İncirlik Air Base, 1963-1965

Bob Nissly

© 2003-2011 by Author

I served with Air Force Communications service (Det 16, Communications Squadron) at İncirlik AB from December 7, 1963 to June 6, 1965, (the typical 18 month tour). The recent tv program "Pan Am" brought back memories, as our Pan Am jet was a Boeing 707 which took us from New York to Paris and then to Istanbul and Ankara. From there we got a Turk Hava Yolari F-27 on to Adana. "Holy cow, there's only a hole in the floor with water running out of a pipe!" That was my thought as I used the facilities at the airport. An Air Force Blue Bird drove up and took us through Adana to the base. I'll never forget the smell of old town Adana. And I recall a woman looking at a slab of meat just hanging there in the market. She appeared to shoo off some flies and pointed to what she wanted.

We lived in the old quonset huts (near the main gate) for several months and then moved to the new barracks. We grew accustom to the rain pelting off the old tin roof. An older man, (is the term "abbey" ? or houseboy) took care of changing our linen and cleaning our quonset. I remember him as being a person of faith, and recall him praying several times a day on his mat, and using his "worry" beads" as we called them.

My first personal contact with the Turkish people came as a co-worker took me to Adana to visit with his neighbor. The family was friendly and I recall the little cup of coffee and a couple of cubes of sugar I added with tongs. Of course the bakliva, the sweet pastry was delicious.

When the Turks and Greeks were fighting over Cyprus, we went on 12 hour shifts. It seemed that for months on end all we did was eat, sleep and work. In the Comm center I recall seeing numerous flash messages come in about the tension and fighting on Cyprus.

As a naive 18 year old kid, I dated Ayse, who was a politician's daughter. She was a lovely young lady and was quite westernized. I remember going to İskenderun and enjoying the day on the beach. Later that evening when I gave her a goodnight kiss, the arabache driver pulled a knife. Fast talking on her part saved my neck!

Back in the 1960's there was not a lot to do on base. There was a small commissary, snack shop, airmen's club, bowling alley and theater. That was about it. Sometimes we would go to town. I have several souvenirs, including a merchaum pipe and a vase. We also went to to the USO downtown sometimes. They has snacks, AFRTS (wow we could watch tv), books, etc.

Once, on a rare day off, a couple of us rented horses. We spent the whole afternoon riding those strong, arabian stock all around the countryside. I recall afterward how sore I was. It was the first time I had ever ridden!

Just down the road from our dining hall was "the contraption". To this day I do not know what it was. It was a series of inner-connected pipes which served no visible purpose. Some went in one direction, others another. Each day as I walked by it on the way to the Communications center, there it stood. I'd say it was 20-25 feet in length and about the same width, and about six feet high. Maybe it was an on the job training for plumbers! Back then we had B-47's and also rotation squadrons of fighters came through; first the F-100's and then others like the F-105's.

At the Communications section, when we were on break during a day or evening shift, the mobile van with snacks would come by. We called it "The Roach Coach".

I also remember some of the guys got various social diseases from visiting the "Compound". Of course that was off limits to the GI's, but the curious would submit to the gendarmes checking for contraband and then were allowed through.

One of my biggest surprises was the day I heard a knock on my door and a high school buddy named Sharpless W. Crowe III was standing there! We served in the Communications Center for a couple months until I rotated back to the US.

Once I took the bus which went through Tarsus. It was impressive to go through the home of the Apostle Paul. I was later to realize that he founded many Churches in what would later become Turkey. And the 7 Churches of Revelation sites are in western Turkey.

At one point I was also called to work the switchboard for a couple months. During the midnight shifts when there were few calls, the Turk national and I who worked together on the switchboard would chat, or sometimes I would try to call home to Pennsylvania. It usually took about eight or nine bases, with a request for an OP (operator priority) at each to get back to Olmstead AFB, in Middletown, PA and then it was just a local call home to Elizabethtown. I was eleted to hear my mom's voice, even it if was only for a couple brief minutes. Sometimes we lost the line due to interference, or because of an official call needing to use the atlantic cable line.

For years after, I would have dreams about being reassigned to Turkey. The experience seemed to loom in the psyche for years thereafter.

There was a rather unpleasant experience which happened shortly before I was due to PCS. There had been a threat called in to our Comm Center. The OSI investigated and I of all people was a person of interest - why - because (I was to find out later) I was angry that I had to work on my birthday and to show my anger I allegedly called in the threat. Gees. As if I had any plans that day. I of course told them I had not done it and even offered to take a polygraph test. The agent grilled me for a bit and I was then allowed to return to my squadron. (Later as I went to my next base I was give a polygraph test and passed).

Another interesting item - when I first got to İncirlik we were served desserts by the staff, who were Turk nationals. Once as we were being served I called out "peach" and when I go this evil look, one of my friends assured the server that I was not calling him a "bastard" LOL (piÁ is the Turkish word for bastard.... (and şeftali -SHEFF-tah-lee is the Turkish word for the fruit that English speakers call the "peach". -Ed.)

I still have the lighter given to all who served there, with the inscription "Gule, gule" (bye-bye).

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