DREUX AIR BASE
FIFTY YEARS LATER
A/2C Charles Sibert
© 2009 by Author
While at Dreux Air Base in 1960, the 322nd Air Division of the 7305th Air Base Group to which Charlie Sibert was a contributing member,
received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for U.N. operations in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire). Dreux Air Base provided flights of their
C-119s for the air drops in the Congo, and some flights returned with bullet holes in their cargo bays!
Winter slipped into Spring and soon it was summertime at Dreux Air Base. We could go to Chateauneuf to the Olympic size swimming pool and there was a lake just outside the base gate, on the road to the right, that had a section roped off for swimming. Alert duty, base functions, and visits to the small towns around the base kept me occupied. I had met two girls from Paris who were staying in Chateauneuf for some of the Summer. I spent a lot of my off time with them. One of them also had a MoPed, so they doubled up and we rode many places together all around the countryside.
Gen Curtis E. LeMay Drops in at Dreux A/B
It was Monday the 20th of June 1960 and I had been at
Dreux Air Base only 5 months. I was hearing from base ops
over the intercom at the transient alert office that the Vice Chief
of Staff of the United States Air Force Gen Curtis E. LeMay
was coming to Dreux Air Base. He was going to review the
troops at a flight-line parade and go to the 24 hour auto
endurance race at LeMans, France.
The 24 hour race was to begin on Sat the 25th and be
completed on Sun the 26th of June 1960. The General would
arrive at Dreux Air Base aboard a U. S. Air Force C-135A
Stratolifter from the Military Airlift Command.
The plane would be landing at Dreux Air Base somewhere
around noon one day this week and was to be parked near the
large hanger nearest base ops. After all officers and visitors had
departed from the aircraft, it would taxi to a nearby revetment
All I needed to do was pick up the plane at the 24 end of the
runway with my follow-me truck and guide it to the parking
apron where others on base would park it. Everything went as
planned when the large 4 engine jet arrived at Dreux Air Base.
I was on duty the day of the parade and didn’t have to march
with others from my squadron as they had to do. I found an ideal
spot to photograph the parade right from the window of my
follow-me truck which I parked somewhat near the hanger.
There was a mixture of old and new summer uniforms in the
parade but all the airmen looked very sharp. Dreux Air Bases’
parade for the USAF Vice Chief of Staff went off without a hitch.
Gen LeMay went to see the LeMans 24 hour race as it was just a
two hour drive by motorcade from Dreux to LeMans. The race
that year was won by two Belgian drivers, Olivier Gendebien and
Paul Frere with a Ferrari 250 painted with a large number 11 on it.
A/2C Sibert with Arlette and Caroline - Chateauneuf, France, pool - July, 1960.
Sibert in front of Service Club,
at Dreux AFB.
Feb., 1961 - A/2C Sibert at Dreux Air Base at Alert Office door in the hangar near Base Ops and Fire Station (He says, "I still have these fatigues, starched and pressed, from the Dreux Laundry that I picked up to send home in my baggage when I left Dreux in April, 1961!")
Chateauneuf, a French town five
miles from Dreux AFB,
and home of Susie's Bar.
1960, Chateauneuf, Sibert on moped at Judes Family Summer House where he spent many days off. Two French girls were staying there for the Summer.
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A Side Story
One late August Saturday in 1960 the two French girls from Paris staying in Chateauneuf and I had spent most of the day moped-riding and touring the countryside. One girl's parents had came out from Paris to stay the weekend and the girls had to be home by dinner time. I rode home with them, bid them goodbye and headed for Susie's bar.
At Susie's I had my usual meal, ham sandwich, onion soup, and a frog beer.
(Frog stood for French) Just as night was falling in Chateauneuf and me feeling so lonesome, not being with the girls, I hit on a plan. I would go back to their house after the parents were in bed and get them to come back to Susie's bar for a good time.
I rented a small room from Susie with an outside entrance for us all. Susie relented and gave me the key saying she was afraid of the police and didn't want trouble. Much later I mounted my moped for the ride out to their house. Engine off I pushed the moped near the walled gate entrance for a look see.
Crawling forward on all fours I reached their bed room shuttered window. With a light tapping noise I awoke them and soon we all were headed toward Chateauneuf with one girl on the rear luggage carrier and the other mounted upon the handle bars.
With engine off for a short distance and then engaged, off we rode.
As I placed the key into the lock of the small room at Susie's, one girl asked "What about the moped?" I replied, "we'll take it inside with us". Inside we turned on the small light and all piled upon the bunk sized bed. Since we had no bottle at this time we all just spun around and around and did our thing as in the French movies.
Susie had put a two hour time limit on the room, so soon we were motoring back toward the girls' house. Engine off and with hugs and kisses for me they returned to their bedroom with a gleam in their eyes. Tomorrow I would return to the house to see them again for lunch with the parents.
Back to Susie's for another Frog beer, Susie thanked me for the crisp five dollar bill I had given her for the room rent. I locked up my moped to the barracks upstairs poles and went up to my bay whistling a love song on my return to Dreux Air Base that night in August 1960.
Off topic, a bit: As I was writing to one of the French girls - who had stayed in Chateauneuf for the summer of 1960 - at her home in Paris, a visit was planned. I was to meet her at a restaurant in Paris on a Saturday around noon and we would spend the rest of the day together. I believe this was early in October. All I can remember is, it was on the Champs-Elysees not far from the Arc-de-Triomphe. We met and had lunch, visited here and there, and finally she found me a place for the night at a store front room that some of her French male friends rented just north of the Arc-de-Triomphe. The friends found lodging at another pal's place for that night, and I wondered just how friendly she was with them as they didn't object and basically were very kind toward me.
She schooled me how to use the subway to return to this place that night after we parted company outside her apartment home. She'd return in the morning and we would have some of Sunday together before I had to go back to the base. Later that evening when we had arrived outside at her place she told me how she now had her brother's front bed room and she could blow me kisses and wave to me as I made my way toward the subway station gate. We sat out in front of her apartment on the wooden bench and hugged and kissed most of the night away.
As the subway station gates near her home opened at 5:00am she said I must go back to the store front room to sleep and she would be there at noon to get me. So at 4:00 am I was on my way, making my journey back there all the while looking toward her as I walked out of sight as she waved from her window.
At noon the next day there she was, still laughing about how she had pulled the wool over her mother's eyes the night before. She was to be in at 1:00 am and had stretched it until 4:00 am. So we headed out for another tour of her hometown. At the subway station, where I'd go be taken to the train station for the trip back to Dreux Air Base, we said our good byes... and good byes ... good byes!
This was the last time I ever saw this French girl although I wrote letters and made phone calls to her from the base. Later that year she told me she was going to the states someday, to live.
In my visit back to Dreux Air Base and Paris in 1987, I visited her brother outside at the old home place as he was now there looking after his aged mother. He said his sister had married a French man and moved to New York City to live. Some years later her husband died and she then remarried an American man, and he died also. When she called her brother later that month he told her I had came for a visit and she made no reply except to say she was not interested. For all I know, she could still be living in New York City to this day. She would be somewhere around 68 years of age now. I would venture to say she never has worked a job in her lifetime, but who will ever know?
After September arrived and the girls were gone back to Paris, I met a young lady on the base. We did a lot of things together at Dreux so I kept quite busy. Then I started playing basketball for the Dreux Air Base team. The coach was First Lieutenant Jimmy L. Skelton who had played basketball at Oklahoma State for Hank Iba. We had 12 players on the team and played our home games at the base gym. For away scheduled games we took one of the base C-119s. The season of 1960/1961 saw us flying to Laon Air Base and Chateauroux Air Base, as well. We also visited Bitburg for a 1960 Christmas tournament, (see team orders to Germany) as well as Frankfurt in Germany. We also drove to Evreux Air Base in France to play. It was about 45 miles, so not too far from Dreux.
Orders to Laon
While at Dreux Air Base, France in 1960-1961 and playing basketball on the air base team I received Special orders # B-294 telling me the base team was going to fly up to Laon-Couvron Air Base. Our team was to be playing Laon's team for a regular scheduled season game. We were to fly up and back on one of our baseC-119G cargo aircraft leaving on or about 2-Dec-60 TDY for approximately 3 days.
When time came to load up for the flight with our equipment footlockers, 14 players and coach 1STLT Jimmy L Skelton it didn't take long to be seated. Out to the 06 end of Dreux Air Base' runway we taxied and lined up for takeoff. It would be dark when we arrived at Laon-Couvron Air Base as evening was closing in on our base.
We all had our chutes on and seat belts tightened for take off as our C-119G gathered speed and lifted off from Dreux and headed N/E for Laon. Maybe an hour and a half from takeoff we'd be there. As night came upon us we all just talked and settled back for the flight. The closer we got to Laon we started to run into high winds and snow. The plane was tossed up and down and sideways.
We could see the very large snow flakes, some looked the size of your fist, thru the cargo bay port holes as all the planes landing lights were turned on. We continued our up and down motions and held on tightly hoping to fly thru this mess we found ourselves in. Here came the crew chief from up front telling us we may have to exit the plane if we can't fly thru this terrible snow storm. Our altitude had diminished and the plane was close to stall speed and very hard to control.
The crew chief told us to stow our hats, check our field jackets and boots and tighten our gloves. He said we were to stand up and hook our static lines to the jump cables on his command as he would jettison the 2 small doors on the large clamshell doors if we had to jump. Things were to be orderly and not catastrophic on his aircraft he shouted to all.
We were as ready as we could be and just sat there in bewilderment many of us thinking about this our first jump. What would I find down there kept cascading thru my brain cells. Were my USAF days to be cut short like this I said to all within earshot and no one seemed to answer me.
Just when we believed all hell was about to engulf us the aircraft started to climb and the crew chief said we were getting out of the snow storm. We all clapped our hands and shouted "Right On" hoping now not to jump. War is always hell, but this jump could have killed us.
Found my B-Ball Jersey Recently!
The C-119G from Dreux Air Base would live on in the USAF inventory as well as the officers and airman who comprised the base basketball team of ' 1960-'61. Thank the Lord! It didn't seem too long before we touched down at the 03 end of the 7,900 foot runway at Laon-Couvron Air Base as our first jump test had been averted to every ones satisfaction aboard our aircraft. Our basketball game was played the next night and the flight home the next day was uneventful and routine for all. Yes, we won the game!
Basketball is how I met First Lieutenant Godfrey Russman, from Louisville, Kentucky - my hometown (Shown in the photo at left. He is on the right). He was stationed at Chateauroux Air Base in France. His dad owned a funeral home in Louisville. Godfrey was a basketball referee who did games played in France. In January, 1961, while working a home game at Dreux, he told me that the USAFE (US Air Force Europe) basketball tournament was going to be held in February in Adana, Turkey! All the officials and players for the tournament would be housed at İncirlik Air Base and he said I could be the official scorekeeper for the tournament since I had worked a few games at Dreux when a scorekeeper couldn't be found. Also, I was a good scorekeeper and he knew I could do the job in the tournament.
He told me to save up some leave time, and to meet him and others at Chateauroux for the flight to İncirlik. He would let me know the dates and the travel arrangements, he said. Our season was over at Dreux and I think we just broke even with our schedule of games. January, 1961 was fast coming to a close.
He Turned My Face Red
It was Tuesday January 31, 1961 and the Eagle had landed at Dreux Air Base, France. The day we all looked forward to each month, payday, was upon us big time.
I was on duty, my 24 hour shift, as I made my way to the building used by the paymaster to dispense Uncle Sam’s green backs to us troops. I had talked to the A1C in the control tower at ops about air traffic and he said “what traffic, just go on and get paid”.
Dreux Air Bases’ basketball coach 1STLT Jimmy L. Skelton, (at right, hand on chin) whom I played for on the 1960-61 base team, was the paymaster that day. There, at a large rectangular table, he sat with stacks of U. S. dollars, pay records, a loaded 45 cal pistol, and a Staff Sgt. clerk taking care of the paper work. Next to the table on 1STLT Skelton’s right stood an A1C Air Policeman as the guard for that day.
The pay line was down the hallway some distance from the doorway of the room where we would receive our pay when I arrived but it was moving rapidly. When I entered the doorway 1STLT Skelton recognized me right off and had the air policeman ask me if I was on alert duty that day. I said I was, and he told 1STLT Skelton.
The basketball coach and players had become great friends always laughing and pulling jokes on each other during practice time and sometimes during our games. As I being one of the players on his team coach Skelton had also tabbed me as a player/manager. He seemed to always have something for me to do as well as practice and play on our team.
What happened next that Tuesday was beyond any ones belief. He called me forward to be next in line ahead of 4 or 5 already standing there. He then had me report for pay, returned my salute and with a large smile upon his face said “take two steps forward and do an about face and put your hands out behind you to receive your pay” which I did. Then with another about face I counted my money, signed my pay record, saluted and got the hell out of there with my face as red as a beet. Other airmen in line broke out with laughter as I exited the door.
After that day when I saluted 1STLT Skelton, as we met at different times about the base, both of us would laugh out loud as we gave each other a friendly hand slap.
Taking Off for the Big Game
February of 1961 swept into Dreux very cold with some rain mixed with snow. I heard from First Lieutenant Russman and he gave me the dates of the 1960-61 USAFE Basketball Tournament in Adana. I was to be at Chateauroux air base for the flight to İncirlik early in the morning of Friday, February 17, 1961. We would go to Athens and then on to İncirlik Air Base Adana, Turkey onboard a C-130A from the 322nd Air Division based at Evreux-Fauville, France.
I made my request for leave on Monday February 13, '61. I wanted an ordinary 15-day leave to go to Turkey. If I could get back to İncirlik I would be able to renew old acquaintances from the airmen I knew when I was stationed there. It was also an opportunity to become the tournament's official scorekeeper, and, certainly I would like to see old Pop, our base shoe shine man, once again before he might pass away. He was getting much older by now.
My leave was approved and I hopped what we called "the milk run," a C-119G going to Chateauroux Air Base the afternoon of February 16, 1961. Every week on Thursday we had a C-119G going to Chateauroux to deliver cargo and to pick up cargo headed for Dreux. I checked in with officer Russman and he got me quarters for the night there. The next morning, the 17th, we boarded a C-130A for the flight to Athens and on to İncirlik. I wore my fatigues and had a small bag of civvies and things with me for my stay. This flight seemed like old times.
As we cleared runway 04/22, the 11,483-footer at Chateauroux on our C-130A headed for Athens, I was going back to where my overseas tour first began. Would most of the guys still be there? I had not written to anyone about coming back to the base. What a surprise it would be for many who were there when I was. What would old Pop do when he first saw me? I was told we'd have rooms in the NCO barracks just around the corner from the Base Theatre. Six referees would work the tournament games scheduled by the two tournament managers. I was to be the official scorekeeper. AFRS Radio would broadcast the games and we had photographers with us as well.
C-130 aircraft from the 322nd Air Division based at Evreux, France in 1960-61...just like the one we flew on from France to Turkey for the basketball tournament...only the tail number is different.
The first leg of our trip, to Athenai Airport in Athens from Chateauroux Air Base had been three hours in the air before landing. This arirport was called Kalamaki Airfield when the German Luftwaffe used it during the occupation. Following the end of World War II the U.S. used the airport from 1945 until 1993. Known as Hassani airport in 1945, it was used by the USAAF as early as October, 1945. On October 5, 1948, the U.S. Air Force assigned the Military Air Transport Service 1632nd Air Base Squadron to the airport with ten C-47 cargo aircraft. In 1954, USAFE 7206th group was assigned to the airport. Commercial airline service returned in 1956 and the airport was renamed Athenai International.
Our C-130A chewed up the thousand-mile trip mighty fast and we made a beautiful landing, taxiing to the area the U.S. Air Force used at the airport for their base. What a great plane the C-130A was. The C-130A Hercules had a crew of four to six, at least two pilots, one flight engineer and one loadmaster plus a navigator. It could carry 92 passengers and had a payload of 45,000 pounds! It was 97 feet 9 inches long and the wingspan was 132 feet 7 inches with a height of 38 feet 3 inches. Its powerplants were 4x Allison T56-A-9 Turboprops with three-bladed Aero product propellers. Maximum speed was 360 MPH and cruise speed around 320 MPH. The plane's range was 1,300 miles. Deliveries had begin in December, 1956 from Lockheed Marietta in Georgia. The 322nd Air Division in Europe had six squadrons assigned to them. Our particular C-130A was from the 322nd USAFE.
After refueling and a brief rest stop, we taxied out to runway 15/33, at 10,331 feet in length for our takeoff. Engine checks were made and away we went for İncirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey. We'd been on our journey now since about 0800 hours and it was now coming up on 1400 hours (2:00 p.m.). This would put us on the ground at İncirlik at around 1600 hrs. (4:00 p.m.) for sure. It was still Friday February 17, 1961 and we'd be landing right on time for supper! While thinking about all this, we began our descent from altitude to make our approach for landing on the 05 end of the 10,000 foot runway.
Four large tires squealed and smoke rolled as the C-130A settled down for the roll to the 23 end of the runway. I saw the same blue '57 Chevy follow me truck waiting for us that I had driven so often. Things looked the same from what little I could see from inside the plane. Back where it all started. Here I was at İncirlik Air Base!
We were guided to the area close to Air Freight to park. Engines shut down, chocks were slipped in at the wheels, and the MD-3 power unit was plugged in to supply the electricity. The loadmaster lowered the rear ramp and we all left the aircraft, on to the Turkish Customs house to check in. It was still located next door to the Air Freight building. My AF Form 1164 leave orders were stamped 17-2-61 with a round purple stamp that had "Ankara Customs" on it and was signed by the Turkish Customs agent. My small bag was not even opened. I was in U.S. Air Force fatigues and this could have been the reason I wasn't asked to show the bag's insides.
It was a comfortable 55 degrees and I didn't even need my field jacket on. Here came three USAF station wagons who drove our officiating party to the NCO barracks, the Transient Billets and the Officer's Billets just up the street from the Base Theatre. After all of us had our rooms assigned, some of the officials met and I directed them to the mess hall for a very good supper.
On our flight, also, were the team members and coaches from ToulRosieres Air Base. One of the ballplayers was a team member of mine from Dreux who had been picked to play on this team. There were, I'm sure, others from Chateauroux on this team, too. We, as officials, didn't want to be seen as favoring the teams. I believe there was another team already at İncirlik as well. The other teams would soon be landing from their home bases.
On the way back from the mess hall, I excused myself to revisit my old barracks. You should have seen the looks on some faces when I walked in to my old bay. Hugs and back-slapping made me so glad I had many friends remaining there. Now, as an Airman Second Class, there was Gary Longboat jumping up and down with joy. I explained why I was there and caught hell for not having written ahead. Shoeshine "Pop" had already left for the day from his Snackbar area location, but I would be able to see him tomorrow.
Saturday February 18, 1961: We officials had breakfast and were driven to Adana to see where the tournament was to be played. We pulled up to the Kapali Spor Salonu, a large building housing the gymnasium which would be the site of the games. Inside was a high arched ceiling, spacious bleacher seats, a wooden parquet floor, and the ball goals were of international design so the nets had to be shortened.
We walked all around inside the building thinking we could put on a good 1961 USAFE Basketball Tournament there. The free throw lines were marked both ways - international and USA so that was not a problem. The goal supports were the portable round pipe type, covered by gym mats at the fronts and sides. The restrooms, however, were the traditional Turkish "bombsites"
Smoking was permitted and servers would work the crowd with eats and drinks. A Turkish PA announcer would call the game for the Turkish spectators. The Armed Forces Radio Service would send the games out over the airwaves, the base gym scoreboard would be propped up at one end of the floor and the players and some of the spectators could see the scores. Some tables would be used for scorekeeper, scoreboard operators and others.
After the gymnasium check, we went back to the base to await the arrival of the other teams. Some came in on Sunday night, others the next day, Monday February 20, 1961. Monday was a practice day for all the teams to familiarize themselves with the surroundings, the dark parquet wooden floor, and with no crowd around the team practiced. Everyone seemed to enjoy the practice times, laughed and joked as they went about their workouts.
|TEAMS FOR THE 1961 USAFE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT|
Held at Kapali Spo Salonu, Adana, Turkey, February 21-26, 1961
Some 4,000 Turkish spectators were seated and ready when the first tipoff came at 1900 hours (7:00 p.m.) on Tuesday, February 21, 1961 for the game between the Sembach Tigers and the Irakilon Big Green. Sembach won that game.
The Second game at 2100 hrs (9:00 p.m.) Tuesday, February 21, was between the Sculthorpe Vigilantes and the Torrejon Raiders and was won by Sculthorpe. The red and silver uniforms of Torrejon caught the fancy of the Turkish crowd and they really were pulling for this team. Base interpreters at the games cheered wildly, also.
The late night contest Wednesday, February 22 at 21:00 hrs (9:00 p.m.) was a game between the Sculthorpe Vigilantes and the Toul's Tigers, which was won by Sculthorpe. The French District Winner was made up mostly of the 2nd AACS Squadron who had all five starters and two reserves on the ten-player roster. Toul's had drawn the bye for this tournament. The gym was full to overflowing with happy people waiting for the games to begin. The first game of the night at 1900 hrs (7:00 p.m.) featured the Torrejon Raiders vs. the Irakilon Big Green and was won by Torrejon, thus sending Irakilon home with its second loss in the double elimination tournament.
Arena where the 1960-'61 USAFE Championship Basketball Tournament was played in Adana, Turkey. Could this building still be standing? Could someone there let me know by sending an e-mail to me? I understand there is a new Spor Salonu.
Feb., 1961 - The area for Armed Forces Radio to call the games from the Kapali Spor Salonu in Adana, Turkey. The station's frequency was 1594 A.M. according to the banner on their table.
One of the USAFE teams practices at the arena in Adana. Can you tell what team this is? Clue: Injured player at lower left corner in white dress coat.
The Torrejon Raiders of Spain go up against the Toul-Rosière Tigers squad from France at the USAFE Championship.
USAFE tournament is underway. Fifth from left is A/2C Charlie Sibert official scorekeeper for the games.
Feb. 1961 - Toul-Rosière AFB France champions posed for this team photo ouside their transient barracks at İncirlik Air Base. One player in this photo, not in uniform, had been injured. If you had been stationed at İncirlik, and are viewing this photo, do you know this exact spot?
These games were a first: the basketball games held at Adana were the first time a USAFE tournament had been played in a non-Air Force base gym. It was a goodwill mission merely to help our American Airmen at İncirlik and their Turkish neighbors to become better acquainted as Turkey was becoming more westernized. All four daily newspapers in Adana said it was a great success and people would be talking about it for years. Writers from Ankara and Istanbul sent the results back to their newspapers after each evening's games were played. The American and Turkish crowds at the Adana Kapali Spor Salonu got along very well. They seemed to cheer loudly together for their teams.
Thursday, February 23rd would see Toul's Tigers trying to stay alive, going up against the Torrejon Raiders in the 7:00 o'clock game. Some 3,300 fans were there to witness a very tight game down to the wire and won by Torrejon. On the Toul's team roster was Staff Sergeant Willie Byrd, Jr., a Dreux teammate of mine on the Dreux AB basketball team. This game proved to be Toul's second tournament loss so they were disqualified.
The second game on Thursday night at 2100 hours (9:00 p.m.) was a winners' bracket matchup between the Sembach Tigers and the Sculthorpe Vigilantes. Would this be a head-knocker as some had predicted? It was just that. Sculthorpe eked out a win and sent Sembach into the losers' bracket. Score: 73 - 65!
The losers bracket final game was between the Torrejon Raiders and the Sembach Tigers. It was the 2000 (8:00 o'clock) game on Friday, February 24th. Would the tournament favorite go down in smoke? No sweat. Sembach Tigers dispatched the Torrejon Raiders by 20 points!
The pressure was on! Could the tournament favorite Sembach Tigers win not one but TWO games against Sculthorpe's Vigilantes? What would happen was anyone's guess and, again, it was a full house of 4,000 rollicking fans enjoying large pretzels and drinks before the tipoff. What anticipation greeted the teams as the winners bracket finals got underway at the Adana Kapali Spor Salonu. The official scorekeeper (who would be me) was feeling the butterflies in his stomach and wasn't even playing in the game! The tournament trophies and awards were ready, should the team called Vigilantes from Sculthorpe walk off tonight as champions.
It was the 2000 hrs (8:00 p.m.) game on Saturday, February 25, 1961. I had all the information down in the official score book and watched both teams nervously going through their pre-game warmup. They were being closely watched by their respective coaches. I was predicting a tight game on paper. What actually happened in the game just blew my mind!
Germany's Sembach Tigers came back to drop the U.K. champion Sculthorpe Vigilantes by a score of 61 to 48 there in front of my eyes Saturday night in the USAFE double elimination basketball tourney. This forced a do-or-die contest Sunday evening! Sunday's victor would earn a berth in the U.S. Air Force's worldwide basketball tournament to be held at Warren Air Base in Cheyenne Wyoming on March 6th through 11th, 1961.
|Above left: Scoreboard from the İncirlik Air Base gym was used for the USAFE Championship. Official scorekeeper for the event is A/2C Charlie Sibert. Did the photographer tell him to close his eyes?|
Above right is S/Sgt. Willie Byrd, Jr. who played on the Droux team of which Charlie Sibert was a member. Willie was chosen to play on the Toul-Rosières team who had won the USAFE France Tournament and went on to Adana, Turkey for the overall USAFE CHampionship series. Photo taken outside the Transient Barracks, İncirlik Air Base.
Sunday night, February 26, was soon upon us and we "only" had some 2,500 fans in the stands to witness the contest. Evidently the word didn't get out that there would be a playoff game. Both teams were warming up at their respective goals. The starter for Sculthorpe who had been injured in the Thursday night game against Sembach, Dave Birchfield, was still hobbled and would not play in this game either. Sculthorpe sure could have used him, too. As the scoreboard ticked off the minutes until game time, I enjoyed my hot glass of tea with other officials at the scorer's table.
This was the Sunday night final of the USAFE Basketball Tournament at Kapali Spor Salonu. We had witnessed eight games in the last five days of the championship tournament and surely this game would be closely contested.
Both teams were ready. The referee prepared to toss the ball at midcourt to begin the final game. Sculthorpe quickly gained a two-point lead but Semback took over the game and led 38 to 26 at the intermission. Sculthorpe never got any closer than 10 points during the second half. Semback trounced the Vigilantes 68 to 41, winning the 1961 USAFE Basketball Tournament. Player coach John Taylor of the Sculthorpe Vigilantes was named the Tourney's MVP, finishing one notch better than a year ago (a 3 and 2 record). Sembach by winning had a final mark of 4 & 1.
It was the tenth consecutive time a German quintet had captured the USAFE crown. Coach Charles D'Arcy's Sembach Tigers had won it for the first time. They now had earned the right to battle for the USAF Worldwide crown at Warren AFB Cheyenne, Wyoming in March.
Sembach's Tigers and Sculthorpe's Vigilantes each placed two men on the all-tourney team named in the Stars and Stripes newspaper's poll of coaches, officials and press representatives. Up front players Billy Wilson and Jim "Sky" Webber made it from Sembach. Player-coach John Taylor and Oliver Thomas were selected as guards from Sculthorpe. Torrejon's player coach Bill Moore filled out the dream five.
The Turkish Governor of Adana, Mukadder Ostekia, presented coach Charles D'Arcy a specially engraved silver tray in the post-tourney ceremonies, for winning the tournament. The Turkish fans let out a loud round of applause. Truly they had a wonderful time at these games in Adana.
The tournament scorebook was certified by me as being correct, and I passed it along to the USAFE Tournament manager. I thanked him for a great time, as well as the $48.00 I was paid for scorekeeping the 1961 USAFE Tournament.
I'm jumping ahead in my story here to let you know how the Sembach Tigers from Germany did in the Worldwide 1961 USAF Basketball Tournament held at Warren Air Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
In their first game at Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming Tuesday March 6, 1961, the Sembach Tigers defeated the Strategic Air Command 86-77. The USAFE champion Sembach Tigers lost twice, Wednesday March 7, 1961 and thus had two losses and were out of the worldwide USAF tournament. First, the United Air Command trimmed the Tigers 83-78, then the Tactical Air Command dealt the Tigers their second loss 80-72 and Sembach's Tigers were headed home. I wish I could have gone to Warren AFB to cheer on the Sembach Tigers.
After being away from İncirlik for a year while stationed at Dreux Air Base in France, after the last tournament game, and after all the acknowledgements had been spoken, airmen from İncirlik Air Base packed up the scoreboard and all its wiring to return it to the base gym. The Armed Forces Radio Service took down their banner and packed away all of their broadcasting equipment. The large banner that said, "1961 USAFE Tournament" was taken down and packed up. I took a few more photos of the building I had spent a week in while handling the scorekeeping for the tournament. The other officials and I made our way to the Air Force bus for our ride back to İncirlik Air Base.
We all gathered at midnight chow at the Airmen's Field Ration Dining Hall - too lengthy a term when "mess hall" will do - and we reminisced about the wonderful 1961 tournament. We were a large part of this tournament and agreed, to a man, that it was something we would never forget. I had met the most wonderful, fun-loving Air Force fellows I would ever meet again and I was probably the youngest of the bunch at 25, and certainly the lowest in rank as an Airman Second Class.
TAXI JOURNEYS IN CITY AND INTERCITY (CITY TO CITY)
Ready to Service-Duty Day and Night
General Auto (automobile) Trade (Buy and Sell)
Tel: 25 89
Address: In the Shoe Manufacturers-sellers bazaar opposite Murat Photo Studio
On Monday, February 20, 1961, as the teams were practicing, I joined with our team of officials to show them around Adana. Many photos were taken and, since I spoke some Turkish, we had a great adventure, going street to street visiting and shopping. The flea market was a good spot for them to browse.
We found a lokanta (restaurant) and ate what we were allowed to eat, guided by a base listing menu I had taken with me. Later, we gathered at the Mar Mar Bar and had a few Turkish beers and drinks while we joked and laughed. We made a whole day of it, catching the last shuttle back to the base that night.
It was after midnight chow that our group finally walked back to our rooms and began getting our things together. Monday, February 27, 1961, we were going to leave in the afternoon on a C-130A for the trip back to Chateauroux France.
I didn't sleep late in order to visit my friends - chief among them, old Pop the shoe shine man. While I was so very glad to have been able to visit my old air base and to see all the sights and the fellows I had soldiered with before there were a few more at the Mess Hall at breakfast that Monday morning. I said goodbye to the airmen I knew as I was eating there. Then I was off to visit Pop.
It seemed he knew when I was going to arrive. I had just walked up on the patio by the Snack Bar as he came around the corner, shoe shine kit slung over his shoulder. We chatted and I told him I had to go back to France today. We both had tears in our eyes as I gave him a hug. I would write to A/2C Gary Longboat and tell him to speak to Pop for me from time to time while I remained in France. I had so many wonderful talks with Pop while stationed at İncirlik and now it was more difficult than I had expected to leave him for good.
I visited my former barracks bay, saying goodbye to fellows that were there. I would see the airmen at Transient Alert as I went to board the C-130A (#56-0532) and also to clear customs. Our official party had lunch and left for the flight line. Back in my fatigues I looked like I was working there again as I visited my friends at Alert. Somewhere around 1400 (2:00 p.m.) everyone had cleared customs and began walking toward the C-130A to buckle up and get out of there. We took off from the 05 end of the runway and I took my last look below me of İncirlik Air Base and Adana.
The hum of the engines and the vibration was soon behind us and as we landed in Athens and taxied over to the U.S. Air Force section I found out from the crew we were going to spend the night there! We found, and were housed in the Transient Billets and since it was going on 18
00 hours (6:00 p.m.) we found a mess hall and had some chow. What to do that night was soon resolved by others who had stayed there before. We changed into civvies and found our way to the seaside resort of Kalamaki, partied and closed up the Alex Bar!
I found Kalamaki to be a lovely area, with palm trees, brick and stone walkways, stuccoed buildings lining the streets. The Alex Bar did have late '50s music and plenty of young ladies to talk to and dance with. The address of the Alex Bar was Kalipsous Str. 15-Glyfada, and a Greek patron there said it was a good location. I don't recall how many basketball officials came out to the bar with us, but we had the whole C-130A aircraft crew in our party. I seem to remember we had all walked to the Alex Bar. It wasn't more than a three quarters of a mile.
After we officially closed the place for the night, we found rooms just down the street at a hotel. Why we stayed there was evident as each of us had a female companion on our arm. We felt quite safe and protected from Greek ghosts, goblins and even pirates with the females by our sides. The next morning we all got up and bid the gals goodbye. The one who was with me (Suzie) gave me an address to write to her. I found it some 40 years later in my military career files.
Back at the base, we walked to get some chow and to clean up. Sometime that day, a Tuesday, February 28, 1961, we would depart for France and probably never see or hear the sounds of Greece again.
Fast forward: we're at the end of the 15R/33L 10,331-foot runway at Athenai Airport as the C-130A flight crew is going through their pre-flight checks. All the passengers are strapped in to our red jumpseats, ready for our 1400 (2:00 p.m.) takeoff for the flight to France.
It seemed like we were taking a lot of time and not moving on the runway for takeoff. Then I heard the two outboard engines shut down and we started a return toward the parking apron.
An amazing thing had happened: as the crew was talking between themselves during the pre-flight checks on their headsets, the flight engineer came down from the flight deck and told us all that the crew had such a wonderful time the previous night that they wanted to do it again! The aircraft commander just redlined one of the engines and a USAF Engine Mechanic would have to look it over before we could fly out of there. Off to the Transient Billets we all went, to get ready for another date at the Alex Bar! Tsk tsk. What a terrible thing to happen!
A few of the guys stayed behind at the Transient billets, but my group walked back the three quarters of a mile to the Alex. When we entered the front door which was nearly 1700 hrs (5:00 p.m.) here came all the gals saying "You told us you were leaving! Let's dance and have some fun!
Some of us did not do the hotel thing again as we had done the previous night. We did close up the Alex Bar again. As I and others started our walk back to the Transient Billets the crew members and a few others were choosing up who got which female. I wished them all a safe night and said, "See you guys in the morning!"
Wednesday, March 1, 1961 rolled around and everyone was there for breakfast who had spent another night in Kalamaki with the gals. The stories were flying at the small mess hall as they recounted their second night out. Our redlined aircraft engine was inspected, run up, and found to be problem free (smile). Our departure time was to be around 1200 hrs (noon). So we returned to the transient billets to gather up our gear, to rest and to shower and shave. One by one, we made our way to the awaiting C-130A #56-0532 and fastened our seatbelts.
"Here we go again," the guys were saying to each other as we taxied away from the parking apron toward 15R/33L that 10,331 foot runway at Athenai. This time there was no time lost. We lined up on the runway and hauled ass for France. We soon reached our cruising altitude and I went up on the flight deck to chat with the 322nd Air Division Crew. There, I was just an airman second class with a headset on, running my gums with the flight officers. Some three hours from now I'd be in the Transient Billets at Chateauroux with only a wake up and a C-119G flight back to my home base at Dreux. My leave time would have expired and I'd go back to work in Transient Alert.
With the engine noise and prop vibration of the A-model C-130 it was hard to talk without screaming at one another. We all talked loudly about our trip to Adana, Turkey for the USAFE Basketball Tournament. Our stay at İncirlik Air Base and visit to town were special for each of us. Non believed we would ever return to Turkey. The crew of the 322nd Air Diviison's C-130A would make many trips back to İncirlik Air Base, but as far as I know, none of our basketball officiating crew ever did this again. This 60-61-style USAFE Basketball Tournament never returned to Adana for a repeat performance. I have been keenly aware, over the many years that this tournament was a high water mark in my Air Force enlistment. Leaving İncirlik AB for a year and to return was a special time in my Air Force life. I think of it often, with a tear in my eye.
Our C-130A began to descend from above the clouds. We were told our landing was just 15 minutes away at Chateauroux Air Base, France. Soon we were on final approach and touched down on the 04/22 runway (11,483 feet). With props placed momentarily in reverse pitch we came to a nice rolling slowdown and taxied to the parking apron with both outboard engines shut down. A Base Alert crew guided us to our spot, chocked the wheels and plugged in the MD-3 power unit.
With engines shut down and the rear ramp open, I was thinking, as I got off the C-130A, "Tomorrow. Thursday. March 2nd, 1961. I'll hop my C-119G flying boxcar "milk run" back to my home base at Dreux. The Air Force fellows stationed at Chateauroux who had been on our flight were already home. Airmen from other bases in France would have to get flights out to their home bases. I went to the Transient Billets and found a room for the night. I then went to get something to eat as the Mess Hall opened for the evening meal. I had a table with some of the guys from the flight and we discussed our adventure in Turkey.
Later that night, I went to a flick with my friend from Louisville, First Lieutenant Godfrey Russman, one of the officials at the USAFE Tournament. He told me when he was to rotate back to the States but I cannot remember the date. Movie over, and a visit to the Snack Bar, shoot some bull with Godfrey and I turned in for the night.
I got up, had breakfast and got myself ready for the short flight to Dreux. It was Thursday, March 2, 1961 and I was now at Base Ops ready to board the C-119G which was all ready and would leave around noon. I had to wait for an hour and a half for liftoff but I was getting closer to my home base. Godfrey came down to see me off and said he would look me up when we got back to Louisville. We shook hands, I hopped aboard the plane, anxious to get signed back in at Dreux on my last day of leave.
Dreux Air Base C-119, parked across from my alert office hangar, similar to the one I flew on from Chateauroux Air Base.
Staff Sergeant Willie Byrd, Jr. the Dreux basketball team player who played for Toul's in the Adana tournament was on this C-119G. We would be back at our home base at 1315 hours (1:15 p.m.) just a short hop away.
We came in over the Ground Control Approach site and then paralleling the runway our C-119G #53-7833 banked to the right to line up with the runway on the 06 end. The runway was 7,900 feet so we had plenty of room to land. With tire noise and puffs of smoke we cam down nicely at our home air base and taxied up near Base Ops to park. Engines shut down and wheels chocked, it was time to get off and get signed back in at Squadron Headquarters. I grabbed my small bag and hightailed it to do just that, signed in and made my way to my barracks. There was my MoPed still chained to the outside stairs. I put away my things and rode over to the snack bar to eat and talk to some airmen about my trip to Turkey. I checked in at Alert so they'd know I'd be there the next day.
"What happened to the C-119G #53-7833?" I wondered as I wrote this story. The C-119's at Dreux Air Base were ultimately sent back to the states in 1961 and 1962 as the base was closing due to France pulling out of NATO. They went back to the Air Force Reserve and National Guard. Some of them were also mothballed and still others were sold to third world countries. The C-119G #53-7833 was later converted to an AC-119G "Shadow" gunship in 1968. It had the model number 102 and construction number of 11250, serving with distinction in South Vietnam beginning in August, 1971. I would say its remains are probably somewhere in Vietnam, rusted and broken down as a total derelict. It had been a new aircraft just 56 years ago!
What happened to C-130A #56-0532? The one we flew back on from İncirlik Air Base, Turkey to Chateauroux Air Base, France? It stayed that extra night in Athens so we could visit the Alex Bar again. This C-130A was given to the South Vietnamese Air Force to use in the Vietnamese War. It is now sitting at what we called Tan Son Nhut Air Base, broken down and corroded in a derelict condition. What a new and sweet Lockheed aircraft it was just 53 years ago.
Later, that Thursday, March 2, 1961, I rode my MoPed to Chateauneuf to visit Susie's Bar and to let them know I was back from my trip. What I really wanted was a large ham sandwich on French bread and a bowl of her great onion soup. Yes, I had a glass of French wine with my meal. She let me run a tab at her bar so money or not I was always welcome there. After eating, I went the nine miles back to Dreux on my MoPed to prepare for the next workday. I was a young airman but I needed some rest after my ordeal of the last few weeks.
My tab written by Susie at her bar in Chateauneuf, France where I would go in 1960-1961 while at Dreux Air Base.