INÇİRLİK AIR BASE - ADANA, TURKEY
My Duty Station March 29, 1958 - January 10, 1960
FIFTY YEARS LATER
A/2C Charles Sibert
© 2009 by Author
There was too much on my mind the night of January 10, 1960 to sleep. I was thinking about traveling from Turkey all the way to France. I'd be all alone on several different civilian aircraft and to me, it was somewhat scary. "What the heck," I reminded myself, "I'm 24 years old and in the Air Force!"
A brightly shining sun greeted me the morning of January 11th, 1960. I was into my fatigues and off to breakfast at a fast pace, hoping to get away from the base by noon. Breakfast, once taken care of was followed by the quick walk back to the barracks, feeling somewhat sad that I wouldn't see all these sights here again. Arriving at the barracks, I heard some of the guys calling me "short timer."
I got into the swing of things and tried to get things together as fast as I could. After my shower and shave, I dressed and packed up what I had to take with me, and what would be mailed to me. I bid so-long to my wall and footlockers, and even sat on the bed for the last time. Someone else would have my spot soon. One of my "bay mates" was to take my bedding to Supply for me that day.
So around 1030 hours (10:30 a.m.), on a sunny morning, I said goodbye to some in my bay, and headed to the orderly room to sign out. I also left a copy of my orders in the tray by the sign-in/out sheet and off I went to the snack bar area.
There were some of the guys there who had told me they'd see me off on Monday. The first person I said goodbye to was Pop! I think we both had a tear in our eyes. Little did I know I would see him again in February 1961. Photos were taken with my camera including some with the other guys. We all just talked and talked. I promised to write to A/3C Gary Longboat and some of the others. I would tell them about the land so far away that had beautiful women and even send photos to prove this to them. They all clapped and cheered, saying "Bring it on!"
Well, there was the base bus. Waiting to take me to the airport. I don't recall whether there were others leaving as well, but I do know there were no other airmen on my first flight to Ankara. I shook hands with all my buddies and the bus shoved off for Adana. The guys all waved and shouted to me as the bus pulled away from the snack bar. I said to Pop, as the bus pulled away, "Allah' a ismarladik!!" It is the sincerest of Turkish goodbyes, meaning "I command you to Allah." Pop waved both arms toward me, as did the others, as the bus turned left and proceeded out of their sight.
The Journey to France Begins
At the front gate to İncirlik Air Base, the Air Policeman on duty knew me. He lived in the barracks next door to mine and we were friends. He knew I was going to rotate from İncirlik Air Base that Monday and told me "good luck" and didn't even ask for any orders or inspect my ID card. I said for him to keep an eye on old Pop and the rest of the fellows. He laughed and said he would do a good job of it.
The main gate crosspole was raised and the blue bus went out onto the road toward and across the railroad tracks, turning right toward Adana. I turned in my seat to look back at the base one more time believing I would never see it again in my lifetime. All the while I was thanking God for keeping me safe in the 22 months I had been stationed at İncirlik Air Base.
Out on the road to Adana we traveled at about 45 miles per hour and the Turkish driver was talking to some other people on the bus. Soon I saw the road on the right side, to the Adana prison, and there was a Mobil fuel station. The bus slowed down some as it crossed the Seyhan River Bridge and the driver blew his horn as people just crossed in front of him. They seemed not to care for their safety, just wanting to get across the street.
There, on the left side of the street was the tailor shop I had visited many times. The tailor's young son spoke some English, having worked at the hotel up the street where the Air Force Non-commissioned Officers lived prior to completion of the new NCO Barracks on the base. He was only 13 or 14 years old, but he would interpret for his father as we sat and drank hot tea and talked. Not too many doors from there was the shoemaker's where I had some Chukka Boots made that squeeked like other Turkish shoes when walking, so I fit right in with them.
Across from the Crystal Palace Hotel, we turned right and I saw the Photo Unis where I had my picture taken right after I arrived enroute to İncirlik. Out on the road ahead, we stopped and let some people off the bus. It was only about 3.5km to the Adana airport. The bus driver pulled up in front of the airport's main building and stopped. I got off, thanked him in English and Turkish and walked to the ticket counter. To my surprise, a female clerk spoke English! I presented to her my paperwork and she gave me a boarding pass for my flight to Ankara/Esenboga airport. It was midday and the plane was to leave at 1330 hours (1:30 p.m.).
Holding my small blue suitcase in hand, I was directed toward the Vickers Viscount that would take me away from Adana. The Viscount was a British medium-range Turboprop airliner that the Turkish Airlines had been flying for a few years. It had four Rolls Royce Dart engines providing a cruising speed of 275 miles per hour. I entered the cabin from the left side door in front of the two engines on that side. The flight attendant pointed me toward a seat that would be mine for the flight. I remembered my flight coming to Adana in 1958 when the flight attendant could only say a few words in English.
January 11, 1960, leaving for France.
Sitting in my spot with my seat belt on, I gazed out the window at what was around the airport. This airport began as a civil airport in 1956 and was constructed in 1937 with a main runway direction of 05/23 and 9,022 feet of runway length. It was used mostly for military aircraft, and had been in use for only two years by the Turkish Airlines flying in and out of Adana.
I remember that the plane wasn't full leaving Adana and it wasn't long until we taxied out and turned into the main runway for takeoff. Up, up and away we lifted off and headed northwest toward Ankara. In about an hour, we were touching down in Ankara on a 12,000 foot runway I later learned about in a brochure about the airport.
Taxiing to the air terminal took just a few minutes and I was told we would go on to Istanbul's Yesilkoy airport after some had departed and others boarded. We were parked with the engines shut down and doors open front and rear on the left side of the plane. Passengers came and went in, and after 45 minutes I heard the sound of doors closing. When the engines started up and we were moving for our takeoff down that 12,000 foot runway, we lifted off at about half way and were out of there in a steep climb.
From Ankara, Istanbul is just a hop, skip and jump for this Vickers Viscount 4-engine turboprop. The distance from Ankara to Istanbul by car is only around 218 miles. I would be staying overnight at the well known Istanbul Hilton, right in the center of the Beyoglu section of town. I'd catch my KLM Dutch Airlines flight out in the morning of Tuesday, January 12, 1960. And after another hour's flight time, we landed at Yesilkoy with tire noise and smoke flying. Our landing was rougher than at Ankara. We landed on a 7,546-foot runway which was somewhat rough.
The air terminal was larger than the one at Ankara, I thought, although I didn't get off the plane at Ankara. I had been at this airport two years before but I couldn't remember much about it.
The plane parked and the stairs were rolled up to the doors. I got out of my seatbelt, and with my small blue suitcase I headed for the forward door. The flight attendant spoke to me in her best English, saying "have a good journey." I walked down the stairs and across the concrete parking apron toward the terminal building. The weather was colder in Istanbul than in Adana and my dress blues felt good to me that day.
At the KLM Dutch Airlines ticket counter, I gave the clerk my paperwork and it was confirmed I was going by bus to the Istanbul Hilton Hotel to stay the night of January 11, 1960. The Hilton Hotel had been open only six years, on 12 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds on a hilltop along Cumhurriyet Caddesi (Republic Street). I would fly out of Istanbul the next morning at around 9:30 headed for the Munich-Riem airport in Germany. At the Hilton, I was treated like royalty. No one knew my military rank as I was wearing a raincoat, and my stay there was a very pleasant experience. My being an American seemed to please everyone I came into contact with.
I had a large room with a balcony which looked out over the front side of the hotel. What a wonderful view I had of the grounds and the Taksim section of the city, as there was still some daylight. The food was first rate and the service excellent. This was quite different from the last time I was in Istanbul, in 1958, when hardly any English was spoken at the airport, and my fellow airmen and I had a rough time finding transient billets to bed down for the night. Istanbul was improving itself by leaps and bounds.
I arranged for a wake up call and transportation to the airport the next morning. I sure didn't want to be late for my flight. I turned in early as the next was going to be a lengthy travel day - Turkey to Germany to France. I had all my clothes laid out, planned to get up, shower, shave, dress, pack and have a continental breakfast and be off to Yesilkoy airport by bus.
I slept very well that night. I was more tired than I had realized.
The sun was shining on the room window as it was coming up in the east, when I received my wakeup call at 0600 hours. I was up shaving in a flash, showering as quickly as I could. (I recall now that my room was on the fourth floor, but I don't remember the room number I had - fifty years ago!)
I dressed and found where to have my continental breakfast, after which I hurried down to the lobby to locate the bus boarding location for the trip to the airport. I thanked the checkout counter man, handed over my room key and boarded the bus.
It wasn't a lengthy trip to the airport and I hurried to the KLM counter to get my boarding pass. I had to go through customs before leaving Turkey and there I needed to present a copy of special orders A-382, dated September 10, 1959 - from last year when I had left Turkey and returned to İncirlik from my leave to the states. This previous copy was stamped and allowed me into the country, as I returned November 4, 1959 from my leave to the U.S. and back. Now it was being stamped out by the customs agent on January 12, 1960 and I would be free to leave Yesilkoy Airport - and Turkey.
I was directed to the proper gate to walk out to the plane. There it was, a DC-7C, all decked out in KLM's colors seemingly waiting just for me. The folks onboard the plane spoke excellent English, I easily found my seat and began to read things from the seat pocket in front of me. I asked the flight attendant how old the aircraft was and she said she'd ask one of the crew for me. Shortly, she returned, telling me the plane was built in 1958. The plane was the last major piston-engine-powered transport built by Douglas Aircraft Company first flying in 1953 and through 1958. It came just a few years before the advent of jet aircraft such as the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8.
I found out, a few years later that KLM had purchased 15 of the DC-7C aircraft, carrying crews of three or four, and the planes carried 99 to 105 passengers. Powered by four Wright R-3350 Turbo Compound radial piston engines, generating 3,400 horsepower each. The DC-7C cruised at 355 miles per hour and could fly as high as 25,000 feet.
I was glad to learn what I could about this aircraft because I knew we'd be flying over the Alps en route to Munich-Riem. I felt really good and safe about this plane as I fastened my seat belt for takeoff. With a range of 5,635 miles, we would only be using a fifth of that - around 1,000 miles - from Yesilkoy to Munich Riem. It would be only a short time before I would say "Farewell" to the country of Turkey, and "Hello" to the country of Germany. It was a great experience for me to spend my time at İncirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey. I spent time reflecting on that.
The DC-7C's engines started up, the flight attendants began their presentations on aircraft safety, and we began taxiing toward the takeoff runway. Everyone was buckled up for our three hour flight to Germany. The engines revved up for flight checks and the takeoff roll started. The large 4-engined plane gained speed and I felt pressed back into my seat. What incredible engine power and yet, very slight noise, upon takeoff. On the 06/24 direction runway, 7,546 feet in length, the plane was up and way quickly. My first flight on a DC-7C aircraft was rapidly, and sadly, leaving Turkey behind.
Soon we were at "15,000 feet and climbing to somewhere around 20,000 feet," said the Captain on the intercom. The flight was smooth and I just sat back waiting until we reached cruising altitude so I could journey to the rear for a restroom stop. The seat belt sign blinked off and I made my way back. About 85 passengers were aboard this flight, and once back at my seat I relaxed and stared out the window. I could watch the engine working in concert with the other three, pulling the plane toward Germany.
Somewhere around 1100 hours we were treated to a large sandwich with pickle and fruit juice that tasted just great. It made my morning a whole lot better - especially when we received chocolate peanuts as dessert! KLM certainly had my vote of confidence, so I just sat back and enjoyed the flight. I did try to speak to the person sitting next to me but he only spoke German and French. "So much for that," I said to myself and tried to nap. There was a small amount of turbulence - nothing frightful.
My ears began to stop up as we descended and at the same time the Captain was telling us we were coming down toward landing. Munich-Riem Airport, near the village of Riem, was in the borough of Trudering-Riem. This airport began construction in 1936 and the first plane landed there October 25, 1939. It replaced an airport located at Oberwiesenfeld whose air facilities were almost completely destroyed by World War II bombings which had - coincidentally - occurred on my 10th birthday, April 9, 1945. Civilian air traffic also had been handled in Riem during wartime. After the war ended, Munich-Riem was the first airport in Germany to be used for civil aviation.
The landing at Munich-Riem was picture perfect and snow was on the ground. Our Captain told us the temperature outside was 2 degrees celsius (35 degrees Farenheit), and that our layover would be an hour and a half. We taxied up to the terminal's main entrance, engines were shut down and the flight attendants helped passengers off the plain and down the stairs to the terminal walkway. I left my bag onboard. The runway on which we landed was 8,580 feet in length and now that I think about it, it was the sole runway at the airport!
My winter uniform was feeling better all the time. I guessed there were about four inches of snow on the walkways but workers were continually shoveling pathways to the building. There was a sign atop the entrance hall reading, "München" which faced out toward the runway and the incoming passengers. With its individual, large blue lighted letters, it was a spectacular sight. Once inside, I had to show my orders and USAF Identification card to the German customs agents who passed me on like I was "one of the boys."
There was a wonderful lunch room inside the terminal building. I found some tasty foods, even a rabbit stew - though not a personal favorite. After eating and browsing a bit, I realized I was tired. I had been up since 6:00 a.m. and operating on the excitement of leaving for a new destination. So I sat down and waited for the call to re-board the aircraft for Frankfurt. I studied, over and over in my mind, "what will I find in Frankfurt? Paris?" Little did I know this lovely airport at Munich-Riem would be replaced with a new airport near Erding in May, 1992. The old IATA code MUC was merely transferred to the new airport.