital bed, moaning.  A doctor came in and showed me her x-rays, like I was going to read them like a radiologist.

He pointed out 5 fractures of her pelvis and threw in for my knowledge that she may never walk again.  I remembered my Miranda Rights and still remained silent. 

Photo courtesy of

The next morning I went to the West Compound wanting to talk with a JAG Army lawyer at the PMO Office.  Fortunately, he had talked to us about processing out a few days before, so I knew his face and his office.  

I asked why I was read the Miranda Rights and he assured me that it was the law and not to be too upset about it.  After that, I gave my statement to one of the MPs.  

Then I decided to go out to the hospital.  This time she seemed in better spirits until she saw me.  She then began to groan and cry. 

She had a 24 hour nurse which I assumed was due to the fact that I was an American soldier.  That was the last that I saw of her.   

Since it was two weeks before we were to leave the island, I had a lot to do.  First, I contacted the insurance agent south of the East Compound and wrote an accident report. 

I knew we had full coverage and was not concerned about her injuries being covered. 

Getting the car repaired was not a big deal.  The body shop was on the way to the Club 63.  I dropped the car off and some teenager went at the hood with a hammer and a body shaping tool.  

Kent Mathieu, who runs the Taipei Air Station blog, and I compared stories of our car accidents.

We found that both of us had our cars repaired at the same place.  The repairs took about a week which was fortunate as I was due to sell it around the 21st of August.  

Meanwhile, nobody would tell me if it was okay to keep processing out or whether there might be a court proceeding. 

My previous work at the Taipei Station on Grass Mountain once covered an Air Force officer whose car killed a woman when she ran from behind a bus.  

His penalty was converted into a fine in U.S. dollars.  He declined that settlement since he was in no way guilty.  He demanded a trial and was declared innocent.  

As for me, my previous career was in auto insurance which gave me the knowledge of what to do for myself.  I decided to visit the claims department at Taiwan Fire and Marine.   

I took a taxi down to the main office, met the Claims Supervisor and we began to talk about insurance. 

I mentioned the name of the company I had been with before being drafted and he began to talk about burglary and theft losses (-110%).  I listened politely. Then, he pulled my file.

Finally, I signed a Subrogation Agreement which gave T. F. and M. the right to settle the claim on my behalf.  My responsibilities for the accident victim were over legally. 

The car was fixed in time and the sale was completed in downtown Taipei around the 21st of August.  The THUMP! turned out to have been one of contributory negligence. Simply put, we both were at fault for some portions of the collision.

Later, I found that 2 points had been assessed to my Chinese driver's license since I had been speeding.  She received an admonition since she did not cross the road at a designated marked zone.  Case closed.

This is the new Veterans General Hospital as it appears today.  It has been rebuilt, but is still on the same road in the Beitou District. 

This might be near the original front entrance of the old hospital

As you can see, this is an up-to-date facility.


  1. The 7th image is indeed the lobby of the main administrative building. Please note the checkerboard floor.
    The 11th image is taken in front of where the the main administrative building used to be.
    The U.S. Naval Hospital next to the VGHTPE was built in the early 1960s.

  2. That must be why we had no trouble finding the Veteran's General Hospital--Very near the US Navy Hospital. Makes sense now. Tks, John

  3. This story reminds me of a novel and also a movie in Taiwan, The Taste of Apples. In the movie, the wounded local is sent to the U.S. Naval Hospital.

    BTW, did I mention I was born and raised at the VGHTPE?

  4. Victor, Your life story would be an interesting read. I will look for the movie. John

  5. Clip of the movie.

    The ward in the scene is not the actual U.S. Naval Hospital. The hospital had been torn down when the movie was shot in the 1980s.