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David E. Rathbun




7122nd Support Squadron

1961 - 1962

2015 by Author

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David contacted us and sent the following:

The article by Ray Thomas is of interest.  Ray was my roomate at Diyarbakir.  I left there in June of 1962 and was stationed at Keesler AFB until October 1963.  I learned that Ray had this horrific accident after I left Diyarbaki.  I have attempted to email him but the email address he left only gets kicked.  I have photos.

Here is David's "Story":

A2C David E. Rathbun
In March 1961, I received orders while stationed at Selfridge AFB in Mt. Clemens, Michigan.  I was working on the base newspaper and was part of the Public Information Office (PIO).  Orders received were for myself and a co-worker (Tom) to proceed to McGuire AFB for transport to Germany and our assignments - me to Turkey, he to Crete, where we would be part of the Air Force Radio and TV Command.  I was to report to TUSLOG detachment 59 in Diyarbakir, Turkey, the 7122 Support Squadron.  We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, in April 1961 and were billeted awaiting transport.  Tom left for Crete and I never saw him again.  I was moved in with three guys who were going to Diyarbakir; they were previously being trained in Texas.  We flew to Ankara, Turkey, and were put in a hotel; the next day we flew to Diyarbakir.  The guy who checked us out at Ankara indicated we would NOT like Diyarbakir, "Very old", he said.

The base was isolated, many miles away from the town.  We arrived, got checked in, and became acquainted with the base and my new room-mate.  Really not much to the base.  I was assigned to the Base Radio station as an announcer.  The job was mostly playing records and giving spot announcements from time to time.  Not much to it.  I had never done anything like this before and wondered why I was picked.  Soon we got more and more announcers.  We couldn't fit everyone in the small studio at one time.  We had so many guys we worked a three-hour shift every other day.  I did a morning show from 0600 to 0900 every other day.  We had paid announcers in the evening.  Country Western guy and a good DJ from Philadelphia.  I had plenty of off duty time to visit the club, swimming pool, PX, etc.  The only duty we pulled was mess hall duty and once I did guard duty during a period when we were on high alert because of the Berlin Wall.  We also had houseboys and chipped in to pay them.  They kept the place clean.  We were a close knit group and knew everyone and had periods of good times.

Turkey was on martial law and there were soldiers everywhere.  In the evening they walked the fences and we would bump into them coming from the club or from midnight chow.  We got along good with them and supplied them with cigarettes and flashlights.  I didn't smoke but you could purchase a couple cartons of cigarettes for next to nothing in the PX.  When we went into the town, the kids would flock around us and we gave them candy and whatever.  Once I gave a kid a 5 Lira bill and the chaplain chided me for it, "Probably more money than he could imagine."  5 lira was worth about fifty cents.  We could take trucks, mostly pickups, out of the motor pool and drive here and there.  The roads were the worst, and overall there was little to see.

We had a lake resort building up near Elazig, a small isolated village, on Lake Hazar.  We had three high powered speed boats and tore around the lake on them; the Turks were amazed.  We had one guy bring some donkeys down to the building and offered a trade for one of the boats.  We took some of them on the boats for a ride.  We actually tried to duck hunt with an M1 Carbine.  We were told to knock that off.  There was an old steam train that came through there and would stop and pick up passengers and proceed to Diyarbakir.  Once when we were waiting for the train, I was looking pretty worn with fatigues and a pith helmet and my laundry bag over my shoulder, the train pulled in and a good looking redhead popped her head out the window and looked at me and yelled, "You an American?"  I assured her I was and we talked on the ride to Diyarbakir.  She was from Toronto, Canada, and was traveling across Asia with a companion who didn't speak English and she didn't speak Turkish.  Strange things do happen.

We learned about the mail plane that came in weekly and how you could sometimes hop it and spend a week in Athens, flying back when it returned.  Athens was a different world.  We did that a few times.

Speaking of different worlds, once I was sent to Weisbaden, Germany, to a Radio and TV Production school for three weeks.  A Staff Sergeant from Morocco and I were given an assignment to interview Joni James, who was singing in one of the clubs.  I operated the tape recorder and the Sgt. did all the talking; she was very good to give us some time and made us feel very comfortable.  I always thought highly of her after that.

One poor feature of this career field was it next to impossible to get promoted.  MOS numbers were different for PIO than Radio and by the time you went back to 3 level and put time in grade to 5 level the career field changed and you started over at 3 level.

One thing about Turkey:  You could buy certain items cheaply.  I wish I had done more of that.  I did purchase a gold puzzle ring for my little finger.  I paid about $5 for it in Lira.  Many years later I had this ring and took it to a jewler to get it repaired.  The jewler indicated if I wanted to repair it would cost me about $300.  Although the ring was marked 14kt, it was 24kt and he offered me $800 which I took.

I left there in June 1962, at 21 years old.  On my "dream sheet", I indicated base of choice out West, maybe California.  I was transferred to Kessler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, and a new career field of TV Production.  I was discharged in October 1963.

When I was in Turkey, one of our engineers was Ray Thomas.  I see he wrote in here and I would like to contact him.  He had a horrific accident on Lake Hazar after I left Turkey and I learned about it when I was at Kessler.  I sent him a card to the Germany address and I know he got it because over a decade later he called me in Connecticut and we talked on the phone.  I sent an email to the one he posted here but it only kicked back.  (Note from Ed.:  I too have tried to contact Ray but have been unable to do so.)

Overall, my experience in Turkey was eye opening.  I was a young kid and those times were part of the life experience.


The Base
David Rathbun & Ray Thomas
David Rathbun

David in Studio
People along the road
Turkish Kids

"Pop", Shoe Shine Man
The Base
Turkish Girl with Camel

Boats at Lake Hazar
Radio Diyarbakir Studio
In the Club

Turkish Askaris (Oscars)
In the Base Pool
In the Wood Shop

Turks & Camels on the Road