Not much remains of the former Taichū Aerodrome 臺中飛行場, a Japanese colonial era airbase originally built in 1911 on the northwestern periphery of central Taichung 台中. The airbase saw a lot of action in World War II and several kamikaze units were stationed there in the final months of the war. After the arrival of the KMT it was used as a hub for aviation research and development before entering into civilian use in the 1970s as Shuǐnǎn Airport 水湳機場. In 2004 operations were transferred to the nearby Taichung Airport 台中航空站 and, over the following decade, the former Japanese airbase was completely demolished as part of an ongoing city-wide urban renewal plan. The only building spared was a lone gun tower built in 1940, formally designated a historic site in 2006, and officially known as the Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺中飛行場機槍堡.
This gun tower is one of dozens built by the Japanese to defend airfields and important installations from allied bombers during the war. Several more just like this one (as well as a few more recent structures) can be found further west on the Dadu Plateau 大肚台地, a natural defensive position guarding access to the populous Taichung Basin 臺中盆地. To my inexpert eye the conical design looks identical to one of the gun towers near the former Changhua Aerodrome in Changhua 彰化. For a more general discussion of Japanese gun towers in Taiwan I recommend this post from Taiwan Air Power.
The biggest surprise inside the gun tower was evidence of human habitation! It is not so unusual to encounter evidence of squatters in abandoned homes and factories but a historic gun tower? That was not expected. Whoever had been staying here kept the place fairly tidy and even went to the effort of blacking out the windows. I’m glad they weren’t home when I dropped by—but even if they were there’s a good chance they would have been fine with me taking a look around. Squatters I’ve encountered in Taiwan tend to be quite friendly.
There wasn’t a lot of room to get a good picture of the gun mount on top of the tower but the view of the surrounding landscape was worth the risk and effort involved in getting up there. As mentioned, the former airport has been cleared out, and a new grid of streets now extends toward the horizon. Water mains burrow through the ground below and street lights change for no one. It is all ready for property developers to move in—I wonder what’s the hold up? We might ask the same about the gun tower; it was designated a historic site ten years prior to when these photographs were shot. And speaking of shooting, you can bet troops stationed here fired on American planes 70 years ago!
Finding this historic gun tower is easy. Since it is a historic site all you have to do is enter the Chinese name into Google Maps and you’ll have directions in no time. Access may change over time as the area is developed into the public park it is destined to become—whenever city officials get around to it—but if you act now you might be able to explore the interior before it is sealed (as these things invariable are). Just be sure to knock first!