My Turkey Tour 1956-1958

by Bill Adams, AKA A/2C George W. Adams, Jr.
(d. 4/2009 see Memoriam page)

© 2007-2011 by Author

(Author Deceased)


It was as cold as a witch’s.. uh elbow the March morning we loaded the Trailway buses at Manhattan Beach Air Force Station New York City heading to McGuire AFB New Jersey. MATS flew us backward in a C-54 first to Lajes Field in The Azores for refueling, then on to Wheelus AFB in Tripoli Libya. Lajes was very pleasant, but we weren’t there long enough to even eat before they loaded us again in back facing seats for the rest of the journey to a very bleak, colorless, dusty and cheerless Wheelus Field in what seemed like the middle of a desert. We discovered later that we were right on the Mediterranean Sea, so we were sure glad that it wasn’t the middle of the desert ‘cause that would indeed have been misery personified.

There were a large number of dependents on board our flight and they loaded them on buses and drove them off into the sunset and we never saw or heard from them again. There were around 30 or so unaccompanied airmen and they took the NCO’s somewhere nice, and the rest of us were walked over to our “quarters” near the terminal. Our quarters consisted of small square mud or maybe concrete windowless huts with maybe around 4 double bunks and dirt floors. The latrine was across the area about a block and a half away. We were instructed to report to the terminal to check the manifest (for getting the heck out of there) at 0700, 1000, 1400, and 1600 hours. I don’t remember getting chow there, but we must of ‘cause we didn’t starve. One day I took the civilian bus downtown to Tripoli, ate dinner at “The Red Lantern” Italian Restaurant and saw a movie with John Wayne speaking Italian with Arabic subtitles. That “prepared” me for a solo sojourn into the Arab Quarter where I saw my first “sho' ‘nuff” Belly Dancer. This young 19 year old boy from Tampa Florida got a good baptism to “furin kuntry livin’’.

The next day, after ten days in Libya, four of us got our orders to ship out by British European Airways via Malta, overnight in Rome, and on to Ankara Turkey.

We went to the Airport, such as it was, only to be told a Sirrocco (and I ain’t talking about a VolksWagon) was coming in and our flight was postponed. We left our duffel bags outside at the airport and were taken to a first class hotel on the sea in Tripoli where we waited out the dangdest sand storm you’ve ever seen. When we got back to the airport, my duffel bag had gained from 66 lbs to 72 lbs and my Blues still had sand embedded in the button holes when I got discharged 7 years later.

The BEA flight was on an aircraft with very quiet Rolls Royce engines and it was a dream. Malta was very nice - from what we could see from the air anyway.

Our arrival at Fiumicino Airport in Rome was a great thrill. It was on Saturday before Palm Sunday 1956. They took the four of us to one of the premier hotels in Rome in those days, The Quirinale. It was elegant, especially for some low ranking airmen. I can’t remember too much about my traveling companions, except one of them was a Staff Sargeant and the rest of us were Airmen Second Class. They put us up in a suite that was bigger than my home back in Tampa. I remember we had no idea what a bidet was and the Sargeant was bent over it when he turned the knob. They rest of us explored a little of Roma that night while Sarge dried his only uniform he had with him. We saw the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument just down the street, The Opera House in back of the hotel, and took in a floor show in a small bar about a block away which featured a woman, we guess, that was dressed up in a half of a gorrilla suit dancing with herself. Sure was an interesting trip so far.

The next morning was Palm Sunday and they really know how to turn out in Rome for Easter season. There was a large cathederal in a piazza near our hotel and everyone carried palm fronds. Traffic was even terrible in those days and on Sunday too. It was a marvel how you could get so many cars, trucks, buses, scooters, and pedestrians in a traffic circle and nobody got killed.

Arrivaderci Roma, we were then on our way via BOAC to Istanbul via Athens.

I would ordinarily hold my “Turkey Story” for another chapter or better Chapter 1, but our trip was yet far from over. We arrived at Yesilkoy Airport which was fairly new, but it was very utilitarian at best, and we didn’t know where we were to go or how from there. Our orders read Ankara. Turkish Airport officials couldn’t help us and there wasn’t a TUSLOG detachment in Istanbul yet, so BOAC graciously put us up in the elegant Pera Palas Hotel downtown.

My impression of Turkey and especially Istanbul was nearly ruined on the way into town. Everything was dark, dirty, grimy, and poverty looking. The cars were old and dirty. It reminded me of very old movies of Russia or someplace back in the ‘20s. It was exactly like stepping back in time.

TurkeyWe survived the night at The Pera Palas (we later learned that this was a very famous hotel). I had a portable Transcontinental radio, but all I could pick up was Radio Moscow and “Moscow Mollie”. We had tried to get some help from the American Consulate next to or near the hotel, but the “Gyrenes” guarding the entrance wouldn’t even call anyone. Early the next morning we went back and with considerable running around someone put us on a Turk Hava Yolari flight to Ankara which was delayed for the Turkish Prime Minister, Adnan Menderes, to ride to Ankara. Needless to say we arrived in Ankara amid a hullabaloo with Turkish military and full band.

We weren’t supposeed to be in Ankara either! Two of us were medics, and the only USAF Hospital was in Izmir. It took several days to straighten out that SNAFU and in the meantime I was fully introduced to “The Turkey Trots” and the hotel only had those hole in the floor toilets, no toilet paper, and a small faucet on the left. Naturally.

I finally got to what was then TUSLOG Detachment 20 Hospital in Izmir.

Izmir after everything else seemed like paradise. No barracks, hotel living on per diem and warm and clean. I spent two very good and adventuresome years In Izmir (except for 3 months in Germany after running a motorcycle over a cliff in Turkey, but then I get ahead of myself)...

Chapter 1 Arrival in Izmir and More...

I've never been good with designations for civilian aircraft, but the T.H.Y. flight we flew from Ankara to Izmir in was the same as a small C-47. I don't remember seeing anything bigger than that in the Turk Hava Yolari fleet the whole time I was in Turkey. It was nice enough and my fellow airman, that had been with me from Tripoli through my odyssey to date, and I were better pleased with things in this strange land than we had been so far. The people were nice and we were adjusting after our disappointing arrival in Istanbul.

Ankara was modern - for Turkey - but very unimpressive. We landed at a small airstrip west of town behind a ring of mountains that sheltered Izmir from view. We took a taksi into town and was very pleasantly surprised and impressed with Izmir. It was a beautiful, European style city located on and around a large bay. Everything was built right down to the water's edge and it was clean. There were hills (mountains) all around the city. We very soon learned why it was called Guzel Izmir by the Turks. Guzel Izmir means Beautiful Izmir. The climate was close to what I grew up in Florida with palm trees and everything. Things were looking a whole lot better.

The taksi let us off at a grey, plain building about a block off of Ataturk Caddesi which ran along the bay. We lugged our belongings up three or four flights of stairs - we found that elevators were at a premium in Izmir - to a bunch of offices occupied by United States Air Force personnel. HOORAY! The First Sargeant at TUSLOG Detachment 20 sent us on our way to our duty assignment about two blocks away. We hauled ourselves and our bags across an adjacent park with sleeping gypsies in it, to a modern building with the designation outside that it was Detachment 20 USAF Hospital, our home for the next two years. (another side note, the park today is the location of a luxurious modern Hilton Hotel).

We felt very welcomed and got a great surprise, There were no barracks, and we were sent to a hotel for quarters. We also found out that we were to receive per diem for quarters and meals. I don't remember the daily amount, but when added to my monthly pay of $126 I got a little over $300 a month - equal in pay to a member of Turkish Parliament! Better news was that even though the official rate of exchange was 2½ Turkish Lira for a dollar, we were exchanged at 10 for a dollar - and were destined to live very high on the hog.)

The first thing I remember after signing in, was being sent over to the NATO LANDSAT building along the bayfront to be issued a NATO Drivers License in order to drive in Turkey. (I still have it). There were precious few vehicles in Turkey, especially in American possession. We had to have it to drive the hospital ambulance. We had a Turkish driver, but he only worked in the daytime I think, anyway I do remember driving it a few times during the next two years.

TurkeyMy traveling buddy and I, (I think his last name was Garrison, anyway that's what I'll call him in this narrative), were sent over to our quarters The Kordon Hotel. It was very nice, small as everything was in those days, but elegant for the region. We even had a private bathroom, which we found out later was rare in Izmir. We shared a room for a few nights at 7.5 Lira each (75 cents) and then I took one of the rooms with a balcony overlooking Izmir Bay for 10 Lira a day. It was nice, especially for a buck a night with concierge, doorman, waiters, maid service, and the whole nine yards. In the summer months, they had al fresco dining on a large patio along with live music just below my balcony.

Chronologically I don't have that good a memory after 47 years, but I'll attempt to keep things in sequence where I can...

One of the first things I did was rent a motorcycle! You need to know at this point, that I had never been on one of those infernal machines before in my life, but what the hey. I was only 20 years old and my brain was barely used yet.

Someone told me about a guy on a corner that rented motorcycles. They were Yugoslavian 150 cc Jawas, and if I remember right they only cost about $1 or $1.50 a day. I took to it like a duck to water. I went over and picked up Garrison and we put on our fezes that we bought in Tripoli and headed into the large exposition grounds of The Kultur Park. It was a Sunday and it was full of Turkish families promenading proudly.

There were a lot of Turkish military officers there that day, and very shortly Garrison and I seemed to be drawing an unusual amount of attention. We thought it was just because we were the only Americans around there. We began to get very concerned when people began to shout and gesture at us (remember, this was before people didn't like Americans) so we hightailed it out of the park and headed back over to the Hospital. We were telling our story to a couple of buddies and the Turkish ambulance driver when he first looked astonished then began laughing. That is when we learned first hand about some of the strange laws in Turkey. It seems that when Kemal Attaturk took over the country from the Ottomans that one of the first edicts was to ban the wearing of the Fez. PUNISHABLE BY DEATH OR LIFE IN PRISON! We burned those suckers that night, at a friends apartment, in one of those pot bellied stoves. We also checked on what other small tidbits of information that we should know.

I don't know when I discovered The Mogambo Gasino in the Park, but it was an open air first class nightclub featuring imported European talent floor shows. For icki bucuk lira (25c) you could buy a drink and stay as long as you liked. My favorite was Muz ve Gasuz ( banana liqueur with sweetened soda water). I spent much of my tour there during summer months when it was open. In fact I usually went over for the midnight floor show and closed it up when the sun came up. That gave me about 8 hours to sleep before going back on the 3-11 shift at the Hospital.

No, I wasn't a heavy drinker, in fact a very light drinker, but I enjoyed the people over there and made close friends with many of the European artistes. We would get together on days off and go places like nearby Ephesus, Pergama, Cesme.

I met and became infatuated with a flamenco dancer from Madrid. Her name was Maria del Pilar Romero and not only was she a great dancer, but beautiful as well. She and her brother had an act called Hermanos Romeros. I had a little Spanish in high school and she spoke no English at all. You'd be surprised what you learn when motivated...

Click photo above to enlarge

Chapter 2 .....and More

(Well, I’m back with the story after several months of delay. I have heard from several of you, that you had read my previous musings. Thanks, it was just what I needed to motivate me.)

At "Mogambo": "Garrison," Sgt. Beverly, Me, two army buddies, and Roger P. Bean. Click photo to enlarge.

Me (in uniform), Marie Del Pilar Romeo. (Pilar's very serious brother, far right). Click photo to enlarge.

To make a long story short, after many months of “living” at The Mogambo every night and spending whatever days I had free with Pilar, infatuation became more than that and we became engaged. When we went before the Hospital Commander as was required to marry an indigenous person, he pulled me aside to counsel me on something that I had never heard before. Now bear in mind that I was from Tampa Florida, known in those days as “Little Cuba”, so imagine my surprise when Colonel ****** told me that in some parts of the country, Texas in particular, Spanish heritage people were prejudiced toward, and looked down upon, and that I should consider the fact before proceeding. Hey, I was 21 years old and knew everything I needed to know! So what did the old (probably around 30) geezer know anyway?

The main problem, though, came from an entirely different direction: Her brother, Jesus, was about to lose his sister and mealticket! (Remember, they were a brother-sister act who were excellent Flamenco dancers). Anyway, he wasn’t too happy about it. We were weathering that problem until their international manager and booking agent got wind of it and then our lives took on a lot of open anxiety and pressure. I had an engagement ring custom made by a local jeweler. It was a white gold ring with a platinum setting holding 3 diamonds and at my favorable exchange rate (plus black-market rate), it only cost me $30. I mention that, because when the pressure got too great I got dumped, and the ring was returned. I promptly threw it into Izmir Bay. I hope some poor fisherman got it. I wish I had been less emotional and a little older and wiser. That ring would be worth somewhere around $10,000.00 today. Ah... the stupidity of youth!

Now, let’s skip ahead or back to running off a cliff with a motorcycle. Having enjoyed the freedom of having transportation to get about and travel out of the immediate vicinity was a blessing indeed. It opened whole new vistas and experiences. I had been renting a Jawa when I could, and went everywhere including Ephesus sightseeing, wild boar and duck hunting with my friend who owned a taksi cab (a 1950 green Ford).

I could rent both the car and the driver for less than $5 for the whole day, but I had a better deal than that, I kept him on a retainer for 150 Turkish Lira, or $15 a month, to be available when I needed him to get me to and from work and out and about when I wanted to go. He used to check my schedule and would be waiting outside my apartment when I would walk out, and he was always waiting for me when I left the Hospital. He got more than the retainer for side trips, like to Ephesus etc. and we became good friends. I visited with his family in their home on the side of the hill going up to the Kadifikale, and had them to my apartment for dinner occasionally.

Anyway, I bought a new 150cc JAWA motorcycle for $125. I had been renting a bigger 250cc, but it wasn’t about power anyway, it was about convenience and freedom. There was always some buddy or buddies that would rent and go with me. On one Saturday, I headed alone out past Karsiyaka toward Pergama on a paved highway, at least it was for 5 or 6 miles, no highways were paved more than a few miles out of town in those days, the rest was just graded dusty dirt.

On this Saturday, I was only a few short miles beyond Karsiyaka when I rounded a curve on a large hill and right in front of me was an entire flock of about 20 sheep, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I couldn’t slow down or stop, so I just shut my eyes. My angel was with me that day ‘cause when I opened them I was on the other side of the flock and still upright. I had to tell you that story so you would understand more fully what happened the next Saturday...

The very next Saturday three of my medic buddies and I had planned a ride all the way to Cesme. We had heard what a great beach they had there and we had never been, so the plans were made until Friday when Airman Roger P. Bean told us that because he was rotating back to the states in 10 days, that he wasn’t going to do anything that might prevent that and that he had a sort of premonition about the whole thing. Well, the other buddy, whose name escapes me at the moment, and I still had over a year to go on our tour of duty and we were young STUPID and fearless. I won’t say that Bean’s remarks didn’t affect me, I just chose to disregard them.

We left on our motorcycles around 8:00 AM on a beautiful sunny day which was great for the trip we had in mind. It was a very scenic ride that sometimes took us along the coast and past some Oskars camped out along the beach.

I had an unusual understanding, or lack of it, of my theology and doctrine then and had a obsession to ask God for forgiveness repeatedly over and over when I felt in danger or uneasy just in case I should die before I got the latest sin confessed and forgiven. I tell you this because on the entire ride to Cesme I was constantly doing this.

CesmeAfter arriving in Cesme, and enjoying a beautiful day in a small cove with a gracious Turkish family and the deepest and clearest water that I had ever seen outside of Silver Springs Florida, I felt at ease and relaxed. We headed back along the highway - which I remind you in those days was a graded dirt road. My buddy was about 50 yards ahead of me when I started across a bridge. The bridge was typical of that era made of wooden horizontal decking with two raised vertical areas for wagon wheels to ride on. I started across when my rear wheel fell between these and I began to lose control completely. I looked up in time to see that I was in mid air over a fairly deep ravine and headed into a solid concrete wall. Safety for motorcycle riding in those days didn’t include wearing a helmet. I don’t remember what happened until I woke up lying on the ground on the other side of the bridge and looked down to see my broken left femur (just like a medic to be technical) sticking out of my leg. About that time my buddy rode up and said that he looked back to see me flying through the air like a big gawky turkey.

One of the miracles that day was that for one thing there had been no traffic much at all on the whole trip, and you never saw another American on those roads, but that day and at that precise time an Air Force Major in an Air Force Staff car from Ankara was right behind me and saw the whole thing. He was there to scout out a place for a retreat for some bigwigs from Ankara. There were no houses, buildings. or phones, so he piled me - literally - into the back seat of his 1952 staff car and proceeded to try to get me somewhere for help.

About a half hour or so later after an excruciating drive along the roughest road in the entire world, we came to a small village and he found a doctor there who wanted him to leave me with him. Smarter heads prevailed and the Major went to another village, found a telephone and called my hospital. They immediately dispatched the “Cracker Box” ambulance to pick me up. I drove those buggers often, and on perfectly smooth graded highways and in perfect health, they were the bumpiest bounciest ride you can imagine. Some of you have experienced it.

Anyway, they eventually got me back to Izmir to TUSLOG Det. 34 Hospital and I have never been happier to see a place in my whole life. The adventure of 6 months in the USAFE Hospital in Wiesbaden Germany was quite interesting and exciting as well, and maybe I’ll try to tell that story another time, but until then.....

George W. ”Bill” Adams, Jr.

---------------- Additional Photos ----------------

Adjacent Building penthouse
Recognize The penthouse apartment(s) in the second building?


Chapel Choir 1956 or '57 Chaplain Capt. Posey, Izmir Turkey


Det. 34 TUSLOG USAF Hospital Izmir Turkey 1956-58

Ataturk Statue and two Turkish MPs


Askari on maneuvers


Turkish Nurse on left and Persian(Iranian) Nurse on Right.

(Author Deceased)