© 2003-2011 by Author
The following article was written by (then) Lieutenant E. L. "Ted" Goldsborough (Allegheny College '61)
from Narberth, Pa., for an Air Force Publication dealing with Christmas at the various U.S. Air Force
radar sites. There are approximately 400 men at Diyarbakir (pronounced De-ar-ba-ker) Air Force Station.
Photographs were taken by John M. Ritchie.
Narberth Boy's Christmas in Faraway Diyarbakir, Bible Land
From the Main Line Chronicle, Ardmore, PA published Thursday, December 10, 1964:
Snow and cold in mid-December, but no Christmas trees? No twinkling red and green lights, intertwined with holly and pine boughs, strung from the street lights along main street? We do have the rosy-cheeked men (with red noses, too!) walking down snow-plowed streets, but we lack the "Oh Come All Ye Faithful..." playing over loudspeakers as the eager shoppers hurry from one store to another.
Where are we? Greenland? Norway? Alaska? Northern England? We could be at any of those locations for there are U.S. Air Force Installations at each, but instead we're in Southeastern Turkey, the heart of Moslem Country.
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Our Air Force site is unique in that we are situated at the headwaters of the Tigris River, which flows through the Birthplace of Man, the Garden of Eden. No other area is so rich in Biblical history. Less than 400 miles East of here Noah's Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat. Within 50 miles to the South, Abraham lived at Haran, and to the West of us, Paul was stoned and left for dead at Konya. Artifacts can be found in this area dating back to 2500 B.C. and before.
Yet, little has changed since Biblical times. If one were to start walking in any direction from the site before going 10 miles he would have passed several villages which consist of 15 or 20 houses with mud and stone walls and dirt floors. The furniture in these houses is a wooden bed, kerosene lamp, and perhaps a table and chair. The inhabitants are farmers who use oxen and wooden plows. They also sometimes have camels, horses, and sheep, all of which wander amongst the houses.
Looking across the fields from the site, we can see shepherds heading their sheep as they did when Mary was forced to sleep in a stable almost 2000 years ago. In November the site chaplain usually sponsors a tour of the Holy Land and this year is no exception. However, our men, being "space conscious," when standing on the Shepherd's Plain where the Birth of the Babe was announced by the angeles, are liable to hear the Chaplain say, "Now men, don't try and follow a star to the Nativity scene, for with all those satellites up there you may be misled!"
The Holy Land tour will only last a week and then the men will return to Diyarbakir Air Force Station. This Christmas will be quieter than last, when Bob Hope was here sharing his warmth with us. We have invited many of the 100 Christian Turkish families who live in Diyarbakir, a city of 80,000, to attend the Christmas Eve canclelight service in our one-year-old chapel. Although las year we had Turkish orphans on site to receive gifts, this year will be the first time the adults and complete families have been on site for Christian services. After the Christmas Eve ceremony, gifts will be given and admiring stares will be bestowed upon the decorated (and military air transport service imported!) evergreen Christmas tree.
Christmas Day there will be communion at the chapel and one will find several nationalities present; Germans, supervisors of the site dining hall, (which will be serving a full-course turkey dinner), and from the city, an English family, two Americans hired by Turkey to teach English, and some recently-arrived Peace Corps members. There is also an American oil drilling company here and several of the 30 or so American employees will undoubtedly attend chapel or come for some Holiday cheer at one of the two military clubs on this station.
All in all it will be like many other places, cold and snowy, but a joyful and yet meaningful Christmas will be had by all in far off Diyarbakir. May you, too, have a Merry Christmas!
Click photos to enlarge
Kurds staring at me while I was in an Air Force blue Ford station wagon parked at a construction road stop. The picture shows the locals' appearances in 1964 and how curious they were of "foreigners."
A shepherd tends his flock near Detachment 8. I enjoy the irony of the herder doing what has been done for thousands of years, while the backdrop is a state-of-the-art multi-million dollar radar installation.