Taiwan in Time: July 4 to July 10
On the morning of July 5, 1959, four F-86 Sabre fighter planes departed from the Hsinchu Air Base, their mission a simple one — to patrol the airspace over the Matsu Islands, just off the coast of China.
It was not a combat mission, but the four Taiwan-based Republic of China (ROC) Air Force pilots were still advised to be careful, as there were reports of increased enemy People’s Republic of China (PRC) MiG-17 fighter plane activity in the area.
Photo: Wang Jung-hsiang, Taipei Times
The last major battle between ROC and PRC forces concluded on Oct. 5, 1958 with the end of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, but minor skirmishes continued to take place.
Most incidents were not meant to be combat missions -- the planes usually set out from Taiwan to either patrol the strait or take reconnaissance photos, but there was always the risk of running into the enemy.
Because of the success of the US-provided Sabres, the aircraft was nicknamed “MiG Buster” (米格剋星). The real advantage, however, was most likely their infrared-guided Sidewinder missiles, first used in a September 1958 skirmish that led to the destruction of 10 MiGs.
This is the story as told in Wang Li-chen’s (王立楨) book, Pilot Stories (飛行員的故事). The pilots noticed the presence of four enemy planes as they flew over Wuchiu Island (烏坵). They immediately prepared for combat, and after some maneuvering Captain Chang Yen-ming (張燄明) opened fire and shot down one of the MiGs.
As the remaining MiGs split up into two groups, so did the Sabres, who continued pursuit. At this time, another group of MiGs arrived, forcing Chang Kang-ling’s (張崗陵) group to give up the chase and go on the defensive. Wang writes that Chang made a 7.5G turn and plunged straight downward toward one of the planes and opened fire, shooting it down.
Meanwhile, Chang Yen-ming’s team also ran into additional enemy planes. Chang engaged in scissor maneuvering with an enemy plane, only to find two more heading his way. To get away, he flew at full speed toward the ocean — pulling up at the last minute. One of the enemy planes did not pull up in time and crashed.
Chang Yen-ming’s groupmate, Kuan Yong-hua (關永華) also engaged in battle on his own, finally downing a fourth enemy plane. Wang writes that as the enemy pilot parachuted out of his plane, Kuan slowed down, made a circle around the pilot and saluted him before flying off.
Reports seem to vary on this event — some say that five MiGs were downed, some say that the planes set out from Chiayi, and some say that one MiG was shot down by anti-aircraft artillery on one of the ROC-controlled islands.
Aerial battles after this incident were sparse, the next recorded one being when two ROC fighters shot down a MiG in February 1960.
Lee Chiun-rong (李俊融) and Lee Ching-yi (李靜宜) write in the study, Comparing the Development and Battle Results of the Nationalist and Communist Air Forces (國共空軍發展及戰果差異之比較) that PRC was going through the disastrous Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine during that time and had little energy to devote to coastal air patrols.
The final battle, and also the final direct military engagement of any kind between the two sides took place on Jan. 13, 1967.
By that time, Taiwan had upgraded to the F-104 Starfighter and China the MiG-19, and this was reportedly the first time the first and last time an ROC Starfighter would shoot down a MiG.
This was another reconnaissance mission, and on the way back, the Starfighters were attacked by a group of MiG-19s. They shot down two enemy planes before heading back to Taiwan — but Major Yang Ching-tsung (楊敬宗) somehow disappeared on the way home.
There are many theories about what happened (which we will not delve into), and until today, Yang’s fate is still a mystery.
Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.
Scott Saulters wasn’t sure if his film had just taken one of the two top prizes at a recent film competition. Although Saulters has been in Taiwan for 15 years and is proficient in Mandarin, the award ceremony for the inaugural “Bi Tian Iann” (眯電影) short film contest was conducted entirely in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), a language he can’t speak. “I thought I heard it, but I didn’t want to look too excited,” he says. Despite his limited command of the tongue, Saulter’s entry, Wu Yu Tzu (烏魚子, mullet roe), took first place in the amateur category of the
Since its launch in 2014, the Taiwan Season has increasingly become a “must-see” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. So, when this year’s three-week Fringe became an early casualty of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Chen Pin-chuan (陳斌全) was determined that the Taiwan Season must continue in some form. Chen, director of the Cultural Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, says that he and Taiwan Season curator and producer Yeh Jih-wen (葉紀紋) had been thinking of ways of growing and adding value to the season anyway. The crisis and the cancellation of the live performances brought those ideas forward as
In the regular drumbeat of arrests of alleged Chinese spies, one case last month stood out. It did not involve the US or another rival of China, but Russia, whose security services accused a prominent arctic scientist of selling classified data on technologies for detecting submarines. Meanwhile a court in Kazakhstan in October convicted the Central Asia nation’s preeminent China specialist of espionage, a move widely interpreted at the time as a warning against increased meddling by the superpower next door. Both men maintain their innocence and if China is spying on Russia, Moscow is surely doing the same. Even so, the fact
A walk down Orchard Road shows just how badly the coronavirus pandemic has hit Singapore’s famed shopping strip. Gone are popular restaurants like Modesto’s, which shut last month after 23 years. Also missing are the queues of Chinese tourists outside Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Malls along the 2.4km stretch, once one of Asia’s top shopping meccas, are dotted with empty stores. On a recent midweek afternoon, the number of shop staff idly dusting shelves or playing with their mobile phones rather than greeting customers is notable. “It’s the worst crisis for Singapore and Orchard Road,” said Kiran Assodani, who has run her