Oscar Mark Mankopf, CW2 USAR Ret.
© 2003-2011 by Author
I do not know when 4-3 started but I was assigned there in December of 1968. I was at Det 27, which was winding down. Det 4-3 had two missions. They met all new troops coming in to go to Sinop and ran the boat that went back and forth from İstanbul to Sinop. The boat was called the Sea Kamel. The other mission was as a direct support warehouse for all units in Turkey, Pakistan and Iran. I had worked in Signal Supply at Det 27 and hauled every piece of equipment out of the operations building to be turned in to close down the base. I knew nothing about working in a warehouse. One December morning we were loaded onto a bus and headed for İstanbul. After an all day trip we crossed the Bosphorus and arrived at the King Hotel. It was a lot better than a barracks.
My roommate was Doug Widowski from Chicago. When Doug was first introduced to me back at Det 27 they told him I was from Missouri and he said, “Missouri you fuck pigs there”. I said only the pretty one the ugly ones we send to Chicago. He laughed and told me that was a good one. The next day we went to our new work place a huge building that had a warehouse offices and the dependent school for all military children. We had to unload stuff from trucks and put it on the shelves in the warehouse. The ware house was made of very poor concrete and the forklift ground the floor to dust. If they were loading a truck the dust was thick.
Our CO was CPT Hahn, an old guy who was an E-7, then a Warrant Officer, and then got a commission. He was bucking for Major and all the guys in the unit hated him. His theory was long hours are good for you. WE had no sooner got the trucks unloaded and we had an IG inspection. Of course we failed miserably. Many things had not been unpacked yet. CPT Hahn could see those Oak Leafs flying away. His first action was to make us work Saturdays. This made all the troops mad. A couple of months later they reinspected us and we passed but just barely. I don’t think CPT Hahn ever made Major.
İstanbul is a great place to be stationed. Lots to do and lots to see. We spent our weekends exploring everywhere from the Old City to the Black Sea. Our main mode of transportation was the Dolmus. It is a car who goes up and down a major street and picks up passengers anywhere. When they pull up you tell the driver where you are going and ask how much. Tesh para Taxim. How much to Taxim Square? There were also regular taxis.
Mostly we walked where we wanted to go. My other good friend there was Joe Baxter. Joe and I still keep in touch. Joe and I left Turkey together and saw each other twice in Vietnam. He has a really funny sarcastic sense of humor. After we were there four months we were moved out of the hotel rooms and the old dining room became our quarters. Not nearly as nice. Everybody in one big room. I had went home on Easter leave and when I came back we were in the old dining room. I was not happy. The NCO’s got to stay in their rooms and this made us mad too.
In September we were moved into the top floor of the Mann Building, which was the Air Force Barracks. It also housed the mess hall and the NCO club.
We were a rowdy bunch. Our first night in the club, Terry Varner stood up and said we are Det 4-3 and we’re taking over this dump. Actually it was a very nice club. After we were there three months the gross for the club doubled. In the winter we had to wear a suit and tie to the club. The Colonel's wife did not like jeans.
One of my favorite memories was when the USS Independence came into port. I got the afternoon off and went on a tour of the aircraft carrier. I was impressed at how huge carriers are. We wore civilian clothes and the navy thought we were from the Consulate so made an Ensign (O-1) give us a tour.
At the end he asked us how we liked working in the Consulate and we said we didn’t work there, we were in the Army. He asked us what rank we were and we said E-4 and then he was really mad. An officer giving a tour to lowly enlisted men. İstanbul was fun especially in the summer. We spent weekends at Kilyos Beach. One of our drivers was Mehmet, a really nice guy. He was a Korean War Veteran and liked to tell us stories about collection ears of North Koreans and Chinese. He owned a taxi and took us to the beach cheap and would come pick us up. The last few months I was at İstanbul I was the unit courier and mail clerk. My most fun job was to go to KARAMÜRSEL. Four hours down and four back. I picked up stuff, ate lunch, and headed back. One day we were coming back and were almost at the ferry port on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, going up a divided street. A Turk was coming down the wrong side with a donkey and cart. We stopped and our driver and the donkey guy started yelling at each other. Our driver was much smaller than the donkey guy. Another military truck pulled up behind us and it was driven by a guy who was part Russian and he was huge. The donkey guy backed down. As he was part way over the curb dividing the streets, our driver floored the truck and hit his cart sending the cart and the contents flying. I was glad he kept going.
I must explain that we were not allowed to drive military vehicles in İstanbul. We had Turkish drivers. That way if we had an accident they could not find us at fault. Turks thought we were filthy rich.
The best thing about İstanbul is we got to know the City and the people of Turkey. Almost always the Turkish people were friendly and generous. I loved bargaining with the merchants in the Grand Bazaar. Everything you could imagine was for sale there. I still have my Turkish rugs and my Fez.
I had a pair of cowboy boots and when I went to the Bazaar the merchants would say, "Hey Texas!"
Oscar Mark Mankopf
CW2 USAR Ret.