Joel Aronson's Taiwan Odyssey
Surfing the internet a few years ago, I found the website of the 823 Badge of Honor Association, USA, at http://www.taiwanvets.com. As a military veteran with Taiwan service from 1958-62, I applied through the internet and became one of 4,000 members. The association was created by its present Chairman, Lloyd V. Evans (former U.S. Marine Corps) on October 10, 1998, as the only association of its type, dedicated to those members who have served the interests of the free, democratic, Republic of China. Initially, only veterans of the 1958 Artillery War of 1958 were eligible, but Evans expanded the membership to include service during the times of World War 2, Korean and Vietnam Wars, or all veterans of service to the Republic of China. The 823 Badge of Honor name comes from the date of August 23, 1958, when Taiwan's offshore islands of Kinmen (Quemoy) and Matsu were heavily bombarded by Communist China, and continued for three months until Nationalist China prevailed.
In December, 2002, to my surprise, I received a call from Lloyd Evans, the director, inviting me on an all-expenses-paid delegation to Taiwan, as a guest of the ROC government. "In a heartbeat," I replied, and in April 2003, I joined Lloyd, Jerry Fink, (former CIA, and China Air Transport), with six American Legion members from the State of New York, and 2 of their wives. We departed New York's JFK airport on China Airlines, Dynasty Class, to revisit a land many of us had left over 4 decades ago. In August 2003, Lloyd is hoping to lead another delegation to Taiwan to commemorate the 45th anniversary of 823.
The cabin's monitors displayed our tracks as the nineteen hour flight took us over Alaska, south past Korea and Japan, finally landing on time, after dawn, at Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport, just outside of Taipei, Taiwan's capital.
Our land transportation was a comfortable tour bus. We were escorted by Michael Chang, Director of Taiwan Tourism, of the New York City office. Danny Mai was our guide.
We traveled to downtown Taipei, passing an exit to Linkou, where years before, was the Air Force station I had worked at. Then, the only access to Linkou was by a winding mountain road. Now, one gets there by exiting one multi-lane highway to get onto another.
We spent the first night at the Grand Hotel, the classic of all Taiwan's hotels, built years ago under the direction of Madam Chiang Kai-Shek, the famous first lady of the Republic of China.
From here, we had a view of the Taipei skyline. At the left is a photo I took 4 decades earlier. From almost the same viewpoint at right, is an endless vista of highrise buildings.
How things have changed in those forty plus years!
Where once before was a provincial city with one or two main roads of gentle traffic, now there are many multi-lane highways winding through the city.