INĒİRLİK AIR BASE - ADANA, TURKEY
My Duty Station March 29, 1958 - January 10, 1960
FIFTY YEARS LATER
A/2C Charles Sibert
© 2009 by Author
The next day, November 6, 1959, was a typical Friday: breakfast at the Mess Hall, a walk down to the transient alert office, and the bottom room of the control tower was still our office. Another airman and I relieved the crew on duty and found out what had occurred during their shift. T/Sgt Crooks, our NCOIC, came in and said we needed to inspect all our equipment and refuel the tanks that needed it. Also, we had some M-D3s (self propelled power units) that needed oil. We took the follow me trucks down to the motor pool for fuel and oil as no planes were scheduled in or out. I think we had all our "side work," as we called it, completed around noon.
All of the airmen who worked in Alert thought T/Sgt Crooks was a special NCO In Charge. We hadn't had one like him before. There was T/Sgt Callens and S/Sgt Compton before Crooks became our NCOIC. He was someone who cared for his men and would go to bat for all of us at any time. One morning, T/Sgt Crooks came to work with bandages on his head and neck. His hands were severely scratched up and I think he also had a black eye! We thought he had been in a fight. T/Sgt Crooks always rode his Lambretta Scooter to work, and when we saw that it was wrecked somewhat, we knew he had crashed somewhere.
| ||Above: L. Squadron party; R. Guys at party;|
Lower: Going to barracks from party.
He finally told us the whole story: he had ridden down to Adana to visit the Mar Mar Bar. On his way back to the base after dark, he had crashed into a large pile of stones. A broken down truck had dumped its load on the highway so it would be lighter and easier to tow away. The driver of the truck had followed highway rules at the time and placed a ring of smaller stones around the large pile of stones as a warning. Seems this was all that was needed to be lawful. No reflectors or blinking lights were used in 1959.
T/Sgt Crooks admitted that he was just a little inebriated on the drive back to the base, but thought the cold air would sober him up. The crash, he said, was what really sobered him up. He picked up his scooter and rode the few remaining miles back to the base. We wondered aloud if that pile of stones had been on the road when he traveled to Adana, and he said he saw the stones traveling down there, but on his return trip from Adana it was very dark...and his vision was blurred.
Back from my leave in the states, life at İncirlik Air Base was routine. I spent my free time getting ready to go to Dreux Air Base in France the coming January, 1960. I had started early planning on how to get my belongings and myself there. Soon I would have a set of orders telling me when I would leave İncirlik and when to arrive in France. One Day I was getting my photo album in order, along with some of my other things to ship air-freight to France. I ran across the photos I had taken of our first and only squadron party since I arrived at the base. It was held, I believe, on Saturday August 15, 1959 in the large hangar east of Air Freight and Base Operations.
Barrels of beer and fellow airmen who played music kept all of us in lively spirits. It was very hot and most of us were in civvies, shirts were unbuttoned and guys jumped around to the music - just acting crazy, getting drunk, and letting it all hang out. One of the First Lieutenants in our squadron had written a song, and when most of us had enough beers, we gathered around the stage to sing the song in unison. It was to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" and we should have recorded it! Each man was given a printed copy of the song:
THE PARTY SONG
By 1st/Lt. "S"
When they sent us here to Turkey,
They said we would be the first line.
They said that our jobs were important,
It sounded like they were feeding us a line.
Bull Crap! Bull Crap!
It sounds like bull crap to me, to me,
Bull Crap! Bull Crap!
And Bull Crap it turned out to be!
They said we are guests here in Turkey,
To customs and laws we must adhere.
They said we would get all the backing,
To protect us while we're stationed here!
They said that there would be no delay,
In getting our dependents brought here.
They said that the housing was plentiful
But we must pay in advance for a year.
The houses are quite well constructed,
With modern convenience they say.
But the bombsite that they call a toilet,
Is an experience no one should delay.
The bombsite is used in an odd position,
You crouch on two platforms in the floor.
You aim for a hole in between them,
And lucky if you don't crap on the floor!
Our base is the best here in Turkey,
At least that's what they tell us so.
The overall Commander's a Turk Major,
And they really let you know.
The chain of command has been broken,
And not from the people below.
But headquarters doesn't believe it,
And that's why we function so slow.
The work that we try to accomplish,
It seems all in vain now and then.
An order is given to complete it,
And a change then comes in from Big "M"*
Somehow we seem to survive it,
And rotation time comes our way.
When an extension is offered to us,
This is what you'll hear us say:
When at last you return to the Z.I.,
Don't be afraid to yell.
I'm bound to go to heaven,
'Cause I've served my stretch in hell.
After the squadron party was over and all the beer used up, we walked back to our barracks. What a sight: some with shirts slung over their shoulders, others holding each other steady, and some just sitting down to rest alongside the roadway. By now, the hot sun - in the 90s - and bellies full of beer were taking their toll upon the stragglers. Somehow, though, we all made it back to our own bunks to sleep it off.
Sadly, an officer at the party was doing "doughnuts" in a VW Bug near the hangar and turned upside down, breaking his neck, and losing his life.
Thanksgiving, 1959, would be my third one away from home and November 26th was fast approaching. I remembered my first Thanksgiving at the base and how I had trouble getting Ujel, our houseboy, to understand we were not going to eat Turkey - as in his country, because all the guys were talking about how good the Turkey would be at the mess hall!
I learned the Turkish word for the Turkey bird was "Hindi," and I finally got Ujel to understand, but it took me a week or more for him to let it sink into his brain. I even started to call him Hindi as a joke between us, and he would call me "Ebanunik" - a Turkish word for "anteater". Of course I probably have this word misspelled after so many years of not using it.
Thursday, November 26th came to the base and the mess hall was filled for the Thanksgiving meal. Just a lot of Air Force turkeys in Turkey, and filling up on turkey and all the trimmings. I ate the meal slowly, wanting to feel that I was going to be stuffed. The pumpkin pie was super good and even the hot coffee tasted better than it had the day before. I knew the folks back home were thinking of me so far away, which is what they had said in their letters. I sure was thinking of them on that day. I put some sliced turkey in my fatigues pocket to eat while back on Alert duty. This was considered a "no no" by the Mess Hall sign, but what the heck, it was 1959 and my last Thanksgiving meal at İncirlik Air Base.
Letters from home.
The rest of Thanksgiving day was spent at Transient Alert - I had pulled duty on that day. Just the way the schedule was made out and the cookie crumbled. I don't believe we had a single call from Base Ops advising us of an inbound or outbound aircraft.
Days when we had little or no traffic, it was so boring that we'd just drive around the flightline to pass the time. One of us would stay in the Alert office and the other would take a drive. Sometimes we'd take the LOX cart for a topoff and then trade places. We'd call Base Ops for a chitchat to make the time pass faster. Sometimes some of the other alert fellows came in and a checkers or card game would start up - as it did quite often on weekends, too. It was a time for one of us to get up on the bunk and grab some sleep.
November 1959 faded into history and Christmas would soon be arriving. As it was my second Thanksgiving at İncirlik, it would, of course, be my second Christmas as well. The weeks leading up to Christmas were uneventful, just more of the same work on the flightline. I was still looking for my orders relieving me of the assignment at TUSLOG Detachment 10-1, and assigning me to the 7305th Consolidated Line Maintenance Squadron, APO 84, U.S. Forces, Dreux, France. I didn't know when I would get these orders but I knew I was to leave İncirlik Air Base in early January, 1960.
I was sort of glad to be going to France, taking in the sights of Paris and all it offered a young airman. I found out that Paris was only 1-½ hours from the base at Dreux by automobile. There was a train station in Dreux that would also take passengers to Paris. All you'd have to do was get the 18 miles from the base to the town of Dreux and catch the train.
We were all in the Christmas spirit at Transient Alert and bought some Santa Claus dolls from the AFEX to adorn our small yellow tug motors. We hung up some ribbons in the office and put fake snow on a few windows. Tech Sergeant Crooks thought we were all just young kids doing what they do at Christmas time. Truly we all were just some young airmen in our twenties, except for one or two in Alert.
Christmas cards and letters came to the mail room for me addressed to my box number, and in plenty of time for Christmas on Friday December 25, 1959. Family and friends kept me in good spirits as I got their mail almost every week. I even received mail from two girls I had met on my leave time back home the previous October.
Christmas day came to İncirlik and because I pulled a shift on Christmas Eve, I was off duty for 48 hours over Christmas day. AFRS Radio İncirlik had all the Christmas carols playing on radios throughout the barracks with all the radios tuned in. The Christmas meal at the mess hall was just great but, of course, not as good as Mom's back home. You know you just miss some things! Sure I was lonesome for family, but I had a great group of airmen around me. We were all enjoying our Christmas time together. We shared our stories of our past Christmases back in the states. For some, this was a first time away. All in all, this was a good Christmas and my last one to be spent at İncirlik. Oh yes! I did receive some small presents from home.
Things went well for me on Christmas Day and as Saturday and Sunday the 26th and 27th passed, I was looking forward to getting my orders to go to France. Around noon, Monday the 28th, while on my way back to work on the flightline I checked in at the orderly room. There, waiting for me, were 40 copies of the set of orders I had been looking for, handed to me by the clerk on duty. The orders were from the headquarters of TUSLOG Detachment 10, United States Air Force, APO 289, U.S. Forces.
I took a copy of my orders and put the rest of the copies in my wall locker. Back to work on the flightline I went as happy as one could be. I showed the orders to T/Sgt. Crooks and asked his help on getting my things together. As he had moved from base to base before and knew just what I should do, his help was greatly appreciated. I felt like a kid with a new toy as I read the copy of my orders over and over again, trying to find some more meaning from them. I wondered how I would fly from Turkey to France. Would I go on a civilian or military flight? I just knew I had to begin the next day putting my plans together.
The very next morning after getting off from work and eating breakfast, I hurried to my barracks. Some of the men were there and I told them about my orders which said I would leave on or about Sunday January 10, 1960. I opened my wall locker and found my blue Air Force duffel bag. I had not used it since picking it up from Air Freight when I first arrived at İncirlik in March of 1958. My "horse blanket" overcoat that still had my Airman 3rd Class stripes on the sleeves, and the duffel bag would go in my personal footlocker for shipment. I had never changed stripes because I never wore the coat at İncirlik Air Base. That could change in the colder weather at Dreux, but I hoped I'd never have to wear it. That overcoat was warm but just so ugly!
I spent the next few hours putting some more things in my footlocker that I would ship. I had sold my Class B dark blue long sleeve shirt to another Airman 2nd Class who lived in my barracks, and had sold my Class B tan summer long sleeve shirt to another Airman 2nd Class the month before. These shirts only had another year, I believe, to be worn as part of the Air Force uniform. Also, I sold my reel-to-reel Tape Recorder to another Airman 2nd Class whose first name was Clem and I can't remember his last name although I have photos of him. All that is on these photos is his first name. He helped me get it to play properly when I first purchased it by taping the capstan to make it play the proper speed.
After lunch at the snack bar, I began to pack more things into my shipment footlocker. Not much left in my wall locker, so I started on my squadron footlocker. Some clothing I gave away and some I just tossed. I did leave my Class-A uniform hanging in my locker to wear to France, along with my raincoat, shirt, tie, class-A cap and rain cover, socks and lowquarters. I didn't know what the weather would be in France, but I believed it to be cold there. We were one big happy family on the flightline and got along with everyone, so when we needed something, it was easy to have it done. So I purchased a one-foot by two-foot by eight-inch side-zipper suitcase from the AFEX. It was blue, and made of waterproof material. It cost less than ten dollars. I then asked an Airman friend to cut a stencil and paint my name and serial number on my suitcase for me.
I was tired of packing for the day so why not just go to supper at the Mess Hall? I zoomed on down there at about 1630 hours (4:30 p.m.) and was there when it opened. After a good meal, I went to the snackbar for some ice cream and a chat with some of the gang hanging around there. Back to my barracks, ice cream in hand, I walked the wide gravel road. Sitting on my bunk, I contemplated my next move while finishing my ice cream. I still had no idea how I would get to France. Tomorrow would be the next to last day of December, 1959 and I was way ahead of things, I thought.
I knew I would have to get my footlocker to air freight soon, to ship it to france. I planned to pack some more things the next day. The blue suitcase would just take a few things along with me. A military flight would be less hassle. I'd just have to wait and see how my Journey would turn out.
The next morning, December 30, 1959, I got up saying to all who were in shouting distance that I wouldn't have to go back to work until New Years eve morning! I had another whole day to organize more things for my trip to France. I got into my fatigues and hurried off to breakfast. Just two hundred yards and I'd be eating and dreaming of what I was going to do that day. After breakfast, I retraced my steps back to my barracks and my bay. My mind was on nothing else but getting myself ready to leave İncirlik Air Base.
I was talking to everyone I saw on my way back to the barracks. I sure was in a super good mood that morning. I even hugged Pop, our shoeshine man, as he came around from the back side of the barber shop to set up his stand out front. We talked for a while and he became very sad when I finally told him I was leaving İncirlik. He said I should not go to France because they eat horsemeat there! I was sure glad I only had a few more days to go.
Wednesday, the 30th of December actually passed quickly. I got some more things prepared for my trip, and I got together with A/3C Gary Longboat who also lived in my bay, about him mailing some of my things to me in France. I packed all my fatigue clothes, except one set to work in while still at İncirlik. I also kept out one pair of work boots, a cap, belt and work socks and underwear. All my other shoes were packed. If I needed something else I could borrow them. I gave Longboat a copy of my orders which he could use for my new mailing address in France.
The work clothes I would wear to work in my last few days at İncirlik were some of my older ones received while in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas back in August and September of 1957. I had shortened the sleeves on my fatigue shirt for my last days there. My field jacket was already packed and if it got real cold, I could always borrow someone else's. I would look the worse for wear those last few days but it would cause no trouble. It seemed so strange to see my wall and squadron footlocker looking so bare. My mind flashed back to 1958 when I had moved into this new bay. I was going to miss all my bunk mates and great buddies.