© 2003-2011 by Author
So Where IS This KARAMURSEL?
It was June of 1957. I was stationed at USNTC Bainbridge Maryland. In fact, I was at the recruit training center since January 1956, and no, it didn't take me that long to get through 12 weeks of boot camp:). I was assigned to the classification center testing recruits using the basic classification test battery.
Bainbridge Naval Training Center Entrance
I was there awaiting assignment to the Personnelman school which was somewhat filled up when I completed boot camp so being the resourceful Navy, they put me to good use. Anyway I worked in the testing center and finally went on to service school and after 12 weeks of school, I thought I was going to get orders sending me to another duty station, but the Navy had reassigned me back to the classification center after service school, which led me to believe that I was going to spend my entire 4 year enlistment at Bainbridge, Maryland.
I didn't mind that at all because my home town of Carbondale, Pennsylvania was in striking distance almost every weekend to get home and have a ball. In fact, I was growing accustomed to being home Friday and Saturday nights and all day Sunday, leaving late Sunday night or early Monday mornings just getting back in time for duty. This went on from March 1956 thru mid - October 1957. I even made my crow while at Bainbridge entering there as a seaman recruit, to seaman apprentice, to seaman and then to petty officer 3rd Class when that fateful day arrived. The Navy caught up with me, and I was ordered to TUSLOG Detachment 28, KARAMURSEL, Turkey. The first thought in my head was - "where in the hell is KARAMURSEL? It has to be a mistake, some kind of error or joke being played on me by some of my buddies at the Personnel Command Building." but after inquiring, I found out it was no joke. KARAMURSEL did not show on any map that I looked at and questions to authorities resulted in shrugs of shoulders with added confused looks when they pushed me on to see "so and so" who would certainly know that information.
After arriving at the Brooklyn Navy Receiving Station in late October, 1957 to get set up for a flight to Turkey, and still not knowing much more than I did from the day I had received these orders, I inquired everywhere I could think of at the time to enlighten myself on what I was getting into but to no avail. Nobody I spoke to knew anything about this duty station. But one afternoon at the club at Brooklyn, I ran into a CT2 by the name of Epps who had orders to Istanbul, Turkey (TUSLOG Det 12) so he gave me the run down on KARAMURSEL - he being in the Security Group, he knew where I was going and he advised me to come down with an illness or something! :) I buddied up with him thinking we would at least be on the same flight out of McGuire AFB, New Jersey. Surely that would be certain but I never did get my flight with him.
The Navy sent me down to Charleston AFB South Carolina. When I traveled north from Maryland to New York and then returned to pass by Maryland on my way to south, it was then I realized the Navy didn't have a clue as to where KARAMURSEL was located.
At Charleston AFB I made a big hit with the medic's when I told them I didn't have my shots yet and they thought I was lying about that. I got them to open my sealed service jacket and they found out that I was a straight shooter and my medical records did not show me getting the shots to combat everything under the sun. Well, they proceeded to give to me all of the shots reluctantly, saying the Navy should have already done that, and after that fiasco, I boarded a MATS flight whose destination was still unknown to me.
We flew to the Azores and then to an air base in Morocco where travel arrangements became confused. Just as in Chuck Maki's story, mine is a duplicate in confusion. Perhaps this was normal air force procedure? Wherever I was in Morocco, they put me on a bus for about a two hour ride to Port Lyautey, Morocco where I spent a few weeks awaiting a flight to Turkey. During all this I hadn't found one soul who was also going there which led me to believe I'd been screwed! So I spent Thanksgiving at Port Lyautey which gave me about 30 days to get from Brooklyn, New York to Morocco. Now I was starting to think KARAMURSEL did not even exist; but on about 28 November, after getting somewhat smashed at the club, I was awaken out of a sound sleep at 3:00 AM and was told to get down to the air strip on the double - "you have a flight waiting for you!"
On arriving at the air strip, the only aircraft I saw was a Marine Corps C119. I boarded the aircraft and found 10 other sailors sitting around wooden crates who to my surprise were also destined for KARAMURSEL. Their story was this - they were at Port Lyautey, in the middle of their tours and they are to go on Temporary Duty (TDY) to KARAMURSEL, Turkey.
Finally I had companions in misery! They were also heading for this mythical place. We flew from Port Lyautey on this aircraft with parachutes strapped on for reasons unknown. If you had to use them, nothing but the cold water of the Mediterranean awaited you.
First we flew east landing at Malta and on the take off roll, we were still on the ground after passing the last light on the ground before lifting into the wild blue yonder as the Air Force types would say. From Malta the plane headed north to Naples, Italy and from Naples back to Malta - confused?
Then we finally flew from Malta to Istanbul and from the airport in Istanbul we did the drill - first to the Kahan Building downtown in the Beyoglu district, and then to the Galata Bridge terminal to catch the ferry boat to Yalova. Once landing in Yalova a bus would take us to this place called KARAMURSEL. I arrived 30 November 1957 at 2200 hours and after 35 days of having left Bainbridge!
It was at this place where I would spend many a good moments meeting some of the most unforgettable characters one could ever run across and many a bad moment also. For example, near the end of the supply runs when there was the danger of running out of stuff, a limited variety of suds were available. but all in all it was the experience of a lifetime, which everyone should try! Bottom line is this: there is nothing like the good old USA. I'm very glad to have survived many a battle of the 'BUL. Going from KARAMURSEL to Istanbul for liberty over those many months are great stories in themselves for some other time. I found that 99% of the Turkish people I came to deal with were friendly people just trying to get along thru life like the rest of us.
One of my most memorable moments after being in Turkey for approximately three months came when I discovered that mountainous terrain was bordering the base! Because drizzle and fog during the months of December, January, and February had obscured the view; I didn't know there was anything to see anyway! I would go to ops in the dark of morning and end the day at the good old NCO club so it was quite a surprise to see mountains!
Another memorable moment was when I entered the Club one evening in January, 1958 and actually bumped into a school acquaintance from my hometown who was just passing thru to one of the remote Air Force sites. He made me feel somewhat better after telling me about his duty at Samsun and today, he works with one of my sons, and we converse in broken Turkish when we meet! His name for any of you air force types is John Jones. I also met, on a few other occasions, another school acquaintance from my home town, an airman named "Chick" Owens, however his whereabouts are unknown to me now. I met Chick a few times on the prowl in the 'Bul at the Piccadilly Bar known as our home away from home. Americans really liked it at that bar:) - Chick was stationed at one of the remote sites...I can't recall which one.
It was late February 1959; I was rooting through the mail for the Personnel Office at Det. 28 and there it was! My aching eyes spotted transfer orders for yours truly - report to the U.S. Naval Security Station, Nebraska Avenue Washington D.C no later than 15 June 1959 after 30 days leave authorized.
Why was I rooting through the detachment mail? It was one of many jobs assigned to me. Can you imagine the stress that puts on a guy? Every few days or so, opening orders for people to be rotated back to the states and not seeing your own name? Hoping they made an error in your favor for a change but it never happened even though the last couple of months the detachment was becoming crowded with people and no room for them? You would think they would have allowed some of us out of there a little early - yeah right!
So finally I had the orders to report to the Naval Security Station in D.C. which immediately gave me the right to have a short-timers demeanor which was the offspring of FIGMO decoded "f**k it, got my orders!" I must admit, it left me with mixed emotions, such as "do I really have to go?" Yeah right! I had arrived at KARAMURSEL - an Air Force base which also had a relatively large Naval detachment and even a few Marine guards - as a Petty Officer 3rd Class, and was leaving as the same rank so what happened?
To make a short story shorter I had passed the test for Petty Officer 2nd Class twice while I was in Turkey, but I was a "Quota" - meaning the Personnelman "PN2" rating (pic at right) was all filled up...so I was told.
The undefined bottom line, though, was that I had made the big mistake. On arriving at KARAMURSEL, I turned down an offer to change my rate to Communication Technician (A branch (administrative)) - my error. It was an offer I shouldn't have refused! hmm, hey - is there a chance for a retroactive rate change? so how much back pay does the Navy owe me?
Then my fondest memory occurred: It was 30 April - the last two months remaining always seem longer than the previous sixteen. I got up that morning and boarded the 4 by 4 and went to Naval Air Station Marmara down the road from the base. Why that name for the airstrip? The pilot on the plane or "the Good Ship Lollipop" named it that upon landing there to collect some 30 of us lucky souls. And here is the fondest moment: taking off and flying over Mainsite and looking down and saying good riddance.
The flight back was much improved - a four engine U.S. Navy aircraft. The squadron flying it was out of NAS Norfolk Virginia and we were to land there four days from departure date with a stop in Istanbul to get customs and immigration clearance out of Turkey. Then it was on to Naples, Italy followed by stops at Port Lyautey and the Azores and then across the big pond to Norfolk when the only hitched that happened, did happen: we were diverted, instead, to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland - Norfolk was fogged in! By the way, that left me being in the U.S. Navy General Services for 4 years without setting my foot in Norfolk which is a rare happening in the U.S. Navy. Needless to say, going back to the ZI had become very much improved over the last year and a half by 30 days travel time. They got all the confusion out of the transportation part of the journey from KARAMURSEL, Turkey. Hmm, do you suppose switching from "Air Air Force" did the trick? Just kidding guys - I love the air force :)
Early during the winter of 1958 a memo was sent out to all personnel of TUSLOG Detachment 28, KARAMURSEL, that a contest would be held for a design of an emblem representing the detachment. The emblem would be selected by personnel voting for the best design of those submitted. Anyone could submit a drawing of an emblem to be entered into the contest. I assume that this was a idea to boost morale of the detachment, but some reason the morale fairy never made it to KARAMURSEL (to sprinkle magic Dust) in the early days of KARAMURSEL.
Let the contest begin! Several designs were submitted by various personnel. After holding the detachment election for the favorite emblem, it turned out that two drawings wound up in a tie! The tie breaker was to be decided behind closed doors. Until this very day, Iím still wondering why the one not selected was a much more fitting logo for the detachment status in the food chain of supply distribution. But the one selected was the one with the anchor in the center with the American and Turkish flag on each side of the anchor with lightening bolts. So it was set to be the emblem, which was a very nice emblem.
The personnel were to be allowed to wear this emblem on the Navy blue work jackets which had just come out for the enlisted personnel to wear, instead on the woolen peacoats which were bulky and actually were intended for dress uniforms. Up to this time, the Navy didnít really have a suitable work jacket, only foul weather jackets which took a act of congress or bribery to obtain! Usually the foul weather jackets were loan-outs to be returned when the task for this jacket was over. By the way, ordering and shipping of these patches took so much time that almost everyone involved in the creation of the emblem patches were ready for rotation or had been left KARAMURSEL already! Somewhat of a bummer. But I donít seriously think anyone wanted stay and wait for them, I can remember mailing some of them to the people who had been rotated already.
I never did learn if the jackets were allowed to be worn the way it was planned. Seeing Captain Chiles was also rotating back to the U.S. and he planned to use this for morale lifting. Things were about to change for the worse at KARAMURSEL with signs of spit and polish on the horizon. They were just starting to drill like boot camp when I departed - I thank God for saving me from that boot camp mentality. The level of what little morale remained would certainly take a plunge. The only thing that held things in perspective was the importance of our mission at KARAMURSEL.
In essence, the mud wasnít as bad as it was thought to be. With mud no one worried about shoe shines which were useless during the muddy season which seemed to last at least six months, after which it was time for the dusty season which lasted another six months! The addition of sidewalks, grass and trees probably helped eliminate that problem. I can remember wearing non-regulation engineering boots during the wet season which the Captain allowed. Captin Chiles did everything he could think of to help us out but he was running against the wind. Without him I donít think it could have been bearable in the early days, he was a great commanding officer.
Oh yeah, the other design for the emblem was born of efforts by several of us, including yours truly. It was a thoughtful and well planned design drawn during grueling sessions with class VI stores allowing us to function. As I recall, central to the emblem was a sow feeding her pigs. The word "TUSLOG" was engraved upon her side. At the rearmost feeding position was the term "Det 28" and to this day I still don't know why the design didnít win the contest. Was the election rigged? By the way, that's the selected emblem above, as it was displayed at KARAMURSEL Air Base. Seeing John Brasko's picture of that emblem in his Merhaba-USMILITARY.com story, that picture brought the above memory story to mind. Unfortunately, my jacket with the emblem was lifted from my first civilian employment - I miss having that!