1959-1963 USAF Experiences in Turkey

Alfred J. Cammarata

© 2008-2011 by Author

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I was an Airman Second Class ground radio operator (29350) assigned to INÇİRLİK Air Base, Det 16 from April 1960-October 1961.

From June 1960-June 1961 I was assigned on operating location to TUSLOG Det 33-3 İskenderun, an Army transportation corps unit.  Their official designation was the 7416th USATTU.  There were about 10 Army personnel, comprised of a Detachment commander (Lt. Col.) & deputy (Capt.), 1st Sgt., orderly room clerk, an ops NCO who handled paperwork/customs etc., an army cook who ran our mess hall.  The remainder were stevedores who worked with Turkish crews in port.  All single personnel.

Turkey was unaccompanied tour at the time. There were about 5-7 Turkish workers.  Only names I remember were Ahmet Akcay and Ahmet Sakaci.  Some worked with stevedores in port, and others in the Det compound/warehouse/motor pool.

Shortly after I arrived our Det commander passed away (Col. Swecker) and Capt. Speelmen assumed command.

At the time İskenderun was a small port town.  We lived on local economy and were housed in a 5 story apartment building on Ataturk Bulvari on the waterfront about 10 minute walk from the Guney Palas restaurant, a favorite eating place on weekends.  USAF personnel lived on the ground floor apartment, Army in several on upper floors.  The cook lived in a 3rd floor double apartment which had been modified into a kitchen/mess hall.  The mess hall was a small restaurant style.  It had 5 tables with chairs and checkered table cloths.  We were served 3 meals a day on week days & breakfast on Saturday.  We were on separate rations receiving $77.10 month.  We pitched in $35 each per month and the cook bought food on local economy supplemented with rations from INÇİRLİK commissary (yes, we pocketed the balance of sep rats $).  A Turkish boy helped in the mess hall served and cleaned dishes etc.  The food was outstanding and not from a master menu.

We had to learn Turkish to survive and live on the local economy and Beshet, who worked in our mess hall helped.  I also met two high school age students learning English.  So we helped each other and became friends.

We hired two maids who cleaned our apartment, made beds, washed and ironed laundry.  We had billet SOP stipulating the maids had to be together at all times.  Arrived no earlier than 0730 and had to be out of apartment by 1400.

Former palace, now courthouse (rear portion) in İskenderun, Turkey. It was formerly a postal-telegraph center built during French occupation in 1930s.


There were designated postal clerks etc to pick up mail and conduct other official Det. business at INÇİRLİK.  We made twice monthly runs to the base and the drive was 2+ hours each way.  Radio operators worked 8+ staggered hours a day so we worked double shifts once every 2 months while one of us could make a base run for shopping, etc., unless we were called to base to report to our NCOIC.  I was crypto custodian and had to make trip every 3 months to base to turn in destruction report and to sign for and pick up new circuit authentication documents (T-SEC).

We had a small commissary at the compound with cigarettes, toilet & laundry items, beer and soft drinks.  U.S. Consulate personnel at İskenderun sometimes used our commissary.  Our Det. commander issued new ration cards to all personnel authorizing Class VI regardless of rank/time in grade.  I never used my Class VI but others did.

The USAF contingent was 2 radio operators, 1 radio technician, and a warehouseman who rotated every 2-3 months and ran the cold storage facility in the port area.  For communications we had an unclassified HF radio c.w. Morse circuit with our net control station Istanbul,66XA.  İskenderun's call sign was 66XB.  It was pretty busy place.  Bulk of traffic was administrative, ship movements, cargo manifests, etc.  We also operated and continuously monitored a standard ship to shore voice radio frequency for communications with ships in port or when we had to maintain 24 hour radio contact with tankers sitting off shore waiting to off load their POL either at the NATO storage facility at İskenderun or the USAF POL facility across the bay at Yumurtalik.

Yumurtalik also operated on our ship to shore voice frequency.  Yumurtalik had a telephone line to INÇİRLİK and passed urgent messages to/from INÇİRLİK for us.  Yumurtalik's call sign was ATMOSPHERE ONE.  We used military phonetics for 66XB or simply XRAY BRAVO.

We operated out of two gutted An/GRC26 radio vans located inside the Det. compound/warehouse which was located on east side of town on outskirts on the main road leading east southeast to Antakya & Syria.  We powered our radio vans with a diesel generator.  All the ships except for the tankers were MSTS (Military Sea Transport Service - Merchant Marine).  Often when ships were in port the radio officers brought us their traffic to send and we often received ships traffic which was hand delivered to them via our orderly room.  The radio officers sometimes visited our apartment or compound asking for tips on places to buy jewelry, souvenirs, etc.  Our Det. also had a PT size motorboat the stevedores used in the port area to go between ships.  I made a few trips on it to visit with the ships radio officers and see the radio rooms.



I did have one experience at İskenderun when I was "captured" by the Turkish Army after crossing a vacant field towards the sea while checking out the range of a new "walkie talkie" set with my other operator in the compoud which the stevedores planned to use among their different teams while working ships in the port area.  A distance of little over a mile.

I reached the beach, sat down and had a cigarette.  About 15 minutes later when I got up to return across the same field, I faced a row of Turkish askeris with rifles.  I tried to appear calm as I walked between them and as I reached the end of the row, two Turkish officers with stern looks appeared.  I saluted and explained I was checking out a new radio and showed them my vessel photo ID which was in Turkish & English.

They invited me to a large tent shelter which was not there when I crossed the field.  There were several other junior officers and they invited me to sit down and over çay and a short conversation using broken Turkish and English.  Then they stood up and invited me to leave.


I was promoted to A/1C (E4) shortly before I rotated back to INÇİRLİK and was AIC of our group until relieved.

On week ends, we often took a jeep or a 1.5 ton truck to visit the castles and nearby ruins, to the several isolated beaches or to visit Antakya.

Three of us took a 5 day trip with one of the Turkish workers and drove as far as Urfa, stopping at Biricek and several other towns.  Many of them built within ancient castles and ruins.  One night we had to sleep outside of town under the stars when the hotel was full.  Other times we usually slept on the roofs of hotels or pensions.  When we stopped at villages we sat and talked with the village elders, military genderme or police to get permission before entering the village to walk around and look at the ancient sites.  The ritual was drinking Turkish chai, smoke cigarettes, and cordialities.  They did not see many foreigners and we were the center of attention.  We answered their questions, exchanged cigarettes, and usually gave them packs of American cigarettes, which they gladly accepted, and we would smoke the Yeni Harmans they offered us.  A very memorable trip.

In addition to supporting INÇİRLİK we also received military inventory under the MAP (military assistance program) for Turkish NATO forces.  İskenderun was also home to a Turkish Army Division.  Their Hq building was about 3 blocks away from our apartment on the outskirts of town.  There was also a Turkish Navy basic training facility on the outskirts of town.  We had little contact with the Turkish military but we saw many of them every day driving through town to/from the compound.  There was a large radome sitting on a very high snow covered mountain range overlooking town and the bay.  The Turkish Air Force operated it.  I think it was a radar facility.

Our detachment was very close knit.  The only thing that separated us was branch of service.  İskenderun was my most memorable tour and I got to see parts of Turkey and meet people I never would have had I remained at INÇİRLİK.

Part 1


( Click Photos to Enlarge )

 Alfred Cammarata at Lackland

Alfred Cammarata at Lackland AFB

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. I attended Perry High School and took electric shop where I developed a keen interest in electricity and electronics. My shop teacher suggested I join the school amateur radio club which I did. Within a year I learned the Morse code and enough radio theory to earn my FCC amateur radio license. A few days after graduating from Perry I enrolled at Penn Tech Institute, a local electronics school earning an AA. The school offered job placement. My only job offer was as a technician servicing and installing medical electronic equipment in hospitals. A new and budding field. It didn't sound interesting. By now I had developed itchy feet and with the draft looming down the road decided to join the service and get experience using my degree. Several of my classmates at Penn Tech were on the G.I. bill and two were twin brothers who had spent 4 years in the Coast Guard as buoy tenders on the Ohio river attaining the rank of E6. They said with my degree I could easily become a warrant officer on a first enlistment since promotions were fairly easy. I went to the Coast Guard recruiter office 2 times but no one was ever there. My uncle was a radio operator stationed at Frobisher Bay, Canada, a cousin a radio operator/gunner on a B17 and my HS science teacher and radio club sponsor was a C-47 pilot in India during WWII. I had a long curiosity about flying and went to the USAF recruiter. At the time, the military was offering choice of career field if you enlisted and qualified (subject to the needs of the service). The radio and TV commercials jingle was "you get choice, not chance". I showed the recruiter my AA and took the written exams. The recruiter told me I came up just short of qualifying for electronics but since I would take more tests at Lackland there was a good chance I could still make the grade. So much for being trusting and naive.

On January 16, 1959, I reported to the main induction center downtown Pittsburgh and after swearing in joined about 12 other local boys on our way to Lackland for basic. I had just turned 19 years old and was the oldest in the group and like many others, it was my first time away from home alone and on my own. Our group leader had all our paper work, airline tickets and meal vouchers. The recruiter told us that when we reached San Antonio someone would meet us at the airport. When I boarded the plane that evening (my first time flying) I assumed it was a direct flight. You can imagine our surprise when over two hours later they announced we would be landing shortly in Atlanta, GA. Looking to our leader, he checked the tickets and said we connect with a flight to New Orleans in 30 minutes. In near panic we scrambled as a group to find our connection and gate. All I remember about Atlanta airport is running through what appeared to be a partially built hangar just making our connection. With a layover in New Orleans we connected with a flight to Dallas arriving at the crack of dawn. With a two hour layover and famished, we used our only meal voucher and ate breakfast before continuing on. We arrived in San Antonio around 9 A.M. and followed signs pointing to an Air Force assembly area. It wasn't hard to find as it was a roped off portion of a room packed with confused, tired looking souls standing or sitting on chairs and on the floor (welcome to the club). A couple hours later someone in uniform appeared and told everyone to stay where they were then left. As the hours passed, more and more people filtered in and joined us - by then were packed in like cattle.

Finally a few Air Force people showed up and herded us onto buses. It was now dark. I'm guessing there were at least 300 of us. They dropped us off at a chow hall and lined us up in formation before taking us inside. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and was famished. As we went through the chow line we were warned not to leave any left over food on our trays. Voices shouted "take all you want, eat all you take". After chow we reassembled outside. I don't know what happened to the rest but somehow our Pittsburgh contingent ended up in an empty barracks with two A/3C who'd just completed basic training. One was waiting to start OTS and the other was waiting for a school assignment. They said they were in charge of us for the next couple of days until we joined our flight and that we were lucky because they would teach us some military protocol, how to make a G.I. bunk and what to expect when basic started because it would be hectic and things could be difficult if we got off to a bad start. They gave us O.D. field jackets and a baseball style caps.

3711 BMTS

At Lackland AFB


Three days later we marched across base to our squadron area and our escorts wished us good luck. Our squadron was the 3711th BMTS and we joined flight 58. I won't go into details about basic training except to say that in our third week we earned Honor Flight and we kept it until we graduated.


About the 2nd week we went to the "green monster" building to take more exams and learn what career field we would be in. When I met with my counselor he gave me three choices. Two were gunner trainer and auto mechanic. I can't remember the other one. I told him I had an AA in electronics. He said the quota was filled. Then I told him I was a ham radio operator and asked if I could I be a radio operator. The counselor said "oh, you talk with people all over the world"? "Yes", I said. Then he said radio operator is your highest score. Looking puzzled he then said I don't understand why your recruiter sent you down here under mechanics because its your lowest score. Hearing that, I wanted to find my recruiter and wring his neck - hell, I still do. My counselor asked if I wanted to be an airborne or ground radio operator. I'd heard airborne radio operators were being phased out and replied ground. He filled out a couple slips of paper and said I'm scheduling you for a bypass test. Give one copy to your TI and report to this building. Then come back to see me. I took the exam and when I reported back to my counselor three days later he said you passed and are awarded AFSC 29330. You will receive orders soon. Glory hallelujah!

In our fourth week, about 1/3 of our flight left for schools and we combined with flight 57 becoming flight 57-58. When we started basic I volunteered to be chow runner ( yeah, yeah. I know, never volunteer) and kept the job. I actually enjoyed it and It did have its advantages. Upon graduating from basic I was assigned in OJT upgrade status to the 4229th Air Base Squadron, Blytheville AFB, Arkansas.


 Blytheville, Arkansas

My welcome to Blytheville, which the locals pronounce "BLAH-vull".

After home leave, I flew to Memphis, TN and took a Greyhound bus to Blytheville. It was late at night when the bus dropped me off outside of town at a barbecue joint called the Razorback. It was closed and it was pitch black except for a lighted public phone booth. I called the base and eventually a pick up truck showed up and took me to the base. When I reported to the orderly room to clear in they told me to see a Col. McDill. When I reported to him he told me he was in charge of the base MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System) station and was also a ham. He said he requested a ham radio operator to help organize the civilian ham radio members and to run the MARS nets. He said I could expect to get some KP and other details. After clearing in I reported to the MARS shack located in a Quonset hut in an open field with some antennas. Besides my NCOIC there were two other radio operators and a radio tech. We handled low priority voice phone patches and messages between other MARS stations in our 2nd AF network headquartered at Barksdale AFB, LA (Bergstrom AFB TX, Sheppard AFB TX, Carswell AFB TX, Columbus AFB MS, Altus AFB OK, Clinton-Sherman AFB OK).

Blytheville AFB was a former WWII base. There were no aircraft and the runway was being extended to accommodate B-52's. Currently there were about 200 TDY personnel taking training on the several B-52 ground simulators. Mostly aircrew officers and senior NCO's. The 4229th had about 100 permanent party the majority A/3 and A/2C who were being assigned on 29 day TDY to KP (there were three chow halls. Officers, NCO's & EM), AIO (grass cutting details etc), supply or wherever there were shortages. Many served their 29 day TDY returned to their sections for a week or so and then back on another 29 day TDY detail. There were quite a few unhappy airmen who fell into this lot. Still, I was detailed to KP or grounds keeping detail 3-4 times a month. The few NCO's in our squadron were section chiefs and our 1st Sgt. was an A/1C! He was well liked and very effective.

Being in Strategic Air Command (SAC) was not much different from basic training. Two men shared a room and two rooms shared a latrine. Our squadron orderly room was in our barracks and our 1st Sgt made daily informal walk throughs. There were weekly open locker inspections and monthly white glove inspections by the 1st Sgt. & squadron adjutant. Not as strict as basic but still taken seriously. If you failed a couple inspections sometimes your base liberty pass was pulled for the week. Except for shift workers coming or going off duty we had to fall out for morning revilee and roll call. Airmen with a year or two under their belts and the NCO's griped but for those of us right out of basic training or a tech school it didn't much matter cause we thought that's the way it was supposed to be.

Our base was about ten miles from town located in Mississippi delta cotton country partly surrounded by a vast cotton field. At harvest time I would see a lot of Negro's picking cotton. Old heavyset ladies with large skirts and their heads covered like Aunt Jemima, men, boys, women and girls of all ages. Some women had their infants beside them wrapped up. Most dressed in tattered clothes all wearing gloves to protect their hands. A picture right out of the Civil War era. There was a breeze most of the time and during picking season, angel hair like cotton shards would blow and swirl across the base gathering in doorways, screen doors, along buildings and blow in your face. It was all over the base. Also large brown beetles crawling everywhere. You couldn't avoid the beetles and they made a crackling sound under your feet.

A few months after I had settled into my job they delivered an AN/GRC-26 radio van. It was pristine and fully equipped with brand new radios and teletype equipment. None of us knew how to use it. We boned up on the manuals and slowly learned how to operate the equipment. Soon we were on the air acting as a radio teletype relay passing personal messages between Andrews AFB and McClellan AFB. And we continued handling the phone patches from the Quonset. One evening we were surprised when Col. McDill showed up saying he saw the lights on and wanted to know what we were doing. We told him we had joined a net and were staying a few hours after work to clear the 150 or so messages we were relaying every day. Next thing you know the Col. extended our hours to include a swing shift and authorized midnight chow and no more details. Meantime, I was OJT'd and upgraded to 29350 and also completed correspondence courses in Basic, Ground & Airborne radio operator. Being in the sticks was incentive to keep busy and besides I loved my job and was getting a lot of new experience. Also new personnel arrived. S/Sgt. Bollo was a WWII & Korea vet, single, old ex airborne radio operator who had about 2 years to retire. Bollo was salty to say the least and loved his booze. He sometimes bragged about how he'd been busted from T/Sgt to S/Sgt at least a half dozen times. For one reason or another Bollo was borderline being kicked out for his drinking and being overweight. We thought he'd make the grade and lose the weight he was supposed to when we saw his fatigues start to get baggy. But when he weighed in a month later at his 5BX physical, he'd gained 2-3 pounds. When they asked how come his clothes were baggy he replied he'd bought a larger set of fatigues to make it look like he'd lost weight. Bollo lived off base and after that his housing & susbsistence allowance was cancelled and he moved into the barracks. Also new was A/2C Doyle Peterson, a technician, who came from Little Rock AFB. Doyle had one year left on his enlistment. He was a quiet really nice guy from Kansas and became my room mate. Doyle was not happy with his AF career. He wanted to go overseas. But besides basic training at Lackland and school at Scott, he'd spent the rest of his time in Arkansas about a five hour drive from his home. When I got orders to Turkey, Doyle was a bit jealous.

By fall of 1959, the runway was finished, the TDY crews were gone and more permanent party arrived and we got a new 1st. Sgt. The4229th AB Squadron was deactivated and we transferred to the 97th Bomb Wing (H). Our first B-52G, "City of Blytheville" arrived direct from the factory and soon more B-52's followed. From then on the once quiet base always purred with engines revving, B-52's making touch and go's or taking off on missions. We started having base alerts and SAC began to exercise its muscle by putting part of its bomber and tanker crews on 15 minute ground alert combat ready, nuclear armed as part of a global deterrent.

The MARS station was left with one operator on days and the rest of us were assigned to the SAC single side band HF radio station. It was a 24 hour operation and except for occasional frequency changes to make radio checks with other stations outside our net or to make a broadcast, all we did was make hourly radio checks - very boring - and fight the new equipment which were which state of the art auto tune electro mechanical servo driven transceivers. To change frequency you dialed up your frequency, pushed a button and gears would hum and rattle. When they stopped, you hoped you were on the frequency you were supposed to be on or that it still worked. We had to call the Collins tech rep in Texas so many times for repairs, he finally moved to the base. Our radio call sign was TIN ROOF.

In early March of 1960 I was promoted to A/2C, E3 base pay $85.80. I also received notice I was in the pipeline for overseas assignment. Shortly, I received orders to report to Charleston AFB, South Carolina in April for military airlift. My new assignment was the 2006th ACS (Air Communications Squadron), INÇİRLİK AB, Adana, Turkey. I was thrilled to be going overseas. With the help of my NCO's and fellow airmen, I honed my radio skills at Blytheville, was exposed to and gained experience with new equipment and radio procedures, upgraded to journeyman level and had been promoted. All in little less than one year. Feeling confident in my abilities and looking forward to going overseas, I departed for home leave and the anticipation of what awaited on the horizon.

As for Sgt. Bollo, I heard later that his career was saved when our NCOIC, a married man, took him under his wing and helped get him dried out and lose weight. Not much more to say here except that I think this pretty much sums up the WWII and Korea generation of career NCO's. I can only speak for myself when I say that all the ones I had the privilege of working for were almost like father figures. They really looked out for their troops. Special people indeed.

Part 2


My family is close knit and it was hard saying goodbye to my folks and two younger brothers aged 10 and 13 whom I would not see for 18 months. I reported to my embarkation point, Charleston AFB, South Carolina and on April 18, 1960 boarded an Air Force C-121 Super Constellation. It was full to capacity with servicemen and dependents. Passengers were seated facing the rear of the aircraft. Our flight took us to Kindley AFB, Bermuda, Lajes AFB, Azores and Wheelus AB, Libya. I could hardly contain my anticipation as our plane went wheels up at 9 p.m. local. We had a crew of WAF stewardesses. Outside of an occasional glimpse of WAF's in basic training, these were the first women in uniform I had been close to. The seating arrangement was cramped and we were told to remain seated and to keep our seat belts buckled at all times.

Three hours later we landed in Bermuda. After a two hour layover to refuel we boarded for our next destination. It was dark now and I fell asleep from exhaustion. I woke to bright daylight shining in my window. My legs were cramped and I was uncomfortable from the long confinement. Children began to wake and cry and shortly the stewardesses passed out box lunches. After what seemed an eternity we landed in the Azores around 7 a.m. local time - the flight time from Bermuda was about 8 hours. We had a 2+ hour layover for crew change as female military personnel were not permitted in Libya. I felt grubby and found the men's room where I washed my upper body as best I could, changed T shirt, shaved and brushed my teeth. I felt almost like a new man. As the plane slowly lifted off the runway and gained altitude, I noticed the houses in the surrounding villages were whitewashed with bright red terra cotta roofs.

After hours of endless ocean and listening to the monotonous drone of aircraft engines along with brief periods of sleep, looking out the window I saw a faint line of light breaking on the far horizon and lights glimmering from an occasional town or village far below. After another 8 plus hours of flying, we landed at Wheelus AB around 5 a.m. local time. Exiting the aircraft I walked into a wall of intense heat. I steadied myself on the stairway handrail. An escort met us and gathered servicemen destined for Greece, Turkey and points east. We collected our duffel bags and walked off the airfield. As I exited through the gate I noticed two armed Libyan guards dressed in heavy olive drab WWII woollen overcoats shouldering single action rifles. We were taken to an adobe style hut with a wooden floor and metal frame G.I. bunks. We were told we were free until travel arrangements to our final destinations were made. We were to check the bulletin board outside our building twice daily for instructions. Surprisingly the temperature in the building was cool. Some of the men went to find the chow hall. I was so exhausted that I flopped on my bunk and fell asleep without undressing.

I had a two day layover at Wheelus. I took a bus into Tripoli and spent one afternoon sightseeing. One morning while walking on the base I heard a voice shout "chow runner". I turned around and was approached by an airman from my basic training flight at Lackland who was now a fireman stationed at Wheelus. We spent a few hours catching up on news. Talk about a small world....

On April 22 around 6 a.m. we boarded a bus to Idris airport for a French UAT "champagne flight" to Athens. We were travelling in class A uniforms and our briefer said we would be served a continental breakfast with unlimited alcoholic drinks. He cautioned us to be on our best behavior as we represented the U.S. government. Airborne at 7:50 a.m., the food and drink flowed. The French stewardesses were friendly and pretty. A G.I. sitting next to me removed the underwear from his AWOL bag and filled it with sample mini bottles of booze. I can imagine his surprise when he learned at Athens that it would take him two more days before he would reach his destination in Saudi Arabia.

A little over two hours later we landed at Athens. About 15 of us were escorted to a Turkish civilian plane, given tickets and told we would continue on to Istanbul and Ankara. My ticket destination said Ankara. With a short layover in Istanbul my flight continued on to Ankara.

Arriving in Ankara around 2 p.m., we were met by an escort and servicemen destined for Ankara were taken to a bus. There were three of us left and the escort gave us airline tickets and told us we would continue on to Adana where we would be met and to wait for transportation to the base.

Our flight to Adana was on a Turkish DC-3. About 5 p.m. as the plane circled, I looked out my window and saw what looked like a village or town in the far distance. There was nothing else in sight for miles and as we made our final approach I saw a single asphalt airstrip and a small one story building. We deplaned and entered the terminal. There were two or three Turks inside. There was a bulletin board advising U.S. military personnel to wait for a shuttle bus. I was hungry, had no local currency and couldn't speak Turkish - and I had a sinking feeling that I had been dropped off at the ends of the earth. A bus finally arrived late that evening. It was so dark I could see nothing on the trip to the base. We signed in at headquarters, were issued sheets and blankets and were taken to a Quonset hut with metal G.I. bunks stacked three high! They looked like an erector set and a couple guys had to hold the bunks from toppling over while the lucky one climbed to the top bunk.


In the morning when I got up I noticed that all of the buildings on the base were metal Quonset's except for the officers BOQ, the Oasis snack bar, one enlisted barracks and the airman's club. I also discovered no one knew where my squadron was located. I later learned that as part of the State Department efforts to conceal the nature of U.S. military operations in Turkey, all U.S. units were assigned a TUSLOG (The United States Logistics Group) designator that was used in place of the unit's true identity in open communications. I found the chow hall, ate and started looking for my outfit.

On the second day of walking from hut to hut, I found my outfit, TUSLOG Detachment 16. As luck would have it, my orderly room was close to the temporary barracks where I was billeted. The orderly room clerk asked where I had been and called the 1st. Sgt. I gave them a copy of my orders and explained my dilemma. Both smiled saying they knew I was somewhere on base because they picked me up on morning report when I signed in at base headquarters. I had found my new home for the next eighteen months.

Speed Key Certificate

[Not clickable] My speed key certificate, received in June, 1960


I settled into my barracks and was assigned as a radio operator to the Ground Radio Operations Air Station - better known as the Airways station and started learning my job. More on that later...

First order of business for all newly assigned personnel was to attend a commanders call/orientation. The briefer said that INÇİRLİK was a joint Turkish/American base with Turkish Air Force personnel. We were considered to be in the forward area and there were several activities taking place on the base. If we happened to see anything that we thought out of the ordinary we were to carry on as usual. The briefer said during our tour we would come in contact with other base personnel and it was not unusual for them to ask what detachment you were with. He specifically said that if we happened to strike up a conversation with anyone saying they were with Det 10-10 we were not to ask them any questions. I would shortly find out that Det 10-10 was the CIA U-2 project (I'd never even heard of the CIA until Powers U-2 was shot down). He said when we went into the town of Adana to be careful of anyone we met who took a particular interest in us and asked a lot of personal questions, what your job was or about any activities going on at the base. The same applied to the houseboys in the barracks - and to be careful of what we talked about amongst ourselves while houseboys were present. It was enough to pique my curiosity. Obviously, this was not your ordinary run of the mill base.


A few days after my arrival there was a Turkish military overthrown of the government. All personnel were restricted to base. Things were tense and no one seemed to know what the Turkish military would do or how it might affect us. We went on with our normal routine waiting to see how things would play out. The local political situation was tense and remained in a flux for a while as the Turkish military took control and set up a provisional government. The military put many former government leaders on trial. The prime minister, Menderes, was hanged and president Bayar was sentenced to life in prison. The country remained in Turkish military control until a new government was established through free elections in 1961.


In July 1960 civil war broke out in the former Belgian Congo. Radio operators from my detachment including S/Sgt Ken McKellar, A/3C's De Marco & O'Steen were selected as part of the U.S. contingent doing Temporary Duty in Congo as part of the UN peacekeeping force. They flew to Germany for their bubonic plague shots and to join the group they would deploy with.


If the Turkish coup was not enough excitement, on May 1st we got word that a U-2 spy plane was missing. Our airways station was hyper active along with other airways stations controlling search and rescue aircraft and relaying messages from them. After two days we learned that the U-2 had been shot down over the Soviet Union and the Russians had captured the pilot, Gary Francis Powers. Looking back, I wonder now if those search and rescue missions were not a ruse to try to confuse the Soviets? The U-2's were based at INÇİRLİK and the pilots lived in a trailer park away from the main base area with their wives. When I arrived at INÇİRLİK it was an unaccompanied tour for all USAF personnel. We went into a high state of alert for a few days over the U-2 incident. I had been in Turkey a little over two weeks. Clearly what was going on here was serious business - the Cold War was proving to be not so cold after all.


On May 25th a USAF C-47 was shot down over East Germany and nine crewmen were held. And in July a reconnaissance RB-47 operating out of England was shot down by the Soviets over the Barents Sea near the Soviet/Norwegian border. Six crewman/two survivors, one KIA, three MIA. During my tour I would hear rumors of aircraft returning to INÇİRLİK damaged from being fired upon. These incidents happened often enough during a tour to be frequent reminders to me - and I'm sure many of those who served in Turkey that regardless of our jobs, we were close enough to the Soviet Union and near the trip wire that if hostilities broke out we would be in the thick of it.


The Airways station had three voice operating positions and one c.w. Morse position. It was a 24 hour operation and we worked rotating shifts. Four airmen per shift. Besides our NCOIC there was a S/Sgt. supervisor for the Airways station. Both day workers. One shift had an A/1C supervisor, the rest A/2C. We sent flight plans for aircraft departing INÇİRLİK to Ankara Air Traffic Control Center (ATC). Ankara would then review and either approve or modify them and we would pass them back to base operations who informed the aircraft commander.

We took position reports from aircraft, relayed them as required and assisted in any other way requested. Depending on the type of flight plan the aircraft was required to report when they departed an airfield and at mandatory check points along their flight plan and upon arrival at their destination. Air corridors are akin to driving on a highway. Most of the traffic we handled was on voice air to ground frequencies. The Airways system was global and depending on HF radio conditions it was not unusual to hear other airways stations around the world in places like Andrews, Hickam, Torrejon, Lajes, Croughton, Goose Bay, Sidi Slimane, MacDill, Clark, Anderson, McClellan, Kadena or Dhahran among others. Two air ground frequencies I remember were 6730.5Kc and 11228Kc. We had day and night frequencies. The transmitters and receivers were at remote sites and were routed to us on telephone lines or microwave links.

INÇİRLİK was Net Control (NCS) on our c.w. Morse net. It Included Ankara, Izmir, Istanbul and Athens. Our net collective call sign was AKK. INÇİRLİK call sign was AJO. The other call signs were AJG60, AJG65, AJG70 & AJG75. I cant remember which call signs belonged to whom. I soon learned that many of the other operators did not like or were afraid to work our Morse circuit. Going back to my ham radio days, I took to c.w. like water and as a result I worked the c.w. position whenever no one else wanted to. I knew how to use a bug or speed key and took a proficiency test and received my official USAF/AACS speed key certificate.

Not long after I started working the voice air-ground position, I noticed taking unusual position reports from aircraft that world report their departure from INÇİRLİK and then when they reached "point Alfa" and/or "point Bravo". This would go on for eight hours or more until they returned to base. I was told they were the RC-130 reconnaissance missions. There were others like this too but they did not report to the airways station - at least I don't think so.

The RC-130 reconnaissance missions operated under Det 76 and Det 72 and rotated about every two weeks out of their home base in Germany flying up to three 8+ hour missions a week. SAC had a permanent RB-47 reconnaissance detachment - Det 50. All of these missions were COMINT (communications), ELINT (electronics), SIGINT (signals intelligence) gathering and probing missions along the periphery of the Soviet Union. The RC-130's flew a horizontal figure eight pattern along the Turkish/Soviet border over the Black Sea. Once or twice I saw small Navy jets land, pop a chute and come to a stop. A belly hatch would open and the crew would roll out onto the tarmac on their backs in a crouched position. A crew member would hand down what looked like a movie film canister before he would roll out of the plane. A truck met the crew at the plane and whisked them off of the runway or tarmac. It must have been pretty cramped inside.

These aircrews flew unarmed missions crammed with sophisticated equipment. The Russians routinely intercepted or shadowed them, tried to provoke and harass them, sometimes fired bursts at them and occasionally shot them down. These are the real heroes of the Cold War.

There were two other missions we handled at airways. We made "fox" or one way voice broadcasts. SKY KING and MOONSHINE. SKY KING was a code name for the SAC B-52 airborne nuclear deterrent force. We never knew in advance when we would make a broadcast until the crypto man would alert us about an hour before the scheduled time and give us the coded phrase and exact transmit time. It went something like this: "SKY KING, SKY KING this is INÇİRLİK this is INÇİRLİK. Do not answer, do not answer break Romeo November Juliett break authentication is x-Ray Sierra." We repeated the message one more time followed by the phrase "INÇİRLİK out." Other Airways stations also made random Sky King and Moonshine broadcasts. The Moonshine coded messages were similar except that we used the phrase "All Moonshine Aircraft". I never did find out what Mooshine missions were.

Part 3


Turkey was considered an isolated tour. There were few leisure activities on base outside of the base swimming pool, intramural sports and hanging out at the Oasis snack bar patio. In the evenings playing cards or hanging out at the airman's club was a popular pastime. One of only two air conditioned buildings on base, the club charged ten cents for beer; whiskey and mixed drinks were a quarter. You had to be 21 to buy whiskey. There was bingo night, casino night, happy hours with free booze and on rare occasion, belly dancers from town. When the belly dancers came, the club was full house with G.I.'s some sober and not so few in all states of intoxication.

 Ration Card, TUSLOG Det 16

A USAF Special Activities Ration Card (above) and below, a 10-cent Military Payment Certificate (often called "scrip"). Bring back memories?
10-Cent Military Payment

INÇİRLİK AB was located on a flat plain with a large mountain range in the far distance. Except for the local village there were no other buildings or trees in sight. The area was dusty and but for an occasional palm tree was devoid of trees and vegetation. Day and night temperatures varied about 30 degrees. In summer from hot humid 90's to chilly lows in the 60's. The surrounding countryside had ancient castles and ruins, historical sites, places to hunt, fish or swim at nearby beaches. Infrequent trips were organized through the base recreation office to arrange transportation as the only way to travel was by military owned vehicle. No private cars were allowed into Turkey at the time.


About two months after I arrived at INÇİRLİK five radio operators straight from airborne radio operator school were assigned to the airways station. It was rumored that some reported to the CO wearing aircrew wings and were thoroughly chewed out. There being no need for airborne radio operators they were all reassigned OJT to ground radio. The unhappiest group of guys I ever saw. There was only one airborne radio operator on the base assigned to the base C-47 tail number 49505. The operator liked to call in on our morse circuit to pass position reports and often dropped by the airways station to chat.

Funny (and true) story: A/3C DeMarco, one of the grounded airborne operators had a crush on Annette Funicello, a pretty mouseketeer on the then popular Mickey Mouse TV program. De Marco had just graduated from high school and according to his school buddies, his parents gave permission for him to enlist. He had a full size color poster of Annette taped to the inside door of his wall locker and kept his mouseketeer club ear hat on a shelf. He often talked about how he had a crush on Annette and wanted to marry her. When he opened his locker door he often kissed her picture. Sometimes when his friends hung out in his room talking or listening to music he'd wear his mouse ear hat. One day news came over the armed forces radio that Annette got married. Several of us dropped by his room and peeking through a crack in his door saw him sitting on his bed crying. His locker door open, Annette's picture torn and crumpled on the floor and his mouse ear hat smashed in his hands, in between sobs saying "I hate you Annette, I hate you." We thought it was hilarious but better judgement kept us from laughing or saying anything. That evening DeMarco went to the enlisted club and got smashed on beer. Guess that was his way of getting her out of his system. Kids.......

Barracks Life: The enlisted barracks building was large and housed airmen from all of the permanent detachments. Day and shift workers. It was a hub of off duty social activity either in individual rooms or in the common lounge areas which had couches, tables and chairs and magazine racks. Guys hanging out talking, playing music, reading, writing letters etc. There always seemed to be a card or cribbage game going on. On week ends and especially after pay day the gambling got pretty heavy with large poker games as well as craps - some lasting all night long and into the morning. The day workers were pretty respectful of shift workers who would be sleeping during the day or afternoon. A couple of the smaller detachments were housed in the several Quonset barracks in their squadron areas. Most of the TDY detachments were housed in the several Quonset's scattered across the base. There was also a "tent city" to house transients.

Houseboys: For about the dollar equivalent of $10 a month you could hire a houseboy to make your bunk, clean your room, shine your shoes and wash and iron your clothes. With few exceptions, everyone had a houseboy.

Another pastime was to hang out in our rooms with a couple buddies and talk about home, things in general or to rib each other. Typical "guy talk". This was the era of doo-wop and rock n' roll music. And we listened to music on the base radio station which played popular songs and did requests. Some popular songs of the time were: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", "Theme From A Summer Place", "I Love How You Love Me", "Daddy's Home", "Soldier Boy" etc. Sometimes the Negro boys would gather in small groups and harmonize to the songs. Some were really good at it. Some of the songs referred to G.I.'s far from home and we connected with them because they reminded us of home or girl friends we hoped would wait. In a semi remote place with idle time to spare many of us spent quiet hours listening to music.

There was a central mess hall on the base. A very large hangar sized Quonset with one or two chow lines and a seating capacity of several hundred. The food was nothing to brag about. Breakfast featured powdered eggs and the milk tasted like chalk. The base dairy produced ice cream and what was called "reconstituted" milk including buttermilk. Even the chocolate milk was hardly palatable. On occasion we were fed WWII field rations. When the C or K rations were served there were usually three or four selections and at the end of the line was a table with gum and small packs of cigarettes such as the green bulls eye Lucky Strikes, Dominoes, Old Gold, Pall Mall, Camels and Chesterfields. You knew they were old because when you opened a pack some of the individual cigarettes had brown tobacco stains. Food service was operated by TUMPANE civilian contractors.


When you first arrived at INÇİRLİK everyone would warn the new guys to watch out for the "runs" or "trots", slang for the Turkey Trots. Everyone got the "trots" sooner or later. I don't know where they came from. Something you ate, drank or it was in the air. What the "trots" were was one hell of a case of the G.I.'s or diarrhea, combined with severe stomach cramps. When you got them you were incapacitated for a few days depending on your constitution. Everyone watched the "new guys" to see when they would get it. The "trots" usually hit you after a couple of weeks. The medical remedy was kaopectate and another green medicine I can't recall. When the "trots" hit you it put you in bed with fast dashes to the latrine often. Very often.

I had been in Turkey about a month and thought I'd escaped the "trots" when they hit me with a vengeance one Friday night. It was so bad, it took everything I could muster to run to the dispensary for help. I told the nurse, a Lieutenant, that I had a bad case and needed medicine. She asked me if I could wait until Monday because the medicine cabinet was locked. All the time I'm fighting stomach cramps and hoping I dont poop in my pants. I told her if she didn't give me medicine right now I was going to tear the cabinet off the wall. She looked scared and told me to wait and came back shortly with two large bottles. One was kaopectate, the other the green stuff. I ran back to the barracks latrine and sat on the john still fighting stomach cramps and pooping so often I lost count. The directions on the medicine bottles said take one tablespoon every hour or after each bile movement. I got tired of taking swigs from both bottles every few minutes and drank the better part of both bottles and spent all night sitting on the john cat napping from exhaustion. By Saturday afternoon I was able to lay down on my bunk with infrequent dashes back and forth to the latrine. By Sunday afternoon the squirts had pretty much subsided to the point I could safely walk to the chow hall. I was famished. My stomach muscles ached from the cramps for a couple days after. Surviving the "trots" was almost like a right of passage.


Everyone was issued a USAFE ration card. Good for six months at base exchanges you were limited to 4 or 5 cartons of cigarettes a month or to Class VI whiskey ration of 5 bottles a month. Only E5 with over 5 years and above were issued the Class VI privilege. If heavy smokers ran out they usually tried to find a friend who didn't smoke or someone willing to buy a carton for them. An alternative was to buy a popular Turkish cigarette, Yeni Harmans. A mild and pleasant smoke. For the first two months after I arrived MPC or script was issued to spend on base. Then they stopped issuing MPC's and you could spend dollars. These restrictions were supposed to discourage the selling for profit of cigarettes and alcohol or profiteering on the Turkish Lira over the official exchange rate.

Despite rationing the black market flourished to one extent or another. It wasn't hard to figure out who was dealing in the black market. The houseboys were obvious because some wanted paid in cigarettes instead of lira. Some also would facilitate or act as go between with people off base to change dollars for Turkish Lira. The official exchange rate was between nine or ten Lira to the dollar. Black market exchange rate was ten to twelve Lira or about a 10 cent profit per dollar over the official exchange rate. A fifty dollar bill could get you up to fifteen Lira to the dollar. A carton of cigarettes in the BX cost one dollar. The black market price for a carton was ten dollars Lira equivalent. If you didn't smoke, selling your cigarettes on the black market could get you a handsome Lira rate to spend in town. A fifth of Johnny Walker Red in the Class VI store was around five dollars. On the black market it sold for ten to fifteen dollar Lira equivalent. I'm sure some were dealing directly with locals off base in the black market but I wasn't aware of whom.

It was foolish to deal in the black market. Besides being illegal it could get you busted or a court martial. This was especially true if caught dealing off base by the Turkish police. We were told there was nothing the U.S. government could do to free you. One story going around the base was that an airman had been caught in town by Turkish authorities dealing in the black market. He was thrown in jail and received a long Turkish prison sentence. Turkish prisons did not feed, clothe or provide personal items. Once a month someone from the base provost marshall would take this airman a care package to supplement any food or personal items he might need.


The base ran a shuttle bus into the town of Adana or you could take a Turkish bus or taxi which stopped outside the main gate. In town you could find the usual shops, restaurants and the bazaar where you could buy a variety of items or souvenirs. There was also a market place and in the evening the night clubs. The night clubs were popular for the belly dancers and of course, the bar girls. The Turks were very strict about their women and it was forbidden for Turkish girls to date any foreigner. A tour in Turkey for any G.I. let alone a single one was a very lonely place as far as female companionship went. Thus the bar girls were popular because you could at least get to dance. For a price. The bar girls would sit and talk with you and eventually dance but you had to buy them "champagne". You had to be careful because they were good at "hustling" for drinks since they worked on commission. Champagne cost around 20 Turkish Lira or two dollars a drink. Customer drinks averaged 10 Lira or one dollar. If you weren't careful, you could run up a hefty bar tab fast. Especially if you had a bit much to drink . And it wasn't unusual for the bars to try and charge you for more drinks than you bought which could cause more problems.

The main attraction were usually the belly dancers. Dressed right out of Arabian Nights, music and all, they made their appearance on the dance floor and undulated to their routine and then left the club usually escorted by police or bar management. Some were prettier than others but their dancing movements and muscle control were something to behold. It's an art. If this didn't get a young, lonely single G.I.'s hormones going, nothing would.


In mid July 1960 I was assigned on operating location to Det 33-3, a U.S. Army detachment at İskenderun. My NCOIC said I would be living on the local economy and would receive separate rations pay. He made me promise to stay away from bars and night clubs until I turned age 21. I was told to pack my bags and the next day go to the main gate at noon and wait for an Army that would pick me up on their way back to İskenderun from a base supply run. The long and short of it is that I missed the Army truck or else they left before I got to the gate. After waiting till close to 4 p.m., I was about to report back to my section when a sedan driven by a Turkish man who spoke good English stopped by the gate and asked if I needed a ride. I asked if he was with the Army detachment at İskenderun. He said no but he was going there and would give me a lift. Fine with me. I got in. We made small talk during the two hour drive. He did most of the talking and didn't ask me any probing questions but I got the impression he seemed to know quite a lot about the U.S. military in Turkey - maybe even a few things I didn't. I tried to pay him for his generosity but he refused. It never crossed my mind to ask who he was. I was just happy to get where I was supposed to be. Talk about being naive and trusting.


L-R: me, Ethem, A/3C Bill Lewis, Beshet - taken across the street from our apartment.

At the beach near Arsuz south of İskenderun.

Det 33-3 compound

Det 33-3 Compound: L-R: SFC Rhone (Army), A/1C Sego; A/1C Jennings, 1960.  Note open door to radio van, foreground left. Diesel tank/generator far left wall and ship-to-shore vertical antenna mounted on wall. (Taken circa 1960) There's a closeup of the guys HERE.


The Turkish man dropped me off at my apartment building. As I got out of his car, a jeep with Army men pulled into the parking lot. They told me it was chow time and to come with them to the mess hall. There were several others siting at tables eating. No one acknowledged me and I sat at a table by myself and was brought a plate of food. I noticed a couple of Air Force types siting at a another table. They didn't seem too interested in me. Being the new guy I just kept quiet and ate. Not a very friendly group, I thought. When the Air Force guys finished eating, they came over to my table and we introduced ourselves. A/1C George Jennings was my new boss - and in charge of the AF group. He came across as somewhat stern. George was a Negro. If Sammy Davis Jr. had a look alike, it was George. The other airman, A/1C Bob Sego was the radio tech. When and how I eventually met the rest of the other guys is blurry but I did and we all got along fine. There was no Army-Air Force rivalry.

I followed George and Bob downstairs to our ground floor apartment. They left the apartment and told me to pick a bed and settle in. There was a large room with three made beds and a single room with an unmade bed. So I took the room with the unmade bed and started unpacking. I didn't get far when George and Bob returned. George, obviously upset, shouted "what the hell are you doing in my room - yours is over there." I apologized saying I thought the unmade bed was for me. Not a good way to start, I thought. I met the other airman I would be living with and settled in.

Next morning after breakfast we took a jeep through town to the detachment compound. George took me to the orderly room clerk then left. I gave him a copy of my orders and he led me into the CO's office. I walked in and stood in front of his desk while he looked at me. It never entered my mind to salute and report as ordered. The Col. didn't seem to mind. He welcomed me saying that when he asked the base for a replacement operator they told him they were sending him the best they had. That put me at ease and I felt good that I came with a good recommendation. Being with the Army was a new experience and I was concerned about how I'd fit in with them. I also felt I'd let the Air Force down by not following proper military protocol when reporting in.

I reported back to George, my A1C and got a briefing on the operation and my responsibilities. One of which was to check the fuel level in the main tank that fed our diesel power generator at the end of the day and top it off when it got half empty. George checked me out while I worked our HF c.w. Morse circuit and sent and received a few messages and made log entries. I guess I did OK because he said he had to go somewhere and that he would see me for dinner at the mess hall.

Our radio station consisted of two gutted AN/GRC26 radio vans. The main operating van had a BC-610 transmitter and two Collins 51J receivers on a shelf. Our operating position was a long table with headphones, typewriter and speed key. Also on the top shelf was a speaker connected to another 51J receiver tuned to a standard ship to shore frequency and a microphone connected to the ship to shore transmitter, another BC-610. Both located in the second van which was our radio techs workshop where he kept spare parts, tubes, tools and inventory records. We maintained continuous watch on the ship to shore circuit for ships in port or for calls from the Army stevedores working the ships loading and off loading cargo. Our tech showed me where he kept spare parts in case I needed to replace a tube or make minor repairs. I told him I had electronics training and would be happy to help him any time he wanted. Our antennas were a long wire about 50' high strung across the detachment compound. The ship to shore antenna was a vertical "whip" mounted on a wall of the compound.

Part 4


It didn't take long to adjust to my new work environment and lifestyle. The Detachment was close knit and the only thing that separated us was branch of service. For the first three months my routine was limited to work and my social life for the most part was limited to parties or card games held in our apartments, exploring town, swimming at nearby beaches and learning some Turkish. All the other men were older, knew town well and with few exceptions went to the several cabarets almost nightly. When a few of them were together they would often comment or tease each other about the bar girls they hung out with (in the bars) or tried to score on like Suzy, Fatima, Cemile etc.

Our apartment was located on Ataturk Bulvari on the waterfront a few blocks south of one of the main town squares and PTT building. One of the business streets with shops and a couple cabarets was located one block east of our apartment via a short alley. Not more than a 3 minute walk. Two of the cabarets were so close that if you stood outside our apartment in the parking lot or sat on the entrance steps you could clearly hear the cabaret music enticing you. In summer I could hear the music with our apartment windows open. You knew when the belly dancers main performance started because the flutes seemed especially loud beckoning you almost as if it were the pied piper's magnet. It didn't take long for me to learn that the guys were wired into the several cabarets in town and knew the managers and many of the bar girls well. They ran monthly bar tabs which they paid at the end of the month. It didn't take long either to figure out that with their nightly forays they were dropping some serious money in the cabarets. Whether or not they were scoring I don't know. But they sometimes mentioned going "bowling" with a particular girl or two - as if to hint they hit the jackpot! Once I turned 21 and frequenting the cabarets I found out that "bowling" was when you went upstairs with a girl to a room in the rear or to a darkened upstairs floor with tables and chairs overlooking the dance floor.

Even though we were invited to Turkish parties or weddings by our local employees and met their families and other young Turkish men and women with business connections to our detachment, there was always the Turkish custom forbidding their females to date foreigners.

Some Turkish recollections/memories which I have not read about anywhere in anyone else's "Story":  During correspondence with George Durman, the caretaker of this site, some memories came to the surface and I just thought I'd share them.

1.  Do any of you ever recall seeing the street cleaners or construction workers in town taking lunch breaks, sitting down with their traditional loaf of ekmek along with a raw cucumber, tomato, onion, or watermellon?  Ditto, driving in countryside it was not unusual to see a goat herder squatting for lunch with the same food items.

2.  While sitting at sidewalk cafe observing, do you ever recall watching dogs, both Male and Female, squatting to pee?  Damndest thing isnt it?  But, I do recall seeing a male dog squat to pee a couple of times, and that stream arching from from between his legs to the ground.  Could it be osmosis from watching male Turks who also squatted when they peed as well, when they dropped their 'trap door' pants?  (GRIN)  Only in Turkey would you see such a thing.

3.  Here is a good one.  Used to drive to/from Iskenderun to Adana on mail runs etc.  We went through maybe 2-3 small villages before hitting the main road to the base.  And rest of countryside was fields with sheep/goats and some with some kind of grain.  Anyhow, about 2 months before I rotated they started bringing in dependents.  I took my last trip from Iskenderun with another Army enlisted GI and his newly arrived young bride.  As we stopped on the road to let some sheep cross, not 30 ft. away from us were two horses in a field.  Suddenly, the male jumps on the back of the female and starts "humping" very spontaneously like.  Couldnt help but notice.  Very unusual experience.  Still can't find words to express it, but will never forget everyone sorta noticing one another but 'not looking directly' at one another with red faces.  The face on the GI's wife was scarlet!

4.  Security Service conundrum:  What really blows me away is fact that here were all you guys with high security clearances, doing sensitive jobs, surrounded by, and hiring so-called Russian/Soviet ex-pats.  Were we and the USAFSS so naive as to believe we weren't sitting in a den of KGB/GRU operatives?  Likely they knew more about you personally, as well as what you were doing.  Note here:  The more things change, the more they stay the same.....


There were a few foreign commercial shipping agents living in town with business connections to the detachment. I came to know the British shipping agent and his family through their son, Peter. Peter was about fourteen years old. I first met Peter while sitting on our apartment steps. With a smile and almost a skip, he approached me, put out his hand and in typical English accent said "Hi, I'm Peter you're new here." Come to find out Peter lived nearby and knew several of the men in our detachment but especially we Air Force types because we lived on the ground floor apartment and he'd drop by to visit and talk. He had red hair and was very outgoing. He liked visiting us because there weren't many other people in town he could speak English with. He was almost like a mascot. We kept a candy dish on our living room table and took turns replenishing it with candy and gum. When Peter dropped by we always told him to help himself. I suspect he also dropped by for the candy. He was a good, likeable kid.

Peter and I became friends. He spoke Turkish and took me all over town showing me the market place, where the good shops were and how to dicker with the merchants. I also learned some Turkish from him. Peter took me to his apartment one afternoon to meet his parents. I thought I detected some concern on his mom's face since there was an age difference. Peter dropped by maybe 2-3 times a month and she knew all about Peter's going to see the "American servicemen". She was right to be concerned and I think it was because Peter took a particular liking to me since we both liked to fish. About three times a month when I had an afternoon or evening off, Peter would drop by and we'd go to the market and buy a few shrimp, fishing line, hooks, and sinkers, and rent a row boat. I'd let Peter row about 40-60 yards off the shoreline in the bay not far from our apartment, drop the cement filled tin can anchor, bait our hooks and fish off the bottom. The trick was to hold the line over top of one finger and once in a while slowly jiggle the sinker off the sea bottom. It didn't take long to got the knack feeling the line move when fish played or took the bait before setting the hook. We usually caught small fish and an occasional shrimp which we threw back. Occasionally we caught a real ugly fish. I have no idea what kind they were. Sometimes Peter caught a fish big enough to take home to show his mom.

Every couple months when the detachment got movies from the INÇİRLİK recreation office we would set up a screen and chairs in our compound and invite the American Consulate personnel and English speaking people we happened to know in town including Peter and his folks.

Every so often the Det 33 Army recreation office sent a box of new paperback books. Most were novels but I read the Iliad and the Odyssey. With so much rich ancient and religious history all around us one couldn't help be curious. In small groups on week ends we would borrow a jeep, pick up or 1.5 ton truck and explore nearby castles like Snake Castle, Issus and Antikya or ancient Antioch. A few miles outside of İskenderun on the costal road to Cehan & Adana there was a stone pillar that ancient legend said was the spot where the whale spit out Jonah.

I also got to know the Italian shipping agent. I told him before I left Turkey I planned to take three weeks leave and tour Europe. By the end of my time in İskenderun, he arranged a very reasonably priced 1st class berth on the Brennaro, an Italian cruise liner which I boarded in Mersin thence to Crete, Rhodes, Athens, Corfu, Bari & Brindisi Italy, and Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. I stayed three days in their home port of Trieste and took a train to Venice. The return cruise was Venice to Alexandria, Egypt with three days in Cairo (the Pyramids and Cairo museum are fantastic) re boarding the ship at Port Said thence to Cyprus, Beirut, Latikia, Syria and back to Mersin. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and I met some interesting people on that Med cruise.


Beshet was around my age and worked as a helper serving meals and cleaning up in our detachment mess hall. His English was fair and he was almost like family. Beshet took me around town showing me places to shop and places to stay away from. He also wanted to improve and practice his English so we agreed to help each other. I'd been in İskenderun about six months when Ethem knocked on our apartment door one day. When I answered, he introduced himself in English saying he was a high school student studying English and was looking for someone to help him practice. He said he'd been to the American Consulate but they only offered practice phonograph records. I told him I wanted to improve my Turkish and asked if he would help me. It was a perfect arrangement. Once or twice a week Ethem would drop by and we'd go over English vocabulary and then go over some Turkish words and sentence structure. I got to the point where I could understand about 50% reading Turkish newspapers and listening to Turkish conversation. But I never got good enough other than to get by speaking Turkish. Ethem sometimes took me to the local outdoor cinema to see American films dubbed in Turkish. One day Ethem invited me to his house for lunch and to meet his grandmother whom he lived with. It was a spartan ground floor apartment and it was obvious they were poor. I almost felt embarrassed to eat. For desert Ethem said his grandmother made Turkish Delight especially for me. As we were leaving I thanked the old lady and told her I was honored to have been invited and meet her. She said she was happy to meet one of Ethem's friends.


 Vessel Pass, İskenderun

A/2C Al Cammarata, İskenderun

My 21st birthday, October 16, 1960.

When I turned 21 in October 1960, George Jennings and Bob Sego threw a surprise birthday party in our apartment. When I went to İskenderun I soon got the impression that everyone must have known that a condition was that I promised to stay away from the bars and cabarets while I was underage. Sometimes the guys made a comment or smiled when I was around when they talked about their bar-hopping escapades. Everyone from the detachment including the local employees were there. The food and booze flowed until evening. I wasn't a heavy drinker and by then I had a "buzz" and was at the point I was ready to call it a night. However the night was young and the 1st Sgt, George, Rhone & Greenwald told me they'd reserved a front row table at a cabaret and arranged for one of the belly dancers to put on a special performance for me. So off we went on my first big night on the town.

They took me to about three of their favorite haunts and introduced me to some of their "girlfriends". I danced a couple of times and we sat with the girls before moving on to another bar. I think I was drinking vodka and tonic. My first introduction to Turkish vodka which is brutal stuff and tasted to me like kerosine when I threw down a couple shots. I was feeling no pain by the time we got to the cabaret for the featured belly dance. The music began. Horns and flutes playing, the belly dancer made her entrance flicking her finger cymbals, undulating, turning and spinning as she circled the dance floor. At one point she came right up to our table and stood in front of me shaking her body then turned her back before dancing away. Next thing I remember is her standing on our table and I watched her legs and bare feet inches away as she danced across it then climbed down. Then she stood in front of me and took off her bra undulating as her breasts moved back and forth inches away from my face. Mesmerized, I stared at her breasts and her nipples which were prominent and the color of an orange skin. It was the first time I had ever seen live female breasts. And it was the only time I ever saw a belly dancer disrobe in public. Thats the last thing I remember that night. When I woke up the next day I had one hell of a hangover. I had the late shift and reported to the station at 11 a.m. I must have looked pretty bad because George had that sly smile. I don't think he was feeling any great shakes either. My mouth felt like cotton for a couple days and it seemed like every time I drank some water I got a buzz. You can believe me or not when I tell you that's the last time I ever got that wasted.


There was a large military presence in town. İskenderun was home to a Turkish Navy basic training base and to a Turkish Army Division. The Turkish military was made up mostly of two year draftees. Mostly uneducated peasant boys. Their NCO cadre was made up of career types. Turks had a well known reputation for being strict and disciplined; army draftees served two years and were issued two wool khaki uniforms which they returned. As a result the average askeri wore a uniform that was worn and faded. Their pay was miserly - less than fifty cents a month and a cigarette ration. The navy uniforms were better quality and draftees served three years. NCO’s as well as officers rated a salute. Even among enlisted ranks, an NCO of higher grade rated a salute. We were told US enlisted did not have to adhere to this protocol. If saluted by a Turkish enlisted of lower rank we should return it as a courtesy.

Cyprus Brigade: Cyprus was a former British colony about 90 miles away. Eighty percent of its people were Greek with a Turkish minority. The two groups opposed each other strongly with some Greeks demanding Cyprus become part of Greece. Cyprus became an independent republic in August 1960 with Britain, Greece & Turkey guaranteeing its independence. Greece & Turkey sent contingents to guarantee the rights of each group. In October I watched the Turkish Army contingent march along Ataturk Bulvari in a grand parade sharply dressed in new uniforms as they proceeded to navy ships bound for the island.


Amateur radio operation was banned in Turkey. During slow periods at work I sometimes tuned a spare receiver to the ham bands and listened to the activity. The temptation was strong to operate illegally or “bootleg” but better judgement prevailed. However, one day the propagation was so good - the USA was coming in strong - that temptation overtook me and I tuned our transmitter to the 20 meter amateur band and in about a half hour caused a ruckus using the call sign TA3GI working several stations using morse code. No harm done. So I thought. A month later at the close of a monthly commanders call meeting, as an afterthought, Capt. Speelman mentioned he’d received a memo from Turkish authorities reminding U.S. personnel that amateur radio operation was illegal. My heart dropped into my stomach. I’d been forewarned.


In the fall of 1960 we were all roused from our apartments one evening and told to report to the detachment compound to help put out a fire and save as much equipment as we could. We piled into jeeps and dashed across town. When we arrived Turkish firemen were already there plying their hoses on the area.

The fire had broken out in a large warehouse across the courtyard from our radio vans. Smoke was belching along one wall and through the large entrance I could see a couple local employees inside on forklifts and bulldozers pushing crates and boxes into the courtyard. The fire was spreading fast. We threw tarpaulins over our radio vans and hosed them down. One of our men stayed with the vans to protect them. We joined the others inside the warehouse to help drag crates and boxes outside. Shortly a large group of Turkish army troops joined us in trying to rescue as much as we could while some of our people moved all the vehicles from the motor pool outside the compound into a field across the road.

The warehouse quickly filed up with smoke and flames and I had to abandon further attempts to reenter. While I stood in the courtyard I noticed the flames had spread to a section near our PX. The room had been broken into and several Turkish troops were rummaging through the stores. I ran over and saw a couple of them stuffing cigarettes into their pockets and fleeing. Others had cans of beer and soft drinks. As I entered the room one Turk was about to drink an opened quart bottle of bleach! I grabbed it from his hands and took it away. I wasn’t sure by his looks how he would react. I put my hand over the top of the bottle and shook my head in a “no” gesture then pointed to a stack of soft drinks. He looked at me and the drinks, grabbed a couple and ran away.

I wasn’t concerned about the theft. The PX had been ransacked and was about to go up in flames. By this time we had to evacuate the compound and we stood across the road and watched the firemen try to contain the fire. Half of our compound was a total loss along with the warehouse goods. Fortunately no one was hurt. The fire destroyed our radio antennas. It would take a couple of days before it was safe to put up new ones. We reported our damage to our Commanding Oofficer.

The next morning Capt. Speelman said he’d made arrangements with the Turkish army to send our radio traffic until we were back on the air. He gave me a situation report and for the next couple of days a local driver took me or George to the Turkish army radio station with our outgoing messages to be sent. Four days later we were back on the air. Fortunately the integrity of our compound was secure. It took a while to clear out the rubble and rebuild the warehouse section.

Part 5


For many Turkey was truly a hardship and isolated tour. By comparison, İskenderun was plush duty. It was also a very busy place. But we were not isolated or unaware of the ongoing Soviet-American Cold War struggle. 1960 proved to be a difficult year. Tensions seemed to be building month by month starting in May with the shoot down of Power's U-2 reconnaissance flight over the Soviet Union.

 Turkish Army on the road.

Turkish Army convoy on coastal road İskenderun to Adana. Note ship on horizon.

It was followed by Soviet Premier Khruschev's walkout of the planned four power summit meeting in Paris. In May and July two more USAF aircraft were shot down over East Germany and the Barents Sea near the Soviet/Norwegian border, a Soviet promise to defend now Socialist Cuba with missiles if need be and surrogate battles in Africa (Congo crisis) and Asia (U.S. military advisors entered Vietnam in 1959 and the 1st American was killed). The Soviets exploited their propaganda coup with the public trail of U-2 pilot Gary Powers and in October in New York City over protest of a UN speech Premier Khruschev banged his shoe on a table proclaiming "we will bury you".

I kept up with the news listening to broadcasts of VOA and BBC. When tanker ships sat offshore waiting to off load fuel either at the NATO storage facility in İskenderun or the USAF facility across the bay at Yumurtalik, we had to maintain 24 hour radio watch. With two operators to cover, it sometimes meant days of 12 hour watches of mostly boring hourly radio checks. It was a good time to catch up on letter writing and listening to music and news. Radio Moscow's English language broadcasts boomed in with up to date American music and their propaganda tilted news blasted the United States with frequent references to those "imperialistic American aggressors". Their slant was so far fetched only the unenlightened could buy into it. But it was a good insight into the Soviet mind.


In January John F. Kennedy was elected president. His inauguration speech putting the world on notice that a new generation had assumed leadership and would meet any threat and pay any price was seen by the Soviet Union as a direct challenge. In April news flashed around the world of the failed CIA orchestrated Cuban invasion to depose Fidel Castro, now allied with the Soviets. Called the "Bay of Pigs", its failure was blamed on Kennedy's refusal to support the U.S. backed invading Cuban freedom fighters. With a communist regime now in America's back yard, It would only add to the hostility. Also in April the Soviets sent Yuri Gagarin, the first human into space - giving the Soviets an edge in the space race and rocket technology. And in August construction of the Berlin wall began sealing off the east and west sectors of the city.

In March, George Jennings rotated back to the ZI. He was replaced by A/3C Bill Lewis. Bill came right out of radio school and I was assigned his OJT instructor. Bill was a quick learner and settled into our routine. A/1C Bob Sego took charge as senior airman. In April, Bob came down with yellow jaundice and was sent to the USAF hospital in Ankara. I exchanged a couple of letters with Bob. In his last letter he said he was being sent to a USAF hospital in Germany expecting to be back by the end of May but he never returned. I was the senior airman and that left me in charge of our now 3 man USAF contingent. The third man being the warehouseman who rotated from INÇİRLİK every couple months.


In May my NCOIC made an unexpected visit. He said an exercise was going to take place in a week and a U.S. Navy destroyer escort would be making a port visit as part of the exercise. I signed for crypto authentication documents for use with the exercise. When I asked for details about our involvement he said that if the Navy ship called us on our operating frequency we were to challenge them before taking any traffic. We were to establish 24 hour watch with our NCS, Istanbul during the exercise period scheduled to last four days.

In the morning a day before the exercise was to kick off as several of us walked out of our apartment to get into our jeeps we noticed a U.S. Navy ship anchored about one hundred yards offshore in the bay almost across from our building. The ships crew was mustered on deck in dress whites. It was the first time I'd seen a destroyer escort and I was surprised at how small it seemed.

We implemented our watch on schedule and mainly passed daily routine traffic. On day two the Navy ship came up on frequency using their four letter "N" call sign exchanged signal reports then requested to send traffic. I challenged them at least four times using the special authentication code books. Each time their reply did not correspond to a correct authentication. Not wanting to reply in plain language I went to my ACP/JANAP 131, a book listing international brevity instructions, directions or queries in three letter Q and Z signals used in Morse to communicate. I knew the Navy preferred Z over Q codes. I put together a series of Z signals explaining why I couldn't take their traffic. I never heard from the ship again. During their stay a few sailors were reported to be seen in town on liberty. On the fourth day the ship was gone without a word - and I wondered why the Navy never sent someone from their ship to meet with us.

On the final evening of the exercise a black sedan pulled into our compound. Capt. Speelman came to the van with a civilian and said the consulate had an urgent message to send. The consular official handed me the message and said he would wait for a reply. It was an unusual request because we had never been asked to send messages for them in the past. The message was addressed to the State Department in Washington DC and was a Z or flash - the very highest precedence used only in case of imminent enemy contact. Procedure called for a flash message to be verified and acknowledged by every station that handled it on its way to its destination. I sent the message to Istanbul who replied "R Z" acknowledging receipt. I wrote the transmit date and time on the message, initialed it and gave a copy to the consular official saying his message had been sent. While we waited for a reply I studied my file copy which read: TEST CRTIC X TEST CRTIC. The text was short and I think had something to do with a weather report. I had no idea what a CRTIC was and it was the first flash I'd ever seen. About an hour later Istanbul relayed a message from Washington for the consulate confirming receipt of the message with a date and time. I gave it to the official who thanked me and left. Next day the exercise ended without further incident.


A/2C Al Cammarata, İskenderun


In June Yumurtalik relayed a message telling me to report to base. I made the trip on the next regular mail and supply run. When I reported in my NCOIC congratulated me handing me promotion orders to A/1C (E4). It came as an unexpected surprise since the radio operator field had been frozen and also because A/1C was a difficult rank to achieve on a first enlistment.

I also told my NCOIC of my leave plans for the end of June. He said he would approve my leave and issued orders transferring me back to the base. With passport, visas and tickets in hand the detachment threw a farewell party and I said goodbye to all my friends and co workers. Without a doubt İskenderun was my most memorable tour.


I returned to INÇİRLİK, settled into my barracks and a couple days later went on three weeks leave. When I returned I was put in charge of the Morse weather intercept section, a mobile radio van located on the flight line next to the base tower and operations building. It had been transferred from Wheelus AB, Libya. We copied five number code groups from stations throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Europe. This was unclassified winds aloft type traffic used by commercial as well as the military for flight planning operations. We copied our target stations based upon publications listing location, call signs, radio frequencies and transmit schedules. The weather was nominally broadcast in high speed Morse between 20 to 35 words per minute sprinkled with an occasional slow, manual 5 wpm from stations like ODT, Lebanon. Operating 24 hours a day with two operators on rotating shifts, we copied our traffic on standard mill typewriters and delivered paper copies to base operations where they prepared them on paper tape and broadcast them to stations throughout the region on their weather teletype network.


Late evening and early morning were usually slow periods and we would sit outside our stuffy van trying to catch an occasional breeze. Turkey had the largest bugs and insects I have ever seen. Giant praying mantis twice the size of ones back home and some other ugly species that looked from out of a science fiction magazine. It was on such a muggy, dark early morning when an RB-47 slowly taxied up in front of the operations building. As we watched the plane emerge from the dark and come to a stop several yards from us in full view of the tower and apron flood lights, engines still running, I noticed a couple men walk out of the ops building towards the aircraft. As I watched them I looked closer at the plane and saw several round holes in the tail section. Although rumors sometimes floated around of planes returning to base with damage from being fired upon, this was my first observation of anything like this. It was a sobering event and came as a reality check and a reminder that the Cold War was a lot hotter than was generally known.


Shortly upon return from leave with my tour coming to an end the orderly room told me to put in papers for my next assignment. I said my first choice was a consecutive overseas tour in Europe. I agreed to extend my enlistment requesting France, Italy or Germany. I still had to put in for stateside and chose Andrews AFB, DC, Greater Pittsburgh Air Station and Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. Now the wait.

Part 6


Operation CHECKMATE II (September 1961) - More than 100 MATS global airlift aircraft from EASTAF and WESTAF participated in this fall exercise from the United States to Turkey.  They airlifted about 2,000 Army troops from the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, and about 900 tons of their equipment on the 12,000-mile round trip.  During the exercise, about 300 MATS airmen and officers lived in tents for about three weeks handling maintnenance and communications.  The joint exercise included armed forces of the United States, Greece, Turkey and Great Britain.

In late August/early September an Army airborne brigade sized unit deployed to INÇİRLİK on a training exercise. I was put in charge of 2-4 operators with the mission to provide voice communications support between the drop zone and the brigade HQ. We worked 12 hour shifts round the clock out of two radio vans located in a field on the base perimeter at the end of a runway. When off duty, we slept on folding cots set up inside unused vans. There were at least four other radio vans lined up together in the field. They were brand new, painted Air Force blue. The equipment was state of the art capable of Morse and voice AM & SSB transmission. I was told the vans had been deployed to INÇİRLİK in 1958 to support the Lebanon crisis when the U.S. was asked to help quell internal strife there and had briefly deployed 10,000 troops. In short order we had the equipment operational and started monitoring and making calls. Our call sign was YMX and we were to establish contact with station YMC. During the exercise we called YMC repeatedly but never made contact. We monitored for calls from the DZ (drop zone) and for other units involved in the drop. I can't remember their call signs. During the exercise I had one tenuous contact with the DZ and reported it to the base operations center via a field telephone.

A shuttle bus took us to and from the chow hall. During the exercise while standing in a long chow line one evening I turned around when I felt a pat on my shoulder. To my surprise it was Paul Kloes, a classmate from my high school radio club. Paul had graduated a year ahead of me. He was dressed in a flight suit and jacket. We ate together and caught up on old times. Paul told me he had married his high school sweetheart and was now stationed in Germany. He said he was here TDY and was an ECM (electronics countermeasures) operator. I knew right away he was with the RC-130 recon detachment. That's the last time I saw Paul. Talk about a small world.

A near Riot at the Airman Club:

With the exercise over, the base was overcrowded with army airborne troops waiting for airlift back to their home base. The enlisted club was a popular place to congregate as the army types were living in tent city – and the club was air conditioned. With G.I.’s elbow to elbow, things are bound to get a bit dicey at times. The last evening the army boys were with us, the club arranged a troupe of belly dancers from Adana to put on a show. With visions of scanty clad females and exotic music, the place was packed beyond capacity as men maneuvered to get as close to the stage as possible. Belly dancers weren’t a novelty with me but I’m sure many of the men stationed at the base seldom went into town and may have never seen a belly dancer fantasizing about what they’d heard from their friends. For the Army types, this would be a first. When I arrived at the club there was standing room only. People were standing on tables, chairs, and the bar. Some standing on benches, holding onto the ceiling plumbing. Drunk, horny GI’s going into a frenzy listening to the music and ogling the undulating barefoot belly dancers. The more they whistled and applauded, the more suggestive the dancers were. Gesturing to take off their bras, but not doing so, GI’s started shouting “take it off”, “take it off”. When one belly dancer undid her bra and cupped her breasts before removing it, a Turkish man came from behind the stage and stopped her. This only enticed louder more pleading chants of “take it off”, “take it off”. With the dancers undulating more suggestively as they performed their routines, finally as a finale one of the girls took off her bra waving it in one hand as she danced bare breasted across the stage. Pandemonium broke out as GI’s near the stage reached out to touch her. Some trying to climb on he stage, others jumping off of tables and into the crowd climbing over each other struggling to rush the stage in near riot. The belly dancers were quickly escorted away and out of the building before things got out of hand. Some GI’s hanging on the plumbing lost their grip falling to the floor and many passed out from intoxication. The military police had to come in to restore some kind of order. I stood in a corner near the bar taking it all in with amusement and awe. It was like something scripted out of the movies.

(Additional comments by Al based on his speculation.)

It appears this exercise was a NATO show of force which included Naval forces as well (according to individual ship logs/histories posted on the web).  Also according to some news articles as well as annual summaries from State Dept, White House, and other govt agencies.  Several months prior to this exercise the Soviets were challenging the right of U.S. civilian passage into Berlin via the existing German land/air corridors.  The Soviets also resumed above ground nuclear tests exploding about 6-7 nuclear bombs at a rate of about one a month including one in the Arctic - which was/is the largest ever nuclear atmospheric device ever detonated.

It's possible Checkmate II had been in the planning prior to Berlin and the Soviets decision to resume the atmospheric nuclear tests.  I found it interesting reading State Dept. and other government public document summaries of diplomatic/government activities etc., the fact that there were so many Soviet nuclear tests.  To be honest, as you probably know, during that time frame, in the context of the Cold War, there was so much going on in the Soviet-American rivalry that being active military, after a while, you more or less expected a clash of arms was inevitable.  It seemed it was just a matter of when and where.  My experience serving just 4 years, it seems like we were frequently conducting exercises and "war games" anticipating the inevitable.

Checkmate II is listed to have taken place anywhere from 12-14 to 12-18 September 1961.  All I remember is that my involvement took place 12-14/15 Sept.  My best recollection is from 3-4 days.  This was supporting the 101st Airborne airdrop.  Its possible other parts of Checkmate II lasted longer such as Naval and Air operations.

All of this together sort of takes you back in time to 'our days' serving Uncle when for the average G.I., things really were much hotter than many of us realized.
Al Cammarata


 Orders to McChord AFB
Orders to McChord Air Force Base

After the exercise I resumed my routine at the weather intercept station waiting for orders to my new assignment. Other airmen in my detachment scheduled to rotate around the same time as me had received their orders as much as two months in advance. I was getting anxious. My request for a lateral was denied. Finally two weeks before I was due to rotate the orderly room called saying my assignment was in. One of my choices had been Washington, DC. Well the Air Force got the Washington right, but it was Washington State. My new assignment was the 4628th Support Squadron, McChord AFB, Tacoma, Washington. And I was being cross trained into the radar field. My orders said it was a HQ USAF directed move - whatever that means. I was disappointed. My radio operating days were over.

With orders in hand, I moved out of my barracks into tent city and cleared the base. The only problem I had clearing out was with the dentist who tapped my two front teeth with his metal pick claiming I needed cavities fixed. I got out of the dentist chair and walked out saying they were caps (I broke my two front teeth in grade school when I fell on the ice) and if he found cavities in them he could call me Houdini. I picked up my clearance sheet and dental records and initialed the check out sheet myself. (I learned my lesson after trusting my recruiter).

On October 19, 1961, three days past my 22nd birthday, with several other airmen took a bus to the Adana airport and flew Turkish airlines to Istanbul via Ankara connecting with a Pan Am 707 to Frankfurt via Munich. My first ride in a jet airplane. I arrived at Rhein Main AB smack dab in another Berlin Wall flare up where American and Soviet tanks faced off at Checkpoint Charlie. I put up in a transient barracks and was told to check with base operations three times daily. The terminal was crowded with dependents being evacuated out of Berlin and I was told scheduled flights were being diverted to deploy troops into Berlin. The weather was overcast with an almost constant drizzle. To kill time I walked around the base and hung out at the airman's club. The club had live entertainment and several daily happy hours with free German beer. The German beer tasted good.

Base operations told me I would depart as scheduled on the 22nd on a Pan Am charter flying into McGuire AFB, New Jersey. The flight was smooth, took about nine hours, and was much nicer than a crowded propeller job. During the flight I struck up conversation with some G.I.'s sitting near me and found out one was also from Pittsburgh and a couple others from Ohio. We arrived at McGuire in the evening, picked up our bags and were on our own. Now to get home. And how? There was a ground transportation center at McGuire and four of us decided to pool our money and take a taxi to Philadelphia airport. When we arrived it was around 7 p.m. I checked with several airlines for flights to Pittsburgh. No luck. The boys from Ohio left us to try getting home on their own. That left me and the other Pittsburgher. We went back to Allegheny Airlines who had two scheduled flights for later that evening - also fully booked. We told the ticket agent we were desperate to get home and had just arrived in the States from overseas tours pleading with her to help us. She said she would put us on standby and see what she could do. We sat around waiting. The airport was almost deserted by now. As the last flight announced boarding the ticket agent came over to us with tickets and told us to board last and carry our bags with us. I grabbed my duffel bag. A hostess met us at the plane entrance and I put my bag in a storage compartment near the door and was led to my seat. Tired and elated that I was on the last leg of my journey, I tried to catch a nap but couldn't. Early in the flight some passengers turned to glance at us a couple times and a young stewardess walked slowly by giving long glances. I don't know what the interest was. Perhaps someone gave up their seats for us or the ticket agent put them in first class to make room for two G.I.'s anxious to get home.

We arrived at Greater Pittsburgh airport after midnight. The fellow I travelled with was met by family. He introduced me and they offered me a ride downtown. They said they were headed for the North Side. What a coincidence. My dad's business was on the North Side. I asked them if they could drop me off on Federal Street hoping to surprise my dad at his business. My folks knew I was coming home but when I last wrote I didn't know the exact date and didn't think to call them from Philadelphia. It was close to 2 a.m. when they dropped me off but dad's place was closed. Left alone on a deserted street and still not thinking to call home, I waited for a streetcar which dropped me off a couple blocks from my house. Except for the conductor, the streetcar was empty. Noticing I was in uniform he made some small talk and I told him I just arrived home from an eighteen month tour in Turkey. He wished me good luck as I got off. It was pitch black except for the street lights. I looked around, slung my duffel bag over my shoulder, walked through my neighborhood and down the alley to my house. I put my bag down and rang the doorbell. After a short wait, I saw my mom in housecoat turn on the porch light and peek through the window. Surprised, she opened the door, threw her arms around me and we hugged. Hearing the commotion, my dad and brothers got up overjoyed and joined us. I was home!

I've recently discovered a box of color slides, and here are four of them, two merged into a panorama:

At left above, is the Castle of Toprakkale which overlooks Çukurova. (Click here and here for websites about Toprakkale.) It was built on a huge pile of soil in order to have control over the rout between Çukurova and Syria. It was later rebuilt with black stones by the Abbasi Caliph in the 8th century. There are twelve towers, and outer courtyard walls, the overall plan in a rectangle.

The center picture shows the road, in 1961, as it approached the INÇİRLİK base. Today, it is bordered on both sides by many shops and stores, and is now called "The Alley".

At right a panorama made up of two related photos which shows the INÇİRLİK base in the early 1960s. Click the photos to view enlargements.

İskenderun - Ataturk Bulvari taken from waterfront across the street from my apartment. The mountains in the background remained snow covered all year long. Just out of the photo at left was the highest mountain, which had a radome on top clearly visible all year. I think it was a radar station. There was a gravel road off the main Adana/Antakya highway, and just before cresting the mountain top, we drove about three fourhts of a mile along that gravel road, just out of curiousity, and came to a metal perimeter barbed wire-topped fence and gate with a sign in Turkish and the image of a Turkish flag. It wouldn't have taken a scientist to figure out it surrounded a restricted area. I don't know how high that mountain was - maybe 3.5000 to 4,000 feet, but in summer the top had about 1-2 inches of snow. It sure was nice in summer to drive up there to enjoy a breath of cool air! The temperature was cold until we started to descend the other side towards the plain and on to Antakya


While on leave I visited relatives and friends and bought my first automobile, a used '56 Oldsmobile 88 from a neighbor. Looking back, I think I went through a period of adjustment. Home was certainly a different world than the one I was used to in Turkey. I guess you could call it culture shock. People seemed upbeat and went about their daily lives as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening - Berlin and other incidents in the ongoing Soviet-American struggle were just newspaper stories. And getting used to all the conveniences of home was certainly another. My leave time up, in November 1961 I made my first cross country drive to Tacoma, Washington.


McCord SAGE Complex

The McChord Sage Complex looking east toward main base area. The two smaller rear buildings housed the emergency power and plant facilities. The three story large concrete building housed the direction center (war room). The four story large concrete building housed the control center complex (central computer, admin and operations support. I worked there.

I pulled up to the main gate at McChord on a late November afternoon and checked into the Air Police security building to register my car and get directions to my squadron. I filled out forms and gave them a copy of my orders. What happened next is something I will never forget nor have an explanation for. I was confronted by a couple of AP's including a 2nd Lt. who asked me to verify my name, rank and serial number. I answered their questions then was asked where I was coming from. Strange. All the information they were requesting was on my travel orders. They repeatedly grilled me about details of my trip, my home leave address, name, rank and serial number. The asked again for my USAF ID, drivers license and auto registration and continued demanding the same information over and over. This was getting ridiculous. Why was I being subjected to a hostile interrogation? I was tired from a long drive and annoyed at this treatment and told them to look at my orders. What's going on - and why? I asked. This only angered them to the point of shouting their demands over and over and I continued to repeat the same answers. I don't know how long the confrontation lasted but they finally let me go without an explanation.

NORAD Surveillance Area

McChord was a large base which housed three major air commands, Air Defense Command (ADC), Strategic Air Command (SAC), and Military Air Transport Service (MATS). Ft. Lewis, an Army post with a regional hospital was adjacent to the base. My new outfit, the 4628th Support Squadron came under ADC and was a component of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). In addition to Air Force personnel, members of the Royal Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Navy and United States Army were NORAD partners in the system. The 4628th also came under jurisdiction of the 25th Air Division (SAGE) headquartered at McChord. SAGE stands for Semi Automatic Ground Environment and was the system in use whereby radar sites automatically sent track information into a central computer via high grade telephone lines. SAGE operators (radar operators), using an electronic soldering gun like instrument called a "light gun", could activate a target which would tell the computer how to process the data, what problems they wanted solved, and would display all the track data on the aircraft such as aircraft flight number or identity, speed, altitude, height, direction and ETA or time of arrival at destination. The radar operators also vectored fighter interceptor aircraft to within 10-15 miles of their target, the nominal range of aircraft radar. The computer in microseconds displayed solutions sent to aircraft and missiles directions for interception of hostile aircraft. Air warfare against large numbers of enemy bombers and missiles could not be successfully accomplished without the aide of this elaborate automatic system.

Operating out of two concrete buildings known as the SAGE complex the 25th NORAD region consisted of three sectors. Seattle ADS (Air Defense Sector), Spokane ADS and Portland ADS. I was assigned to the Seattle ADS. SEADS was responsible for defending northwestern US and western Canada, an area of approximately 600,000 square miles. Access to our building was tightly controlled by gate entrance guarded by Air Police. Everyone was issued a special ID badge to enter and had to display it at all times.

Defending our sector were three fighter interceptor squadrons located at McChord, Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington and RCAF Comox, Vancouver Island BC, Canada. Also there were Army Nike ground to air missile/radar sites and USAF BOMARC ballistic surface to air missiles which were guided to their targets by the SAGE long-range radar sites. The BOMARC carried conventional or nuclear warheads. An extended radar shield was provided by continuous 24 hour coverage of the EC-121 AEW&C (airborne early warning and control) aircraft which flew patrols over various stations about 250 miles off the coast and also by a Navy radar picket ship of the AGR class (USS Pueblo) which went out on 30 day patrols also on station about 250-300 miles. Communications to/from the SAGE complex with the airborne and Navy radar patrols was via radio.

In addition to guarding the air space in our sector, NORAD also conducted exercises or "war games" on a regular basis. Some war games were programmed into our computer and the scenarios were played out in the control center (CC) and direction center (DC) where the radar operators and battle and weapons staffs worked. Others were live unannounced SAC penetrations (B-52, B-47 etc) aimed at defeating our defense shield using electronic jamming. SAC was pretty successful in defeating our defense shields. Other exercises included taking control of adjacent sector command and control responsibility in case they were disabled or knocked out of action and also of other sectors taking control of our sector.


The 4628th was a large squadron supporting the NORAD mission. We had our own squadron area with orderly room, chow hall, auditorium for commanders call, pay call etc and barracks buildings separate from the main base and within walking distance of the SAGE CC/DC complex. In addition to USAF personnel there were several Canadian Army signals and Canadian Air Force radar operators. There was a USAF/NAVY exchange program. The Navy sent a radar operator TDY to McChord and the USAF sent a radar operator TDY on a Navy picket ship when it went on 30 day patrol.

Our barracks were frame two story. Two men shared a room and there was a large central latrine on each floor. The ground floor had a TV/break room with telephone and there was a small laundry room with a pay washing machine and clothes dryer. There was a barracks chief and a bay chief for each floor. The barracks and bay chiefs had their own rooms. I was assigned upper bay chief across from the barracks chief's room. As bay chief I was responsible for general discipline and posting a roster assigning two men each day to clean the latrine, sweep, mop and buff the bay hallway and stairwell. I also spot checked individual rooms to make sure they were kept clean and beds properly made. Each month there was a barracks G.I. party where we had a good housecleaning. The barracks and bay chiefs had meetings to organize and supervise these events as well as provide feedback to the barrack chief to handle any discipline problems. My room was at the end of the bay and I could see Mt. Ranier out of one of my windows. On a clear day it was a magnificent view. Because the base was near Puget Sound, the weather all year except for maybe 2 weeks in summer for the most part was partly cloudy to overcast with lots of rain or drizzle. Winters were cold with snow.

Part 7


My new duty section, Seattle Maintenance Control Center (MCS) was located along a corridor on the second floor with the SAGE computer and shared an office with the Maintenance test Section (MTS). My new job title, SAGE Maintenance Control Technician, AFSC 29355B, was an ADC (Air Defense Command) created field "borrowed" from the USAF AFSC 293X5 tech control. We worked rotating shifts with 3 MCS technicians per shift and a duty officer. We collected information from our radar sites and kept detailed records on the current equipment status and repair records and maintained and updated a briefing board showing the current operational status and equipment availability of all sites. Our duty officer gave daily briefings to the battle staff and verified the current status on a similar status board kept at their dias. MCS phoned timely updates to the air surveillance staff. We also kept Division MCS aware of current sector radar status. We had an office status board where we posted the name of the exercise, sectors involved, dates/times or other pertinent info and also posted the current defense condition readiness alert status. Normally DEFCON 5. Changes to the DEFCON came from Division or NORAD Hq at Ent AFB, Colorado. From our telephone console position we had direct dial access to any radar site or facility in our sector, throughout NORAD, and to any major USAF command including overseas.

The battle staff consisted of a Senior Director (SD) and Air Surveillance Officer (ASO). These officers made decisions regarding action to be taken such as launching a missile or scrambling alert aircraft to intercept and identify or destroy suspicious or unknown aircraft entering our ADIZ (air defense identification zone), an imaginary demarakation line where all aircraft in your area of responsibility had to be positively identified before they entered or penetrated it. Also in the operations/direction center were the up to 50 enlisted radar operators manning radar scopes monitoring all aircraft, civilian and military flying within our sector and controlling or vectoring interceptors to their assigned targets. There were also WAF radar and communications center operators who billeted in the WAF squadron barracks.

The group of men I worked with in my section were really nice. My NCOIC, M/Sgt Colon was a WWII & Korean vet and ex airborne radio operator as was T/Sgt. Mandola, my shift supervisor. There were several other NCO's and airmen as well - their names I can't remember. S/Sgt. Berzinski and myself were the only single persons in our section. Berzinski was a bit impish, good natured and always good for a laugh. A/1C Freddy Rios was a short Mexican kid I often worked with in MTS. Freddy reminded me of speedy Gonzalez. He rarely kept still, always had a smile and loved to talk. Except for me, they were all "lifers", that is career Air Force.

MTS was responsible for conducting antenna and equipment calibration tests with the all radar sites within 25th NORAD region. There was a large monitor patch panel with speaker where we could listen to the radar operators work aircraft via the UHF/VHF air/ground radio channels connected to remote transmitter and receiver sites via telephone lines. Because of my electronics background, during slack periods I was detailed to MTS and learned basic radar systems and how to perform calibration tests.

Our AC&W (Aircraft Control & Warning) radar sites had two antennas - search and height finder. The search antenna rotated continuously 360 degrees like the ones you see at an airport. The height finder radar looked like a scoop, and moved up and down vertically. It could also be rotated 360 degrees with the purpose to move or slew it to a fixed point where it stayed and painted a target. Each antenna had a radar processing device called an AN/FST-2B which responded to radar operators in the SAGE operations center. Some of the radar sites I remember were: RCAF Kamloops, Holberg, Comox, Baldy Hughes, Beaver Lodge and Puntzi Mountain in Alberta and British Columbia. Neah Bay, Blaine, Naselle, Othello, Colville, Makah and Ft. Lawton Army radar/Nike site in Seattle Washington State and Portland, Adair, Condon, Mount Hebo and Klamath Falls in Oregon. All of these sites were connected via data telephone lines to the SAGE mainframe computer. The computer combined and processed the radar data and fed it to the radar scopes in the operations center where the radar operators took control.

MTS had a radar scope called a PPI (planned position indicator) and a panel where we could monitor the raw radar inputs of individual sites or look at a composite of all of them. This was our calibration test position and before the inputs entered the main computer. From here we got a release from the ASO to take the site out of the system, make our antenna and system calibrations and verify the IFF (identification friend or foe) squawk modes. The IFF system on military aircraft had three identification modes radar operators could ask a pilot to activate. The IFF transmitter sent a radio signal for each mode and the radar site had a receiver which converted the signal to a unique symbol imposed on the radar track for each mode. Example: mode one might be a circle resembling a spaghetti o etc. To satisfy himself the aircraft was friendly, the radar operator might ask the pilot to squawk all three modes. In an emergency the pilot could activate an emergency squawk to alert the operator who could then take action to send search and rescue help. Because it was suspected the Soviets had access to our IFF system, it was replaced by a new system called SIF (selective identification feature). Classified at the time, SIF was similar to IFF but was pre-programmed with unique identification codes assigned to individual fighter interceptor squadrons. The ground controller could activate the SIF system bypassing the pilot. The pilot still had to activate an emergency squawk.

The second floor of the control center housed the AN/FSQ-7 computer. A control console was manned by a manufacturer tech rep and USAF programmer/operators and technicians. About 3-4 men per shift. There were two computers. The active or on-line computer and a second kept in standby ready to take over in case of a failure. The computers occupied about 80% of the floor, were large and arranged in long rows of equipment racks containing thousands of electronic tubes. The room was air conditioned and kept dark since the equipment was temperature sensitive. Whenever a computer failed the standby would automatically take over. Everyone would go into a panic and start to run diagnostics and the maintenance people would ask us for help walking down the rows of equipment checking the tube filaments for obvious tube failures. In sum, the computers were the heart of the SAGE system processing all the radar inputs and command lines to the ground to air missile systems which were routed to the radar screens in the operations center.


We did not have inspections. During my tour there was only one formal squadron barracks/room personal inspection. Which amounted to a walk through. Our 1st Sgt was former Navy and a disciplinarian. He made cursory walk throughs and if he found something he didn't like you can be sure he told the barracks chief and also dressed down the individuals. Other than that, he left it to us to be squared away. Because Tacoma was a liberty town for Air Force, Navy and Army, it was patrolled by Armed Forces Police checking for proper ID in bars or responding to any rowdiness or public disorder. The Army MP's seemed to delight in nabbing servicemen from a rival branch and throw them in the stockade. Once in their stockade, no question you would be subject to formal discipline. Bad news. The Navy SP's or shore patrol were not full time police but shipmates on detail, more prone to take care of their own and get them off the streets before the Armed Forces Police showed up. Because of this situation our 1st Sgt allowed us to have parties and drink in barracks on weekends as long as we behaved, didn't get out of control or break anything and we cleaned up our mess. Our 1st said he'd rather us drink and have a good time in barracks than get nabbed in town and get into trouble. In fact, 1st sometimes showed up in our barracks on week ends to check up and play poker.

A popular trend at the time was beer making. You could buy your own brewing kit , malt, hops, bottle caps and capping machine. Fresh seafood was plentiful with many good restaurants. Also popular was watching the high and low tides in the sound because it was legal to gather a dozen oysters or clams per person each day without a license. On long break several of us would meet at a beach and pick our quotas and the married guys would take them home and their wives would chuck them and make oyster stew and fried oysters. On long break a shift or two would get together at one of the married men's houses to play cards - sometimes through the night into morning - and drink home made beer. I spent many good times at these parties - the wives would serve up oysters - it was like a home away from home.

I became good friends with our barracks chief, Jim Chaddock, another guy from my home town named Panett and Bob Sisolak. Since I was the only one with a car, when off duty some of the things we did were shopping or a restaurant in Tacoma, hiking and sightseeing trips to Mt. Ranier, the Olympic brewery in Olympia and day trips to Seattle. We visited the battleship USS Missouri which was in mothballs in Bremerton Navy yard. Wearing civilian clothes when we drove up to the gate, the SP saluted us when he saw the blue base sticker on my car. We kept straight faces but got a chuckle afterwards. Other places we went to were Portland and to the Olympic Peninsula. And we did a lot of ten pin bowling. We were still paid once a month in cash. You could tell when it was near payday because everyone would go to the base enlisted bar. It was a small place and sold ten cent 8oz glasses of draft beer. You had to be an E5 to join the USAF NCO club. Ft. Lewis was large with several nice NCO clubs. The Army recognized E4's as NCO's so Jim Chaddock and myself registered at Army NCO club. Funny, the McChord NCO club allowed Army E4's. Go figure..

One day Jim Chaddock told us about a lodge dance hall in a nearby town where it was rumored lots of single girls went to dance. So we decided to check it out. The place was everything he said except it was a hangout for local lumberjacks who had a reputation for being rough customers. They were certainly large, well built and seemed to live up to their reputation. This didn't seem to be a place for strangers to ask a girl for a dance so after a couple of beers we left.

Our favorite local haunt was a quiet neighborhood bar with a friendly barkeep who occasionally staked us to a free schooner of draft beer. We played a popular game called skittles. Skittles was like a shuffleboard game where you used small round metal disks to outscore your opponent. We played for schooners - the looser buying. I met another ham radio operator in my squadron with access to the base MARS station, K7FAE, located in a shack in a remote wooded area of the base. The station wasn't used much and the equipment was in good condition. He helped me get permission to operate the station and I was given a spare key so I could operate on my time off. It was nice to get back on the ham bands after being off the air for a couple years.

In 1962 they built the Space Needle in conjunction with the Seattle World's Fair. The military got discount tickets. My folks came out in June for a visit and to see the fair. My brothers were ages 17 and 12. One night me, Jim, Panett and Bob took my brother Mike (17) slumming with us to a favorite jazz bar (of course, my folk didn't know where we were going). While we sat at a table drinking beer enjoying the live music, the MP's came in and slowly walked among the tables eyeing the place. We looked at each other wondering what would happen if they asked for our ID's and found out my brother was underage. When they left we breathed a sigh of relief. We had a good time the rest of the evening.

There were two airmen who roomed together in my bay. Once in a while they got into verbal confrontations over the silliest things. Calacal's voice would get shrill and so loud that it got the attention of everyone in our barracks. When Calacal had a tantrum he seemed a bit effeminate because he would scream and strut like a girl. How his roommate put up with it I will never know. We tried to split them up and find other roommates but both insisted on staying together. We even suggested clearing out the storage room for either of them to be by themselves. Some of us suspected he was a homosexual but he dated girls and on week ends we'd get envious when we saw some really hot looking girls pick him up in their cars in front of our barracks.

One Sunday afternoon a few of us were sitting in my room playing cards when we heard a commotion. It was Calacal. We looked down the hall towards his room. Calacal appeared to have been drinking, ran out of his room dressed only in brogans, white T-shirt and boxer shorts headed for the stairwell which lead to the barracks exit. His roommate ran after him. We ran down to the end of the hallway and looked out the window which faced the main road leading from the main base area towards the SAGE building and to the base housing area. There was Calacal in front of our barracks standing on the sidewalk peeing on a fire hydrant - meanwhile cars driving by. Several of us ran outside and wrestled him back into the barracks hoping no one had seen him. We were still wrestling with him in his room when the AP's showed up and arrested him for indecent exposure saying some dependents had reported him. Monday morning I was called to the orderly room to see the 1st Sgt. He told me Jim Chaddock had made a report about Calacal but he wanted to know my version since he heard I was there when he was arrested. I told him what happened and he dismissed me. A few days later we watched Calacal pack his bags and leave. He actually seemed happy to be getting out. I heard he got a less than honorable discharge.

Part 8


A key part of being familiar with the roles of our NORAD partners were training and orientation programs. In addition to the NAVY/USAF exchange, in spring 1962 I took part with a group of USAF personnel on an orientation tour of a Navy picket ship as it started out on a 35 day patrol. Bussed to the Navy pier at Seattle we boarded the USS Picket (AGR-7). Briefed on Navy protocol, as we boarded we faced and saluted the U.S. flag aft of the ship then faced and saluted the officer of the deck requesting permission to come aboard. We stood on deck watching the ship cast off to proceeded on its passage. Shortly after casting off we were alerted to the approach of another navy vessel and ordered to stand in ranks, come to attention and prepare to salute - a Navy custom. At the command we saluted while someone piped. As the other vessel slowly passed within several yards of us, the seamen on that vessel also were at attention saluting us. We were close enough to clearly see the faces of the other seamen and then the red meatball flag. Don't know about the others, but I couldn't help feel some discomfort and found it ironic to be saluting a Japanese navy ship on a goodwill visit. Be interesting to know what those Japanese sailors were thinking. WWII was still fresh in the minds of many.

We took a guided tour of the ship as it continued its transit through Puget Sound. Afterwards we were allowed to roam the ship visiting all but restricted areas which were clearly marked behind locked hatches. After getting lost a couple of times, and used to lifting my feet up as I walked through hatches, I found myself at the recreation room and talked with a couple seamen already at work on detail cleaning and buffing the floor of an already spotless room. They said they worked 8 hour shifts per day with four hours of detail and four hours of personal time. Once a month an EC-121 would make a mail drop as it flew out on station. Flying about 50 feet above the water as the plane approached the ship someone shoved a large bright colored rubberized pouch out of a hatch and the ship pulled it in with a hook. The sailors said they ate very good for three weeks because they had plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk but by the last week of patrol they were down to powdered milk and eggs and canned goods. For lunch we were served steak, broccoli and fried onion rings. About five hours later, the ship stopped offshore of Port Angeles on the Olympic peninsula where we went over the side on rope ladders onto a skiff which took us to shore where we boarded a waiting bus to take us back to McChord. A very interesting experience.

Our office also took an orientation tour of the Army radar and Nike facility at Ft. Lawton, Seattle. It was my first visit to a radar site and seeing the equipment I had been working with was a great help.


In September/October of 1962 a flap developed over my career field. Apparently without HQ USAF approval, ADC had "borrowed" the 293X5 AFSC, added a B suffix and created a field tailored to their specific needs. Like hundreds of other SAGE Maintenance Control Techs in the same boat, it created a snafu and made headlines in the Air Force Times newspaper. Additionally, ADC had also authorized proficiency pay. I don't know how HQ USAF found out about this but it clearly created a controversy and all sorts of complicated issues. It amounted to everyone cross trained into the 293X5B AFSC being in an unauthorized career field. By now I'd OJT'd to 5 level and was drawing an extra $30.00 a month P1 pro-pay. However, before that problem could be sorted out something called the Cuban Missile Crisis took front and center attention.


When I reported for evening shift on October 19th our alert status had been elevated to DEFCON 4. About two days earlier, there were rumors that something big was going on. Some said SAC bombers were being disbursed to commercial airports, fighters were being re deployed and that Army troops from Ft. Lewis were being airlifted somewhere. There had been TV and radio news reporting a military exercise taking place in Florida and I thought perhaps thats what it was all about. We had orders to minimize calibration tests unless it was to certify equipment coming back on line from repair and to keep close quality control checks on radar inputs and ground to air channels. We also escalated gathering status reports from our radar sites to keep the battle staff current on site status availability. Also an unusually high number of officers were working around the clock.

In the barracks, rumors and speculation were floating around as airmen working in different sections told about activities going on in their areas. I was in my room on October 22nd when airmen in my barracks ran down the hallways announcing that President Kennedy was going to make an important TV announcement soon. Our TV break room was full as we learned about the Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, that a navy blockade had been ordered, that all military forces had been put on alert and how we might go to war. It was around 4 P.M. local time when the president made his speech. The room was quiet as some stayed and others left. If they were like me, they probably wondered what would come next. I called my duty section for instructions and was told to report for mid shift as scheduled. Some of the younger airmen on break or who worked rotating shifts asked me what to do. I told them to call their duty sections for orders. I was somber but calm realizing this was a very serious situation. In some ways I had a feeling of apprehension remembering the time I saw that RB-47 pull up to the tower building at INÇİRLİK. If I worried about my folks or anything else for that matter, I can't remember.

When I reported to work that night we were at DEFCON 3. Things were pretty quiet. All the action would be taking place in the SAGE operations & direction center. I received my briefing then got busy working the telephones gathering the latest information from the radar sites. I happened to glance at our status board noticing whomever had taken the current alert notification had written in bold grease pencil SINK NORAD DECLARES DEFCON 3. I was working with S/Sgt. Brzenski gestured and nudged him trying to keep a straight face. He walked to the board, rubbed out SINK replacing it with CINC (acronym for Commander in Chief) returning to his desk as others in the room noticed looking at each other trying to contain slight smiles seeing a bit of humor in it.

SAC (Strategic Air Command) went to DEFCON 2 - one step away from war. Years later, while old veterans reminisced, a friend who was a B-52 crew member related: "I launched from Loring AFB about an hour after JFK spoke to the nation; we had completed crew briefings about 1700 and went to the O club where we watched the speech then drove direct to the flight line where we kicked the tires and flew 24+ hours on airborne alert. That night every long-range Soviet radar had a SAC nuclear bomber on their screen....and for many days to come."

Because of the missile crisis, I and many others ended up with involuntary nine month service extensions. And it wasn't until years later that I learned that the entire country was within range of those missiles on Cuba except for a small area in the far northwest which just happened to include McChord AFB and the Seattle area.

Part of our job required assessing corrective action the radar techs reported to effect equipment repair. Especially if it were equipment with a record of frequent failures. During a period of three days Neah Bay, a critical long-range radar site on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula, kept reporting failure followed by return to service of a critical piece of equipment. With another long-range site near Astoria, Oregon down the reports were frequent enough to cause the battle staff concern about losing broad coverage over the Pacific coast. The next time the tech at Neah Bay reported the equipment operational and gave a description he didn't sound convincing and I was suspicious so I asked him "what's really going on out there - this is the real thing." He admitted that they were in a critical situation. I asked if he wanted to declare the equipment down. He did leaving the site with no backup. Duly reported, the operations people now had a clear picture of resources available.

To make up for the loss of coverage by the radar site at the mouth of the Columbia river near Astoria, the Portland site manned by reservists or air national guard was ordered to crank up their transmitter to maximum power. For two weeks the site covered an area twice their normal range extending roughly 200 nautical miles over the Pacific Ocean until their klystrons (transmitter tubes) failed (one report was that the tubes literally melted). Long enough for the other site to come back up.

One evening watching the radar inputs at our monitor point I noticed a strange squawk resembling two or three circles rotating inside each other coming from the middle of Puget Sound. When I reported it to the Senior Director (SD) he either said don't worry about it or that it was a submarine. Maybe one of the guys I was working with speculated it was a sub. I'd still like to know what it really was.

About the second or third day into the crisis things seemed to get more tense when reports that a U-2 reconnaissance plane out of Alaska had accidentally penetrated Soviet air space. This was followed by news that an Air Force U-2 spy plane had been shot down and the pilot killed in a photo mission over Cuba.

The last incident I witnessed during the crisis was right after I finished a calibration test with a site. I put our radar set into composite mode to monitor the whole sector when I noticed the screen balloon with what looked like a forest of green symbols resembling a sketched half of a Christmas tree. The symbols appeared all along the Pacific coast from the tip of Vancouver Island, BC down into northern California. When I reported this to the SD he made no comment but the symbols disappeared shortly after. I was later told it was the squawk mode for the BOMARC surface to air ballistic missile.

On October 28th Premier Khruschev announced he would dismantle and remove the missiles on Cuba. The crisis was defused. We remained on alert for about two weeks more but everyone breathed a sigh of relief. As a result of surviving this experience it seemed that a closer bond had also developed amongst those of us who served together during this period.

These are the highlights of my observation and involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nothing spectacular or heroic. Just being vigilant and staying alert. Long hours of watching, waiting and suspense - wondering what would happen. But I didn't feel afraid. I was more concerned about doing my job to the best of my ability. I think most realized we were targets and probably wouldn't know if we were being hit until the last minute.


Things more or less back to normal, my concern returned to what "they" were going to do about my career field fiasco. Meantime, with my enlistment almost up and despite my nine month extension, I found it aggravating on more than one occasion to have someone wake me up from bed at 9 A.M. after working a midnight shift and told to dress and report immediately to building X for a re enlistment lecture! Usually it was a fresh 2nd Lt. who probably didn't realize he was pitching an airman not in the best mood. The second time they woke me up for a reenlistment lecture, I said I wasn't interested. The following payday I noticed that my $30.00 pro pay bonus had been terminated. Big deal, I thought. I likened it to taking candy away from a baby. Anyway, I got an extra $150.00 or so out of that deal and extra money always came in handy.

Part 9


It was Thanksgiving tradition to invite servicemen dependents to dinner at the mess hall. The menu featured roast turkey, stuffing, shrimp cocktail with all the traditional trimmings and garnishes. Everyone worked a skeleton crew on holidays. I was working evening shift with another airman. I won the coin toss to see who ate first. After a delicious meal I brought back an extra slice of my favorite pie, mince meat, for a midnight snack. About an hour after I ate I started to feel nausea and a bit light headed. Soon I ran to the latrine to vomit. Things only got worse from there. With almost constant nausea came a bad case of the dry heaves. My stomach hurt so much I started drinking water to try and relieve the strain. The airman I was with looked at me a bit strange - I don't know if he thought I was really sick or not. Soon I got chills and felt weak. Realizing I needed medical help I decided to drive to the base dispensary. When I got to my car to unlock the door, I didn't have the strength to insert the key into the lock . I held the key with two hands and tried pushing it in but it wouldn't move. I was weak and had a hard time standing. I went to the AP shack, asked the guard to call the dispensary as I was very sick and felt like I was going to pass out. He gestured for me to call myself. I said again I was sick and weak. He just stood there. I picked up the receiver and with all the strength I could muster, could not move the rotary dial. I lost all control and collapsed. When I came to an ambulance was there and drove me to the small dispensary. McChord used the Madigan Army hospital on Ft. Lewis. When I arrived at the dispensary I was helped to an examination table (the only one they had). I was weak and shaking violently from the chills. A nurse put a blanket over me. I vaguely remember them taking my pulse and temperature and remember getting an injection in the shoulder. I don't know what it was. Weak, shaking and thinking I was going to die, I went in and out of consciousness from sheer exhaustion. During periods I woke up I noticed the dispensary was filling up with dozens of airmen and WAF's laying on the floor covered with blankets.

After what seemed an eternity, I came to as I was lifted off my table, placed on a canvass stretcher and carried to an ambulance. Next thing I remember is being taken out of the ambulance and helped into a wheelchair. They took me to a room with a desk and two corpsmen who asked me to confirm my name, rank, serial number, unit and emergency contact information. They asked if I wanted my folks notified. I didn't' want them to worry them and said no. They told me to stand up and get on a scale. I said I was too weak to stand. The two corpsmen then grabbed me under my arms and lifted me to the scale. By now I felt so weak and sick that death would have been merciful. When the corpsmen let me go I immediately collapsed like a sack of potatoes. I remember hitting the floor hearing a thud and felt no pain. My whole body was numb and I heard an overwhelming buzz ringing in my head. Then I passed out.

The next thing I remember is slowly gaining consciousness almost like floating out of a long, dark tunnel. I was groggy. As my eyes slowly opened everything was blurry and bright white as slowly things started coming into focus. Then I saw blurry figure standing over me. When my eyes fully opened and came into focus, the most beautiful blond nurse I have ever seen was at my bedside staring at me. When she realized I had come to and was looking at her, she looked startled and ran away. I was too weak to lift my head and look around. I remember seeing an iv bottle hanging on a metal stand and a plastic tube leading to a needle inserted in my right arm. I apparently was going to make it. Soon after I realized I had iv bottles in both arms. Perhaps over half an hour after the beautiful blond disappeared - I like to call her my guardian angel because I never saw her again - a medic came in and took my pulse and temperature. Things get fuzzy again. I think I fell asleep from exhaustion. When I next woke up, I was beginning to feel like a new man and one of the iv's had been removed. I was brought fruit juice and jell o and my stomach still felt a bit sore. At this point I had no idea of how long I had been out.

When my iv's were removed I was allowed to get out of bed and walk. Still a bit wobbly I explored the floor I was on and saw I was in a room to myself adjacent to an open hospital ward. At the end of the bay was a sitting room with magazines and a TV. Four or five others were in the sitting room wearing pajamas and housecoats. Like typical G.I.'s we asked each other what we were there for. A couple of them were also Air Force and said they got food poisoning from thanksgiving dinner. Rumor was that over twenty airmen on the base came down with food poisoning. When I asked how long they had been there they replied three days. That meant I had been unconscious the better part of two days. Now able to walk I was told to take my meals in the hospital cafeteria. A couple girls sat at my table in the cafeteria and I learned they were WAF's. Shortly a couple other airmen sat with us. During our conversation I learned they'd also come down with food poisoning and said it was from contaminated shrimp cocktail. They said they heard no dependents got sick and that it was a miracle. Since the WAF's were in a different wing we airmen agreed to met later in a sitting room off of the hotel lobby.

It was evening and I went back to my room still feeling a bit weak and tired. Between visits from a nurse and corpsmen, I was more or less left to myself. In between bed rests I spent time in the sitting room slowly gaining strength. At the cafeteria I met up with the other airmen to catch up on the latest news or rumors. At lunch on the fifth day of my stay the airmen said they had been told since they were well enough to get up and walk around they could help change bedpans. No one had approached me yet and I thought maybe it was because of my rank. In any case, one WAF was not too happy and said she didn't know how long they were going to keep her there but she was not going to change bedpans and was planning to walk out of the hospital. We had to go through the main lobby to get to the cafeteria. One WAF said she had sat in the lobby for a while and observed that people pretty much came and went as they pleased. The busiest times seemed to be in the morning and there was a shuttle bus schedule for McChord posted in the lobby. She said she was going to get dressed and leave in the morning wanting to know if anyone wanted to join her. We agreed to think about it and meet at dinner time. Later that day sitting on my bed a corpsmen approached me and said since I seemed better I could help empty bed pans. I made up my mind to walk out in the morning. That evening at dinner four or five of us agreed to meet in the lobby close to the time a shuttle bus arrived.

Next morning I got dressed, walked to the lobby and spotted the two WAF's at the bus stop. I joined them soon followed by a couple others. We quitely got on the bus trying to act as nonchalant as possible. After the bus entered the base, our group slowly dwindled as we got off at stops closest to our squadron areas. As we got off we glanced at one another smiling. After I got off the bus I went to my room to check my work schedule then went to the orderly room to report for duty. When I entered the orderly room, three or four of the admin types at their desks appeared surprised to see me. I asked to see the 1stSgt. who came from his office and asked why I wasn't in hospital. I told him I walked out this morning with some other airmen because they were going to put us on bedpan detail and if I was well enough to empty bedpans I was well enough to report back on duty. He shook his head almost laughing and told me to get the hell out of here. With that episode over, I returned to my normal routine.


My career field fiasco was still being sorted out. With my extension I now had eleven months to serve instead of getting out in January 1963. With over 45 days leave coming, I had not been home for Christmas in four years and decided to take 15 days and go home. My leave was approved, I made airline reservations and told my good buddy, Bill Sisolak, he could use my car while I was gone if he agreed to pick me up when I returned.

I surprised my folks on Dec 23rd when I knocked on the door of our home. Christmas was always a special time of year and it was good to spend it with family and relatives I hadn't seen much of in four years. One evening at dinner, dad asked how I was feeling. Fine, I said,why? He said that last month they received a telegram saying I had an upset stomach. I still wonder what that telegram really said - and I was not happy at all that someone had told my folks. Soon enough it was time to leave. When my folks took me to the airport for my return to Seattle, I ran into an old high school friend, Tom Kirkbride. Tom was a year behind me and I hadn't seen him since graduation. What a surprise to see him in Army uniform on his way back to Germany. We were on our ways to catch our planes so we quickly caught up on what we had been doing then shook hands and wished each other well. I never say Tom again.


In March all of us MCS types reported to Division HQ and told that HQ Air Force had approved the new career field with pro pay and was establishing a school at Keesler AFB. Everyone eventually would have to attend school to be re-certified. Since it was an exclusive ADC AFSC used only in the ZI (United States) and since overseas assignments were part of the Air Force the options were:

A) If you agreed to accept the new career field you would be sent to the new school. If you retained secondary AFSC's you could declare one of your preference which would be permanently reinstated for overseas assignments.

B) If you agreed to the new career field and did not have dual track AFSC's: You could apply for any career field of your choice for use on an overseas assignment and would be sent to that school.

C) If you did not plan an Air Force career but had at least 18 months left you would be ordered TDY shortly to Keesler to be re-certified.

Where did this leave me? I had seven months remaining on my extension, had no intention to extend or reenlist and had lost my radio operator specialty when I was cross trained. I raised my hand and a Col. who made the presentation recognized me. I stood up and related my situation and explained that with over two years in grade already, eleven if I did reenlist, in best circumstances it would take two years more before I could upgrade and even be considered eligible for promotion. Under this situation, I said, I feel I can be of more service to my country on the outside. The room was quiet as heads turned. Obviously my comments raised some eyebrows. Perhaps I had breached protocol, but I felt I had no choice but to express myself. The Col. did not respond. The meeting ended and I went back to work resigned that I would finish out my extension.


I was at work the morning of April 12th when I received a call from the 1St.Sgt. "Cammarata, do you still want out?" he asked. "Yes, sarge" I said. "Get down here right away." I told my NCOIC I had to report to the orderly room and left. When I got there I was given paperwork scheduling me for dental and medical exams, a base clearance check out form and orders releasing me from active duty effective 15 April. Normally it took 3-5 days to clear on or off a base on transfer assignments. Not this time. I met all my appointments, took care of the paperwork and before I knew it, on the morning of April 15th I was a civilian. I decided not to hang around the base and to get a late afternoon start. I went to my room and packed my bags. Then ate lunch, said good by to some of my barracks friends, signed out of my squadron got in my car and the cross country drive home.


During my tour at McChord Sgts. Colon and Mandola (my NCOIC and shift supervisor) used "gentle persuasion" to convince me to make the Air Force a career. But at work the other NCO's I served with knowing I had a degree told me to get out and make something of myself. They said they'd enlisted out of high school with no skills, had been promised promotions to reenlist, that promotions were slow coming had married young and now with kids found themselves resigned with no choice but to stay in because they had families to support. And I admit I toyed with the idea briefly myself. But the real deciding factor was when Capt. McDaniel a WWII vet and one of our well respected and admired duty officers was reduced to enlisted rank after being passed over for the last time. Regulations called for an officer reduced in rank to be reassigned but McDanel refused insisting he remain where he was. With one year to retire he planned to settle down and teach in Tacoma. So one day Capt. McDaniel reported on shift as A/1C. We enlisted seemed more embarrassed over what happened than he did. He said he wasn't bothered by it since he held permanent reserve rank of Major and would retire with a Major pay and allowances. Shortly before my separation A/1C McDaniel was promoted to S/Sgt. He smiled saying he was probably the only A/1C in the USAF with the longest time in grade.

Something else happened that April 15th when I was separated. Dressed in my Air Force blues for the last time, I took a long look at myself in my mirror before changing clothes and clearing out. I came to realize that I had developed a respect and affection for the men I had served with. They were a special group and I knew it would have been hard for me to face them for the last time at an impromptu farewell party they wanted to give that evening but which I had declined. I realized that despite some bumps along the way, I had also developed a soft spot for the Air Force. The four years had passed quicker than I imagined and I had seen so much and been witness to or been a small part of some world shaping events.

I still look back fondly on my service. In many ways they were formative years of my youth. The Air Force provided me travel and experiences beyond imagination and had handed me challenges and responsibility I never anticipated. I had entered it a boy and was leaving it a world wise man. As I left it, I was still undecided on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life - anxious once again to go home, I packed my automobile and headed cross country - little knowing that another adventure lay on the horizon that would have a major impact on my life.