Tue, Apr 03, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Ex-officer recalls bygone days on troop transports

Staff writer, with CNA

The Navy’s Yun Feng AP524 docked in Greater Kaohsiung Sunday. This vessel, used for transport and search and rescue missions, was recently decommissioned, together with the Hsin Kang AP526, after more than 20 years of service.

Photo: CNA

An anonymous military officer on Sunday recalled feelings of excitement and relief whenever he sighted the navy transport vessels Yun Feng AP524 and Hsin Kang AP526 — which were recently decommissioned — entering the port at which he was stationed.

The ships transported soldiers and officers to and from Taiwan’s outlying islands, mostly Kinmen and Matsu, for 20 years. They were officially decommissioned on Thursday last week.

The officer said that sighting the old transport ships entering the ports on the outlying islands always boosted the spirits of the military personnel stationed on the islands because their tours of duty lasted for months on end, and seeing the ships meant they would be reunited with family members soon.

The officer said that thinking of the vessels filled him with fond memories of his days off-duty.

Although most soldiers welcomed the arrival of the vessels, some soldiers nicknamed them “heartbreak ships” because their arrival meant they would soon have to face the reality that girlfriends had deserted them back on Taiwan proper, the officer said.

The ships were split into four cabin classes. Only officers got suites, while troops were packed into single cabins that housed between 30 and 40 people each, the officer said.

Kinmen and Matsu residents also used the ships for transport, and following the ships’ retirement, civilians and soldiers alike will have to rely on other means of transportation, such as other military vessels, commercial boats rented by the army or airplanes, the Ministry of National Defense said.

Yun Feng AP524 was built by China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) in 1981, now known as CSBC Corp, Taiwan. The military began operating the ship in September 1982. In 1988, renovations were made to boost its passenger capacity.

The Hsin Kang AP526, also built by CSBC, had a similar appearance and size as the Yun Feng AP524, but it was narrower and had a standard displacement of 2,800 tonnes, which was about 800 tonnes more than the Yun Feng AP524.

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