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Istanbul Turkey, TUSLOG Det 29, 1967-1969


Colonel John E. Perez, USAF (Ret.)

2007-2011 by Author

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I was a young, single Captain, assigned as Chief, Supply and Services. The Commander of Istanbul Air Station was Colonel Frank A.Zamboni, who is long since retired -- but still healthy and active and now living in Florida.

Istanbul in the late 1960s was wonderful. The bridges that now span the Bosphorus had not yet been built. Water taxis and ferry boats were plentiful. There were only four traffic lights in the entire city. No vehicle congestion. Incredibly low prices. Wonderful restaurants and night clubs. A sophisticated population who considered themselves to be European.

A very small U.S. military presence (less than 100 people) who lived on the local economy - we had no base. One six story building served as an office building with base supply and the APO in the basement, the Comm Flight and crypto stuff on the top floor, the clinic on the third floor and all other functions (Command HQ, CBPO, Admin, Finance, CE, etc) in between. Across the street was a building which housed enlisted billets, NCO Club, Dining Hall, bowling alley, barber shop and laundry/dry cleaning pick-up. The actual laundry plant was at KARAMURSEL. About a quarter mile down the street was the third building. It had the motor pool on the ground floor, commissary, BX, library, chapel, personnel services, an eight room BOQ and an officers' club.

About five miles further away was a grade school for dependents of the military and US Diplomatic Corps. And across the Bosphorus (in Asia) was the commissary warehouse which supplied not only Istanbul but Ankara, the Black Sea sites (Trabzon, Sinop and Samsun) as well as any number of other small US Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard sites. Married personnel all lived on the local economy.

Virtually no American tourists, no anti-American demonstrations, no television and no Armed Forces Radio. There were only two radio stations - both in Turkish - and all around us were such sights and sites. Trips to Egypt or Lebanon (when Beirut was still the "Paris of the Orient") were easy to manage. Exotic bazaars. Splendid mosques. Great restaurants, night clubs and cabarets. Low prices. A favorable dollars to Turkish Lira exchange rate. History became so tangible - you could smell, hear, touch and almost taste it.

Click on photos to enlarge

The MV (Motor Vessel) "Genc" berthed along-side the TUSLOG Det 29 Commissary Warehouse facility in Uskudar circa 1968.
    The Genc was a Turkish vessel  chartered by TUSLOG to haul supplies (primarily refrigerated and dry food stuffs) from Istanbul to the three Black Sea "sites" of Samsun, Sinop and Trabzon.


Performance awards presentation to Turkish employees of TUSLOG Det 29 circa 1968.
   The three uniformed American officers are (left to right) 1st Lt Thomas P. Allen, Transportation Officer; Colonel George W. Adams, Jr., Commander; and 1st Lt John E. Perez, Chief of Supply and Services

TUSLOG Det 29 - Istanbul Air Station Officer's Club card circa 1968.

NATO Travel Orders directing PCS move to Istanbul Turkey. Transportation for both military members and dependents was almost always by commercial aircraft.
   This meant travel was by Pan American World Airlines -- the only U.S. carrier serving Istanbul. The customs stamps in the lower right-hand corner of the order show initial arrival (Giris) at Yesilkoy International Airport, on 16 October 1967.
   Failure to present this original order -- with exit and entry stamps in place -- could result in major delays when a tour of duty ended.

Cargo being off loaded by TUSLOG Det 33 (U.S. Army Port unit) in Istanbul.
   All water-borne cargo for Istanbul, Ankara, the Black Sea sites and other remote installations arrived in Istanbul. Much of the cargo was offloaded onto lighters - from ships moored in the Bosphorus - and was then brought to the Det 33 quayside warehouse.

TUSLOG Det 29 staff meeting being held in the Bayazid Building in 1968.
   At the head of the table is the Detachment Commander, Colonel Frank A. Zamboni, Jr.

Officers' and NCOs' Open Mess Calendars for March 1969. Those were the days of 10 cent beers and 25 cent mixed drinks. Notice the NCOOM Family Luncheon Specials priced at 60 cents. The Open Mess activities enjoyed a sizeable income from slot machines -- especially if a U.S. Navy vessel was making a port call at Istanbul.

Department of Defense "Pocket Guide to Turkey", issued to personnel assigned to the country.


Left: Turkish Air Force military uniforms and insignias of rank, and at right: Turkish Army military uniforms and insignias of rank..


The Bosphorus -- separating European Turkey from Asian Turkey -- is the home for many types of watercraft.

From sedate ferries which crisscross the straits as waterborne buses...

To aging ocean going tramp steamers.

Sirkeci Station is Istanbul's European side railroad terminal. The eastern terminus for the famed Orient Express; the station had, even in the late 1960s, seen better days.  Passengers continuing by rail to Ankara would take a ferry to the Haydar Pasa terminal on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.
   Note the parking fee of 1 Turkish Lira and 50 kurus. Back then, one lira was worth about ten cents. Today (2003), one American dollar is worth about 1,431,470.19 Turkish Lira!

Other modes of transportation included the Dolmus - a shared taxi cab which rus along a fixed route - somewhat like a city bus, and each rider pays his or her share of the total fare.
   While minivans are in use today, back in the late 1960s the vintage vehicle shown to the left must have been prized for its interior jump seats.

Every Turkish taxi had a meter installed on the exterior right fender. They were supposed to work -- but I never saw one in use. Fares were arrived at in advance by bargaining.

Masallah wasn't the manufacturer of this truck, which is actually a Czechoslovakian Skoda. Masallah means "May Allah's, blessings be on you" and is a common decoration on trucks and buses.

Shopping -- and bargaining -- are both pleasures and arts in Turkey. In Istanbul the major shopping areas were the Grand Bazaar, with its hundreds and hundreds of individual vendors.

Or for more modern shopping -- in a 1930's sort of way -- you could go to Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue) -- Istanbul's most elegant shopping boulevard, stretching from Tunel to Taksim Square. Today Istanbul has many malls and shopping centers which are on a par with those in major US and European cities. But bargaining is still practiced.

The usual postcard view of Istanbul reinforces the erroneous impression that the city enjoys a warm weather throughout the year.

Istanbul has four distinct seasons and snow is common during the winter months -- as this photo of Topkapi Palace proves.

What former member of TUSLOG could forget the joy of target practice, using a "bombsight" toilet!

And also, what veteran of TUSLOG Det 29 in Istanbul could forget the Puro-Fay soap factory?
   Located directly across the street from the Fargo Building (which housed the BX, Commissary, Chapel, library, O Club, BOQ and Personnel Services) the factory was surmounted by a revolving globe endlessly flashing the words Puro Fay. On certain days the fumes from the factory were overpowering -- like chewing on soap!

And finally ... what I wouldn't give to be able to turn back the calendar to 1967 and return to Istanbul, to when I was 23 years young, a Captain, with a new car, a full head of hair and a whole lifetime to look forward to!