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Former Air Force Command Center Now 0pen for Exhibitions

By Hermia Lin
Staff writer

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin, fifth from left, poses a photo with the guests in the opening ceremony for the special exhibition on the history of R.O.C. air force.The former Air Force Command Center on downtown Taipei's Renai Road has been turned into an art space as part of the city government's effort to make people aware of more about the history and culture of the capital city.

An exhibition entitled "The Age of Flight: A Special Exhibition on the Air Force of the Republic of China" is the first in a series of exhibitions to be held at the former air force headquarters.

In addition to featuring archival materials and images that depict important historic moments in the Republic of China (R.O.C.) Air Force history, a decommissioned F-104 fighter and dozens of other aircraft fighter jet models are also on display.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin remarked in the center's opening ceremony March 30 that he is thankful for the support given by the Air Force Command Headquarters and the National Development Council, whose assistance made this exhibition possible. He said he is pleased to see the former Air Force Command Center open for public viewing, and he is sure both airplane buffs and citizens alike will enjoy the special exhibition documenting the unparalleled history of the R.O.C. Air Force and the touching stories of Taiwanese pilots.

The former Air Force Command Center covers an area of approximately 69,420 square meters. Before it was relocated to Taipei's Dazhi area in October 2012, there were nearly a thousand soldiers based here. Most of the buildings at the former military center are 2 to 3 stories high and feature exteriors covered in red tile.

A new beginning

Air force marching band soldiers perform prior to the opening of the exhibition.Mayor Hau said he knows many people were concerned about how the site of the former Air Force Command Center would be used. As the site was once the headquarters of the Air Force, he believes it is appropriate to hold an exhibition on R.O.C. Air Force history first to mark the transformation.

This is a great opportunity to mark the beginning of reviving idle land into multipurpose communities, Hau said, adding that he will collect opinions from experts in different fields to reach a consensus and make a decision on how to make the best use of the former military land.

National Development Council Minister Kuan Chung-ming, who also attended the opening ceremony, said the former military compound is situated in one of the most important and pricey districts of Taipei City. The future development of the site will mark the beginning of transformation of Taipei City, and he believes it is better to also take cultural and environmental aspects into consideration when it comes to opening up national land.

Taipei City will manage the public land until the end of this year, after which the National Development Council will be responsible for its long-term development.

Guests attending the opening ceremony included Kao Yu-liang, daughter of Taiwanese air force hero Kao Chih-hang; Hsieh Tung-han, son of the first Taiwanese pilot Hsieh Wen-ta; Lee Tien-yu, former minister of national defense; and Lin Wen-li, Hsia Ying-chou, and Feng Shih-kuan, all retired Air Force generals.

The glory of the past

A mother with her two children pose in front of a decommissioned F-104 fighter jet.According to the Taipei City Archives, the organizer of the exhibition, it took a tremendous amount of planning and effort to stage the decommissioned F-104 fighter jet exhibit in Taipei. The decommissioned fighter jet, currently being displayed in an outdoor area at the site, served as the backbone of the R.O.C. Air Force for decades.

To transport the fighter jet to Taipei from Taichung, it had to be broken down into ten major sections before it was sent to Taipei. Experienced technicians then spent eight days piecing the jet together. The fighter jet drew quite a bit of attention on the opening day of the exhibition.

The Taipei City Archives notes that the air force fighters of the R.O.C. were among the most admirable warriors in East Asia during World War II. The R.O.C. Air Force participated in several rebellion suppression campaigns and battles during the Second Sino-Japanese War, including the Chien-chiao Air Battle, Nanking Air Battle, Wuhan Air Battle and others. These fierce battles helped to hone the combat skills of the nation's air force pilots.

After Chiang Kai-shek brought the military and resettled in Taiwan, the air force maintained its competitive power and participated in air battles in Jinmen, Mazu, and the Taiwan Strait from 1955 to 1960, achieving a glorious combat record of 31 to 1.

The battle scenes mentioned above are shown in the exhibition in the form of archive images and oil paintings. The life stories of eleven R.O.C. air force heroes including Kao Chih-hang, Chen Huai-sheng, Wen Chu-chiang, Yang Hsien-yi, Liu Tsui-kang, Wu Tsai-hsi, Chu Pin-hou, Ou-yang Yi-fen, Hsieh Hsiang-he and Lu Hui-ming are also featured in the exhibition.

Aviation and crowd sourcing

A young child looks attentively at the fighter jet models.Flying has long been a dream for human beings. In Taiwan, the first time local people saw an airplane flying in the sky in Taipei was March 21, 1914, when a Japanese pilot performed in an air show.

The story of the air force of Taiwan would not be complete without a mention of Hsieh Wen-ta, the first Taiwanese to join the R.O.C. Air Force. Born in Taichung, Hsieh went to Japan to study aviation and qualified to fly an airplane in just two years. In 1920 he joined an aviation competition in Tokyo and took third place in the race. Hsieh's placing in the race provided a major for the morale of Taiwanese people during the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945). That same year on October 17, Hsieh performed in an air show in Taichung, marking the first time a Taiwanese flew in local skies. People were so inspired and cheered by Hsieh's achievements that they began raising money for Hsieh to build the first airplane 'made in Taiwan'—the Taipei Flight.

The plane was born in 1922 and remained in use for two years. To let the Japanese government know more about how Taiwanese people longed for democracy, Hsieh flew in the Taipei Flight to Tokyo in 1923 and spread tens of thousands of fliers bearing democracy messages over the skies of Tokyo. A model of the Taipei Flight and the original wooden propeller of the Taichung Flight are shown in the exhibition.

People join a guided tour. Taiwan's aviation industry took off during the 1930s. Between 1932 and 1945 seven civil airports and eleven military airports were constructed. On October 8, 1935, an airplane flew from Taipei to Fukuoka, Japan, marking the first time international flight from Taiwan. It also served as a symbol of a new era for both the aviation history and Taiwanese people alike.

The special exhibition on the history of R.O.C. aviation will remain on display until May 29. The exhibition is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday and from 10am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Hsieh Tung-han, the son of Hsieh Wen-ta, will share stories of his father in a talk at 2:30pm on April 19. There will also be a movie screening on April 26, a lecture on the R.O.C. aviation industry on May 10, and a remote-controlled aircraft show on May 24. The former Air Force Command Center is located at No. 55, Sec. 3, Renai Road, Taipei City.