In Turkey, the Greatest Foreign Country I've Ever Been In
Samsun, Oct 1958 - Oct 1960
Karamursel, Mar 1962 - Sep 1962
Izmir, Sep 1962 - Oct 1963
(TDY several times thereafter, various sites.)
(Would have stayed there forever if the AF had let me.)

George William Durman, MSGT (Ret), USAF

(Webmaster/Manager of the Merhaba-USMilitary Website

© 2011-2022 by Author

Contact Me Here

I sent in my original story in September 2012, when Jan Claire was managing the website (previously named  I sent in my contributions piecemeal and the additions were added to the end of my "Story" each time, instead of being put in chronological order.  So, let me begin anew.  (Pieces of the "Story" are still not in chronological order, but, "What the heck?"  A little regression doesn't hurt.)

I was born and reared in East Tennessee, near the little village of Limestone, in Washington County, Tennessee.  When I was almost 11 years old, my parents moved to Monroe County, Tennessee, a few miles out of Sweetwater, to a community called Fork Creek.  So, there we were, 125 miles from where we grew up, without a single close relative within that 125 mile distance.  Lots of interesting family history about that move, but, onward.

I attended Sweetwater High School and graduated in 1956.  Out of Sweetewater High School, I received a scholarship to King College (now King University) in Bristol, Sullivan County, Tennessee.  I was studying Pre-Med, but the curriculum just didn't suit me.  To tell the truth, I was just too dang young, mentally, to get serious about my studies.  No, I didn't flunk out, I just decided college just wasn't for me at that time.

Trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do, I moved from King College to my grandparents home in the Philadelphia Community (near Limestone), in Washington County, Tennessee, and went to work for the "Dunbar Pepper Plant" there.  I was just killing time.  I had the "itch" to move on, and in July of 1957, I decided to "broaden my horizons", and told everyone I was going to join the USAF and get into the "Secret Service".  (Hell, how naive I was!  At the time I didn't even know what "Secret Service" was, but I knew that the USAF had some secrets that I was willing to explore.)

So, I drove down to Knoxville, Tennessee, to enlist in the USAF.

When I took my entrance exams in Knoxville, at the USAF Enlistment Station, I scored a perfect 100 on the USAF AFQT Exam and all 95 percentiles on the 4 batteries of ACB tests given to enlistees.  Wow!  I wished later that I had not scored so high.  I was told that I was to be the "nanny" of all the others traveling with me from Knoxville to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas, for Basic Training, and that "I" was responsible to see they all got there.  If anything negative happened, I would suffer.  After a few days at home, back in Sweetwater, I flew from Knoxville to Atlanta and had a few hours layover.  I was like a mother hen scurrying around the airport trying to keep the others in a group so they would all get on the flight to Texas.  (I really believed that if any of the group missed the flight to Texas something dreadful would happen to me!)  Even with all my fretting, I still had to find some of them at the last minute and shepherd them to the gate.  Well, at least I "did" get them all on board.

Went through "1st Phase" training, then "2nd Phase" training.  Lots of harassment and intimidation, but who couldn't take that?  One thing that did tick me off in Phase 1 Training, was that as soon as we arrived on base, the TI (Training Instructor) told us that we had to get rid of our civilian clothing, and that the nicest thing to do was to donate it to a local orphanage.  That was OK with me, until about a week later I saw the TI wearing the sports jacket I had worn to Lackland!  The jacket was really expensive and it really ticked me off that the TI now had it.  No, it didn't "tick me off", it "pissed me off"!  But, to whom could I complain?  I knew right off that if I caused any waves, the TI would be forever on my butt.  So, I just ignored it.

During the 2nd Phase, I, like all others, had to go to the "Green Monster", which was a green-painted building where those in charge decided what career fields (AFSCs, Air Force Specialty Codes) we were qualified for.  Most trainees were given several choices, depending on their AFQT scores.  But, when I went there I was informed that I would be going to the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, for Russian Language Training.  I didn't get a choice, I was going to Syracuse!  (For some reason, some recruits at Lackland who were also recruited for Russian Language Training went to Indiana University for their training. ?????)  Stayed in the "Grad Barracks" after finishing Phase 2-Basic until time to travel to the new Russian Language Class at Syracuse.  The only "job" I had for those weeks was to march Basic trainees to sick-call each morning and then back to their barracks after they were finished.  The rest of the day was mine!

As an aside, when in the "Grad Barracks", one of the Airmen near me (don't know what his job was while waiting, but he was always there when I left, and was always there when I returned) was always lying on his back in his bunk.  He had rigged up a coat-hanger-contraption that held a bottle of vodka (don't know where he got it).  The bottle was very near his lips and it had a nipple on it.  He would just raise his head a little and take a sip.  Don't know where he was headed, where he went, what happened to him, but I'll bet he didn't last long.

One interesting note about 2nd Phase, before "Grad Barracks" is that we received passes to go into town.  On one trip, I and a couple of others went to a liquor store and bought a pint of Gin.  We smuggled it back onto base, and, once in the barracks, tried to find something to mix it with.  The soft drink machine was out of everything except Dr. Pepper, so that's what we mixed the Gin with.  Folks, if you've never drunk Gin and Dr. Pepper, please don't!  (That was my very first experience of being "knee-walkin', toilet-huggin' drunk"!)  I have been criticized by some on this Merhaba-USMilitary website for even mentioning such "negative" behavior; to those of you who did so (see some comments later on), I'm sorry that I wasn't as perfect as you evidently are, and "bite me".

Syracuse University

I attended Russian Language Training at Syracuse University from December 1957 until September 1958.

Must make a mention here of how great Syracuse was.  Of course, there was the University, but there were also several Nursing schools located nearby.  I often heard during my tour at Syracuse University that the girl-boy ratio in Syracuse was something like 3-1, because there were so many Nursing Schools in the city.  Needless to say, none of us AF guys at "Sky Top" (what the AF contingent of the University was called by the locals) ever wanted for a date.  In fact, we soon learned the phone numbers for the different floors of the girls' dorm at the University (it was called Mount Olympus and I don't remember if that was its official name or just what we called it), and all we had to do was call a number and tell the girl who answered that we would like a date for tonight, Friday, Saturday, etc.  You could hear the person who answered yelling down the hall, "Hey, we've got a guy from Sky Top wanting a date for tonight.  Anyone interested?"  Within seconds, someone would be on the phone agreeing to a date.  We could also go to one of the nearby Nursing Schools (my favorite was Crouse-Irving Nursing School, now Crouse Hospital College of Nursing - it had the most beautiful students) near the University and walk in to the reception desk on Friday or Saturday and ask if anyone there would like to go out on a date, and there were always some "takers".  In short, if a GI at Sky Top EVER went without a date on the weekend, there was something seriously wrong with him.  I was lucky in that I was one of the few Airmen at Skytop who had driven a car to the school, and once the girls found out I had my own auto, it was "easy pickin's".  I became friends with some of the nursing students at Crouse-Irving and when they went on weekend trips to one or other of the nearby lakes, I often got to go along.

I would take some of my dates out to the Three Rivers Inn, which was a really top-notch joint, and which had great entertainment.  Once, we saw Jose Greco, a Flemenco Dancer, perform, and once we saw Miyoshi Umeki, the Japanese actress, sing.  The Inn no longer exists and that's a shame..

There were so many really top-notch restaurants and night clubs in Syracuse.  Showing a girl a good time was very easy - easy to impress her.  Plus, most of the better bars had jazz groups, or at least a piano performer.  Syracuse at the time had to be one of the best "college party towns" in the country.

I don't remember the name of the bar, but it was just down the street from the Crouse-Irving Nursing School, on Irving Ave.  It was there that I first heard of a drink called "Zombie".  I had a Zombie one time, and swore never to drink another one.  At this particular bar, if a customer could drink two of them, the third was free.  Heck, after one, the customer was drunk out of his mind!  Also, at that bar, I discovered what was my favorite drink for a long time -- Schenley and Ginger.

Syracuse (Sky Top) Classmates

SYRACUSE CLASSMATES:  (Class Nr. SR8-12-57) (First 9-Month Russian Language Class)
From Personnel Actions Memorandum Number 42, 9 December 1957;
Special Orders Number 123, 17 December 1957;
Special Orders Number 92, 06 Aug 1958; and
Personnel Action Memorandum Number 8, 22 Oct 1958.

Most of us had rank of A3C, until 1 May 1958, when some were promoted to A2C.

Some were AB, A1C, SSgt, or TSgt, as noted.

I don't remember why Robert L. THEISEN and John F. HOLSTEEN, Jr., were only Airmen Basics.  Does anyone know why?

(*Blue Font denotes those who graduated with me from Syracuse Language School and were assigned to the 6932nd Radio Squadron Mobile (RSM) [TUSLOG Det 3-2], which was located in Samsun, Turkey.)

AHERN, James T.* (Jim) DONOVAN, Richard M. KLEES, Bruce E.* SCHAEFFER, Frederick P., Jr.*
ARMBRISTER, James R. (TSgt) DUNN, James G. LANE, Verdi E., Jr. (TSgt) SEAHOLM, Warren E.*
BASSETT, Billy G. DURMAN, George W.* LEBRECK, John J.* SHERMAN, John D.
BASTIN, David V. FISK, John E. LOOS, Armond F.* SPRAUER, Charles T.
BEE, Thomas V. GILBERT, John I. MAMULA, Gerald P.* (Jerry) STRAND, Paul D.
BROCK, Maclyn C. (SSgt) GOULD, Wallace E. MONAHAN, John S. THEISEN, Richard L. (AB)
BROWN, Dexter Jr.* GRANT, Delbert T. MOONEY, Charles D. TONNIES, Lance R.
BROWN, Michael H. HANNIGAN, Thomas E. NEVEUX, Robert A. (A1C) TREMBLAY, James W.
CAHILL, Charles B. V. HOLSTEEN, John F. Jr. (AB) OLSEN, Robert D. ULLEMEYER, Jack W.*
CHAMPEAU, Norman S. INMAN, John B. PAUL, Gerald E. VAN DOREN, William F.
COLE, Charles R. IVERSON, Michael D. PETRY, Lanny R. WERDANN, John P.*
CRAMER, John C. JAMES, Charles T.* (SSgt) PHIPPS, Jackie D. WHIPPLE, Lloyd E., Jr., (SSgt)
CRAWFORD, James M.* (Jim) JOHANN, David A. PIEL, Bruce WOLFE, James H.
CRUTCHER, Charles M., Jr. (A1C) (Chuck) KARDIAN, Joseph G. PRICE, Hugh W. (SSgt) WOLLIN, Robert E.
DIMPSEY, Donaldson S. KINLAN, Donald J. RUZCKI, Michael F.

(For names of classmates at Skytop at Syracuse and for those stationed with me in Samsun, you can click on the images below for full-scale images.)

Of the classmates listed above, here is what I know about some of them:

James T. "Jim" AHERN (he was my roommate at Syracuse) - the last I knew of him was when he was at Karamüsel Air Station in Turkey.

Dexter BROWN, JR. - was reassigned to Bremerhaven, Germany, after his 1 year tour at Samsun.  Received an "Early Out" and upon return to the ZI (Zone of the Interior, in other words, the U.S.), entered college, graduated with a degree in Russian Language; employed by NSA until his retirement.

James M. "Jim" CRAWFORD - volunteered for Advanced Russian Language training at Syracuse after his 1 year tour at Samsun; returned to Samsun in 1960.

Charles M. "Chuck" CRUTCHER, Jr. - reassigned to Bremerhaven, Germany, after his 1 year tour at Samsun.  He is now deceased.

Loren H. "Larry" LIERZ - same as for Fred Savarese, I have heard from him.  He and Fred were classmates and served together in Scotland and in Samsun.  Waiting on a "Story" from Larry.

Gerald P. "Jerry" MAMULA - reassigned to Bremerhaven, Germany, after his 1 year tour at Samsun.

Charles "Charlie" T. SPRAUER - sent to Trabzon, Turkey; don't know where he went after that.

Frederick SAVARESE - I have a lot of information from Fred, and have created a web page for him here.

Byron D. TESCH - like Charlie Sprauer, was assigned to Trabzon, Turkey; don't know anything more about him either.

There were other 203X1s who arrived in Samsun after I did, but I'm ashamed to say that I remember the name of only one of them, Leon WAJIS, or WAJES, or WAJS.  Leon, if you see this, how about contacting me: here.

I'm sure I've missed some names and messed up others.

Oops!  I meant to mention William VAN DOREN, one of my classmates at Syracuse.  He borrowed my auto, a cream-puff 1953 Chevy 2-Door Bel Air Sport Coupe, for a date one Saturday night.  Yeah, you know what's coming next.  He wrecked the auto (definitely his fault) and spent several days in the hospital.  He was from a well-off family and his mother called me and told me not to worry, the family would see that my auto was replaced.  She ASSURED me that the family would make everything right.  OK, I also believe in fairies - I believed William and his family would do right by me.  Never heard from his mother again, never heard a word from William about reimbursement, he just ignored me until we graduated.  Should have kicked his ass really good then.  A good old-fashioned Tennessee "dog-whuppin" would have done a lot to satisfy me.  Between what I owed on the car and what the insurance company said it was worth, left me with no car, just a pay-off of the balance to the bank, and me left with a pile of junk in a junk-yard.  Thanks William "Asshole" VAN DOREN.  Hope you're alive and reading this - ever have any regrets about the car, about your responsibilities?  With your attitude, bet you ended up as a politician in Washington.  Hell, wouldn't surprise me to learn that you were Obama's asshole buddy!  Sorry if I sound bitter, but I've never gotten over William's irresponsible actions and the loss of my very first auto.

(If anyone knows the address/phone number/email address of William F. VAN DOREN, I would really appreciate the information.  He still owes me an automobile.  You can email me here.)

I was contacted recently by Patrick Fero, who graduated from Skytop in Dec 1958 and who was assigned to TUSLOG Det 3-1, Trabzon, Turkey.  He sent me some links about Skytop and the fire that destroyed Barracks 7, on 6 Jan 1959, and that caused the death of 7 Air Force personnel.  I include those links here for you to visit:

Website of Ron Fandrick who graduated from AFIT and was stationed at the 6913 Radio Squadron Mobile in Bremerhaven, Germany.  Lots of great photos of Skytop at Syracuse University here and some info on the fire!

Sean Kirst's (Syracuse University), report on Larry Tart's efforts to have a memorial erected at Skytop for the 7 dead airmen.  The memorial was erected 04 Oct 2013, finally.

Sean Kirst's (Syracuse University), report on Thomas Merford Mathews Jr.s' tribute to his father SSgt Thomas Merford Mathews, Sr. during the 04 Oct 2013 Memorial ceremony for the 7 airmen killed in the fire of 06 Jan 1959.

Boy, What a trip!

After graduating from "Sky Top", I had 30 days leave back home in Tennessee.  After the leave, I had a short stint at NSA, Ft. Meade, Maryland.  From there I travelled to Charleston AFB, South Carolina.  We departed the U.S. from Charleston, flew to the Azores (Portuguese Territory), and landed on Santa Maria Island.  Had a refueling layover and then started to take off.  I was sitting on the right side of the plane and when I looked out, I saw long flames coming from one of the starboard engines.  I'm glad the crew also saw the burning engine because the runway on Santa Maria was very short.  It stretched across the island, both ends ending in sheer cliffs down to the water.

Anyway, the plane was stopped before it ran over the cliff and we taxied back to the "terminal", which was nothing more than a one-room adobe building.  We de-planed and were told we'd have to spend the night in the local "hotel" until MAC could get another plane to the island the next day.  When I say "hotel", I say it in jest because it was a ramshackle, one-story building, which, anywhere else, would have been used for equipment storage, or maybe as a place for goats to live.  When entering one's room, one had to partially open the door, reach in, and tilt up the bed to get the door fully opened.  Once inside, the bed could be let down.  I doubt the rooms were more than 6-7 feet wide.

None of us really wanted to spend the night in such conditions, especially since the rooms were full of bugs and other critters, and soon dice games started in the hallways.  We found that there was a place in the "hotel" that sold alcohol and most of us bought bottles of hard liquor, drank, and played dice in a hallway until the next morning.

We flew from Santa Maria Island to Madrid, Spain, where we had a one night layover.  Went to a local bar and imbibed until the wee hours of the morning.  From Madrid, we flew to Wheelus AB in Tripoli, Libya, where we had a 2 day layover.  Went into Tripoli one afternoon and "enjoyed the sights".  We had been warned to stay in a group and not to wander into alleys.  Well, being "Curious George", I wandered down an alley that had several booths selling wares.  A man came out of one of the booths, grabbed me, and started to drag me into the back of the booth, jabbering to me in some language, probably Arabic.  I don't know what he had in mind, but, fortunately, my traveling partners noticed I was missing, tracked me down, and "rescued" me.  I was saved from whoever knows what.  One thing about Wheelus at the time was that we couldn't spend America Dollars in Tripoli.  We had to buy "script" on base and spend that in town.  Any merchant who took the "script" would come in later to the base and exchange the "scrip" for Libyan currency.

After we got on the bus to go back to Wheelus AB, a small boy ran along the bus selling something, I don't remember what.  One of the Airmen stuck his left hand out the window with money in it for whatever it was he was buying.  The Airman felt a tug on his wrist and pulled his hand back into the bus; the hand still held the money, but HIS WRIST WATCH WAS GONE!  That little boy was a sly bandit, indeed!

Finally, we left Tripoli and flew to Athens, Greece, where we once again had a layover.  (I never figured out why we had so many "stop-overs"; we could have easily flown from Spain to Turkey.  In fact, I've read other stories about the trip from the Azores to Turkey, and all of them involved flying hither and yon with many "stop-overs".)  Also went to a local bar/restaurant in Athens and had my first taste of "caviar".  Of course it wasn't the good black Beluga Caviar (it was orange-colored fish eggs, probably salmon eggs), but was, nevertheless, delicious.  (See below for an account of "real" Caspian Sea Beluga Caviar.)

From Athens we flew to Ankara, Turkey, where we were supposed to have a short stop before flying on to Istanbul, Turkey.  (Again, why didn't we just fly from Athens to Istanbul?)  Once more, the plane had some kind of malfunction and we were billeted in the Ankara Airport Hotel, where we were treated to a dinner meal.  There was no menu, we were just seated at a long table in a large room, and all served the same thing.  I had something I had never had before:  Tripe and Lentil Soup (it was the only thing on the menu for us travelers, we had no choice).  It turned out to be absolutely delicious and I ate it often in Turkey.

The next day we left for Istanbul and landed at what was then Yeşilköy (YESHILKOY) Airport, Istanbul, Turkey, but is now Ataturk Airport.

We navigated by bus from the airport to the main TUSLOG HQ in Istanbul (the Kahan Building) and checked in.  We weren't billeted there, but were put up in the nearby Divan Hotel.  Had my first encounter with a Turkish toilet at the Divan.

I had had to "go" really bad and had to use the toilet in the hotel for "Number Two".  Guess what?  Yup.  No commode and no toilet paper, just a hole in the floor, which I later learned was called by GIs, a "Bomb Sight".  Of course there wasn't any toilet paper -- the Turks (and all Muslims) believe that since the Koran is written on paper, paper can't be used for such a disrespectful thing as wiping one's butt.  (Muslims are really curious people.  Such serious beliefs about such seemingly insignificant things.)  I had no paper except for the three remaining copies of my official orders in my wallet.  Well, I used one of the copies to wipe, and fortunately had one copy left when I checked in at Samsun (having rendered up one at Karamursel).  The Turks "wiped" with the middle finger of the left hand (the fingernail on which finger was clipped very short, almost into the "quick"), then washed the finger under a convenient faucet next to the "Bomb Sight".  Muslims NEVER touched anyone with their left hand and never used it to eat their food.  Seems to me it is kind of useless having a left hand if it is considered to be so foul.

After a day and night in Istanbul, we boarded the Istanbul-to-Yalova ferry boat.  After arriving in Yalova, we boarded a bus to Karamursel AS, Det 3, "Mainsite".  I don't remember how long we were there, but we lived in Quonset Huts for a few days; our drinking water came from "blister bags".  (Really squalid conditions for Americans not used to such "rustic" conditions.)  I rode that ferry boat many times over the next few years, going in and out of Turkey, via Karamursel, but remember the first trip because of an incident.  During the crossing, I sat as most Americans would, with one leg cocked over the knee of the other leg.  I noticed many hostile glares from Turkish passengers and wondered what I was doing wrong.  I later asked someone and was told that it was a serious insult to show the soles of one's shoes to a Turk.  Anyway, after that I was very careful about how I sat.

After processing in at Mainsite, in a few days we rode the bus back to Yalova, caught the ferry boat back to Istanbul, spent a night at TUSLOG HQ (this time in the Transient Billets in the Kahan Building), and were then put on the White Boat for our trip to Samsun.  (There was a White Boat, which left Istanbul on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a Black Boat, which left on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.)

I will never forget the trip to Samsun.  I was in a stateroom, nice and warm and not bothered by the storm we were sailing through.  (It was Autumn, and the storms on the Black Sea could be especially violent during that season.)  I looked out through the porthole and saw, lined up all around the ship, a detachment of Turkish soldiers.  They were soaked to the skin and obviously very cold, their thick, wet woolen uniforms draining away the heat from their bodies.  I opened the porthole and offered a cigarette to the nearest soldier.  He looked at me as though I had insulted him and turned his back.  (I found out later from my Turkish friends that if he had taken an American cigarette and his Sergeant had discovered it, he, the Sergeant, would have assumed the soldier had stolen it, because why would any American give an American cigarette to a lowly Turkish soldier?  The soldier would have been severely punished for "theft".)

Anyway, we arrived at Samsun.  No base.  We were billeted in a local hotel, I "think" it was the Vidinli Otel, but am not sure.  (I've looked at pictures of the Vidinli as it exists today and the entrance certainly looks like what I remember.  Doing a web search for the hotel, I see that it was built in 1956, and, as I remember, it WAS very new in 1958.)  Next morning, we caught the bus up the hill to what would become the base.  Checked in to a ramshackle building (Ops Building) on the left side of the road.  It had an operations center, a section for the equipment technicians and equipment supply, and a couple of other small rooms.  There was a smaller wing off to the side for the Commander and his staff.  On the right side of the road was a building that, as I remember, held the Chaplains office, the Post Office, a "snack bar", and what passed for a Base Exchange (BX).

There was a make-shift barbed-wire fence around the Ops building.  There was ONE Security Policeman (Three Stripper) named George, (back then they were called Air Policemen); he checked our military ID cards and our orders and let us in.  (You see, I DID have the foresight to keep one last copy of my orders!)  After that, he was expected to recognize us by our faces, no big feat, since there were so few of us.  Once in the building, one could look at the walls and see sunlight coming through the cracks (or moonlight at night).  Really!  Not very secure.  Later, when we were on duty, we had to speak softly, "least some Soviet spy was outside the building, listening through the cracks".  (GRIN)  (Some time during our first few days of actual duty, most of us were treated to a little hazing.  I was sent to the maintenance room and told to tell one of the maintenance technicians that I needed a "QRM Strainer" for my position in Ops.  The technician laughed and said, "What the Hell is a QRM Strainer?"  One of my buddies was sent on such a task to get a "Sky Hook".  All a lot of fun and camaraderie.)

After getting the normal welcoming, we were given our Orientation Briefing, assigned shifts, and told that we should start looking for housing in Samsun because it would be cheaper than staying in the hotel.  (I was assigned to Baker Trick, which is where I stayed for about a year.  During the second year I was reassigned to the Ops OIC's office, to be the assistant of Maj. Joseph P. Garvey, the OIC.)  (You can read the Obituary of Colonel Jospeh P. Garvey here.)  We were told that we could rent a house together, but if all of us in the house were 203 Russian-speakers, only one of us could "admit" to speaking Russian and would have to conduct all the business with our housekeeper/cook, who would undoubtedly be a "displaced Russian".  Who knows why all the good housekeepers/cooks in Samsun were Russians from the Georgia SSR of the, then, Soviet Union?

When I and two other 203s who had graduated from Syracuse with me rented our house, we somehow -- I really forget how we found her -- hired an old Russian (Georgian SSR) woman, we were fortunate indeed.  I should say here that she probably wasn't "that" old; she just seemed old to me.  Her name was Dushya.  She had a son who lived in Samsun, but her husband had been arrested in Soviet Georgia during the Soviet purges in the late 1940's and she had never seen him after that.  When she got the chance after the "Purge”, she slipped across the border with her son and came to Samsun.

I and the other two 203s found our rental house in the new Elli Alti Evler area.  (Fifty Six Houses area of Samsun.)  We each had a separate bedroom.  The monthly rent was about 300 Lira.  (At the legal exchange rate, that was about $36 per month, split 3 ways, or a little under $12 each.)  We had a maid/cook (Dushya) which cost us around 240 Lira per month, or about 80 Lira each (about $10) per month.  OK?  So far, the house and maid cost each of us each about $22 per month!  We also had a gardener and a shoeshine boy, and I really don't know what they cost per month, but it was a pittance.  (We put our shoes outside the front door after every shift and when it was time to dress for work again, there they were all shined up.)  In our house, we had several shelves on a wall in the dining room and soon stocked them with booze from the Class 6 Store downtown.  We had the best stocked bar in Elli Alti Evler!

Our maid and cook, Dushya, would cook anything we asked for.  We gave her money weekly to go to the markets and purchase what she needed for cooking, and we also brought home foodstuffs we had ordered from the Commissary in Ankara.  We ate a lot of local "beef", which I'm sure was water buffalo.  Once, she asked us about American desserts.  She said she could make whatever we wanted.  I asked for chocolate pie; the other two asked for apple pie.  Sure enough, she made a dessert for us, to satisfy our cravings.  We sat down for supper one night and after eating the main course, Dushya brought out our dessert.  It was a very, very large pie, apples on the bottom and chocolate on the top.  It really wasn't that bad.

We were drawing our normal E-2 salary of around, as I recollect, $80-$90 per month, plus $13 a day per diem.  Need I say that we were in Hog Heaven, financially?  $13 a day worked out to almost $400 a month!  Of that $400 we were spending only about $22 a month each for rent and maid.  We USAF airmen were the richest people in Samsun!  But... I, like most of the others, frittered away a good portion of the money on booze, gambling, trips to other places in Turkey, Greece, etc.  Some of us did put a little money away for the future, but we were young and never thought about saving a lot.

Since we lived in Elli Alti Evler, we lived near many others from the TUSLOG Site.  In fact, it seemed that the area of the housing area in which we lived was almost entirely inhabited by GIs from the Site.

One near neighbor, and I don't remember who he was, and his house mates, had somehow acquired a dog.  (Turks usually didn't have dogs as pets.)  I thought at first that the dog had been a fighter because most of his ears looked like they had been chewed off.  (He was named him "Nors" (No Ears).)  A Turkish soldier who had been stationed at Cakmakli read my story and sent the following as an explanation of why the ears were gone:

(From Mehmet Ertuzun:)
"In your earless dog story you say it might have been a fighter dog and that is why its ears were "chewed off".  His ears weren't chewed off.  Nearly all of the shepherd dogs in Turkey have their ears cut off at very early ages (2-3 months old).  Wolves attack shepherd dogs on their ears first, and once they have a grip on the ears they shake the animal and then attack its throats.  On a shepherd dog that has the ears cut off the wolf has no chance, especially because shepherd dogs also have metal collars with sharp iron spikes on them.  You can come across such dogs with chopped off ears in urban areas as well; it is either because a shepherd dog could have been moved to a city for various reasons, or a dog which was born and raised in a city could be "operated on" like that, totally to the owners taste!"  (Thank you Mehmet.)

Before the new base was opened and we moved up the hill, we had a party in our house, attended by most of the other GIs in Elli Alti Evler.  This was shortly before we had to move, and by that time we had a couple of medical types arrive at the site and they had set up a dispensary at the Site.  One of the females working in the "dispensary" brought medicinal alcohol (190 proof).  We mixed the alcohol in a very large bowl with freshly-squeezed orange juice and had a really exciting time.  We had all our New Site neighbors at the party and it was a "smashing" success.  (BTW, when the "new site" was built, it was, of course, called the "New Site".  The Turks in Samsun called it "Yeni Site" [See-teh].)

203X1 Personnel at 6932nd RSM, TUSLOG 3-2, 1959

203X1 Personnel at Samsun, 1959:
Personnel Actions Memorandum Number 9, Tuslog 3-2, 27 January 1959;
Special Orders Number B-19, TUSLOG 3-2, 24 April 1959; and
Special Orders Number B-37, 19 June 1959.

(These are not the only 203X1 personnel at Samsun while I was there, but they're the only ones for whom I can find documentation in my personal records.)

(*Blue Font denotes those who graduated with me from Syracuse Language School, Class SR8-12-57, and were with me at Samsun.  The others were either those who were already at Samsun when I arrived there, arrived later, and/or went through Russian Language Training at Indiana University.)

AHERN, James T.* "Jim" GLANN, Paul E. LEWIS, William R. SCHLOSSBACK, Willy R.
BELL, Don R. HAGGERTY, Robert LIERZ, Loren H. "Larry" SEAHOLM, Warren E.*
BOKENO, John C. HARRIS, Edwin C. LOOS, Armand F.* SHOUP, Michael C.
BROWN, Dexter, Jr.* HUNN, Paul L. MAMULA, Gerald P.* "Jerry" SKINNER, Eugene R.
CALDWELL, George W. JAMES, Charles T.* MARKHAM, John E. THROM, Roger M.
CURNOW, Richard T. KLEES, Bruce E.* NEESE, Edward E.  
GEORGE, Ronald L. LEBRECK, John J.* SAVARESE, Frederick C.  
GIROUARD, Darrell J. LEWIS, Richard N. SCHAEFFER, Frederick P., Jr.*  

(There were two Syracuse Language School graduates who arrived at Samsun about the same time as the rest of us who were in Class SR8-12-57, but who had graduated 3 months before we did.  They were Fred SAVARESE and Larry LIERZ.  They graduated from the last 6-month Russian Language Class at Syracuse, and ended up in Scotland.  By the time they were declared surplus there, and ended up in Samsun, it was October 1958, and we were fellow occupants of Elli Alti Evler (Fifty Six Houses Housing Project of Samsun).  We will add their stories as they send us the data.  [I will say that I have corrected my story about the dog "Nors" (no ears), who I thought belonged to Fred and Larry.  Evidently my memory failed me there and I've got to do some deep searching to try to remember "who" really had the dog, "Nors".  Anyone out there reading this who knows about "Nors"?)]

(See above under "Syracuse (Sky Top) Classmates" for Special Orders from Det 3-2.)

While attending Russian Language Training at Syracuse University, NY, my roommate was "Jim".  He and I both ended up at Samsun.  Now, Jim was one weird dude!  He had his own house in "Elli Alti Evler", with other house mates, but, for some reason, he came to my house on the weekends he wasn't working to have some "quality time" with his doxie (bar girl).  Don't know why he couldn't have sex in his own house with her.  Jim's "love" was named Salome (a Turkish girl).  He fell head-over-heels in love with her and became even more weird.  He once told me that he couldn't have sex unless he was undressed except for a tee-shirt, and a sock on his left foot.  Is that weird or not?  In any case, he decided to ask the Site Commander for "official" permission to move in with her!  We ALL knew that the "official" position was that we could have no serious personal contact with "foreign national" females.  (More than weird, bordering on insanity!)  He timed his visit to the Commander just in time to be the first Airman to visit the new Commander after his assuming command of Det 3-2.)  He asked for permission to take up residence with "Salome"!  Jim was on the next boat from Samsun to Istanbul, and thus to Karamursel (Mainsite).  Salome followed Jim to Karamursel and then Jim went AWOL.  The USAF Air Police later found him in the village where Salome was born and grew up.  Jim was brought back, sentenced to time in the base jail, and, after serving his sentence, had some flunky job on base.  But Wait!  There's more!  After serving his time in jail, Jim took a ferry trip from Yalova to Istanbul and was arrested by USAF Air Policemen at the Galata Bridge after he got off the ferry.  Jim had an AWOL Bag full of cartons of cigarettes!  (Prima Facia evidence in dealing in the Black Market.)  Jim claimed he was only delivering the bag for a friend to an apartment in Istanbul and didn't know what was in it.  ”Yeah, right!")  More time in jail, again.  Don't know what happened to Jim after that.  He was from an affluent family in California; his father was a medical doctor.  I suppose stupidity has no respect for social standing or upbringing.  (Jim, if you are reading this, I would really like to know what happened to you after Karamursel.  I'm sorry for all the pranks I pulled on you when we were room-mates at Syracuse.)  (Another note about Jim:  He told me that when he was a teenager, he and friends used to go to the boardwalk in, I believe, Santa Monica, for the Saturday night dances.  Jim said that he would put a ping pong ball in his pocked, and when he and a girl did a "slow dance", she would eventually snuggle up to the ball.  Then, before the next dance, he would remove the ping pong ball.  The girl would squirm and twist, trying to find the "object" again.

Before the move to "New Site", downtown we had an Enlisted Club and an Officers Club.  A little way up the hill was the "Civilian Club" (TUMPANE Club), where many of us lowly enlisted types liked to hang out.  It was the club for all the TUMPANE civilians working on the site, but they allowed admission to all AF officers and enlisted personnel.  (More later about one TUMPANE wife who thought she was a "Queen".  TUMPANE civilians could have their wives there, whereas military personnel couldn't.  For some reason, Samsun was considered "remote duty" for the military, while it was considered the "Riviera" of the Turkish Black Sea Coast for everyone else.  No remoteness there!)  (The TUMPANE Company was contracted by the US military to provide for everything needed, from food and suppies, to sub-contracting construction of bases, buildings, etc.)  (If you want to know about the TUMPANE Company, you should read Dalene Horton's "Story" about Izmir where she talks about the company and John David Tumpane, the brother of the owner of the company.  John's book, "Scotch and Holy Water", is a "must read" and you can read some extracts from his book here.  You can also read more extracts from the book posted by Col., USAF, here.)

Downtown, across the street from the Enlisted Club, was our movie theater building and general "sports" facilities.  The biggest entertainment at the theater was Gulan.

"Gulan" the Bear:

I have written about "Gulan" before and recounted several tales of his origin.  Well, on 18 Jan 2016, I had a phone call from James "Jim" Wingo.  He was an ELINT guy stationed at Samsun from mid 1958 to mid 1960.  He gave me the lowdown on Gulan, and his account finally lays to rest all the past stories about Gulan.  Jim verified that an Army Captain from Sinop did "own" the bear.  Somewhere along the way from Sinoop to Samsun, the Captain bought Gulan while drunk.  Once he sobered up, he had no idea what to do with Gulan.  Jim says "he" was not sober and bought Gulan from the Captain for $20.00.  Jim tried to take Gulan to his room in the Vidinli Hotel but the hotel management forbade it.  In any case, a cage was built near our downtown facilities for Gulan.  When we moved up to the "hill" after the base was completed, a new cage was built for him there, near the softball field.  I do remember that I heard that the owner of "Gulan" sold/gave the bear to someone in our group and he, the bear, was moved up to the hill with us.  While living "downtown" and watching movies in the movie theater, before the movie started, a Turk (or Gypsy) would come out onto the stage in front of the painted screen, play his whistle, beat on his drum, and "Gulan" would dance.  After the music, the Turk would say, "Salaam," and "Gulan" would salute with his right paw.  This went on for several months until we moved.  (Jim added that no one ever paid him for Gulan.  The bear just became the proberty of the base.)

In April 2014, I started corresponding with Mehmet Ertuzun, who was a Turkish soldier stationed at Cakmakli near Istanbul in 1975-1976.  In the course of our correspondence he added a note about "tame bears" in Turkey.  Following is what he sent:

(From Mehmet Ertuzun:)
"Nowadays it is totally banned in Turkey to use bears in streets by gypsies.  The bears that are caught by principals are immedaitely sent to a rehabilitation center near Bursa.  Of course, they are never returned to the nature again because once they are taken care of by humans they totally loose their basic instincts for feeding in the wild.  Even if they are returned into the woods, somehow, after a short while, they return to urban areas looking for 'donations'."  (Thank you Mehmet for the information.)

(So, I guess animal advocates in Turkey have followed America's lead in "humane treatment of animals", to the point where we'll see no more Gypsys and their tame bears providing entertainment on the streets.)


To continue in detail, I keep reading all the posts on the various websites from those who came to Samsun in 1960 and later, and I just can't relate to them!  They wandered into Det 3-2 after it was a "done-deal" and just don't know what went on before they arrived.  As an example, all those erroneous stories about "Gulan", the bear, and the references to a "Tunnel" out-side the base, where a skull was found.  Most of them are "hand-me-down stories" from those who came in 1959, 1960, and later, except for one story of the Tunnel and Skull, from Dave Simmons (click his name to read his story).  Dave and his friends definitely explored the tunnel and found a skull.

None of the later arrivals have a clue about such things as us going to Ankara by taxi on long breaks for some entertainment!

In 1958-1960, there was nowhere easy to get to, except Istanbul, and that would have required taking a week's leave to have gone by boat... or to Ankara by taxi, or to such tourist sites as Cappadocia.  Yes, I've read the stories of those who came in and out of Samsun by plane, in 1957-1960, landing and taking off from the grass strip outside of town, but I never "personally" knew anyone in 1958-1960 who arrived or departed via the grass strip.  (They must have indeed been "priveleged characters".)  If anyone says he commuted to Ankara by plane 1957-1960 he was using resources we knew nothing about.  (At least two people claim they flew into and out of Samsun, via the grass strip, in 1959, and that is possible, except they deny JATO bottles were necessary for takeoff.  They are probably correct since C-130A and C-130B planes were the only models in use at the time and, as a rule, they were not equipped for using JATO takeoffs.)  If the USAF was hauling some service people in and out of Samsun via plane, it was only for a very select few, and C-130 aircraft were NOT used.  The grass landing/takeoff strip was very, very short.

I seem to remember that just before I departed Samsun in October 1960, C-130 aircraft were landing and taking off from the grass strip.  Of course, we Air Force grunts didn't get to fly out, we had to take the danged boat back to Istanbul, which was just as well for me, since I didn't want to be in a plane taking off from that short grass strip.  And, if they were taking off with the assistance of JATO bottles I certainly wanted no part of that.  Let the Marines and Sailors use that route!  They had guts.  We had good sense.

A Regression:

While at Syracuse University, I contacted my Tennessee State Senator, Estes Kefauver, and asked to be considered for appointment to the USAF Academy.  By the time he received the request, I was already at Samsun.  In early 1959, the Detachment received a Special Order for me to travel to Weisbaden AB, Germany, for tests for the Academy.  I left TDY and travelled from Samsun by boat, to Istanbul, to Germany.  The testing team had already "done their thing" for all overseas applicants.  When I came in late, the entire team had to be re-assembled again, JUST FOR ME!.  Bad news to start with!  They ran me through all the phases of the physical training, one after another, with no breaks!  To say the least, by the time I had completed them all, I was physically inoperable.  Since I hadn't heard from the Senator or the Academy, I wrote another letter to the Senator, and his staff replied that no test results for me had EVER been received from Germany!  Guess those pissed-off dudes at Weisbaden had conveniently lost the test results.

After volunteering for a second year's tour at Samsun, and receiving my third strip (A1C - E-4), I left Samsun in November 1959 for special training at Goodfellow AFB, TX.  Departed and left Samsun by boat, again (notice, no C-130).  (When I left Samsun in October 1960, it was also by boat.)  Shortly after I returned from the TDY, I left my "position" in the Ops Room and was assigned to the Ops Commander, Major Joseph Garvey (see above).  I was his typist, file clerk, and general gofer.  The Major worked Mon-Fri, and I was lucky that I had every weekend off too, which allowed me to participate in the goings-on in Samsun with the civilians I knew.  Made it easier to hob-nob with them.

(I should mention here a couple of things about my relationship with Major Garvey.  I don't know exactly how to say this without bragging, but the Major had asked the NCOs on the floor to recommend someone to be his "assistant".  He asked for someone who was very intelligent, who could type a hundred words a minute, and someone who could organize anything.  Well, I couldn't type quite a 100 WPM (90 something, actually, even on typewriters, before computer keyboards), but I did meet the other requirements.  He chose me and for almost a year I worked in Major Garvey's office.  We got along great.  I assumed some of his "admin" paper-work chores and took some load off his back.  After settling in for a while, I asked him if I could, occasionally, have a "day off, or two", in conjunction with a week-end, without having to take leave.  The Major agreed to that and thereafter I could go on a 3- or 4-day weekend trip to nearby places in Turkey.  (Against all USAF regulations, but it worked for us.)  I was then able to take trips to Cappadocia and other historical sites in Turkey.

Then, too, there was the event where another Airmen and I had a fight.  There was a "Mutt and Jeff" pair at the base who would pick fights.  Mutt, a little squirt of a fellow, would come up to someone at the bar, either on the base, or downtown, at the "Civilian Club", and piss off someone.  Then, "Jeff" would step in and fight the selected individual.  This went on for a long time and no one on the base intervened.  Those two had picked on me for a long time.  Finally, one night at the Enlisted Club, they picked on me again.  I ignored them.  But, since "Mutt and Jeff" both lived in the same building as I did, they followed me there.  The show finally came down to "Jeff" and me going out between the cloths lines of our side of the barracks and having it out.  I kicked "Jeff's" ass and beat up his face rather severely.  The next morning (I guess the word had spread), I went to the Mess Hall for breakfast, and upon entering, Major Garvey motioned me over.  He said, "Let me see your hands."  I held out my hands and he said, "Good, you can still type."  (No broken fingers.)  Whomever the person I fought (I absolutely don't remember his name) put out the word later that "no one" had EVER marked his face.  He vowed revenge.  I spent the rest of my time at Det 3-2 without any problems with "Jeff".  The SOB knew better than to test me again.  I'm only posting this in hopes that someone from Samsun, from that time, knows the name of the Asshole, "Jeff".  (If anyone reading this knows about that pair of assholes, please email me.  I'm still not over their antics, and would love to meet up with "Jeff" again just to kick his ass again.)


During my first year at Samsun, on our long breaks, four or five of us would rent a taxi in Samsun and sleep most of the way to Ankara.  I don't remember how much it cost, including the driver staying over in Ankara to take us back, but it wasn't much, considering the rate of money exchange and the per-diem we were drawing.  Seems like it totaled around $25 round-trip (split 4 or 5 ways), which earned the driver a fortune.

During that first year, we worked different schedules, the first was this:

3 Days, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM;
3 Swings (starting next day), 4:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight;
3 Mids (starting next night), 12:00 Midnight to 8:00am.
Then, 3 days off.

That was early on.  We could have gone to Ankara during those 3 days off and returned in time for duty, but that was really pushing it.

But, then, starting in the last few months of my first year there, we did the same thing, but with SIX consecutive tours of Days, Swings, and Mids.  That gave us SIX days off!  That allowed us to go anywhere!  Then we could take a taxi to Ankara and not have to worry about getting back on time.  God, the Pavyons in Ankara were unbelievable compared to the ones we had in Samsun!

Once we had those six days off, some of us had our favorite taxi driver take us to Cappadocia, about 500 kilometers SSW of Samsun.  We stayed in Göreme and had our taxi driver take us all over over the area.  Greatest tourist trip I ever took.  We also used the taxi to go to Amasya, which was about 150 kilometers SSW of Samsun.  One of the great historical sites in Turkey.

I don't remember any of my comrades who arrived in 1958 that extended their tours of duty, but I volunteered for a 2nd year and was promoted to A1C (E-4), as explained above.  With the per-diem we drew before the site opened, and with the very favorable rate-of-exchange, i.e., Dollars to Liras on the black market, we had all saved up some dough.  (I'll comment on the "black market" rate of exchange later.  To put it bluntly, we were "rich".)

I don't know -- maybe I'm beating a dead horse - but I read all the stuff about Karamursel, Samsun, Trabzon, and Sinop, and just feel like I've lived a different life than those "later" people lived.

I guess you'd have to have been there, at that time, to appreciate what we went through.  (As mentioned, when we came to Karamursel in 1958, on our way to Samsun or Trabzon.  We lived in squalor in Quonset Huts,  and our drinking water was from "blister bags" hung outside the huts.  ("Blister bags" were canvas bags filled with water with a spigot at the bottom for drawing water.  In hot climates they were used to cool the water.  They were semi-porous and the water seeping through the material would evaporate, drawing off heat and cooling the entire bag and its contents.  Simple physics.) 


I've seen several posts on this website about different USAF experiences in Samsun, Turkey, which differ from my own experiences.

Click the two aerial photos to view aerials of the old base in Samsun as it is today.  It's really sad to see that there are no more radar domes, no "Bucky Ball" structures.  Knowing that the 6932nd RSM no longer exists takes away part of my life.  I spent two years there, and they were two of the better years of my military life.  Great comrades, good times, enjoyable episodes with the locals, and, most important, a sense of contributing to the overall effort of NSA & the USAFSS.  The left photo is the "raw" aerial photo and the one at right has the old base in Samsun outlined.  From the SouthWest corner of the map, I lived in the 2nd "H-Shaped" building with the red roof, in the south-east portion of the barracks (in other words the lower section of the right leg of the building).  (The map coordinates for the center of the my old barracks area are:  Decimal Degrees-41.308417,36.326367; GPS-N 41 18.505, E 36 19.582.)

Click Photo to Enlarge

Gulan, the bear (at left) came up to the hill and was kept in a cage made of steel bars.  Yes, "Gulan" did eat a dog that got too near his cage.  Let's face it, a bear, of whatever species, would love to eat a dog!

Shortly after the base/station was finally opened, and we had moved personnel from the town of Samsun to the base/station, for some reason we decided to “play a trick” on a newly-arrived airman (who was from a "big city, up north", and had never seen an animal except a rat) - and don't ask me why we would have been so cruel.  We laid in wait until the unfortunate Airman was asleep, on the top bunk of a double-bunk bed, went down to Gulan's cage, put a leash onto his nose ring, led him back to the barracks, had him stand up at the Airman's bed, and awoke the airman!  When the airman woke, he was looking straight into the face of Gulan.  I won't try to explain what happened next, but there must have been chocolate stains in the Airman's shorts and all over his sheets!  He, somehow, levitated over the head of Gulan and the rest of us, sped through the door out of his room and exited the building.  He never forgave us for that!

After we had moved to the base, the 6932nd became the owner of the bear.  Gulan was kept in a steel cage once the base was finished and it was a pathetic sight to see him pace the confines of the cage.  He was just not used to being confined and it eventually made him sometimes act mean.  In all the time he was with his musician handler, he was a most docile bear, never threatening anyone.  But, captivity does strange things to those confined.  I believe Gulan was a young bear, and that when his innate nature emerged as he matured, he just got meaner, even to the point of dragging the small dog into his cage, killing it, and eating it.

Yes, we sometimes leashed up Gulan and took him in a 6X truck to the local beach with us, but I don't remember the episode where he was surprised and ripped out the ring in his nose.  Of course, my friends and I weren't the only ones who took him to the beach.


As others have stated, during our early duty at Det 3-2, we lowly Airmen were financially in Paradise.  The legal exchange rate averaged around 8.5 Lira per Dollar in 1958-1960.  As if that wasn't good enough, any taxi driver would give us 10-12 Lira per Dollar, and would give us $12-$15 worth of Lira per carton of cigarettes, which cost us around $1.50 per carton in the BX.  So, guess what?  Yup, most of us didn't bother with the legal money exchange, we changed our Dollars locally (illegally) for a lot more, and sold the cigarettes for 10 times what we paid for them.  AND, if you were in Istanbul, had a carton of cigarettes, you could sell it to any taxi driver for enough Turkish Lira to live like a king in the Istanbul Hilton Hotel for several nights!  (I loved to stay in the Hilton because it cost about $3-$4 (25-40 Turkish Lira) per night at that time and one could go to the club in the top floor and hob-nob with the rich and famous.)

(A "selfie" of me in the barracks.)
I have many, many tales to tell about Samsun.  Hope I'm not boring you too much.  I just thought someone should know how things really were there, at that time.  All the good and all the bad.  We had a good time - we lived it up - we took taxis to Ankara and tourist spots on our long breaks - we engaged in the Black Market - we had a fellow airman who exchanged our dollars for around 20:1 in Ankara at one of the Soviet-Bloc Embassies and give us 15-16:1 (double the normal rate).  (He left Turkey with a footlocker full of money; just loaded all the money in a footlocker and had it shipped back to the States as hold baggage; he never got caught).  You see, every payday, he would make the rounds to our houses, take orders for how much money we wanted to exchange, to pay for rent, maids, food, bar-hopping, etc.  He did this not only for the enlisted personnel, but for all the officers as well.  Yes it was absolutely illegal and unpatriotic, but we "did" take advantage of the situation and doubled our money.  (I just mentioned "maids" and it set off another thought.  Some of the GIs, when we still lived in town, had TWO maids!  They had a "real" maid that did the cooking and housekeeping, AND a pretty young "maid" that took care of their "other" needs.)  (My picture on the left was taken in 1959 in the barracks with the automatic timer on my camera.  One of the few times when I just had nothing to do.

Some of us "lived the life" while in Turkey.  That is, a "few" of us took advantage.  Most of the Airmen at Samsun and other bases spent their time-off in their rooms, in the Enlisted Club, or wherever, constantly bitching about what lousy duty it was, and waiting to return to the "land of the big BX".

The tour of duty for a "remote" site such as Samsun was one year at the time.  (Later, after I had left, when Samsun and Trabzon had bowling alleys, basketball gymnasiums, etc., the tour was extended to 15 months, since now those places weren't so "remote".)  I extended my tour for a second year, for which I was promoted to A1C (E-4) and got to come back to the US for a special course at Goodfellow AFB, TX, and have 30 days leave at home!  (Somehow, records got screwed up and I was never charged for those 30 days of leave!  Money for me when I was discharged!)


Some comments on the "New Site":

After the base was finished, a barbershop was installed, with a local Turkish barber.  Once, after Commander's Call, I went to get a haircut.  The barber asked me what I had been doing and I told him I had just come from "Commander's Call".  (I had become a little proficient in the Turkish language by then (see below), so was able to converse with him mostly in Turkish.)  He asked who got "beat up".  I said, "What?  What do you mean?"  He said, "Well, at Turkish Commander's Calls in the Turkish Army, someone is always brought up for some infraction and beaten in front of all the rest to reinforce discipline."  Whee!  After that I certainly appreciated our American way of military justice and discipline.

I've seen some stories of people stationed at Samsun during 1958-1960 and seen comments about the Mess Hall.  Some of those people raved about the good food at the Mess Hall.  Well, they weren't there in 1958-1959!  When the Mess Hall opened, we ate re-hydrated eggs (smelled like sulfur) in the form of scrambled eggs -- UGH!  Nothing good about that.  And, of course, powdered milk!  Then, for some reason the USAF provisioning apparatus saw fit to send many, many cases of good old American peanut butter.  (Why?)  Our Mess Hall "chef" did his best to use the peanut butter for anything imaginable, cookies, cake, etc., but he hit his peak with "Peanut Butter Soup"!  You have NEVER had "haute cuisine" unless you've eaten Peanut Butter Soup in the Samsun Mess Hall!  I will have to say that in 1959-1960 the food did improve, and was actually great.  If you want to see some great photos from Samsun, go to Terry Lee Frock's page on this website.


Softball Games:  Det 3-2 had a softball team.  We travelled along the northern shores of the Black Sea, playing games at Trabzon and Sinop., and if we had won the Black Sea division, we would have gone to Karamursel, Ankara, etc., for playoffs.  (We never won the division.)  It was a custom that the travelling team always brought along their best "whiskey drinker" and their best "beer chugger".  I was "officially" listed on the roster as Center Fielder, because no one could chug a beer quicker than I could, and I usually got to play at least one inning of a game.  We had and "old guy" called "Pops" (probably no more than 35) who could drink anyone under the table.  (With the exception of a "Lady" from Karamursel.  More about later.)  I don't even remember what position Pop was supposed to play.  Anyway, after the games we would all gather in the Enlisted Club and have our drinking contests.  Pop could sit and drink shot after shot of whiskey and stay in his chair when his opponent had fallen to the floor.  I could drain a 12 ounce beer in 2-3 seconds!  Don't believe that?  Take a beer can (back before pull-tabs), use an opener to open the top, hold your thumb over the hole, turn the can upside down, open a hole in the bottom, put the can to your lips and remove your thumb from the first hole; let the liquid flow from gravity.  The secret was to condition yourself to open your throat wide open without swallowing, just let the beer flow unimpeded.  Seriously, once the secret was learned, you could drain a can of beer in 2-3 seconds.

At Trabzon, built on top of the highest hill/mount, Boztepe, there was very little level ground.  Therefore, the softball field was built on the "most level ground" left over once the base buildings had been built, which meant that the field was on a slope.  Downhill to 1st base, downhill to 2nd, uphill to 3rd, and a hard trip uphill to Home Plate.  If the hitter was powerful enough, the ball went over the side of the hill down into downtown Trabzon and was never seen again!  I'll bet a lot of young Turkish boys had one or more American softballs.

I must say something here about the road from Samsun to Trabzon.  It started out as a two-lane paved road, but soon deteriorated into a dirt track.  There were places in the mountainous parts of the road where two vehicles couldn't pass - one had to back up and let the other pass by.  Now, the same road is a divided 4-lane highway all the way!  Progress!  Progress!


Sometime in 1959 or 1960, Karamursel (Mainsite) got a new Commander.  Of course he brought his wife along, since Mainsite wasn't a "remote" site.  For some reason the Commander's wife got a bug up her ass and decided that if the troops at the "remote sites" received "pornographic" magazines such as Playboy, it would sexually excite them and they would become homosexuals!  Well, number one, we were NOT at a remote site!  We were on the "Riviera" of the Black Sea Coast.  Number two, we had plenty of female companionship.  In any case, the pussy Commander ordered the Mail Room at Karamursel to stop forwarding Playboy Magazine to the sites.  That lasted about 2 months until someone notified HQ USAF, or wrote his Congressman, that the Commander was interfering with official U.S. mail.  Subscribers to Playboy got their magazines from then on.


The Turkish cops were always trying to nail American GIs for dealing in the Black Market.  One story might be of interest.  An Airman named Thomas Crowley (our RDF operator) had also made friends with Şerif (Sherif) Kütükçu (see below) and had given a few things to Şerif from the BX.  Nothing big, but, for some reason the local Turkish authorities zeroed in on Thomas and Şerif.  Thomas met with Şerif one day in Samsun and the Gendarmes immediately arrested them both.  There was no evidence of any wrong-doing except for the fact that in Şerif's pocket were a pair of socks made in America, socks that the authorities "assumed" came from the BX.  That was enough to charge Thomas with black-marketeering.  Fortunately, the Detachment Commander at the time had some sense, and he arranged for Thomas to "escape" Turkey before he was brought to court.  Thomas was placed in a mail bag and transported off the hill to either the White Boat or Black Boat (don't remember which) and "shipped" to Istanbul, from which he departed Turkey and went back to the States.  For some reason, Şerif wasn't charged, probably because of his father's influence in Samsun.


(From Hans Christian Andersen, 25 Apr 1841, after his visit to Istanbul.  This is the same Hans Christian Andersen who wrote children's Fairy Tales!)

"I Offered the Oarsmen* a Silver Coin, the value of which I was not really as yet clear about.  He shook his head, took from his pocket quite a small coin, showed it to me and assured me that he could not take any higher payment.  So honest are the Turks!  And every day during my stay here I had more and more proof of this.  The Turks are the most good-hearted and honorable people."
Hans Christian Andersen, April 25, 1841.

*In Turkish "Kayikci".  The person who used to carry passangers between the two shores of the Golden Horn, that is, between Galata and Scutari or Calcedon.

I was lucky to have enjoyed the hospitality of the Turkish people and their adherence to "good manners" and "social protocol".  For instance, I became friends with a local man in Samsun during my tour there.  Shortly after my arrival in Samsun, I was still living in the hotel before making arrangements for a house.  I had been there just a few days when one evening I was sitting in the hotel restaurant having dinner, when the waiter approached me and said that the gentleman seated at the next table asked if he could join me.  (Of course the waiter conveyed this to me in his halting English, since I had only a half dozen words of Turkish at that time.)  I didn't know what to do since I didn't know if the guy was sizing me up for a robbery, or whatever.  But I looked him over and saw that he was very, very well-dressed in a suit and tie - looked to be in his early thirties, which, as it turned out later, was correct.  Anyway, I said, "Yes," and welcomed him to my table.  (Would one do that today in a foreign country?)

The man's name was Şerif (Sherif) Kütükçu (Kutukcu), whose father owned a shoe factory, as well as most of the shoe stores in Samsun and nearby towns.  Somehow we were able to communicate, with my and his few words of French, his few words of English, and my few words of Turkish.  With the help of the waiter I found out he was interested in becoming friends with Americans and he wondered if I would go with him to meet a friend of his, who was a French expatriate, but had lived in Turkey for decades, and spoke both fluent Turkish and English.  Remember, we were among the first Americans GIs in Samsun in 1958 and the "socially-aware" were out in front in making friends with Americans, whether they were officers or just enlisted troops.  Anyway, perhaps foolishly, after finishing dinner, we took a cab to Şerif's friend's house.  It turned out that the friend was indeed a French expatriate who worked for the Gary Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of the Liggett-Myers Tobacco Company in North Carolina.  His name was Louis Vighier and through him I met many more American, French, Russian, and other expatriates, who were then living and working in Turkey.  Şerif was on the up-and-up.  (I hooked up again with Louis and the rest of the Gary Tobacco Company people in Izmir when I returned to Turkey in 1962.  They had also all been transferred to Izmir!)


I must add in here some of my reflections on Louis Vigher, who was an employee of the Gary Tobacco Company.  He came with his family to the Mediterranean area before WW II.  They were from an elite French family and eventually possessed property in Turkey and on some of the Greek islands.  Louis' brother, Raymond, had property on Rhodes Island off the southern shores of Turkey.  After WW II started, Louis and his family were "taken into custody" and removed to a village in the interior of Turkey until the war ended.  I suppose that was because France was occupied by Germany, the "Vichy French" government took over, and ALL people of French extraction were then seen as potential "enemies" of Turkey, just as were all Germans.

In any case, Louis and his family were exonerated after the end of WW II and were free to carry on with their normal lives.

To say that Louis was "fastidious" would be an understatement.  He was fairly wealthy and used his money to satisfy his whims and desires.  He had several expensive watches which accepted different bands.  The jewels on a band always matched the jewels in his tie tack/tie bar and his cuff links.  If the jewels in his tie tack and cuff links were Sapphire, the watch band also contained Sapphires.

In his bathroom, the color of everything matched.  The color would change weekly, but you can be assured that everything in the bathroom matched color-wise, always.

His table, even in informal settings, was always in the best of taste.  He had the best crystal, the best china, the best cutlery.  When he gave a formal dinner, the plate-ware was gold-plated, as was the cutlery.  The table linen was terribly expensive, with real gold threads running though it; the napkins were the same.  Hell, what more can I say?  He had no wife and no children, and used his money to satisfy himself; why not?

This was at a time when no one in Turkey could buy Coca Cola products.  But Louis found a way around that.  He had found a source of Coca Cola syrup!  (Who knows where he bought it!)  You just poured some of the syrup into your glass, spurted in some carbonated water from a seltzer bottle, added ice, and then you had "Coca Cola"!  (You must surely remember that you bought those little CO2 capsules, put them into the seltzer bottle, added water to the bottle, pushed the lever and had carbonated water!?)

To say that I was thoroughly impressed by Louis would be an understatement.  For some reason, he took a liking to Dick Curnow (another 203-Russian Linguist) and me, and invited us to most of the dinners he was giving, no matter how distinguished the guests.  It might be just a dinner for his fellow employees at the Gary Tobacco Company, or it might be a dinner for the Base Commander and his senior officers, and local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Samsun, Governor of Samsun Province, etc.  Dick and I were not the only enlisted types invited, but we two were most always invited if we weren't on duty.

Occasionally, Louis would invite me to play Bridge with some of his "expatriate" friends, Russians, Greeks, French, whomever.  I don't remember any of their names, if I ever knew them.  I do remember that Louis would chew out my butt, for not "following the rules" - "You CAN'T finesse in the third seat (even if it works)!"

[Editor:  Note here from Jim Carver (no web page, just his email address), from emails from him in May 2014:]

"I grew up in Izmir; my father, Jim, Sr., was General Manager of Gary Tobacco Company there, and it was for him that Louis Vighier and his brother, Raymond, worked.  I knew the Vighiers (pronounced "Vee-gay") all my life in Izmir, leaving there in 1965 after graduating from the American Military Dependents' School.  You described Louis perfectly in "Merhaba-US".  Dad started his work with Gary in Turkey in Samsun--I spent the first three years of my life there.  We moved to Izmir in 1950 where we stayed until 1966 when my father died, returning to North Carolina.

"If you attended any of Louis' parties for Gary employees in Izmir in the early '60s, I'm sure you met my parents as we all loved the Vighiers and socialized often with them.  Louis had an apartment just off the waterfront in Alsancak (pronounced Alsanjak), while Raymond and his wife, Berthe (pronounced "Bert") lived in an apartment a few blocks back.  I think Berthe was my mother's best friend there.  They all treated my sister and me like family--I will always remember them fondly.

"You told me something I hadn't known about the Vighiers before reading your writeup, that they had owned a lot of land in Turkey before WWII.  Of course, I was a kid at the time and knew nothing about the personal affairs of any of Dad's employees, only from a social aspect as "the bosses kid".  If you were in Izmir in '62, I was a sophomore in the spring and a junior in the fall at the Dependents' School.

"Your memories of Samsun are entertaining.  I returned to Turkey in the army from '69 to '71, stationed at JUSMMAT in Ankara.  Wish I had gone back to Samsun then, just to see the town and remember it (I certainly don't remember much from a place I was in until I was 3 years old), but didn't.

"If you have any further recollections of Louis or anyone else from Gary Tobacco, I would love to hear them.  Thanks for the entertainment, reminiscences and education.  All the best."

Jim Carver

[Throwing in something here:  A recent correspondent, who was also stationed at Samsun, asked why he had never heard anything about me, Dick Curnow, Şerif Kütükçu, or Louis Vighier.  Well, as explained above, it was a stroke of luck that I met Şerif, and, through him, Louis Vighier, and eventually Dick CURNOW, and eventually, after that, Zia Makarnaci (pronounced "Makarnaji") (Makarnaci=Pasta Maker), and the other folks at the Gary Tobacco Company.  No other Americans from the site that I know of, except Dick CURNOW and me, were ever included on the "membership list".  Yes, sometimes, some of the officers from the site were invited to Zia's "dinner parties", especially the Commander and other ranking officers, but for normal get-togethers, it was just Dick and me.  It wasn't really an "exclusive club", but the membership was certainly held to a minimum.  [God, doesn't that sound like Egalitarianism?  I don't mean for it to seem that way, but those people had criteria that I never understood.  Maybe Dick and I "looked like" the sort of Americans that "fit in".  ?????]

Zia's Makarna Fabrikasi (Pasta Factory) in Samsun.  (Click to enlarge.)
The factory is just to the right and down from the center of the picture.
It is the "L" shaped building with several windows on the long side, and
a two-story part on the left side.


But, I digress, again.  Şerif (Sherif) and I became pals from the beginning of my two years there.  We would make arrangements to get together occasionally on the days when I wasn't working, go to a nice place for dinner, then to a club for drinking, and ogling the girls.  It was then that I leared one of the rules about social etiquette in Turkey.  If it were I who said, "Let's meet Saturday night at so-and-so restaurant for dinner," then "I" paid the bill for the entire evening, food, drinks, and feminine companionship.  If he said, "Let's have dinner Friday at the Paris Restaurant, then it was his treat, for the entire night.  I learned to be very careful about what I suggested in the way of entertainment!  But, Şerif was a gracious host indeed.  Once, we were in a Pavyon, minding our own business, when a couple of rubes from out in the sticks noticed me and realized I was an American.  I don't know what kind of a problem they had with Americans (it was the ONLY "anti-American" exhibit I EVER encountered in Turkey), but they came to our table and started cursing me, threatening to whip my butt, etc.  Of course, I stood up and was ready to join the fight.  Şerif, however, stood up, pushed me back into my seat, and told me that I was his guest, that I was a guest of Turkey, and that a Turk would defend my honor, not I!  Şerif and the two rubes went at it until the Gendarmes were called.  He was arrested, and I went down the next morning and retrieved him from jail.

I think this is an appropriate place to mention that by the time I had spent a year in Turkey, I could speak the language fairly well.  Not perfectly, but well enough to understand a joke told in Turkish.  I not only listened to what I "heard", but ordered Turkish language textbooks.  (After all, I WAS a "linguist", and sometimes a cunning one!)  Şerif tutored me in Turkish, as did Louis.

I found that all of the Turks with whom I came into contact were just like Şerif.  Gracious, honorable, and, generally, truthful to a fault.  Through Louis Vighier I met most of the notable citizens of Samsun, including the Mayor, the local Governor, etc.  They enjoyed "puttin' on the dog" for us Americans.

I loved them all, especially Zia Uğhurlu.  Zia was called Zia Makarnaci (Makarnaci=Macaroni Maker-Pasta Maker).  He owned the local macaroni/pasta factory.  He had two daughters, both named after roses.  Their names were Gül Ay (Moon Rose) and Gül Gün (Dawn Rose) and they both spoke perfect English, as well as French.  Roses, both of them, beautiful daughters.  One of my friends, Richard "Dick" Curnow (mentioned above and below), and I were often invited to Zia's home for dinner on Friday or Saturday night when we weren't scheduled for duty.  (I don't know why Zia particularly liked Dick and me, and invited us so often, but maybe it was because he was looking for American husbands for his daughters, and Dick and I were clean-cut, educated, and handsome men?)  (GRIN)  (Gül Ay did end up married to a USAF officer.)  Zia's wife had died when the girls were very young and he hired a French "governess" to look after them.  I don't know that I was ever told her name -- she was always referred to as "Madame".  On one of our first visits, Madame instructed Dick and me on how to eat a ripe fig for dessert.  The fig had to be "addressed" just so-and-so, turned just the right way, the skin sliced just the right way, from top to bottom, peeled back, and the fig eaten in the proper way.  What a hoot!  After dinner, Gül Gün would play the piano and both girls would harmonize on current American pop tunes.  They sang a lot of Everly Brother tunes, and, dang, they were very, very good.  Remember, this was one of the leading families in Samsun, and Dick and I were, apparently, Zia's favorite Americans.  What might have happened if I had pursued a relationship with one of the daughters?  Who knows?


As I said, Şerif (Sherif) was in his early thirties, never married, when I met him.  His father had sent him to the University in Ankara, and after Şerif attained his degree, his father had arranged a job for him in a bank in Ankara.  Şerif would have none of it!  He was the epitome of a playboy.  About a year and a half after I met him he informed me that he was getting married.  I asked him about it and he said that it was an "arranged" marriage, that he had never met his future bride, that she was 16 years old, and that Dick Curnow and I were the only Americans invited to his civil marriage rites in Bafra, up the coast, on a point into the Black Sea west of Samsun.  (Yes, the same Dick Curnow that accompanied me to Zia's home for dinner.)  Of course we went and had one of the wildest weekends of my tour in Samsun.  (Friday night, Saturday, and Saturday night.)  Every relative from both families had been invited, and they obviously all attended.  Lots of drinking and dancing.  (Yes the Turkish Muslims drank and they loved dancing.)  Turkish mothers with young marriage-age daughters kept introducing Dick and me to their daughters, insisting that we dance with them.  At some time in the wee hours of the morning, the party ended and all of the male relatives, Dick, and I, retired to a "great room" with pallets on the floor.  We slept there until the next morning, when the feast started all over again – the ensuing Saturday night cannot ever be topped.  A great experience.  Şerif and the bride did not see each other again for six months, when they had the religious marriage ceremony in Samsun - after that they were officially "married".  By the time of their religious marriage ceremony, I had left Turkey.  Why did I never think to write down Sherif's address, phone number, etc.?  Sometimes we can be completely self-absorbed asses and never think about anything beyond ourselves in the present -- no future considerations.

I do feel that I fully immersed myself in Turkish culture during my two years at Samsun, and during my time at Karamursel and Izmir.  Unfortunately, when I returned to Turkey sometime later, TDY, it was a different story.  I made friends in the "trade" and sometimes visited their families when I could; but it wasn't the same.  The second, third, etc., times around (Temporary Duty-TDY) it was all business.  I did maintain contact for while with the airman who carried the fridge off the base on his back, and who later came back to Istanbul.  Supposedly he married a Turkish wife and taught English at the American University (don't know if it still exists today, or if he's still alive).  Ron, if you read this, please contact me.  [Am now questioning his marital status, as well as his affiliation with the American University.  ?????]



When we first arrived in Samsun we lived "off base" as I stated above.  Of course, we had to have the modern appliances, refrigerators, stoves, stereos, etc. which we had ordered from the "big BX" in Ankara and which came by truck.  We had to sign a Beyanname (Customs Document) and had to account for the items when we shipped out.  We were not allowed to sell the American products to Turks without paying customs duties, as that would have been dealing in the black market.  Anyway most of us obeyed the law and disposed of the items legally; however, some sold items, especially refrigerators, to local Turks for a whopping profit.  For those who made the great profit, fortunately (or unfortunately for the authorities) when the move from downtown was made to the base, all the file cabinets (including those holding the Bayanname files) from the HQ building downtown were loaded on a truck; those file cabinets containing the Bayaname files were somehow "lost" during the transit.  Most of us had already legally disposed of our appliances so it didn't really matter to us.  One great story is that one of our 203s brought his refrigerator to the hill to have in his room.  When he was ready to ship out, he found a buyer downtown and sold the refrigerator without paying custom duties.  It may not be believed, but he carried the refrigerator on his back down the back hill to town.  I won't give his name but he was a good friend of mine and eventually returned to Turkey and settled in Istanbul.  He was about six foot six and weighed about 250 lbs.  Carrying the fridge was no hard task for him.  I met with him a few times later in Istanbul.


As mentioned earlier, when we got there in 1958, there was no base/site.  The USAF, TUMPANE, or whatever local company they hired, had graded out a road to the Det 3-2 base/site.  After we all moved from our residences to the base/station, we still went back down to Samsun, almost nightly (if we were working "Days"), for the "night life".  Once, sometime in early 1959, as we were returning to the site during the day, when the bus was almost to the gate post, I looked off to the right and saw a "hole" in the side of the hill, where the bulldozers had cut the road to the base.  Being the "Curious George" that I was, a few days later a friend and I walked from our barracks back up the road and looked into the hole.  The hole was about four feet wide and about three feet high.  We went in as far as the light would allow us to see, and saw that we were in a tunnel leading downwards.  We went back later with flashlights and explored more.  It was obvious that the passage had been hand-hewn because we could see the tool marks on the walls, ceilings, and on the steps.

As we went down, we could see that steps had been hand-hewn.  Further down, three levels, we came to a flat space where we found bones!  Most of the bones were mere dust, but there was one that was still whole - a skull!

I know now that it was disrespectful to the dead, but I took that skull back to my barracks.  I cleaned it up with Tide and Clorox, put it on my desk in my barracks room.  (Notice to all of the other posters who talk about the skull and tunnels:  "I" was the one who took the skull originally!  Others may have re-discovered it later after I replaced it where I found it.)  The next day when the Turkish "house-boy" came into the room, he informed me that he would not visit my room again!  I had no more "room-service" until I took the skull back to where I found it.  I took the skull back to the level where I originally found it.  In any case, another person, who arrived in Oct 1959, and his friends also found and explored the tunnel.  They made the second "discovery" of the skull (I had returned the skull to where I found it) and took it back to their barracks.  See the story of Dave Simmons concerning the tunnel and skull (click his name to read his story).  Click the link to see the picture of the skull.

Wait!  One final note about the "skull".  I forgot to mention that the skull I found had a hole in it which looked as if it had been made with some small weapon.  I always wondered how he came to his demise and who he was.  The skull that David Simmons found also had a hole in it, obviously from some kind of weapon, so must have been the same skull.

Now, I hope that lays to rest the "skull and tunnel" scenarios... but you have not really heard the end of it.  Some friends and I went back later into the tunnel, with rope and flashlights, and went even deeper.  We finally came to a place, after many, many levels downward, past the third level, where there was no way down except a place where the steps ended and there was nothing but a hole filled with sand and dirt!  We figured that, over the eons, water had washed down dirt and sand and filled up the hole.  At that point, we decided that the only way on down would have been to dig out the sand and dirt.  Sorry.  We had neither the time nor the equipment to do so.

Caveat to anyone who wants to claim info about the "Tunnel and Skull":  "I" was the original finder of the skull in early 1959!  I have a photo of me contemplating the skull taken in my barracks room and will post it as soon as I dig through 60 years of boxes in the basement and find it.

After discovering the tunnel, I questioned several people in Samsun (Archivists, Historians, etc., at the Museum) about the tunnel and was told that the belief was that the Romans had built an "escape tunnel" from the promontory down to somewhere farther along the coast.  The USAF base/site at Samsun was built with the perimeter fences actually overlaying the original Roman fortress walls.  During the excavations for the streets of the base/site, the remains of Roman houses with mosaic tiles, Roman baths, and other Roman artifacts were uncovered.  (See photos below of the baths and mosaic tile floors of the houses.)  In some of the diggings, Roman coins were found.  (The Turkish laborers finding those coins, would often offer them to Americans for a Lira or two.  I still have one of the coins somewhere, probably in the same box in the basement.)  Det 3-2's security fence posts were actually driven into the original foundations of the Roman fortress walls.  History does repeat itself sometimes.  I believe the stories of the Roman "escape tunnel" and believe I was the first to discover it in modern times, although others "found" it later.  I wonder if there would be any interest to historians or archaeologists today to "re-discover" that tunnel and trace it all the way down to the coast?  (The four photos immediately below are from the archeological "digs" that went on during the building of the base.)


Roman baths.
Roman house mosaic floor
Roman house tiles, closeup.
Roman House tiles, closeup.

Some miscellaneous graphics files dealing with Samsun.


Samsun Today-
Dec 2009.
Samsun Male Warriors-
Samsun Female Warriors
Treasures Found
in Samsun.

Samsun-Çarşamba Airport

(The "female warriors" don't look like what we think of as the "Amazons" from Sinop.  Looks like a "staged tourist" photo, even back in 1908.  You can read about the "Amazon Warriors of Sinop" here and here.)



After we had moved from town up the base, we could check out trucks or jeeps from the Motor Pool and go anywhere we wanted.  For instance we could take a truck or jeep and go to one of the local beaches.  We often checked out a 6X and took Gulan for a dip.  Once I thought it would be a great excursion to take a pickup truck and travel back into the hinterlands of Turkey and see what went on there.  So, during a long break, a friend and I checked out a pickup truck and went East along the main road out of Samsun.  We travelled for a lot of miles until we saw a road to the right (South) that went up over the mountains and decided that, "This is the road we want to travel".  (No particular reason we took that road, just "felt right".)

The road was of, course, just a dirt road, but it looked like it had quite a bit of traffic and might lead us somewhere.  We turned right and went mile after mile, turn after turn.  We didn't know where we were going, just that somewhere at the end we would find something exciting.

We went through many crossroads and it's good that my friend had a good memory, or we could have never found our way back to Samsun, or back to the village again.  Eventually, we crested a hill, many, many miles from the coastal road out of Samsun, and saw, to our left on a hill, men cutting down trees.  When we crested that hill, the men held up their axes in a kind of a salute (we hoped it was a "salute" and not a dire warning), and motioned for us to approach.  (Were they going to scalp us, or were they welcoming us?)  It turned out that they were welcoming us!  We stopped and spoke with the "foresters" and told them who we were.  They were ecstatic!  They had never met an American and wanted to take us to their village to introduce us to the other members of their clan.  The only ones in their village that had ever ventured more than a few miles away were a couple of men who once or twice a year walked to Samsun to purchase necessities such as sugar, salt, tea, coffee, etc.  Anyway, they all piled into the back of the pickup truck and guided us to the village.  We first went up over the hill, where there didn't seem to be a road or track, then down what I would call a dry "wadi" (a dry creek bed, or gully), until, at the end of the dry creek bed, there was a track off to the left.  We turned there and went over a couple of more rises, up and down, through what I would call nothing, until we crested the last hill and saw a little collection of houses below, arranged on a slope with a little creek flowing past.

We had arrived at a Turkish village in the interior, that, as far as I was ever able to ascertain, had no name.  (Actually, I don't remember ever asking if the village had a name.)  It was just a village where all the people of one clan (extended family) resided.  There were about 12-15 houses.

As we came into the area, the axe-men in the back started shouting.  When we stopped underneath a large tree in the center of the enclave, they jumped out and started telling everyone who we were.  I was told to wait, that the "Hetman" (yes, they used the term, "Hetman" - old, old, indeed) of the village would have to be notified and that he would have to officially welcome us.  (Hetman was, centuries ago, a term for a Ukrainian Cossack chief, but, for some reason the rural Turks in that part of Turkey still used it for the title of their village head.  This shows that the original ancestors of this village were probably from The Ukraine or SW Russia.  In any case, from beyond the Caucasus Mountains.  They were not Arabs!)  After a little while, from the house farthest up the hill, a man emerged, fully decked out in what I'm sure was his very best clothing.  He came down and welcomed us.  After all the amenities, where we, both sides, told who we were, he ordered someone to go to the spring and bring back some "Yourt" (Turkish version of Yogurt").  It seemed that one of the hospitalities in that region was to offer visitors "Yourt" from the stores in one's spring.

We took photos of the villagers and promised that we would come back again and give them the pictures.  We did return later and give them the photos.  On the return trip we also brought American sodas for the children, who were amazed at the "fizz".  We also brought American cigarettes for the men.  As it happened, it was during the wheat harvest season and we got to see how they did the harvesting.  They went into the fields and cut the wheat stalks with hooked knives, tied up the stalks into bundles and brought them back to the village's harvest floor (Harman).  The bundles were untied and spread out over the floor.  In the middle of the floor was a pole set in the ground, with a long boom stretching outward.  At the end of that boom was a rope attached to the harness of an ox.  The ox went round and round, pulling a kind of sled, which traveled over the wheat stalks, causing the wheat kernels to be separated from the stalks.  This went on and on for a long while.  Then, the men would go in and remove all the stalks with something like pitchforks.  They would wait for a good wind and, using implements something like shovels, toss up what remained and allow the wind to blow away the chaff (winnowing), leaving only the wheat kernels on the ground.  The kernels would be gathered up and taken to a high place and again "winnowed", getting rid of any remaining chaff.  Yes, the wheat was dirty, undoubtedly had residue of the ox's poop, but that's the way they did it!  On the second trip, we were lodged in one of the families' houses and slept on pallets on the floor.  (I've looked on Google and MapQuest maps and have been unable to find that village.)


While stationed in Samsun, as mentioned before, I met Şerif Kütükçu and Louis Vighier.  Louis worked for the Gary Tobacco Company, which was a subsidiary of the Liggett-Myers Tobacco Company in North Carolina.  The Assistant General Manager of the Gary Tobacco Company in Samsun was Richard "Dick" Brooking.  It soon developed that I spent a lot of time at the homes of Louis, Dick, and other employees of the tobacco company.  (Yeah, I know, I spread myself thin. )  Dick Curnow and I spent a lot of time with Zia, Şerif, Louis Vighier, Dick Brooking, etc., and we weren't sitting on our asses in the barracks, bitching about what an awful country Turkey was.  If I wasn't bar-hopping, I was at the home of one of my extremely good friends in Samsun.  I never had a dull moment!  I don't ever remember a weekend when I wasn't on duty, when I wasn't in Samsun hob-knobbing with someone.

A Sunday tradition was established that after Church on Sunday, Dick, other company employees and friends, and I (if I wasn't on duty) would go on "gentlemen hunts" into the countryside, dressed in suit and tie.  We would all load into Dick's company car with our shotguns and go out looking for game.  (I had bought a Browning shotgun through the BX.)  Of course we ALWAYS prepared ourselves with liberal libations of alcohol after Church and took plenty with us.  One Sunday, as we were driving down a country road looking for game, somehow my finger got entangled with the trigger of my shotgun and I shot a hole through the roof of Dick's company car!  Talk about embarrassing!  But, Dick said not to mind, the company would pay for repair of the damages.  Good old Dick!

[Jim Carver sent this (no web page, just his email address), re the hole in the roof of the car:  "I seem to remember Dad (General Manager of the Gary Tobacco Company in Turkey) telling a story about Dick's coming from Samsun to Izmir with a hole in the roof of the company car -- that really pissed him off.  It's fun to learn all these years later how that hole got there."]

[Yeah, Jim it was me!  I never lived that one down.]

Sometimes on my long days off, when they coincided with the weekend, Dick and company (including his Turkish managers) and I would go up into the mountains to hunt wild boar and the Turkish version of pheasants.  We usually brought home game which Dick would have cooked up for a feast for all of us.  Wherever we went, there were plenty of guides, young Turkish boys, who would direct us to the best places for game in return for the empty shotgun shells which they would sell for others to reload.

The American civilians in Samsun (those that worked for independent companies) had a tough time getting American goods, especially tobacco and alcohol, without paying exorbitant prices.  I broke the rules and kept them supplied with cigarettes and booze.  The first time I visited Dick's home, he asked me what I wanted to drink.  When I told him, he mixed the drink, then told me that was the last drink he would ever make for me.  When I wanted a refill, I would have to make it myself.  When I came on later visits, I had to mix my own drinks.  He said no one could ever say that he had made a guest drunk.  If I got drunk, it was my own damned fault.


Richard "Dick" Brooking, as mentioned, was the Assistant General Manager of the Gary Tobacco Company in Turkey, and the Manager of the Samsun Division.  The Samsun Division was later consolidated into the main headquarters in Izmir.  Dick had originally been married to an American wife, but in his early days in Turkey the wife just didn't like the country.  She had been brought up "rich" in Kentucky, and, even though Dick had plenty of "servants" to cater to her, she wasn't happy with the primitive culture in Turkey.  She went back to the States and divorced Dick.

After that, Dick met a beautiful young Turkish woman named "Mualla" (I never knew her last name), at a "social event" in Ankara.  Anyway, she was the adopted daughter (a niece, as I remember) of the, then, Prime Minister of Turkey, Adnan Menderes.  Adnan was the first democratically-elected Prime Minister and one of the three original political leaders of the Turkish Republic (along with Atatürk and Turgut Özal, who were later Prime Ministers and Presidents of Turkey).

I was into my second year tour at Samsun when the Turkish military pulled off a coup d'état and arrested Adnan.  He wasn't hanged until almost a year after I had left Turkey in October of 1960, but the junta "kangaroo court" convicted him of all sorts of crimes, including violation of the constitution.  The 37 "young officers" who led the coup (Young Turks) had no case.  (Of course, we shouldn't be so naive as to think 37 "young officers" COULD pull off a coup since they had to have had the backing of very senior officers in the Turkish Army.)  They were just officers who were pissed off at Adnan for personal/political reasons.

In any case, in 1990, Adnan was officially posthumously pardoned by the Turkish government for any crimes he was accused of committing.  In 2006 it was finally admitted by the Turkish government that Adnan had been "railroaded" by the "Young Turks" - he had done nothing wrong.

Be that as it may, Dick certainly married "high up" in Turkish circles.  I remember Mualla as a very beautiful young wife, full of life, even in the time when her adopted father had been arrested.  Both in Samsun and in Izmir, she was a gracious hostess, always welcoming American GIs into their home and "mothering" us.

When Dick and Mualla's first child was due, she was shipped off to Greece for the birth.  Dick told me that if the child had been born in Turkey, and was a male, upon reaching the age of 18 he would been conscripted to do two years' mandatory service in the Turkish Army.  (Not anything enviable for a Turk, let alone a child of an American.)  Even though the child would have been an American citizen by virtue of his father being an American citizen, if he were born in Turkey, he would also have been a Turkish citizen, and would have still have had dual-citizenship and be subject to the "draft".  As it turned out, Dick's first child WAS a boy, but he would never be subscripted into the Turkish Army, because he wasn't born in Turkey!  Dick knew what he was doing!


The Gary Tobacco Company bought Turkish tobacco, which was then, and still is, incorporated in all American cigarettes.  The company toured the tobacco farms in the Black Sea region during the season for many miles around Samsun.  Some tobacco they would buy, some they would not.  The farmers used the old "bakshish" (baksheesh) system of doing business.  That is, they offered bribes.  "Buy my tobacco and I'll give you something in return."  In the case of the Samsun tobacco growers, it was Russian Beluga Caviar, smuggled in from across the Black Sea.

True Beluga "Black" Caviar comes ONLY from Sturgeon fish from the Caspian Sea, and from near the Caspian's outlet into the Black Sea.  There are Sturgeon fish in most of the other rivers of Russia leading into the Caspian Sea, e.g., Volga, Luna, etc., which are of a slightly different species, and their eggs are not black; fishermen from these other rivers catch the female Sturgeon fish, slit them open, and dye the eggs black, to make people think the eggs came from Caspian Sturgeons.  Folks, again, if you've never had the opportunity to eat Caspian Beluga Caviar, don't even try to imagine.  We were very lucky indeed.

Now, I know you will not believe this, but the tobacco farmers in the Samsun area would give employees of the tobacco company 4-liter cans of caviar!  Cans that held over a gallon of caviar!  Today, ONE OUNCE of Beluga Caviar sells for $200-$300!  Can you imagine?!  That was more of my "hog heaven" in Samsun.  When Dick had a get-together, which was usually every Saturday, he always had gobs of Beluga Caviar on the bar.  If you have never smeared Caviar on a cracker or piece of toast and eaten it with a good swig of Russian Vodka, or a gulp of premier white wine, you have never lived "The Good Life"!

Once Dick complained that he had sporadic radio reception for Voice of America, which he really liked to listen to.  I suggested to him that he needed a "good antenna" on his roof.  Without giving away too many secrets, I installed a "Sloping V" antenna on his roof, pointed to where VOA was broadcast from.  From then on, he had 5-by reception.

which started in Ankara, Turkey:

Pavyons were "Night Clubs" in Turkey.  They mostly functioned as "adult entertainment clubs", similar to "Hostess Clubs" of Japan, with live music, usually two-story, a stage, and a lounge with tables lined up at the main floor, and "private" rooms at the upper floor, looking out over the lower dance floor.  The first Pavyons opened in Ankara about 1942 with the arrival of English workers who worked on the Adana-Ulukisla road that was funded by the British Government to convince Turkey to form a front at the World War II.  (All the Pavyons I ever frequented were usually as described, live music, a "chanteuse" (usually French), often "belly dancers", two-story, a stage, and "private booths" upstairs.)

"Pavyons" were nothing more than bars/nightclubs where men could go, dance with the "hostesses", buy them "bowls" (more about "bowls" later), and occasionally take them to the upper balcony to the "Konsumasyon" booths.  (Konsumasyon was the Turkish word for "consummation", which means a simple repast, a little something to eat or drink.)  The "Konsumasyon" booths were just private enough for a little intimacy or hanky-panky, but not enough for "in flagrante delicto".  (Do you think it odd that such "clubs" would exist for Turkish men to frequent?  Then, you don't know the difference between Islam in the rest of the Mid-East and Islam in Turkey.  The Turks were/are Sunni Muslins, mostly far from any fanatical fringes.  They are far more modern in their thinking than are Shia Muslins.  Do a Google search and find out the difference.)

About the time that America started establishing listening posts in Turkey, in Karamursel, Samsun, Trabzon, Sinop, etc., mysteriously there appeared "Pavyons" in all those towns, staffed not only by Turkish bar-girls, but by young women from Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Russia, etc., all really pretty.  I've read some stories about the Pavyons where the writers describe the bar-girls as older, ugly, etc., but that wasn't my experience.  Why would any business owner hire old, ugly women when the better part of their business involved getting very young American GIs to spend their money on pretty women?

I'm sure that either some intelligence-gathering organization, or more likely, some astute entrepreneur, had already sized up the situation and decided there was a fortune to be made, either of "intelligence" or of money, in opening "Pavyons" in the places where American GIs were soon to arrive.  (Actually, I never heard of even one single case where the "bar-girls" tried to get classified information from a GI.)

The short of it was that there were many beautiful young women in those "Pavyons", who would try to clean out an Airman's wallet.  The Pavyons in Samsun, Trabzon, Ankara, Istanbul, Adana, etc., were, IMHO, very reputable in not trying to rip off American GIs too much.  They were established in Samsun, Trabzon, etc., in anticipation of the American troops' arrival there.  "Bar-Girls" from just about every country in Europe were imported to use their wiles in getting U.S. GIs to spend their money.

When the base at Samsun was finally completed, and when we all moved up the hill, most of the bar-girls we had known disappeared from the Pavyons, and many of the Pavyons closed.  I would like to think they all went on to "greener pasture", but I know it wasn't so.  They were "owned" by a cartel and had no way of just quitting.  They were trapped into a lifestyle that didn't allow them alternatives – they just had to continue on until they were too old to be "bar-girls", and then I don't know what their options would have been.  Not good, that's for certain.


When one went to a Pavyon, and allowed a bar-girl to sit at his table, he was expected to buy her a "bowl".  It came in a container that looked like a cut-glass bowl, but was, more often than not, just plastic.  As I recall, in Samsun the cost of a bowl was about 3 Lira, or around 25-30¢.  A really thirsty bar-girl could drink up to 6-8 bowls during a night!  (Wow!  $2 a night for us GIs.)  The liquid in the bowls was supposed to contain alcohol, but it was about 95% fruit juices and soda, with just a little wine, vermouth, or champagne added.  The bar-girls received a "chit" every time they consumed a bowl, and they turned the chits in at the end of the night for "wages".  I never figured out how those girls could consume so much liquid and go to the WC so few times.  Their bladders must have held gallons.


The troops of the Turkish Army were issued two uniforms.  Both were woolen and were worn summer and winter.  Winter was OK, but in the summer they sweltered.


As stated above, some of us AF GIs frequented the "Civilian Club" in downtown Samsun, both before the base was built, and afterward.  The TUMPANE men and their wives (if they were married) used the Civilian Club as their hangout.  There was one TUMPANE wife in particular who was a holy terror.  She constantly berated the Turkish employees of the Club, criticizing them for every fault and every imagined "insult" to her.  (She was one of the original "Ugly Americans".)  Once when I was there enjoying dinner with some civilian and military friends, she went into a rampage because she did not have a napkin, calling the Turkish waiter an idiot, etc.  I was inebriated and I had had enough!  I shouted down the table to her that she should go to the WC and get some toilet paper.  I told her that one was used to wipe one's mouth and the other was used to wipe one's ass, but that, in her case, it didn't make any difference, since her mouth was no different from her ass, because of the crap that came out of both.  She shut up!  I did go into a little more detail, telling her how she was an "Ugly American" for constantly putting down the Turks, and how everyone was tired of her tirades.  From then on, at least at the Civilian Club, she behaved herself.  (Interestingly enough, several TUMPANE employees actually clapped, and all of them smiled!  They, too, had had enough of her "Queenly" behavior.)  This "Queen" was young, married to an older TUMPANE employee.  All the while I was there, she was having an affair with a SSgt from the base.  Some said her husband knew about it, but didn't object since he couldn't satisfy her.  In any case, she was one of the original "Bitches from Hell".


As seen elsewhere in my "Story", eventually during the latter part of my first year at Samsun, we worked 6 Day Shifts, 6 Swing Shifts, and 6 Mid Shifts, then had 6 days off. I used those 6 days-off to travel to most of the historical sites in Turkey.  (Later, when stationed in Izmir, I also travelled to Greece, Italy, and Spain, taking a few days of leave.)  I don't think there are many major historical sites in Turkey that I didn't visit at least once, and, like an idiot, I ALMOST NEVER took a camera.  I usually didn't travel to those sites with fellow GIs, but with Turkish friends (with the exception of the trip to Spain for the "Running of the Bulls", when some of my more foolhardy fellow GIs went with me.  As stated below, in Pamplona, we "ran with the bulls" until the first alley, where we ducked in and let the bulls go on; no one ever said we were stupid).  I "lived" my time in Turkey!  I took advantage of my assignments.  Later, when I returned several times on TDY (Temporary Dudy), I didn't have the opportunities to do much "touring"; I was just there, doing a different job, and it wasn't the same.


I finished my two years at Samsun in Oct 1960.  Returned Stateside and married in June 1961.  Fooled around for a while and re-enlisted in Feb 1962.  Went to NSA at Ft. Meade, MD; then back to Karamursel, Turkey.

Was at Karamursel for about 6 months until I was transferred to Cigli AS outside Izmir, Turkey.  During my short stay at Karamursel I had several interesting encounters.  At Karamursel, there were also TUMPANE employees.  One very beautiful wife of one of those employees preferred the Enlisted Club over the Officer's Club and hung out there just about every night.  Now, she was some dame, able to drink ANY man under the table ANY night, and she was absolutely beautiful!  I remember her favorite expression:  "Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies gently glow.  Damn I'm sweating!"  She would sit there any night and match any man at Karamursel drink-for-drink, and win the bout!

One morning a group of the officers' wives were "touring" the Karamursel base - checking up on how things looked, when they observed some Airmen reeling out of the Enlisted Club early in the morning.  Again, the commander's wife influenced her husband.  She convinced the commander that it was a disgrace to see the enlisted personnel coming out of the Enlisted Club, obviously inebriated, so early in the day.  She didn't realize that those troops had worked a "Mid" shift and that they were on their way to the barracks for sleep.  Anyway, the pussy commander ordered that the Enlisted Club would be closed at midnight and wouldn't open again until noon.  If you think that officers were full of crap, you don't know the half of it if you don't realize that their wives were ten times worse!  They were bitches on wheels!  The members of the Officer's Wives Club even conducted their tours a couple times a week just to see if the white-painted stones around the flag pole, and other areas, needed replacing or re-painting.  Hell has no need for demons to cast afflictions upon mortal beings as long as there are "Officers' Wives".

One more note about Karamursel:  Somehow, I became friends with the Turkish translator for the base fire department.  His name was Ergan.  Just before I left Karamursel, Egan invited me to accompany him to his family's compound in Istanbul.  Yes, almost all of his extended family lived in a walled compound in Istanbul, and I was privileged to visit with the family for a weekend, all several scores of them.  We had a great time and all the mamas and grand-mamas doted on me as an American.  Even though they knew I had a wife in the States, they, nevertheless, kept introducing me to their daughters and granddaughters.  Had one of my most memorable weekends in Istanbul.  (Again, lots of booze, music, and dancing.  As I have stated elsewhere, Turkish Moslems [for the most part] enjoyed drinking, music, and dancing.)

While at Karamursel, the plan was for my new wife to join me there.  Of course, we all had to go through the "Base Housing Unit" (BHU) to sign up for housing in Yalova, or nearby.  I was put on a waiting list that would have taken six months or longer in order for me to get housing anywhere nearby.  Therefore, I went into Yalova and found an apartment myself, which was not on the BHU's list of acceptable apartments.  (In fact, I found apartments/houses for several lower ranking Airmen in Yalova and other villages/towns near Karamursel.)

I rented the apartment in Yalova.  It was in a building owned by the person who owned the butcher shop down on the first floor.  My apartment was on the second floor, and the owner and his family lived on the third floor.  By the time I was expecting my wife to arrive in Turkey it had turned cold.  Heat was not only at a premium, it was nonexistent-no central heating, no stove.  I decided to use an old Turkish method for producing heat – burning charcoal in a brazier.  Well, I bought a brazier and some charcoal.  It had been so cold that I had taken everything I owned and piled it on the bed just to stay warm at night, and that included rugs, mats, curtains, anything that would provide some insulation from the cold.  So, I dumped the charcoal into the brazier and lit it.  Sometime toward morning, I awoke with the mother of all headaches.  I got up and tried to get to the bathroom and fell down several times.  Finally realizing that I was suffering from carbon-monoxide poisoning, I opened a window.  I never figured out how the Turks were able to use charcoal in a brazier for heat, but I never tried it again!

Hot water in that apartment was provided via a copper water heater.  Charcoal or wood was inserted at the bottom, lit, and one waited until the water was hot (warm).  Want to take a quick bath?  Forget it!  Light the fire, keep putting in fuel, and, maybe, after two hours, you could have "hot" water!  In any case, the powers-that-be decided I should go to Izmir, and shipped me out and that's where I went.

While I was stationed in Karamursel, and living in Yalova, next door to the building where my Yalova apartment was located, on the bottom floor, was a barbershop.  I stopped in there once in a while and one evening after returning from Mainsite, I stopped in to get a haircut.  The barber told me that he would like to give me a haircut and a shave every evening, for free!  Now that's really weird, but I suppose it was a result of my speaking Turkish, the fact that I offered American cigarettes whenever I came in, and the fact that he just wanted to be friendly, and be able to say he had an "American friend".  Thereafter, just about every evening when I arrived home from Mainsite, I would get a haircut and a shave, at no charge.  Of course, I kept the barber and his friends (who were always sitting around the room) supplied with American cigarettes!  (I dont' remember the barber's name.  His picture is on the left; taken 18 May 1951 when he was in the Turkish Army [according to the inscription on the back of the photo]; he gave me the photo sometime in Oct 1962.)

As stated, the owner of the building in which my apartment was located also had a butcher shop on the ground floor.  The carcasses of sheep and beef hung in an unrefrigerated window display in front, with flies buzzing all around them.  I did buy beef from the proprietor, but only "tenderloin", that is, "filet mignon".  I used that meat to make beef stew when I "ate in".

We were told never to eat any meat or vegetables from the local markets because of the dangers of hepatitis, but I never had any problems.  Also, the reason my apartment had not been "approved" by the veterinarians at the BHU, was because the sinks in the apartment were porous and could house hepatitis bacteria.  Therefore, NO to renting such an apartment.

A word about Ulvi Eroğlu, the son of the proprietor.  Ulvi was getting ready to go to Istanbul to enter the University.  He loved to hobnob with Americans.  Just about every night after I had had my haircut and shave, he would show up at my apartment.  We would sit and talk, tell jokes, and just enjoy the moment.  One evening when I came home, I had brought some foodstuffs from the Commissary, and among the things I brought were some cans of Vienna Sausages.  Of course, there was Ulvi shortly after I got home.  He wanted to see what I had bought at the Commissary.  He saw a can of Vienna Sausages and asked if they tasted good.  I said, "Of course.  Would you like to try it?"  He said "Yes", and I opened the can and gave him some.  He exclaimed about how good it was, then asked me what was in it.  I, like a fool, started reading off the ingredients from the label.  When I got to "pork" ("domuz"), his face turned green, he started gagging, and I thought he might just die.  I quickly shouted that I was just kidding, that there was no pork in the sausages.  (I figured a lie was better than seeing him suffer so.)  He quickly recovered but said he would never forgive me for such a cruel joke.  I don't know whatever happened to Ulvi.  He was a sharp kid and is probably a big-shot attorney in Istanbul now.  I'm also certain that he has never thought that he actually ate pork and didn't die.  (Ulvi's picture on the left.  Given to me 15 Oct 1962.)


Raki (spelled in Turkish with the letter "i" with no dot over the "ı", pronounced "Rakuh", not "Rakee".)

Raki was the favorite drink of most of the Turkish men I knew.  It was a clear liquid, which turned milky-white when mixed with water.

It tasted like liquorice, and that's because it was infused with extracts from the anise plant.  It was an "apéritif", and in other countries was called pastis, ouzo, sambuca, arak, pernod, anisette, and absinthe, etc.

But, not all of those fine liqueurs were made with the "special" ingredient that Turkey, Greece, and France put into their liquorice drink.

The drink was made thusly:

After squeezing all the liquid out of grapes to make wine, the left-over "mast" (skins, pulp, seeds, & stems - AKA pomace) had wormwood added to it, and the concoction was fermented and distilled.  Now, some of the premium brands of Raki are often made from raisens; some brands are made from olive pomace.

Wormwood is an hallucinogen, which causes "trips", and, sometimes, an addiction.  Of course, there was so little Wormwood in Raki that it normally only gave a "buzz", and didn't cause many addiction problems.  Turkish men drank it in moderation,; but GIs, being GIs, would go to a Pavyon and drink it all night long, night after night.  That was a problem.  Drinking the liquor in such quantities COULD cause addiction.

In America, Absinthe was outlawed until just recently, when one can now buy the "liquorice drink" because it no longer contain the hallucinogen from Wormwood.

I only mention this because if one consumed enough of Raki, he would do things he would not ordinarily do.  It DID cause "trips" for some imbibers.

If one drank enough of it in one sitting, he might find himself in a different town, days later, and not know where he was, or how he got there!

Case in point.  In Izmir, I became a friend of an Airman named Charlie McCarthy (yes, that was his name).  I invited him to accompany me on a night-out in Izmir.  This was after I had rented an apartment in Izmir for me and my soon-arriving wife.  One weekend, we went to several nightclubs (Pavyons), and, after becoming totally inebriated after drinking Raki all night, we went to a local restaurant that stayed open all night.  Charlie was supposed to pay for what we ate, because I had no more money in my wallet.  What Charlie forgot to tell me was that he had no more money in his wallet either!  When the bill came due, we found out we were in serious trouble.

This was during one of the military coups and there were Turkish soldiers stationed in every place where people came together.  When we couldn't pay the bill, we knew we'd end up arrested by the Turkish military.  So, we devised an escape plan.  We would go to the WC, one at a time, climb out the window, across the rooftops, and "escape".  Which we did.  We went over rooftops, down drainpipes, until we reached the streets below.  On the way down, Charlie cut his hand (a very bad cut) and we went to Louis Vighier's house and woke him.  Louis had his maid dress the wound and Charlie and I went on to my apartment.  By this time, it was early morning.

After arriving at the apartment, Charlie went out to the balcony, looked down and saw a pretty teen-age girl in the courtyard.  For some reason, I had a rope in the apartment (I have no idea why) and Charlie made a noose and lowered it to the courtyard, trying to lasso the girl.  Of course, he wasn't successful.  On the Monday after this fiasco, Charlie, when we met, told me that he never wanted to see me again, or to speak to me again.  He said I had corrupted him and caused him to do things he would never have done otherwise.  I told him that "I" had nothing to do with it - HE drank the Raki - it was HIS failings - the Raki did it!.

Some time later, after the fiasco above, I went back to the same restaurant.  The waiter recognized me as one who had escaped without paying the bill.  Dang!  Military Law was still in effect and I knew I was, once again, in jeopardy.  I quickly exited the restaurant, went down the stairs, and RAN.  I tucked into the first place where I could get off the street.  Guess what?  Down the steps I came to the entrance to the USAF Communications Center in Izmir.!  Talk about "Out of the frying pan, into the fire!"

I still don't know how I escaped.  I took a left turn down in the underground and was able to get out into an alley, making my way back to the apartment;  I never went back to that restaurant again!

There were a couple of airmen at Samsun who experimented with smoking "Hashish", and when found out, they lost their security clearances. 



Me in Restaurant in Izmir.

Airmen's Club at Ciğli AB-1963

Airmen's Club at Ciğli AB-1963

I was sent to Izmir to Cigli Air Base shortly after the "Cuban Missile Crisis".  President Kennedy agreed, in an "arms deal" with Khruschchev, to remove all the Jupiter missiles in Europe, if the Soviet Union would remove the nuclear missiles from Cuba, and would not land any more materials in support of nuclear weapons.  Cigli was one of the European bases that had a deployment of Jupiter missiles.  It was known that Soviet "observers" (spies) would be in Izmir, watching what the US did; thus, the need for a Russian-speaking person to be on-site to interpret any radio transmissions in Russian out of Turkey.  (While at Karamursel, when the "Cuban Missile Crises" hit, we were all called together and told that in the case of a crisis, there would be buses to remove all personnel from Karamursel (to somewhere, we weren't told where), beginning with all "operation" military personnel, followed by women and children.  Of course, the "crisis" never occurred.)

Can't post more on that subject, other than that I was there, but a couple of interesting anecdotes:

(Anecdotal)  During the dismantling of the missiles (the site was guarded by Turkish Army personnel), one night a shot was heard from the missile site.  In the morning, it was discovered that there was a bullet hole in one of the missiles.  The Turkish commander of the security detail lined up all the guards as they came off duty, went from man to man and sniffed their rifles.  He sniffed for the odor for a recently-fired weapon, and when he came to the one who fired the shot (turned out to be a case of "nerves"), the commander took the rifle from the guard and beat him senseless there on the spot.  Again, so much for discipline in the Turkish Army.

One of my friends in Izmir, stationed "downtown", was a Captain who was assigned to the Medical Corps.  (Again, I met him through Louis Vighier!)  He was former enlisted and went to OCS to obtain his officer's commission.  Once, when I was in town and walking with the Captain and his wife, an inebriated enlisted person saw us on the street and came up to us.  He addressed the Captain as "Sarge".  The wife, who had become the typical military wife (feeling her husband's rank, and being another Devil's Disciple), asked the husband, "Why do you let that person call you "Sarge".  You're an officer and should be addressed properly."  The Captain said, "Well, I was once a Sergeant, he knew me as a Sergeant, so there's no problem."  The wife obviously didn't like that, but did shut her mouth.  (In case you've discerned my dislike of military officers' wives, especially those wives of officers who were former enlisted, you are correct.  As stated before, the Devil has no disciples as offensive as officers' wives.)

EPHESUS - The Odeon (Little Theater) built in the 2nd Century A. D., with a seating capacity of 1400.  The columns on the left side of the picture represent the Gallery built by Emporer Augustus.

While in Izmir, I travelled to Ephesus, Turkey, and visited the house that is credited to be the place where Mary, the mother of Jesus, lived (after Jesus' death) and died.  Somewhere, I have a picture of the house before it was surrounded by the present structure.  (One of the few times I had a camera when visiting historical sites.)  (So far, I can't seem to find that picture, which I took about 1963.)  The Turks knew what a tourist attraction such a place would be and enclosed the little house.  (If you travel there, you'll see a lot of tourism crap, but you'll never see the actual house.)  Now, you can't even find a picture of the original house anywhere on the Internet.

Agora (market place) in the Namazgah District of "Old Izmir".  The historical remains of this place belong to the Roman Period (II
Century B. C.).

NATO Headquaters as it appeared in 1963 in Izmir, Turkey.

(Just as an aside, I was trying to maybe get a lead on the location of old friends in Izmir, when I came across a page that gave the current population of Izmir as 5 million people!!!!!  Hells Bells!  When I was there, you could drive from one side of Izmir to the other in less than 20 minutes, and that included the suburbs.  I don't know what the population was in 1963, but it was certainly far less than a million people.)

While at Izmir, friends and I went to Athens, Greece, a couple of times, and once to Pamplona, Spain, where some of us inebriated insane airmen actually "ran with the bulls".  (No one was injured and, actually, none of us ran more than a couple of blocks before "opting out".  We were foolhardy when drunk, but we were not idiots.  We ducked into the nearest alley at the first opportunity.)

We went to Majorca and other Greek and Italian islands.  I don't remember, off-hand, other places we went to, but we didn't sit on our asses in the barracks and complain about what an awful place we were in!  We "lived the life".

Moving on to other happenings at Cigli, while there I got to see a performance in the NCO Club by "Johnny Cash".  What a treat!

Once, soon after I had arrived at Cigli, someone had gone on a wild-boar hunt, and had the luck of bagging a "Domuz".  He took the pig to the mess hall and one of the (American) cooks there barbecued it for him.  He brought the ribs back to the barracks and shared it with the rest of us in the barracks.  (This was before I rented the apartment in Izmir and moved off-base.)

A note:  While in Izmir, I renewed acquaintenances with Ralph Johnson, another Gary Tobacco Company manager.  He was married to a Turkish wife and had a small daughter.  He loved Jim Beam bourban whiskey, which I purchased for him at the "Class 6" as often as possible.  I mention him because of the awesome bathroom in his house.  All the porcelain fixtures, commode, sink, and tub, were black.  The plumbing fixtures were all gold-colored.  It was an awesome sight.  Isn't it weird how such trivia remains in our memories?


In Turkey, when someone was convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail or prison, the "State" didn't feed the prisoner.  It was up to his relatives and/or friends to see that food was taken to him each day.  The Security Policemen I knew in Izmir (and elsewhere) hated the duty of taking food to arrested American GIs.

Any female convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term, had no place to go except the "Kampanya/Kerhane", because there were no women's prisons.  We knew it as the "Compound".).  That place was nothing more than a brothel, where men could go and pay a small fee for sex.  Mostly, they were frequented by local Turkish Army personnel, who had two free "passes" a month to the "Kampanyas".  As I recall, the "admission price" for non-Turkish-Army men was 3 Turkish Lira, about 29 cents at the time.

(Anecdotal)  While I was in Izmir, a USAF Sergeant and his wife had been out to a dinner at a friend's house.  (Military personnel in Izmir at that time could have autos.)  There was a lot of drinking involved and when the couple left, the wife drove the car because the Sergeant was a little "under the weather".  On the drive home, the wife, who also had a little too much to drink, hit a pedestrian and killed him.  The Sergeant did have enough sense to get behind the wheel of the auto before the police arrived, and he took the blame for the accident.  He knew what would have happened to his wife were she convicted.  I never knew what happened to the Sergeant, but his wife should be forever thankful that he had made the sacrifice for her.


I was into model-airplane building and flying at Cigli, but couldn't do any remote-control flying because of the Turkish laws regulating radio transmissions.  If one wanted to use a radio-control transmitter for model airplanes, one had to APPLY FOR A RADIO TRANSMISSION LICENSE!!!!!  Needless to say, I wasn't about to pay the exorbitant fee involved.  I just stuck to control-line flying.  (Turkish citizens had to PAY a fee just to have a radio!)

You may have noticed that, after re-enlisting in 1962, I was shuttled all over Turkey.  That's the way it was.  One went wherever one was "needed".

Hell, later I ended up at the USAF Survival School at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington, as a lecturer on Soviet and Russian History.  Taught Russian and Soviet History, Theory of Communism, Interrogation Techniques, Indoctrination Fundamentals, etc.  Was always TDY (Temporary Duty) all over the world.  Went to all the Army, Navy, and Air Force Survival Schools to monitor their Survival, Evasion Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training.  Went to the Navy Survival School in California and was asked if I would like to go through the "complete" training.  I had already heard about the "water-board" interrogation technique at the school and said, "No Thanks!".  Yes the Navy, even back in the 70's were using the "water board" and let me tell you that NO ONE could resist that "technique".  I saw high-ranking Naval officers spill their guts in the mock PW Compound.  I don't care what the liberal pussies have said about that being "torture", it worked!  It's not nice, but it gets results.  At one of the Army Survival Schools, a similar technique was used.  A hood was placed over the head of the person being interrogated and tobacco smoke was piped into the hood.  It didn't take long for the person being "interrogated" to spill his guts either.

Evasion &

George Now

For some reason, I became the "point" for Evasion and Escape tactics, for the Air Training Command (ATC).  I edited USAFE Manual 205-1, Evasion and Escape Manual, in an update, to reflect the, then, current USAF/USAFE policies.  Somehow, my efforts were made known to the Joint Services Command (now Central Command) at MacDill AFB, near Tampa, FL, which was holding a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) Conference.  I was sent TDY to MacDill to represent the ATC.  Upon arrival, and checking in to the conference, I introduced myself.  I was asked, "Where is your officer?"  Well, I went alone and had no officer!  There were Majors there getting coffee for the main participants, who were Colonels and Generals.  The participants there couldn't believe a MSgt in the USAF was representing the USAF ATC!  But there I was, a lowly MSgt, representing ATC!  In any case, my "re-write" did become the new version of USAFE Manual 205-1.

[Note on the photo, Evasion & Escape Conference:  Me before leaving base quarters at Fairchild AFB with USAFE Manuel 205-1 in the briefcase.  Really had fun at airports when the officials insisted on looking in the briefcase.”  Of course, I had "papers" designating me as a "Courier" and the briefcase could not be opened.]

A "Dining-In" photo when I was an A1C (Sgt).

Enjoyed those years, but was grateful that I had many TDY assignments back to Turkey.

I was there!  I saw it, I lived it, and I know it was so!



After my second permanent-duty tour in Turkey, I went back several times on TDY, but was never able to recapture the ambience of my earlier tours.  I suppose it was because I was in unfamiliar places for very short period of time, and never had the time to establish any kind of rapport with the local Turkish people.

I do feel that I fully immersed myself in Turkish culture during my two years at Samsun and later in other places.  Unfortunately, when I returned sometime later it was a different story.  I made friends in the "trade" and sometimes visited their families when I could; but it wasn't the same.  On the TDY assignments it was all business.

I'm only writing these posts because I did, and do, so love Turkey and its people.  I should have done what my friend did and gone back to Turkey as a civilian.  I would have been happy there for the rest of my life.  I certainly had the opportunity, and I will forever regret that I let it slip by.  In fact, my friend, Louis Vighier, made contact with the tobacco company in North Carolina and secured a position for me with the Gary Tobacco Company in Turkey.  I turned down the offer and that was probably the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life.

(I live in Knoxville, TN.)

I found this photo on the Internet, taken outside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.  I'm posting it here because it shows a person who looks a lot like me!  Glasses, beard, ears, and all.  Gotta be an umpteenth cousin.  I just thought I'd throw it in for fun.  It may not be a picture of me, but it's certainly a picture of my father.

And, found this photo of Ali Bas from Sinop.  Dang, yet another person in Turkey that has a striking resemblence to people in my family.  Another cousin?

(During my stint in the USAF, I went "Bootstrap" (Eastern Washington State University, Cheney, WA) to get a BA in Russian Language, with minors in Russian Area Studies and Russian Political Science.  After retirement, I attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to study for a BS in Animal Science, with minors in Math and Physics.)

So, I turned 80 in October 2018, still wanting to return to the "Greatest County I've Ever Been In".  But, I'm afraid that I would be disappointed.  The Turkey that I knew has changed.  I look at photos of Samsun, and instead of seeing a quaint small town, I see 6-lane highways, skyscrapers, and businesses and factories that I would never have dreamed of when I was there.  I've looked at photos of Izmir, Trabzon, and Istanbul, and read stories of those cities, and they are now alien to me.  There's an old saying, that I suppose is very true:  "You can never go back."  I will just have to live in Turkey in my memories.  That way it will always be "The Greatest Country".

I enjoyed every day of my 22 year USAF career.  I would not take back a day of it.  In my family upbringing, I learned discipline, loyalty, respect, obedience, reverence, dedication, and love of country; my time in the USAF only re-enforced those disciplines.  I found that the Turkish people also have those same disciplines.

I fear for our country today – it seems to me that most Americans now have never learned those disciplines – our society is a Me-Me society. Lord, let me "Go Back"!


After assuming management of the website (formerly, and having read in detail the many, many great stories about the various TUSLOG Detachments in Turkey, while editing them for formatting errors, bad links, bad email addresses, etc., I realize that my "Greatest Country" Story pales when compared with others' stories, especially with Wayne Bohannon's fantastic story, "Trabzon:  Heaven on Earth".  Wayne, thank you for your wonderful story.


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