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Cigli/Izmir 1968-1970 and
a Return Visit 30 Years Later

Ken Swedroe

2003-2011 by Author

I was a security policeman 30 years ago while I was at Izmir/Cigli Air Force Base and TUSLOG Det. 20 (Izmir Air Station) Being young at the time, I didn't take full advantage of the history I could have learned. Most of the people I was around just wanted to go home because walking guard duty from 12 midnight to 7 in the morning wasn't fun. We had 4 F100s uploaded with "the bomb" in a special hangar area that was attached to the Izmir airport runway. (I was looking for that when I landed in Izmir, recently, while i was on holiday, but it must have been torn down.) I remember back when I was stationed at Cigli, watching Turkish planes land while on guard duty. They seemed real close. Once, three other fellow airmen and I walked from the base to downtown Izmir. Another time, we climbed the mountains near the base and after coming down, we took the base bus back. It was a great walk.


Random Memories that Occur To Me
After two years in Turkey:

  • The beach we used to go to.
  • The fight at the base NCO club.
  • Listening to "Hey Jude" for the first time, while on post.
  • The lame USO shows.
  • Christmas at the Ephesus hotel (no longer there).
  • Walking through the compound late at night.
  • Shoe shine boys.
  • The knife in the stomach of a friend because he was dating a Turkish girl.
  • The dead horse by the side of the road that was there for at least two weeks.
  • Drinking at the NCO club. (wait 'till you see double, then you know it's time to leave).
  • Listening to "We got to get out of this place, if the last thing we ever do" on the radio.
  • Not watching TV for two years.
  • My night spent downtown Izmir because I missed the last bus to the base.
  • Watching the sun come up while the prayers are heard over the loudspeaker.
  • Seeing guys with their heads out the window of the bus while we rolled home.
  • The bad dusty days, when the sun was like a white ball in the sky.
  • Sitting by the sea.
  • A dolmus ride to Kusadasi.
  • Sitting on a bus loaded with Turkish men smoking.
  • The 40 year old staff sgt. who wanted to retire and own a vegetable stand.
  • One night while I was on post, one of the fellows decided to empty the clip of the M16 he was carrying. Good thing he pointed it in the air.
  • Roger Gagnon, while on post during the day would stick bugs on toothpicks and stick them in the ground. after he was relieved, there would be 30 or 40 bugs wiggling on the end of toothpicks.
  • Counting how many steps it took to get from end of the walk to the other. back and forth.
  • Watching the Turkish women do the belly dance and take their clothes off. We had our favorite, but i can't say what we called her. She was good.
  • Buying the women cognac at the pavions, which was really tea, but we didn't care, because they would sit with us as long as we kept buying it for them.
  • The weed i pulled, put in a vase, and hung christmas decorations on.
  • The time when the Turkish workers went on strike. they locked the NCO club, the commissary down town, they put the Turkish flag on the ground in front of the door. we were having cigarets flown in by F100s. mostly we were smoking Turkish. the electricity failed in the commissary and all the food spoiled.

This could go on and on. I don't really have stories, just bits and pieces of memory.

Quite a few nights, we would go from one Turkish pavion to the next. At the pavions you could watch belly dancers, have a girl sit next to you at the table and listen to Turkish bands and singers. Mostly it was Tom Jones with a Turkish beat. Ffter a while I thought mr. jones was Turkish! We were a rowdy group of American kids, and after drinking most of the night we would walk over to Charlie's Sidewalk Cafe. He had a small grill outside and would take 8 or 9 small bits of lamb on a stick and grill them. It really wasn't bad. He would serve bread and a few slices of tomato, and after we ate, we always broke the sticks because it was said that he would use them over again.

On my recent visit to Izmir, at the little outside cafe (above) I had baked fresh fish. Really good! And after a while I felt the place was really familiar. I realized it was Charlie's old place! So I took a picture that I have long since misplaced. Maybe I'll find it soon. I can also report that the NCO club that was in Izmir is gone now.

I'm not going to mention the Turkish compound (Kerhane in Turkish) in Izmir. If you want to know, i'll tell you, but it's not pleasant. (Maybe more later).

Some nights we would go to the NCO club in Izmir where there were slot machines on the first floor. The food was good, and the drinks were cheap, so we would drink until we nearly couldn't walk, and would stagger to the bus stop to go back to base. I'm afraid we did a lot of drinking on base and in Izmir. I'm really not proud of that, but there wasn't much else to do.

I can still remember the smell of Turkish tobacco which to my young nose, was most unpleasant (I didn't notice it at all on my recent trip back!) I do remember those lonely, boring hours of guard duty, the rain, the wind, the cold, the heat.

(At left is me, today). I revisited Izmir and Kusadasi just last year (2004). I had some extra money and I could have gone anywhere I wanted, so naturally I chose Turkey mostly to see how things have changed. I was sorry that I couldn't visit the base where I spent my two years, but i did see it from the highway.

My tour guide, (we were driving to Pergamom at the time) worked on the base in 1969. As my plane landed at the Izmir airport this time, I thought I could see the Cigli base - I do remember the base was real close to the airport runway - but i couldn't make out any thing that looked familiar.(below)

Not much has changed since I was there. Konak was the same. I bought another puzzle ring, and some other things at the bazaar and the place where I bought my ring was the same place we used to shop when I was in the air force. I also had my shoes shined - the shoe shine boys are still there. I spent three days in Kusadasi, too. I remember we would go there often, back then, and at that time there were only a couple of hotels but of course, a quarter century later there are a lot more. Inn the past 30 years, the area has become more popular. We used to take a boat across the bay to Karsiaka. So, I did that too when i was there recently, and I found that Karsiaka hasn't changed at all!

Cigli has changed the most. Gone are the tea houses where men would sit at small tables and smoke their nargiles (hookahs). These would line the street. Gone also, (and glad it is), was the slaughter house we would have to drive through. The smell was overwhelming. The area seems cleaner now, and there's a new shopping mall with a movie theater.

I haven't kept in touch with anyone I was stationed with, which I realize now, is unfortunate. So if anyone remembers me, feel free to click the e-mail link at the top or bottom of the page and get in touch!

If you know of anyone who has more photos of the base, I would love to see them, too.

When i was there last year, it sure didn't seem like it had been over 30 years. I would like to go back. Especially to Kusadasi. I loved "Kus"! I'll post some pictures of my visit soon.


Ken Swedroe Niles, IL