© 2003-2011 by Author
(Be sure to see Dale's Photo Page also on this website.
My first experience in Turkey came in 1978 when I was assigned to what was then called Tuslog Detachment 74. It was located at Corlu and was part of Tuslog Detachment 67 which was located at Cakmakli. I arrived in Istanbul aboard a PanAm flight from New York on a wet and cold January day. I was met by an airport greeter who was Turkish and worked for BSI (Boeing Services International). They loaded all of us that were headed for the “Çak” as it was called onto a bus and off we went. We arrived at the Cakmakli main gate at about darkness and from what I could tell, it resembled a prison camp from a German war movie. Barbed wire, rusty gates and guard wearing old style uniforms greeted us. There were three of us Second Lieutenants on the bus and we were shown to the newly arrived BOQ. It was actually a large room with about 6-7 beds. There was little heat in the room and were told that hot water for the showers was limited and would only be on for a few hours in the morning.
After about a week at Cakmakli during which the inprocessing was performed, I was sent to TUSLOG detachment 74. The commander was a captain that had been in the same language class at Monterey and I quickly was assigned my duties: 4th and 6th Maintenance & Assembly Team Officer, Comsec Custodian, Classified Documents Custodian and Arms Room Officer.
I had been in Turkey about 1½ weeks and now was to begin my assignment which would take me through January 1979. Little did I know what excitement lay ahead and how many moretours of duty I would have in Turkey.
My first haircut & shave in Corlu
Every Wednesday Ahmet the Barber would arrive at the Detachment to give haircuts and shaves to the soldiers. That was the one day of the week where you could show up at PT without having to shave first. On Saturday I and the detachment commander, CPT Horner, went into Corlu to visit Ahmet’s downtown barber shop and to experience what I still treasure today: an old fashioned shave, haircut and stringjob.
The haircut was much the same as those given around in the U.S. except that tea would be served during the haircut and there would be breaks for conversation and tea. A normal haircut would last about 30 minutes. This was usually followed by a shave. The water would be boiling on the little stove in the shop. That water would be soaked into a towel and then left on your face to soften up the whiskers. After the towel was removed (amazingly no skin came off), a rick soap lather would be applied using a soap stick and shaving brush. And then the shave with a straightedge razor would begin. Ahmet boasted to me that he had been giving haircuts and shaves since the detachment opened in the late 50s and that he could do it blindfoldedwhich he proceeded to do!! I do not know how many of you have been shaved by a blindfolded barber with a straightedge but it was definitely an eye opening experience.
After the shave, Ahmet would place a piece of string between his fingers and using forming almost a cats cradle would begin to rotate the string over the area underneath the eyes and on the ears. This would pull out all the tiny facial hair. It definitely stung a little bit especially after he would rub good old Turkish lemon cologne all over the face. It was definitely a wake up call if you were nice and relaxed in the barber chair.
Then came the big finisha neck rub. I never realized when he cracked my neck the first time that my neck could turn so far to the left and right!!
All of thishaircut, shave, stringjob, cologne, and a very good neck rub for a couple of dollars. Ahmet is still in business after all these years. Although the detachment has been gone for years, he still has many American friends correspond with him including yours truly. I was able to visit him in January 2004 and he is still going strong. And yes, I did have a haircut, shave, stringjob and neck rub. He still has the touch.
My first experience in eating “real” Turkish food
I had been in Turkey about 2 months and felt that I was adapting rather well to life in Turkey. Although I had eaten most of my meals in the U.S. mess hall at Corlu, I had traveled to Istanbul on numerous occasions and experienced the great tastes of lahmacun (Turkish pizza), doner kebap and iskender. Now I was in for a real treat—eating with the Turkish Army in a field environment.
My Maintenance and Assembly Team and I had gone out for the very first time on maneuvers with the Turkish army. We were halfway through the first day of the exercise when the artillery battery that we were supporting stopped for lunch. All at once tables, chairs and tablecloths flew in all directions. About a half a dozen Turkish askers (soldiers) were setting up the tables and chairs necessary for the battery officers and NCOs to sit down and have a formal lunch in the middle of the exercise area. I was dumbfounded. I was used to eating C-Rations and not even stopping for lunch, but the entire exercise was shut down for lunch. I sat with the battery officers preparing for my first, real Turkish meal. The first course consisted of the traditional Turkish salad of cucumbers and tomatoes. Then a bowl of hot, steaming soup was served. The soup was very delicious. It tasted like chicken soup and looked a little like chicken with rice stars. I eagerly gulped down my bowl of soup and I was asked if I wanted more. I certainly did and they served me another full bowl of this hot and tasty soup. About halfway through this bowl, the battery commander who was sitting next to me remarked in Turkish that I was the first American officer that he knew that really liked this soup. I told him that it was hard to believe because this chicken and rice soup was so tasty. He leaned back and laughed and informed me that it was not chicken and rice soup but rather “brain soup.”
I took a deep breath, thought quickly, and remarked back to him that one and ½ bowls were really enough and that I was full. I did manage not to “dispose” of the soup I had already eaten and begged off from the remainder of meal. I sat there with a growing feeling in my stomach, but managed to eat enough slices of delicious Turkish bread to calm down my quivering stomach. I chalked this up to learning my way around Turkish cuisine. I love Turkish food, but to this day brain soup is not on my list of soup to ask for in a Turkish (or any other type) restaurant.
I had been in Turkey about seven months when Victory Day rolled around in 1978. This is the holiday on August 30 that celebrates Turkey’s final victory in the War of Independence in 1922.
The senior Americans in the Detachment had been invited to stand in formation with their Turkish Host Nation Commander, a Colonel Koyuncu. This was an honor and so the Detachment Commander, CPT Horner; Executive Officer, CPT Velton and about three of us lieutenants and some of the senior NCOs walked down to our Turkish Host Nation Commander’s office. After drinking some tea we walked over to the parade grounds and took our positions in line after Colonel Koyuncu.
After a series of speeches and a pass in review, a Turkish soldier appeared and walked down our line. Starting with Colonel Koyuncu and proceeding down the line, he offered all of us the traditional custom of lemon cologne. I am certain that anyone that has been to Turkey knows that lemon cologne is passed out on almost every occasion. It is passed out on buses, trains and airplanes to give you that feeling of refreshment. (Unfortunately, now they hand you a toilette in a bag–times have changed). The gesture in a ceremony is that you cup your hands in front of you and then they squirt the lemon cologne in your hands. You rub your hands together and then rub your hands over your face and hair to give you that “refreshed” feeling. It actually is quite wonderful. By the way, it will also clean that waxy build-up on your kitchen floors.
Well, one of our NCOs had only recently arrived in Turkey and was unfamiliar with this custom. And he did not watch what people previous to him was doing other than to see they were cupping their hands. He cupped his hands, received the squirt and not knowing exactly what to do, proceeded to drink the lemon cologne. I have never seen anybody turn all different colors in such a short period of time. He started gaging and coughing and we started laughing. Colonel Koyuncu roared in laughter and months later was still talking about the American who drank lemon cologne.
Open the Flood Gates
Those of us who were stationed in Turkey in the late 70's or earlier remember the water and power problems that were present on many of our installations. Corlu was not exception. I had been at the Detachment about a month or so. It was February/March 1978 and it was cold in the Corlu. Because of a heating oil shortage, decisions had to made as to whether or not we would get hot water to shower or hot water to heat the pipes in the buildings. One morning I awoke and went to my sink in my room (this sounds lavish, but one of these days I’ll post some photos of our “plush” conditions at Detachment 74) to turn on the hot water and shave. No hot water–in fact no water at all. For some reason I started to do something else and forgot all about the lack of water.
A couple of hours later people were yelling that water was coming out from the outside door of the BOQ. The BOQ was a single story building with a long hallway down the middle and rooms on either side with a game/rec room at one end and showers/laundry room at the other end. As soon as I heard the screaming, it hit me that I left the faucet open. I ran to the BOQ and down the hallway and sure enough water was flowing out from underneath my door. I quickly unlocked the door, turned the faucets off and surveyed the damage. Water was all over. All the officers with the exception of one who was on leave came rushing over and opened their doors. Thank goodness there was not much damage in any of our rooms.
I felt very embarrassed and resolved not to do it again – but I did it a few months later!
Water and the availability of it was such a problem that when I returned to the States after my year long tour, as I was lying on the sofa in my parents' house I asked my mother if we had any hot water so I could take a bath. She looked at me as if I came from outer space and said “of course we do” and laughed. Then I realized what I had asked and admitted it did sound silly, but after spending one year at Detachment 74 in Corlu, Turkey I think it was a valid question!
Fire in the Hole
It was cold and rainy, but three of us lieutenants decided that in spite of the weather we were going to Istanbul for the weekend.
Our regular mode of getting to Istanbul was to go into Corlu and catch the “Istanbul Seyahat” bus to Topkapi Bus Station in Istanbul. We then would take a dolmus, or shared taxi, to Yesilyurt and from there the commuter train into Sirkeci Train Station. We would then walk, eat and enjoy the sights. We usually ended the day with a good western-type meal at the Fort Seasons Restaurant on Istiklal Street near the Russian Consulate. Then off for a warm bed and great ambience at the Pera Palas Hotel.
That day, because it was raining, we decided to take a taxi from Sirkeci to the Grand Bazaar instead if walking. As we were flying down the streets in one of the old American cabs (1950's) we hit a dip and water came splashing up everywhere and stalled the engine. The taxi driver started to apologize and told us not to worry as he would have his car up and running in no time. He opened the hood and looked at the water damage. He screwed off the air filter to expose the carburetor and sure enough everything was wet.
He got some old newspapers out of the trunk and set them on top of the carburetor. We immediately put two and two together and jumped out of the car and ran across the street. He was yelling at us to not go as it would only be a minute. Well, sure enough he lit the newspapers and there was a small fire. It didn’t last long and he put it out, replaced the air filter and got in and started it right up!! We waited a few minutes before we got back in and off we went with the taxi driver ever so proud of his accomplishment.
From 1982-1984 I was assigned as the aide-de-camp to the deputy commander of what then called Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe or Landsoutheast (LSE). Major General Richard Anson was the Deputy CG for most of my tour.
One day General Anson was making the rounds for his farewell visits to local dignitaries. Our stop that day was the Izmir governor's office. The governor was Vecdi Gönul who is the current Minister of National Defense.
After General Anson concluded his visit, the door to the governor's office opened and he and the governor emerged. I was waiting in the outer office with the governor's private secretary. I rushed out of the office and down the hallway to meet my general and escort him back to LSE. There were two red carpets on the floor. One ran down the length of the hallway and the other was perpendicular to it coming out of the governor's office. The carpet coming out of the governor's office was lying on top of the hallway carpet. As I walked fast toward the two who were standing in front of the governor's office door, my foot caught a piece of carpet and I headed straight to floor. Trying to maintain any dignity that I thought I had and trying not to let go of the general's cap, I immediately jumped back to my feet as soon as I hit the ground. But I was not quick enough because as I laid sprawled on the carpet, I came face to face or rather face to foot with the governor's feet. His shoes were extremely shiny. I know because a very close-up look at them!!
As I stood up I was very embarrassed and both the governor and general asked if I was OK. I assured them I was, but it was definitely not a shining moment in the life of an aide.
Kubra the Maid
Near the start of my tour as the general's aide I went over to quarters where he and his wife lived. They had a maid named Kubra who had served for a number of years as the quarter's maid. She spoke very little English, but was able to communicate with the general and his wife fairly effectively. She was probably well into her 60's but was as healthy as a horse. She told me that she would let me know if anything right away if I wanted her to do something different than what was done in the past. So much for who was the maid and who was the supervisor.
She told me that she was very strong and to prove it she put her arms around me and picked me off the ground faster than you could say Jack Armstrong!! She then plunked me down and as if that was not enough, she went into the kitchen and stated to move the refrigerator with the greatest of ease.
Kubra was a very good cook and so I hired her to be my maid to replace the one I was using who happened to be the kapici's (building janitor) wife. I came home one day and sat down and Kubra asked how everything was going. I told her that my back was sore (big mistake). As soon as I said that she grabbed me like that aforementioned refrigerator and threw me down on the floor and proceeded to walk on my back! Kubra was no small women. I heard bones crack and felt pain in places I never even knew I had. After what seemed an eternity (probably only 5 minutes or so) she finished, grabbed me and threw me back on the sofa. I was numb but have to admit I felt a lot better than I did earlier.
Often times people you meet help make a tour of duty go so much better and Kubra was such a person. She has probably passed on by now but anyone that knew her I am sure continues to have fond memories of her to this day.
(Be sure to see Dale's Photo Pages also on this website.)