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My Tour of Duty at Alan, Kararmürsel, Turkey

Carlton Thigpen

© 2003-2011 by Author

I thought whis was the Brownbaggers' ferry,
but since I never used it, I'm not sure.

Russian tanker ablaze after a collision with another ship. Taken from motor boat en-route to CARE presentation at Old Folks Home in Istanbul (See Jan Claire's section for more on CARE)

More of Russian tanker ablaze.

Rumeli Hisari (Castle) in Istanbul, Turkey. (Now adjacent to spectacular suspension bridge across Bosphorus. Ed.)

Different view from Rumeli Hisari

Mosque in Yalova, Turkey

Turkish Post Office, Yalova, Turkey

Somewhere in Yalova, Turkey

View from my window at the Istanbul Hilton Hotel.

View from my window at the Istanbul Hilton Hotel.

Ataturk Monument, Taxim Square, Istanbul, Turkey.

Another view from Istanbul Hilton

And another...

Haya Sofia Mosque, Istanbul, taken from motor boat enroute to old folks home.

Standing is CTO1 Alan R. Danahy, my very first LPO in 1955-56 when I was YNSA, YNSN

A friendly game. McPherson (sp) is seated at the table to left. Know any others?

Barracks Day Room at Christmas.

Yours truly with family.

With Barry Fritz in our "home away from home."

Jamming with Korshinski

DK1 Beitman.

At the NCO club, trying to earn my "short timer's" ribbon. My last night at KARAMURSEL.

Still working on the ribbon. Third from left is my roommate, Joe Wines, who relieved Ken Cadran as Executive Officer's Yeoman.

I've earned the ribbon, but right now having trouble with my memory. It is slipping away!

Henry Cole.

All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Christmas at the other end of the Day Room.

Showtime at the NCO Club.

How does she do that and avoid personal injury?

Hot time at the NCO Club.

Hotter time at the NCO Club.

Hottest time at the NCO Club.

With Bill McCarran.

Jan Claire, at door, with CARE trip to an Old Folks home in Istanbul, to which the personnel of KARAMURSEL Air Station contributed through a radio "CARE-a-thon" fundraising drive.

Roger Gagnon.

Tex Hill.

Tex Hill.

More of CARE trip to Old Folks Home in Istanbul.

More of delivery of CARE donated goods.

Ole Olson (L) and Korshinski (R) with some happy ladies.

Captain Mason, our commanding officer, looks over the CARE packages.

This picture made the trip worthwhile!

Suspicion confirmed: you really are crazy! With Korshinski.

Personnel inspection. Pass in Review. Please, no right turns!!

Pass in Review.



It so happened that I knew if I reenlisted I would receive orders to Turkey. I had no inside information, but just a feeling. I was truly leaning toward getting out after four years. But when it came time to get out, it was during the Eisenhower recession, my Dad's company had dissolved after he had 21 years with them and there were bread lines all over the country. Reenlistment seemed like the prudent thing to do.

Several days after I reenlisted my orders were delivered to me. The bearer said only three words --- correction --- one word three times, "Gobble, gobble, gobble."

I departed FAU CINCLANTFLT, Norfolk, Va. on 30 July 1959. The orders gave me 30 days leave in Kinston, N.C., and 4 days proceed time, to arrive at RECSTA, Norfolk, Va. not later than 2400, 2 September 1959. 1 arrived at 2028. 1 was anxious to get to my new duty station. But being in a transient status, we were at the mercy of the Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Receiving Station, Norfolk. I was assigned duty as a prisoner chaser, and didn't depart NAVRECSTA until 0630, 20 September 1959. 1 departed the Air Terminal, U. S. Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. at 1630, 20 September, for transfer to Port Lyautey, F.M. and arrived there FFT at 1417, 21 September. I departed Port Lyautey at 0417, 26 September, arriving at Yesilkoy Airport aboard MATS Aircraft on the morning of 27 September 1959 and arriving at TUSLOG DET 28, Kararmürsel, Turkey at 1230, 27 September.

My trip from Istanbul to Kararmüursel was via Ferry to Yalova and then bus to Karamüursel. Due to the long dusty road, and isolation of family quarters I decided not to bring my family to Turkey as their first trip overseas. That was some choice! My family's first trip overseas was to Cyprus, and they were evacuated after eight months, leaving me there for eleven more months. My wife had never been out of Lenoir County, N.C. alone, and had to travel with two children from Cyprus to Beirut, Lebanon on to New York, then to Washington, D.C., where flights were ahnost cancelled because of heavy snow. She finally aff ived in North Carolina, with the help by a young Marine that was on her flight.

My first duty at DET 28 was in the mail room with Jim Whipple and John Kelly. Jim had promised John that he would be in charge when he (Jim) transferred. However, when he transferred it was discovered that I had time in Rate on John. This caused a sensitive situation, through no fault of mine.

All of a sudden I was informed that the Legal Yeoman was transferred to Germany and would not be back. I was now the Legal Yeoman and was recording a Special Court Martial "day after tomorrow". Has your rear end ever puckered up so tight it felt as though you would disappear up it??? I sure am glad Yeoman "A" School covered the very basics of The Uniform Code of Military Justice. I knew absolutely nothing about military court protocol. As there was only one Stenomask on the base, and it belonged to the Air Force, most of my court martials were recorded on a tape recorder. The first time I was able to use their Stenomask, it took some getting used to. The way the mask was used was to repeat everything that was said, press a button on the mask which turned the mike off and opened a passage for breathing. On several occasions I tried to breath without pressing the button. The rubber mask would vibrate on my cheeks and it sounded like someone broke wind. Of course, each time it happened the entire Court would get quiet and look right at me. The only thing that kept me going was the realization that this assignment was only temporary.

I thought that as soon as a new Legal Yeoman arrived, they would move me again. However, I was still working from 0730 until 1930 on most days. Dave Hanson was my Turkish interpreter in handling the Beyannames. We had to report large purchases to Turkish Customs. We worked for the Legal Assistance Officer LT(JG) Stu Thom. He was a Duke graduate and I was from North Carolina, so relations in the office were great. The only problem: there was just too much work. I was really glad when I was relieved by the new Legal Yeoman, YN1 Don Murray.

Then I was transferred to the Facilities department and relieved Purser. I worked for CTAC Harold Gant. The Facilities Officer was LCDR Leonadas Wright. CWO4 David Snyder was also in the department. I was with the Facilities department until my transfer.

While working in the Administrative department I witnessed something and I still get a laugh each time I think about it. CWO2 Marty Fisher was the Personnel Officer. On several occasions he would have a heated discussion with ENS Ralph Strand about how something had to be accomplished. Each time ENS Strand would end the conversation by saying, "Mr. Fisher", and pointing to the little gold bar on his lapel. This went on for quite a while, however, one day the Commanding Officer called Mr. Fisher into his offlice and pinned LT bars to his lapel. He had been accepted as a LDO. A short time after he was in the Captain's office I went into the head and found Mr. Fisher holding his lapel to the mirror and looking at the LT bars. When he saw me he appeared to blush, but said, "That looks good... Where's ENS Strand?" I don't know how long it took him to run ENS Strand down, but I did see ENS Strand attempt to postpone their next meeting.

Barracks life at Karamursel was with perhaps the best group of people I have been associated with. Who could ever forget those Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when Floyd Stogsdill (now deceased) would announce that meals would be prepared at the Air Force Mess Hall and volunteers' uniform of the day was dungarees and a case of beer. Then he would proceed to prepare a wonderful holiday meal. Alas ... I don't think the Air Force fared so well, as the German cooks seemed to do away with quite a bit of the beer.

I had a short stint with WUSN. Because of my southern accent they tried me on a Country Music show. However, while wearing the "cans" I must have become conscious of the sound of my voice. Lo and behold, my voice started to refine. After that I had a late night, easy listening program and had the opportunity to play my own records. I had to retire when it became difficult to stay awake.

First and Second Class Petty Officers were on the first floor of our barracks. The Chief Petty Officers were on the upper floor. There was a certain CPO (name withheld) that would go to Instanbul on weekends and return quite high. One weekend his fellow Chiefs removed the door to his room, placed it on the four posts of his bunk and threw a sheet over it. The story was that he undressed and went to bed on the door. Rumors were going around that he had fallen in love with the door knob.

Weekends in Istanbul were memory builders. I remember the Ferry ride from Yalova. During the crossing you always had a choice of çay or kahve. I remember the Turkish coffee so thick on the bottom of the small cup that you could stand a spoon in it. On one occasion, they hauled a Turkish passenger off the ferry because he had opened a large container of ether and it was affecting passengers sitting near him. I remember the stays at the Istanbul Hilton Hotel. I remember the upstairs ballroom where they reserved a front seat for DKI Beitman who would accompany the orchestra with his spoons. There were the nights at the Caravan Pavilion (Sahne Sokak 19, Beyoglu Ed.), where I enjoyed watching the Belly Dancers. I never became a "Bol-ing" expert. I couldn't afford this sport. Just a few blocks from the Caravan was the infamous Compound. I walked through it several times, but never found anything "shopworthy". I liked to go to the AFPX Cafeteria at the Kahan Building on Saturday mornings and have either two open face chili burgers, or two egg burgers.

I remember how cold the base was after snow had fallen on the mountains behind us and on the other side of the water. It was almost too cold for me to walk to work.

I can never forget EN1 Jim Graham. He was atypical sea-going sailor. Mrs. COL Ronka would ride to work with her husband, George in the Staff Car. The Colonel would be dropped off and she would have the driver drive around on the base and seemed to take delight as the enlisted personnel saluted the staff car. She seemed to think they were saluting her. Her big mistake was to have the driver stop so she could dress down Graham for not saluting. Jim explained to her (not quite this nicely) that she did not deserve salutes, this was a courtesy to Colonel Ronka. Then he told her to remain seated and called the driver to the front of the staff car. He pointed out the fact that the Colonel was not in the car and the tag on the front of the car should be encased. Then he told the driver the next time he saw this happen he would personally write him up. This story was as related to me. As I recall, she didn't take quite so many tours of the base after that.

I remembered the relaxing times when I would tune my Telefunken (See picture number TURK032) to VVUSN, lie in my bunk and listen to my favorite radio personality, "Dusty Needle".

Then there was the time that ENS Tommy J. Owens (LDO) (ex-CTC) was making rounds of the barracks as Officer of the Day. He passed a room and heard the clink of poker chips. The guys in the room had placed a blanket over the table and were playing poker. Mr. Owens said, "You fellows are not playing for money, are you?" When the reply was "No Sir", Mr. Owens stepped forward and said, "Well, you won't mind if I mix the chips." And he mixed the chips. Knowing the guys in the room, he was very lucky to get out of there without severe bodily harm.

Well, I have remembered things almost forgotten. It seems that a gate opened and things kept popping out.

I departed TUSLOG DET 28 at 0500, 5 March 1961, and arrived at NAS, Norfolk, Va. at 0801, 11 March 1961. We traveled via Naples and had a few days layover in Port Lyautey, F.M. (Actually transients were quartered at Sidi Yahia and I caught duty on the Shore Patrol, keeping the little boys and girls on the school bus separated.) The most beautiful thing I saw on the trip was as our plane skirted the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we flew over the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk, and to me it was as beautiful as the Statue of Liberty.

Carlton Ray Thigpen, Jr. 1403 Mewborn Avenue Kinston, NC 28501


I was recently checking the Military Links on the Merhaba Turkey Website. The section entitled "Turkish Military ID - "The Red Book" presented by SSGT Frank Cook returned me to yesteryear.

The memories of a night at the Degirmendere Seaside Club (we in barracksdom (new word) called it the "Brownbaggers' Club") are beginning to return, but try as I might, I cannot remember the names of two of our companions that night. Bill McCarran and I w ere there with two other sailors. I cannot remember their names and if they read this hope they will forgive me and e-mail me to bring me up to date.

Chief Harold Gant usually worked the bar until closing. On this night he had to leave early, but promised to return and drive us back to KARAMURSEL. The four of us had several drinks and played the slots until closing time. When the club closed, Chief Gant still had not returned. We waited for a while, but obviously he had forgotten. It was late, and we were about 21 miles form KARAMURSEL.

One of my as yet nameless companions announced that he had lettered in cross-country running while in high school, and suggested we walk back to the base, and each of us put one dollar in the pot. The first to arrive back to KARAMURSEL would get the pot. We agreed and put a dollar in the pot.

Let the ADVENTURE begin!

Did you know that there was a Turkish Submarine Base between Degirmendere and KARAMURSEL? And.did you know that after a certain hour nighttime movement on that road was restricted? We were about to get the answers to both of these questions. We were ab out to learn another Turkish word, and I was about to use my "Red Book" for the first, and last time during my tour in Turkey.

The four of us departed the Seaside Club on foot at a good clip. It was probably too fast for those of the "un-lettered" experience. After only a few miles Bill became ill and began to heave. I fell behind to give him aid and companionship. It has been said that no one shows more love than one drunk for another.

We were perhaps halfway to KARAMURSEL when we were about to receive a crash course in the Turkish language. Suddenly the quiet of the night was filled with a shout. "Dur!" (To us it sounded like Dir, dirt with the t omitted) We wondered what he was saying. Again, "Dur!" We did not understand. Then there was a very distinct sound. The sound as the sentry rammed a shell into the chamber of his weapon. We had quickly learned a new Turkish word. "Halt!" "Halt!"

Simultaneously we all reached for our Red Books. We held the books in the air and yelled, "Americana, Americana", hoping he understood as we approached him.

The sentry took the Red Books and looked at them. It appeared he had trouble reading them. He held up a hand and uttered another Turkish word. He needn't have, as we were not moving. He used the phone at his post and summoned an officer. Soon an officer arrived. After looking at our books, he explained in broken English the road was restricted at night. He returned the books, pointed down the road toward KARAMURSEL and said, "Go."

At this point the four of us became cross-country runners. But Bill was still having trouble, and the two of us lagged behind. The others left us like we were tied.

A few miles from KARAMURSEL Air Station we found the other two sitting on a wire fence. Out of breath, the cross-country letterman pleaded that we call off the bet. That was all right with us. We just wanted a shower and to go to bed. But I'm sure the next day all of us knew what Dur meant.

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