Why I Am No Longer Welcome In The Republic Of China - 6/13/2011

This is the second installment of my account of pranks/practical jokes that I have contrived. The fact that I am chronicling these events does not mean I am proud of them. It just means that I am accepting ownership of these deeds. I did many things when I was young that I do not condone now. No one was physically harmed by any of my actions, but it is possible some extensive therapy was required. And now for the back-story:

In 1974 I was sent to Taiwan for a few months temporary duty, from my base in the Philippines. Taiwan is my favorite of all the Asian countries that I visited. I like the people, food, and countryside. I could do an entire blog on Taiwan, but probably won’t.

I was assigned to Ching Chuan Kang (CCK) Airbase, a Republic of China installation, near the city of Taichung. My task there was to maintain a stockpile of air-launched missiles for F-4 fighters, as the Vietnam War was still a going concern. Our missile shop was “guarded” by Chinese conscripts in stripe-less, ill-fitting uniforms, shouldering carbines that probably would not fire, but were fixed with somewhat rusty bayonets. So anyone storming our facility would run the risk of tetanus. They all had an Asian Barney Fife look to them and I would bet you would find their single bullet in their shirt pocket.

I became quite friendly with one of the guards. He spoke a bit of English and I could count to ten and swear in Chinese. He would stand just outside the door of the missile bay and split his time between cautiously watching for marauding Communists and watching us; young guys with hangovers handling high explosives. He had both a look of interest and a bit of trepidation. His name-tag was in Chinese but he told me his name was Chen. I am guessing half of the conscripts on the base had the same family name. I have spent some time in the Orient, so I can accurately put his age at the time between 12 and 40. Hell, I can’t even guess the gender of some Asian people, and I have a one in three chance at that.

He was there all day, nearly every day, and never seemed to get a lunch break or anything to eat. We would give him sandwiches, snacks, and sodas. He would have probably been court-martialed, had he been caught eating on duty. But my kindness did not come without a price.

Be patient, I am getting to the prank, but I have to give still more back-story.

My crew was working on some inert AIM-9 sidewinder missiles. For aircraft loading and pilot practice, we put a functioning guidance unit on what are essentially pieces of pipe, the exact weight of a live rocket motor and warhead. They look exactly like a real missile except they are painted blue, instead of white. The warhead is about 20 pounds, a little over a foot long, and five inches in diameter. The active guidance unit mounted on a piece of pipe allowed a pilot to lock on a target (sometimes an airliner) and practice the firing sequence without an actual launch. Thereby greatly reducing the danger to the occupants of the airliner.

As it was a very hot day, the blast door was open. It normally is not, but we weren’t working on live missiles on that day. Chen was standing just inside the door, out of the sun. I told my other two crew-members to follow my lead. I started hollering, grabbed a dummy warhead, ran toward the door, handed it to Chen, and we all ran out the door. Chen, still carrying the warhead, ran after us, also screaming. When we stopped running and started hysterically laughing, Chen continued running. It took a bit of time and effort to convey to him that it was a joke. I think if he hadn’t dropped his carbine at the onset, I would have needed a tetanus shot. I hope Chen had been issued a second uniform, because I am certain that he soiled that one.

He eventually forgave me or I returned to the Philippines before he figured out how to load the bullet into his rifle. Either way, I left Taiwan in one piece.

I know that those of you that have read both of my practical joke blogs think that I only pull pranks on Asians. That is not true. These are just the first two that came to mind. I assure you the next chapter will document Caucasional high-jinks.