American Embassy



In George Kerr’s “Formosa Betrayed”, he gives a brief background on how the building came to be the US Embassy. In Chapter IV about 3/4 of the way down Wanted: Permanent Consular Represenation at Taipei

he states: A second list of properties was presented for consideration. They were better but only slightly so. Only one had adequate provison for a combined office-residence arrangement, a solid construction and a central location. It had been built many years earlier for the local representatives of the Standard Oil Company, had passed from owner to owner and now had been confiscated. We were to be allowed the privilege of buying it. In time it became the American Embassy in China.There were small difficulties.

Mayor Huang of Taipei was attempting to establish squatter’s rights in the building as he was also squatting in other desirable properties around town. The Governor’s Office ordered him to withdraw. In angry retaliation he promptly seized a large residence adjacent to the old prewar American Consulate which had been a rented property. The owner was a wealthy Formosan woman who had many American friends. When she protested vigorously the Mayor arranged to have her arrested on charges of “collaboration with the Japanese.” During the noisy litigation His Honor unwisely charged, in print, that the United States Government had “stolen” his property. The officers of the American Liaison Group decided that it was time to object to some of the trivial but persistent efforts to cause the Americans loss of face before the public.

The Mayor was asked to publish a retraction which he did with poor grace. Our troubles were not at an end at the old Standard Oil building. Before we could survey the premises in detail and begin plans for remodeling we discovered that a Nationalist General had taken a fancy to the house and grounds and had moved in a team of squatters. We were invited to get off the property and to stay off. A direct order from the Governor was required to pry the General’s representatives from the kitchen quarters.

1933 Japanese Map showing the location of American Consolate on Chungshan N. Rd.

The Embassy was located where the National Tax office stands today and the former consulate became the Ambasor's residence.
Nearby was the "Sugar Building" which I believe was used by the US Military Radio Station.

The Sacking of the US Embassy in 1957

George Kerr also describes the events of March 1957. Read the entire Chapter 19 to get some perspective on why this happened. It’s been mentioned that at the time there were rumors of the CIA plotting to exterminate CKS and the KMT henchmen were looking for some proof of this. Here are a few paragraphs that tell about the sacking incident:

On the night of March 20 an American Army sergeant shot and killed a prowler discovered in his garden at Taipei. An American military court tried the case, acquitted the sergeant on May 23, and flew him out of the island. The victim was described as a minor employee in a Chinese government agency and a reserve officer. In time-honored Chinese custom his widow demanded “consolation money” which was not promptly forthcoming.

On the day following the acquittal (May 24) she took up a position in front of the American Embassy gates to scream hysterically that she had been denied justice. This, too, is a time-honored Chinese custom. According to the official story her noisy clamor attracted a crowd, the mob spirit took over, a stone was thrown, and soon the crowd poured into the Embassy compound.

The American flag was torn down, cars were overturned and the offices were sacked. Some local employees and American officers were injured before they could retreat from the premises. The rioting began about one-thirty in the afternoon and continued with brief lulls until well after nightfall. Files were broken open, cipher books and coding equipment were tossed about, and confidential and secret papers were strewn through the building.

After many hours of uninterrupted rioting Chiang Ching- kuo’s security forces took over the gutted Embassy. Ambassador Rankin returned from Hong Kong during the height of the riot. He visited the site during a lull in the affair but was asked by the Chinese to leave the premises; for they anticipated further violence. When he returned soon after daylight next morning, accompanied by Embassy officers, he was gratified to find the Chinese had been so helpfully attempting to restore order to chaos and to sweep up some of the debris within the building.

Approximately fourteen hours had elapsed. The ladies of the American community promptly volunteered to assist in sorting scattered file materials. Some 90 per cent were recovered. No classified materials “of consequence” were missing and enough of the cryptographic material was recovered to satisfy the Ambassadr that the codes were intact. Prompt official protests brought equally prompt apologies and indemnities.The unofficial accounts add disturbing detail to this story and raise troublesome questions.

According to Captain Lederer certain Chinese and Formosans and some foreigners had been warned of possible trouble days in advance. It is maintained that the dead “minor official” was a Major in one of Chiang Ching-kuo’s secret organizations and that other members of Chiang’s organizations were identified as ringleaders whose faces appeared in news photos made during the riot. The screaming widow is alleged to have been provided with a prepared text which she obligingly read into a recording apparatus conveniently at hand when the riot began.

Behind all this lay the odd circumstance that so spontaneous a riot took place precisely on the day when Madame and the Generalissimo were far away at a mountain retreat, the Ambassador was not on Formosa and the chief officers of the Army administration were across the channel on the offshore islands. In a city notorious for its elaborate secret services and policing agencies -all under Chiang Ching-kuo – why was a riot such as this permitted to go unchecked for hours? And why was not a strong police cordon established around the premises, leaving only Americans or Embassy employees to handle scattered cryptographic materials and secret papers? Was someone seeking for documents recording American views on the internal situation or confidential notes which might incriminate anti-Nationalists in communication with the Embassy?

The following 16 black and white photos came from the Taiwan Image GIO website.
They are buried deep in a hard to use index so I’m taking the liberty to post a few photos here to fill in this story.

USAID Buidling (below)

Another important building in Taipei was the USAID building located kitty corner from the Presidential building.
On this spot today there is a fairly new government building that has something to do with the Economic Ministry.

There was another building in Taipei that housed several US businesses.

At first I thought it wasa photo of the USAID building, but now I think it was a different building.

Lt. Col. Roy E. Rayle (US ARMY)took this photo around 1957/58. Photo from:

The final lowering of the America Flag. There is a video below and /or here.

Thanks Roy!

USAID Projects