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Life at Mainsite
(Alan Karamursel - Karamursel Field)

Chuck Maki

© 2003-2011 by Author

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If I'd have known I was going to write this for the 'net, I'd have kept a journal but I didn't and so I must rely upon an imperfect, and selective :) memory. By sheer good fortune, I fall in with a band of rogues who know how to enjoy Turkey - included here is the one name I won't forget. He gave me a Turkish-English dictionary and his name, John R. Markland, is written inside. I also remember Roger Bean from the northeast part of the USA. Bean was with TUSLOG Det 46, the base dispensary while John worked in the base education office.

I am slowly eased into the local culture and dealings with indigenous personnel (air force talk for the people who lived there) by these friends. I get my redbook (Turkish military pass) and finally leave base on a trip to Yalova to sit in an outdoor cafe with John R. Markland and drink local beer - maybe I had raki also. That was just a short evening visit. We ride the chartered Turkish bus free between Mainsite and Yalova - it takes us to the ferry boat landing which is very close to this outdoor cafe and we do the 20 km in about 40 minutes - great for a washboard road. The bus has the general shape of a schoolbus but that's where the similarity ends. It is palatial in comparison.


The Yalova Ferry

If you haven't read Sergeant Cook's story, you should at least look at his "red book". I had one also and because I rotated out in the usual fashion, I had to return mine. I toyed with the idea of claiming I had lost it but chickened out. The red passbooks allowed us to get 50% discounts on ferry boat and railroad fares. I think the fare was about 3-4 lira one way to Istanbul. Memory says I paid 1.90 TL one way. The normal thing was for us to take an express ferry which made one stop in the Princes Islands at BuyukAda as opposed to the regular ferry which stopped at several islands of the group.

On the boat we could sit almost anywhere we wished. Waiters served up delicious tea in small glasses on glass saucers - "iki tani çai lutfen" (two teas please). One time John R. Markland got us invited by the captain to have tea and enjoy the trip with him. I met some interesting people on these trips. I know my first trip into Istanbul was October 29, 1957 -the anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkish republic because my first foto was of a parade with many Turkish flags.


By Taxi
Tragic Loss for Others

Twice we went to Istanbul in different ways. We were to the ferry landing as usual on a Friday afternoon and found the ferry standing offshore unable to come alongside because of the stormy sea. Unable to go by ferry, and wanting to get away, we took a taxi from Yalova which cost us 100 TL. This took us on a drive east past Mainsite (KARAMURSEL Field), by Golçuk, through Izmid and then heading west until we got to Istanbul. I am not sure if the taxi took us into Istanbul or to a ferry where we crossed on our own. Later when we returned to base, we learned of the tragedy which had befallen the eastern end of the Bay of Izmit. A ferry boat, loaded with children, had sunk in that stormy sea. A typhoon had struck. We at the base took up a collection of several thousand lira and deposited that money to a relief account in the bank at KARAMURSEL. I was base photographer at the time and was sent along to record the event. Meetings were held with the mayor and military governor before bringing the funds to the bank. 1stLt Eugene Terry of Chicago had the honor of depositing the funds in our name.


The Foot Ferry

The foot ferry was another chartered operation. It was mostly used by married personnel. It left the base dock and crossed almost directly north to a small town which I believe is Gebze. There we see a parking lot that the married people use with Turkish private security men on patrol. The married guys then drove home while we went to the railroad station and caught the TCDD (Turkiye Cumhuriyeti Devleti Demiryolu/Turkish Republic State Railroad). It was a very pleasant and sedate ride to the Haydar Pasha Station across from Istanbul.


Otel Gul Palas

When we left the boat at the Galata Bridge, we either took a taxi, 2 ½ TL fare, or we walked to the entry of Tünel and took the funicular railway up the hill through a tunnel, hence the Turkish name Tünel. The train was a nicely varnished wood and fairly rickety-appearing set of two coaches on each end of the cable but I loved it. One coach was first class - 25 kurush and the other second class - 15 kurush. We usually rode second class (no cushions and longer walk uphill once at the top). Upon arrival we had a set of alley ways and narrow streets to maneuver through before finding our preferred hotel, the Gül Palas Otel (Rose Palace Hotel). We were able to get in there practically all of the time. Only once did I stay at the Istanbul Hilton, sharing with Don Kingery, for a 40 TL room rate as opposed to perhaps about 7-10 lira at the Gul Palas. I think I stayed at the Park Otel on Taksim Square once but that is a vague memory


This gang of rogues I hung with awoke practically in unison and walked downhill about a block and a half from the Gül Palas for breakfast at the Pera Palas of Agatha Christie fame . Usually a roll and tea. Tea was the most common beverage and coffee almost non-existent on the Turkish economy. After breakfast we would then go to various places. Among the destinations were the BX and Class VI store in the basement of the Kahan Building, the Hq of TUSLOG Det ? in Istanbul, which was about 2 blocks from the Hilton. Among other choices was the grand (covered) bazaar across the Golden Horn. We also visited museums and once I visited a stamp collector's store. Now I am a collector of Turkish stamps and dearly regret having been into a Turkish shop only once. Perhaps I had the privilege of speaking with Ali Nusret Pulhan himself, the premier authority on Turkish philately of all time and author of catalogues. Well, at least I have his catalogue!

The covered bazaar was a favorite place of mine. I loved wandering there and buying and bargaining or just looking. We could buy Turkish toweling, meerschaum pipes, gold coins, Byzantine coins, and who knows what else. We could buy what appeared to be old muskets which were inlaid and similar pistols. I think Carl Hemp got a pistol.. Wearing of the fez was illegal but you could get them as a tourist item so I got one - it's lost now.

Our evenings varied, we could take in movies with Turkish subtitles, go to nightclubs, go to the NCO Club at the top of the Kahan Building, whatever... We had a favorite Turkish restaurant very close to the Kahan Building which we used whenever we were in town. The owners were very friendly and the food was good. They also had another place to the north but still in Istanbul which we visited once or twice. It was loaded with ambiance and charm. Oh, this reminds me that we would also often go to a German restaurant which appeared to have been lifted out of 1930s Germany itself. We had great German food there. I loved that place.


The Royal Navy shows the flag with great success

The Yalova ferry had crossed the Bosphorus and was on its way to docking at Galata Bridge when we noticed an unusual structure moving slowly across the skyline beyond Seraglio Point. Carl Hemp and I didn't see anything else at the time and went on our usual way. That Friday evening we - Carl wasn't a part of the rogues group but another friend - I say this to save his reputation =). Ever hear of the Hemp Old Car Museum at Rochester, Minnesota? That was his dad's place.

Oh, yeah, back to the story. That evening we had taken in an English movie, probably an Alec Guinness film, and were leaving by a side exit when we bumped into a group of 6 or 7 British sailors. We invited them to go to the NCO Club with us and they did. We drank American beer and talked and Carl and I got an invite from John Utting, an AB Seaman at the time (and whom I still know and visited in 1959 and later in 1988 in England) to visit HMS Eagle the next day. Just tell the guy at the boat landing we are invited by him, says John. H.M.S. Eagle is an aircraft carrier, H.M.S. Sheffield a cruiser, and H.M.S. Trafalgar a destroyer. We visited Eagle next day and found it very interesting - of course I don't have a camera along and Hemp was equally lax enough to leave his back at the base. I remember the small jets on the deck, I remember walking the flight deck and visiting crew quarters - they slept in hammocks. We went to many places on that ship which I cannot recall now but we did go into the mess hall with its huge urns. In the U.S. navy, those urns would have been filled with hot coffee. Aboard Eagle they were filled with hot tea with the milk already added as is the British preference which is where I developed a taste for hot tea with milk.

OK, we leave the ship and it is Saturday night and what are we to do? I don't know where or how but Carl and I met several petty officers from H.M.S. Sheffield. These guys had the traditional Royal Navy beards - fabulous look! These guys were seasoned naval veterans of ports of call who knew right where to go and they took us with them to a nightclub called the Cordon Bleu. Belly dancers, alcoholic beverages!, lots of cigarette smoke, lots of noise. Lots of fun.


New guided missile cruiser visits Istanbul

Some time later the US navy visited Istanbul with its newest guided missile cruiser. I am not sure how I managed to get aboard, either by meeting one of its crew or by just going to the landing, showing ID, and getting a visit that way. I did have a mini-tour by a member of the crew so I probably met somebody and got aboard in that fashion. The only thing I really remember about the visit was the fact that I had the temerity to get into the chow line at lunch, show my air force meal ticket and have it honored! We had pretty good food at Mainsite, with our German and Swiss cooks, but the food aboard the Canberra was superb and anything heard about the greatness of navy food aboard a large vessel is absolutely true.


One weekend in 1958 I believe we had made our usual trek to the "bul". Gul Palas Otel is our home away from home of course. Next morning when we got out and about, we found Turkish army troops almost everywhere. Each side street seemed to have a squad of about a dozen men. Taksim Square had tanks. Soldiers everywhere. Why? Well, the disagreement with the Greeks concerning Cyprus was heating up again. Every shop it seems had a sign. I remember these signs being maps of Cyprus with "Kibris Türk" (Cyprus is Turkish) on them. In 1955 riots broke out and a lot of Greek related property was damaged and probably people killed. In 1958, the Turkish government was not about to let that happen again so they posted strong guards and military presence to protect Greek related properties and citizens. Good decision by the Turkish government because things cooled down and got back to the usual level of tension.


Shark hunter - 17 caught by me - what a mighter hunter I was :) Carl Hemp (his dad had the Hemp Old Car Museum near Rochester, Minnesota) and I were out in the Bay of Izmit fishing for anything. We had chunks of ham as bait. Carl got a good strike but nothing. Very quickly that followed with one for me and I got it. It was not a great fight, more like heavy weighted resistance. It was a shark, about 4 feet long and when the other guys preparing for fishing the next day did their autopsy, 16 babies were found within hence the count for me of 17 sharks.

Snorkeling - the BX seemed to be short of everything. When I first got there, civilian clothes were a scarce item. They did improve as time went on and I was able to buy swim fins, a snorkel mask with the little ping pong ball at the top plus a speargun. Speargun cost $6.50 in those days. When I was reassigned, I sold the gear. Anyway, it was fun to mess around in the pleasant clear waters. This was a far extension of the Med. Early on I did speark a fish about 7 inches long (hey, it's harder to hit a small target) and once when snorkeling along the arc of the beach towards ops area, I found a tiny manta maybe labout 12 inches across. There were a lot of pipefish for want of a better word. They put themselves vertically in the water so as to mimic the plant life.

Weekend at Lake Sapanca organized by our KARAMURSEL Rod and Gun Club - We had a minibus of some kind for the trip to the Lake which was east of KARAMURSEL and maybe took 2-3 hours to get there. Once closer to the place the road became narrow and curved - kind of like driving in Colorado Rockies west of Denver. The resort was super nice and the food good and great hospitality. I don't remember everybody on that jaunt but I know Major Cooper was along as well as Carl Hemp and one other for sure because Carl, another guy, and I went fishing. When we began to fish, a couple guys rowed out to us and collected 5 lira apiece for a day fishing permit. Check the link to "mainsite images" to see that receipt. While we were out there, we got dumped on by a heavy rain. Carl caught the only fish during that deluge and it was about 12 inches long. After getting back ashore, Major Cooper takes pity on us and gives us each a shot of whisky. We pour our own I think and I fill the glass - bad idea. I don't remember much afterwards.

Marie Blanchard visits the base - we had a big picnic, games, etc and Miss Blanchard of Hollywood fame was kind enough to come out to visit and spend the day lifting the morale of the troops. She was filming in the Istanbul area but I don't know much about that film. Katherine Hepburn visits - Miss Hepburn didn't intend to stop but as luck had it, her Caddy broke down very near our base (thanks General Motors :) and we were happy to assist her and her entourage continue the journal to Bursa.

Mail guard - we are beginning to feel the effects of disagreements at higher levels of Turkish and American leadership. We were unable to land our C-119 at the base strip to pickup and deliver the mail. We had to send it to Istanbul via the 100 mile route around the bay. Each day one of us was selected to accompany the registered mail and the rest of it. I got lucky one cold day. The 6x6 truck was a hand-me-down from Germany. It had a canvas cab and the motor pool guys had tried to help things by lining the back of the cab with cardboard. Let me assure you that it didn't seem to be of much help. We had no real problems on the trip. I stayed in the cab with that registered mail sack within my eyesight at all times. We delivered the goods to the Kahan Building in Istanbul. I think this was in the early part of 1959 because of the weather and I know the upper echelon didn't solve things by August when I left because I was not permitted to ship anything by mail. I had more than twice the stuff with me that I needed on my 30 days delayed leave enroute or however we worded that. I finally got rid of one case when I got to England and shipped it ahead of me to Sembach.

Vern Shattuck - I graduated high school with this guy! 24 boys and 24 girls in that class so what are the chances of this happening? I walk into the post office and there he is. Vern was on his way to one of our squadrons on the Black Sea, Samsun or Trabzon: Wild boar hunt - another fun thing put on by the KARAMURSEL Rod & Gun Club on base. We were taken to open fields somewhere and I think we each had shotguns but probably not. We walked for a long time, and luckily saw no wild boar. Later that night or maybe on another hunt our roommate came in all bloody. No, not from being attacked but from being in on the disembowelment of the beast they killed. Base library - I worked there for a while. No problem checking books in or out. My problem was with typing the constant requisitions for new books. In those days the machines were manual and I wasn't that skilled a typist. Boy if I had a word processor then, it would have been a piece of cake.

Personnel office and other jobs I held - My first job with Det 1 was to become morning report clerk. We were allowed two strike-over errors typing and that was it. Get 3 and you started all over again. I think it was in triplicate at least. I was happy to give up that job when we were absorbed by Det 3. What happened about that time is fuzzy in my mind. I got assigned as Base Photographer and worked for Captain Reynolds the pilot of our L-19 or was it an L-20. Either way I never could parlay that job into a ride and so I never saw the thing. I took pictures of the picnic and games and some of those fotos are exhibited in the "Mainsite images" site. I also went on that drive to KARAMURSEL where our representative, 1st Lt Eugene Terry met with the major and military governor at KARAMURSEL and then deposited the money collected for the relief fund. I took a number of fotos there as well. After absorption by Det 3, we had so many 732X0s running around, they had to scramble to find something for us to do. I went to work for Major Carver along with Cec Biddle. We processed the yellow forms people filled about about dependents I think. I am quite vague on that. My last and very best job was to get back to the personnel office. Hey, a new name just popped into my head! I replace A2C Turnipseed as a records clerk and I am assigned to work for TSGT Bill Wiard who was the finest supervisor I ever had, anywhere, anytime. I believe he was from Kentucky because when it was derby time, he was very busy organizing whtever had to do with that event :)

Other People I remember are listed in no particular order - one name begets another etc:

Ken McAlexander - SSgt became personnel office ncoic at TUSLOG Det 1 but I cannot recall if he remained when we were absorbed by Det 3 (USAFSS). Anyway, he lucked out getting the top spot because a TSGT promotion came round and he was prepared for it. He took part in forming the radio station KTUS, I even remember him speaking of it.

Jimmy Cook - A/1C who I later met in Frankfurt where he was reassigned. He was an admin specialist if memory serves me. His favorite line was "you too can wear air force blue, IF you qualify."

Roger Bean - A/2C of the base dispensary (TUSLOG Det 46) who was one of the rogues group.

John R. Markland - A/1C of the base education office who was my mentor and who brought me into the rogues group. His previous assignment was at Wheelus in Libya.

Bill Wiard - TSgt who was my last direct supervisor in the TUSLOG Det 3 personnel office and who was the best supervisor I ever had in the air force.

John Miller - SSgt of the personnel office at Det 1 who got there a bit earlier than Ken McAlexander, both getting there after I did. He was in charge of the records section.

Don Kingery - A/1C of the personnel office who got there the same time I did - we were in the same personnel school class at Scott AFB. I am quite certain he is at Western Tech Community College at Sioux City, Iowa and still in personnel. Another very sharp guy - he was trusted with classification.

Alan Ragland - CT1 of TUSLOG Det 28 (USN) who I met somehow and played chess with and it was a wonderful thing when I would win a game on occasion. I remember one game we played in his room and suddenly he looked and stopped. I had blundered into checkmate in the next move I guess. He couldn't understand it and I wish I had. He was a super sharp guy and probably one of the youngest E6s in the navy. He was from Texas.

Lloyd Bridges - A/1C of the personnel office, probably Det 1. Married and his family was with him. A nice guy.

George Stripling - Ph.D. who came to teach the U. of Maryland courses at the base.

Thomas C. Carver - Major, who I worked for after the absorption. We were so overloaded with people. Why no reassignments was a mystery to me.

Cecil Biddle - A/2C of the personnel office who I also worked with in Major Carver's office. He was from the Bloomington/Peoria area I think.

Guy Cooper - Major of the accounting office. He was in the rod and gun club. A nice guy.

Carl Hemp - A/1C of the accounting office. Avid fisherman, only guy to catch a fish at Lake Sapanca in a driving rain.

Eugene Terry - lstLt of the base legal office. His family ran the Terry's clothing store on south Halsted Street in Chicago. I used to pass that place on the streetcar and so I asked him once and that is what he told me.

Robert Mossey - Catholic chaplain - I first met him on the road to base. He picked me up when our ambulance transportation broke down. What a great individual!

William Kopelke - Protestant chaplain.

C. Blochowski - SSgt who ran the NCO club and whose name I recall only because it is on my NCO club card below the line where it says "no credit".

Check my pictures pages for images of some of the things mentioned above.

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