Black Bat 34th Squadron
The Low-Altitude Reconnaissance Special Task Force
The development of mainland China air defenses and electronic communication technology became a subject of interest for the government of the Republic of China after its retreated to Taiwan. It is an interest shared by the United States. In 1953 the CIA set up “Wei-West Enterprises, Inc.” to disguise delivery of surveillance equipments and reconnaissance aircrafts, mainly B-17s, B-25s and P2Vs reconnaissance planes to Taiwan. Each plane was flown by a team of 12 to 14 men from the ROC Air Force. Between 1953 and 1967, over 838 reconnaissance missions were flown. The planes flew at very low altitudes, under 500 feet, out after dusk into the Mainland, back before dawn to the Hsinchu
(新竹) Base in Taiwan. Their bat-like behaviors got them the nickname of “the Black Bat Squadron.”
These unarmed planes went into the Mainland to bait attacks by MiG fighters and anti-aircraft guns in order to bring their electronic signal chatter back to base for analysis. These highly dangerous missions were unheard of in the history of air aviation war operations at that time. The crew on board faced a mortality rate of 50% but no one back down.
Many planes along with their crews crashed into mountainsides or were shot down by enemy planes. During its 14 years of operation, 15 planes were lost along with 148 crew members. For 40 years this operation was kept as top secret in US and ROC. Anguish families, widowed wives and orphaned children were not allowed to hold fUneral services nor tell anyone of such incident until the US and the ROC governments declassified the files in 2004.
As tensions across the strait thawed, in 2001 some “Black Bat” widows living in California appealed directly to
People’s Republic of China Prime Minister Zhu Rong-ji （朱鎔基） to help locate their husbands’ remains. Within two
weeks the Prime Minister notified the Chinese Ambassador to Washington D.C., Li Dao-Yu （李道豫）
widows to visit the crash sites and their husbands’ gravesites. Their remains were escorted back to Taoyuan (桃源)
in Taiwan for a state reburial. Upon their arrival these “brave martyrs” received a honorable but solemn ceremony by the Department of Defense of the Republic of China. Their final resting place was at the Air Force Martyr’s Cemetery at Xin Dian（碧潭空軍公墓）, Memorial plaques were erected for these men in the Yuanshan Hall of Martyrs in Taiwan.(忠烈祠)