Les LeGear in Izmir 1970-1971

2009-2011 by Author


I was stationed in Izmir as a Sgt., assigned to Det 5, 1141st Special Activites Squadron (USAF) from June, 1970, to October, 1971. I was assigned to the NATO courier station in Sirinyer and also worked at the Comm Center at NATO's mountain facility called Disko Hit (sic) located outside of Izmir. I lived in a subterranian apartment in Alsancak, on the same street as the USAF hospital. I very much enjoyed my stay in Turkey, in general, and Izmir in particular. The Turks are very friendly and hospitable people. I made a number of friends during my short tour. Thanks to Facebook I recently reunuited with a Turkish Captain, whom I worked with at the courier section.

This fall, 2009, I took a side trip to Izmir from Kusadesi with my wife and friends. We had a day in port while on a Celebrity Cruise and I made arrangements with a local tour comapny to go to Izmir. I wanted to revisit my old haunts. I shouldn't have been surprised that I hardly recognized Izmir! The city grew from about 700,000, when I was there, to over 3-million people today. Fortunately, I still had my Alsancak address (1375 Sojak, 3/1), and the tour guide was able to find it. The street was almost unrecognizable. The Air Force Hospital down the street was closed and boarded up. A block away, where the APO had been located, is now commercialized, with stores and restaurants. A few streets away I recognized the base exchange, but it appeared that both the movie theater and NCO club, which were nearby on the same street, were long gone.

It seems that the American presence in Izmir is much smaller now than it was when I was there. We went out to NATO's Sirinyer headquarters and I somehow thought I could get in to visit. I had stayed there for a few days in the barracks after arriving in Turkey back in 1970, and worked there for about three quarters of my tour before I was reassigned to Disko Hit. I also used the swimming pool at Sirinyer. We were greeted by Turkish Air Force guards who took me to the NCOIC (who spoke English). He was most hospitable and invited me, my wife, and our guide to his office where he arranged for çay (tea) and coffee. He apologized that, due to security regulations, I would not be able to enter the compound. After I told him my reason for the visit, he told me that had I produced my former NATO Identification, he would have let me enter the facility. Who knew?. I still have my ID - at home - but never thought to bring it with me.

Sirinyer, like Izmir was unrecognizable. The NATO compond was in a sparsely populated remote area, now almost completely surrounded by apartments.

The other parts of our Turkey trip were most enjoyable. It was good to see how much the country has changed over the years. When stationed there, I had the opportunity, as a courier, to travel within Turkey, and I had my car there, so I could visit many historical sites such as Ephesus, Troy, and Sardis. Ironically, the only place I didn't visit during my military tour, except coming in and leaving Turkey, was Istanbul. So it was great to see the city and its major attractions during the Celebrity cruise.

It seems from the various web sites I've perused that most Americans have positive feelings about Turkey and its people.

You can certainly count me among them! I would welcome any comments, especially from former and current Izmir residents.