Where the hell are you going?

by Lynn Buchanan, USAF (ret.)

Buchanan M38A1online

This is what happens when the tie rod comes unfastened while traveling up the highway between the port and the airfield. That is an 8-inch pipeline full of aviation gas being used for a guard rail. The driver and a local farmer are trying to figure how to get the Jeep—and the Colonel—back to the Airfield.

In Taiwan, I rode in a Jeep as a USAF 2nd Lt.—we were not allowed to drive anything. All the driving had to be done by Taiwanese Air Force fellows.

On the way back from the Port one day, we were travelling along at a good rate of speed down the paved highway. (Those M38A1 Willys Jeeps had a maximum speed of close to 50 mph.) It was a two-lane highway with a guard rail along one side. I knew what the guard rail was, apparently the Colonel did not. It was an eight inch pipeline, sitting on top of concrete posts. Every so often along the pipeline, there was a large horizontal loop in the pipe, perhaps 20 feet in diameter, to absorb the stretching or contracting of the pipe. The pipe was full of aviation gasoline, being pumped from the tanker dock at the port in Kao Hsiung to the airports inland.

As the Colonel and I were riding beside a long straight section of the highway, the tie rod on the Jeep broke. As it happened, both front wheels turned to the right and the Jeep slammed into the “guard rail” on the right side of the highway. Since the high speed of those jeeps was somewhat less than 50 miles per hour, the accident was not really spectacular. However, the jeep driver (Teng) and I both wanted to leave the Jeep as fast as we could, in case the high pressure gasoline came out of a hole in the pipe.

Teng left the Jeep, jumping out of his seat and running as fast as he could across the highway. I was on a slight downhill to the right so went that direction, stopping in the middle of the plowed field. The Colonel yelled loudly, “Where the hell are you going?”

Since he was still in the jeep and there was not any fire or leaking liquid, I felt a bit foolish, but told the Colonel what was in the pipeline—I thought everyone knew that. By then, Teng had returned to the vehicle and was checking to see what had gone wrong. A farmer came over and joined him.

The Colonel and I had to sit and wait while a Chinese vehicle came along. It took our driver to a local telephone to call the Chia Yi Airbase. Shortly after that, an Air Force vehicle came along to pick up all three of us. A wrecker accompanied the truck to tow the jeep back to the base.

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