It’s not worth being paranoiac, please
It was in the summer of 1960. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was coming to Taipei for a twoday state visit on June 18. A couple of days before his arrival, I was invited to a press tour of Ching Chuan Kang Air Base in Taichung. At that time, the air base was top secret, because it was used solely by the U.S. Air Force. The commander in charge of the air base was Taiwan’s Air Force officer, of course. He commanded air base guards alone. It was a virtual American airbase.
The U. S. Taiwan Defense Command arranged the press tour. Aside from the American news correspondents, I was the only Chinese reporter invited to visit Ching Chuan Kang, because I worked for the U.S. Information Service in Taipei and The China Post, the only English-language newspaper in Taiwan at that time. We made the visit to meet a squadron of F-104 Starfighters arriving from Clark Airbase in Luzon to help protect Taiwan against a possible air attack while President Eisenhower was in Taipei. It was a year and a half after the 1958 Bat-
tle of the Taiwan Strait, or Quemoy Crisis. As a matter of fact, the Chinese Communist shore battery hit Quemoy again on June 17 and 19, though Mao Zedong didn’t dare to order an air attack on Taiwan.
While at Ching Chuan Kang, we were all allowed to sit in the cockpit of any Starfighter, albeit there was no photo session. Starfighters fought in the Vietnam War, which was still raging on then. A fighter pilot showed us Sidewinder airto-air missiles and explained how he aimed and fired them to shoot down an enemy plane in a snap of fingers. We also boarded a C-103 transport plane for an “inspection.”
On return to Taipei, I wrote a story about Sidewinders, with which Taiwan’s fighters scored all wins in dogfights against Sovietmade MiG 17s during the Quemoy Crisis. The story was published and I was under investigation. The Ministry of National Defense wanted to know how I got top secret military information. I got off scot-free, for I was so told by the American Phantom pilot.
I knew the frame of mind of the top brass. Shortly after my encounter, a reporter of the now long defunct Shang Kung Daily (
) in Chiayi ( ) in Southern Taiwan was convicted of compromising a military top secret by “revealing” the name of the commander of the Matsu Defense Command. The poor reporter was given an MND free junket to the offshore island opposite Fuzhou, capital city of the province of Fujian of the People’s Republic of the mainland of China. On return to Chiayi, he wrote a story in which he named the commander.
The reporter was given a oneyear sentence, I recall. But what interested me is the way the judgment report by the Chiayi District Court was written. The judge got to mention the Matsu commander, who was Maj. Gen. Shih Chueh. But the judge couldn’t name Gen. Shih. If he had done, he would be committing the crime of compromising the top secret just like the reporter he himself had convicted. So he wrote “Matsu Defense Commander XXX.”
It’s No Secret
But the fact is that it’s no secret at all. The Communists knew Gen. Shih, and called him by name in a psychological war against Matsu, in one of whose islets was deployed an Anti-Communist National Saving Army ( ), a unit not supported by the U.S. Military Defense Assistance Project, under which the Pentagon sent a military assistance advisory group to Taiwan.
Over the years, however, the mindset of the brass hats hasn’t changed. They are crushing down Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng, deputy squadron commander of the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade, for breach of security, because he conducted at least two unauthorized tours of the hangar for Apache helicopter gunships at the brigade’s Longtan base. He is facing prosecution for violation of the Military Security Information Protection Law and other laws and regulations. Taiwan has banned court-martial, and Col. Lao will be prosecuted by Taoyuan district prosecutors. The Ministry of National Defense disciplined his seniors, including the brigade commander and the commander of the Army.
The scandal exploded after a TV entertainer, Janet Lee who is a sister-in-law of Col. Lao’s, posted on social media some photos of her posing at the controls of an Apache gunship during one of the tours she had asked him to conduct. Her fellow travelers were all friends, including a Japanese lover of her younger sister.
Of course, Col. Lao has to be dis- ciplined. He shouldn’t take those visitors to the Longtan base. They enjoyed their outing, which they shouldn’t, but he didn’t compromise any military secret. Maj. Gen. Luo Shao-he, MND spokesman, went on the record as stating, “According to information provided by the United States, all information that was allegedly revealed through the photos had already been reviewed and approved by the United States Army.” Douglas Paal, former U.S. representative to Taiwan as director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said there was no breach of security because what the MND considered top secret isn’t secret at all in the United States. Anyone can get online to take a good look at the inside of the Apache cockpit, he pointed out. Well, that may have forced Gen. Luo to say the 601st Brigade is now open and schools and other public associations would be allowed to look at the choppers in the future.
So, what’s the hullabaloo? The top brass who used to suspect me and the Chiayi reporter of compromising military top secrets may have changed their frame of mind all of a sudden on a cue from Uncle Sam. They are not paranoiac, probably just for once.