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Life in Trabzon USAFSS Tuslog Det 3-1

Jim Palmer

2011 by Author

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 Click photos to enlarge.

Riding down from Boztepe on "Valiant".

I was fortunate to have been stationed in Trabzon during the early days before there was a permanent base on the mountain called "Boztepe". At that time, the facility consisted of 4-5 trailers parked on the mountain and we worked out of these units... even had our own power generator trailer. All were connected by an enclosed walkway and the base was guarded by the Turkish "Askeris".

We lived down in the town and dressed in AF fatigues only while we were on duty, as wearing uniforms at other times was not allowed. And the mission not discussed with anyone. I never heard what the local Turks were told of our mission and no one ever asked me about it either.

We worked a 3 day shift schedule... 3 days of day shift; 3 of evening; 3 of nights; and then 3 days off. I never did get my body clock adjusted for the year I was there.

Click photo to enlarge
Roman ruins near Trabzon
"Valiant with Roman ruins in background."
 

Since there were no barracks, we lived in rented houses in the city and earned per diem to pay expenses. I lived in a house on Çiçek Sokak (Flower Street) (best I can remember the address) along with about 10 other guys. It was owned by a fine old gentleman, Shukri Bey, and was a two story house, and it had the remarkable feature of having two kitchens. One of them was for winter use, and the other, outside on a porch, for summer use. That did keep the house much cooler in the hot summer days. Our hot water was provided by a wood-fired heater located in the shower, so taking a shower involved some work and planning ahead. But, the most appreciated appliance was the western style flush toilet instead of the common "hole in the floor" ("bombsite") conveniences in most Turkish homes.

We had a couple of maids to do the cooking and cleaning. One, an Armenian lady, "Figliana", was not one to take any guff from us and ruled with a tyrannical attitude. She did only the cooking and directed the other lady to do the cleaning and shopping for us. After a few months, though, the commotion of so many under one roof led us to break up into smaller groups. I stayed with 3 others and we rented just the upstairs of the house, while Shukri and his family lived downstairs. We hired a new maid... another elderly lady named "Yildez" and she took over from Figliana -- attitude and all. It was from these folks, and the school boys who practiced their English with us, that we learned enough "pidgin" Turkish to communicate quite well with the locals. And with that ability, we soon made friends with the locals -- which made my stay there an interesting and educational experience.

 Hunting pals, near Trabzon

The Turks we hunted with and their kids. I am last row, top right; Bob East, 2nd from right, middle row. But I can't recall the name of the airman in top left."

There wasn't much social life in Trabzon, to say the least. But the Turks were quite friendly, so we roamed the city and the countryside without any concern. Several of us purchased riding horses from horse traders and we spent many hours riding in the countryside. We also spent a lot of our time hunting in the mountains NE of Trabzon, toward Rize. We became good friends with several Turks and traipsed over the very rugged terrain in pursuit of wild boar. After many fruitless trips, in one day we bagged 5 large boars. These were fierce animals, well equipped with long tusks and a very nasty disposition. The Turks feared and hated them as they tore up their farm crops. Pork was not available locally, nor allowed by their religion, so we now took advantage and everyone feasted on chops, roasts, and ribs. And one guy, a Sergeant from Mississippi, even made mountains of sausage. But we had to cook the meat ourselves, as the maids considered pork to be untouchable.

I recall only a couple of "incidents" while in Trabzon. We were visited a couple times by MIGs that swooped in over the Black Sea on photo recons. They roared in a low level, right over the base, then high-tailed it out to international waters. We heard that, on one such event, the Turkish Air Force shot one down but that was never verified. Then, also, in July '56, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. England and France took military action. During that time, we were on alert and ready to destroy equipment and move out in the event that the USSR would got to Egypt's aid and hostilities might spread throughout the mideast.

I don't recall the names of many of the guys. But I do remember:

--George Barnes, California
--"Jeep" Cherhoniak, Connecticut
--Bill Dyer, Tennessee (I did see Bill in 1986 in Tennessee, but have lost track of him since)
--Bob East, Illinois
--Larry Mello, California
--Jack Weaver, Pennsylvania

I now live, retired, in North Carolina. But as long ago as all this was, I still remember those days as some of the best in my life. Hopefully, some of them will see this site and contact me (below).

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