Adventures in the Air Force
David L. Devlin
© 2003-2011 by Author
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My name is David Devlin currently I am retired from the Television Graphics Industry. My wife, Sharon Feldman, and I split our time between Sebring, Florida in the winter and Blue Ridge, Georgia in the summer.
Lackland Air Force Base
An all night flight from Philadelphia - the first for me - was the beginning of a blur of activities. Arriving at Lackland AFB, I remember a little man yelling at us constantly, a buzz haircut, uniforms, stripping cigarettes, heat and more heat. I spent three days in the hospital with sun stroke. Last, but not least, a midnight bus ride to Keesler AFB.
I don't believe it went below 100 degrees during the day that whole month. Just by chance I was in San Antonio on July 26, 1982 - exactly twenty five years after my departure in 1957. It was still over 100 degrees that day.
Keesler Air Force Base
At Keesler, we still had six more weeks of Basic Training in the afternoons. I remember Sgt. Horn, a much nicer Drill Sergeant than the little man in Texas. We did our share of Marching, KP, cleaning barracks and staying out of the way of the new Little Man that could bounce a quarter off of his bed, shave using his shoes as a mirror, and got to wear a rope. My parents came to visit for my first weekend pass. Sgt. Horn let my mother give me my first stripe. She was thrilled, I was embarrassed.
Radio Operator School"
The most memorable part of Radio Operator School was the march across the flight line at 6:00 or so every morning. Any member of the military that did that march deserved hazardous duty pay. Have you ever been chased down the runway by a DC-3 being flown by a Colonel putting in flight time?
On the back of the photo (click picture below) are these names, some have position in photo, where he is from, and where he was going. It's hard to read, and if anyone recognizes someone, . (Click the document below. If, after it loads in your browser you see your cursor is a magnifying glass, just click again to enlarge even further.)
March Air Force Base 6942nd Student Squadron
Waiting for Security Clearance
These six months were probably the best time for me while in the Air Force. I stepped off the AF bus that took me to the hill and sprained my ankle. So much for my grand entrance. I spent three days in the hospital, and was put on 2 weeks light duty. On myy first day on light duty I was sitting watching Sergeant Solomon trying to type a letter for the Captain. I offered to help, but he just kept pecking away at the typewriter. The Captain came in and wanted to know why the letter wasn't finished. Making a long story short: I ended up being the Squadron typist for the rest of my wait for clearance.
My first weekend in Riverside put me at the Greyhound Bus Station. There was a cute blonde selling Poppies for the VFW. It cost me a dollar for the poppy, and got me a steady date for the next 6 months. Her father owned a 1957 Thunderbird, and she had almost exclusive use of it. She would pick me up at the orderly room on Friday afternoons, and bring me back on Sunday evening.
Getting there is half the fun
I would guess that my trip from Charleston South Carolina was much the same as everyone else's: a stop in Bermuda; a stop in the Azores; and a midnight ride on a bus to Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya. Of course, the most memorable thing about that was the early morning wake up call of two jets going into afterburner just outside the barracks.
Shift Duty - Able Flight
I do not really remember what flight I was on at KARAMURSEL, but, as I see in pictures, I am wearing a green hat with the letter A on it, as were my roommates. So, I guess Able Flight was mine. Shift duty included three Swing-shifts, 24 hours off, three Mid-shifts, 24 hours off, three Day-shifts then three days off. What a schedule we put in! It took a while for me to get settled into the routine, and to get up to speed at the job. Some time during that initial period my shift supervisor, name and rank unknown, chewed me out up one side and down the other, for something. It was during this ass-chewing that I acquired the nickname Dexter. It stuck with me the entire time I was there. I actually grew to like it.
Late in the fall of 1958, they came around and gave everyone flu shots. I am not sure if this was the first year of flu shots, or just my first. I was laid up for 3 days afterward! The next year the medics lay in wait for us at the entrance to the OPS Center. I told the guy I was allergic to those shots. So he, thinking I just wanted to get out of the needle, said he was going to stick me twice, once to test, and then the shot. He put that test shot in, and my whole arm swelled up I had to go back to the barracks for the night. I have never had another flu shot.
On January 26th, 1960, at 9:53 in the morning there was an earthquake that hit the Sea of Marmara area which was caused by the underlying Anatolian fault. This same fault slipped again in 1999 causing a devastating earthquake in the very same region. I remember the racks of radios bouncing around on the floor. It seems that some were about to tip over. That was my first experience with an earthquake but, later, living in the San Francisco Bay Area for fourteen years, it was not my last. When the big one hit that area in the 90's, I was not really surprised.
For awhile I was assigned to courier duty during the Midnight shifts. At about 4 am, I was given a satchel, and a sidearm, and a jeep. I had to take the satchel someplace either on or off the base, I am not sure which. Going out after dark around the OPS area was dangerous. They had Turkish Army guards patrolling the perimeter of the fence. I had been told at one time they actually gave the guards ammunition, but that they always came back in the morning having fired off all the rounds. Eventually they just didn't give them ammunition. Truth or Legend?
This was my favorite place to work. Operators would call up with a frequency and the guy running the antennas would cycle through various antennas according to where the signal was originating, pick up the best signal, and plug it into the appropriate receiver. Does anybody know what the "Do Not Answer" transmissions were about?
Our shift ordered jackets from Germany. They were rayon on one side, white as I remember, and black cloth on the other. One side had either the USAF Security Service rocker, or the Tuslog Det 3. When we got them we were told we could not wear them because no one was supposed to know we were there. I kept it for years. After 35 years I know the exact location of the thrift store where I donated it. I have regretted it ever since. I also had a couple of tapestries that I brought back that are gone along with my green shift cap. These pictures are the only thing left except the memories. My mother kept the inexpensive silver bracelet and earrings I sent her. I doubt she ever wore them.
New Years Eve
One New Years Eve, the Officer of the Day on swing shift told the AP's not to let anyone into the ops area that came to work drunk. About 15 minutes after midnight he called the desk to find out why no one from the Mid shift had come to work. The AP said they were all out there waiting to be let in.
The barracks was a whole different world. I believe that we paid to have the halls and latrines cleaned, so there was not much housekeeping duty. We had a tendency to party a lot, especially on the three day breaks. I had at least two roommates: Bill Broughton and Mike Tuttle. If there were four to a room, the other guy was either "Whitey" Wytoschic, or Jim Wheatly.
Chess, Bridge, Gin, but not much poker, were the games most guys played. There was one guy there that could beat three or four guys at a time playing simultaneous games of Chess.
We did some drinking. Crown Royal comes to mind. I got so drunk one night, I still remember that I vowed never to do that again. I have stuck to that vow for 50 years. However, I did spend the 60's in Berkeley, and you know the saying "If you remember Berkeley in the 60's you weren't there", but I digress.
I remember the following like it happened yesterday. At some time I put my name down on a list of blood donors. They kept a list with the blood type of people willing to donate if needed. One night about one in the morning an AP woke me and told me I was needed at the Dispensary. When I got there they told me to sit tight they might need blood.
A new Assistant Provost Marshall arrived on base. As I recall, he was a Captain. He started a Judo Club. A guy I was friendly with, named King, got me interested in the club. The Captain enjoyed tossing me around the ring. One night while a basketball game was going on I think I remember him throwing me 32 times before he finally wore himself out.
In the late 60's I ran into my friend, King. I was a Charter Pilot and flight instructor at a small General Aviation operation at Oakland International Airport. He was a flight instructor at a small field west of Oakland on the other side of the hills. He was not pleased to see anyone from the old base, and did not want to have anything to do with me. I never really figured out why.
It was small and put together by a few interested, technically proficient airmen, but it was the voice of Mainsite and everyone was proud to be part of the Station.
I have absolutely no idea of how I got involved with KTUS. Based on the dates of pictures I have, I was involved for quite a few months. I remember I did a half hour show at 11 am, and 4 pm. I read local announcements, played some music, and read the menu at the chow hall for lunch, and dinner. I think I had a pretty good audience because of that. If they were serving Liver and Onions, the AFEX would have a rush hour. I got carried away with the menu thing, and got some grief from the mess hall people. I believe I either toned it down, or got fired. Not sure which.
I have absolutely no recollection of this picnic, but it appears I was there, and so was everyone else. I do not recognize any of the people in the pictures. I saw in another person's photo album some pictures of what I believe the same affair. I see children in the pictures, but do not remember them.
These pictures show a formal inspection. Why I was able to take pictures, and was not in the inspection I don't know. Maybe our shift was just getting off of a Mid shift. I saw a picture in another album of a guy getting his Good Conduct Medal at what may have been the same ceremony. I believe this took place in the Summer of 1959.
I am not sure when I got really interested in going to Istanbul on a regular basis. I think it was around the time the base Chaplain had arranged a sightseeing tour of the Holy Land, including Egypt. You needed to have a copy of your birth certificate, and $100.00. I sent home for both. When they arrived the Birth Certificate did not have a seal on it, and they would not accept that I was an American Citizen so I could not go on the trip. I was really ticked off about that.
My father knew a Major that was assigned to Tuslog in Istanbul. He arranged for me to meet with him, and in turn the Major arranged for me to meet some Turkish Big Wig. I remember the dinner we had, but only because I have a picture.
Does anybody remember the guys on the street that made the cheese sandwiches? They took this coarse, crusty bread and put cheese between two pieces, then put it into a waffle iron type device. It would melt the cheese into the bread, toasting it at the same time. I would love to have one of those again.
Old Side of the City
One day I was wandering around the old part of the city looking for Mosques and interesting places. I stopped to ask directions at a Chi house. There were some old guys out front playing backgammon on an old marble board. One guy spoke a little English, and I spoke a little Turkish. They ended up teaching me backgammon. I never won a game, but would go back on occasion and make them all laugh at how bad I was. I think they really liked me, and I know I loved going there and sitting with them rolling dice and drinking Chi. I never did visit the Blue Mosque or see much of that part of the city. I would have had pictures and little memory; instead I have wonderful memories, and no pictures.
I saw a lot of dancing, both public and private, and never bought a bowl. Enough said.
The following is a picture that someone may recognize.
Ft. Meade Maryland
I have to mention Jimmy, long passed, who hired me as soon as I turned 16 and got my drivers license. His shop specialized in repairing Buick, Cadillac, Packard and even a couple of Rolls Royces. My job was to pick up parts and customers. He had an old 1941 Buick Business Coupe with only a driver's seat for running parts. I worked for him during the summers and after school all during High School. He had a heart of gold and a face to stop a freight train.
I spent time at the National Security Agency, teaching Lieutenants and Ensigns how to read print outs. I also spent a lot of time watching an older woman (26) climb the ladder to get to the upper shelves where they stashed things. She had great legs, and, unfortunately, a big boyfriend. Oh well.
Four years to the day, I was discharged honorably as an Airman Second Class. I was not a spit and polish soldier, but I did my best, and served my country with pride. And I kept their secrets.
May 29, 2007
Note from editor: