© 2003-2011 by Author
I grew up in Medway, Massachusetts,
which is the town next to Bellingham. After graduating from Medway
High School in June, 1956, I joined the Air Force right away. The
next week, I left for Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas for my
basic training. I was only at Lackland for about 5 weeks when I was
sent to Keesler AFB, Biloxi, Mississippi for Radio School and to
finish my basic training. I learned Morse Code there as well as
other radio skills. Some of you radio operators will know what I mean
when I say we used to march to class across the flight line,
and our cadence song was: "3 Dits, 4 Dits, 2 Dits, Dah, Keesler, Keesler,
Rah Rah Rah!"
I graduated from Radio School in December, 1956 and was assigned to
a small communications squadron in Udine, Italy. This was a squadron
connected with Aviano Air Force Base in Italy. I was originally supposed to spend
three years there, but they deactivated the squadron in October, 1957.
So, from January, 1957 to October, 1957, I was in northern Italy, but
was re-assigned to İncirlik AFB in later that month. I was immediately
sent on temporary duty (TDY) to İskenderun, Turkey, Detachment 33-3. . . . I was there until May, 1959, at
which time I received my orders to Otis AFB, Bourne, Massachusetts.
I met a fellow Airman at Keesler AFB who had also been sent to Italy with me,
and we were both sent on to İncirlik, then İskenderun, and later, to Otis AFB together.
His name is Jack Balch from Metamoras, PA. (He now lives in Milford, PA).
We have remained friends all these years, but unfortunately we don't get
together very often. I plan to visit him before the end of the summer. He
is only about four hours from where I live now.
Besides Jack, some of the other people I remember in İskenderun were:
Lt. Col. Joe Hanks (Army) Commander of Tuslog Det. 33-3.
Major Kenneth Henke (Army) Commander before Col. Hanks
MSgt Jim Scherer (Army) First Sergeant.
Spc-3 Ken Flickenger (Army) Clerk. (Al knew him as well).
Spc-3 Joseph Ogelthorpe (Army) Cook.
SSgt. Curtis Orne (Army) Stevadores.
Spc-3 Joe (Smokey) White (Clerk)
SSgt. Anderson (Army) ???
SSgt Llewelyn Stewart (Army) ???
A1C Curtis Nicely (USAF) Radio Operator
SSgt Jim Tenant (USAF) Radio Maintenance
Spc-3 Robert Burns (Cook)
(I think most of these names are correct, but I may have a few wrong.)
There was a Turkish Man we called Skinder bey who worked in the Office.
Also a Turkish man we knew as Nayeem. I don't remember what he did.
I also recall an Army guy named Howie Whitlock from Texas I believe.
There were a few others who I don't recall now, but as they recur to me I will update
them here. There where also many dependents who lived in various places around town.
Of course I have quite a few stories from that period in Turkey, but
I'll save them for another time. . . . It was a great stroke of luck that
I connected with Al Cammarata, whose story is here on Merhaba-USMilitary.com and now I can't wait to get in touch
with Jack Balch (hopefully soon). He has copies of a lot of my photos
which I misplaced, so I'll borrow them back and make more copies.
(Addition from Ken, 17 Mar 2014.)
When Balch and I first arrived in Iskenderun in 1958, the radio shack was upstairs. If you entered the compound from the street, it was to your right and up the stairs. After a while we got 2 AN/GRC vans (I think that's what we called them). They were on the ground, but they were designed to fit on a 6-By. These vans contained a BC610 Transmitter and a RC-388 receiver or two. I don't have a picture of the vans, but here is the equipment in the upstairs radio room. And, I downloaded a picture of the BC610 Transmitter. The Coil on the left, and the Antenna Tuning unit on the right. You had to make sure you grounded the coil first. I forgot one time and got knocked out of the van. Lucky the door was open. (There has been a lot of "chatter" lately between Ken, Al, and Balch, but it is deemed personal and is not included here.)
|(Upstairs Radio Room)
||(PC610 Transmitter-Front View)
||(PC610 Transmitter-Top View)
(From Ken) I am in touch with several other folks who were stationed
in Turkey. . . . A high school classmate of mine and her
husband were in Karamursel during the cold war. They are
now living in New Hampshire. I also have a 24-year Navy
Retiree friend who lives in Maine. Of course, the aforemtntioned fellow
radio operator Jack Balch, who was with me in İskenderun. I'm sure he
would really be interested in Merhaba-USMilitary.com, and I will let these
other friends know about this website as well.
It was a memorably sad experience which occurred in December, 1958.
The Mirador was discharging JP-4 jet fuel into a smaller vessel since she was lying too deep for the relatively shallow İskenderun harbor. As the vessel was pumping the fuel and began riding higher in the water, there was an explosion which killed a crewman aboard the smaller ship and several aboard the Mirador. It was thought the fire had been brought under control and was assumed to have been safe, however suddenly the Mirador suffered another, much larger explosion killing all the crew as well as the men aboard a tug helping in the rescue effort, and both sank to the bottom of İskenderun harbor.
The tanker named USS Mirador (see box at right) blew up and sank in İskenderun Harbor. I believe the date
was December 16, 1958.
There were quite a few fatalities, though I don't have much detailed information on this, but I do remember
that a US Navy Ship, The John R. Pierce, was nearby and
came to help put out the fire. I can remember standing out
in front of my apartment on Ataturk Boulevard and feeling
the heat from the fire. Then rushing to my radio station to
stand by and try to help out with communications. I think
that the Mirador was only a year or so old at the time.
I pride myself with a good memory as far as names go, but
naturally, after 54 years, I've forgotten a lot. I can remember
a beautiful young lady named Pia Lavante, who was of Italian
decent, and another beautiful girl named Arlotte Butros, her
friend, who lived behind my apartment. We became
friends and spent some happy times together. These girls
spoke quite a few different languages, and introduced me to
many Turkish people, but I cannot remember their names.
I was stationed in Italy for almost a year before being sent
to İncirlik AFB in Turkey. I learned to speak enough Italian to get by.
I wish I had learned more Arabic and Turkish, but only know a
few words like gal-budia, güle güle (bye bye), arkadas (friend), gal-budia (?). In fact, I
couldn't remember what "merhaba" (hello) meant until Al Cammarata
jogged my memory!
Well, enough for now. Thanks for welcoming me to the Merhaba-USMilitary.com group.
I'm looking forward to meeting some old acquaintences and to sharing stories. I promise to keep it clean
and try not to offend anyone. Most of it will even be true!!
[From editor (05 Apr 2014): I've been corresponding with Ken Boultenhouse, Al Cammarata, and others of the Iskenderun group lately and both Ken and Al have posted new information about the sinking of the tanker Mirador. Al forwarded a Google Earth picture from Ken of Iskenderun and what Ken thinks is the sunken ship.]
I was playing with Google Earth, and zeroed in on Iskenderun. I think I located the sunken oil tanker, Mirador, which went down while I was there on December 16, 1958. Attached is the picture I saved. Not very clear, but I'm almost certain that it's her. (I circled it in white).
I cropped out some of the satellite photo to get in the coastline of Iskenderun, and to give some perspective of the distance from the shore. I do remember feeling the heat from Ataturk Boulevard in front of our apartment.
I recently got an e-mail from a beautiful young lady named Pia Levante whom I hadn't heard from in all these years. She sent me a few pictures of some people associated with Det. 33-3. (See above for info on Pia.)
(Mirador-Sunken in Harbor)
(Click to enlarge)
I believe most who were ever stationed there heard about the sunken tanker. The name of the U.S. Navy ship that was deployed from Beirut to Iskenderun to help in search/rescue was the USS Soley DD-707. There is a lot of info on the Internet re Mirador including newspaper clips. During the rescue, one crewman was killed while fighting the fire on 30 December, John L. King, DC2. Try Googling the web "The Cold War Years - 55 to 64 - USS Soley". The other webpage is COMDESRON 2
which has activities of this destroyer division operating out of the Med... It has short paragraph on a Navy ship responding to Mirador. I think it lists 2 ships but not certain.
[Editor: Received the following from Ed Roberts 07 Apr 2014.]
I also looked at Google maps. Zooming in, you can actually see the distinct outline and some super structure of the ship AND you can see similar outlines of at least two more ships. I found that intriguing as it is a busy port and water not terribly deep. I wonder if they have to navigate around all three of them.
A bit of interest perhaps. One of the largest developers in Indianapolis is Ersal Ozdemir - a Mersin guy. He went to Purdue and became a US citizen. He has formed and owns Indy Eleven, the newest North American Soccer League team. When I first met him a few years ago, I spoke to him in Turkish. He was taken aback, but asked, in Turkish, "Are you from Hatay?" I said I was American. He said, "You speak Turkish with an Arabic accent." I guess it depends on where you learn.
[Editor: I looked at Iskenderun on Google Maps and what Ed says is correct. Same picture but without all the markers.]
(Click to enlarge)
|(Ken, Just Minutes after the Explosion)