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LACKLAND AFB, TEXAS
On 14 April 1961, I joined the Air Force to avoid the draft. I was just under 22 years of age, being born in May 1939. Upon arriving at Lackland AFB the first event was getting a haircut-cut completely bald. Then we were issued our military clothing and assigned to the barracks where we had our first GI party. A younger lad about 18 by the name of Jerome was scared to death. I noticed his fright and began talking with him. He was from New Jersey. I fairly well knew what to expect because I had brothers that served in World War II, in which the oldest was killed, and two brothers that served during the Korean War era. I told him to expect most anything because we are to be tried to see if we are fit airmen. I further told him to do as ordered and watch every move I make and he would get through basic. At the end of basic training he came to me and said, "Thank you. I don't believe I would have made it without you." I replied, "Don't mention it, it's my pleasure. At least you learned to march quicker than I can." Jerome laughed and yelled, "Porter, show me your stone!"
Above, airmen learning to march with barracks in the background. (I took the picture from the internet.)
When first learning to march I had a hard time determining my left from my right. When the Drill Sergeant yelled, "Right step march or left step march", I would turn the opposite from his call. I did that more than the other airmen. The Drill Sergeant yelled, Porter get your dammed ass over here." I hurriedly went and stood at attention. The Drill Sergeant said, "Porter, I want you to double-time to the center of that field and bring back a small stone." I did as he ordered and when I returned with the small stone the Drill Sergeant said, "Porter, I don't like the looks of that stone. Triple-time back and bring another". As I was running back to the center of the field it dawned on me that the Sergeant did not look at the stone. When I got to the center of the field I stooped over and rose back up with the same stone. When I returned he took a quick glance and said, "Porter, you are to carry that stone in your left hand throughout basic and when I ask to see it you better have it to show. You must learn the difference from your left and right. That event worked, for I was soon marching in step to the right calls. He asks three maybe four times and I had the stone to show. I kept that rock with me all the way to Samsun, Turkey.
Another event at Lackland occurred on the firing range. As all military people know, part of our training was the proper use of weapons. Being an old country lad that enjoyed hunting rabbits and squirrels, I was use to shotguns and a 22 rifle. It was my first time using and M-1 carbine rifle. We were trained wisely on its use and care. One day we were all lined side by side under a long shed about ten feet wide. We each had a target to shoot. After each time we were ordered to fire, afterwards we looked through a telescope at our target. Each time I looked I could see that I was missing my target. I thought to myself, "How can this be?" The Sergeant came by and said, "Porter, you're doing very well." Then I replied, "Sergeant Sir, how can that be? Every time I look through the scope I see a missed target." He replied, "You must be looking at the target of the idiot next to you. He has yet to put one shot through his target. He turned my scope slightly and said, "Now look." I could see I was hitting the target near dead center and a couple of shots dead center. I can't recall the Airman's name but the Sergeant told him that he better hit his target before we left the target range or else. He finally hit his target avoiding the "or else".
KEESLER AFB, MISSISSIPPI
After finishing basic, my orders were to Keesler AFB, MS, where I was trained as a Morse Intercept Operator in the Communications Department. Upon arrival I was assigned to "C" shift with 28 other airmen. We were called "ditty boppers". The development of Morse code began with Samuel Morse in the 1830's with a series of dots and dashes that corresponded with the alphabet and his style of a telegraph unit. We were taught not by the dots and dashes but by the sound. I will not go into details of the system because it would be too much for this article.
Above is a picture of the graduating class dated 5 December 1961. After being trained as Morse Intercept Operators, we had the opportunity to spend Christmas at home before going to our next assignment. Several were assigned to Alaska, eleven of us to Turkey, six of us to Trabzon, and fice of us to Samsun.
We had a wonderful class. I wish I could remember the civilian teacher's name. He and Richard Callahan of Massachusetts kept the class from getting bored. Callahan is the 2nd person from the left in the back row. I only recall one that could not finish the class. Just after this picture was taken we were handed our orders. Those of us that got orders for Turkey was trying to figure what "TUSLOG" meant. Some of those that got orders to Alaska joined in the discussion. As we were discussing the word, Richard (Rick) Callahan, whose orders were to Alaska, said, "Hey Porter, there's hussies in Tussy." We all had a good laugh and then I said, "Hey Callahan, I don't know, but I've been told that Eskimo pussy is mighty cold." The graduates finished it with "sound off one, two, three-four, sound off." We all had another good laugh. Everyone knew what I meant, because it's a cadence marching rhyme often used in basic training. It is never used as a derogatory remark against the Eskimo people. It was just a cadence at that time. It may not be used anymore, and probably shouldn't be. We soon learned that TUSLOG meant "Turkey-United States Logistics Group". [Note from Editor: For some reason, after the early years, it was determined by someone that TUSLOG should stand for "The United States Logistics Group". I'm sure it had something to do with "politics".]
The entire graduating class lingered around for a while because we became close and hated to part. Military people experience this all the time. We had an excellent class leader by the name of Howard Elliott. From the left he is the third person in the stooped row. I can't recall what state he was from. I think his orders were for Alaska. After separating I never saw any of them again except those four that went to Samsun with me. Besides me, they were Clark Curtis, Clarence Dixon, Bruce Hart, and Paul Wigal.
It's been over 50 years but I think the above is one of the office complexes at Keesler. I am basing this on the automobiles that are parked in front of the building. Barracks had no such parking; however, we did have green lawns shown here. I'm reasonably sure this picture was taken from a barracks building and the place looks familiar. (I took the picture from the internet.)
20 DAYS FROM MCGUIRE AFB TO SAMSUN
After completing the Morse Intercept Operator Course in Kessler AFB, MS, my orders, dated 26 November 1961, assigned me to Tuslog Det 3-2 in Samsun Turkey. After spending Christmas at home, I arrived at McGuire AFB, NJ, on 3 Jan 1962. It took 20 days to get to Samsun. The longest layover was in Germany. I've been questioned why it took 20 days to get to Samsun from McGuire. We had about 3 or 4 days layover in Greenland or Iceland (I can't recall but I think it was Iceland), due to heavy snow, and about a 9 or 10 day layover in Germany. Such a long layover must be due to Military aircraft needs elsewhere. I've tried to get some answers, but I will leave it to your own discernment. Then we had an additional layover in Tripoli before arriving in Samsun. The following orders prove it took 20 days:
One can see on the Special Order above (top photo), the date to report to McGuire ABB was 3 Jan 1962. In the upper right of the bottom photo, the arrival date 23 Jan 1962, proving it took 20 days from McGuire to Samsun. Unbelievable but true. I cannot explain it other than say Military transports were likely needed elsewhere. To save space I deliberately cropped the orders. Only the dates were needed to show proof.
Below is shown McGuire AFB insignia with aircraft, from "back in the day", taken from the internet.
TUSLOG DET 3-2, SAMSUN, TURKEY
Sign at the entrance of TUSLOG Det 3-2, taken from the internet.
TUSLOG Det 3-2: The site is on the hill above Samsun with the Black Sea in background.
The picture was part of a packet I received upon arrival.
Upon arriving and entering my assigned barracks, I was pleasantly surprised meeting a hometown lad, Wayne Arnett, who was departing as I was arriving. We chatted about 15 minutes and he had to go. As he was leaving Wayne yelled, "Stay busy and you won't get bored". That was very good advice.
After settling in and getting acquainted with other airmen, adjustment was much easier. We had a bowling alley with two lanes. TUSLOG had a gym in which to exercise and play basketball. The gym was also used as a theater. I saw some of the best movies in that gym. One in particular was "To Kill a Mocking Bird". I read the book before I saw the movie and I was amazed how close the movie stuck to the book.
From the left I am in the 3rd row, 4th person, with face partially blocked.
After being there about 3 months, some of us got the idea to visit Zile. We had read in our history books that Julius Caesar spoke of this place, saying: "Veni Vidi Vici." That is Latin for "I came, I saw, I conquered." In Caesar's day it was spelled Zila. We were told that it was about 75 miles south of Samsun and took about a half days drive to get there due to the type of roads we would travel. An Airman, whose name I've forgotten, but I can see his face, obtained a small bus from the motor pool that would hold about 20. I believe there were fourteen of us that got permission to go, because we were on our four day break. We were told it would take a full day round trip. An Airman had gotten written directions. I have no idea who gave him the directions. Either the direction was totally wrong, or we were just idiots because we got lost. We got to Zile on the 2nd day. On the way we met children who were shy, but their minds eased once we gave them some sweets. I took lots of chewing gum for that purpose. The driver wrecked the bus but nothing serious. We just pushed her up on her wheels and away we went. The roads were absolutely awful. I'm sure our hard earned dollars help build Turkey's modern roads of today for they are much better today. [You can read about Zile here at Wikipedia, which includes some pictures.]
We were warned about brothels in Samsun and sexual transmitted diseases. Of course, we were taught about sexual transmitted diseases from day one. I have no idea how many brothels were in Samsun but they were controlled by Turkish men. If one visited a brothel, payment was made upon entering. One day, six of us decided to visit one of the Turkish brothels. All six of us had been drinking, but not so overloaded with that stuff that we could not think. As we entered the brothel, and payment made, we decided in order who would go first. My lot was third. I am not going to mention the other five airmen's name, who went too, as they likely have offspring who might be offended. Some may have joined our ancestors.
This is a typical street in Samsun in the 1960s. (I took the picture from the internet.) This street looks like the place where we visited the brothel. It certainly looks familiar.
After paying the Turkish gent, the action was on the second floor. While waiting my turn, a thought came to my mind that my father said: "Son, beware of strange flesh." At the moment of that thought, Airman Mac (not real name) came and said, "Porter, it's your turn." I instantly replied, "I'm not going to stick my cob into strange flesh." Only one Airman understood what I meant and he laughed heartily and said something similarly. Out of the six only two received their pleasure. The rest of us gladly avoided "strange flesh" and left. We did not get our payment back and I wasn't expecting it. The next day the entire barracks were taking about the event, and some jokingly yelled, "Beware of Porter's Cob!" It was all in fun and I didn't mind. Being an old country lad, I understood what a corn cob is. I need not explain any further.
While at Samsun an emergency arose at home and I was granted leave in June 1962. My father pulled through his serious heart attack, but would not the other one that occurred after I was honorably discharged. My emergency leave was the first time I saw a Pan American 707 passenger jet at Istanbul Yeşilköy Airport (now Atatürk Airport). That was a remarkable sight and I wish Pan Am were still flying passengers.
I must write about the nickname pined on me by Airman William "Bill" Negrey. Neg, as we called him, was a wonderful gent to be around, and his antics kept boredom away. In the gym we had just seen the movie "O'Henry's Full House", a series of three short stories O'Henry wrote which were made into a movie. O'Henry's real name was Sidney Porter and Neg knew that; thus, Neg pinned the nickname "Sid" on me. Soon most airmen were calling me "Sid". I purchased a cigarette lighter with a red map of Turkey on it. On the back Neg cut into the lighter "Sid".
Things went smoothly most of the time. Occasionally, we had a tense moment. The most severe tense moment occurred in October 1962. That's when the Commander-in-Chief (JFK) ordered a blockade of Russian missiles to Cuba; more commonly known as the "Cuban Crisis". We were very busy for the rest of the year, on into the New Year. As I was typing Morse code messages from the enemy across the Black Sea about every other minute or so, an Airman came by my desk and ripped sheets of my typing and took the coded messages to the cryptic room. We were very tense at times realizing a war might be looming. An agreement was finally reached by the two nations that averted the war.
That Spring of 1963, my DEROS (Date of Estimated Return to the States) was arriving and I boxed up several items including lots of pictures, small Turkish rugs, trinkets, Roman Coins, and that small stone the Drill Sergeant made me carry. I sent them ahead. They did not arrive. I was saddened because those pictures and that rock the Drill Sergeant made me carry were historical, pertaining to my military assignments and escapades. Fortunately, I had packed about 5 pictures in my duffel bag along with several orders previously received. I boarded Turkish Airlines (THY-Türk Hava Yoları) at Samsun to Istanbul and once again flew the Pan Am 707 across the Atlantic.
Getting to Istanbul we flew by Turkish Airlines (THY).
Above are pages of my boarding pass at Samsun Airport and an Istanbul Hilton Hotel meal stub.
We spent the night in the Istanbul Hilton and had a chance to visit the Blue Mosque. We were not allowed to take pictures of the Mosque inside or out, and we had to remove our shoes before entering. Near the entrance one could purchase postcards of the Mosque. That may be the reason we could not take pictures. Frankly, I have no idea other than to say the colors inside were fascinating. I have never seen such a building before. The inside walls were lined with small bluish ceramic tiles in several different designs. The blue colors were remarkable and the way they were mortared together must have been tedious work. Below are two postcards of the Mosque. One is showing the outside, and the other showing the inside.
Left is a postcard of the Blue Mosque, and in the lower left of the same card, pointing upwards, is the Egyptian Obelisk. The postcard on the right shows the small bluish ceramic tiles that took many days to mortar them to the walls.
This postcard shows the Bosporus Strait separating the European section of Turkey from the Asian section of Turkey. The strait also connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul is on the southern end of the Bosporus.
Other than the Blue Mosque, a beautiful building, one other thing sticks out in my mind about Istanbul. It's the pigeons. I never saw so many pigeons in my life. The city is full of the flying creatures. I and a couple returning home were amazed at the population of the pigeons.They probably outnumbered the citizens of the city at that time, so it seemed. I actually feared of being hit by pigeon droppings. I was reminded of a movie, "The Gazebo", in which, at the end, the police inspector was hit on top of his head by a pigeon's dropping.
The next day I boarded a Pan Am 707, which landed in Germany before proceeding to New York. In Germany, and I don't recall the city, probably Frankfurt, more passengers boarded for America. A Lady that had been visiting relatives was flying back home to New York. The seat she was assigned was beside me. Within a few minutes we were chatting. We talked on several subjects. One of those subjects is still vivid in my mind.
I learned she was Jewish and most of her family was murdered by the Nazis. I have read and seen horrible pictures of what the Nazis did to the Jewish people. As we talked, the images of that evil flashed throughout my mind. I recall saying to her, "The Nazis are no longer and the hate for the Jews are no longer." She sternly looked at me and said, "The Nazis are no longer active but they are still with us. When I visit Germany to see my family, I can feel the Germans' hate." Her remarks were unbelievable, yet her sternness made them believable.
I took this picture of the Pan Am 707 passenger jet from the internet. Pan American Airlines was a pioneer in domestic and foreign flights. I wish they were still around flying the more modern passenger jets. I miss their emblem. I firmly believe that Pan Am was a sincere ambassador representing our great Nation.
BERGSTROM AFB, TEXAS
My next assignment order, dated 19 March 1963, sent me to the 4130rd Strategic Wing (SAC) at Bergstrom AFB, TX. When I got the orders, my Sergeant said he was recommending a third strip (A1C) because I had scored in the top third on the SKT (Skill Knowledge Test) for my AFSC. One had to make a minimum of 35% to pass the test. My score was 65%, placing me in the top third group. If anyone scored below 35%, his eligibility was conditional. Anyone making 25% or below flunked. I have a copy listing the individuals that took the test and three Sergeants flunked. As I understand it, promotions were frozen during the Cuban Crisis for about four months or so, and were frozen again when our Commander-in-Chief (JFK) was assassinated. The monies were needed in case of an all-out attack against our Nation. I never did get that third strip as promised. It was offered if I reenlisted, but I told my Senior Master Sergeant, "Twice I was promised my third strip and your third promise is not charming". I did not reenlist. Most likely I would have if I had gotten my third strip as promised. The Sergeant had a folder that he was looking through. He said, "Will you please reconsider. In this folder is considerable information on you and your family." He continued to speak. Then I said, "If I re-up the first place I'd be sent is Vietnam. My radio Morse Code experience is needed in those helicopters". The Sergeant sternly looked at me and said, "You will never be sent to Vietnam. I see in this folder that you had a bother killed in World War II." I was surprised that the Air Force had that information. We continued to talk. He brought out considerable info on me and my family. The FBI must have done a thorough search. In fact, before going overseas I was told by some that the FBI was in the community asking questions about me. That investigation led to a "Top Secret Clearance" that was needed because I was being trained to be somewhat of a spy. I was almost convinced, but I did not re-up.
This is one of the entrances at Bergstrom AFB. (Picture taken from the internet.)
In November 1963, our Commander-in-Chief (JFK) started his campaign for reelection. His schedules after Dallas were to land at our base and proceed to the Governor's Mansion for another gathering. Bergstrom was all decked out waiting upon his arrival that never happened. The minute the sirens sounded I knew something was wrong. Every B-52 that was in flying condition was in the air in less than an hour. We knew not what to expect. A possible war could be in the making. Many of us were eagerly waiting for the President's arrival when an Airman came yelling, "The Presidents been shot, the Presidents been shot!" Sadness and grief developed. From that moment on, and not knowing what to expect, Bergstrom stayed in war mode.
I need to write a brief on President Lyndon Baines Johnson. His home was about an hour's drive from Bergstrom. We were charged to maintain the necessary equipment for him to be able to come to and fro. Several times I would be assigned, along with other airmen, to go to his farm to ensure all the electronic equipment there was in tip-top shape. Heads would roll if the said equipment was not in perfect condition. I had the additional responsibility to make sure the paper work was complete before turning it in to our Captain.
When he came home, LBJ landed at Bergstrom and proceeded on to his farm by helicopter. He always took time to give a quick handshake for all those that were lined up to meet him. I got two quick handshakes, more like a sudden slap. That's the way he shook hands. I assume there were too many gathered for a normal handshake and that a quick slap was enough.
I've rambled enough; however, I briefly want to make brief notes on the following:
The individuals I've referenced above had important roles concerning the military life of millions. First, John F. Kennedy played an important role in my military life, both during the Cuban Crisis and when he was assassinated.
Lyndon B. Johnson, shown being sworn in after Kennedy's assassination, was President while I was station at Bergstrom AFB, which was about a mile's drive from his ranch. Bergstrom stayed in top shape while he was President.
Then came Nixon. He was not President while I was in the Air Force, but he played an important role saving that little tiny nation known as Israel. Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel and she pleaded with Nixon for help during the Yom Kupper War in 1973. Golda Meir called him for help and he sent help based upon his mother's voice. He got very little credit due to Watergate. I occasionally think of Nixon heeding his mother's voice that saved a very small independent nation. Israel has always had to defend herself since she was reestablished in 1948. This incident reminds me of the Jewish lady that set beside me flying back home. Her statement I shall repeat: "The Nazis are no longer active but they are still with us. When I visit Germany to see my family I can feel the Germans' hate."
On the left are me & Diann in 2012. On the right is my family at Christmas 2013. Me with Santa cap, daughter Jane, Daughter Kelly, daughter-in-law Rene, Wife Diann, and the tall one in the back is my son Richard and next to him my grandson, John R. Hall III.