(The Samsun "Flag Incident")
SMSgt. Roy Locke, USAF
© 2013-2014 by Author
Contact the Author
[The "story" below is extracted and compiled from several personal emails from Roy, who sent these various thoughts to me over a couple of months.]
(02 Aug 2013)
Major, Ret., Tom LeBlanc and I had the pleasure of closing that sucker down (Det 3-2) that you loved so much.
(10 Sep 2013)
We pulled the plug in Dec 70 and left in the summer of 71. I was the project NCO for the shipment of equipment and supplies out of country. Maj. (then Capt.) Tom LeBlanc was project officer. You may not know the story of the two drunk airmen that lowered the Turkish flag, removed the crest and placed it on our flag pole. I was MA (Master at Arms) at the NCO Club that night and had them both removed earlier. The flag incident caused an international incident to say the least. Both were caught and sent to Turkish prisons. When the smoke cleared all the senior NCOs were required to stand in formation with a group of Turkish soldiers to raise the American flag.
(12 Sep 2013)
Good to hear from you George. I will try and put a story together regarding the flag incident. Not sure of the exact time line but as a 82 year old (almost) I will have to reach back in the memory bank to put it together. I presently live in Columbus MS. Was raised in North MS 30 miles east of Memphis. Worked in Memphis prior to entering the AF in 1950. Retired in 73 at Columbus AFB. ( Finally got out of USAFSS). Columbus is a pilot training Base and the worst assignment I had. I also retired from Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. in 93.
[I asked Roy, in an email, if he knew any local citizens of Samsun. Here's his reply.]
(13 Sep 2013)
George I knew very few locals. I worked all the hours I could stand as MA at the club and when I was not working I was reading or playing poker. I knew the unofficial interpreter, Dolmush, and the taxi owner, and club waiter Nachaiti. [I believe Roy is "having us on" here. "Dolmuş" is a Turkish taxi that is shared by riders only when there are enough passengers to fill it up. Wikipedia says "Dolmuş" means "apparently stuffed".] I did hang out at the Catholic compound downtown some, since the Club Manager was Catholic. Once a group from the Vatican came in and elevated a Brother to Priesthood (being a Methodist I understood very little, but was impressed). The Vino sure flowed freely after it was over. Yes I did get my share and more. Also some of us spent time with Jim Drake, the civilian in charge of the laundry plant. He had the top floor of a high rise so we had a few parties there. I am sure the Turkish names are not correctly spelled but that is the best I can do.
(25 Sep 2013)
Here goes with the story. I must put a disclaimer in first. Remember this incident occurred in the fall of 1970, so my memory will not be perfect, but I will provide you with the information as I recall it. I worked at the NCO Club as Night Manager (commonly referred to as MA or Master at Arms) while stationed at Det 3-2 Samsun Turkey. On any given night there was some pretty heavy consumption of alcohol, and especially Friday and Saturday nights. The club consisted of an Airmen's side, dining room, and NCO side. [Note from George, the webmaster of this site: When I was there, 1958-1960, there was just an "Enlisted Club", where NCOs and Airmen all imbibed together.] A group of young Airmen were getting completely out of line in the dining room so I had them leave the Club, but this did not stop the drinking. I caught their friends passing drinks through the windows so I had all of them leave. I do not recall if I pulled their club card; however this was a fairly common practice. When your card was pulled it was usually for 30 days, so when I threatened them usually they would calm down. The following morning the dining hall was not opened and of course we all wondered what the hold up was. Later that day we were told someone had lowered the Turkish flag, removed the crescent and raised it on the American flag pole. As I recall the Turkish flag flew only on the week end and was not lowered during the night so this incident must have occurred on a Friday or Saturday night.
Needless to say, things got pretty hectic for several days. We had mass formations and the Commander said they were sending in a group from the States to perform polygraph test on everyone. This was done in the Officers BOQ and in a very short time they found the two suspects. What a relief. They were picked up by the Turkish police, taken to town, and locked up. Now the scary part. After the Turkish officials were satisfied they had the culprits, they insisted we have a joint ceremony to raise the Turkish Flag. This was done on a Saturday morning. I do recall the Turkish Military roaring in on our little detachment and requesting we stand in formation with them. Our Commander selected only the Top Three NCO's [MSgt, SMSgt, and CMSgt] and there were very few of us. We were told they would play Turkish music and the National Anthem and we were to present Arms. Not being able to recognize their National Anthem we devised a set of signals through an interpreter to make sure we didn't mess it up. I am only 5'8" and the two I was between looked like giants. More later. Roy
(26 Sep 2013)
Once the smoke cleared things started to return to normal. It was later I learned the two that caused all the trouble were A1C assigned to maintenance, the same two I ejected from the Club. I was told that a few of their buddies took food and blankets to the jail but were never sure if they got them since no one was allowed to see them. Later I heard they were given 20 years and were sent to a permanent facility at Sinop. Also I heard one of their parents paid $40.000 to have one released. I have no way of knowing if any of that is true but it does seem possible. That is the story as I recall. Stay in touch, Roy.
[Note from George, webmaster for this site: In the era when Roy and I were in Turkey, prisoners were not fed by the government. Turks were kept alive by relatives and friends. American military personnel who ended up in prison depended on the U. S. Military to keep them fed. I knew several Air Policemen (now called Security Policemen - they went from being "APES" to "SAPS" - VBG), who told me that they really hated the duty of taking food to G. I. prisoners 3 times a day.]
(03 Oct 2013)
Another tidbit about Samsun. When we were having the antennas disassembled we needed a large crane with an extended jib. We finally located one, I think in Ankara. The poor driver drove the worn out piece of junk for several days from Ankara to Samsun, and we thought he would never show up. All is looking up, right?. Oops the first day on the job the crane collapsed. Back to square one. At the same time, a group of French iron workers were brought in to take apart the "golf balls". As I recall they were housed and fed on base. Yep, my memory is slowly returning. Roy.
[Thanks to Roy for the bit about the crane and the dismanteling of the antennas and "Bucky Balls". BTW, I found a website, www.vetfriends.com, that, if you pay a fee, you can check on military units and see who has used VetFriends for particular units. Looked for TUSLOG Det 3-2, and I was the ONLY one to have registered there that was at Samsun before 1961.]
Contact the Author
Return to Merhaba-USMilitary.com Page