Joel Aronson's
Taiwan Gallery

During the nineteen fifties and sixties, American armed forces were a welcome presence in the Republic of China, located on the island of Taiwan, just a few miles away from the huge mainland People's Republic of China. This was the time of the Cold War, when the American forces helped to keep Russia and China from invading as many nations as they had intended to. Most of my military service was spent in Taiwan from 1958 through 1962, as one of a selected group of American airmen trained as Chinese linguists to monitor Chinese Communist radio activity for the United States Air Force Security Service Command.

After one year at college I enlisted in the Air Force, qualified and volunteered to study Mandarin Chinese language at Yale University. With adventurous thoughts of World War II movies, Flying Tigers, John Wayne, etcetera, off I went to Free China. Although I eventually finished college in the United States, this foreign experience became my uniquely personal, higher education. It was fascinating to spend that time of my life in Taiwan because of the opportunity to mix freely with the Chinese people and their culture. For a while, instead of living on the base, I was stationed in the center of Taipei, the capital city. The work schedule gave me plenty of time and my love of photography gave me the means to record the scenes and everyday events that happened in front of me. When I returned stateside, these photographs became the foundation of my professional portfolio that put me on the road to a lifelong career.

(click on a blue-bordered photograph to access a larger image)

What a different way for a Brooklyn-raised boy to spend the "halcyon days of youth," here, armed and not so dangerous on a small sloop I owned then, on the Republic of China's Tanshui River. This exact spot is where the movie "Sand Pebbles" was filmed in the late 60s. If I had an opportunity to recapture any time of my life, I would want to revisit Taiwan in the sixties, where good friends were many, climate was ideal, and we were able to watch history being made. I envied my married friends who brought their families with them, giving their kids invaluable lessons in what the rest of the world was like. The only drawbacks were being far from my roots, and actually missing a cold milkshake of fresh milk, instead of reconstituted, powdered milk.

The Taiwan Gallery consists of several sequentially arranged pages of photos and commentary which will take you on a short visual tour of sights, people, places, that I had experienced in Taiwan from 1958 - 1962. Listed below are the pages and subject matter included in this group of webpages. Scroll down each page to view, then click the marker at the bottom of that page to advance to the next one.