USAFSS 6987TH SG, Shulinkou AS, Taipei, Taiwan

Detachment 1, 6925th Radio Squadron Mobile

Shu Lin Kou Air Station

1955 and 1956

"Across the Big Pond"

By Del Sylvester
Former Radio Traffic Analyst (20250)

Submitted 15 January 2005


 During the “early years” of Lin Kou’s existence some of the young enlisted men assigned to Formosa thought of their time in Nationalist China as an exotic adventure in the Orient rather than a hardship tour in a place the Chinese Communists threatened daily to invade and take by force. As we would be leaving the red mud and horrid living conditions of “the Hill” for the good old USA after 15-months, we tended to see the country from the eyes of a naïve visitor; and, in an idealistic sense, that of a protector. Although we could do little to change the rampant poverty or totalitarian form of government, we believed we could help the people in their choice of Chiang Kai-shek over Mao Ze-dong.

 This short story reflects the experiences and adventures of a 21-year old airman, born in South Dakota and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who had never been west of Lackland AFB, Texas, or outside the borders of the United States. The Philippine Islands, Formosa, Guam, Wake and Hawaii were far, far away places seen previously only through the lens of Movietone newsreel cameras reporting the violent and tragic events of World War II.

Getting to Linkou

 “Del, it’s time to go!” shouted my father. He reminded me that the 90-mile drive from our home on the south side of Milwaukee to Midway Airport in Chicago would take at least two hours and we could not be late. Mom and Dad wanted to arrive early so they could see the many different new commercial transport aircraft which were signaling the beginning of a new era in air travel. I was scheduled to fly aboard a DC-4 to San Francisco, California. Dad told me that two of my cousins went “across the pond” to France with the Army in World War II, but I was the first family member to go across the big pond. During World War II Dad always spoke of Nazi Germany and Europe being across the pond while Japan and Asia were across the big pond. That was his South Dakota farmer humor that we heard when we visited relatives in Madison, Elkton and Brookings. The 8,000 mile trip from Milwaukee to the 6925th Radio Group Mobile, Clark AB, Philippine Islands, across the big pond was beyond our collective imaginations.

It did not seem like I had been home that long since I had received my certificate of training on 8 April, 1955, from Major Goni: A/3C Delano J. Sylvester was a certified Apprentice Radio Traffic Analyst (20230), graduate of the USAFSS Cryptologic School, Kelly AFB, Texas, and was considered competent to perform the duties for which he was trained. My thirty days of leave before I was required to report in at Parks AFB, Pleasanton, California, the port of debarkation, was a whirlwind of activity: I visited Lakeview Lanes where I had stroked a 300 game and 756 series; Rhea Manufacturing where I had worked in the payroll department for four years; Bay View High School to see my beloved homeroom teacher, mentor and inspiration, Arthur Jerome Hickman; as well as all my good friends and buddies. I went to County Stadium several times to see Eddie Matthews, Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn and the rest of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team try again to win the National League pennant. Last but not least, I took care of my metallic gray, cherry-red interior, 4-door 1948 Mercury. Dad and I put it up on blocks in a garage that I had rented for $10 a month. Putting the car in storage rather than selling it would prove to be a mistake. I did not have a steady girlfriend so I was able to avoid the tearful good byes and promises of enduring faith. That was good because I was about to start an adventure that would last for over 40 years and take me to more than 50 countries in Asia, Europe and North Africa.

I boarded my TWA flight late in the morning on a beautiful mid-May day. The flight to San Francisco was slow and noisy. Typically, a DC-4 was powered by four 1500 hp piston driven Pratt & Whitney engines and bounced along at a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet and an airspeed of 210 mph -- if it had a good tailwind. Conversation or rest was difficult to get in flight because of the constant noise and vibration. I arrived at Parks AFB late in the evening which was fine because my travel orders said I had to be there by 2400 hours. Mission accomplished.

Two days later I found myself aboard a C-124 Globemaster headed for Hickam AB, Hawaii. Some mastermind had decided that rearward facing seats were safer in the event of a forced landing. I do not think so. It seemed odd to be winging my way across the big pond -- backwards. The Air Force, in its infinite wisdom, only scheduled the flight from California to Hawaii. Once there, we had to disembark and be processed again for the remainder of the trip. Brilliant. Suddenly, we had a two-day Hawaiian vacation before our flight would depart for Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines. With nothing to do and little money to resolve our dilemma, several of us decided to go to Waikiki Beach to watch the pretty girls and get a nice sun tan. A good plan turned bad when I feel asleep on the beach and got a wicked sun burn on my back, legs and the bottoms of my feet. Seeking medical attention from the military was not a good idea as one would likely get written up for something like destruction of government property or a self-inflicted wound. It was better to purchase over-the-counter medication and tough it out. Traveling aboard an aircraft to Clark Air Base was going to be more of a memory than an adventure.

Several days later after refueling stops at Wake and Guam, our flight arrived at Clark Air Base at about 2300 hours. Travel in dress blue wool uniforms was required as the calendar said it was spring. When the door to the aircraft was opened, we were greeted by humid, 90 degree heat. It clearly was the South Pacific weather we had all seen in the newsreels. By the time we bunked down, it was but a short time until morning. In-processing was not that bad but the fact that my security clearance was still in process was not good news. That meant I would have to report for duty to the petty detail unit every morning until my clearance came through. I might be mowing grass, moving earth and painting rocks for a long time.

The very first day of petty detail was worse than expected. A number of us were issued machetes to cut down elephant grass in classified areas of the antenna field where Filipino workers were not allowed to enter. This was not going to be good duty. After several days of whacking away at the elephant grass, opportunity for a better way of life presented itself in the form of volunteering for an assignment to a new Detachment being formed in Formosa. I became a Tennessee Volunteer on the spot and soon found myself near the flight line with my duffel bag and travel orders. I did not have to be in Formosa for nearly a week but decided to take a Space-A flight to Taipei as soon as possible. I was the only passenger aboard a C-47 “Gooney Bird” cargo flight. As no passenger seats were configured in the cargo compartment for this flight, my only choice was to sit on the floor opposite the loading door, lean against the side of the plane and secure the seat belt provided to me by the crew. The cargo was mostly mail, small postal packages and reconstituted milk in waxed paper cartons mixed with ice in 55 gallon drums, all headed to Detachment 1, 6925th at Lin Kou. Soon after the aircraft reached its cruising altitude I discovered that the metal floor on which I sat was much too cold. Consequently, I stood most of the flight to Taipei. The crew shared their coffee with me and gave me a box lunch. This was more of the adventure I was hoping to find.

The 700 mile flight to Taipei International Airport was uneventful. After landing, the pilot taxied to what he called the “military side” of the airfield and parked the plane near a Flying Tiger transport airplane. I remembered the World War II ”flying tigers” fighting the Japanese Army Air Force in their P-40, Warhawk aircraft, but I was surprised to see a commercial aircraft with those famous words painted in yellow on the fuselage. Shortly after the plane stopped and the engines were turned off, a GMC, deuce-and-a-half (2 ½ ton cargo capacity), 6x6 truck from Lin Kou Air Station approached the plane to receive the cargo of mail and milk. The Chinese driver and USAF airman did not expect a passenger. After a short discussion, they agreed to take me to the Orderly Room on “the Hill.“ I wondered what “the Hill” was. It sounded mysterious. The airman invited me to ride inside the cab with him and the driver. I failed to appreciate that this would be my first and last ride to or from Lin Kou in a seated position aboard a 6x6. Fold-down wooden benches were installed on each side of the truck bed. About 15-20 troops could sit if they choose. However, the ride was so rough that your bottom told you very quickly it was better to stand up and cushion the ride with flexed knees than to sit down. Lin Kou is about 10 miles northwest of Taipei as the crow flies or nearly 20 miles as the truck must go. We had to twist and turn through the city, bounce over rutted and potholed unpaved side roads, and go through a series of hairpin turn switchbacks to reach the base.

The drive through Taipei was a jaw dropping experience for a naïve 21-old Wisconsinite. All senses were subjected to the extremes. The binjo ditches (open sanitation sewer lines) provided an unforgettable smell, while hundreds of open coal fires from small smelters and cookers contributed to the smell and added a smoggy haze to the air. Nearly all written information was in kanji, which to me was like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Except for the buses, all motor vehicles I saw on the streets that day were either military or government. The airman sitting next to me explained that there were only a few taxies operating in Taipei. We did not see one that day. Thousands upon thousands of people were walking, riding bicycles or pedi-cabs. This mass of people together with cages of chickens, carts of fresh fish, and a multitude of other farm products added to the smell, noise and traffic. Men with powerful, overdeveloped legs pulled huge loads on large carts at a painfully slow pace down the streets. Was I watching a travel movie? It was a sight to behold! Our driver was convinced that only two items were necessary to plow through the dense traffic -- the gas pedal and constant blasts from the truck’s air horn. The brake pedal would not be needed until we hit the switchbacks on the steepest part of the drive up the mountain.

Everywhere was evidence of fifty years of Japanese occupation and Chinese Nationalist preparation to defend Formosa to the death or return to the mainland. Japanese Army concrete bunkers, pill boxes, and air raid shelters, along with a multitude of newly built and armed fortifications made it obvious this was a nation preparing itself for Armageddon. My guide explained to me that the Chinese military was very proud of its “defense in depth”. The Kuomintang government said they had seven lines of defense, which were impenetrable, beginning at the shoreline and extending to Taipei. Hitler thought the same of Fortress Europe protected by the Atlantic Wall, but the U.S. Army broke through those defenses in less than a day. Nationalist military and police presence was immediate and everywhere, from traffic control police at major street intersections to small military units on maneuvers and trucks towing field artillery outside the city. After the truck reached the countryside, we drove through hundreds of acres of rice fields being worked by young Chinese women. Soon after we left the rice fields we reached a small mountain stream. The bridge crossing this stream was closed as it was undergoing repair. The deuce-and-a-half truck easily crossed the 2-foot deep stream. Near the top of the mountain were acres of tea patches.

The Lay of the Land on the Hill

After a 45-minute drive we arrived at an eight-man tent identified as the Orderly Room. I thanked the young airman for the ride, grabbed my duffel bag and reported for duty. The First Sergeant’s representative was not pleased to see me as they had not yet received notification of my arrival from the 6925th Radio Group Mobile at Clark AB and my hand-carried orders had a NET (Not Earlier Than) reporting date which was several days in the future. I was instructed to bunk down in a tent with other Radio Traffic Analysts and Radio Intercept Operators, and they would show me what to do. His final words to me were, “Disappear for at least three days.”

As I had no duty requirements for the next three or four days, my options for disappearing were reduced to -- party early or party late either in Taipei or a nearby town. Since I had more than two months’ pay on me -- an A/3C with less than two years service earned $85.80 per month plus $8.00 per month overseas pay -- and at least three days to waste, I decided to pick both options. Before I could leave for “sin city,” I would first have to go to the Supply Room tent to obtain the necessities, set up my bunk and foot locker, and finally, become familiar with the layout of our tiny Air Station.

An off-duty airman, who was in the designated tent when I arrived, volunteered to show me the ropes. He took me to a supply tent for bedding, a mosquito net, a poncho raincoat and various other necessities needed for life at Detachment 1.

The simplest description of Lin Kou Air Station in those early days was nothing more than a series of eight-man tents pitched in a neat checkerboard pattern in the dust or mud of an abandoned World War II Japanese Army airfield. Tent city was interrupted only by an occasional permanent building, the antenna farm and the motor pool. Roads were where the trucks were driven, and sidewalks were the trails established by rubber-booted airman.

Personnel were assigned to tents by organization, rank and AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code). Radio Intercept Operators and Radio Traffic Analysts were housed closest to the Operations Center followed by the linguists, NCOs and officers. Support personnel were in tents closest to the Lin Kou Air Station main gate.

The latrine consisted solely of a soon to be infamous six-hole outhouse. This affair was placed inside, you guessed it, the ubiquitous eight-man squad tent. If you wanted privacy, this was not the place to be. Toilet paper was a scarce commodity. I was told that some of the airmen bought rolls of toilet paper in Taipei and made sure to have a roll with them whenever they trudged to this tent. I made a mental note of this.

My escort explained to me that other latrine facilities such as, showers, sinks, and water heaters were not available. Hot or even warm water was nothing more than a figment of the imagination, and running water was the subject of a joke (You will spill less water if you walk!) rather than an operating utility. A water well had not yet been drilled at the Air Station; all potable water was trucked to the base in small tankers towed by a GMC deuce-and-a-half truck. My guide informed me that, weather permitting, shaving was usually done outside as the lighting was better than that inside a tent. Tepid water, a sharp blade, a propped-up mirror and a few well chosen words was the routine. Because of these conditions, well-shaven faces, spit-polished boots and other items familiar to one at a well-established military base were in short supply on the Hill.

My new tour guide showed me the Lin Kou Mess Hall, which was under construction. The June to October typhoon season threatened to delay its completion. Currently, B rations meals were being served in the “field mess” (think of bivouac from basic training) which was located next to a flat bed trailer near the antenna farm. Two options existed for those not wanting to eat at the field mess: Taipei, which was expensive and time-consuming, or a C rations package. We hoped Mother Nature would not delay the scheduled opening of the mess hall.

In addition to the orderly room and supply tents, we had a tiny BX and a barber shop which was run by a local Chinese man. Very limited medical services were provided by a small dispensary that specialized in treatment of the various kinds of VD common to Formosa. If a serviceman became seriously ill or was badly injured, he was air-evacuated to Kadena AB, Okinawa, for hospitalization.

The only permanent buildings were the mess hall, two operations buildings and the communications center which was located in a trailer. Entrance to the operations area was through a security station in a small pill box-style building manned by the Air Police. Amenities such as a commissary, full service base exchange, recreation services, library, movie theater, Class VI Store, gas station, snack bar and such were simply not available. The Pacific Star & Stripes newspaper and magazines were available at the MAAG compound in Taipei but not on the Hill.

Adjacent to Lin Kou Air Station on the north side of the base was the Army Security Agency and a small contingent of Naval Security Group personnel. The NSG barracks was painted battleship gray and appropriately named the USS Neversail.

After I unpacked my duffel bag, made my bed, set up my foot locker and changed into civilian clothes, I was free to leave. I went to Taipei aboard a 6x6 bus with a USAFSS airman who had invited me to stay with him in his apartment which was within easy walking distance of the MAAG compound. Three days later I awoke in my bunk back at Lin Kou Air Station with all my money, a major hangover and no memory of what had happened.

Life on the Hill

In-processing was quick and efficient but my security clearance still was being processed. Again, I would have to report to the petty detail unit every morning until my clearance came through. I might be moving earth, cleaning, or doing other make-work tasks for several months until I could perform the job for which I had been trained. Mowing grass, painting rocks, buffing floors and such was not a possibility, as we had none of these appointments. It would be 3 ½ months until security clearances came through for about six of us, all RTAs and RIOs. No linguists were awaiting their security clearance.

The tent to which I was assigned had eight bunks housing both Radio Traffic Analysts and Radio Intercept Operators or “ditty chasers”. One other tent separated us from the urinal which was simply a pipe stuck in the ground with a large funnel taped to the top, inside of the pipe. The funnel improved the hit rate to about 75% under ideal conditions. Being close to the urinal was certainly an advantage when Mother Nature called; but it was also a distinct disadvantage due to the constant traffic, the loud talking of drunken airmen in the middle of the night, and the distinct odor.

The floor of our tent alternated between dust and mud, sometimes with a rivulet, dependent on the weather. Magic red bricks would never be laid in our tent, which was another good reason to shove off for Taipei or Keelung when off-duty for a day or longer. Two bare light bulbs provided a dim glimmer of yellow light. There were enough lumens available to find a bunk in the dark, but other than that, the light served no useful purpose. Mold was so pervasive that each morning there would be a nasty green coating over our brogans. That problem was resolved by purchasing a wardrobe cabinet and installing a 100 watt light bulb in it to reduce the humidity level inside the cabinet. That solution worked very well. Four of us shared the cost and used the cabinet for our shoes and uniforms. Rolling up the sides of the tent provided needed air conditioning and an opportunity to watch the heavens.

Chinese laborers provided most of the heavy labor at the Air Station, but a severe shortage of personnel and heavy equipment left many jobs undone. The petty detail unit was assigned tasks such as digging ditches, moving items from the supply tents to where needed, inventorying supplies and performing a myriad of other jobs when asked.

Items stored in the supply tents, in particular C rations, were inventoried on a regular basis. They were designated M, C, I by the U.S. Army for meals, combat, individual. Hundreds of cases of rations dated 1943 and 1944 were stored in the supply tents. I vaguely remembered from basic training that the shelf life of C rations was five years. These rations exceeded their maximum shelf life by at least seven years. “That’s close enough for government work,“ was our attitude at this and other situations we faced where reality clashed with government requirements.

One C rations package held three meals. Each meal had a canned meat item, a dessert such as pears or a pecan roll, crackers or cookies with a cheese or jam spread, or candy and an accessory packet containing cigarettes, matches, chewing gum, coffee, et cetera. The pears were quite good, but the same could not be said for the meat item. Although C rations were designed to be eaten cold in the field they were much better, or at least more palatable, if the meat portion was served hot. The cigarettes were always Lucky Strike or Camels. After 12 or 13 years in storage they had become so dry that a lit cigarette would provide but two or three puffs to the smoker. The rush of nicotine from the dry tobacco leaves was so strong that one became light headed after only a puff or two.

On one occasion our petty detail was asked to carefully inspect a nearly useless rhombic antenna. It seems that this particular antenna was not performing to expectations. At first glance the troublesome antenna looked exactly like all the others. Even after a close technical inspection, no discrepancies were uncovered. One of the Radio Intercept Operators suggested we measure each side of the rhombic antenna and compare the lengths to the drawings. Eureka! One of the antenna’s poles had been installed in the wrong place making two of the sides nearly ten feet shorter than designed. After the Chinese laborers corrected the problem the antenna worked as designed.

I believe it was typhoon Ida that hit Lin Kou Air Station in early June 1955. It was impossible to escape the wrath of this huge storm or to keep our home, the eight-man tent, both water tight and erect. We knew the effects of the wind and rain on our tents could not be defeated, only delayed. However, a reward could be provided to the brave occupants of the tent that held out the longest. A game was born. Whoever wanted to participate in the game had to provide an entry fee of $8 for their tent ($1 per person). Officers, NCOs and support unit personnel were not asked to participate. The winner of the pot would be the occupants of that tent which withstood the fury of the storm the longest without either tearing or collapsing. A partial collapse or small tear eliminated that tent from the competition. It was a test of skill to keep the tension on the lines to the stakes just right. Too tight and the tent might tear or the stakes might be pulled out of the ground. Too loose and the tent might collapse. An interesting problem that the occupants of the tent I was in failed to solve. Water damage to our clothes, shoes and other possessions was severe. But, worst than that was the damage to the mess hall which delayed its opening for a short time.

In June, the mess hall finally opened, and for the remainder of my 15-month tour, the food served was the subject of many conversations. References to brownies used as door stops and scrambled eggs with a green cast to them were typical. The coffee was good, but that was the beginning and end of dining hall highlights. During those early days, the Lin Kou Mess Hall was not a serious entry for any kind of award, let alone the prestigious Hennessy Trophy. Watching the Chinese drivers make a cup of coffee for themselves at the mess hall was amusing. Their recipe, which was made in a coffee cup placed upon a saucer, was ½ cup of milk or cream, ½ cup of coffee and several tablespoons of sugar stirred gently until the taste suited their palate. This light brown drink would overflow the cup and fill most of the saucer. In addition to drinking this mix, they would also eat the rock hard brownies by either dipping one into their coffee concoction until it became soft, then biting off a chunk or immersing the entire brownie in the drink and allowing it to soak until mushy. Then they would then consume the soft, mucky residue with a large spoon. An enterprising approach, to say the least.

One day when I was in the Orderly Room, a Chinese woman, who turned out to be a local Madam, came into the tent with a large green ledger tucked under her arm. She asked me the way to the First Sergeant’s office. I pointed to his desk. The “First Stud” waved her in and politely asked how he could be of assistance. She quickly related to him that certain airmen from Lin Kou Air Station were using the services of her ladies with a “buy now, pay later” option. The Madam had dutifully entered the charges for these unpaid services in her ledger and now wanted to know how she could collect the debts. Some named entries were for airmen assigned to Detachment 1, but most were for Joe Smith or some other fictional character. It was all the First Sergeant could do to hold back his laughter, but he controlled himself very well. He informed the Madam that it was not appropriate to charge for “perishable products” and it is unlikely that she would ever collect any of the charges entered in her ledger. She was not happy with the answer, but left without any further discussion.

As the targets for Chinese Nationalist Army artillery practice were northwest of our encampment, 75 mm and 105mm howitzer shells, and large bore mortar shells fired from weapons located southeast of us would pass directly over our base. I was amazed that on a cloudless day with a bright blue sky I could actually see the 105mm rounds as they passed overhead. These rounds were easily identifiable as they came over at a high velocity in a relatively low, flat trajectory, and spun in a tight spiral. Due to their small size and trajectory, 75mm rounds could not be seen. Mortar rounds were hard to spot due to the parabolic arc of their trajectory. When a mortar round was spotted, it passed overhead at a relatively low velocity and tended to wobble. All of this was interesting until a “short round” found the range to our latrine. The good news is it happened on a weekend when most of the troops were in Taipei. Fortunately, no one was near the outhouse when the errant round found its target.

In the fall of 1955, the now infamous six-hole outhouse and pipe-in-the-ground-urinal were replaced with a new latrine. Now we had sinks, mirrors, showers and slow running water. However, this unheated latrine building came without hot, or even warm water or flush toilets. Our six-hole outhouse had simply been replaced by two four-hole benches that faced each other inside the new latrine. Beneath each toilet was half of a 55 gallon barrel fitted with two sturdy handles. Periodically, a Chinese “honey bucket” truck, which looked like a small gasoline tanker truck, would pull up to the latrine. The driver and a laborer would open an outside door for each toilet, pull out the smelly receptacle and suck its contents into the truck’s tank using a large diameter hose. This arrangement permitted us to rid ourselves of that smelly mess without having to do much of anything. Showers were still a problem unless you did not mind taking a tepid shower in the late afternoon after a warm day or a cold shower otherwise. Most of us bathed using only a wet, soaped washcloth. We would only wash ourselves from the waist up at a sink and then wait until our next trip to Taipei to get a nice hot shower or bath. Shaving, using tepid or cold water remained unpleasant.

Entertainment on the Hill was usually of our own making, as structured recreation had not yet found its way to the backwaters of Formosa. Typically, someone would make a suggestion. If enough people joined in and we had the needed equipment (movie projector, cards, truck, et cetera) a game or outing was possible. That is how an afternoon at the beach happened. Ten or twelve of us loaded into a deuce-and-a-half truck and drove down to the ocean on the west side of the Hill. On our way to the ocean front we were able to see three of the seven lines of defense that the Chinese Nationalists had established. The most imposing were the concrete bunkers built into the face of the cliffs overlooking the shoreline. They were built during the Japanese occupation. The first line of defense, which was nothing more than a series of fox holes and slit trenches dug into the beach above the high water mark on the beach, appeared much less formidable. Swimming in salt water was not that great, particularly after the salt water dried on our bodies. A jellyfish invasion into our swimming area curtailed all water activities as we did not know if the jellyfish posed a danger. After an hour or two we headed back to Lin Kou. En route we spotted a large field full of watermelon plants. Hundreds and hundreds of ripe melons were there for the taking. We liberated a dozen or so of the best for an unplanned party to be held as soon as we reached the base. As we were leaving the edge of the farmer’s field our 6x6 truck nearly got stuck in mud that was deeper than the height of the tires. When we finally returned to Lin Kou the liberated watermelons tasted even sweeter.

As I mentioned earlier, we did not have a movie theater. However, on rare occasions someone would improvise and set up a walk-in, outside movie theater. A movie projector would be positioned on a tall table inside a temporary cover which protected the equipment from the rain. The movie screen was simply some wide boards nailed to two posts. Seating was a convenient place on the ground or a rock. A poncho raincoat was a handy accessory as it usually rained during these surprise showings. The few movies we saw were old black and white flicks and were appreciated as they were the only entertainment provided to us on the Hill. This was an early indication that better things were in the making for the troops of Lin Kou.

Poker, pinochle and acey-deucy, also known as “between the sheets” were the card games of choice for lower ranking airmen.

Double deck pinochle, with all the 9’s removed, was our favorite card game as it could be played at a leisurely pace, and the competition tended to be friendly. Not only could a game be paused at any time and resumed later, the financial risk was low. Pinochle was played for 50 cents a game and a penny a point. A game ended only when your team both won the bid and your total score reached or exceeded 500 points. That set of rules made for some interesting games.

Acey-deucy could be an expensive game to play; it was up to the player. A 25 cent ante for each round was added to the pot that remained from previous rounds. Each player was dealt two cards face up. The player whose turn it was could bet against any portion of the pot, or decline to bet, that the next card turned face up by the dealer would be between the two cards he had. Aces were high. The best possible hand was an ace and a deuce. However, should another ace or deuce be turned up by the dealer when he was betting with this holding, he lost, as that card was not “between the sheets.” All money lost went into the pot. At times the size of the pot exceeded several months’ pay for any of the players.

Poker could prove to be very expensive. As we played dealer’s choice, many of the hands produced powerful holdings on which little was won or lost because of the plethora of wild cards. Frequently, the dealer would choose three or four card draw with no wild cards. We were playing three card draw with nothing wild when a hand for the ages was dealt to three of us. The ante for this round was 25 cents per player with no limit on the size of the bet or a raise, other than the sum total of bets and raises for that hand could not exceed a player’s “all in” amount. Side bets were permitted. There were five players at the table. After the initial deal two players threw in their cards. Each of the remaining three players kept four cards, drawing but a single card each. I had been dealt four tens and drew one card to make my opponents think I was either drawing to two pair or possibly a straight. The betting and raising reached unheard of levels. Even holding four tens, I was becoming increasingly apprehensive as the pot escalated in size until everyone was “all in.” Over $300 (about $2,000 in today’s money) was in the pot-- either in cash or IOU’s. The first player declared a full house, kings over jacks and began to pull in the pot. The second player said, “Not so fast!” and declared a full house of aces over queens. As he began pulling in the pot, I said, “I believe two pair of tens and tens is a better hand.” I could not resist making that silly and cutting comment. After I had pulled in the pot one of the big losers bought the deck of cards from me for $10. He promptly sat down and tore every single card in two. I knew I was not a good poker player and had simply gotten very, very lucky for one hand. I vowed to myself that never again would I play poker for big stakes, and I have kept that promise.

Communication with the outside world was poor on the best of days and non-existent otherwise. AFRS (Armed Forces Radio Service) transmitter signals did not reach the Hill and English print newspapers and magazines were not available for purchase at Lin Kou in the early days. Mail tended to be delivered to APO 63 in batches. Letters and packages sent by air mail might arrive in a week or ten days whereas, packages sent by ship might have been in transit for two or three months before reaching the recipient. Newspapers used for packing material in larger boxes tended to read more like a new history book than a current events document.

Enlisted personnel assigned to trick (shift) duty in the operations area worked a unique schedule that we called “The Navy Schedule.” This arduous arrangement, where one worked 24 hours in a 48 hour period of time, was preferred by most for one simple reason -- it maximized the amount of time off the Hill. Every 48 hour duty period was preceded and followed by a 48 hour off-duty period.

Typically, a new set of shifts started in front of the Club 63 at the MAAG compound in Taipei. Here, at about 1000 hours each morning, a 6x6 truck destined for Lin Kou Air Station would depart carrying four to eight passengers, mostly trick workers. The truck would arrive at the base early enough to allow one to check his mail, clean up from the dusty or wet ride up the mountain, change uniforms if necessary and grab lunch at the mess hall before starting the 1200 hours to 1700 hours afternoon shift. As a rule, trick workers arrived about 10 minutes early for shift change to determine what, if anything, was happening. The afternoon shift was followed by dinner at the mess hall, maybe a short card game or some socializing and 4-5 hours of sleep before reporting for the graveyard shift which ran from midnight to 0700 hours. After working a midnight shift, my internal clock was always confused. Sleeping during the day may not have been a problem for some, but it was for me. The swing shift, which came next, ran from 1700 hours to midnight followed by the morning shift which went from 0700 hours to noon. Shortly after finishing our set of shifts, we were off to Taipei for another two-day holiday.

Typhoons seemed to strike Formosa with regularity in 1955 and 1956. During my tour at Lin Kou, I believe we were hit by three or four of these fierce storms. When one struck, the best place to be in was a concrete building in Taipei or Keelung. Our location at the time the storm became dangerous was determined more by which trick we worked, rather than the weather report. During the summer of 1956 I was on-duty when a typhoon, heavily laden with rain, rolled over the mountain. Although the wind speed was probably only enough to make it a Category 1 typhoon, the storm surge and rain were devastating. The road to Detachment 1 was closed for two or maybe three days, which meant no relief for on-duty shift workers. We would have to make do with the airmen who were on the Hill before the storm washed out the road. This situation and an exceptionally high workload, caused the RTA shift I was on to work 56 hours straight before help arrived. When relief did come, my work partner, Norm Anstey, and I had a quick meal at the mess hall and then hit the sack. I remember talking with a lit Pall Mall cigarette wedged between two of my fingers close to my knuckles. I was fully clothed, wearing my fatigue hat and brogans. Thirteen hours later I awakened with a nasty burn on my hand from the burnt cigarette which was still stuck to my skin. Norm was still sleeping. A good pinochle game after a meal at the dining hall was all that was needed before I was ready to head out to Taipei.

Sometimes, late on a swing-shift or early on a mid-shift, if it was a quiet uneventful night, we would listen to a young English-speaking, Chinese woman broadcasting Communist propaganda from the mainland. We called her “Peking Polly.” Her message was constant and predictable -- Americans are in Formosa to murder the Chinese people, rape their women, and on and on. With contempt, she enjoyed called us “running dogs.” That term meant nothing to us. We ignored her nightly propaganda speech while awaiting the scores of baseball, basketball or football games just completed in the US. That broadcast was the most timely resource we had to hear how our favorite teams had done. Of course she gave all the soccer scores first. That was devious, as there were so many games to report and we had no interest in those results. Most of her broadcasts were devoted to playing music currently popular in the good old USA. That and the sports scores were what we wanted to hear.

Visits to the small dispensary were few and far between for most of the young, healthy troops working on the Hill. A flu epidemic hit the Air Station in the winter of 1955/1956 and provided many new visitors. The most frequent patients were a few regulars who had again become infected with some strain of venereal disease. The military is famous for its ability to use an “assembly line” solution to quickly address a problem. I witnessed that process when I was in the dispensary being treated for a painful carbuncle below my right eye. While I was waiting for treatment I saw three enlisted men in fatigues lined up side-by-side, with their backs to me, leaning forward with their hands placed on the edge of a table. Each had previously been instructed to “drop your trousers and shorts.” A doctor then injected each shiny behind with a penicillin shot for “the clap.” I felt all three would be back again as they acted like “it’s no big deal.” My carbuncle was lanced and bandaged that day: I still have a scar.

The fatigue uniform issued in basic training by the Air Force in 1954 was an ugly, one-piece, blue-green, ill-fitting sack that was disliked by nearly all enlisted men. At Lin Kou, unlike other bases, that problem could be solved. A common solution was to have the one-piece fatigue uniform tailored into an “Ike” jacket and a pair of trousers. The finishing touch was to have your first name or nickname, written in kanji, embroidered directly above the name tag over the right-hand pocket of the “Ike” jacket. This uniform was acceptable for wear on the Hill but would not make the trip when one left Lin Kou for another Air Force base.

Several hundred yards southwest of Lin Kou was the hamlet Shulinlin, where we could purchase the famous rubber boots worn by all airmen. The path to Shulinlin went through a large tea patch. Occasionally, while walking on this well worn path, Chinese women wearing coolie hats and covered entirely by dark work clothing could be seen picking tea leaves. Only their eyes were visible. We tried several times to take pictures of them at work but were admonished not do so as it would “capture their spirit.” We honored their request.

Close to the walking path were one or two large craters caused by errant 500 pound bombs dropped from USAAF B-24 or B-25 bomber aircraft during World War II. Japanese Army airfields in Formosa were bombed relentlessly during the last year of the war in preparation for a planned invasion. Avoiding these craters during daylight hours was easy. Nighttime presented more of a challenge, especially after a few too many drinks. A stealthy reentry to the Air Station after curfew or when the town was off-limits meant no flashlights and absolute silence. On occasion one us would stumble and fall into one of the craters. Crawling up and out of a bomb crater was not as easy as one would think.

The small town of Shulinlin was nothing more than a farm community built on an unpaved road. Only the bars and one or two retail stores were of any interest to the airmen. Many of the bar-girls working there were from mainland China, especially Shanghai. At that time, most of the girls lived in desperate poverty in Taipei or Keelung and made a living by working the bars in the current hot spots. The girls would stay on the Hill for a few days or weeks and then leave to work in Taipei or Keelung or visit their family. Each Chinese girl had a heart-wrenching story of their narrow escape from the mainland in 1949 when the Chinese Nationalist army was thrown out of China by the Communists. Some of the girls spoke enough English to carry on a limited conversation but most knew only a few words of English.

After-hours raids were mounted on occasion by US military authorities in an attempt to catch military personnel who were in town after curfew or when it was off-limits. However, we had a well established network of outlooks among the bar owners and working girls to keep us fully informed of any approaching danger within the town. We were never surprised by a raid. The danger spot was the tea patch, but that route could be covered easily if one was quiet, patient, observant, careful and selected an indirect route to the base.

Off-duty in Taipei

There are several monetary references in the following sections. To help the reader relate to these figures, here are a couple of guideposts: As mentioned before, an A/3C with less than two years’ service earned $85.80 per month plus $8.00 per month overseas pay. The 1955 legal exchange rate was about 25 NT for one US dollar. The prevailing illegal exchange rate was 40-1 with increases to as much as 54-1 at times of high tension between the Chinese Communists and the Nationalists.

Off-duty time in Taipei for trick workers typically began and ended at the Lin Kou “bus“ stop in front of Club 63 in the MAAG compound. The first order of business was to shed the red mud of the Hill with a relaxing hot shower, shampoo and shave. Changing into civilian clothes made one feel like a new person. Lin Kou was a far, far away place, a dream. Taipei was reality. Here, choices were limited only by imagination and finances.

Many of the young enlisted men stationed at Lin Kou Air Station rented a small one or two-room apartment on a side street off Jung Shan Bei Lu. A small one-room apartment in Taipei went for about $15 a month. Sometimes a number of airmen would join together to rent a larger apartment or a single family house. Eight trick workers from Lin Kou, myself included, formed a consortium to rent a house in Taipei, relatively close to the MAAG compound. We shared equally in paying the monthly rent of 6,000 NT. It worked out to about $20 per month for each of us.

The house we rented was typical of Japan rather than Formosa. It had a central room for eating and socializing. We used three smaller rooms off this area as western-style bedrooms. The traditional Japanese-style kitchen was used only for dinner by our part-time cook. The bathroom was equipped with a Japanese-style wash and rinse area and a large bath had been a spa at one time. It was equipped with a European-style flush toilet. Tatamis, familiar to this style house, were no longer installed. The structure was encircled by a 3 meter high security wall with glass shards embedded in the top of the wall. Between the house and the wall was a Japanese-style garden, which was not well maintained. Because of the schedule we worked, only two or three of us were in the house at any given time. There were never more than four.

The MAAG compound offered a taste of the United States with a U.S. Army flavor. The current day’s edition of The Pacific Stars & Stripes was available for a brief, narrow glimpse into what was happening back home and in the Pacific theater. The Class VI Store (the liquor store) made all bottled sales of whiskey, scotch, wine and so forth. A Class VI card, obtained with a $50 deposit, was required to purchase liquor. All purchases were recorded and reviewed by the Provost Marshall in an attempt to minimize “black market” sales to the local population. Some airmen got the $50 from their black market buyer, so this deposit did little or nothing to slow down the illegal sale of Class VI products to the local economy.

The PX (Post Exchange) offered little of direct interest to lower rank, Air Force enlisted men, due primarily to lack of funds: an income of $3-$4 a day does not go very far. Sports and action magazines, paper backed books, The Pacific Stars & Stripes, cigarettes, candy and items currently popular with the bar-girls were of the greatest interest. Cigarettes were for personal use and resale on the black market. Ponds’ body creams, and specialty items such as sets of embroidered panties were greatly appreciated by one’s current honey.

Club 63 offered entertainment, decent food at a low price, cheap drinks (excellent screwdrivers), slot machines, games, and, in general, a comfortable, easy place to socialize with friends and buddies. Many airmen would take their current Chinese honey to the club.

Slot machines were in abundance in the Club. Most of the slots were nickel machines that were loose enough so one could play the better part of an evening for less than $2 with an occasional jackpot. Rarely, a broken slot machine that no longer needed a coin to be inserted into the slot to pull the handle and spin the wheels would be its own jackpot. After freeing such a machine of all its coins, the lucky player would reluctantly move on as winning combinations could no longer produce a payout.

Each fall, Club 63 sponsored a weekly college football pool. Every week during the regular college football season, twenty Division I games would be listed on the entry form. Participants would check the box next to the teams they believed would win or tie. Entries were free. Whoever picked the most games correctly won the $20 pot. Simple enough. Not really when dealing with the Lin Kou crowd. I surmised that in about 14 of the games, one team was a strong favorite to win. The remaining six games were too close to call. The solution -- submit 64 entries, with the same 14 strong favorites on all the entries and then cover all possible win/loss combinations for the remaining six games. After I had won the pool seven times in eight weeks, Club 63 changed the rules to restrict the number of entries a person could make. It was fun while it lasted.

Taipei presented several opportunities that were not available at the Lin Kou Mess Hall. The MAAG compound, noodle shops, street side vendors and small restaurants were outlets for fresh produce, meat and fish that were not on our daily menu. Those items were also available at the desirable Grand Hotel, Grass Mountain and other such spots, although they were much too pricey for most enlisted men. An interesting alternative, seldom used by round eyes, was the Taipei fish market and the fruit market which carried a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Americans quickly discovered the difficulty of shopping at these markets: Unfamiliarity with the products and prices, poor communication skills, and a lack of negotiating techniques. These problems were easily solved by recruiting an off-duty bar-girl to assist with the shopping. She was familiar with the scenario and able to purchase quality products at a fair price. My favorite delicacy was shark steak; very tasty when properly prepared by our part-time cook. Sharing some of the purchases with the bar-girl sufficed as payment in full for a job well done. An added financial bonus would be her ability to negotiate a fair price for a round-trip pedi-cab ride with a street-wise driver.

After a number of months in Formosa, less and less time was spent in the bars and night clubs. A good movie, card game or relaxing evening at the compound was of greater interest. In the beginning, however, Taipei was “sin city.” No doubt about it. The atmosphere in the bars along with the provocative attitude of the bar-girls was unlike anything most of us had ever experienced. Simple items, such as a trip to the restroom, caused memories. Restrooms were simply marked “WC” for Water Closet, an English term. Here it simply meant a restroom equipped with a flush toilet. WC was also a unisex term. The new guy was always a good candidate for a a mini-practical joke. After several drinks, the new guy would have to go to the restroom. One of us would direct him to the WC, explaining that was the term used in Formosa for a restroom. As soon as he left the table we would send a bar-girl into the WC to have a pleasant conversation with him while he was experiencing the pause that refreshes. Imagine the responses.

The bar-girls spoke a language of their own. A “cherry boy” was a virgin which they supposedly could verify by pressing the tip of the cherry boy’s nose with their index finger. In reality, it verified nothing, but it was a good ice breaker. Another unique term was “butterfly boy.” That phrase was used in a contemptuous manner to identify a man who did not have a regular girlfriend. A butterfly boy went from flower to flower, never staying with just one bloom.

As I stated earlier, most of the bar-girls spoke little English. Yu Shu Yeng of Shanghai was an exception. She spoke good conversational English and was very knowledgeable of the current political state of affairs between the Nationalists and Communists. She was a good source of information and never asked about my work or what we were doing on the Hill. I suspected that she had a good understanding of what was going on at Lin Kou, because, on occasion, she would call Lin Kou “Spook Mountain,” a term she said was used by a local English print newspaper. Each time I spoke with her, she warned me, “Lin Kou is a dangerous place to be.” She said that when (not if) the Chinese Communists come they will begin the invasion there with an airborne drop of troops. Nothing ever happened to make her concerns come true, but it was an unnerving prediction.

Two off-duty days in Taipei were a pleasant change from life on the Hill. In the early days, very young Chinese boys and girls, giggling every step of the way, loved to rush up to and surround American servicemen. They would smile and point a finger at us, laugh and bounce around with the exuberance of youth. Then one or more of them would quickly swipe a finger across one of our bare arms to determine if the whiteness rubbed off. Walking to our rental home was frequently a pleasant stroll as our neighbors were happy that we Americans were in Formosa. They liked us and made it obvious.

This was not the case, though, late one summer evening in 1956. Mike Low, Wayne Burkhart and I were on a side-street about two or three city blocks from Jung Shan Bei Lu when we noticed 10-15 boisterous, very drunk, young Chinese men. Later on we found out that these young men had been drafted into the Chinese Nationalist Army. They were having one last blow-out party before they left for basic training the next morning. Our timing was bad, as we happened along just when they were looking for victims with whom to prove their manhood.

Mike was the first to notice that we were going to be the target of their bravado. Alcohol, a mob mentality and three seemingly defenseless American soldiers were an ominous combination. We only had seconds to formulate a plan because our location eliminated retreat as a viable option. We had to stand and fight. Mike, a veteran street-fighter and a Golden Gloves boxer from Fresno, California, quickly selected an excellent defensive position. We would defend a 2-3 foot wide strip of ground that had a 3 meter high cement and stone wall to our backs. Directly in front of this narrow strip of land was an open binjo ditch that would act like a protective moat. Mike took the right flank. Wayne, a Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion from Los Angeles, took the center position. I knew nothing about fighting, so Wayne quickly showed me how to throw a hammer punch and how to cover up. I was assigned the left flank as it was the area least likely to receive a major attack. Wayne told us to form as tight a defensive formation as possible. He screamed out, “When they come across the binjo ditch hit them in the nose as hard as you can. That’ll put them out of the fight fast.”

Over the next 10-15 minutes we repulsed one attack after another. Wayne had knocked out three attackers and put two others out of action with broken noses. Mike had literally destroyed three attackers with his boxing and street-fighting combinations. I did as Wayne had instructed me to do and knocked out the only fighter I was forced to face with a fortuitous and devastating hammer punch to the nose of my lone assailant. Four uninjured fighters and two injured fighters remained standing. The odds were much better that we would win. Wayne then ordered us to spring a surprise attack on the remaining combatants. Just then a lone Chinese police officer came upon the scene. The police officer, dressed in a black uniform trimmed in silver, approached the area with what looked like a P-38 pistol, held high in his right hand. He screamed some words which the three of us did not understand. The Chinese youths, however, clearly understood and ceased all actions immediately. The police officer surveyed the carnage, looked at the three of us and told us with a flick of his left hand to go. We thought we were going to be in big trouble with the authorities and did not have to be told twice to get out of there. As we went on our way, I glanced over my shoulder and saw the police officer pistol whipping one of the previously uninjured attackers. It seemed like the fate of the 13 attackers left on the scene would not be that good.

When we reached Mike’s apartment we examined our wounds. Each of us had minor scrapes, cuts and bruises to our hands and forearms but, amazingly, no other injuries. We were lucky. We were in fine condition but looked terrible. Our shirts and trousers were torn, bloodstained and ruined. Mike and Wayne were very calm and took the fight in stride. I did not.

The next day when we walked past the “battlefield” some of the neighbors came out and congratulated us on our convincing victory. Apparently, some of the attackers were long time neighborhood bullies and finally received a taste of their own medicine. We were not the defenseless Americans they thought. One of the good neighbors had called the police, which is the reason the black and silver clad officer appeared on the scene when he did.

Seventh Fleet Drops Anchor in Keelung

Twenty-five miles northeast of Taipei is the deep water seaport Keelung. Public buses make the trip to Keelung from Taipei in about an hour. Riding there on a crowded Chinese bus is an experience.

When the Seventh Fleet visited Formosa, Keelung is where the ships dropped anchor and provided liberty to thousands of sailors and hundreds of marines who had not been ashore for some time, maybe months. With pockets full of cash, pent up energy, a desire to raise hell and only a few days in port, the Navy literally stormed the waterfront for the time they were there. The bars and adjoining streets were awash in white-suited sailors and khaki-dressed gyrenes or “jar-heads” looking for liquor, a good time, female companionship or a place to settle grievances. Most Army and Air Force personnel avoided Keelung like the plague when the Seventh Fleet was in port, as prices for all products and services doubled or tripled as soon as the sailors and marines came ashore. Typically, we would leave the scene shortly before the Fleet arrived and return only after all ships had raised anchor and put to sea.

On one occasion I decided to stay and mingle with the sailors and gyrenes, as a neutral party, simply to observe. I wore civilian clothes, stayed out of the way and watched. I did not have to wait long before angry words, followed by pushing and shoving, resulted in an all-out brawl. It was a wild and crazy scene straight out of the movies. Tables were overturned. Drinking glasses, chairs and bodies were flying across the room as more and more sailors and marines became involved. Soon the fight spilled out onto the street. Eventually, the Shore Patrol arrived to restore order. Initially, the SP’s tried to be courteous and remain calm in their effort to quell the disturbance. When that attempt failed, they waded into the melee swinging their night sticks to get the attention of the trouble makers and do what was necessary to restore order. Two or three of the perpetrators were hauled off by the SP’s. In another hour or so the same scene would be repeated. No one bothered me at any time other than to buy me a drink and tell me to stay out of the way. I did not have to be warned.

A Mid-Week Holiday at Grass Mountain

Grass Mountain was a favorite summer resort area offering magnificent mountainous scenery and temperate weather. During the Japanese occupation of Formosa they built many hot spring baths in this area. The Taipei public transportation system ran buses to the resorts from the city.

During the summer of 1956 Norm Anstey and I decided to spend two days at a popular resort on Grass Mountain. Norm and I had worked together on the Hill for some time. We agreed to meet at the resort as soon as our shift ended.

We stayed in a traditional Japanese-style hotel complete with tatamis, futons, hard rice filled pillows, sliding doors with rice paper windows and the famous hot spas. The walking paths were well maintained and lead to many scenic sights. That evening we enjoyed a traditional Japanese meal and relaxed in style.

The next morning I rose at 6 AM, hoping to enjoy the hot spring spa by myself for at least 30 minutes. Dressed in a traditional Japanese robe and clogs provided by the hotel, I wound my way to the spa area and carefully selected the entrance to the hot bath pool marked by the kanji character for men. I disrobed, putting my clothes and clogs into one of the storage bins. After washing myself with a soapy wash cloth and then rinsing off the suds with a bowl of cold water, I waded into the hot water and took a seat near the end of the pool. I was alone. The pool measured about 15 meters by 5 meters. I relaxed and enjoyed the effects of the hot water for about 15 minutes until a young, beautiful Chinese woman walked into the room on the opposite end of the pool. She calmly disrobed and went through the same routine that I had just completed. As she approached the edge of the pool she tried to engage me in conversation but I failed to understand what she said. I assume she offered a cordial greeting, such as “Good morning.” I threw a few words her way, which I am sure were gibberish to her.

I did not know that the spa was used by both sexes at the same time with only an invisible line marking the men’s end of the pool from the women’s end. It was true that one entrance to the pool was marked with the kanji characters for women and the other entrance was marked for men. But what I failed to realize was the two entrances accessed the same pool. I pondered the situation for several minutes before I realized this situation is dictated by their custom. I relaxed again, enjoyed the hot waters and waited for several men to enter the spa before I choose to leave. It might be their custom but I do not believe I could ever be comfortable in such a setting.

All in all, the two days spent at Grass Mountain were enjoyable. However, for me it was a luxury I could afford but once a year.

Going Home

August, 1956, marked the final month of my 15-month tour of duty at Lin Kou Air Station. I would be leaving for Clark Air Base and then “the States” near the end of the month. Two ceremonies marked the end of a tour of duty for a Radio Traffic Analyst, trick worker at Detachment 1, 6925th Radio Squadron Mobile: the Canadian Club ribbon event and the changing of the guard ritual.

The Canadian Club ribbon event involved the person about to go home and a fifth of Canadian Club. After that person had emptied the bottle, with some help from his buddies, shortly before he was scheduled to depart Lin Kou Air Station, he was awarded the ribbon from the bottle. This award, designated the FIGMO ribbon, was worn above the left-hand pocket of the fatigue uniform. Wearing of the FIGMO (“F__k‘m I Got My Orders“) ribbon signified you were going home very soon. Should your tour-of-duty be involuntarily extended after receipt of the ribbon you were in a new status called OMGIF (FIGMO spelled backwards) which meant -- “Oh My God I’m F____d.” The Canadian Club ribbon was then relocated to a position directly below the left-hand pocket of your fatigue uniform to indicate your new status.

At the end of the last scheduled swing shift before leaving the Hill for good, we would perform a “Changing of the Guard” ceremony with the shift that was coming on duty. This ceremony was conducted in the operations building, just inside the door that led to the AP security station. Two mops and two mop buckets were transferred to the shift coming on duty in a symbolic ritual signifying a transfer of all your duties to those Radio Traffic Analysts remaining on the Hill.

After finishing the morning shift the next day, I was scheduled to begin out-processing. However, a surprise was awaiting me and others in the orderly room in the form of new orders which said -- the following named airmen, rank as indicated, this station, have been involuntarily extended for 30 days. It was time to move my Canadian Club ribbon to below my left-hand pocket.

One month later I was on my way to Clark Air Base and then to the United States. After a month at home (now in Inglewood, California) I reported to the 6970th Support Group, Suitland, Maryland. For the next year and a half I would work with the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort George G. Meade and prepare for the rest of my career in the Air Force.


In 1958 Del transferred to Air Force Communications Service. He was selected for the Airman Education and Commissioning Program (AECP) in 1961 while stationed at Ramstein AB, Germany. In January 1964 he graduated Oklahoma State University with a BSEE degree and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant the same year. In 1967 the Air Force Institute of Technology assigned Del to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he earned an MSEE degree in January 1969 with a minor in Business Management from the Sloan School of Management and Harvard University. From 1964 to his retirement in 1977, Major Delano Sylvester had some very interesting assignments on a number of well known programs while assigned to Air Force Systems Command, Electronic Systems Division at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, and Fuchu Air Station, Japan. A few of these assignments were: Project Engineer on Project Soft Talk (Presidential communications aboard AF 1 and AF 2), Pacific Area Test Director on AUTOVON (Automatic Voice Network) now known as DSN, and Deputy Program Manager on the ground segment of AFSATCOM (Air Force Satellite Communications).

Del joined the McDonnell Douglas Corporation in 1977 and worked primarily in R&D (Research and Development) as an engineer, manager or director on a number of well known and interesting programs until his retirement in 1996. A short list contains the Harpoon Cruise Missile, Tomahawk Cruise Missile, AX (USN, Stealth Medium Attack Bomber), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions the Air Force‘s weapon of choice in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq) and the F-15E (Strike Eagle) programs. Del worked for a short time in 1999 on the technical proposal for Boeing’s YF-23 Raptor entry in the Joint Strike Fighter fly off.

Del and Martha, his wife since 1958, live in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. They have four children, a girl followed by three boys. Son Robert, recently returned from a one year assignment at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. He was promoted to Major, USAF in November 2004. Two Major Sylvesters’ in one family can be very interesting.