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B-Man Comes to Samsun, 1966-67

Mike Pollastro

2003-2011 by Author

I was at Samsun, Det 3-2, from Feb 1966 to May 1967 on "Dog" trick as a Russian language intelligence specialist. All the time I was there I was known as "B-Man". Here's how I got the name: On our way to the base from the U.S., those assigned to Samsun or Trabzon had to stop over in Istanbul a couple nights. Of course, that became a good occasion to party hardy. The last night we were there in Istanbul, we started the evening's entertainment at a bar which had a number of young women who were basically hustling drinks - you'd buy them a drink which was supposed to be alcohol but wasn't.

The other guys, who included Michael Noto and Ray Salomonson also destined for Samsun, and I were sitting in a booth drinking and one of the girls came over and, since I was smoking a cigarette, asked me for a light. So I was a smart ass American and asked her what she would give me for it. "Nothing", she said, then got a light from one of the other guys, who I think was John Anderson who was on his way to Trabzon. She then proceeded to give him a smoldering kiss. Then she lit into me but good, calling me all kinds of names, several times calling me "Bastard Man". Well, she calmed down and, after that, we had a great conversation with her, she had lived in New York for a few years and her English was pretty good.

After we left that club, we went to an all-night joint with a DJ and danced and drank the night away, getting back to our hotel just barely in time to catch our ride out to the airport. We got to Samsun and, fortunately, all that happened that afternoon was we were shown to our rooms, where I immediately passed out until the middle of the next day. When I awoke, I was "B-Man", largely thanks to Noto, and I had that name the rest of my tour. I don't think many guys at the base ever even knew my real name.

There's not much to say about the tour itself. I wish I had spent more time in town learning Turkish and communicating with the residents there. I did learn a few words of Turkish, got along very well with the Turks who worked on the base, and enjoyed several trips into town to eat at restaurants and to shop. I enjoyed hanging out with the other guys, mostly from the same trick as me (Dog). Fast pitch softball was fun.

The best part was in the summer, we had a shuttle from our mountain top to a really nice beach on the Black Sea a few miles west of Samsun and several times we camped out overnight there. At first the shuttle was an open bed truck. Kids along the way would sometimes throw rocks at us on the back road to the beach. One time we loaded up with rocks before making the trip and paid them back fiercely. Well, that wasn't too good for community relations, so, after that, the shuttle was a closed truck.

Homer

At Samsun in 1966-67, we had a mascot. Her name was Homer. Homer was a one-humped, Dromedary camel. (Two-humped ones are from Mongolia.) She actually had another name, a Turkish name which I can't remember now, but we all referred to her as Homer, because Homer was the first name of our base commander. Some times Homer would be fenced in the area where our radar was kept, but at other times she would be fenced in the area where our listening station was, out on the point of the hill, with a majestic view of Samsun Bay on the Black Sea. Somebody obviously had a sense of humor to fence her in there, because she made it a challenge to get in and out of the building to work. She had a tendency to come up and try to take a nip out of you and, momma!, those were big teeth!

There was one duty that definitely qualified for hazardous duty pay. I can only remember pulling it once. There was an incinerator out on the grounds, which was used to burn up all the paper we had been generating inside the building, you know, the classified stuff. Well, I got the fire started and was putting paper in there to burn and along comes Homer. I did my best to ward her off, but who can account for camel taste buds? She was determined to nibble on something, and I was glad it was the paper and not me. I still wonder if there isn't some classified camel shit out on that hilltop to this day!


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