Sat, Mar 24, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Untold stories of Black Bat Squadron unveiled in Hsinchu
「黑蝙蝠中隊」可歌可泣歷史 新竹重現

Photo taken on Tuesday showing the Hsinchu City Black Bat Squadron Memorial Hall.

Photo: Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times

A white house with a sloping roof is situated directly opposite the Performance Hall of Hsinchu City’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs. Whenever the performance hall is bustling with people attending some performance, the house appears even quieter than normal. The house, filled with the traces of history so critical to Taiwan’s current prosperity, is the Hsinchu City Black Bat Squadron Memorial Hall, founded on Nov. 22, 2009. The hall showcases a collection of the 34th Air Force Squadron, better known as the “Black Bat Squadron,” and records the sacrifices and the moving stories of this group of martyrs. Even more interestingly, the roughly 140-ping (463m2) building — which is modeled on the dormitory of the US Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) — is built on the original site of the squadron’s Hsinchu camp.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Taiwan experienced a shortage of supplies and tensions ran high in the Taiwan Strait, and it was in desperate need of US aid. In addition to the Soviet Union, the US also saw China as the country posing the greatest threat to the free world. In 1951, MAAG initiated an intelligence project with Taiwan, providing military consultation and military training assistance. In 1952, US military, under the name of Western Enterprise Inc to cover up the cooperation with Taiwan, formed a “Special Ops Squadron” at the Taoyuan airbase. After the Korean War ended in 1953, the squadron moved to Hsinchu and became “Air Force Special Ops Squadron.” In addition to carrying out airdrop missions over China, it was responsible for US-directed covert operations and intelligence gathering on Communist China. Each 14-member crew conducted night missions, flying over China at dangerously low altitudes to gather information on the People’s Liberation Army’s radar system. At the early stages, their work mainly involved airdrops of propaganda materials, supplies and operatives. In 1956, they began conducting electronic reconnaissance and psychological warfare airdrop missions. During special ops, the Black Bat could reach as far north as China’s Northeast, as far west as Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan provinces, and as far south as Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.

In 1957, the P2V-7U patroller (Neptune) was introduced from the US. This stage was the peak of the squadron’s special ops and it was also the time when the most casualties occurred. Among the seven P2V-7U reconnaissance aircraft, five were shot down, killing 68 crewmembers. The P2V-7U, P-3A, and the C-123 were the squadron’s primary aircraft, and there were also various bombers converted to reconnaissance aircraft, such as RB-17. The US also used the squadron’s missions to test the performance of these aircraft. A common characteristic of all these aircraft was that they were not armed; hence, if engaged by enemy aircraft, they could only evade danger through electronic interference and advanced flying techniques at high speeds.

A documentary showed at the exhibition hall shows the respect of former “Black Bats” for their main coordinator, then-Air Force Intelligence Administration chief general I Fu-en, who was also the pilot who brought Chiang Kai-shek on his retreat to Taiwan on Dec. 10, 1949 and the founder of China Airlines. The Black Bat members regarded him as their “common boss.” Maybe only those who were deeply involved in that period of history could fully understand their sentiment.

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