Kenneth Workman

Civilian (Sylvania Electronic Defense Laboratory)

Sinop, Turkey

Det 4 (U. S. Army)


© 2012-2017 by Author

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Ken's Story and Pictures of Sinop

Back in 1963, when I was still in school at the University of Arizona and almost ready to graduate I went through the standard ritual of interviewing for a job.  One company, in particular, made an enticing offer.  If I was willing to go to work for them they could almost guarantee I could get an overseas engineering assignment if I could obtain the necessary security clearances.  I, of course, thought of places like London, Frankfurt, Sydney, Paris, and other exciting places.  It sounded so great that I accepted an offer in Mt. View, CA, with Sylvania Electronic Defense Labs (long gone.)

After filling out the myriad of papers and going through the other necessary procedures I eventually (over a year later) received the necessary clearances.  It was then that they informed me of the job location:  Sinop, Turkey.  With some trepidation I accepted the offer.  Where was Turkey?  What the heck was Sinop like?  To add to my uneasiness, Sylvania requested that I visit Lemore Naval Air Station for High Altitude and Ejection Seat Training.  This, they claimed, would keep my options open.  They then said not to worry about it.  About what, I wondered?

The timing to arrive at my assignment was less than ideal.  I arrived via Pan Am at Yesilköy airport in Istanbul, December 24, 1965.  (The fellow I was replacing, Fred something-or-other, wouldn't wait for me to have Christmas in the States. It didn't make any difference that he wouldn't be back in the States regardless of when I arrived in Sinop.)  From Istanbul, I flew via THY (Türk Hava Yolları -Turkish Airlines) to Esenboğa Airport in Ankara.

My first night in Ankara is still a vivid memory.  My hotel was the Büyük Ankara Hotel.  (Büyük is Turkish for "Grand".)  When I saw the hotel lobby and my room, I wondered if this was the best or the worst hotel in Ankara.  It certainly wasn't "Grand", but, as I came to find out, closer to the "standard" hotel - Turkish standard.  The bathroom was my first exposure to a "Turkish Bombsight" - a hole in the floor was the toilet.  Since there are obviously no J-traps to keep the sewer gasses out, the smell was overpowering.  To add to the "local color", as soon as I turned on the light in the bathroom, dozens of cockroaches scampered away!  I quickly went down to the lobby, bought some big cigars and lit them all then I returned to the bathroom.  That night I left the bathroom light on, in case I had to use it.  As a final greeting to Ankara, my room was either directly over of near the ballroom on the first floor.  They had a live band playing LOUD until around midnight.  Merhaba!

The next day I once again flew via THY (Türk Hava Yolları) Airlines.  The flight to Samsun was uneventful until the landing approach.  For those who have never landed there or don't remember it, you approach from over the Kara Deniz (Black Sea) and just as you pass a nice steep cliff, you touch down.  Taking off is far more interesting.  As you reach the end of the runway the plane dips below the level of the cliff before becoming truly airborne.

Anyhow, upon landing back then you were greeted by the sight of burnt-out wreckage of some plane that the airport authorities thoughtfully left as a reminder that not all landings are successful.  I vaguely recall the ride in the back of a duce-and-a-half from Samsun to my new home in Sinop for the next 17 months (or so I thought - but more about that later).

The early days were a blur.  Most of my working hours would be spent in the Arctic Tower adjacent to the Ops Building.  A quick introduction to the equipment, the mission, and the personnel was made by my predecessor and he was gone in a few days.  Thank goodness for the enlisted guys who worked with me and the other group of enlisted men and civilians that operated another project located on the other side of the Arctic Tower.  They proved to be patient teachers of the yeni (new) civilian.  Our missions were unique, many and varied, including one that we worked jointly with another site on another continent.

Obviously, I will not discuss what we did except to say most of our equipment used vacuum tubes or a mixture of discrete transistors and vacuum tubes.  Integrated circuits and "chips" were still far in the future.  One piece of equipment I will mention just to point out how primitive we were on those days:  a video recorder, an Ampex VR-1000.  If you're curious to see what one of these beasts looked like, click here.  The machine was the size of a small car and it used analog magnetic tapes 2-inches wide.  The tape reels were about 15-inches in diameter, a far cry from cassettes or even the reel-to-reel tapes common at that time.  Keeping the VR-1000 running was a never-ending challenge.

Days were long and although the enlisted men worked standard tricks (shifts) I was effectively on-call 24 hours-a-day.  Until a few years ago, if the phone in the house rang late at night I would flash back to my days in Sinop.  On a regular basis back then I would hear the telephone ring in the hall of the BOQ, the soft padding of footsteps, and then the dreaded knock on the door with someone saying:  "It's for you."  At that point I knew my night was over and I quickly dressed and trotted up to the Tower.

Although my assignment was to be for a nominal 18-month (Civilians are considered immune to problems living in the middle of nowhere, I guess), just before a year was up I was told the contract had not been renewed and I was to pack up and return to CONUS (Continental United States).  I did as I was directed all the while sending messages to Sylvania telling them that it didn't make sense to send me home.  The work was still going on in Sinop.  Regardless, I packed up and, as I recall, took a Turkish bus from Samsun (reached via the ever-popular Duce-and-half) to Ankara.  As I was leaving the Base at Sinop I announced to all who came to see me off:  "I'm never coming back to this damn place!"  The bus trip was a memorable experience lasting about ten hours.  Most of the passengers were local Turks AND their chickens and other assorted livestock.  After reaching Ankara I flew to Istanbul (on THY, of course), and then on Pan Am to Frankfurt and on and on to California.  I was in California about a week when I was informed that there was an error and I was to return to Sinop ASAP.

A relatively short while later I found myself back in Ankara.  This time I was blessed.  I didn't have to take a bus or truck, I was offered a seat on Det 4's Otter, piloted by CWO Bearden.  (Sorry, I can't recall his first name.)  Mr. Bearden was a great guy who delighted in "entertaining" newcomers to his aircraft.  Numerous times enroute to Sinop he would make one of the twin engines sputter and he'd tap on the instruments muttering:  "Damn instruments say we're low on fuel.  Can't trust these damn things!"  We, of course, arrived in Sinop without mishap.  But talking about Mr. Bearden's antics, he was a usual mail delivery system and he occasionally deliver the mail by buzzing of Officer's Club and dropping the mail sack on the roof.  Those were the good old days.

Another recollection during my tour, I can't remember if it was during part 1 or part 2, there was reason for the Turkish support people on the Base to go on strike.  They sabotaged the water system so we had no water on the Base.  The entrance to the Base was blocked but electrical power was maintained so the mission was not interrupted; however, since we had no water, our toilets were replaced by slit trenches out back.  The reason I remember this is that the first night (a dark and stormy night) I had to heed the call of nature in the wee hours and attempted to back up to the trench.  I misjudged and ended up backing INTO in trench.  I can't recall I how got cleaned up, but somehow I did and lived to fight another day.  Luckily, the strike was short lived but I know there was talk of us having to evacuate the Base.

Does anyone remember Yeni Harman cigarettes?  They smelled like? if I know.  Just Just plain foul.  I still recall the Pan Am Stewardesses' (NOT Flight Attendants!) only request was that we do not smoke Yeni Harmans while on board.  I was smoking then and actually took a liking to the taste of the damn things.

Two other memories come to mind from the days in the mid-60s.  These things occurred long enough ago that I think it's safe to tell the tales now.  Hopefully the Statute of Limitations has run out.

Tale 1:  A civilian Tech Rep (me) prepares for an IG Inspection:

The project/work area in the Arctic Tower for which I was responsible was constantly having to develop "work-arounds" for failed equipment.  The Army requisition/supply procedure was (and I imagine in some respects, still is) barely functional.  In order to repair the electronics and mechanical equipment, I would personally order, and pay for out of my own pocket, components from Allied Radio or Lafayette Radio in CONUS.  Old-timers will remember those wonderful electronic supply companies.

One day we received notice that there was going to be an IG Inspection.  I'm sure you're familiar with the drill.  All floors are cleaned and waxed and then covered with brown paper.  Everything, and I mean everything, was straightened up and polished.

Several days before the IG Inspector was due to arrive, I and the other personnel carefully tagged much of the equipment with green (meaning operational) and red (meaning inoperative, awaiting parts).  The area ended up looking very Christmasy.  When the IG inspector arrived in our area he was greeted with a forest of tags - many of them red.  He, of course, asked why there was so much deadlined equipment.  I responded that I wanted to speak to him in private.  We stepped off to one side and I explained to him that I was not receiving the support I needed from the CO, Colonel Julian Wells at that time.

A few days later I heard that Colonel Wells had been back to 6th Army Headquarters in Frankfurt.  I didn't connect my action with Col. Wells' trip, but shortly after he returned he called me into his office and told me in no uncertain terms that I screwed him and he was going to watch me like a hawk and get me before my tour was over.  I told him I was there to help carry out the mission and I was just doing what I had to in order to achieve our goals.  I don't think he was impressed.  My promised comeuppance never happened.  In fact at the end of my tour I received a TUSLOG Outstanding Performance Citation!

Tale 2: Fun and games at the DOOM Club:

As those of you who there know, DOOM stood for "Diogenes Officers Open Mess". That's where the officers and civilians ate and drank.  And drank.  And drank.  I still vividly recall that many a night several of the officers and non-coms got really "relaxed" and then proceeded to engage in Parachute Landing Falls (PLFs) off of the bar.  I'm not sure how many of them were ever Airborne, but those nights, by Jove, they were Airborne soldiers!  To this day I'm amazed that to my recollection no one very was ever seriously injured.  I guess the alcohol-induced relaxation was a great protector.  Also, a recollection that the Turkish officers were frequently invited over to the Club.  The Club has slot machines and the money collected was used to buy items for the Club that was outside the normal chain of supply.  It was really frustrating and infuriating to watch the Turkish soldiers insert their iki-buçuk (2-1/2 Lira) coins in the slots.  They discovered early on that their coins were exactly the same size of American Quarters.  They won quite a few jackpots of mostly Quarters.  To maintain good Turkish-American relations no one ever said a word to them.

Click Photos to Enlarge

Beer Mug from the Club, DOOM.

Town of Sinop under Fog cover -If I say so myself, this is one of the nicestpictures I've seen of Sinop.  It looks tranquil but I'll bet the 40 mph (knot?)wind was blowing!

Antenna area of ops.

This picture was taken outside: On the left are the main stairs leading out of the BOQ.  The main item is a coveredwalkway running horizontally with a brickwork wall on the right.  In the lower right portion of the picture is a railing of another walkway leadingout of the BOQ.  The upper left shows the dark, foreboding, cloudy winter sky.

Great icicles!!!  This picture was taken inside looking out. Just above the lower window screens and toward the right, are the barracks in the distance - and you can see the first and second floors.  Sinop definitely was a Russian winter holiday destination:)

Outskirts of Sinop - taken somewhere at the end of town.  I was "only" 35 years younger then and had hair.  I'm the eşek on the right side of the picture...or are they horses?

View of TUSLOG Det 4-1 from town - one of the more common photographs many people took.

Taken in my room at the BOQ and shows three 98J20s or 98J30s that worked with me in the Arctic Tower.

Left to right: "Frosty" Sartain, Dave Truelove and "Swede" Swensen.

Souvenir from Sinop - Bombsight Ash Tray!

Many guys started collecting Meerschaum pipes while they were in Turkey - me included.  Most guys also smoked back then too - including me.  (Pipes and Yeni Harman cigarettes.. and Marlboros.)  This Meerschaum pipe box was constructed in downtown Sinop.)

And, of course, the pipe collection.

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