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Turkey, 1963

Dennis Luessenheide

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See Pictures of Sahintepe  HERE

Turkey Tropo

Dennis Luessenheide

Merhaba Agbi! I was part of the original group to activate Sahin Tepsi/Sahintepe Air Station & open “Turkey Tropo of Med-Com Tropo” in 1963. In 1963 personnel for the new tropo communications system began to arrive in Turkey, particularly at KARAMURSEL Air Station. KARAMURSEL was the parent, & headquarters, for communications maintenance TUSLOG Det 63. They were using HF radio, UHF & VHF single sideband, & An/Trac Radio Relay. Some new stations for tropo & microwave were already under construction, and some were yet to begin construction.

Temporary Assignment at KARAMURSEL

I was in a small group of microwave radio repairmen, fresh out of tech school, who were assigned to a new relay station, TUSLOG Det 111, located outside of Istanbul at Alemdag, Turkey. The TUSLOG commander in Istanbul, a Captain, was aware of the new tropo system being installed. His detachment consisted of HF radio and an/trac radio relay equipment, worked mostly with KARAMURSEL AS. He said the site was selected, and was awaiting arrival of building materials. Also, the radio personnel for Det 111 were 150-200% over populated. He also knew that another site was still 50% under populated for its radio maintenance people. He transferred us to the parent detachment, Det 63, at KARAMURSEL. When we four A2C (E3), arrived at KARAMURSEL Det 63, the squadron people were both elated, and perplexed. The Tropo NCO’s were happy to see some more people arriving and the regular ground radio NCO’s were pondering what to do with us; and, there were more to come. Anyway, the Det 150 NCO’s laid claim to us. We were given a week (5 days) to process-in at KARAMURSEL. We actually took 5 weeks to do so! By then it was into May, and some people were beginning to get the idea that we were loafing around, not doing anything worthwhile.

A few of us were assigned to some work details that needed extra help for a few days; such as stocking shelves in the commissary, helping erect poles for new antennas on the antenna farm, guarding Turks mowing the yard inside the fence at the ops compound. The first time on guard duty, we were given M1 carbines with a 5 round clip to be put into our pocket. The next time we were given a .38 caliber revolver in a holster with 5 rounds in a cellophane wrap to be put in our pocket. Luckily, there were Turkish Army guards (askers) outside of the ops compound fence who could shoot that civilian mowing the grass if he decided to do something he wasn’t suppose to do. (We’d probably get shot too, just for being in the area!) I really don’t believe that the Turkish national would jeopardize his job by dong something foolish. The antenna job was another exercise in “padding the account”. We needed a winch truck to raise the antenna (telephone) poles, so a Turkish National from the motor poo brought out a wrecker. The GEEIA people operated the truck while he lay around & watched. The next day he brings a “helper” friend along. By now, this (Turkish) crew needed a supervisor. For the next 3 days 3 Turks brought out the truck, while we Airmen operated it to set the poles! I saw a ‘real undercover mission’ operated by the AF. Out in the transmitter site’s antenna farm were 2 small guard shacks, one for USAF & the other for the Turkish Army (guard). Every 20 minutes the lone airman would make a coded voice transmission. To the ordinary radio listener this wouldn’t make any sense. I found out later that this was a continuous carrier beacon used for aircraft navigation. (Hopefully, no more ‘shoot downs’ by the Russians.)

Tropo On The Job Training

When June arrived, more Airmen continued to trickle into KARAMURSEL, the NCO’s in the maintenance headquarters decided that in order to keep us tropo/microwave troops together they had to find something for all of us to do collectively. Since all of the A2C repairmen were recent graduates of microwave radio relay school, and not tropo trained, they would start training us in tropo techniques. Our site commander was a SMSGT with ground radio and radio relay experience. The maintenance NCO’s were radar experienced people with tropo training. They too, were fresh from a school in 1962, but with no work sites to go to. They were destined for the Canadian DEW Line, but that had been contracted out to (GE&RCA) civilians beginning in 1963. We also had civilian tech-reps on-station to work at our tropo sites. The tech-reps & the NCO’s began training from the T.O.s for our equipment. This also qualified as our 5-level OJT training. This training would last into early September. In the meantime we had weekends free to go to the ‘Bul (Istanbul) for sightseeing. Our first 6 months in Turkey were spent at KARAMURSEL, waiting for construction to be completed. I learned to develop & make my own slides, using an Ektachrome kit from the AFEX, in the barracks’s latrine, because the AFEX’s service was slow (t/f Europe) for color film, or workmanship was deplorable (locally Yalova/Istanbul) for b/w prints. The KAS hobby shop had been closed in 1963 for relocation in 1964.

Sahin Tepsi Personnel

Back in January of 1963 a SMSGT, a MSGT, & 2 TSGTs arrived at KARAMURSEL for Det 150. (The MSGT & TSGTs had radar experience.) In February 3 A1C (E4) arrived. The TSGTs & A1Cs “hung out” in the HF radio shop, while the SMSGT & MSGT were in the mtce hq until the OJT class began. (The ops itself was manned by MIO (intercept) people.) In May & June some more of Det 111 & Det 150 people arrived at KARAMURSEL. By this time construction on all of the sites had begin. Most of Det 150 personnel didn’t see their site until late August & early September ’63, except for the SMSGT & MSGT. They, and Det 63 commander, a Major, made a few daytime visits. (Another Air Force miss-match: the major was a SAC navigator, with the title of ‘Squadron Communications Officer’ in his profile!). From the Bursa-Yalova road, south of Orhangazi to Gemlik, we could see the tropo site atop of Sahin Tepesi. Most the ‘early’ Det 150 personnel who “checked in” during 1963 through KARAMURSEL AS left Turkey before Sahin Tepsi AS was completed.

Det 150 acquired a 1963 Dodge 4x4, 4-door, 6-passenger pickup truck. (Almost all of KARAMURSEL’s vehicles were only 2-wheel drive.) People would stare at our (Det 150) truck, and wonder what we were doing. We later received another Dodge 4x4 pickup & a 4x4 field ambulance. (We’d use the ambulance to transport our test equipment to PMEL at KARAMURSEL AS; it didn’t bounce like the pickups did.)

Operation "Green Brier"

During September ’63 the Air Force decided that it needed to activate the Turkey Tropo/Med-Com Region tropo system. The USSR in Georgia was launching “space” missiles, and the AF wanted to monitor and report on these launchings. Since there were American & European contractor personnel, along with Turkish workers, roaming all over the site, the AF sent us up to ‘monitor’ the AF’s use of the radio systems.

The radio building, actually the largest building on the site was finished, except for some of the electrical switchgear connecting to the power ‘shack’. FEC (Federal Electric Corp) & PCE (Page Communications Engineers) installed the electronics on the mountain. FEC put in Collins microwave radio, & Motorola multiplexing eq, & a tropo radio. PCE put in the other 3 tropo radio systems, & I believe the electric circuit breaker switchgear. (We were told FEC put in the equipment from Sahin Tepsi to Izmir over through Greece & into Italy, & PCE put in Turkey tropo.)

Tumpane Co. built the buildings put in the water system, the fuel system, and the site power generators. FEC & PCE each had either ‘leased’ a Willys Jeep Wagoner, or owned a Land-Rover, with a Turk driver, who would just sit around all day until he had to drive the installers back to Gemlik or Bursa for the night. All of the contractors chipped-in & paid a Turk ‘houseboy’ to keep the coffeepot ready, & to sweep out the building. (I recall a FEC installer who married a Turkish woman & lived in Bursa, & had to travel through the olive groves up to Sahin Tepsi.)

The Airmen worked 24 hrs on & then 72 hrs off. The AF was implementing a time keeping system, pioneered by SAC that accounted for ALL time spent on the job. There was a code to keep track of “down time”, time allowed to sleep beside the equipment. We traveled from KARAMURSEL to Sahin Tepsi every 24 hours with a fresh crew; and then had the next 3 days off. The barracks & mess hall were just being built. We slept beside the tropo equipment, and cooked our meals on the contractor’s hot plate. Time spent working was either coded according to the maintenance work done, or was tracked on “trouble tickets. (The time cards showed 24 hr on duty, but wanted to account for ‘non-productive’ time.) We were given separate rations allowance to go to the commissary to purchase food for when working. We had to pay to eat in the KARAMURSEL mess hall, since our ‘chow passes’ were pulled. A couple of our guys bought box lunches from the mess hall, thinking they would save themselves the trouble of buying & preparing their food. The (SMSgt) NCOIC heard about this, & put a stop to their laziness.

The Det 150 crew consisted of the 4 NCOs, 3 A1C (E4), and about 8 A2C (E3) for radio relay maintenance. In October some power production personnel arrived. The radio contractor furnished the original power. He “borrowed” from the Air Force, a couple of emergency power semi trailers equipped with 2-250KW(?), (screaming) GMC V8 diesel-generators. They could be heard for miles all over the “hill”! They eventually were replaced with 4 White diesel powered 350KW generators, which you could hardly hear unless you were inside the power building. When the site generators were doing their acceptance runs, they needed an artificial load to load’em down. The contractor had a tank outside of the power shack, just below the site’s water storage tank. Temporary power cables were run into that tank with water from the site’s tank. The storage tank almost ran out of water, and the acceptance test wasn’t finished. The contractor’s people and the Air Force people busily shoveled snow into the “dummy load” tank for the final hour’s test. The tropo personnel spent October & November living next to the equipment.

Sahin Tepsi Residents

In December the motor pool garage was finished. We set up house keeping in the garage, since the barracks & mess hall were still under construction. Det 150 moved bunks into the vehicle bays. We also had a 250gal “water buffalo” parked inside (to keep it from freezing), since the water system wasn’t finished. (We heard the site water was pumped uphill for over a 1000 feet from a spring.) We had several kerosene heaters to heat the building. We duck-taped the doors & windows to keep out the wind, except for the door in front of the water buffalo. It went down to KARAMURSEL every other day for a fresh load of water. The work shop area was turned into a kitchen/dinning hall area. (Stoves & refrigerators were brought in.) Some cooks from Istanbul Det 29 arrived at this time. The tropo people still had their rooms at KARAMURSEL, so when we had a 3-day break we’d go down to the “mainsite”, mostly to take care of our laundry.

The water system wasn’t completed. The power people would pump water into the storage tank to operate the flush toilet in the garage’s maintenance shop restroom. The AF only used the garage as a dorm/mess hall for 6 weeks. In the garage we had 2 kerosene heaters in the vehicle bay area, which contained bunks, plus 1 in the shop, which was used as a makeshift kitchen & dining area.

Early in January ‘64 the barracks & mess hall were finished; and we moved in. We used the beds from the garage to equip the barracks, & shipped the kitchen equipment back to Istanbul. KARAMURSEL Det 3 (MIO) Security Service wouldn’t let its support people give Sahin Tepsi any support. The support people came from Istanbul Det 29. The cooks would spend 3 days for a round-trip to the ‘Bul for rations & supplies. They could only get bread & milk from KARAMURSEL. (What an Air Farce!) Det 150 was still short of authorized personnel in early ’64. I believe we were shorthanded one person per crew/trick. The site commander did a lot of talking & politicking to get our tour of duty set at 12 months, since we were a remote & isolated site. KARAMURSEL wanted to have us assigned to KAS and then reassigned to Sahin Tepsi on a prorated basis, which would’ve been 15-18 months). The SMSgt got everyone in the tropo section assigned to 12 months. And he was the first to leave in January 1964. Replacements were slow in coming in during February & March of 1964.

Sahin Tepsi (Sahintepe)

Sahin Tepsi (Air Station), with the call sign of TKG (Turkey, KARAMURSEL, Gemlick), didn’t have the secure perimeter found 20 years later. Occasionally, a sheepherder would drift through; but the Turkish askers would send them on their way. We shared the hill with a Turkish Army “radio company” detachment. (It was, maybe the size of a squad, lead by a 2-stripe asker.) They had about 12-16 TRC-1 radios powered by a couple of jeep engine-generators (1 KW?). They operated about 16–18 AN/TRC-1 radios connected back-to-back (relay fashion). Their “AIC” (asker in-charge) was a 2-stripe askar, but they had an Officer or NCO check on them at least once a week. Their power came from 1 of 2 “Jeep” engine powered 10 kw generators. We (AF) supposedly supplied them some of our power later in 1964.

The weather on top of the hill was something else. It seems the wind blow through all of the time. In the winter we saw fog freezing horizontally on the antenna towers & any of the ladders on any tank or tower. There was some “green” grass in the spring, but by late Summer it had mostly turned brown. The site lost several aluminum street light poles to a driver from each “company” working on the hill: Page Construction, FEC (Federal Electric Co/Corp (?), Tumpane (buildings & power), Air Force, & Mother Nature (the wind blew one over)!


(I heard later that both the ’39 & the ’75 were made by REL, a subsidiary of AT&T’s Western Electric. The FRC-75 was the civilian version of the military FRC-39.) The KAS shot used a “passive” reflector to “bend” the wave over a ridge & down to the site-4 (transmitter) site, relayed on to KAS ops. KAS also communicated on to Golcuk & Izmit. The Ankara (Turkey tropo) shot used a German made Siemen-Halske mux, KAS & Izmir had a Motorola mux, and the MRC-80 used the military companion MCC/TCC-12 mux.

Turkey Tropo used a “0” dB (cross-connect) jackfield board, while Med-Com used the “normal” –16/+7 dB jackfield. (This was the standard for the Bell Telephone system multiplexer in/out jacks.) Here’s were the “radar” NCO caused trouble for us. When the system went into operation we didn’t have any permanent cross connect jumpers wired on the backside of the jackfield panels; we used patch cord jumpers on the front until the tech controllers were certain that was the configuration they wanted. The sergeant would come in and stare at that arrangement and get mad, and say it was a disgrace! Then he’d jerk them down; and we (A2Cs) would scramble to put the patches back up. Tech Control would be on the phone & the orderwire yelling why we lost communications. He did that several times before the SMSGT & KARAMURSEL’s maintenance HQ convinced him that wasn’t a good thing to do.

Tech Control got all shook up another time when Sinop lost power, causing ‘a’ vf channel of teletype to fail. We spent several hours trying to convince everyone as to what really happened. (The “old” group of tech controllers were used to ‘when a radio channel failed the system was down’.) In 1964 a “new” group of TCs came from tech school, and understood the complexities of wideband communications, making life easier for the “boys” in the tropo/wideband section.

The entry room to the communications building housed a distillery for the water-cooled 10 KW tropo klystrons. The klystron tube was literally installed upside down. This placed the high voltage collector-plate near the floor instead of towards the ceiling, sending the electron beam into the floor if the collector failed. The Page/REL contractor at the tropo site near Adana ruined a klystron during acceptance testing. They didn’t have time to wait for another replacement from either Europe or the ‘States’, so the Air Force took it to the Air Base Dental Clinic on İncirlik AB and had them patch the hole(s) with dental silver & gold filling material. The klystron then passed the test, and Turkey Tropo went into operation. This room also contained an M-G set, which is a motor driven generator, with a balanced flywheel connecting them. When the diesel-generated electricity failed the spinning flywheel would keep the generator running for about 5 minutes; hopefully long enough to get another diesel-generator running. (The Telephone Company stateside relies on DC storage batteries to keep its system running.)

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Shake, Rattle, & Roll!

Some time during the summer of ’63 an earthquake occurred somewhere between Bursa & Izmir. (We were told about 250 miles away.) I was in the base library, which consisted of 2 Butler type buildings put together, side x side. I felt the floor shake a little; I looked up & saw the ceiling moving in the opposite direction! Nothing came down, but I quickly got up & rapidly walked out. Outside, I saw some of my roommates coming from the Airmen’s Club. (Later, some guys said they left the building, but returned when things settled down, only to find that the Turk waiters had cleared all of the tables! That’s what their instructions were; when Agbi left the building, clear his table.)

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The pictures of Iznik (below) were taken on July 4, 1963. We "Detachment 150 guys" accompanied the Det-111 site commander, a Master Sergeant, on a day trip around Lake Iznik and the city of Iznik. I can't remember his name, but he had bought one of those "GI Cars" - the ones a serviceman brought into Turkey in the 1950s and it was handed down from GI to GI, always selling to a new arrival.


(Date of Estimated Return from Overseas (Click here or on right-hand set of orders below)

We were happy to be able to leave after 12 months, instead of 18 months. A lot of the returning (Turkey) tropo repairmen would be going into “tdy” squadrons in TAC mobile AC&W squadrons, or into AFCS mobile comm. squadrons. Later in the summer of 1964, President Johnson exercised his “Bay of Tonkin Resolution”, putting the US into Vietnam. The Air Force Air Training Command started building up its instructor corps at tech schools. I was able to take advantage of this move, but I had to extend my service another 17 months. I went back to Keesler AFB & taught electronic fundamentals for 2 1/2 years. At Keesler I meet more tropo people, as well as some GEEIA people who worked the whole Mediterranean Region Area, from Spain to India & Pakistan.

“Feather Merchant”

I left the Air Force in 1967, and went to work for 34 years for AT&T Long Lines, the long distance company for ‘The Bell (Telephone) System’. AT&T tried using satellite radio, but we found that it didn’t work very well for data transmission. Most of the satellite links were used for voice communications. I later read in AT&T newsletters that the satellite radio equipment was similar to the AF tropo radios, but with steerable antennas. I worked with AT&T coaxial cable (remember the ‘Spiral-4’ cable for TRC-24); & later, fiber optic cable connected to Sonet equipment. (The Bell System calls it ‘light guide’.) During my career with AT&T I got work with a couple government “contracts”. One of them involved providing auxiliary air-to-ground communications for the Air Force’s ‘Operation Looking Glass’, SAC’s airborne command post, from a location near Chicago, IL. (We did ‘service’ that plane once during a mid-western ice storm.) Also, made connections a couple of times with ‘Air Force One’, the President’s plane. Also serviced a lot of “VIP” congressional flights with just phone service.

Some Reassignment Orders I Received:


I have an interesting story about "my chicken scratching" that appears on my Turkey assignment orders (ABOVE - from Keesler AFB Technical Center).

This order is dated for the completion of school, but is issued about a month in advance of that event. The normal "sequence of events" pertaining to completion of technical school involves the issuance of "assignment & shipping" (transfer) orders prior to completion, then a graduation ceremony the day after completion of school. The newly graduated airmen should have their transportation tickets in-hand by that time. Some would be able to leave the base following the graduation exercise, while the rest would go the next day. All-in-all this process would only take about 2 - 3 days to accomplish, all within less than a week's time.

This class graduated at the close of the Cuban missile crises with the Russians. For some unknown reason (to us) the AF holds the Turkey group back for another 10-12 days. Other graduates for stateside & European assignments were able to leave right away. The "bummer" for the hold-over would interfere with some who planned weddings, one of'em being my own. My wedding was planned, & set for 9 February 1963; and the AF wanted to hold me at Keesler until 12 Feb 1963. I called my fiancée to inform her, and to inquire what we could do to postpone it for a week. Luckily, her father was a school teacher who knew a few politicians at the state & federal levels. He made a call to his Congressman & asked him to get me released in time for 9 Feb. This was done while I still had a couple of weeks of school to finish. I get called into the Student Squadron Commander's office several days later. He asks me if I knew someone with the congressman's name. I just about bust out laughing, but I didn't. I was questioned (grilled) if I had flunked any blocks of instruction, that would've set me back in school, causing me to be late in finishing school. Then the Commander, (a 1st Lieutenant (02), equivalent of USN Ltjg) wanted to send me home, & return for a day or two, and then leave again. I talked him into letting me go sometime before 9 Feb. I was able to leave on 8 Feb. I get a few extra days of leave (honeymoon) before reporting to Istanbul & KARAMURSEL, Turkey.

(A side note: we AF students heard that when a young officer failed/flunked out of the Comm-Officer school, KAFB would hold them for several months until they could be reassigned to a different career field. These "failures" would become Student Squadron Commanders before they left Keesler.


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