by First Lieutenant Don Rostad
© 2003-2011 by Author
Contact the Author
Merhaba! Having discovered this wonderful website by accident just recently, the following "submission" to it is excerpted and edited from a longer unpublished manuscript I wrote in 1995 and '96. It was a proposed book that carried the title of "IN SERVICE TO MY COUNTRY." It contained some early biographical information and a detailed account of my unusual adventures as a Commissioned Officer in the U. S. Air Force. It began with my enlistment in August of 1963 to avoid being drafted while using my B.A. degree to pursue a commission through USAF OTS at Lackland AFB, Texas. It concluded with my business experiences after release from active duty in April of 1968.
The manuscript was never published because more than one industry 'expert' told me it did not contain enough sex and violence. I replied that therefore neither did my life as I lived it! They told me that unless I jazzed it up a bit, few would buy it. Other than some minor misremembering, I elected not to do so. The text was obviously written for the average civilian reader unfamiliar with the USAF or Turkey. So, please excuse what may seem to you as unnecessary details and explanations about which you are already familiar.
After getting my commission in November of 1963, I was assigned duty as a Deputy Accounting and Finance officer at Hanscom Field, (now AFB), in Massachusetts, and later at Randolph AFB, Texas. In between those two tours of duty, I lived and worked in the city of Ankara, Turkey, in what I deemed to be a very unusual, if not unique, job.
I hope you enjoy reading my story. It begins with me as a First Lieutenant in Chapter Thirteen of the original manuscript at Hanscom in the spring of 1965. The names of the military personnel in it are unaltered, but those of the civilians mentioned have been changed to protect the innocent.
My thanks to Jan Claire and others for maintaining this website and for providing space to me on it.
© 1996, 2006 - Don Rostad - Captain - USAF(R) - 1963-68
[Now retired and living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA]
By the middle of September, my overseas transportation was finalized and my orders were amended. I was told to report NLT 1930 hours on Wednesday, October 20, 1965, for the scheduled departure of Pan Am flight #114, 'Category Z', from JFK in New York. I would first take a National Airlines flight from Boston. Pan Am flight #114 was a Boeing 707 that left three days a week for Paris, Rome, Istanbul, and Ankara. On one of those days, it continued to Teheran, Iran, before turning around to head back west. Flying commercial again seemed so ironic. After two years in the USAF, I had yet to set foot on any kind of military aircraft!
About that time, I got some more information about my new duty station from someone who had been there. He reported that the United States had nothing even remotely resembling a base in Ankara. Our facilities were scattered all around the city. Americans lived in Turkish apartment buildings or rented homes. My office would be in a building right on a main thoroughfare called Ataturk Boulevard and just a block or two south of our embassy. It all sounded so interesting and even adventuresome, but I was still naturally apprehensive about going there.
For the first few weeks, I would have to live in a hotel until I secured permanent housing and took delivery of my Hold Baggage. The news about Ankara also gave me clues about possible assemblies of all of us. In two years at Hanscom, I never had to march one step in a Military Parade or in a Review Ceremony. It certainly sounded as if that would continue in Ankara with no base facilities for a parade ground. We could never be gathered anywhere to hold such events. In all probability, neither USAFE nor the Turks wanted us to ever assemble in one group. That was just fine with me. I hated to march.
I learned that Ankara, not Istanbul, was the capital of the country. I was told that our main mission there revolved around a group called "JUSMMAT." That acronym was short for "Joint United States Military Mission (for) Aid to Turkey." It was a huge Foreign Aid outfit that somehow was coordinated with NATO. It had Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel assigned including several Generals and an Admiral. Our "Detachment 30" group provided various services, including finance, as housekeepers for JAMMAT. It all sounded somewhat similar to a foreign military officer being stationed in downtown Washington. However, I also heard that some people called Ankara and all of Turkey the "Asshole of USAFE." I was not at all encouraged by that.
I found out also that I would be working for a 1st Lt. Dan Grohn. He in turn reported to a Major Hugh Harkins, the Comptroller. A Budget Officer and others also reported to the Major. Both Grohn and Harkins were due to be promoted soon. I was told that Lt. Grohn and his family would sponsor me into the country. They had reserved a hotel room for me, and they would meet me when I cleared customs at Esenboga Airport north of Ankara. It seemed things were all set.
[Extraneous material was removed here from the original text for continuity - dmr]
After a leave at home with my family in Wisconsin, I flew back to Hanscom and Boston a couple of days prior to my departure date. Before I had gone on leave, I had transferred all of my pecuniary liability at Hanscom to a civilian. No young Lieutenant had shown up for me to train. Finally, I had to transit our own Travel Section on the base. I said good-bye to my friends there, and I cleared out of the BOQ. There really was not much of a "going away" party for me at the base. My employees did wish me well, of course. I signed out on the 19th.
The next day as National Airlines taxied out to take off at Logan in Boston, many thoughts shot through my brain. But, I was quickly jolted out of such thoughts because in no time we were already on approach into Kennedy. There I was, 25 years old with my business career still on hold, headed overseas all by myself to a land I knew precious little about. I hoped the Air Force knew what they were doing. At least it wasn't Vietnam that we all had begun to hear terrible news about.
My timing was lucky. Six months later, and I'll bet that I would have been sent to those Southeast Asia jungles. I pictured myself sitting at a desk counting money in some shack there while bombs rained down outside. No, thank you!
Pan Am flight #114 left JFK airport right on time. We were scheduled to land at Orly near Paris at 0800 French time. That was about two o'clock in the morning Boston time. After dinner, it was suggested that we pull the aircraft window blinds down if we wanted to sleep. We were warned that the sun would come up fast as we streaked eastward. The plane was not crowded. I had three seats to myself. I got a blanket and a pillow, pulled up the arm rests, and tried to make a bed for myself while the four engines of the Boeing 707 droned on in my ears.
I had seen a couple of young guys on the plane that looked as if they also were military personnel headed to Turkey. I spotted their haircuts right away. I did not speak to them and they never stopped to talk to me when any of us was up and about in the aisle. Our North Atlantic route took us over several clusters of storms. Seeing lightning from the top through the clouds at night was a unique experience. About three hours into the flight, I had sacked out as best I could. A stewardess was speaking French to a passenger seated about three rows ahead. They insisted on leaving the reading lights on above that row of seats up there. Those lights bothered me, and I slept very little.
Suddenly, it was morning. I looked out upon the neatly sculptured green farm fields of France as we prepared to land in Paris. The Atlantic had seemed like a big enough lake for me. I could not imagine what a Trans-Pacific flight might be like. We later were given a snack and more to drink on the way to Rome. I guessed all that eating and drinking was supposed to help get my internal body clock straightened out. It did not seem to succeed very well.
Just as I had done at Orly in Paris, I got off the plane at Fiumicino Airport in Rome and again at Yesilkoy in Istanbul to look around and try to wake up. Passengers had left the flight for good at all three of those stops. None had gotten on because Pan Am was prohibited from carrying passengers within Europe. That was the exclusive business of European airlines. Such airlines were controlled by the countries they served. Competition from the USA was not permitted by law. That hardly seemed fair.
By the time we departed Istanbul for the short hop over to Ankara, only eight to ten passengers remained on the aircraft. The two guys with the short haircuts were still on board. I had been right. When we landed at Esenboga Airport, it was around noon local time. My Boston-based body said it was only 4 o'clock in the morning. I was tired and I felt like I needed to brush my teeth.
After my luggage was delivered to me, I was steered to Turkish Customs. That whole procedure consisted simply of making a big 'X' in white chalk on each of my two suitcases. Neither was opened and no questions were asked of me. No one inspected my orders or other documents. I did not even need a passport to enter the country. While I was trying to take in all the strange sights, sounds, and smells that suddenly confronted me, I spotted a blue uniform motioning to me. It was my new boss, Dan Grohn. He was right on time. He grabbed one of my suitcases, and we headed into the city in his car.
The trip from the airport took us through rural areas before entering the city of Ankara proper. Most of what I saw made me wonder whether I had been transported fifty to sixty years back in time. Horse-drawn carts and donkeys were everywhere, even on the busy city streets. Sweepers using archaic-looking hand brooms cleaned up after them. Office buildings, houses, and even the clothes worn by the natives were mostly a shade of dull gray to black. Many women were shrouded in dark veils. There were very few bright colors in the entire landscape except for an occasional red-tinged shop or business sign. I imagined the scene was similar to what our country had looked like around the turn of the twentieth century.
Into that primitive setting were thrown hundreds of American automobiles of mostly the 1940's to 1950's vintage. In the city, there were a few old traffic lights, but it appeared to me that most drivers did not obey them. The whole traffic scene upon first impression seemed like utter chaos! People drove every which way and did not stay in proper lanes. Horns blared constantly. The horses and donkeys tried to keep up with the flow of the cars. Pedestrians gambled that they would safely make it to the other side of a street. I had elected not to have a car shipped over. Those scenes vindicated that decision then.
We soon arrived at my hotel. It was named the "Moderne Palas" which I guessed was the closest the Turks could get to the words 'modern palace'. The hotel was certainly not the best in the city, but it would prove to be well situated to my work and other needs. My room had a private bath which was what qualified it as modern, I guessed. Two windows looked onto a square known as Kizilay south of the main part of the city. The west side of the hotel fronted on Ataturk Boulevard. The whole place smelled from the smoke of Turkish cigarettes and an unexplained odor something like wet plaster.
Dan stayed to see that I got checked into the hotel. There was no bellhop service. After we took my suitcases to my room, he said there was something else he wanted to show me. He then walked with me a block up another street to one of several Base Exchanges we maintained throughout the city. That place was to be a real lifesaver to me. I spent a lot of time there in the next few weeks. That BX was my American island in a sea of total strangeness and confusion.
In the BX, you showed your ID card and people spoke English to you. There was a Snack Bar that served almost everything from bacon and eggs to hamburgers. You could buy groceries, magazines, and toiletries at USAF prices. The place was typical of the way we lived in the city. Dan confirmed that our facilities were not segregated in one area such as on a base. We had many small installations all over everywhere. We truly lived "on the economy" as I had been told earlier.
After checking out the BX for a few minutes, Dan sensed that I was exhausted from the trip. I found out that was not at all unusual. He suggested that I get unpacked, perhaps catch a nap, and prepare for dinner at his apartment with him and his wife that evening. He said he would stop by the hotel to pick me up later. I replied that would be just fine with me. We walked back to the hotel.
I tried to get some rest, but I was continually drawn to my hotel window to just gawk at the scene in the street below. In a space of less than 24 hours, I had literally entered "another world" where I did not understand the language or the customs of the people. Now, the reason every new arrival was sponsored in became readily apparent. Talk about culture shock; - I was in it up to my neck!
In my experience since the day I was commissioned two years before, one thing that separated officers from the enlisted ranks was the responsibility the Air Force placed upon me to be where I was supposed to be and at the time I was supposed to be there. I was never shuttled around in a group where roll call was continually taken. Rather, I was left to exercise my own judgment while following past TDY orders for schooling. But this PCS move was different. I was very happy that Dan Grohn was there as a friend from the first in this foreign land.
And, the Grohns proved to be very good hosts. After dinner, I had a million questions that I wanted answered. The first one was about drinking the water. They emphasized that I had better drink only bottled water or something served to me at the BX for the time being. They warned that I could get very ill from drinking the local tap water. That included using it to brush my teeth and even having ice cubes in a cocktail.
I was told that the Turks had their water pipes all mixed up with their sewer systems. Many of the natives could not even stand to drink water from the tap. The Air Force provided chlorinated and otherwise treated water at several places throughout the city. It tasted a little like swimming pool water, but it was safe to use and drink. Like all Americans, I would have to haul water around for the next 18 months.
Dan wanted to answer all my questions then, but he more importantly wanted to talk about my job in the office. He said I couldn't get to work fast enough for him. He was happy to find out that I had experience running a Paying & Collecting Section. He needed me in that area as soon as possible. He had some Dutch National in the job for the time being. The man was not really qualified and Dan worried about the money flow from the area.
I got the impression that Dan felt he was a little over his head as the Disbursing Officer there. In his place, I guess I would have also. After all, he had me in time of grade by about one year. But, he had precious little more experience than I did. In short, he wanted help in making a variety of decisions. He said he did not want to worry me on my first day in the country, but his operation there was not any "two-bit corner store." He proceeded to explain what I had gotten into.
I was about to become responsible for a part of the only military finance office in all of Asia Minor and the surrounding area. My section was the only source of American dollars in the country. It was a bank, pure and simple. Huge money reserves were needed in times of disaster, or rebellion, or for other contingencies. All Americans in or out of the military, including our own embassy staff, would come to me to get money. I would be responsible for several million dollars! I had plenty to think about when I got back to the hotel that night.
Baby, the Rain Must Fall
Over the next several days, I took every opportunity to try to get more acclimated to my new environment. I desperately needed to find my way around town to our various facilities. One of the very first things I had purchased at the BX near the hotel was a street map of the city. The Detachment 30 offices were primarily in two adjoining buildings of three stories each on the east side of Ataturk Boulevard.
The area was called Kavaklidere. It was in the southeastern part of Ankara. That area of the city housed most of the foreign embassies. As I had been told, the United States Embassy was just two blocks north of my office building on the other side of the street. Out front, Ataturk Boulevard was a wide, tree-lined, thoroughfare. It was named after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern Turkish Republic in 1922, and became its first president.
The southernmost of our two buildings housed all the Accounting and Finance offices. My P&C area was on the ground floor. The north building housed Administrative Services and Personnel. In the basement of that building, there was a small Snack Bar and a Barber Shop with a shoe shine chair operated by Turks who worked for the Air Force. I would not be shining my own shoes since I could get a real spit shine for about 50 cents. A haircut was around $2.50 or so. I assumed that we subsidized the barber and the shine boy.
My office was around 15 or 16 blocks south of the hotel. There were blue Air Force buses that made regular shuttle route trips between our many facilities and buildings. I had seen them, but I had not checked their schedules. I could have ridden on one to go to and from the office. For the first week or so, I stupidly tried walking to work both ways. In the brisk temperatures of late fall; I wore my USAF blue raincoat over my uniform. I naively believed that few would spot me as an American military officer. I was determined to continue following my rule of maintaining a low profile, especially in a foreign country.
Soon, all that walking had given me a real bad case of shin splints. I hurriedly consulted a shuttle bus schedule and started to ride each way. On the bus several days later, I met one of the nicest but otherwise strangest individuals I have ever known. He came up to me, sat in the seat beside me, and introduced himself. I could see that he was a Captain. He said his name was J. Edward Gough, but that I should call him Jim.
I told him who I was and where I worked. He explained that he too was new in town. He was an Air Force dentist and he was looking for a roommate. I said I was interested but that I had not found any time yet to look for an apartment. He said he had located a two-man place nearby. He wanted me to check it out with him. I agreed to meet him that noon to look over the apartment.
The place was only four blocks east of my office. Four blocks or so further to the east was our Dental Clinic next to still another of our BX installations. That building was called "Merhaba Palas." In Turkish, Merhaba simply meant "Hello." Since neither of us had a car, the apartment would be handy for us both. It was far from top notch, but it was partially furnished and would cost me only around $40.00 per month for my half of the rent. I could then save over $30.00 each month from my housing allowance. That sounded good!
Jim and I arranged to get our Hold Baggage delivered and we moved in our new place around the first of December in 1965. Jim had first claim on the only true bedroom with a marginally useful bed and dresser. I had to work on reinforcing a cot in what was the parlor converted to a second bedroom by the previous American tenants. We also had a small sitting room, a tiny kitchen, and a bathroom with a "Flash" water heater and an American style toilet. We were on the ground floor. Turkish families occupied the top three floors. We were told they were used to having Americans in that ground floor apartment.
Jim was a good roommate. We usually got along well, but he was a bit weird in some ways. He had strange habits. We soon developed nicknames for each other. I had taken to drinking Cokes or whatever other carbonated drinks I could find rather than drinking that damned chlorinated water. He soon started calling me "Carb." On the other hand, he could eat nearly a whole can of cashew nuts in an evening, so I started calling him "Cash." We were trying to adjust to a new country and a new environment. Playing little games with such nicknames helped us do that.
I soon discovered that Jim often spoke in riddles! If anything had not gone just right, he would say "Baby the Rain Must Fall." I found out much later that was the title of a 1965 movie. I assumed that Jim fashioned himself in some ways after the Henry Thomas character played by actor Steve McQueen in that movie. Another favorite he used if something surprised him was "Suddenly Last Summer." He had many more of them. I never came to fully understand them all.
Jim was also a very good dentist. In fact, he was an Oral Surgeon. He handled the most severe problems that came to our Dental Clinic. Sometimes he used our hospital facilities for the worst cases. He did a great deal of work on my own teeth. I was in his dental chair on several Saturdays for the fitting of a partial plate, the installation of two gold bridges, and the addition of several gold crowns. He worked on me on Saturdays so that his boss, a Light Colonel, would not know how much gold was going into my mouth. Jim even replaced or polished all my old fillings. He rebuilt my whole dental health to the tune of about $1,500 dollars in 1966 money. Nowadays, the cost would probably be ten times that amount.
Two doors away from our apartment was another multi-story apartment building. A couple of the top floors were home to a dozen or more young Turkish women. Jim and I assumed it was some kind of school dormitory housing. Those girls wore more modern western dress, but they never spoke to us upon meeting in the street. We finally tried to talk to a couple of them. They spoke English fairly well. We invited them over one Saturday afternoon for some cinnamon tea, locally called Cay and actually pronounced "chy." Exhibiting great courage, they surprisingly accepted!
When they arrived, they had two young Turkish guys with them! All four had to be invited in to our apartment, of course. They said they were all cousins, but we knew those guys were more likely their boyfriends. What an insult to us! Those young women had not wanted to be in our apartment alone with us. But, they were curious enough to accept our invitation. They had apparently been taught to distrust all Americans.
It was to be a very disappointing meeting. To add to the insult to us, Jim's jackknife, which had been sitting on our coffee table, was very suspiciously missing after they left. So much for trying to know and understand the natives. We never again tried to speak to those women because our first experience had gone so badly. We had naively approached them without prejudice or pre-conceived notions. But, that day had certainly been very telling. We felt they had been rude to us.
From our apartment, getting food and groceries was a real problem. The BX at Merhaba Palas had some things, but it was far from any semblance of a supermarket. We rarely bought any Turkish goods. Sometimes I would buy a couple of oranges or other fruit from the nearby open market. We were told to then wash all such things thoroughly in chlorinated water before we peeled and ate them.
A military grocery store is called a Commissary. In Ankara, ours was located several miles away on the west side of town. Jim and I had to ride a USAF bus to and from there. Each of us sometimes took a bus to the Commissary and paid to ride in a Turkish taxi on the way back with our grocery bags. In any case, it was a chore to lug heavy groceries home. By the time we got home, things like frozen-solid bacon had thawed. So, we prepared few meals in our apartment.
At that time, I seldom had more than coffee for breakfast. I had lunch in the office Snack Bar, and I went to the Officers Club in the evenings. On the weekends, we usually snacked at the apartment. To our dismay, Chip Dip was not available in the Commissary. But, where there was a will, there was a way. So, we often made our own concoction out of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Onion Salt. It was quite good, except that Jim usually ate the bulk of it. We managed, we coped, and we got by. But, we really needed a car.
Money, Money, Everywhere!
Dan Grohn lost little time getting me into full harness. I was given only a few days to meet all the people in the office and size up the situation. By the 3rd of November 1965, orders had been cut officially naming me his "Deputy Accounting and Finance Officer."
A Personnel Action Request soon followed and it announced that my date of rotation back to the CONUS was reset for April 20, 1967. It also confirmed that the date that marked the end of my four-year active duty commitment as an officer was November 4, 1967. I did not really appreciate at that time the fact that those two dates were less than one year apart. I should have. It caused me some trouble later.
In the Paying and Collecting Section, I had 2 Tech Sergeants, 3 Airmen, and 2 civilians reporting directly to me. The Sergeants were there with their families. They were on 30-month tours. I would rotate back before one of them did. Like me, the Airmen were on unaccompanied 18-month tours. As the months went by, new personnel would be assigned to replace others while I was there. One of the two civilians was a cashier and more or less permanent. She was German-American.
With one exception, all the personnel who reported to me were both competent and cooperative. We worked well together. The NCOs took care of supervising the Airmen most of the time. I wrote complimentary, but honest, reviews on all of them. Mrs. Hannah Hermann, my civilian cashier, had me over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with some of the Airmen. It was more of the "Support Your Local Bachelor" routine.
Christmas in a country that was 98% Moslem was a special time for most of us. The Hermanns were very nice on those occasions, but I had to guard against getting too friendly with my enlisted personnel. I had learned that once an officer does that, his authority may be diminished. I tried to draw the line and usually succeeded without losing their cooperation. They knew that I had to behave in that way.
Hannah confided in me about everything. Her husband was the base coroner. She often had very sad stories to tell about his job. Two terrible incidents easily come to mind. There was this female 1st Lieutenant who worked in the Administrative Services area. She was single and fairly good looking. She was amiable to all of us, but she soon struck up a close friendship with a young Turk. Apparently, the two of them were returning to Ankara from Istanbul by car one weekend. As the story goes, they supposedly picked up some hitchhikers.
We learned on that Monday morning that she and her friend had been found dead over 100 yards from the side of the road. They both had been shot in the back while obviously attempting to flee. They were also robbed and beaten. His car had been stolen. Hannah's husband then had to do the autopsy. She told me all about it. It was tragic that a young officer like that had to die there in a foreign country under such violent circumstances. What a waste of a young life and career. We all became more careful as a result.
On another occasion, the bodies of two of our pilots were returned by the Soviets for autopsy and forwarding from Ankara to the CONUS. They had been flying a mission over the Black Sea in a B-58 "Hustler" bomber. The Russians had shot them down. No news story about the incident was generated by us because as I heard it we had clearly provoked the attack!
I heard that we occasionally sent two B-58 crews north from our İncirlik Air Base at Adana over the Black Sea toward the Russian coastline. We then had one plane dive down suddenly to test the Soviet radar and assess their reaction. That day, we got a tragic response. The American public never heard the whole story about those deaths for obvious reasons.
The office building we were in was like an apartment house with an open central core surrounded by a stairway on each floor. Two cashier windows were in a room near the front door. My other employees and those not performing cashier duties had desks in a larger back room. My desk was in a room with only one other feature. That was our vault. It was huge! It had a front door with a combination lock and a handle on the inside. At the outset, I made sure I could get out if I was ever locked in there. No time lock or other security existed. I am not sure most Turks on the streets outside knew we had a big vault in the building. In Turkey, strong-arm robberies were unheard of then anyway.
The vault was made of 2-foot-thick reinforced concrete walls. It was about 20 feet long and 12 feet wide. It housed four double-door safes that were each over six feet high and set against one wall. Three tables for counting money and other preparations were along the other wall. We had a coin counting and packaging machine. Much to my dismay though, there was no bill counting machine. There was a small waste paper basket. Without fail, I inspected the contents of the waste basket carefully before setting it outside for the cleaners each evening when I went home. The place had all the appearances of a big, but less fancy, bank vault.
Almost everything in the vault had been signed over to me. I was responsible for the whole shit-load with one exception. One of the four safes was Dan's. As the named Disbursing Officer, he kept about $250,000 in American currency and coins in it for use just in case I was ill or unable to come to work. It was the emergency stash. One of my three safes was full of Turkish Lira. At the then artificially inflated exchange rate, its contents were worth about $300,000. In a third safe, I kept American coin stocks, the cashier drawers which were signed-out daily and miscellaneous valuables such as un-issued Savings Bonds.
The content of the last of the safes was truly awesome. In it, I usually had over $2,000,000 in U.S. currency. A great part of that total was kept solely for those unforeseen contingencies during which dollars might be needed suddenly. There was no other friendly neighborhood bank around the corner. I was it!
The top shelf of that safe was particularly interesting. On it, exactly $1,000,000 in twenties fit just snugly. One hundred twenties in a pack was $2,000. Ten packs to a bundle or brick was $20,000. Then, 25 of those bundles on two tiers, or 50 bundles total, made for that nice round number. Smaller amounts of twenties, tens, fives, and ones were kept on the lower shelves. I looked at all of it every day I served there. I tried to rotate bundles around as new money shipments arrived, but I always kept that top shelf intact. It was easy to "lump-off" while counting. I actually got used to it just being there.
All my U.S. money, both currency and coin, came from Army or Air Force installations in Germany. It was shipped by Registered Mail parcels. One of my Airmen and I regularly went over to our Post Office to pick it all up. I ordered money as needed by denomination and sent a green dollar check, personally signed by Dan or by me in payment. We did not deal in any bills higher than a twenty because of the possibility of counterfeits. If I ever occasionally had to take in $50 or $100 bills, I shipped them back to Germany for credit as often as possible hoping they were all genuine. Luckily, I never had a bad one returned.
Getting all the coins I ordered from Germany was often difficult. Orders were usually cut down due to lack of supply and some currency was substituted. Finding enough pennies was sometimes a big problem. Half-dollars were virtually unobtainable most of the time. They were 100% silver back then with JFK's portrait. The Turks admired President Kennedy very much. They were not supposed to have access to U.S. money, but they paid high prices to have medallions made of Kennedy halves to hang around their necks. I did not dare sell them any. It was a serious offense to do such trading.
Our office building janitor, who was called a "Kapici" in Turkish, saw me with some half dollars one day. I knew that he wanted one, but he also knew I could not give him any. I asked him what he thought of the late JFK and the fact that his picture was on the coins. He said that President Kennedy had been "Cok Guzel," (very good or very nice), and a friend of the Turkish people.
I then asked him what he thought about President Johnson. He retorted that Johnson was "Cok Fena!" (Very bad!) He then called him the worst name he knew. He said that President Johnson was a "Greek!" I guess I would have always had a good supply of those all silver halves if the U.S. Treasury had just engraved LBJ's face on them! --- Ha!
Of course, I did not count every single bill when I first signed for the total accountability of the office. That would have taken me a week or more! Dan signed and certified that the wrapped bundles were correct. So, rather than have to again count what had been counted long ago, I seldom handled most of the money. It was just there. I had to take very good care of it and try to sleep at night knowing it was all there.
Once, the USAF auditors came to conduct an examination of the office. There were three officers in the group. Such an audit had not been done for some time. Once I saw them count packs of money while simply slipping the strap toward one end and not removing it, I knew that they were knowledgeable. So, they actually did count every damned bill and every coin in the place. It took them the best part of two days to complete the count while I was stuck there watching over them. Well, everything came out fine in the end. When they finished, I felt like a big load had been removed from my shoulders. I remember going to tell the boss that all was well.
Most of the bills had been strapped up years before in Germany. The Germans did not know one kind of our currency from another. During the full count, the auditors ran across some true collectibles. They found unusual types of bills including Gold Certificates and 1929 "Brown-Seal," bank-issued currency. I made a deal with the auditors. I told them that if they personally wanted any such bills as collector's items, they could exchange one-to-one for their own money. At that news, we soon became fast friends! I myself bought several of the $10 and $20 Gold Certificates as a personal investment. But, I now realize that a much better investment would have been to keep some all-silver halves!
My supply of Turkish Lira was periodically replenished by ordering more from the downtown central bank called the "Merkez Bankasi." That bank actually was comparable to any of our Federal Reserve System banks. I was instructed to always specify that they deliver only brand new, un-circulated, bills to me. That was because as their currency wore out, the Turks got only as much as someone would give them for it. Old bills were often discounted ten percent or more even by their banks. The government never guaranteed that Lira would always trade at face value.
When American personnel bought Lira from me, they always got full value in new bills. The condition of any bills they got in change out on the street was another problem. I could not help them on that score. Americans were not authorized to turn Lira back in for dollars through my office or anywhere else. What they got, they had to spend or exchange with a friend. A person's supply of Lira had to be individually planned and managed.
Turkish Lira was printed and manufactured in England. The ink on our new money gave it a peculiar smell, but new Lira bills always smelled like wet socks! I put it in the safe and kept the doors shut whenever possible so the stuff did not smell up the whole damned vault! Lira currency came in all sizes. The bigger the denomination, the bigger the bill! A 100-Lira note had to be folded to fit in my wallet. There were individual colors for each denomination. That had always seemed to me like something we should adopt to distinguish our bill denominations from one another.
All in all, our daily business there in the office varied little from any bank back home. My cashiers sold Turkish Lira for dollars, and took in deposits from the Commissary, the NCO Club, the O Club, and other organizations. Others paid personnel for travel expenses and approved vouchers. The rest of us tried to keep up with all the paperwork while we worked on our biggest and most important duty. We were responsible for preparing and processing all the payrolls.
Where The Hell Is Sinop?
If we did nothing else correctly and on time, we had to get all personnel paid from the 3-star Army Lieutenant General who headed all of JUSMMAT to our youngest one-stripe Airman. There was no more important job. And, we paid all military personnel for hundreds of miles around. That included all civilians, the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy. I was told that our payroll procedures were unique in the entire world at the time, and I truly believed that was the case.
The entire Air Force had a big problem at the time with the form used to record a person's pay. The official Military Pay Record then was a horrendously messy thing. Also, the Military Pay Section had to deal with absolutely archaic equipment to process the forms. The record itself was about 12 inches wide and 16 or more inches long. As people were transferred around, their records had to move with them. The thing was supposed to be carried around in a rolled-up fashion like a big poster in a two-inch diameter cardboard tube with metal caps at each end. All personnel were required to carry that record in the tube with them to each new permanent duty station.
Up one side of the back of the form were several primitive magnetic stripes. They were the forerunner of the MICR encoding of today. The stripes were encoded with all the dope about the individual as to name, rank, serial number, gross pay amounts, allotments, when last paid, etc. A crude posting machine made by NCR was supposed to read the stripes, post and print out changes, and re-encode the magnetics.
The Pay Records were a constant source of frustration. One day while I was passing by the service counter of the Military Pay Section upstairs, a young Airman was just checking in for the first time. He was straight off the Pan Am plane. The Sergeant there asked him for his Pay Record. I noticed the young man had no tube with him. I lingered to see what the hell was going to ensue. The Airman calmly reached in his back pocket and pulled out a neatly folded up Pay Record. At that, the Sergeant hit the ceiling!
Didn't the Airman know he was supposed to keep the damned thing in the tube? Where was his tube anyway? He replied that he had thrown the tube away because it was too cumbersome to tote around! A tirade of cussing from the Sergeant then followed until he saw me standing over by the stairs. He then calmed down a bit and explained to the Airman that folding the Pay Record likely made the magnetic stripes unreadable. A reconstruction process would take hours to complete. His pay may be held up. The poor kid was so frightened that he was next to tears.
Later, the Sergeant came down to my office. We were good friends, but he said he felt he should apologize to me for laying into the guy. I said no apology to me was necessary because I would have been just as pissed off if I had been in the Sergeant's shoes. Sometimes, we just had to chew people out for their own good. We did agree to try to go through channels to get the word up the chain of command about the design of those Pay Records. They were a big pain in the ass! But, nothing was done about them for years I guess. Through all of that, my opinion of NCR gear was pretty damn low.
The NCR equipment was terribly slow and it never worked very well. The Air Force had even taken an IBM Model 026 Punched Card Reader and repainted it from blue to brown to match the NCR color scheme! The first time I say that, I let out a real hoot and holler! That was nuts!
The equipment was just unbelievable bad. Whoever procured it in Washington should have been fired or perhaps hung! The equipment would actually print checks at a snail's pace of about two per minute! We tried it one time there just for a demonstration. We only wished at the time that NCR people could have witnessed the trial. It was a pathetic joke of a system.
No installation or base in the States actually tried to print any large volume of checks on that NCR equipment. Most locations completed their check printing on IBM computers and high-speed printers as we had done at Hanscom. We certainly didn't even attempt to print checks in Turkey with unreliable electrical power and unskilled equipment repair facilities. So, all payrolls there had to be paid in cash. After all, if we had paid by check; - where would people possibly cash them? --- I ran the only bank with U.S. currency!
Oh, a few checks were prepared manually on a typewriter every two weeks. Dan and I hand-signed them. They were sent in two Registered Airmail parcels to a couple dozen of our DOD teachers at American Schools in places named Addis Ababa and Asmara somewhere in Ethiopia. We kept their civilian pay records because there was no place else anywhere close to them at which to do it. Where those teachers then cashed those checks was always a mystery to me. Once, a parcel got delayed in the mail. That was an awful mess, but luckily it was found before we had to re-issue the checks.
I never knew why, but there was no scrip or MPC used in Turkey. We doled out only hard currency for payrolls. That was one of the biggest reasons that I needed to keep so much money on hand. We had to be able to meet several future payrolls even if my money sources were not available. Our payroll processing had two other features that made it unusual. First, we did not pay at mid-month, only at each month-end. Second, we paid only in even, rounded dollars. The cents due or owed over the months because of rounding were accounted for after a person returned to the United States.
Each month, the Military Pay Section calculated net pay less allotments for all personnel. Payroll lists were then typed on long forms with names, serial numbers, and spaces for each individual to sign for his or her money. The NCR equipment could not be relied upon to even print such lists. Several pages of the forms made up a typical payroll organized by location, office, or area. Each list was segregated into a common brown supermarket bag along with enough bills of each denomination to pay all the people on the list. One of my Sergeants had a formula method for determining exactly how many bills of each denomination were needed to pay each person's total. I never could figure out how he did that!
Each bag was signed-for every month by the designated "Paying Agent" for the payroll. Paying Agents came in all shapes and sizes and from all points of the compass. I dealt with about 18 to 20 of them. Each was a temporary official of the government who signed a paper saying he or she owed me an amount of money until they returned with a signed payroll and/or unclaimed money. Most agents also signed for a quantity of Turkish Lira that they then offered for sale.
No person in the Finance Office was ever an agent. My people and I were paid on the payroll set up for our building. That list was triple-checked each month for accuracy! It, along with others nearby, was usually returned quickly each payday. But, some payrolls went to places so far out in the boondocks that last month's payrolls were signed back in when the agents came to pick up their current ones. There were payrolls for personnel in places such as Trabzon, Samsun, and Sinop. Those northern towns were just names until one day when the payroll for Sinop was not quite ready on time.
The Sinop payroll was picked up by an Army 1st Lieutenant who always had a .45 automatic holstered at his side. That day, I offered to buy him a cup of coffee while my Sergeants finished putting up his payroll. We soon got to talking. I wondered where Sinop was and what he did there. He said he could not talk in details, but he did imply to me that he and others manned radar posts on the Black Sea. His job was to know when the Soviets lit up or fired off anything. For instance, he said they could even pinpoint a Russian peasant burning leaves or trash in his backyard! I was not sure I believed him, but I got the point.
How he arrived at my office each month was fascinating. There were no good roads for a part of his trip. He usually had to ride Turkish taxis, farm trucks, or even donkey carts each month for over four hours in order to come to the "Big City." Few people knew he carried money in a bag in his briefcase, but he had his pistol just in case. He looked forward to getting to our O Club for the evening before returning to his post the next day. His story made me a little more comfortable with my life and duties in Ankara. Compared to him, I had some things pretty good.
The Peace Corps Girls
As the weeks rolled into early 1966, Jim was usually headed out somewhere almost every other weekend. He would "get a hop" on military aircraft if space was available. He once went in Egypt, saw the Great Pyramid, and had a camel ride. Another time, he went to Monaco and southern France. He even rode on a mail sack to Bangkok just to see some cock fights.
I envied his tourist trips, and I marveled at how he was able to "see the world." I could seldom get away for such spur of the moment flings on weekends. I usually had to stay close to the office unless I made prior arrangements with Dan so that he would cover for me. Mine was a seven-day a week job since money might be needed for a group shipping out on a Saturday or a Sunday. I did not even get to complete the initial Turkish language course. I was basically on a short lease or tied to my desk, to that vault, and to all that money. I did not keep "Banker's Hours," that was for sure!
Even though Jim went all over, he still was restless for a car. He soon arranged with some friends in the States to buy a new 4-door, 1966 Chevrolet with a straight stick transmission. That model could then later be sold to the Turks as a taxi for almost twice what he had paid for it. He had it shipped over at government expense as was his right. He then flew to Istanbul, picked it up on the dock as we were required to, and drove it back to Ankara. Thereafter, I agreed to buy some gas for the car, and he chauffeured me around some.
I resisted importing a car into Turkey at the time. I felt having a car there could be more of a problem than an asset. The local traffic simply looked to me like a potential crash scene and a future legal battle. Besides, I had another goal. Some brochures I had sent for from Germany had arrived in the mail. They explained how I could buy a foreign car through a special arrangement with a Hamburg dealer as well as a New York dealer. I would not have to go to Germany to pick it up. It could be delivered stateside for me.
I was saving up to buy no less than a Porsche 911 or a 912 for delivery when I rotated back. But, if a Porsche proved to be out of my financial reach, I had my choice of several VW models. I could save excise taxes by purchasing that way because the car was considered to be "used" when it was shipped. I discovered that someone in effect drove it around the block in Germany for me while claiming that I had "toured Europe" in it. It was all quite legal.
Jim was always looking for women, especially after he got a car. He had the chance to meet some in his dental chair. We both knew that any enlisted women were off-limits. Few if any were assigned to Turkey. Unmarried female officers were also few and far between. We had tried to make friends with some Turkish girls to no avail. The pickings were slim until one Wednesday night Jim said he wanted me to go with him to see two young ladies he had met. I changed to civvies, and we drove off in his "Blue Bomb" as he called it.
In the dark that evening, he drove north somewhere to the outskirts of Ankara. We wound up on a dirt trail near a low stone building out in the middle of nowhere. There were no paved streets and no street lights. I had no idea where we were. He practically needed a flashlight just to find the front door. We were met at the door by a petite brunette. Jim introduced her as Elaine. I figured she was his date.
I soon was introduced to a cute blonde named Liz. I could not see the face or features of either of them very well in the candlelight. They had no electricity in the place, and there was little furniture. The more I looked around, the place shaped up as a typical peasant hovel. I was flabbergasted. I wondered why two American girls were living in a place like that.
The four of us talked about many things as the evening wore on. It was great to meet and chat with any Americans. They served some tea. I soon learned that Elaine and Liz had come to Turkey as part of the Peace Corps to help the disadvantaged there. They both spoke excellent Turkish and had been trained to live and work among the Turks.
Yet, I sensed that they were somewhat disillusioned by what they had gotten into over the past months. As volunteers, they were paid little or no money. They were trying to get the Peace Corps officials to at least move them to an apartment with electricity and running water. They implied they wanted to find other jobs because they could not pay their way back to the States. Both were originally in the nursing profession. I began to feel sorry for them. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I was supposed to do so.
As more months went by, Elaine and Liz did move to an apartment about one half mile from us and next to our movie theater. All of us occasionally went out as a foursome. Their language skills were very advantageous when dealing with the natives in local establishments. We sometimes went to the downtown Genclik (Youth) Park on weekends. Jim and I escorted them on several occasions to dinner at the O Club. We took short day trips in his car. The four of us became very good friends. All of us liked to just sit around and talk about things back home. It was nice to have friends in a strange land. It made the time there pass more quickly for all of us.
Dinner for Under Fifty Cents
Ankara is an ancient city built in a big saucer-shaped area within a surrounding higher mesa. In the winter, many Turkish homes burned low-grade coal for heat. In the 1960's, that combination of fuel and topography led to an increasingly bad smog problem in the lower elevations near the center of the city. Newer development was at that time spreading up the suburban hills and above the smog layer. The higher up the surrounding hills people lived, the bigger and better their residences were. Up the hill to the south of where Jim and I lived was an area known as Cankaya. The Presidential Residence that Ataturk had built was in that area, and so was our Officers Club.
Our Air Force Detachment 30 people operated and managed the Club. We hired some local men as waiters and cooks. To my knowledge, Turkish women rarely worked for Americans outside of our homes. Of course, the Club was open to officers of all branches of the military from Ensign to General. The place was beautifully positioned on the edge of the hill with a great view north over the city. It may have originally been a well-to-do private residence with an open circular stairway to a second floor. We had added a horseshoe shaped bar. From some of the barstools, patrons could turn around and play slot machines against the wall without even getting up from their chairs.
I spent four or five evenings a week there. However, I seldom went up there with Jim because of another weird habit of his. He would come home from work at the Dental Clinic after 5 o'clock and go to bed to sleep until about 9 or 10 at night. Then he got up and went to the Club for late dinner and drinks. The Club was supposed to close at midnight unless a flag officer was in attendance. The Admiral from the Navy section of JUSMMAT usually was there at that time. So was Jim along with most of those crazy landlocked Navy guys. They often stayed there until 3 or 4 in the morning. I heard that it sometimes got "a bit" rowdy.
I kept a more normal and sensible schedule. I headed for the Club straight from work many nights. I sometimes hitched a ride up there with friends. Taxis were always available near the office out on Ataturk Bulvari and at the Club for the return trip home. To get back home, I had learned to tell taxi drivers that I wanted to go to "Otuz Alti Bulten Sokak." That was our apartment address. It simply meant '36 Bulten Lane." I had to be precise because there was a Buklum Street that sounded much like Bulten only one block east of us.
On two occasions, Jim and I had to show up at the same time at the Club so we shared a taxi. The Commander had decreed that all officers of all branches were invited to a "Dining In." That was a sort of dinner and cocktail party for which formal "Mess Dress" uniforms were required. In the Air Force at the time, our formal uniforms were affectionately known as "Penguin Suits" because that is what they looked like. I hated mine because I definitely looked like a penguin or even worse in it.
It had black trousers with a shiny stripe up the outside of each leg. There were two waist-cut jackets with fancy shoulder boards. A black, vest-cut jacket for winter was accompanied by a black wheel hat. In summer, a white jacket went with a white cover for the hat. A cummerbund was worn under a chain clasp for the front of the jacket. Suspenders and a fancy ruffled white shirt with silver studs and cufflinks combined with a black bow tie completed the outfit.
Like all officer candidates, I was required to buy the whole damned outfit while still in OTS for the then outrageously high price of $165. Miniature medals optionally could be worn. Each time I was promoted, expensive new shoulder boards with beautifully silver thread embroidered insignia had to be purchased. The damned thing was only worn three or four times at a cost of about $40 per appearance! It was a total waste of my hard-earned money.
Food and drink prices at the Club were always reasonable. However, on "Happy Hour" nights each Wednesday and Friday, they were ridiculously low. A can of Lowenbrau was then only a dime! It was 20 cents regularly. Often they served free hors-d'oeuvres too. Tasty little cheese puffs and wrapped little wienies were too good to turn down. I staked out a seat at the bar and never bothered to go eat dinner those nights. Some friends and I usually just shot the shit and solved the world's problems together there at the bar. If we felt lucky, we fed the slots behind us.
Several of us First and Second Louies including a couple of females had sort of a clique going. We often just picked on the short-timer next due to rotate home while guzzling beer and munching goodies. My evening meal seldom cost fifty cents on those nights. I may as well have spent the evening there rather than at the apartment while Jim slept. The Club was an escape for all of us.
That was because no homes had a TV set in Turkey then because the country had no television networks. We did not even have a telephone in the apartment. There was an average four-year wait to have a phone wired into any private home. Except for some governmental offices, the entire telephone system in the country was absolutely infantile back then.
Entertainment at the Club often left much to be desired. Air Force or USO shows were few and far between. Nobody wanted to come to Turkey out on the "ass end" of USAFE. Sometimes, they scheduled local entertainment including a belly dancer one night. Those occasions were rare, however. The live piano player with the champagne fountain for Sunday brunch was very nice. But, usually we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. And, we did.
Some officers went hunting once into the wilds of eastern Turkey and one, (a very good friend of mine who I will talk about later), shot a wild boar. After our veterinarian or somebody pronounced the meat to be safe and free of disease, the Club offered a free meal to each of us. The boar was prepared "Sweet and Sour" style. Reservations to the free dinner were required. I was there and I really enjoyed it. The meat was a brownish color but it tasted like ham. No Moslem would have eaten or even approved of that meal!
Generally, the Club was the one place in the city that actually made the time pass more quickly. I don't know what I would have done without it. Non Coms and Airmen had their NCO Club over on the west side of town. For obvious reasons, officers were not usually welcome there. But, as I will write about below, I was damned proud and felt privileged to be invited there on one occasion for a farewell party honoring me and others.
A Gift from My Country
Every ninety days or so, I had an unusual and important duty to perform. Instructions arrived in a message to me classified "Secret" from an Assistant Secretary of State in Washington. It was addressed to the Deputy Accounting and Finance Officer. In it, I was instructed to deliver a green dollar check to the Turkish Merkez Bankasi downtown within the next few days. The check was to be drawn for a specific amount. That amount was usually between three and a half and four million dollars! I assumed that it represented our quarterly foreign aid payment to the government of Turkey from the U.S. taxpayers. I was ordered to see that the check was prepared and delivered on time every three months.
Preparations were necessary to make each payment. I had the check cut and I hand-signed it. I asked a Sergeant who knew the routine to go ahead and arrange through Turkish authorities for what amounted to an appointment at the Central Bank. Then, he also was requested to set up transportation. He and I traveled down to the bank in a marked USAF car with a Turkish driver along with a Turkish interpreter in the right front. I had the check in a small satchel. In our uniforms and blue Air Force vehicle, the Sergeant and I looked official, but we also stood out in the crowds and in the downtown traffic.
Usually, everything went well for us at the bank. Our driver was always told to cruise around a few blocks for five minutes so that the car was waiting curbside for us when we came back out of the bank. Bank personnel always greeted me and took the check past several desks for signatures on some Turkish forms. They returned an onionskin receipt to me, and we walked out. It was normally short and sweet. I usually said very little to anyone.
But on that one day, it was far from normal. When we got to the front door of the bank, we found it was locked. A notice in Turkish on the door was translated for me as announcing that it was a bank holiday. The bank was closed! We all wondered if the closure had been hurriedly decided upon because we hadn't been informed. The three of us turned around and proceeded back to the curb to wait for our car.
While standing there, a young Turk came by, took careful aim, and spit on the right sleeve of my uniform. He missed my face. Everyone saw it. I was surprised, but I barely acknowledged that it had occurred as the young man ran away down the street. I tried to remain calm. I had no intention of doing anything to escalate the situation into some kind of an international incident. Of course, I was boiling mad inside. I thought that I had reason to be.
Goddamn It! I was a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force representing my government on official business. If any Turk spit on me, he also spit on the United States of America! But, I soon realized that was what he had intended to do. He had acted against the country I represented through my uniform and not against me personally. The whole incident was so sad because of what that young man did not know. He had no idea why I was there on the street in front of that bank.
If that young man could only have known what I had under my arm, maybe then he would not have done what he did. I wished that I could have explained to him that I was delivering a gift from my country to his. Without the check I had, his country may have moved closer to bankruptcy in the next ninety days. Yet, he was angry enough at the good old USA to spit on someone wearing one of its uniforms. My uniform was easily cleaned, but the root cause of his anger could not be so easily mended.
The anger at the United States and the hatred of Americans in Turkey at the time was centered around the age-old Cyprus issue. The United Nations was also mixed up in it. Both Greeks and Turks over the centuries had claimed the same land on the island of Cyprus. In the UN, we often voted with the Turks on those issues, but Turkey lost most of the votes. Greece usually had the better claim in such disputes I guess.
Whenever they lost a UN vote over Cyprus, young Turkish agitators always tried to make the case that their loss was our fault. That was because in many foreign countries like Turkey, the UN and the USA were synonymous. The UN headquarters was in New York City, and they believed that from there we ran it and controlled it. They even wondered why the United States didn't simply order the UN to find in favor of Turkey and against Greece on Cyprus matters.
The continuing Cyprus conflict caused several bad incidents. Two Airmen in one of our pick-up trucks had to be rescued by the Turkish Army from an unruly gathering one day. They had gotten into some traffic scrape with a female Turkish pedestrian. Lies spread in the crowd that the woman had been killed and that she had been pregnant. Our guys were led away in time before they were harmed, but that incident certainly demonstrated how much of a powder keg always awaited us out on the streets.
Another time, we were all told to head home from the office in the middle of the afternoon and stay there. Turkey had lost another UN vote. An angry mob was possibly headed up Ataturk Bulvari toward us. Before I got the vault door closed, my boss, Lt. (now Captain) Dan Grohn came in. Everyone else had cleared out and left for home. Dan got his .45-Automatic out of his safe and sat on my desk while I stared in amazement. He announced that if any goddamned Turk broke in, he would "shoot the son of a bitch!" He invited me to join him in his anxious but likely unnecessary vigil.
I thought to myself that he was acting too much like an "East Texas Redneck" to suit me. I told Dan that I was going to do one of two things. If he ordered me to stay, I was going to lock myself in the vault. That was the safest place around. Nobody could ever get me in there. But, I knew he could not really order me to stay. Otherwise, I told him that I was going home as ordered.
He finally told me to go home and that he would lock up. Well, when I opened up the next morning, I didn't find any dead bodies on the floor. The mob had not gotten that far down the street. They took out their anger at our embassy. Dan never had to confront them. If he had, I think it was even money that he would have shot someone. You see, he was from east Texas. My "Redneck" thought had been somewhat justified.
There were many times that I personally did not feel comfortable in uniform out on the streets. It always seemed to many of us that the Turkish Army could have easily pulled off a coup d'état some morning and been in total control of the government by noon. Maybe all Americans would then be deported or worse. We just never knew. I did not think that our military personnel exhibited a bad example for the USA. Not so as to justify being spit on; - that was for sure. It was another case of guilt by association because I wore a government uniform.
Well anyway, when our car finally arrived in front of the bank and we all got in to drive away, nobody said a word. They knew I was really pissed off. On the way back to the office in the car, I finally blew up and started cussing as I tried to use my handkerchief to clean up my uniform. Why had the goddamned spitting incident been allowed to even occur? How come we were not told that the bank would be closed?
I ordered the Sergeant to find out who had screwed my day up and to arrange for another attempt to deliver the check. The Turkish interpreter sat quietly in the car. He seemed embarrassed by the whole incident. We never did find out what really happened at the bank that day. They may have closed simply because they had no reserves of money readily available.
Who really cared? I didn't, after I got over it. I had gotten mad, but it had been contained. It was over.
The True Ugly Americans
I wondered at the time why our State Department in Washington felt that those money messages to me needed to be classified. They simply detailed the amounts of those big checks every quarter. Certainly, there were no national security issues involved with them. Further, I wondered why someone in the military had to make the payments as opposed to our embassy personnel up the street. Didn't Washington want Americans to find out just how much they were giving in foreign aid to the Turkish Government four times each year? Was Turkey's involvement in NATO and its tolerance of our military installations there really worth that much to us?
I didn't know the answers to such questions. They were among many others I had about our State Department employees. Those people had special black passports. That somehow gave them many privileges which military personnel or all other Americans in Turkey did not have. The way some State Department people acted there in Ankara made me sure that they were the true "Ugly Americans." Their antics made things worse for all of us. The Turkish people noticed all of it and so did we.
In my opinion, the absolute worst bunch of a-holes among them were part of something called "USAID." I never did find out what the hell their mission was. They had tan-colored station wagons with the symbol of two clasped hands painted on the front doors. All of us could plainly see that those government vehicles were constantly being used by our State Department employees for unauthorized purposes. For instance, they calmly hauled their dependent children around to and from our American movie theater when many of the GIs had to walk. They paraded around like royalty in a poor nation in front of its citizens as well as in front of other Americans.
Other State Department people simply gave gifts to the Turks when such dealings were strictly against the law. They did those things simply to ingratiate themselves with the locals. They knew they could get away with it. Favors that we could never hope to buy from the Turks were common to them. I heard that one even gave a reel-type push lawnmower to a Turkish neighbor. No average Turk could find such a thing on local markets even if he could afford to purchase it. If a military person had done that, he or she would have been put in a Turkish prison. Why were our State Department people allowed to do such illegal things?
We realized of course that ambassadors and a few other officials may have needed to have diplomatic immunity from unwarranted prosecution in foreign countries. But, every two-bit secretary or peon in the employ of the State Department should not in my opinion have been granted such immunity. Every one of those bastards did not need a black passport. They had no reason to be immune from anyone if they obeyed the local laws. They should have been required to live by the rules. We never understood why they weren't. Their ivory-tower privileges and unauthorized actions made us look like second class citizens in a foreign land.
I saw so much of that shit going on that I wrote out a long letter at the time to my maverick senator, Bill Proxmire. I documented instances and examples. I named names to the extent that I knew them. He would have loved to have gotten hold of it. But, I never mailed the damned thing. I chickened out in favor of that low profile I was always trying to maintain. Maybe some other GI would have the guts to take them on. I didn't care to right then. Both Turkey and I had many other problems that I could not hope to eliminate or even ameliorate from my position at the time.
After a great deal of contemplation and study, it seemed to me that Turkey remained a backward and poor country for three reasons. First, the central government was not strong vis-à-vis the army. Coups were always threatened. No person wanted to build up democratic governmental power if it infringed on the army. Then too, a long history of governmental violence existed. I learned that the Sultans had been ruthless with their foes over the centuries. Even Ataturk in this century had disposed of some of his enemies "Stalin style." The army was then equally capable of such things at any time.
Second, the people came primarily from a herding and farming background. Yet, compared to the Greeks it was easy to see that the Turks were very poor farmers. They had never been taught to do better. There was no central push to reform the old systems. The country had only been dragged out of the Dark Ages with great difficulty forty or so years before. So-called western influences had not had much time to work by the middle of the 1960's. Only our automobiles had thus far filtered in.
Finally, I came to the conclusion that the main reason such development had been held back was the Moslem religion itself. At the time, almost all Turks followed Islam. A very tiny minority was Christian. No one could deny that the customs and beliefs of Islam prohibited many new ideas and therefore severely impeded social and industrial progress. I was no expert, but I could see that was the case. Their inward-looking religion often simply stifled new and innovative thinking. That was evident in their clothes, their manners, and even in their faces.
In such an environment, what were our State Department employees and all of the rest of us supposed to be accomplishing there? Well, we should have been setting good examples by helping the Turkish people. We should have been representing our country. For some, those were their primary job goals. But on the contrary, some State Department people showed little respect for the Turks, for their customs, or for their religion. They were not doing their duty while they cavorted around improperly.
My conclusions then are probably still valid, perhaps more so. In my opinion, the State Department even then was way overdue for a real house-cleaning there in Ankara and perhaps all around the world. The whole bunch stationed there seemed to be an unneeded throwback to a time around the 18th century. Much of what they did in the country could have been better done in Washington as far as I was concerned. If I had then had the power, I would have fired about half of their goddamned staff and sent them home while saving the taxpayers a great deal of money.
That was because I saw even then that in a world of very high-speed communications, most countries simply did not need to station all those officials around the world. They lived in palaces like royalty, spent the taxpayers' money frivolously, and played silly games of protocol and international etiquette. Why did we continue to spend our money on such a bloated, ineffectual organization out of step with the times? Who needed fancy ambassadors in residence anyway when global telephone communications were instantaneous even before the advent of satellites? Why didn't we lead in simply doing away with antiquated and unnecessary Foreign Service offices? Most countries could have better spent the money on other things for their people. Turkey certainly could have.
In Turkey, I personally witnessed the fact that some of our State Department employees were the poorest examples we could possibly present of life in America. Those so-called career diplomats were anything but diplomatic. Some did not even seem to care. It was so easy for the Turks to develop attitudes of hate for Americans and for our lifestyles when they saw how those jerks acted. Their bad examples then affected me and all military personnel. I wore a uniform proudly, but I got spit on. State Department people mostly wore suits and gowns at expensive tea and cocktail parties. It was neither right nor fair.
But a new adventure loomed to take my mind off such things. I had a chance for some fantastic R&R!
Waking Up in the Bavarian Alps
In March of 1966, I caught a break. Someone told me that there were a few openings on an R&R trip scheduled to go to southern Germany and Austria in April. Many people did not have accrued leave to go on it because the trip was for a full three weeks in duration. Transportation would be by military aircraft. Bus travel in Europe was to be provided, but all other expenses were the responsibility of the individuals. The first week would be in Berchtesgaden, Germany and Salzburg, Austria. The second week was in Munich, and the final week was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Innsbruck. The whole three weeks would be hosted by the U.S. Army.
It sounded great! I wanted to go. I worked on Dan and Lt. Col. Harkins to get the trip approved for me and have somebody temporarily sign for all my money in the meantime. It was a hard sell, but they finally agreed. They could hardly have turned me down. After all, I had the leave accrued. Orders dated April 4th made it official. We had a meeting to receive printed trip instructions as to what to take, where to assemble, etc. There was one other officer at the meeting. He was also a 1st Lieutenant. He had me in date of rank by about two months or one OTS class. As the senior, he was then appointed chaperone for twenty or so of us. The rest were couples and single Airmen.
At dawn on the morning of Wednesday the 6th, we took off on my first ever flight in any kind of military aircraft. It turned out to be both a plane and a day to remember. We were in a C-54 Skymaster used primarily for troop transport. The civilian counterpart to it was the Douglas DC-4. It was a 4-prop plane first built in 1938 and made famous in the Berlin Airlift. It was old and slow, but we didn't care. They could have flown us out in most any old thing as far as we were concerned. The plane had jump seats along one wall. We all took turns having to sit in them. A chicken box lunch was available for only $2.00. I bought one. It was good.
We stopped at Athens for fuel. Later, we flew over the Isle of Capri. Then came an announcement from the crew. The plane was not pressurized. We could not cross the Alps directly through northern Italy and Switzerland because we had to stay under 10,000 feet. The plane would have to go farther west and then north through France before turning east again into Germany. It was going to be a very long day, but I was happy to be in civvies for a while.
Around 9 o'clock in the evening local time, we finally landed at a Luftwaffe airfield called Furstenfeldbruck west of Munich. Unknown to most Americans at that time, the place would become world famous just six years later. It was the location of the final shoot-out after the terrorist killings at the 1972 Olympic Games. After we unloaded our luggage, I got bad news from two sources. First, we had to ride a tour bus for two or more hours to our hotel in the mountains near Berchtesgaden east of there. I would not get to bed until at least two or three in the morning Turkish time. So, I figured to nap on the bus.
Second, in the dark under our plane while getting my luggage, that other Lieutenant told me he had made separate plans. He was not coming with us! He was going to Wiesbaden and then he planned to fly from Frankfurt to the States and get married! He had not wanted to tell anyone until we had landed in Germany. In effect, he had managed to schedule his wedding and a honeymoon under the guise of an R&R trip!
Shit! What a jerk he was! Now I was suddenly in charge! He handed me some papers with itinerary information. Included were all the bus travel plans and a personnel list. He then walked away from me. I never saw him again, and I never found out how his wedding went. But, I decided immediately that I needed to assert my position at once. I quickly began to think of something to say to everyone after we got on the bus.
As the bus got ready to pull out, I took a front row seat, introduced myself, and I laid down some ground rules. Some of the people were familiar to me or they knew me in return from dealings in the office. I told the husband and wife couples that I expected them to take care of themselves. I asked everyone to be at the designated rendezvous points on time whenever we were scheduled to travel by bus. I also told everyone that I did not otherwise want to hear from them unless they truly needed my assistance. I intended to enjoy my R&R like each of them. One of my Airmen was on the trip. He and I had agreed to pair up and room together. For me, all evidence of rank was off for now, but I was not looking forward to my newly inherited responsibilities. I was on a Rest and Relaxation leave. It was supposed to be fun.
When I woke up the next morning, I opened the drapes of the hotel room. The scene of the snow-capped German Alps through our window could have come straight out of some tourist guide book. That long trip had sure been worth it! We were in a hotel that the U.S. Army called the General Walker. Enlisted men and women of all branches stayed there for free while on R&R. Officers like me had to pay a token $1.00 per night. The hotel was staffed and operated by the U.S. Army. Everything was very hospitable. Meals in its huge dining room would prove to be both very good and relatively cheap.
Only later that day did I learn the historic significance of where we were staying. Barely over two decades before, the Nazis had called the hotel the Platterhof. It had been a big hangout for high ranking officers in Hitler's SS. The whole area was known as Obersalzburg. The Allies had bombed the hell out of it only twenty-one years earlier. Most of whatever had not been destroyed in our air raids was demolished by us after the war.
The ruins of country chalets built for Hitler, Goehring, and Bormann along with that of their underground bunker were nearby. Hitler had intended in 1945 to spend the last days of the war in that bunker, but he got trapped in Berlin. The U.S. Army had renovated the hotel in 1953 and then renamed it. It had been used since then for military R&R purposes. I thought about whether I might be staying in a room occupied much earlier by some SS General or other Nazi dignitary. That idea seemed a bit spooky.
The Army provided daily sightseeing bus trips at a cost of a couple bucks each. Whether we went on any of them was strictly up to us individually. That was why I could not be expected to keep an eye on everyone every day. We toured the ruins of Hitler's home and his bunker. I noted with some curiosity that the room assigned to Eva Braun in the then empty bunker was #13. We missed seeing Hitler's tea house called the "Eagle's Nest" further up in the mountains. The road up to it was still full of snow. Allied pilots had not bombed it in the war. They never spotted it among the trees because Hitler had the roof painted green. It was then still furnished inside as it had been in 1945. I was very disappointed that I did not get to see and tour it.
One day, we signed up to go to Salzburg. At the border, an Austrian guard came on the bus. The checkpoint was only a few miles from the area that had provided the backdrop for the movie "The Sound of Music" a few years earlier. In good English, he asked if each of us would hold up a copy of our orders which had endorsements for travel in Austria. When we did, he thanked us and left. So much for Austrian customs! I had not yet gotten a passport. I had not needed one.
In Salzburg, the main attraction was the boyhood home of composer and child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It had been turned into a museum. The place was cramped, hot, and stuffy. So, four of us left there, opted out of the planned expensive restaurant lunch, and headed for a "Gasthaus" around the corner. At the then exchange rates, most of us had more than our fill of beer and sausage for a dollar or so. However, we did manage to make it to the bus on time for the trip back to the hotel.
The next week in Munich was a disappointment because it rained almost every day. We stayed in a U.S. Army hostel in the Neuhausen area on the northwest side of the city. It was near the Nymphenburger Palace. No daily activities were planned by the Army that week. We were free to explore the city, but the rain very much limited us. I had wanted to travel to Dachau to tour the infamous World War II concentration camp. It was pouring down rain on the morning we had reservations to go, so we canceled out. That was a mistake. I should have gone, rain or no.
We soon learned how to get around on the Munich trolley transit system, but we almost got in trouble the first time we tried it. The city trolley trains had at least two cars. I remember hearing that the first time three or four of our guys rode; they simply got on the lead car. To their surprise, nobody came to take tickets and there was no place to deposit any money. That seemed strange. Was the trolley free? When they were about to get off, an older gentleman asked them in English whether they were Americans. They nodded. He explained that the lead car ran on an honor system for pass-holders only. They were not supposed to ride in that car. No wonder they had not paid for tickets! The man said that they may have been spotted by the transit police and challenged to show their passes. Then they would have stopped the trolley mid-block so that they could have embarrassingly moved to a rear car to pay the fare. They had been lucky.
During that week in Munich, I located the nearest Porsche and VW dealers. One afternoon, I took taxis to look over the cars in their showrooms and get more brochures with pictures and specifications. The sales people at both places were very nice to me. They said my Hamburg to New York deal was genuine. Tourists bought cars that way all the time. After pricing various models by the end of the day, I reluctantly was forced into a decision. Sadly, as much as I wanted to get one, I could not afford a Porsche. I did not have enough money saved. There could be no financing involved in the deal. They had estimated what a new 1967 Volkswagen "Fastback" 1600T Model would cost me when they came out later in the fall. I could manage that amount, and getting that car became my goal. But, before such a deal could be made, I still had almost a year to serve in Turkey when I got back there. I had plenty of time to mull it all over.
One evening there in Munich, several of us were headed out on the town. We spotted two fine examples of blond frauleins near the trolley stop. One of the Airmen walked up to them and asked in English if they knew "where the action was." I started to laugh figuring that they would not at all understand him. To our surprise, they replied in English that we should follow them to some area called Schwabing! We did. Once there, those young ladies pointed out a big Beer Hall, but they refused to come in with us. They had night-school classes to attend.
Before long, we got fully involved in something called "SpringFest" there in Schwabing. We were told it was a smaller version of the annual OctoberFest celebration. The gymnasium-sized Beer Hall had long rows of tables. It was crowded, but we found some seats. I marveled at the waitresses carrying six or eight liter-sized steins of beer at one time. We all swayed to the polka music and had a great time. I spent a big part of the evening in the huge john attached to the hall. Those Germans knew how to drink; - that was for sure.
Our final week was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Those twin cities are also near the Austrian border southwest of Munich. In Garmisch, the U.S. Army had a big installation. We stayed in one of several dormitory-like buildings. One noon, we went to the BX to have lunch and watch Armed Forces Television. I ordered a cheeseburger together with something I could never get in Turkey. I had a chocolate milkshake! We sat with some uniformed Army enlisted personnel. I did not reveal my rank, and I had asked my friends not to. Those Army guys were stationed in Germany. They were not at all happy when they found out where we had come from. They started a big argument.
Their major complaint was that they had to serve thirty months in Germany or a whole year longer than we had to serve in Turkey. I sat back and listened while the Air Force countered those Army sob stories pretty well. They pointed out to the Army that in return for that year they had certain conveniences we did not have. They had TV; - we didn't. They could drink the water. The radio music was understandable. They could meet local women. It turned out to be an interesting discussion and comparison. Nobody convinced the other side of anything, however.
One day there in Garmisch, two young Airmen on the trip came to me asking for my help. They were tapped out for cash. I had an idea. It was a long shot. The three of us went to the local Army finance office where I confronted my counterpart, an Army 1st Lieutenant. I told him who I was and explained the problem the two Airmen had. They showed him their R&R travel orders. I asked him to authorize a small cash advance to each of them. I said that I would straighten out his paper work when I returned to Turkey. He flatly refused. He said he did not know me. He was right.
I then asked him for an advance on my own pay. He also refused to do that. Finally, I asked to speak to his boss to no avail. The Army was not about to bail out the Air Force that day. They had rules and regulations to uphold. We were very unhappy, but we left. We took up a collection among us and loaned a few dollars to those two guys to tide them over. I had tried, but it didn't work. I am not sure I would have processed any kind of pay advances if our positions had been reversed. A mistake like that may have had to be made up out of a person's own pocket.
We went on several more "day trips" out of Garmisch. We took a drive to Innsbruck, Austria, one day. We went to an Ice Skating Show one evening. We checked out an underground salt mine. We even rode a cable car up the Zugspitze to the ski area at about 9,600 feet on the Austrian border. But soon, the morning arrived for us to meet the bus for the ride back to Furstenfeldbruck and the return flight to Turkey. The fun was over. We were all reluctantly headed back to work.
That morning as we boarded the bus in Garmisch, I wondered if we would fly anywhere. There was thick fog. When we arrived at Furstenfeldbruck, there was no plane parked on the tarmac for us. I told everyone to stay on the bus while I went to investigate. As big as you please, I just walked right into the German Air Force operations building and asked if anybody there spoke English. They did. They said our air crew had to land at a place called Erding. They were waiting there for us. We were supposed to bus over there. Erding was 45 miles or so on the opposite side of Munich. I hoped our plane was waiting there. If not, I had no idea what we were going to do.
When we finally got to Erding, we spotted a C-118, (a civilian DC-6), with the word "Turkey" painted on the front gear housing cover. There was no one around it. I told everybody to get their luggage off the bus and put it on the ground under that plane. I was taking no chances. Soon, our crew appeared and started to good-naturedly give us some shit about where we had been for so long, etc. The trip back to Turkey in the C-118 turned out to be a joy compared to the first trip in that C-54. The C-118 was pressurized and it had big, cushy seats. I landed at Esenboga that night refreshed, rested, and ready to get back to work!
Turkish Prison, Foreign Intrigue
As a lower ranking commissioned officer, I was often assigned other special duties while stationed in Turkey. I had to be the Officer of the Day about once each month. Since there was no central military installation or base to take charge of overnight as the OD, I had one and only one easy task to perform on those afternoons. I had to accompany a civilian to the O Club and to the NCO Club to witness the emptying of the slot machines and the counting of the proceeds. What weird duty that was! I learned a lot about how slots work. I think that maybe I found out more than I really cared to know.
On one memorable Wednesday evening as I thought I had finished with my Officer of the Day duties, I was told that there would be one more chore for me that night. I would have to accompany a Turkish driver in a USAF pick-up truck to a prison about 20 miles outside of Ankara. On some occasions, we tried to deliver hot meals to the Americans incarcerated there. I was going to have to take the meals to the prison that evening. Four plastic containers were handed to me. I put them on the seat next to me in the truck. It was getting dark as the driver and I headed out for parts unknown. It all was very unnerving. I began to wonder if I would ever get home again.
By the time we got to the prison, I was sure the meals were stone cold. In my uniform with officer insignia, I got a lot of stares but no salutes. In a headquarters room, I was first asked to hand the meals over to some prison guard. I knew then that probably no Americans would ever see or eat them. An interpreter asked if I would please stay to speak to one of our prisoners.
After he assured me that the driver would wait for me, I said I would. In a dark cubicle separated by fine mesh wire, I listened to the tale of some poor Airman. He was innocent of course of all the charges against him. He wanted my help to get him released. I knew that I could promise nothing to the poor guy. I told him so, but I agreed to speak later about him to his former commander.
After a short while, I was allowed to depart. With my driver, we headed back into the city. He finally delivered me right to my front door. It was past seven-thirty in the evening. I was too depressed from the trip to the prison to eat any supper then. I woke Jim up and told him the whole tale. We went up to the Officers Club about nine o'clock.
He kept telling me to try to forget about the prison visit. But, I couldn't. A few years later, the movie "Midnight Express" would document the story of a young American in a Turkish prison. He had made some very bad decisions trying to smuggle some drugs. The details of that movie were quite accurate from what I remember.
It was well known why some of our guys wound up in Turkish prison. One of my own people would suffer the same fate. Outside of Vietnam, we had the largest black-market operation in the whole Air Force! Nobody was quite sure why that was. I figured that some people were so pissed off at being sent to Turkey that they decided to make some extra money while there. Most sold BX articles such as hair spray and toothpaste to the Turks at exorbitantly high prices. Then they pocketed the difference into a stateside savings account under a false identity.
Our own OSI people watched the BX buildings from cars that they had disguised to look like Turkish taxis. If they saw a person frequently carrying out large quantities of items from the BX, they fingered the guy to the Turkish police. The police then actually made the arrest. I heard that a black-market conviction in Turkish courts often resulted in a prison term of from 10 to 18 years. Some guys boasted that they would do the time in return for having $50,000 or more in profit to enjoy when they got out. But, they had not even seen a Turkish prison from the outside or the inside. I had. One visit had scared the shit out of me! It was a bad deal all around as far as I was concerned. It later came to affect me personally.
When I arrived in Ankara, there was one Airman assigned as a cashier that I will call "Airman X." I had been warned about him. People did not trust him. I didn't either. One day, he had a shortage of $98.00 in his drawer at the end of his cashier shift. Several of us spent until after 8 o'clock that night rechecking his books and recounting the funds he turned back in. We never found the shortage. Lt. Colonel Harkins took active charge of the investigation of the shortage. All of had to make out official sworn statements about just what we had done in the matter. Finally, it was up to me to sign the official loss form, but I always thought that Airman X stole that money. That amount was a significant sum back then. It was perhaps half of his net monthly pay in those days.
Some months later, Airman X did not show up for work one day. I soon found out he had been arrested for black-market dealing. The Turkish police aided by Air Force OSI agents had found thousands of dollars worth of BX goods in his apartment. At the office, they loaned me an Airman from another area for a while. None of us ever saw Airman X again. I wondered if he would someday also plead his case to another 1st Lieutenant acting as the Officer of the Day on a trip to that Turkish prison. I did not feel sorry for Airman X. He had consciously violated the law, and he knew the consequences if he was caught.
Another special duty assigned to me was to act as a Report of Survey Officer. In my case, I had to investigate and make recommendations to the Commander in a case where a Turk had damaged one of our vehicles. I looked into it. He was responsible for the damage. I was then told that I could not recommend that he be held liable. No Turk was ever found liable by us for anything. To have done so, would have most likely sent the whole mess to a Turkish court. No American cared to be any part of such a scenario. Turkish courts were different, even strange, compared to ours.
The court system there leaned on Americans whenever possible. While doing that Report of Survey, I had a typical example of Turkish justice in my mind. It was an unbelievably convoluted piece of judicial thinking. The story revolved around one of our Sergeants who was innocently and legally parked in his car outside our hospital while he waited for his wife to leave work. The roads were slippery in the winter after a recent snowstorm.
A Turkish driver slid his car into the Sergeant's automobile causing damage to both vehicles. The Sergeant's car was not moving at the time. The engine was not even running. After prolonged litigation in the courts, a Turkish judge found our Sergeant was 20% liable for the accident. His wholly incomprehensible verdict reasoned that if the Sergeant had not been parked where he was, the accident would not have happened!
With that example of judicial nonsense in mind, I wanted no part of the Turkish courts either as a witness or a litigant party. Like everyone else, I desired to leave Turkey when I was supposed to. I wondered why we were even put through the paperwork in such Report of Survey situations. It was just governmental red tape. I said in my report that it was simply an unavoidable accident. I never heard any more about it. Case closed; albeit less than truthfully.
By far the most intriguing and unusual duty I had was really a part of my job. Instructions for it arrived periodically in a classified message from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. The message referred to a specific person. When I first arrived, the current message spoke of a Mr. Wright. Later, a new message said Mr. Wilson had replaced Mr. Wright. The messages said that the person would, in intervals of about two months or so, present six to eight green dollar checks to me in denominations of $10,000 each. I was not to ask the person for any ID nor was the person to endorse the checks. I was to give the person old $10 and $20 dollar bills in a brown paper bag much like what we used for payrolls. No one else was to become involved in the transactions.
After one such transaction, I boldly followed the neatly dressed man to the front door of our building. What he was up to interested me no end. I witnessed him calmly getting into a taxi with the $60,000 I had placed in the paper bag. By then, Captain Dan Grohn and his family had departed for the States. I had not been promoted into the Disbursing Officer's position. That had been just fine with me. My new boss was a Major Kern. I went up to his office to talk to him about "Mr. Wilson."
The Major and I had gotten along fine. I could talk freely to him. Since he had arrived, he had trusted me to pretty much do my job as I saw fit. I showed him the current message and asked if he knew about my duties regarding it. He had been told about the whole thing, but he knew no more about it than I did. We wondered "…who were those guys?" Shortly thereafter, we got some more clues to the mystery. It started when my office phone rang one day.
I received a call that day from a "Mr. Jones." He wanted to know if a message about him had arrived. I said that so far as I knew, it had not. He said he would follow up on it. He gave me a number to reach him at when it arrived. A week or so later, I got the message. It named him as the new contact. I called the number Mr. Jones had given me.
The person who answered identified herself as being at the reception desk of our own embassy up the street! After I asked for Mr. Jones, he answered his phone as "Survey Unit!" I told him the message about him was in. He came over that afternoon with seven checks. He left my office with $70,000 in old tens and twenties in another brown paper bag.
Later, the Major and I pieced together a possible explanation of just who those "bag men" really were. They were probably Army Intelligence personnel with the rank of Sergeant. Damn! I had unknowingly called them "Sir!" They likely were detached to work for the CIA in offices on the second floor of our embassy. The money they got from me was apparently used to buy information from the Turks about the Soviets or others.
In other words, those guys were just common, everyday spies! The whole series of incidents represented typical Middle Eastern intrigue. The United States government bought what it needed around the world from both above and below the table through legal agents or undercover spies. In such cases, they secretly came to me for their funds so Americans back home would not know about it.
Modern Istanbul, Ancient Troy
Major Kern proved to be more lenient with me in the office than Captain Grohn had ever been. He recognized that I had been doing my job efficiently for months before he arrived. He let me take a Friday or a Monday off occasionally. He just signed for some funds from me temporarily and covered the place. My Sergeants ran things on those days. It was good to know that I was not completely indispensable after all!
Whenever I was able to schedule a three-day weekend, I tried to get on a tourist bus trip to see the surrounding countryside. Elaine, Liz, and Jim made it a foursome a couple of times. The trips were relatively inexpensive and very educational. One bus trip took us west to the city of Afyon to see how poppies were harvested for their opium. We also toured the city of Kutahya with its chinaware factories. I bought some souvenir meerschaum pipes in Eskisehir, (literally, the old city), on that trip.
Jim often drove to sites around Ankara on day trips. Once, the four of us traveled northwest to the city of Bursa. From there, we went to Uludag, the ancient Mt. Olympus. There was a cable car running up to the 8,600 foot summit. We queued into a long line of customers. Soon, Jim began negotiating with some official there. He knew how to bargain with the Turks better than I ever did. Before long, we were moved right to the head of the line for seats on the cable car. I was embarrassed to be part of some Americans who had bought their way ahead of all other tourists in line. Yet, that was how most commerce was carried out in Turkey. Money bought favors there. It was not corruption; it was simply business through minor bribery. Haggling over prices was expected, but then a handshake was a binding agreement to a Turk.
The 31st of December in 1966 was on Saturday. Jim and I drove to Istanbul from Ankara for a long New Year's weekend. We stayed at the Ciragan Hotel on the European side of the Bosphorus just southwest of where the big new bridge has since been constructed. Istanbul was a fabulous city with so much to see and do. We got to most of the sites. We toured Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. We shopped in Kapali Carsi, the covered bazaar. We climbed the 118 steep steps of the Bayazit Kulesi fire lookout tower. But most of all, we got to see the magnificent palace museums.
In Topkapi Palace, there really was an emerald encrusted dagger on display as featured in a later movie starring Peter Ustinov. Relics displayed in the palace museum included something labeled the "Forearm and Occipital Bone of St. John the Baptist." The blood soaked clothes of murdered child-age Sultan wannabes were also on view. Like Topkapi, the newer Dolmabahce Palace also was resplendent in tons of gold leaf everywhere from the ceilings to the floors. Both of those museums certainly displayed the absolute decadence of centuries of rule by the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire. We naturally wondered how much better off the average Turkish peasant would have been if all that gold in those fabulous buildings had been stripped out, melted down, and doled out to the people. In those museums, the Turkish government was displaying the riches of the Sultans while millions of its people had little money for food, new clothes, or adequate housing. That same government then demanded and got foreign aid from the United States while their wealth of the past remained untouched there in those extravagant palace museums. It all seemed so foolish and senseless.
That Istanbul trip and all such weekend excursions paled in comparison to my three-day journey to the site of ancient Troy, the Dardanelles, and the Gallipoli Peninsula in the fall of 1966. Troy and its legends had always intrigued me since I had taken two years of High School Latin classes. In college, I had struggled to read Homer's Iliad in Latin. Stories of Hector, Achilles, King Priam, Paris, and Helen had always fascinated me. Tales of the siege of Troy by the Greeks were thought to be complete myths until the latter nineteenth century. I just had to see Troy when I had the chance.
To get there, we rode a bus for over ten hours that Friday. We made the same return trip on Sunday. In between on Saturday, we toured all of the area. Our base of operations was a small guest house or inn at the Turkish port of Canakkale right on the shore of the Dardanelles and about twelve miles northeast of Troy. We stayed there Friday and Saturday nights. The place was cold and clammy next to the water's edge. Ships blew their horns constantly. I did not sleep well either night.
Of course, the Trojan War did not occur because Paris made off with the beautiful Helen causing the launching of 1,000 warships. It happened for more practical and mundane reasons. Once I arrived at the archeological site, the background of the war became obvious to me even before our guide explained things. The war was fought for supremacy of trade and commerce in the area. Situated where it was, Troy easily controlled all ship travel into the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus, and on to the Black Sea ports. The Greeks of Sparta and elsewhere resented that. The Spartans set about to destroy Trojan influence in the region.
By 1966 when I visited there, archeologists had dug up nine separate cities of Troy. Each was piled on top of the previous ones. Older cities had been burned, sacked, or destroyed by earthquakes. No one ever bothered to completely clear away the ruins each time. They just re-built on top of them. Troy # 1 was begun about 3,000 BC. Troy VII, which flourished from 1,250 to 900 BC, was likely the city of Homer's Iliad. The last city, Troy IX, was ruled by Alexander and the Romans until about 400 AD. The site then fell into ruin as the harbor area silted over and filled up for over 1,400 years. When I was there, the ruins were already more than a mile from the water.
If it ever existed, the Trojan Horse had of course long since decayed to dust. Even great stone columns and walls were toppled. Walking down the paths and streets there was absolutely enthralling for me. Though it was forbidden, I squirreled away a small fragment of some pottery into my pants pocket as a souvenir. I then sat down on a fallen section of a column to rest and think for a few moments. I imagined all the characters from ancient history that had walked those very thoroughfares in the distant past. I was sitting right in the middle of one of the "holy of holies" in archeological terms.
Troy represented for me the beginning of many things, of course. People so valued the site that they built cities there at least nine separate times through wars, fires, and natural disasters such as earthquakes. Over 3,500 years of man's progress was laid out there before me. Each new city of Troy was bigger, more fortified, and more splendid than the previous one. Civilizations there spanned both the Bronze and Iron Ages. Yet, like the people who lived there, all nine cities also ultimately died. A great war, as described by no less than Homer himself, was fought there. The site literally cried out to me about the inhumanity of man.
Even the greatest of fortified walls had not protected the inhabitants of Troy from enemies bent upon killing them. That was the true meaning of the Trojan Horse. My visit there convinced me that mankind had made war upon his neighbors since the dawn of civilization and would always do so. That visit also demonstrated to me that nothing man builds really endures forever. I came away from there with powerfully sad and forlorn feelings. To me, the stone ruins represented failed civilizations and unfulfilled dreams.
We then were ferried west across the Dardanelles to the Gallipoli Peninsula called "Gelibolu" by the Turks. That area had been the site of battles since the Peloponnesian War in 405 BC until World War I. Cliffs rose almost vertically for several hundred feet from the sea on both sides of a narrow promontory. A fortified position on the summit could have been easily defended until the age of helicopters and jet fighter planes in modern times. The cliffs had become a horrendous killing field early in this century. To me, Gallipoli stood also as a memorial to inhumanity and greed.
In World War I, Turkey was allied with Germany. In April of 1915, Turks controlled the high ground of Gallipoli. They were in part commanded by none other than Lt. Colonel Mustafa Kemal. Seven short years later, he would take the name Ataturk, (Father of the Turks), and found the modern Turkish Republic as its first president. Many Allied Troops from primarily Australia and New Zealand began a campaign to try to dislodge the Turks from the high ground. When it was all over, the astonishing numbers of 160,000 Allied and 90,000 Turkish soldiers had been killed. A young British naval planner named Winston Churchill was among the defeated in London.
As I walked the windy and misty heights of Gallipoli that Saturday, it struck me as to what a waste of young lives had occurred there barely fifty years earlier. It was immediately obvious to me that no one should have tried to scale those steep cliffs in the face of rifles and cannon. I could see it would have been suicidal to try to do so. Total foolishness had resulted in total death there in 1915.
Yet, it also struck me that the battle of Gallipoli simply would not have been fought the same way there fifty-one years later in 1966. Better weapons had made the whole conduct of that siege of half a century before seem ridiculous to me then. Did that conclusion mean that our steady improvements in the sophistication of weaponry signified real progress? Or, did we always need weapons of war which at any time assured maximum killing would take place?
Assignment Accepted Involuntarily
As the weeks and months of 1966 went by, I was not simply having fun on weekend trips and excursions. Military matters and events were affecting me both in and out of the office. Right on schedule on the 5th of November, I received orders making permanent that earlier temporary promotion to First Lieutenant. I had the required time in grade. Now, if everything proceeded according to plan, I could anticipate an automatic promotion to temporary Captain in early May of 1967. But, the timing was messed up for me on another matter. I had to go to the Personnel Office to clear it up after I got word of an upcoming assignment choice for me.
I had always retained the right to resign my commission and leave active duty in the USAF after four years as an officer. Those four years would be up in November of 1967. My current feelings there in late 1966 leaned toward getting out. But, I was due to return to the CONUS on the 20th of April, 1967. Personnel explained to me that the Air Force would not send me stateside for less than a year. They told me I needed then to make a choice between two options.
First, I could accept an assignment in the States for one year. That meant six more months on active duty. I would not be able to get out before April of 1968. I would have then served a total of four and a half years plus the three months in OTS. Or, I could elect to stay in Turkey six months longer until November of 1967 and be discharged directly from there if I chose to resign. The USAF wanted to know what I intended to do. They had another assignment waiting for me. I wanted first to know where that assignment was going to be. I did not have long to wait for that news.
In early February, I was told that my new assignment would be to the 3510th Air Base Group of the Air Training Command at Randolph AFB north of San Antonio. So, I was scheduled for another big headquarters base. And, I was headed back to Texas and San Antonio again. I took that potential assignment as a compliment. Randolph was a big and grand old lady of a place. It was a major training base for pilots. There would be huge military and civilian payrolls to send out from the Accounting and Finance Office. To be the deputy there would be a real challenge.
Upon that news, it then became an easy call. I wanted no part of six more months in Turkey. On February 15th of 1967, I signed a letter composed by the Personnel Office and addressed to the headquarters of both the USAF and of USAFE. It quoted applicable Air Force Regulations to the extent that I was accepting the Randolph AFB assignment and the required six-month extension involuntarily. I was saying that I did not like the timing of the dates the Air Force had forced me into, but that I still reserved my right to resign after completing the one year tour. I had made a decision. I would be headed home for some leave and then on to Texas in a little over two months.
At about that time, I also decided to move on the paperwork needed to buy a baby blue 1967 Volkswagen. I elected to have it shipped from Hamburg to the Boston Army Base. That seemed like the better plan rather than picking it up somewhere in New York. I would book a flight from Kennedy to Logan Airport in Boston where an old girlfriend, a second grade teacher there, had agreed to meet me.
I wrote out the check to buy the car and sent it to the dealer in New York. But, most of the paperwork on the automobile was slow in coming to me. I found out the name of the Danish ship it would be transported on. I got the serial number of the car but not much else. I wondered if I could even pick it up with such few papers to prove I owned it. I found out some papers were sent to my Wisconsin address. That did me no good.
Meantime, I had been waiting for some other R&R orders to come through. In early March, orders were cut authorizing me to proceed on the 19th to Jordan and Israel for a six-day Holy Land Pilgrimage. I had signed up for that trip months before. Operated by the Catholic Chaplain, it had a huge waiting list. The trip went to all the religious sites. Unbelievably, the total cost was only about $80. I had made all the preparations including the endorsement from their embassy on my new passport of an entry visa from the "Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan."
The itinerary called for us to fly first into Amman and back out of Tel Aviv. One could only travel in that direction. One night, all lodgers were locked in a nunnery. Luggage had to be personally carried across "No Man's Land" into Israel from Jordan at Jerusalem. (The '67 war was still a few months off.) It was finally my turn to go. I was excited.
Sadly, I never got to go. On the morning we were to depart, we were first told that severe sandstorms in Jordan made any landings at the airport in Amman completely impossible. We were then instructed to wait at the Officers' Club to see if Jordan would allow a VFR flight plan. They said "no way." Visibility there remained at "zero-zero."
But, we could not wait for the sandstorms to diminish. Our aircraft was scheduled to haul some Girl Scouts around Germany the next day. So, the whole trip had to be scratched. On that Sunday morning, I was waiting and sipping champagne beside my suitcase at the Club during brunch when the final word came. I had to then drag myself and the suitcase back to the apartment to unpack. It was a great disappointment. I knew I would never have another chance at that trip.
Right on top of that news, something else happened. One Friday morning, I got a call at the office from a friend named Lt. Tom Bates. He was the Registrar at our USAF hospital there in Ankara. Tom was a fun-loving guy and had been a good friend to both Jim and me for months. Jim had first run into him at the hospital. I knew him from my evenings at the Club. Tom had seen many problems and a lot of misery there at our hospital. He had even been sent to eastern Turkey for a few days to help clean up after a very devastating earthquake. I recall that Tom told of seeing thousands of dead bodies stacked like cordwood and hauled away in huge dump trucks to mass graves.
I had felt that quake in Ankara that summer Sunday afternoon, and I was several hundred miles away from the epicenter. Things were not too bad there in the capital, but the easternmost part of Turkey had always been a dangerous earthquake area. The mud huts of the peasants there simply could not withstand any sort of earth tremors. Most casualties occurred when houses just caved in on people. For centuries, the survivors had eventually moved right back over the fault and re-built their flimsy shacks. They knew of nothing else except to live or die where their ancestors had.
Tom also once got in some minor trouble with his Turkish neighbors over what seemed to us to be a trivial incident. He lived in an apartment halfway up Cankaya hill from Jim and me. It was a nice place. He had us over one Saturday for a cook-out on his balcony. We were grilling beef steaks, but very soon some of his neighbors knocked on the door. They were all upset. They accused him and us of cooking and eating pork which was strictly forbidden under Islam. They felt Tom and the rest of us had therefore insulted them and their religion.
After some arguing, Tom simply apologized to them. He said it would not happen again. He handled it well, and we realized that we could never again cook meat outdoors like that. It was their country, and we were guests in it. But, the three of us then had a long discussion about the complete lack of tolerance in the Moslem religion. The incident there was certainly typical.
We went on to discuss how overall religious intolerance from all quarters and all faiths had so much death to be accountable for. Millions of innocent people had died or been slaughtered over almost two millennia due to the prejudice in all religions. Every religion's definition of heresy had always been different of course relative to themselves. All heretics and unbelievers had to be killed because the un-doctrinal and the unfaithful, (called the "Infidels" in Islam), were never tolerated or accommodated by any religion. What a gigantic waste simply in the name of someone's concept of their god.
The question we should have asked his neighbors was obvious. How had they known what cooked pork smelled like if it was totally forbidden to them? We didn't ask it, of course. They had been wrong anyway. It was cow that we were cooking, not pig. But, we elected to appear to be somehow at fault. That was the best reaction from us in the interest of continued neighborhood peace and the promotion of good international relations.
Well, with our rickety and undependable phone system, it was unusual for Tom to be calling me at the office. Something had to be very wrong. And, it sure was! Tom said that Jim and Liz had been involved in a bad head-on car crash with a Turkish truck on a blind curve in the road somewhere south of Ankara that morning. Jim had suffered very serious injuries. Liz also had been hurt. At the time he called me, he had no other details of the accident. Both were being transported to our hospital. During the noon hour, I went over to the hospital to see them. Elaine was already there.
Both Elaine and I were very upset at the news. She had opted not to go with Liz and Jim on that short weekend trip to the Mediterranean beaches near Adana on the south coast. But, she felt that she could have been along on the trip. I was just too busy to go along. Yet, I somehow blamed myself for the timing of the crash. I had held Jim up at the door of the apartment that morning to talk over some inconsequential matter. Without that short delay, they perhaps would have been a mile or two farther down that road. They then would not have met that truck in their lane on a curve. We both felt bad for them. I have never gotten over the idea that I likely was in part responsible for the crash.
Jim's right leg had a bad compound fracture, his face had slammed into the steering wheel, and he may have had other internal injuries. Liz had a broken elbow and arm. We discovered that her knowledge of the local language had perhaps saved Jim's life. The Turks had wanted to give him penicillin at a local clinic before he was brought to Ankara. That would have been a big mistake because he was allergic to penicillin. Liz had convinced the local medical people not to administer it.
It was apparently obvious early on that setting Jim's broken leg was a complicated problem. We were told that much better facilities than we had there were needed. It was decided that Jim had to be evacuated to our big USAF hospital at Wiesbaden in Germany as soon as possible. He was flown out that very night by Air Evac plane. Liz perhaps would also be sent home. For both of them, their time in Turkey had come to an abrupt and tragic end.
A few days later, Tom Bates and I went to a Turkish junkyard to see what we could salvage from Jim's car. When we saw it, we wondered how either of them had not been killed outright. The car was demolished. The whole front of that Chevrolet was crushed back to near the firewall. The engine was basically in the middle of the front seat. The battery had been totally torn apart by the collision. Battery plates were strung out like the lights on a Christmas tree string. What a horribly weird sight that was.
In the trunk of the car, we encountered another strange and almost unbelievable situation. Jim had taken along a five-gallon red plastic jug that we used to haul drinking water. It had been full, but the heavy plastic had exploded from the force of the crash. The jug had completely burst open!
Finally, Tom and I took only the spare tire and the wheel jack back to the apartment. That was all we could salvage. I put them with Jim's belongings that I was gathering up in one room. Tom said he would see to it that everything was shipped to the States for Jim.
I found out later that Jim would never be able to legally return to Turkey without being immediately arrested. The local authorities and courts had claimed that the crash was solely his fault, and he had not been there to defend himself. Jim was determined by the Turks to be a "fugitive from justice." In their minds, we had hustled him out of Turkey so that he would not have to go to court or stand trial. I did not realize then that I would never see Jim again after that hospital visit on the day of the crash.
The "New" San Antonio Rose
The next several weeks for me were busy while I took care of details to make sure I left Turkey as scheduled. Papers had to be signed. I had to turn over my accountability for money and other assets. I made flight reservations. It would be Pan Am flight #119 on the return trip through Istanbul, Rome, and Paris to New York. Then it was just a short hop to Boston. I arranged to have my Hold Baggage picked up. I asked Tom to make final arrangements on the apartment when he had Jim's things packed and removed after I had departed.
The Turkish authorities had a curious Customs ritual that every foreigner had to deal with. Shortly after arrival, everyone had to declare whether they had brought anything into Turkey in Hold Baggage or Household Goods that was on a special 'Beyrami' (sp?) or "Ownership List." They kept track of items such as automobiles and electric appliances. Each American person or family then had a list prepared of such items when they entered Turkey. The Turks wanted to make sure that we either had such items when they left Turkey or had had them removed from our lists if we sold any of them. The Turks would remove an item if proper papers were presented to prove it had legally been sold. When I had my Hold Baggage inspected upon departure, I had to go through the very same formalities.
A story had worked its way around about a Colonel and his family who experienced trouble when they attempted to board the Pan Am plane for the States. He thought that he had properly sold his automobile. But, the Turks had neglected to take it off his list, and he had not verified its removal. When he went to get on the plane, the Turkish customs agents wanted to know where his car was! Well, he supposedly was forced to send his wife and family on ahead while he stayed behind for several days to straighten out the paperwork. I wanted no such mess!
I had only one item on my list. I had stupidly brought an electric steam iron to Turkey. But, I showed them that I was shipping it home again in my Hold Baggage. So, my list was cleared. I had never used that damned iron! I couldn't because of the electrical power variances between the USA and Europe. The iron drew 1,100 watts at 110 volts. I had purchased a small transformer to step the Turkish 220-volt current down to 110 volts. But, it put out only about 250 watts. I used it to power a radio and a bed lamp. The stupid iron just sat around for eighteen months! I did keep real close track of it because I knew I would have to ship it back.
On the 5th of April, I received a very nice letter from Lt. Col. Harkins. All during my time in Turkey, he had remained aloof. I figured he did not like me, and I was not going to push it. I may have been wrong all along about him. His letter was primarily intended to announce that effective May 5th I was being promoted to the rank of Captain. Great! That was right on schedule! By that time I would hopefully be on leave. But, his letter also expressed his best wishes for my future success along with a comment that I had done a good job. I have kept the letter.
I probably had gotten off on the wrong foot with Harkins because of an incident which occurred only a few months after I arrived in Turkey. A young Lieutenant who was the USAF Disbursing Officer in Athens was in some big trouble. He had been accused of embezzlement and relieved of his duties pending a Court Martial. So, the Air Force needed a replacement quickly for him. I was close by, and I could be moved there quite easily. I was selected to be transferred. PCS orders were about to be drawn up to send me to Athens when the Colonel vetoed the whole plan. He said he needed me in Ankara at that particular time. I always blamed the him for missing out on the Athens position. I heard it was a small shop located right near the beach on the Aegean Sea. It would have been an ideal and top-notch assignment for me. I was very unhappy that I was so "needed" where I was.
Each month, there was a sort of "Bon Voyage" party for departing Airmen and Non Coms over at the NCO Club. In early April, one of my Sergeants invited me to the party that Friday night. I felt honored to be asked to attend since officers usually were not allowed in the NCO Club. A Sergeant who worked in our Travel Section was also scheduled to return stateside in April. He was being assigned to someplace in the state of Washington as I recall. I would be among friends at the party.
All at once in the middle of the celebrations that night, the band at the NCO Club took occasion to swing into that old Bob Wills standard "San Antonio Rose." Everyone knew where I was headed. Was it just a coincidence that the band played that tune that night? As they were playing, we all thought our Sergeant from the Travel Section was going to cry! He jokingly asked me to please swap assignments with him because he had relatives in south Texas. I replied that we both knew we could not do that, but I did consider it for a second.
To liven things up again, I announced something most of those there did not already know. I was getting Captain's tracks! Since I would not have to throw a Promotion Party later because I would be on leave, I announced that the next round was going to be on "Captain" Rostad! More rounds on almost everyone then followed. I was slugging down vodka and tonic cocktails even though I knew I would dizzily regret it with a horrible thirst in the morning. It turned out to be a very good party. I was especially pleased that my NCO friends had seen fit to include me. I knew it was really a sign of respect toward me and I told them that it was appreciated.
At about that same time, I made arrangements to move into the brand new Dedeman Hotel for the final couple of weeks. That was the usual procedure upon departure. On my very last night in the apartment, I was checking to see if everything was ready for the pick up of my Hold Baggage the following day. My tour in Turkey was then in the bottom of the ninth inning. I had made it, and nothing could stop me now!
I was ready to celebrate my departure for the States as well as my upcoming promotion. It looked like all was in good shape in the apartment. Jim's things were stacked up in one room, and my Hold Baggage was all labeled and ready to go. As I was just about to leave to head back to the hotel with my other suitcase, there was a knock on the door. It was Elaine. She had a bottle of champagne under her arm.
Soon thereafter, good old Tom Bates offered to drive me to Esenboga Airport on that Thursday morning, the 20th of April, 1967. I was happy he had done that, but I should have known he would give me some shit on the way. First, the car was acting funny, he said. Then he feared he was out of gas. Both were false problems designed just to further upset me, of course.
All the time on the way to the airport, my stomach was tied up in knots. I wanted so badly to get out of there that I could taste it! When we finally arrived, I was overjoyed to see that big blue and white Boeing 707 sitting there waiting for me. It was ready to take me home, and I certainly was ready to go!
Click photo to enlarge.
The photo at left is of me at my desk in the Finance office in Ankara. I took it one Saturday in 1966 when I had gone, out of uniform of course, into work. The big vault door is to the left off camera. Behind the camera was a chicken-wire door or gate with a key lock forcing me, the two cashier window positions, the vault, and all that money to be "locked-in" every day. Note the huge ashtray since I smoked back then. On the wall is an Org Chart.
Click photo to enlarge.
Click the photo at right, also an automatic delayed exposure of me in my Dedeman Hotel room counting the days until I departed Turkey in April of 1967. Note the sparse furnishings, the European style telephone, and the big smile on my face!
By the way, money and banking dominated my life following my USAF active duty years. I was later a banker in civilian life and rose to become a Vice President for Computer Systems as well as the Comptroller of a state-wide Trust Company. So, my Air Force training was certainly foundational in my later civilian business career.
Contact the Author
In the spring of 1988 while beginning a new job in Birmingham, Alabama, I was introduced to a guy named Chuck Hughes. I few minutes later, I told him and several others in a meeting there that Chuck looked familiar to me. I asked if we had ever met before. To my everlasting surprise, he replied that he did not think we had ever met, "...unless you were ever in Turkey!" To the astonishment then of him and everyone else, I replied that, "Yes, as a matter of fact I was!"
(...do, do, do, do; - it was the Twilight Zone for real!)
Actually, Chuck was with the Navy and was assigned to HQ JUSMMAT in Ankara. He arrived there only a week or so before I departed in 1967 and was there until late 1968. To this day, we do not know where I may have seen him! Chuck and I stay in regular e-mail and phone contact.
Also, several years ago through the Air Force Assn member database, I hooked up with Lt. Col. Thomas G. Bates, USAF (Ret.). Tom and I write e-mails and call each other frequently.
If you remember me or either of these two guys, please send me email! Click!
© DMR - 11/2006
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