UNIQUE HISTORY:The building has housed numerous organizations, including the headquarters of Air Asia, which repaired US military aircraft during the Cold War
By Hung Jui-chin and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writer
A group of history enthusiasts in Tainan has been interviewing hundreds of overseas Taiwanese in a bid to preserve the city’s old US military officers’ club, once a part of the Shueijiaoshe (水交社) military dependents’ village.
Since 1950, the building — currently the Tainan Senior Citizens Center — has taken on a variety of roles, including serving as a barracks for US soldiers and housing the Tainan American School, the Tainan American Club and the headquarters of Air Asia.
Hsieh Yin-ching (解吟情), spokesperson for the American Military and Civilian Personnel in Tainan Research Association, has over the past five years been collecting information about the building’s history.
Hsieh, who has interviewed more than 150 people, said it is regretful that the building’s history has nearly been forgotten.
She said the biggest challenge to tracking down information and materials is that most of the people who used the building have long since left the nation — most returned to the US.
The base was responsible for the repair of all US military aircraft in the region, which was carried out by Air Asia, making it the largest aircraft service center in East Asia, Hsieh said.
Air Asia was created as the service unit for Air America, a dummy corporation used by the CIA to conduct covert operations. After a number of sales and transfers, Taiwan Aerospace Corp acquired Air Asia in 1994.
From 1958 to 1962, the US Air Force’s 868th Tactical Missile Squadron was stationed at the base. Armed with MGM-1 Matador cruise missiles, the unit provided US Taiwan Defense Command a quick-strike nuclear deterrent.
At a time when Taiwan’s existence was under threat, it was the presence of the US that held the enemy at bay, Hsieh said, adding: “This is an undeniable fact.”
It is rare for the history of a base in Taiwan to span from the Japanese colonial era, through the US military presence, to Chinese National Party (KMT) control, Hsieh said, adding that the government should do what it can to preserve the story of the officers’ club for future generations.