A secret military mission to Yemen by the air force is commemorated with a special exhibition at the Air Force Museum that opened on Saturday, 40 years after Taiwanese troops were deployed to help North Yemen forces.
The now declassified military aid program, which the air force conducted from 1979 until 1990, began with a request from then-diplomatic ally Saudi Arabia to aid its ally, the Yemen Arab Republic, which had no ties with Taiwan, a Ministry of National Defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
North Yemen at the time was engaged in a rivalry with the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, which it fought during a brief war in 1972.
Photo courtesy of the Republic of China Air Force Museum
The countries in 1990 formed the Republic of Yemen, but strife returned to the region in 2017.
The air force denies ever flying any combat missions over Yemen.
In what was known as the Great Desert Program (大漠計畫), the air force deployed more than 1,000 personnel — including pilots and ground crew — to assist and advise the North Yemeni air force, until Saudi Arabia withdrew its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, ending the program, the official said.
Many participants in the program would rise to prominent military and civilian positions, including Deputy Minister of National Defense Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) and former Civil Aeronautics Administration director-general Billy Chang (張國政), the official said.
The exhibition features records and documents, as well as uniforms, insignia and photographs from 200 veterans who participated in the mission, the official said.
On the opening day, the Air Force Academy presented a commendation of gratitude to personnel involved in the mission on behalf of the armed forces.
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