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I was sent from Schilling AFB (SAC) in Kansas to Cigli Air Base near Izmir in July 1962. I was assigned to base flight & flew as a Flight Engineer on C-47, T-29, and C-131 aircraft. I was an E-4 with over 4 years active duty. At the time I could not bring my wife and children with me as the base was just forming. Later, my family was able to join me and we had a son born there. Left in Feb. 1964, to Shaw AFB, SC.
I came from a small town about 35 miles west of Denver, CO. I went to a one-room school house through the 8th grade, then on to high school at a town 5 miles away. Going to the high school was a culture shock back then, as in many of the grade school years I was only one in that my grade, and then I was thrown into a class of 30 kids I didn't know. Anyway, it was a good 4 years and I graduated in 1957. My folks were poor and I knew they could not afford to send me to college so I enlisted in the Air Force.
Idaho Springs has grown some from when I was there! I have an old map dated 1990 and it shows the population of the town as 1834 residents. Is a pretty little town nestled in the mountains with Mt. Evans to the south, and has one of the highest roads going to it in this country. Idaho Springs was named after a Ute Indian Chief whose tribe was said to use the natural hot springs there. Was mainly a mining town way back and mining was what brought my Dad out from Nebraska in late 30's to work in the mines with his brother.
Idaho Springs was a big Navy town during WWII and many classmates held with the tradition of joining the Navy. But I couldn't swim a lick so I figured that was out. So here I was over 4 years later in Izmir, Turkey, on flight status and on the 1st day I learned I had to do WATER SURVIVAL TRAINING! So we were put on a Turkish boat in Karshiaki which took us out into bay. The trainers put Water-Wings on us, and put us into a life raft, which left the boat. We were told to jump feet first and when we hit the water to pull on the lanyards attached to the wings and they would inflate--MAYBE? IF not, pull out the small tube to blow into and that would inflate it. Yeah Right! I waited until everyone else had jumped and then I jumped. All I could think of was this water has to be pretty deep, more than my 6 feet height, and I could probably not be able to touch bottom without drowning. After I finally jumped, I hit water and one side of the wings didn't inflate, so I came up sideways. The Captain with us was yelling, "Blow up that side." I yelled back, "The Hell with you", as all I wanted was to get back to that raft. For what I said he laughed so hard that he never reprimanded me for it.
When I got there, we had very few luxuries. There was a new dorm, a small snack bar, and an unfinished hangar.
The dorm was really nice and I had 2 roommates. If the base had any aircraft there when I arrived, they were at Izmir civilian airport as we had no runway or finished hanger yet. Parking was of PSP (perforated steel planking). Other mechanics and I were sent to Base Supply to help unload and set up supply on base.
I always wondered why I was originally assigned to Det. 117, which was a Supply Detachment, when I had an Aircraft Mechanic AFSC! Guess they needed manpower in Supply at the time and just used people where they needed them. Anyway I enjoyed working there. I had a Turkish Driver and we used to deliver parts, mostly radio equipment, to some of the various missle sites that were around Izmir at that time. After a short time I was re-assigned to Base Flight Operations and worked on the Flight Line to handle transient aircraft.
At the time, I was going to do a one-year unaccompanied tour, but my wife decided she would like to come over, so I got the paperwork started. I went to my Commander and got permission to rent an apartment in Izmir, as the quarters on base were filled, due to lots of dependents coming over. About the time she was to leave the U.S., my NCOIC called me in to ask me if I would like to go on Flight Status as a Flight Engineer. So I had to get a physical in order to cross-train into that Career Field. I flew to Weisbaden AB in Germany to go thru Altitude and Ejection Seat training. I flew to Germany on the base'S C-47 and we hit a bad hail storm over France. I rememember a full Colonel on board with me. The plane was all over, and up and down. I was flat scared. I looked at him and said, "Pretty rough, huh, Sir!" He looked at me with a cigar in his mouth and said calmly, "Not to Bad!" I thought this is the bravest man I ever saw or a complete fool! We had to land in France to patch some of holes in the flight surfaces of the plane.
I started out flying on the base's C-47s. The C-47 was a great old airplane, but really slow and had heaters on them like the old Volkswagen (didn't work well), so you had to put on extra clothing in cold weather. In January, 1963, I got on a crew to ferry one from Chateauroux Air Station in France, to Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. They were taking it to the Bone Yard there. What a trip that was, as anyone who has ever flown on the old recip/prop jobs in extreme cold weather can relate to. We flew from France; to Scotland; to Iceland; to Greenland; to Labrador, Canada; to Loring AFB, Maine; to Pease AFB, New Hampshire; to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; to Austin, Texas; and then on to Arizona. On the return trip, I flew Pan Am from California back to Istanbul, after a delay in route to Denver to see my folks. Hitched a ride with MATS from Istanbul to Izmir. I was gone one whole month on that one!
So I settled into flying. I was on a busy schedule, as we not only flew VIPs to different bases in Turkey, but twice weekly we took passengers or cargo to other bases in Turkey. I remember one trip to Anwar AB in southern Turkey. In the cargo were cases of fly swatters and we wondered why until we landed there. We opened the door of the aircraft and swarms of flies came on board! Needless to say we took off with some borrowed swatters and were busy killing the critters for quite a while!
I just had a recollection of one evening right before quitting time, about 3 or 4 of us GIs were sitting outside the hanger next to the parking ramp. One of guys said he must be coming down with something as he felt strange, I thought I must be getting same thing because I felt same way. About that time the steel planking we parked planes on began to ripple and make clanking noises. I heard someone in the hanger yell, "Earthquake - everyone out of the hanger!" I looked back to see all overhead lights in the hanger swaying as if in a violent wind storm. We experienced afew other mild shakes while we were there! Just wondered if any one else remembered these when they were there?
I remembered a couple of other times that I had my pants about scared off while on or around a C-47! Once, while landing at Athens during a bad storm, we had almost a direct cross-wind where the pilot and co-pilot both had to man the controls to keep the aircraft level. We touched down on one wheel first, then the second, which jerked us straight. We taxied to park, with 55 gallon barrels rolling across the ramp. The crew held the contros and brakes until I could get out to put chocks and flight control locks on. Another time I was checking out a replacement for me and we had landed at Naples, Italy, to fuel for the trip back to Ciğli. He was a 3-striper like me, so I told him I would go get some flight lunches while he did the refueling. I came back and he had finished refueling and the fuel truck was gone. We took off and flew home. The next day I was called to Base Ops where I was told that Naples had called and said our aircraft was fueled with jet fuel instead of Av-gas. The engines ran all right, as we must have had enough gas that it mixed with the jet fuel. I asked my replacement, "You couldn't smell the difference!" I learned to never assume that other people, even if the same rank or experience, could be trusted.
I remember the day we flew on the Base C-47 from Ciğli to Adana, then on to Ankara, where we dropped off the passengers we had. On the return trip, we took off, and during the Climb-Power an engine started acting up so we shut it down & "feathered the propeller" so it wouldn't windmill. The pilot called the tower to declare an emergency so we could land again. Everything worked out and we examined the engine to discover we had blown a cylinder. The crew called Ciğli to have them send parts and engine mechanics to fix the plane. We were told to catch a ride back. The officers went into Ankara Base Operations and returned to tell us they had secured a ride back, but there was no room for the radio operator or myself. So we set there for awhile until we found out there was an Air Force C-118 ready to take off. The plane had an AF General and his Staff on board. I talked with the Flight Engineer on board to find out they were going to Ciğli. He said he could hide us on board. So we hid under the General's bunk for the flight to Ciğli. It was a good thing we were young and didn't have to use the bathroom! We landed at Ciğli, the General and his party got off, and we crawled out. We thanked the Flight Engineer and left the aircraft. I often wondered what that General would have said if he knew he had STOW-AWAYS! Good thing security wasn't as tight in those days.
One day we were notified by Base Operations, that the next day we were to haul our Base Commander (Col.) to Ankara, remain overnight at a hotel so he could attend a meeting, and then return to Ciğli. We made trip and upon landing we all went to the hotel to check in at the desk. As usual, we two enlisted troops were assigned one room, with the officers in their own rooms. So in this situation the Col. had a private room, with the pilot and co-pilot sharing a room. After we two enlisteds got our key, the pilot (Captain) caught us in the hallway and said after we get settled into the rooms, he would come get us so the crew could eat dinner together. We rode the elevator up to our floor and got off to go to the room. We unlocked the door and stepped in. My roommate said he never had this a nice a room in Turkey. We unpacked and heard a knock at the door. We opened the door and let the Captain in. He looked our room over and said, "You should see the room the hotel gave the Col.!" He called the desk to discover they had mixed up our room with the Colonel's. He said, "If you guys don't say anything I won't! We had a good laugh from the room mixup.
Upon returning to Ciğli one evening after flying some General Officers on a mission, I was dressed in my Class A uniform, which I had just gotten out of the cleaners the day before. So I took the blouse off to pull on my flight suit to refuel and post-flight the aircraft. I got finished at dusk and decided I didn't want to wad up my blouse to put in small wooden box I had installed on back of my scooter and maybe get it dirty, so I slipped it on over my coveralls for the trip to base housing. I got all the way to the trailer, and as I pulled in to park, a car came skidding in to a halt with a young 2nd Lt. in it. He jumped out to call me to ATTENTION to reprimand me for wearing a mixed uniform. As I stood facing him I could see his wife sitting in car laughing. I realized I was in the wrong for what I had done, but his way of showing off to her made me realize Ciğli was indeed getting to BIG! We were finally becoming what state-side bases were, where some officers didn't have enough to keep them busy and they did things like this to prove their superiority. Most of the officers I flew with were good troops and we never got to point of fraternization, but we had a mutual respect for each other.
I had one full Col. when I first started flying on the C-47 that used to make up his own power settings on take-off and climb, so one time on take-off, I tapped him on the shoulder to remind him that he was stressing the engines. He turned to me and replied, "Who's flying this airplane, Airman, YOU or ME?" I said, "You are SIR!" He said, "Well, shut up then." When I returned to Ciğli, I told my Flight Chief that I was not flying anymore trips with said that Col. Shortly after I started flying on a T-29 which the Col. was not checked out on. A few months went by and we had trip to Weisbaden. Lo and Behold, here was the Col. and his family on the trip. We were to stay overnight. The Radio Operator and I were in quarters together. The next morning he and I went to the aircraft to run-up the engines and get ready for the return flight, it was real foggy; an Airman approached and told us the flight crew wanted us to go our quarters and we would leave later. WE were in the quarters when we were told to get to our plane "right now", as some Col. was mad that we were late for the flight. We got to the plane and he was waiting at the stairs to the plane. He called us to ATTENTION to chew us out! We replied, "No Excuse Sir." I got to my seat in the cockpit and I was really mad so I asked Pilot and Co-pilot why they didn't tell the Col. that we had already been there and were told to go to our quarters. They said that, as fired up as he was, THEY didn't want to STAND AT ATTENTION to get reprimanded!
As everyone probably knows, back in the "Cold War" years, we flew in what were called "corridors" while flying close to Russian territory. So, on trips to Europe we would have a Navigator as an extra crew member to make sure we didn't stray. So on one trip, on the way back from Germany to Turkey, we were flying in weather. After a while the pilot asked the Navigator for an update on our bearings, to which Navigator replied,"I don't know where we are for sure." It was little tense for a while as we all expected a Russian Mig Fighter to show up on our wingtip. We finally got things figured out and continued on. After flying for a time, all at once it felt like the plane hit a wall head on. There was a bright flash of light, with all the instrument lights flaring up. We realized we had been hit by lightening. We checked everything with both engines running good and no loss of radios or navigation equipment, so we continued on to Ciğli. Upon landing we inspected the exterior of the aircraft for damage. There was a hole about the size of a pencil eraser in one prop tip and another hole the same size in opposite wing tip.
When I started flying on the T-29, it was like going from driving a Model T to a Lincoln. The plane was made by Convair as a passenger type aircraft. It had tri-cycle landing gear and the nose wheel was steerable It was powered by two 18-cylinder engines that were internally super-charged, plus ADI for take-off. ADI means Anti-Detonation Injection, which was turned on at take-off and it would inject into the engine a mixture of alcohol and distilled water, and fish oil for a lubricant. This system worked rather well, as it gave engines a denser mixture and helped with cooling cylinder head temperature during the higher loads put on engine during takeoff. On most of the older aircraft, propeller pitch was controlled by a mechanical linkage through a propeller governor. On the T-29, propeller pitch was handled electrically, which worked faster
and allowed full reverse. (You could even back the plane up on the ramp, if you were careful and didn't hit brakes to hard and set it on its tail.) It had an entrance door with a folding stair system, and the plane was pressurized. Ours was actually a VT-29, which in Air Force language meant it was fixed up to haul VIPs. It had some regular airline seats plus a General's compartment with seating, a table, and a bed. The plane was really beautiful, since we had it polished all over. Worked good in some of bases we went into, especially Turkey. George Durman said he could not remember having a runway at Samsun but I think of many times going in there; the runway was built on top of a mesa, with a mountain at one end and the Black Sea at other end. Landing into the wind meant coming in over the mountain, dropping wing flaps, gear down, hitting end of runway, and reversing props to slow down. Then turn around to taxi to the small terminal. Take off was just as fun, as you literally flew off the cliff, and as you fell, the engines were screaming to gain altitude. But I was around 22 years old and death didn't frighten me! [Note from George: In my story I did acknowledge a grass airstrip at Samsun, but that was in 1958-1960. I do know that C-130 aircraft could land there, but had to have JATO bottles in order to take off. Later they improved the runway.]
The T-29 and C-131 were both made by Convair, both were similar aircraft, with the exception that the entrance door and retractable stairs were on the right forward side on the T-29, while on the C-131 they were on the left. The C-131 also had a cargo door on the left side of the fuselage, rear of wing. The C-131 was used during the Vietnam war as an Air-Evac plane to haul patients to different hospitals in U.S. A lot of them were stationed at Scott AFB, Ohio. In later years, some airlines used converted models (they had jet turboprop engines installed). At Ciğli, we first had a T-29, but later picked up a C-131 from Scott AFB. It was a pretty basic plane so we had it sent to Weisbaden, Germany, where it was updated by German Nationals to include carpet, airline type seats, and a galley in back to prepare meals for VIP trips, which added one more crew member (Flight Steward). The Germans did a beautiful job on her.
One unusual thing about the old Convairs was their exhaust systems. They had two tubes per engine, that set on top of the wings under a nacelle that the exhaust dumped into. Kind of like dual pipes on a car. These were called Augmenter Tubes. Convair claimed that they helped give the plane some added thrust although I can't remember being pinned to seat on takeoff! Our T-29 was a "B" model and the C-131 was an "A" model.
I always got a chuckle working in Transient at Ciğli because of the different aircraft and people you would meet. Once we serviced a T-33 Jet Trainer that was used by the Turkish Air Force and marked as such; however flying it were two American Air Force types. After they had refueled and were ready to go, they could not get their radio to work so the pilot called us over and said, "Go up in the nose wheel-well and start hitting on Black Boxes with a hammer." That is what Turkish mechanics had done when they had the same problem leaving the base they came from. Sure enough that fixed the problem again! The Turks were still using enlisted personnel for pilots on C-47s. One came in and taxied down the ramp where we had the pilot turn it to a right angle, and then pull forward to straighten the tail wheel to lock it. He was too far forward so I tried to tell him to go around for a second try but he instead shut down engines. When he came off the aircraft we discovered the only English he knew was "Very Good". One day, I saw a British cargo plane sitting on ramp with a crew member on a stand under the wing; upon asking him what he was doing, he replied, "The bloomin' dingy came out of the wing, mate." I discovered they had a life raft stowed in the lower edge of wing. Another day I was parking a T-29 after taxiing it in from an engine run-up for maintenance. I opened up the side window, took off my head-set to look out and back. I hit the brim of my cap on the window frame. The hat flew into the spinning prop and was in two pieces before hitting the ground! I was so disgusted.
In later years in the Colorado Air National Guard we gained a C-131D, which, when it was retired, was placed on display at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. After I got out of AF active duty, I started at the Guard as a full-time tech. I flew full-time for 4 1/2 years on their C-54D; but my wife was tired of my living the good life and wanted me to quit flying, so I got a job running the engine and prop shop at Buckley AFB, which provided the manpower and hangar for the 4 T-29s stationed at Lowry AFB, which supported the AF Academy with Navigational Training. Lowry provided the aircrews. In later years Lowry gained two T-43s from Mather AFB, California, which did the same mission for the Academy. After Lowry closed, Mather AFB, CA, received the support mission for the Academy and Mather lost all its T-29s to different Guard units across the States and received T-43s to replace them. They quickly found it was not cost effective to fly from California to Colorado Springs every day to take Cadets up for Navigational Training and then return to California. So, the Colorado Guard said, "Fine, give us 2 planes, train our aircrews to fly them and our ground crews will do the maintenance. We will support the mission for you if you bring the aircraft back to Mather AFB for inspections and major maintenance, and you give us a replacement to fly until the work is completed." (Mather had 20 aircraft.) After a couple of years we wrangled 2 additional aircraft, refitted them with airline seats, with galleys in the rear of the planes, to haul VIPs all over the world. The Guard did a great job, money-wise, as we got most of the seats and other parts from the Bone-Yard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The Guard also changed from Guard to Active Duty Guard and we had the unit, 200th Airlift, from the early 1980s to 1994, when everything was finally closed down. We flew all those years with no accidents or late take-offs, and we received the Air Force Organizational Award. Meanwhile Mather closed down with their T-43s moving to San Antonio, Texas, to take the Academy mission back.
(The T-43 was the military version of the Boeing 737). I was with that program for 14 years during which time we got 2 more T-43s which were set up for VIP trips. I retired from the Guard in 1984. There were only 4 of us civilians on the program and when the planes left the U.S on trips, one of us would go to provide maintenance, if needed. I saw a lot of central America, South America, and Europe again.)
I started out in the Guard as a Title 32 Civil Service in 1968. I was a full time technician which meant taking care of their planes, and once a month I did the Weekend Warrior thing, plus once a year I did a 2 week Summer Camp. Also, with Title 32 I had to belong to guard to keep my job; however around 1974 I was converted to a Title 5 (straight Civil Service which meant I could have quit the Guard part and worked strictly Civil Service). But by that time I had enough Military time built up I decided to stick it out for the Military pension, so I retired Military-wise in 1984 and continued on as a civilian until 1995.
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For specifications on the T-29 and C-131, go here .
We used the Air Station in Athens, Greece, when we had major inspections due. So we would go with plane for about a week while they had it in dock. We always laughed when Sixth Fleet would come into port there, as the taxi prices would double. Also, we had to stay in town, so we used the same hotel as the Navy troops. Up the street were line of bars and the owner of the hotel where we stayed had one of the bars. He operated like all places close to American bases and had it stocked with bar girls to get GIs to buy booze. He told me one time that he had similar bars in Crete also and when the Fleet pulled out of Athens, he loaded the girls on a plane and sent them down to Crete because the Navy never figured out they were the same girls.
As I said, we took our Convairs to Greece for major inspections, but we had a Dock in our hanger at Cigli to do the minor inspections of the C-47s. During one such inspection before I started flying, I was given some Inspection Cards by Dock Chief which included the cockpit area. One item on a card was to remove and replace the fire extinguisher bottle behind the Co-pilot seat. It is used to put out engine fires and contained carbon dioxide. So I positioned myself, on my knees in the seat, so I could lean over the seat back, to dis-connect the valve on top of the bottle. Everything went well until I had to lift the cable with a small ball attached to the valve. All at once I heard the bottle discharge toward the right engine. I quickly put my head out the side window to warn anyone working out there. Just as I yelled, "Warning," the CO2 hit the engine area catching our engine shop T/Sgt up in the accessory section working on something. I never saw anybody move so fast getting out of the way.
The Mediteranean is one of the prettiest bodies of water in the world. We used to fly "Locals" for crew training besides our regular trips. I had a Captain who liked to fly low over the water, come up on a Turkish fishing boat who would not hear the plane until we were right on them, and then hop right over the boat. I always thought that we were going to return to base to learn we were grounded! The Captain also was a frustrated mechanic who always carried a case with tools in it. On one trip coming back from Europe, I left my crew seat to go back in the plane; upon returning to the cockpit, here he was with the overhead panel down, using a screwdriver. I asked him what he was doing and he replied that one of gages needed tweaking. I told him, "Let's wait until we are on the ground to tweak things." I remember the Turkish Customs guy we had at Ciğli. He would meet the aircraft when they were coming in from out of country to check us for contraband. After a while he got to where he would see us before we left to give us a list of things he wanted or needed. On one trip to Germany he handed me a list of things from a German Drug Store (a straight razor and various cosmetics for his wife). The Radio Operator went with me and neither of us could speak that much German, but the druggist coud speak Spanish and the Radio Operator with me was Hispanic.
I noticed comments on the website about Turkish Air Lines (Turk Hava Yoları-THY). I flew with them a couple of times while over there. They were using the old Fokkers twin turboprops. They would start the engines after you boarded, then taxi to the end of the runway and then take off with no run-up or checking of engines. We used to say that their motto was, "Fly and Die with THY." The aircraft usually had male Flight Attendants on board who would bring fruits and nuts as refreshments.
Before my wife came over, around 2100 hours I would pick up my laundry bag and walk to the dependent area of the base to wash my clothes. What fun that was! Usually on Friday or Saturday night I would catch the shuttle bus with my roommate to go to the NCO Club in downtown Izmir to eat a good meal. After a few drinks (sometimes too many) we would climb back on the bus for the trip back to the base. I remember a Turk where we would catch the bus, who had a small cart from which he sold shish kabob. I was always pretty fussy about what I ate, so never ordered food from him; but lot of guys sitting on the bus were drunk and would eat his shish kabob. One night when I was still sober, I watched him serve one of GIs, take the empty plate back, reach under his cart, pull out a filthy, dirty rag to wipe the plate clean, then put it back on the stack of clean dishes! One Thanksgiving, frozen turkeys were brought in to the chow hall. Somehow the turkeys were not handled right and everyone got food poisoning. I was never so sick in my life! They had the hospital in Izmir full, plus beds in the hall of the base dispensary. It was years before I could eat turkey again, much less smell one. Usually food was good at the chow hall; I especially loved breakfast with good old S.O.S. My roommate used to get midnight chow passes, and, so as not to eat alone, he would wake me to go eat with him. I should have gained 100 pounds, but stayed my skinny self.
They always say you can remember where you were and what you were doing at times in history. My wife and I had gotten a baby-sitter for the kids and I loaded mama on back of my faithful Lambretta to go to the on base movie theater. We settled in for the evening movie, when, after a short period of time, the movie shut down, the lights came on and the Base Commander came onto the stage to inform us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. I remember everyone looking at each other and wondering, "Are we going to be in full time war with Russia?" And we are pretty close to them! But I do remember how well liked and respected he was, as for a long time after that fatal day, I would be in another country and people, realizing I was an American, would come up to me to shake my hand and offer sympathy over the loss of our leader.
At the Enlisted Club, the belly dancer shows probably had the biggest turnout they ever had with all the sex starved GIs on base. This was before my wife came over and the guys I was rooming with wanted to go. I remember having to register at door for a drawing they were going to have later. I WON a bottle of Champagne which I hate the taste of so gave much of it away during the evening. I don't think they had the show to many nights as because, if I recall correctly, the Base Commanders wife got wind of it and the Commander cancelled the show on her threat! I always remember that the Turk who brought the girls looked like Peter Lorre!
Did you ever have times in your life when you felt important, just to have it come crashing down? I remember the time we came flying home after a trip somewhere, and upon landing and taxiing to the parking area we noticed alarge crowd waiting for us. We shut down the engines and I opened the door to be asked by some person, "Where's Bob?" After further asking questions, we found out that Bob Hope was to bring one of his shows to Ciğli! Everyone thought our plane was carrying him. So our FAME was short lived.
My tour at Ciğli was one of best jobs I had in the Air Force. I traveled all over, all the time, and this was rough on my wife, who I finally moved on base so I could feel like she was secure, although we were never bothered while living in Izmir on Attaturk Caddesi, right on the waterfront. But by being on base, she had other dependent wives to visit with, and who could help her while I was gone.
Before moving on base, I rented a place in Izmir. It was an addition on the back of a Turkish family's house. The landlord owned a furniture factory in Istanbul. He could speak no English but his wife had gone to college in Germany and was pretty fluent in English. The place was on the waterfront about 2 blocks down from the Karşiyaka ferry landing. It was also pretty close to an embassy, but don't remember what country. We had a beautiful yard with fruit trees and the roses were fantastic! We had a veranda out of the second floor over a glassed-in porch. The whole courtyard was tiled. It was a furnished place as was typical in Turkey. We had to get a couple of power converters in order to use our appliances. (Turkey's power supply is 230 volts/50Hz, while American appliances use 120 volts/60Hz.) We found out very soon after moving in that we had other tenants living with us (cockroaches). At night we would hear them running across the tiled kitchen floor - sounded like mice. Got lots of spray and had them much under control by time we moved to Ciğli. The landlord had a 60's model Mercury in a garage off an alley nearby and every Sunday the family had a Turkish driver take them out for a drive. The landlord's wife used to hit me up to get her stockings and cosmetics at the BX, which I did to keep on her good side. By this time I was flying pretty regular. I would come back to the base late at night and ride the base shuttle to Izmir, where I got off about 5 blocks from our apartment and would walk the the rest of the way home. I was never bothered by anyone, although there were plenty of suspicious-looking people at that time of night. I really felt more secure there then in some of cities here in U.S.
I remember that we had a kerosene stove in the living room and a couple of Aladdin heaters in other parts of the apartment for heating. (They were pretty popular back then.) Anyway, the first time I needed fuel for the heaters I took a 5 galllon can and went to a Turkish gas station close by. I told the attendant I needed to buy some kerosene. He shook his head and said, "Yoke, Gas." I said, "No, kerosene!" We argued back and forth until I finally realized that the Turkish word for "kerosene" was "Gaz". I remember we used a lot of chlorox to treat water and wash the fruits and vegetables we bought from local markets.
We had a laid-back life back then and I don't think we really missed TV that much during the 2 1/2 years over there. I did miss music though, as all the local stations played only Turkish music, which was nothing like "The Platters"! So we would to to go BX to buy record albums, which I have to this day. Because I was on Flying Status, I received Flight Pay, and, with all the flights I made to other places, getting Per Diem. We were living "The Good Life" for a lowly E-4. We would splurge and go to NCO Club to have a great meal, go to movies downtown, or take a taxi to see sights around Izmir. I remember one of other guys saying he never told his wife about getting Per Diem for trips. He said as far as she knew Per Diem was an Island in the South Pacific! I enjoyed the Turkish people as they really tried to make us welcome.
I think the main reason that a lot of us liked being stationed in Turkey was because we were in a small unit and everyone pretty well knew who everyone else was and where they worked. So we were like a big family instead of a small part of a BIG ORGANIZATION like many of the bases were in U.S. My wife even enjoyed the new experience of Military life. She hired a Turkish maid to help her with the chores of 2 small children. That worked well until the day the maid took our dirty clothes to the laundry room and returned minus some new kids clothes that my wife had just purchased at the BX. So she fired her! One time when I was working at the hanger, my wife was ironing clothes in the kitchen of trailer in base housing, when she noticed kids who were playing on floor by her feet had collapsed almost unconscious. She felt dizzy too so carried the kids out, calling to neighbor for help. They phoned for an ambulance. It was determined the flue on the heater was plugged and Carbon Monoxide had built up. I often wondered why we never had problems with the hot water wall mounted units so prevalent in Turkey and Europe. They worked pretty good and it has been in the last decade that we are starting to see more of them being used in US.
After Ciğli started growing with more people, they started adding more conveniences. A small BX and Commissary, movie theater, post office, and church were added. It seemed like everything built for US troops, they built for the Turks on the base too. Probably some agreement we signed to have the base there. I remember one time when I was working at Base Supply. (I was sent over to the Turkish side of base to their supply warehouse.) When I walked into their brand new warehouse and looked around, I saw that the place was filled with nothing but brand new shiny trash cans! More guys were bringing their cars over with them so was getting to be a busy place. I remember seeing my first 1964 Mustang convertible there, as some Officer had his brought over.
One of the things I really missed was real ice cream, as all we had was re-constituted dry milk, and ice cream made from that was terrible. I can remember going to Athens and the crew would hurry to the main terminal because they had real ice cream there. I have to laugh when I recall how people in the terminal looked at those crazy Americans in flight clothing, standing around licking on ice cream cones.
Someone, in another story on this website, told of the slaughter house in Izmir not being there anymore. What a shame, as we used to look forward to passing by there on a hot day! (NOT!) Especially with the Turk Nationals on the bus smoking Yeni Harman cigarettes. Sometimes I can sit back and still smell the slaughter house and the cigarettes. I also remember the olive pits rotting in the sun.
I never took my car with me to Turkey, even though I had a beautiful 1955 Chevy Bel-Air Hardtop back in the U.S. So, after about a year, I bought a Lambretta scooter to ride from housing to the flight line. It was a kick to ride, but I only went to Izmir twice on it, as it was taking your life in your hands to drive in Turkey. As I remember there were about 3 traffic lights in the whole town and most of the time none of Turks obeyed whatever light showed. Usually they just hit the horn and flashed their headlights and drove through. People on sidewalks would step off in front of you. Real hazard!
One morning while riding the shuttle bus to base we came upon an accident. A Turkish farmer was driving his small tractor when somehow he fell off and the tractor ran over him, killing him. The authorities had cordoned off the area, and for the next 3 days we passed by the same spot and he was still lying there. Someone said he had to remain there until his next of kin came and identified his remains. Some of their laws were a lot different from what we were used to.
Lot of people on base knew I were flying and would give me a list of parts needed to keep their scooters running, as most of them also had Italian-made ones. So, I found a shop in Naples, close to the navy base, that sold parts, and would buy them for my friends. Most of GIs who brought cars over sold them to Turkish Nationals at a good profit when they left Turkey. Most cars then had high performance engines that required premium fuel or they ran poorly. So, many guys would go to the flight line to get some aircraft aviation gas to boost the octane. I often wondered what the poor turk buyer did after he used up the gas in the tank and refueled with lower octane Turkish fuel! I sold the scooter to a fellow GI when I rotated to U.S. Many times I wished I had shipped it home in hold-baggage.
I am sure everyone who has ever traveled has picked up souvenirs to remind them of their travels and I am no different, but am probably the only person that has been to Turkey that never brought a Camel Saddle back! They never appealed to me, so I got camel bells, hand painted plaques, Harem puzzle rings, jewelry, scarves , etc. But got to the point people knew when we were traveling around and would give me money to pick up this and that for them. So on such a trip to Athens, I was checking out the aircraft with an Instructor Flight Engineer. He told crew that we were going outside the gate of the Airport to buy some small statues that were replicas of famous Greek Gods. We made our purchases, stepped outside to start back to flight line, when we heard a Convair taking off. We stopped to admire it and then noticed from the tail number that it was OUR plane! We hurried to Base Ops to call our Base Ops in Cigli. They radioed our plane and told them to turn around, go back to Athens to pick us up! Were they ever hot for getting reprimanded for leaving the crew behind. Any way, in all my moves since Military Days, I lost the statues that I got for myself that time and one other time in Athens.