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Dung, Frogmen, a Future President and Hemorrhoids
by Don Drewniak

The origin of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) dates back to 1941 as the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service. It monitored radio broadcasts from foreign countries, particularly those of the major World War II Axis powers – Germany, Italy and Japan.

By the time I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967, it had been renamed the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. I was stationed in the United States Taiwan Defense Command in Taipei from September 1968 to June 1970.

Although drafted for two years, I extended my time in the Army to two years, nine months and sixteen days (but who's counting?) Why? I had the good fortune to have been promoted to Sergeant E-5 three weeks after my arrival in Taiwan. This allowed me to bring my wife, Dolores, to Taiwan. She secured a teaching position at the Taipei American School several days after her arrival. By extending my service time, she was able to not only complete the 1968-1969 school year, but the full 1969-1970 year as well.

There was a second reason. I worked in a communications center in one of four watches, each staffed with a combination of Army and Navy personnel. Each watch was supposed to be run by an E-8 or an E-9. However, the E-8 running the watch I was in disappeared under mysterious circumstances in February 1969 and rank-wise I was next in line and became the watch supervisor.

This allowed me the luxury on days and nights when the number of messages we processed (both incoming and outgoing) was low-to-moderate to read incoming messages that FBIS obtained by monitoring mainland China and those of the Taiwan government. Of the over one hundred that I read, there are two that I have never forgotten.

Mao Zedong was born in 1893 and passed on in 1976. He was a poet, politician, revolutionary, military strategist and Marxist theorist who founded the PRC (People's Republic of China). He was the leader of China from 1949 to his death. During his autocratic rule of China, it transformed from a semi-colony to a world power.

While improving women's rights, literacy, healthcare, education and life expectancy, Chairman Mao, as he was known, was also responsible to between 40 to 80 million deaths due to persecution, starvation, prison labor and mass executions.

Dung: My favorite FBIS report came from mainland China wherein a farmer supposedly fell from a second-floor hayloft into a massive pile of dung. Sinking deep into it, he was cut off from oxygen to the same extent as he would have been submerged in water. He was rescued after spending forty-five minutes in his dung imprisonment. According to the Chinese government, his survival was due to his non-stop recitation of quotations of Chairman Mao.

One of 287 known Mao quotations: “When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”

Frogmen: The following came from a radio broadcast by the Taiwan government. A Chinese farmer escaped from mainland China by leaving in a rowboat and heading to Taiwan. He was found adrift two or three days later by a Taiwan naval vessel. Both radio and television carried coverage of his daring escape to freedom.

However, a subsequent report not available to the public painted quite a different picture: A farmer living on mainland China was kidnapped by Taiwan frogmen and brought by them to Taiwan where the combination of money and freedom persuaded him to go with the daring escape story.

Ronald Reagan: Dolores and I were meandering through a downtown Taipei area on a Saturday afternoon. We passed by a number of small shops stopping whenever there was something of interest. The first was a shop that sold televisions. A small black-and-white set was in one of the two windows and on the screen was a Ronald Reagan movie. The sound was loud enough for us to hear. Chinese subtitles scrolled along the bottom of the set. We broke in laughter when Reagan asked, “Do you think I'm speaking in Chinese?”

Hemorrhoids: We came to a dead stop several shops past the television store. The two windows were filled with large photos taken before and after hemorrhoid removal.

My first day in Taiwan proved to be one of the most memorable:
"What Matta, GI, No Work?"