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INÇİRLİK AIR BASE - ADANA, TURKEY
My Duty Station March 29, 1958 - January 10, 1960

FIFTY YEARS LATER

A/2C Charles Sibert

© 2009 by Author

 

An Editorial Comment

This is a very special story for many reasons, not the least of which are some firsts:

1. It is our lengthiest continuous single story we've ever published,

2. It had to be entirely re-typed as it was submitted as printed, photocopied pages - 100% of it including the photos

3. It features a larger number of photographs than we've dealt with before.

4. We've cut down a bit on "military speak" and tried to translate dates and times for the now-approaching 50% of our viewers who are not military-connected.

    This is big, fat, boisterous, joyful story, full of the things a military person may confront in a career, and it will present a realistic picture of an entire career for those non-military who visit.

    One of the dangers of presenting these hefty documents is that they can be intimidating for the reader, but trust us:  stick with it to the end.  You'll get an insight into a steel-trap mind which forgets nothing, you'll go inside places and situations as real as any printed words can take you.  And because most of Charlie's story is in chronological order, when it's over you will have a perfect portrait of one of the nicest men the Air Force could have asked for.

    So here we go! ...or as Charlie would say, "Jump in my Follow Me truck and lets get this thing prepared for takeoff!"

 

      PREFACE MATERIAL
      These are some of the official orders which took Charles Sibert to Technical Training at Sheppard Air Force Base effective
      11 September 1957, to the point of receiving his orders to İnçirlik Air Base on January 30,1958.

      ORDERS 179 issued September 11, 1957

      ORDERS 185 to report to Lackland AFB

      SEE SQUADRON 3711 PHOTO

      ORDERS 56 promote Charlie to Airman Third Class (A/3C)

      ORDERS 244 - American Spirit Honor Medal (click here for photo of presentation ceremony)

      As his story progresses, he refers to various orders here and there, and as above, those orders will be colored links
      within his story. These help amplify Charlie's story, and be of interest to other military personnel - particularly Air
      Force - whether active or retired.

-----------------
Chapter One

   

"MY U. S. AIR FORCE SHOE BRUSH"
By A/2C Sibert

Before we begin...it was during the last week of August 1957 at Lackland Air Force Base San Antonio, Texas and my basic training was in full swing. One day our 3711 training squadron flight 1108 was marched to receive some of our first Air Force pay to an old WW-II style barracks building. We were handed a pay voucher and received our first few dollars from Uncle Sam. Then we were marched to the base exchange to get some personal supplies for our foot lockers.

I remember getting a shoe shine rag and a polish brush and some black Esquire shoe Polish. Our assistant drill instructor A/1C Bennett cautioned us to be thrifty with our money when it came to purchasing a shoe shine brush. A lifetime brush, as he called it, could be had after basic training at our permanent party base.

I looked at the tiny 75 cent shoe brushes and decided I wanted the large Esquire pure horse hair one for $2.25. I still have that shoe brush and use it quite often for my shoes here at home. I must say it still looks as good as when I used it at Lackland and Sheppard Air Force Bases in the states and İnçirlik Air Base, Turkey and Dreux Air Base, France for my entire USAF days from 1957--1961.

Made here in the good old USA!


(See the Dreux Air Base Website of Chuck Sibert and Bill McLeod.)


Click any images
to enlarge.

 
 

Click any images
to enlarge.


Oct. 1957, Shepherd AFB at Wichita Falls, Texas Airmens' Club having some 3/2 beer. That's Airman Basic Sibert trying to drink from the Pitcher, lefthanded at that! The band that night was Don Arnold and the Flames.

I graduated from A & E 1 & 2 Eng Recip School PAFSC 43131A Class #16107 on Tuesday February 11, 1958 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. I went home to Louisville, Kentucky for a 30-day leave on Saturday February 15, 1958. After my leave, I went by bus to Charleston, South Carolina. With Orders in hand, my classmate, Gerald Lasserre from Oakland, California, and I left Charleston Air Base on Thursday March 20, 1958 at 1600 hours (4:00 p.m.) on flight #253, which was a C-121 MATS Super Constellation headed to Kindley Air Force Base, on the island of Bermuda. While there, we refueled, then went on to Lajes Air Force Base on the Azores island of Terceira. We arrived there at 1000 hours local time the next morning.



At Lajes I saw some B-17 bombers that the Portuguese Air Force were flying. The weather was rainy and cool. After noontime refueling, food and drink, we headed on to Wheelus Air Base, 7 miles east of Tripoli, Libya, landing there at a half hour past midnight on Saturday March 22. There were no military planes going to Adana, Turkey so we stayed at Wheelus until Tuesday March 25, 1958 to get on a civilian flight.

A U.S. Air Force car took us to Tripoli from which we departed on an Italian commercial flight at 8:00 p.m. on the 25th, stopping at Malta's Valletta Airport. We had dinner at a castle on a hill. Freddie Stalkup and Bruce McAvinew were also with us as we later flew on to Rome, landing at Ciampino Airport and spending the night at the Grand Hotel. Gerald and I wanted to see the Fontana de Trevi, where the movie Three Coins in the Fountain was filmed. We started out with directions we gathered from the hotel. It started to rain very hard and of course we had on our raincoats and hat covers. Well all airmen know that the only thing not soaked was our heads, because the raincoats of that period did not repel water very well. So back to the hotel, looking like drowned rats, we went. Our uniforms were sent down to be cleaned and pressed by the next morning. My low quarters were hung on two lightbulbs to dry, and my other things were hung about the room. The bathwater was only lukewarm and I was cold already. The bottom line was: we did not see the fountain!

The next morning we dressed and went down to eat breakfast. We looked like we had slept in our clothes all night because the pressing job was not what we expected…but we were dry. It now was Wednesday, March 26, 1958, so off to the airport we all went to catch a plane for Istanbul, Turkey, an Italian flight which left at 1530 Hours (3:30 p.m.). At 8:00 p.m. that evening we landed at Yesilkoy airport in Istanbul. There, English speaking people seemed to vanish!

Finally, we found our way to a transient building in town to spend the night. It was a tall narrow building and our bunks were double-stacked, just as at basic training. This building was near the Hilton Hotel in Istanbul and we were on the third floor, I believe. We did get to see some of Istanbul and try to get a feel of what we were in for. We stayed there for two days and on March 29, 1958 at 0845 hrs we departed for Adana on Turkish civilian commercial flight. We went to Ankara, the capital city of Turkey first. That's where Gerald, Freddie, Bruce and I wondered what else would come our way. We were not there at Ankara very long - and probably none of us got off the plane.



  Super constellation MATS plane   Super Constellation MATS plane  

C-121 MATS Super Constellations
Kindley Air Force base, Bermuda

     

Next, off to Adana for İnçirlik Air Base, on the same plane. We landed at Adana Airport at 12:15 p.m. on the 29th of March and we were in for some "deep doo doo." The airport was very small and when we walked from the plane with our grip bags toward the office, we noticed it was getting warmer, weather-wise. Our blue uniforms caused a sweat to pop up as we airmen were standing in front of the main building wondering just what to do. No English speaking people could be found so we could not ask for directions.

Just then, here comes a horse and buggy. The driver said something to us that we could not understand. The only thing one of us said was "Adana," very loudly. He motioned for us to get into the buggy! Off we went at a trot toward Adana (we hoped)! Goats and cattle were everywhere to be seen and sometimes the driver would have to stop to let them pass. He was no doubt cursing the shepherd. Later, I learned some of what he said when I was taught a bit of Turkish by our houseboy at the base, whose name was "Ujel."

In Adana, we stopped in front of the Crystal Palace Hotel, across from the street that leads to the Seyhan River Bridge. This is the street that becomes the Adana İskenderun highway, and on to the village of İnçirlik. The driver wanted to be paid for our ride and wouldn't accept American money. He kept saying Turkish "Para!"(money). Soon a crowd had gathered around, shaking their hands at us in support of the driver's cause. We were saved by a U.S. Air Force tech-sergeant who lived in a Non-Commissioned Officers hotel on the street to the bridge. He paid the driver with Turkish money, and we gave him our U.S. money and he offered to show us how to get to the base.



Seyhan River Bridge, Adana, Turkey. (Adana prison in background). I crossed this bridge many times going to Adana.
 

We started walking with the Tech Sergeant toward the Seyhan River bridge, built by Justinian in the second century A.D. The sights and sounds of Adana were all around us and in our nostrils. We were watching where we stepped, as animal manure was in the street. The sidewalk was very narrow and we had to step around the vendors, whose wares covered the walkway. Copper, silver, pottery, leather, china, food and drink were everywhere. Meat hanging from wires outside butcher shops was just normal business for the Turks. Flies were having a great day looking for their treats.

The tech-sergeant stopped at his hotel entrance and pointed toward the bridge, saying we could catch a shuttle bus on this side of it. He said it was a faded blue Mercedes diesel that smoked a lot, and had the word "Shuttle" on the sign above the windshield. This bus would take us to the front gate of the base. So we all walked the rest of the way to the bridge and waited for some time. Lo and behold, what should appear but the smoking shuttle bus. What a sight for our tired eyes. We flagged down the driver and got aboard to ride to the base.


     
1958 Under the old Roman Bridge at Adana
Adana 1958
 

Adana, 1958
Turk Bank, Adana, 1958

 

Adana 1958
Adana 1958

 
 

Click photos on this page to view enlargements.

   
     

Above and Below:
Street Scenery,
Adana, 1958

   

 
     
     
Before it was named İnçirlik.

Gerald Lasserre, 1958
 

İnçirlik Air Base, 1958

Statue of Ataturk at base entrance, 1958

 

Mid 1958, New Barracks

Tent city where I lived early on.

 
 

   

Belediye - the Town Hall and Mayor's oofice building, downtown Adana.
   
1958 Adana Street. View of Sayaimbeyil Prison (large bldg. in background).
 

Going across the bridge, we saw a sight like never before. In the water below were women washing clothes, men washing their buggies, some folks swimming and animals of all descriptions being watered and washed. We mutually hoped there was enough water for all of them! What a ride we had, seven miles to the base. The smell of Turkish cigarette smoke filled the bus, as most of the men smoked. Sometimes there was a large pile of rocks in our driving lane, and the bus would have to swerve around them. Not many vehicles were seen coming toward us on our journey. Later, we learned that the rocks were dumped because the truck that had them was towed away for repairs. As long as there was a ring of rocks around the pile as a warning signal, this was legal, and OK.

Partial photo: Guard Shack & his family home.
Partial photo: 1958 İnçirlik Village train track crossing across the road leading to the İnçirlik Air Base main gate. The gatekeeper's guard shack and his family's house can be seen. He lived close - very close - to his work! Note the tile roof on the house, and metal one on the guard shack.
 

We turned onto the road for the base. The village of İnçirlik was on our right as we crossed some railroad tracks. Further on was the guard shack and the gate across the roadway. We were told to get off the bus and wait for headquarters to send a vehicle for us, after we told the air policeman we had orders to be stationed there. The rest of the passengers were looked over by the Turkish guard and the Air Force policeman. Finally the road barrier bar was lifted so the bus could enter the base.


At least an hour passed before a vehicle came to get us. We just sat on the road beside the guard shack, which was nothing more than some rough cut lumber and looked like the old outhouses found in the countryside back home. We were taken to headquarters in a weapons carrier that was surely used in the Korean war. We saw Dallas huts, Quanset huts and even a tent city on our way to headquarters. I told the fellows it looked like we had hit the jackpot for sure.

The officer at headquarters looked through our orders and calmly told us that he did not think we were needed at İnçirlik Air Base. We were taken to the tent city and found bunks for our stay there…however long that was going to be. Also, we were fed at the field ration dining hall, a very large Quonset hut. We were told to come back to headquarters the next morning, after breakfast, to find out what was to be done with us.

The next morning we ate and went to see what we were going to be doing. We were given some small details to do while the decisions were being made: there was no KP as the dining hall was operated by civilian management from European countries and Turkish workers did most of the work. I found my duffel bag had arrived at air freight from Sheppard Air Force Base. Now I at least had some clothes to change into. My time on leave in the States gave enough time for MATS to get them to İnçirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey.

I believe it was after just six months or so that Freddie was sent back to his duty station at Izmir, on the west coast of Turkey, as his skills were not needed at İnçirlik. So I began to think I would be working on the base's two C-47 aircraft. Well, that went out the window pretty quickly: it seems those planes had more than enough A&E mechanics.


Alert tent, 1958
May, 1958 photo of A/2C C. L. Sibert at İnçirlik Air Base, Adana, Turkey. The photo was made at "Foto Unis," a photography shop in Adana when he was an A/3C and had only been at İnçirlik since March. The moustache was new, but is still worn to this day.

I was told to report to Tech Sergeant Calens (shown at left) at the transient alert tent #T-146 on the flight line. Across from this tent were parked some B-47 bombers on temporary duty. The T-146 "building" was a wooden structured floor and sides with a tent cover.

I thought "hot dog! I'll get to do something now!" "Pappy" Calens, as we called him, had been around the Air Force for some time and had an aversion toward distilled spirits. He more or less just stayed in the tent and took what phone calls came in and told us what needed to be done. Airman 2nd Class Ballard took me under his wing and trained me for transient alert duty. Tech Sergeant Calens later was busted down to Staff Sergeant.




Ujel, our houseboy.

Ujel and me.
 

I was just 23 years old in April, 1958 and stationed halfway around the world in Turkey. Soon I moved from my tent to a wood Dallas hut. Bunks around the walls and very close quarters, to say the least. Ujel, our houseboy started to teach me some of the Turkish language and I taught him some English. There was a Turkish Major as their base commander, and Colonel Thomas was the base commander for our forces. In a few weeks, I was moved into a metal Quonset hut with more room. We had wall lockers to go along with our foot lockers. It was "high hog" living…the best we could expect at the time.

George Nelson recently reminded me, as we talked on the phone, about the İnçirlik Air Base Snack Bar that the short, somewhat round Turkish man behind the counter's name was "Sally" as we called him in English. His Turkish name was written as Sali.

This reminded me of why I began to grow my moustache. One day after I had only been at the base a few weeks I went to the snack bar to get some ice cream. As I looked down upon him as he asked me "what do you want Susie?" I felt embarresed as the other Airmen nearby laughed out loud. Later I found out he called every Airman without a moustache Susie. So that day was the starting of me growing a hair upper lip which I have to this day retained. (pic at right)

More of Charlie's Pictures:

  • İnçirlik Air Base Alert Duty
  • Check out the Argyle socks!
  • Small Tug used to park C-124
    • With his MD-3 power unit
  • Driving 1952 Coleman Tug
  • Sibert &Tape Recorder

Also in April, 1958 we were told the new metal-constructed barracks' across from the base theater would be ready "soon" and we would move there as soon as they were completed. We kept looking toward that location to see what was being done as we visited the AFEX, movie theatre, bowling alley, library, gym, barbership and snack bar which were in the immediate area. The Class Six store was there, also, but we could not buy anything hard to drink because of our rank status. A Quonset hut was cleaned out for us to use as an Airmens Club.

We bought Cokes, burgers, fries and ice cream at the snack bar and sat outside on the concrete patio. There were no tables or benches to sit on. Haircuts were at the mercy of three Turkish barbers, and about all they could say was "Hello" and "flat top". Lieutenant Colonel Dick would ride his Lambretta scooter up to the stop sign at the snack bar patio and call the nearest airman to straighten the stop sign he said was crooked. So we all sat as far away from that sign as we could!

The base cleaners was a pickup point when I arrived. Our clothing was sent to Adana to be cleaned and pressed. Sometime in 1958 or 1959, a building was erected east of the Air Force Exchange as a cleaners and laundry run by Turkish people. We had a shower room with a washing machine where we could wash our whites or whatever we needed to wash near our Dallas and Quonset huts. There was even a clothesline nearby.

I thought the food was very good, though many airmen said I was crazy. We had what the folks at the field ration dining hall - a very large Quonset hut - said was "recombined milk." It took some time to adjust to the taste, but after a while if the milk was cold I could handle it. Still, my buddies said I was crazy to drink the stuff. Many drank water.


After getting settled in my routine at the base, I went to Adana with some other airmen one night. Some in our party had made this trip many times before. They said, "you'll see some sights that will be strange for you." A shuttle bus ride across the Seyhan river bridge put us fairly close to the Crystal Palace Hotel, and a short walk from there was the Mar Mar Bar. What a sight to behold! Men holding handkerchiefs aloft and dancing around in a circle to Turkish music played by fiddle, drum and stringed instruments. I was told by one of our party that this was a folk song and to take care not to make fun of it. Beer was ordered and I was told to pour off some of the first beer to get rid of the trash at the top of the tall bottle.


     
  Crew Chief A/2C Garretson F. "Garry" Gourley, "Army retread".   April,1958 - 23rd Birthday.   1958, me in Adana drinking Gazoz.

I was asked if I would like to go bowling. What a strange thing to hear in a bar. I was filled in, though, as to what was to take place in the backroom with a female companion next to me. "Bowling" was only 10 lira, so I said I'd give it a try. Soon, I was joined at the table in the rear room by a woman who I later found out was working off her punishment there for having broken a Turkish law. Here came the waiter with our drinks and I paid him. Before an hour had passed, she had drunk at least four glasses of watered down something. All I had to show for 50 lira was a tall beer and a kiss or two…and maybe a bite on my neck.

When closing time came, she was escorted from the bar by policemen who had brought her there to serve her time. What a night to learn the ways of the Mar Mar Bar, and to be introduced to a whole different sport of bowling! [so named for the bowl-sized glasses of watered down whatever that the girls drink]. We were forbidden to speak to Turkish women outside the bars as this was a highly Muslim country. Just go bowling and get your bite on your neck. The police were very strict to protect the bar's "bowling women." I found this out when I said goodbye to her outside as she left the bar. I was told "NO", in English. We caught the shuttle bus back to the base, all the time being laughed at about my "bowling" experience.


İnçirlik Air Base from the air, 1958.
 

I was told, the week I started Transient Alert duty, to go to the motor pool and get my base drivers license, so I went and took a drivers test, receiving my license. The Turkish clerk at the motor pool wanted to know what I wanted to drive. I said just about anything on base. He filled out my license with as many vehicles as there was room to type on it!


 
T-33 jet from Germany stops at İnçirlik, 1959 (Aircraft #35211)

On one of my off days I was sleeping in. It was a Saturday. An airman who was the CQ runner that day came and told me to report to headquarters. I dressed and went to see what was up. The officer on duty that day told me to go to the motor pool and check out a semi tractor and lowboy to move supplies from a warehouse to the new Commissary Building. He said I was needed Saturday and Sunday and found out I was off these days. I told him that I could not drive a semi. He said, "Your driver's license says you are checked out to drive a semi." So off to the motor pool I went, cussing that motor pool clerk who typed up my license! I got the semi, and figured out how to drive it while on the way to the warehouse.


İnçirlik had some interesting planes there at the time: B-47, T-33, C-47 and the U-2 spy plane that Francis Gary Powers got shot down in while over Russia in May of 1960. I had taken a consecutive overseas tour and was at Dreux Air Base in France with the 322nd Air Division combat cargo C-119s at the time this happened.) At İnçirlik there was also a B-45 which arrived from England to be cannibalized for spare parts, and the airframe was to be used for fire department training.



Francis Gary Powers
 

Det-10-10 for the U-2 civilian operation had a sign out front saying it was an upper air weather observation squadron. I would see Powers at the bowling alley and only was told by someone that he was with the U-2 squadron. I never saw any of them in uniform. When they flew the U-2 plane were were told to return to Base Operations. Out would come the U-2 plane from the hangar and a truck would bring the pilot to the plane with his space suit on. He was placed into the plane, and he would taxi to the runway. Off he would go. It seems he went up almost vertically with the outrigger wheels falling away. We could see all of this from the apron near Air Freight.

In late April, 1958, Alert was moved from our tent to the ground floor room of the Base Operations Control Tower near Air Freight. We had G.I. bunks stacked three high against a wall. There was our desk and some chairs, room for our foul weather gear, plus our equipment. There were hooks on the wall for our extra flashlight wands used for nighttime parking. We had a base telephone, an intercom to Base Ops and a radio we used to call Ops and our two 1957 blue follow-me trucks 57B-1252 and 57B-1450. Our trucks were Chevy pickups. Our old wooden floor tent was not missed one little bit!


Photo Key:

1. Wide Gravel Street
2. Pool Construction Site
3. Oasis Theater
4. Library/Gym
5. Snack Bar / Barber Shop
6. VW Pickup Truck, sides folded down
7. '53 Chevy Bel Air
8. Shuttle Bus
9. '55 Ford
10. Air Force Exchange (AFEX)
11. Bowling Alley
12. Barracks
13. Lambretta Scooter
14. Weapons Carrier
15. Jeep
16. Volkswagen Van
 
Base Operations 1958
My Alert uniform.


My truck.

Outside Alert, we had pierced steel planking (PSP) over the gravel, making us a nice place to park our equipment. We had a 1952 Coleman Tug, two small Tugs, a set of rolling stairsteps, an oxygen cart, a liquid oxygen cart, a Conex box for our supplies (black powder, starters for B-57 bombers and some other things). Two MD-3 power units, a C-21 power unit, our two follow-me trucks, various aircraft tow bars and a good supply of power unit oil, frequently used when running. Also, we had a very good supply of chocks of all sizes. We seemed to be ready for anything. We even had white uniforms coming for us, we were told. Normal Transient Aircraft we took care of were C-47s, C-54s, C-124s, C-130s, B-57s, and sometimes Navy P-2Vs and A-3Ds. The Turkish Air Force had some 15 or 20 F-84Gs that came now and then for gunnery practice, but they took charge of those.



April, 1958 - Turkish F-84G taxiing out to runway for takeoff at İnçirlik Air Base. Their squadron planes were here for gunnery practice. Out over the Mediterranean Sea a C-47 would tow targets for them. Could be the one whose guns were fired across the runway.
 

One day, Turkish F-84s were parked along the front apron. Maybe as many as 15 or 20 in a straight line, wingtip to wingtip. There was, perhaps, 30 yards from their noses to the edge of the taxi strip grass. They were at the base for tow target practice. I wanted to get a closer look from the front area of the planes so I drove along in front of all the F-84s. Crews were all over the planes doing all sorts of service work. Some were even sitting in the cockpits of the F-84s. When I had cleared the front of the last aircraft, I heard noise and saw clouds of dust on the other side of the main runway. Base Ops told me one of the F-84s had fired their guns and to never go in front of them again! We even heard, later, that an F-84G even shot up the C-47 that was towing their target. Was it this same day? I just don't recall.

June came with hot days. Some temperatures in the hundreds Farenheit. Out on the taxiway in my blue 1957 Chevy follow-me truck #57B-1450, I called Base Ops for a green light to inspect the main 10,000-foot runway. They said, "here is your green light." After the lookover of the runway, I started to return to the Alert Office in the control tower. Base Ops called before I got there and said there were four F-100 jet fighters coming to İnçirlik and to park them on the revetment near the bomb dump. He said all he knew was they came non-stop from the U.S. and were armed and "hot!" "What are we in for, " I asked of Base Ops. He said he hoped to find out and would let me know when he knew.



Flight Line MD-3 Unit, 1958
 

It seemed that President Eisenhower had sent Marines into Beirut, Lebanon as there was a civil war raging, and that in June 1958 we were to become the support base for this operation. It was daytime and hot. Not long to wait for the F-100s. Here they came! Making a long, sweeping circle left to right if you were looking out from the Ops and landing on the runway end 23 nearest the Bomb Dump. They taxied to the other end 05 and I was waiting for them. I fell in front of the first one, an F-100F (two seater) and away we went up the taxiway toward the revetment nearest the bomb dump. The other F-100Ds followed right along and my follow-me truck started to miss as we neared 50 miles per hour to keep a safe distance in front of the first plane. Seems our sparkplugs carboned up as much of our driving was slow-paced. The engine started to clear up as we neared our spot.

When I entered the last revetment with the first F-100F right on me, I stepped out of my slow moving truck with the hand brake partially engaged, so the truck would roll onward to the edge of the revetment and come to a nice stop. I signalled the pilot just where I wanted him to park and with hand movements, guided him to the very spot. Soon I had all four F-100s parked, chocked and noses out to the taxiway to leave in a hurry. As each officer stepped down from his plane (we had no F-100 ladders at this time) I gave each a smart salute and they all thanked me for getting them parked.

Here came the Base Commander, Colonel Thomas and other officers, Fire Department and F-7 POL trucks, ground power personnel, air policemen and an officer and airmen from the Bomb Dump. I was finished with my duty there, and headed back to Alert and Ops. I called and got the green light to cross the main runway and headed across wondering just what we were in for. Little did I know I was about to see more aircraft than I had ever dreamed about in the next 36 hours. Ops called Alert and said we should gas up everything we could and get ready for some heavy traffic. Staff Sergeant Compton, our NCOIC, was soon there and called in all of our Alert workers for what was ahead of us on our flightline.

We got everything as ready as we could, not really in-the-know as to what to expect. Toward evening, a few planes came our way: a C-47, a C-131 med-evac. I think there was also a C-121, and through the night we had one or two C-124s with equipment for F-100s and F-101s, some ground power units and Conex boxes. We did get some ladders and tow bars.

Before morning our traffic started to pick up. Here came some C-130s; the Navy had a P-2V, maybe two of them, show up. We were told there were RF-101s coming from the states. Were they non-stop? I just can't recall.

Base Ops told us many C-130s would arrive from Germany with paratroops aboard and to park them nose to tail on the other side of the main runway on the circular taxiway at the 05 end. These troops were coming to back up, as needed, the Marines already in Lebanon, and were on full alert and ready to go if called. I saw one of my high school classmates from Southern High School, Lee Mathis, a paratrooper on one of the C130s. What a surprise to meet up with him like this.

Next day, we got some RF-101s and one of them blew a main tire upon landing. Fire blazing from the wheel as it rubbed the concrete, it veered off the runway just a little about halfway down. Other planes waiting to land had to wait until we could get the plane off the runway. One of our base fire trucks cooled the landing gear and a bulldozer was summoned. It made short work of pulling the plane off to the side allowing other aircraft to begin to land. Sometime later, next day or so, F-101 crews repaired the plane and it was towed to their revetment area. I lost track of when it flew again. We had a full day of parking planes and trying to get POL trucks (refueling) to gas them up. I believe it was 113 degrees (F) later that week. I just know the skin on my nose was still peeling off.

The next days or so, we had so many aircraft arriving that I worked 36 straight hourswith just a 1-hour nap. F-100, B-57, RF-101, RB-66, WB-66 to name some. Finding a spot to put planes was minimal. One night, a C-124C landed and was waiting for an Alert truck at the 05 end of the runway to guide him to a parking place. Ops called down and let the NCOIC know about it. All our men, even borrowed people and their vehicles were busy as bees on the flight line.

Well, all I had was a small tug that wouldn't go over seven miles an hour. I said to the NCOIC "I'll get him with my tug." So I motored down the taxiway as fast as I could go to park him. Ops was alerted, "here I come on the tug," and with my flashlight wands I signaled to the pilot to follow me. The outboard engines were off and I was standing in the light from his nose wheels. Up on the tug, away I went with his main wheel brakes squealing to slow down.

I remember the revetment with the F-84 tip tanks and other drop tanks just ahead on my left. They were crated and stacked at least 8 feet high, but only using the back half of the revetment. The C-124 followed and when I had him lined up I had him reverse props and back in over the tanks until he was clear of the taxiway. Down came the ladder and the crew chief wanted to know if the plane was to stay there. I said, "Yes," and he plugged in his microphone cord and told the pilot. I went to get the chocks.


A Visit to Adana, 1958

Adana buggy, 1958

Atatürk Park, 1958

Young boy, tailor shop, Adana

Downtown Adana, 1958

HISTORY OF İNÇLİK AIR BASE CIRCA 1958

The US Corps of Engineers (USACE) began construction of the base in the spring of 1951. The US Air Force initially planned to use the base as an emergency staging and recovery site for medium and heavy bombers. The Turkish General staff and the USAF signed a joint use agreement for the new base in December 1954. On February 21, 1955 the base was named Adana Air Base, with the 7216th Air Base Squadron as host unit. The site was later renamed İnçirlik Air Base on February 28, 1958. It has a 10,000-foot concrete runway in the direction of 05/23 with single point refueling aprons and many parking hard stands. Base fuel is pumped some 27 miles from Yumurtalik on the southeast coast of Turkey by pipeline from Tankers sitting offshore. A pump station is located on the Yumurtalik Beach.

Well, back to the story: we sure were overwhelmed that June of 1958! All we could do was to keep on keeping on, and that's just what we did. It wasn't very many days until all the transient aircraft had their own personnel and their place on the base. I tried to service as many ground power units as I could, just hoping they would not run out of oil and be rendered useless. We were short on ground power people.

   

OFF TOPIC:

Photo in 1958 of A/3C Sibert (Elvis) playing a Baglama, a popular Turkish and Greek folk instrument that our houseboy "Ujel" brought to the base to show off his skills. The village of İnçirlik is at the rear of this photo.
     Check out the shoes I had fabricated for me at a shoe shop in Adana. Short "chucka" boots on which the soles actually squeeked just like the shoes worn by the Turkish folks. Some had told me in Adana that my American shoes were very bad because they made no noise.
     These boots were of a dull yellow buckskin and had 4 eyelets per shoe for the strings. Tho this photo isn't colored can't you just imagine that the argile sox I have on are really yellow with black diamonds? Well, they were just that, some I had brought with me from the states.
     Damn, I was just too cool wearing those bermuda 505 shorts; the ones issued to me at basic training in August 1957 and told not to wear by our DI. :)

 

After the Lebanon crisis slowed down and transient aircraft began to leave for their normal duty stations we could finally pick up the pieces and recover somewhat. We might have even drunk some beer and smoked a cigar! One hot night - around 90°F - some of us came into possession of a full case of black label canned beer. Needing to cool the beer, one of our gang said, "We'll go to the LOX plant" (liquid oxygen), put beer in a five gallon bucket and pour liquid oxygen over it! Well that's just what happened and we had a real cold beer.

The airman working there was all right with this plan as long as he got some cold beer. About 2:00 a.m. the beer was drunk and we were waking up lying around on the large gravel drive at the LOX plant! We all had marks on our backs from the gravel, and it seems we all had headaches when we got to the mess hall for breakfast that morning. We all agreed: war is hell.

As things calmed down at İnçirlik Air Base, we got a new base commander. His name was Markum and he was a full colonel. It wasn't too long until we had to wear our caps and our shirts buttoned up while on duty. Our shoes were to be shined also. To top that off, we started to have barracks inspections on Saturdays.

I had moved into the new metal housing quarters #S-452 across from the base pool. Each bay had approximately 14 people with double bunks. We did get the new style bunks later with thick mattresses. It sure did beat my old Quonset hut #S-865. We also got the large wall lockers with the double doors. Our squadron headquarters was in the large front room just inside the front door on the left. A large sign out front said "TUSLOG Det 10-1 Matron, Blue Devils"



Clem and my tape recorder in the barracks.
 /

We had a small shower stall, as opposed to a large shower room. The only big problem was no hot water. It seems all the furnace parts had not arrived from Europe so we took cold showers for some time. Goosebumps were very common around there. Also, the electrical phase was U.S. 60-cycles and I had purchased a reel-type tape recorder from the AFEX which was a 50-cycle. An airman whose first name was Clem helped me tape the capstan drive wheel to make it larger and get the desired sound. A few fellows had reel tapes sent to them and would listen on my machine. Sometimes a large crowd would gather to listen to the stateside sounds and bojive. Boy! Was it good to hear!

There was an old gentleman who lived in the village of İnçirlik. He shined shoes on the patio of the base snack bar. I would say he was in his late 60s. He carried all his equipment in a wooden box on a strap that had a place to rest your foot as he shined your shoe. He used Turkish shoe polish which didn't shine too well, so we began to buy shoe polish from the AFEX for him. What a delight to see the brightness on his face as well as on our shoes. He was in seventh heaven with his new shine.

We called him "Pop," in the photo at right. We bought Cokes and ice cream for him, perhaps cookies as well. He wore the baggy pants that were common for Turkish men. I rounded up some shoes, shirts and pants for him and when he came back the next day he was wearing them! What a surprise for all to see. Pop was really cool in his new clothes. I taught pop a few English words. When the fellows would ask Pop what he wanted, he would reply in English, "Coke and Ice Cream." We all loved Pop, our "shine man." He walked some two miles each day back and forth to shine our shoes. What a good friend we had in Pop the shoe shine man from İnçirlik.

We had hot days and nights, some 100°F plus. A few of us would sit outside sometimes until midnight in our shorts to be cooler. I had a battery powered Braun shortwave radio and we rigged up an aerial. To our surprise, it brought in "Moscow Molly" all the way from Russia. She would welcome airmen to İnçirlik Air Base and even tell their names. She would play 1958 music and tell us how lonely we were. Then she would tell us how wonderful she had it in Russia because of her government and how it treated her people so well. We said, "Bumbok!" (Turkish for "bullshit"). We had hot nights with Molly outside our barracks #S-452 across from the Base Pool.



The BMW motorcycles brought back from Germany on the Det. 10-10 C-54. (Airmen posing for this photo are not the owners of the cycles).
 

Two of our men went to Germany on the Det 10-10 C-54. I guess they had leave time for their trip and flew space-available. When they returned to base they brought with them two brand new BMW motorcycles. I remember one was Airman second class John Swettland, and the other was A/3C Chuck Storm. I think I still have photos of them and their motorcycles. I believe the C-54 was going to Germany for three days and coming right back to İnçirlik Air Base. They had told us, one day we will get us a motorcycle some way. It's hard to say after 50 years how they did this. I can't remember. Did they bypass customs? I'll never know unless someone squeals about the BMWs on that C-54.

 
My sister Martha
 
Toilet Paper George
 

My sister said she would write to one of the airmen at İnçirlik Air Base that she was lonely. I asked George if he would want a letter from her. He said, "Yes," so she wrote to him. He replied and told her to forgive him for the paper he used. She said he could write on toilet paper if that was all he had. The next letter she received from him was just that. She said she opened the envelope and unfolded about 4 feet of toilet paper on which he had written to her. From then on, we called him "George, the toilet paper kid!"

After the Lebanon crisis, Tactical Air Command (TAC) deployed F-100 fighter squadrons on 100-day rotations to İnçirlik from the USA. They had their own people to do everything for them. We weren't needed to bring them in for parking or to guide them out. They all parked out front of Ops on the large apron in nice rows of jet F-100 fighters. They looked so good to us. A KB-50 refueling aircraft arrived from England one day to refuel the fighter squadrons over Turkey as part of their training. This KB-50 had 4 reciprocating engines and a small jet engine under each outer wing. I learned later that some versions had turbo-prop engines in place of the recip' engines.


F-100Ds similar to the ones that were refueled that day.
 

Out on the taxiway one day, the crew chief of the KB-50 asked me if I would like to go up on a refueling mission. Of course I jumped at the chance. My NCOIC said it was OK to go. I sat on a parachute on the floor with my back against the bomb bay bulkhead as there wasn't a seat for me. We used every bit of the 10,000-foot runway to lift off from İnçirlik. Flying over Lake Van at about 15- or 20-thousand feet, F-100s caught up with us. I was told I could go over the bomb bay on the roller-creeper to get to the rear to witness how the 3 hose reel operators did their work. So through the tunnel tube I rolled back.


I could look out the plastic bubble turret on each side and see the F-100 hooked up to the trailing fuel hose from the wing. In the tail section there was another operator. Each man had radio and visual contact with his F-100. The KB-50 could refuel three F-100 jets at the same time! Two from the wings and one from the tail. We flew about two or three hours on this refueling mission. Back over the bomb bay I went to my original spot. Soon we were landing back at İnçirlik Air Base and I had a new story to tell all my buddies at Alert. What a great day to be stationed at İnçirlik and to be a proud airman in the United States Air Force in the year of 1958!


As August, 1958 came to İnçirlik two C-130A cargo planes from Germany Rhein-Main showed up on temporary duty. Their support teams cam soon after and they had an area near the hangar not from from Ops. They called themselves the 7406th support squadron. We would pick up these planes when returning from their missions at the end of the runway and take them nearby to their parking spots. Their crews would meet them and park them so all we did was direct them toward a hangar area which was once called Det-50 for the TDY B-47 bombers.



Det 10-10 C-54, 1959

İnçirlik C-47 crashed in Israel.

USAFE Skyblazers acrobatic team from
Bitburg Air Base, Germany

B45 from England

September, 1958 left little to mention. Just planes coming and going. Alert personnel were still 24 hours on and 48 hours off. It seems when things were about to happen, they happened on my shift! I just don't know why this occurred. One evening, the 9th of September, Ops called me to pick up one of the C-130s from Germany and take it to its station near the hangar. Off I went to the 05 end of the runway with my follow-me truck. The C-130A exited the runway and soon the plane was parked. Ops said to "hang loose" as the other C-130A would be along soon. So I just hung around the 05 end of the runway near the POL section.

I guess it was some 45 minutes later Ops called my truck and said to come on back home as the plane couldn't be located. A few hours passed and no C-130a showed up. Sometime late that night we started to get aircraft to park and this went on for the next few days. These planes would be flying out to somewhere day and night to try and locate the missing C-130A. I cannot remember if the sister C-130A went out to search but I still remember some of their ground crew members telling me C-130A #56-0528 had to be out there somewhere.

Some days passed when the russians said the C-130A had crashed in "Russian Armenia." This was the scuttlebutt that was heard around the base. After a few weeks things slowed down about the C-130A and the sister ship went on back to Germany. We went on about our business as usual at İnçirlik Air Base. I didn't hear much more about this at the time, but many years later, the full story came out about the C-130A being shot down by MIG-17s. Of course I was already out of the Air Force by 1961 and heard the story on TV like the rest of us back home in the states. I believe the truth was uncovered at the end of the Cold War period. Seventeen airmen were lost in this shoot-down.

All was not peaches and cream at İnçirlik Air Base. We did have some loss of life. We had a Navy squadron there on Temporary Duty assignment. They lived in a tent city on the northwest side off the main runway. I believe they came to be with us from Port Lyautey, French Morocco. Their aircraft were parked nearby on two revetments. I believe they had two P2V and two A3D aircraft. I got to know most of them as they wanted us to drink beer and shoot the bull with them on our off duty hours. What a great group of Navy fellows they were. We would also see them other places around the base most every day.

One day the A3D-1Q #130356 (of the type shown at RIGHT) left on a mission and I knew one of the crew members. Sometime later that night the A3D-1Q came down the main runway at about 500 feet. The plane never touched down and banked some 35 degrees to the left. Approximately one and a half miles from the base, it crashed into the ground. This was October 16, 1958. It was dark, with no moon. Base Ops called and said the plane had crashed.

Emergency vehicles, firetruck and Navy personnel all headed to the crash site as best they could. A day or two later, a C-130 came to take the four body bags away. My friend and the other 3 crewmen had met their demise at İnçirlik Air Base. I watched as the bodies were loaded on the rear ramp of the C-130 a short distance away. As I drove off, I felt so sad about this but never heard any more of why this happened. I stayed away from the Navy area for a short time to let them recover from this tragedy. I didn't ask any questions.

One morning after my shift was finished and breakfast was over, two of us walked back from the field ration dining hall. As we walked the sidewalk at the rear of our barracks, an air police jeep jumped the curb and came straight for us on the sidewalk blowing a horn. We jumped to the side as the Jeep roared by. The two airmen slid to a stop at the Air Police barracks which was next door to ours. We watched as in minutes out came the two men with a footlocker and someone's clothes. Back in they went and returned with more belongings to pile onto the jeep. They left in a great hurry. Seems civilians were stealing tires from the motor pool that night and an air policeman had taken them down. He was flown away from the base pronto! No questions asked! We heard later he told them to stop three times in English and three times in Turkish before he fired on them.

We had some airmen on base that were avid hunters. One day some of them got their gear together and drove off on a hunting expedition. They had got what we called a "6-by truck" from the motor pool. Some of us told them to bring us back a large boar hog with tusks. Much later that day we saw the 6-by coming back to base being towed in a wrecked condition. On a narrow winding road, while trying to find a good place to hunt, the driver had lost control of the truck. It went over the side and down the hill. The hunting party was somewhat banged up but no one was hurt seriously. No meat for the hunters that trip! Later on, I saw photos of the accident site. Thank God no one was killed.

Here is another amusing story that took place at İnçirlik Air Base: Seems Airman First Class Jordan, who worked with us, got into some trouble with the Turkish authorities in Adana. I can't remember just what he did. I know he was in jail in Adana for a while. Then he was taken to Ankara for some legal matters and stayed there for some time. Somehow he was returned to İnçirlik and was waiting for his Turkish trial to begin. He was confined to the base and didn't work with us on the flight line. I believe he did some small details each day.

Some weeks later, a C-124C came to the base and we parked it at the refueling depot office on the northeast 05 end of the main runway. The plane had a refueling truck and other equipment for the POL section. A couple of days later, I got a call from Ops to tow the C-124C from POL and to park it at the Air Freight apron. The plane was already refueled and ready to pick up its load and leave the base. Another airman and I took the Coleman tug and a C-124 towbar to get the plane. The crew chief was to ride the brakes as we towed the plane to Air Freight. This was the first C-124 I ever towed.


 

We towed the plane and backed it up as close to Air Freight as possible. We chocked the wheels and plugged in a MD-3 power unit. Large fire bottles were stationed near each wing. Just as we were finishing our duties, guess who showed up? You guessed it. Airman First Class Jordan (at left), asking "where is the plane headed?" I told him "Chateauroux, France and Dover Air Force Base in Delaware." Jordan just faded into the night. The plane left İnçirlik - and so, I guess, did A/1C Jordan! We heard weeks later he arrived at Dover AFB and begged not to be sent back to Turkey. I never heard what was done to him later. He was the only stowaway I ever knew!

The base T-33 jet was flown one day and was returned damaged by a large bird. The pilots were very lucky to make it back to İnçirlik Air Base. One bird or more had hit the plane near the engine's air intake on one side, and bird parts had damaged the engine as well. This plane sat in the Det-50 hangar for some time after being pulled apart. The spare parts were slow in getting to İnçirlik. I believe at least two or three months went by before it was repaired and ready for a test flight. Maybe another month passed before pilots came to give it a test flight, but one day they showed up and flew the T-33. It passed with flying colors. Good Air Force jet mechanics had saved the day. This plane lived on in the U.S. Air Force.

Later that year (1958) on one of my visits to the town of Adana, I was changing the film in my camera. Of course I was alone and didn't speak a lot of the Turkish language yet. I was standing on the sidewalk across the street from the Crystal Palace Hotel. Soon I was surrounded by about ten Turkish men who were trying to pull my camera from me. They were pulling and I was pulling, they were shouting and I was shouting back. I tried to pull away but I couldn't get away. About that time "Atiela," one of the base interpreters happened along and came to my rescue. He grabbed me by the shirt, pulling me away from them and down the street we ran as fast as we could.

We entered a restaurant and that is when he told me why all this had happened. It seemed, as I was changing the film in my camera, a lovely Turkish woman was passing directly in front of me in a horse and buggy. The men claimed I was taking a photo of the woman and this was forbidden to do in this Muslim country by Christians. I ordered things I could eat there that I found on my food list from the base. "Atiela" and I talked for a while until he told me it was safe to catch the shuttle bus back to the base. I surely did not goof up again.

1958 certainly was a learning experience for me. All the way from Louisville, Kentucky to Adana, Turkey, a place I had never heard of before. Every day was just a good day for me. Many fellows just moaned and groaned wanting to get home as fast as they could. I really tried hard to make the best of my time there. We were told we should be ambassadors of the American way for all the Turkish people to see. We were encouraged to always look clean and neat when we went to town, and to not try and show up the Turks.

We had no more loss of life that I can remember at İnçirlik Air Base in 1958. Just work and learning more of the Turkish language to get to really know the Turkish people. Flightline duties sometimes were boring and tiring, but there was always something to make your day coming down the pike. For example: I was just sitting around the Alert Office playing checkers one day with the fellow who was on duty with me. We received a call from Ops that two B-57 bombers (example shown at left) were on final approach, to land at the 23 end of the runway. So we jumped in a follow-me truck and hurried to the 05 end of the runway to bring them in. On the way, Ops called and said they had requested refueling. We parked them on the single point refueling ramp out front of Base Ops and Alert.

Our day was about to be made! These planes were the older versions with the bubble canopy instead of the tandem type like the B-47s had. Just when we thought we had everything under control, one of the pilots mentioned that they had bomb bay tanks that would need fuel. Like a good airman, I said we would take care of it. We looked at each other on the way back to Alert wondering just what a bomb bay tank was. At Alert we searched our Tech Orders for the proper way to refuel bomb bay tanks. We could find nothing. We took a weapons carrier to the mess hall and ate, then came right back to do what we could. We never drove off the flight line with our follow-me trucks to the mess hall to eat chow.

Back to the planes we went, to search the on board tech orders. Well here it was in black and white right before our eyes. External power, partial filling of the forward main fuel tank, turn a fuel valve and turn on a fuel boost pump to fill the bomb bay tank from the main tank. We soon found this was not to be a fast filling. We placed a call to POL to send their man to set up a single point hose reel cart and ground the planes. He came and did his thing, rolling out the hoses for our use and turning on the in-ground single-point fuel pump. Needless to say we were there most of the night. We towed the planes when refueled to the apron out front of Air Freight and Base Ops. Our shift ended the next morning and when we came on again, the B-57s had departed. What an experience we had! Boy! We sure were one up on the rest of our Alert crews!

Thanksgiving, 1958 arrived and what a tremendous meal we had at the field ration dining hall. Two Thanksgivings I was away from home now, eating very well but somewhat wondering what the home folks were doing. Letters came from home and photos cheered me up. Cleaning our bay and caring for our clothes took up a lot of our time. We had a radio station on base, Radio İnçirlik (Armed Forces Radio Service) and I didn't listen too much. Moscow Molly was on most nights if the weather was clear, and I could pick her up on my shortwave radio at night using the metal barracks' outside wall as an aerial. This was very effective unless we had rain.

I did go to the library often to read and look at the pretty young Turkish girl who worked there. She spoke good English and I talked to her a lot. But away from her job, she couldn't carry on a conversation as Turkish men would call her down about this. One day on the bus to town I almost made a serious mistake. I said in Turkish, "How are you my dear?" She stopped talking to me just at the library. She told me not to say "my dear" as she could get into trouble if someone thought we were seeing each other. Turkish women were not to date the Americans because of their Muslim beliefs. I stopped going to see her. I didn't want to cause her big trouble.

The weather at İnçirlik Air Base was very comfortable year around. Summer months were warm and hot with temperatures reaching sometimes 113 degrees (F). Nights were not too bad as it would cool down to about 75 to 80 degrees on the very hottest of days. The winter months were great, as temps would stay around 65 to 45 degrees. We didn't have a lot of rain when I was there. I only saw some snowflakes once or twice. Just your field jacket now and then was the norm in the winter months. You could look toward the mountains and see the snowcaps on the hottest of days from İnçirlik Air Base. All in all, I loved the weather at the base.

When I came to İnçirlik Air Base we had no Airmens Club. Finally the powers that be let some of the Airmen first classes clean out a Quonset hut next door to the field ration dining hall for a club. We had 55 gallon barrels full of ice for beer and boards connecting the barrels to make a bar. We sat on the floor as there were no tables and chairs for the first month. At least we had a place to go and do our thing. As time passed, our club prospered and was a hit with all.

Here comes Christmas 1958 and cards and letters from home wishing me a Merry Christmas. Mom said in one of her letters that she had sent me home baked cookies. I forgot to tell her that it would take at least three weeks to a month for packages to reach me from the states. Sometime later, I received the cookies from home. They were in a metal tin wrapped in waxed paper. As I shook the tin I just knew the cookies were broken. Not all were crushed to dust, and with something to drink they tasted very good. I got some other gifts from family members for that Christmas, but no more cookies.


İNÇİLİK AIR BASE - 1959 BEGINS


     
T-Sgt Crook's Scooter, 1959 (Me at Alert)   1959 - Aircraft Stairs   1959-Our two Alert trucks and our dog.   Feb, 1959, A/3C Sibert

Happy New Year came to İnçirlik Air Base with a few drinks and a cigar or two. So now we're ready to take on 1959. It is January and work has begun around the site for the base swimming pool. Hopefully we'd have the pool for the Summer months. Outside contractors from Europe with Turkish crews started to make this happen. A new NCO Barracks was almost finished on base. Some officers' quarters were in various stages of construction and the base was getting a facelift. It was looking more like we thought it should.

The six-lane bowling alley was a popular place to go. I marvelled at the Turkish pin setters as they scurried around to reset the pins. We were told that some day automatic pinsetters would be installed. The base Chapel was right behind the base Theatre and one day would be enlarged. The base Library was to have a music room soon. We had a gym and tennis courts, also a skeet range. When needed there was a 15-bed dispensary providing general medical care. For more definitive treatment you could be sent to the US Air Force Hospital in Ankara. There were no diseases found in Turkey that are not also found in the United States, we were told. However some of the contagious diseases are more frequent there, so we kept our hands clean.

I wanted to see more of Europe than I had seen from my stay at İnçirlik, so I put in for a consecutive overseas tour assignment January 20, 1959. This was approved on March 16, 1959 and I would be assigned to the 7305th CAMS APO 84 Dreux Air Base, France. Upon completion of my current overseas tour at İnçirlik in January 1960 I would be going to the 322 Air Division Combat Cargo C-119s at Dreux AFB, France. Just one year to go before I get to see some more places around this wonderful world.

On January 28, 1959, while still an Airman Third Class, I received Orders #B-1 telling me I had completed upgrade training (OJT) and was awarded AFSC 43151A. Until these orders came I was still A43131A and now I had passed my 5 level test, effective January 20, 1959. I was moving on up the ladder to somewhere. Things went on as usual around the base in January.

February slipped in on us and it was cold. We even had a snowflake or two. Nothing on the ground, just some rain now and then. The temperature hovered around 45°F at night. Days were in the high 60s and middle 70s. We knew cold weather was around us because the snow caps on the mountains in the distance were farther down than on warmer days. Just a field jacket at night was all one needed out on the flight line. On trips to town, we just took light windbreakers with us.

I was given a copy of Orders #A-90 and they said, "under the provisions of Air Force Regulation 39-29 A/3C Sibert was promoted to A/2C with the date of rank 1 MAR-59." I couldn't wait to buy new stripes. I removed all of my one-stripes and sewed on the two-stripes picture at left. I was just moving on up to somewhere in the 'Force. March 1959 sure was good to me so far! I even sent to the states for some new name tapes to be sewn on my fatigue shirts and jacket.


 
Pictured in 2009, Building #920 at İnçirlik Air Base was originally Barracks #S-453 in 1958 and had a fire in a heating duct.

March weather came to İnçirlik Air Base and things started to warm up a bit. Across from the Oasis (the base Theatre), one early March day, the fire trucks came to barracks #S-453 to put out a fire in the electrical or heating duct work. Just inside the front door, ladders were set up to get to the fire. The furnace room was to the right of the front doors and had an outside entrance on the right side of the barracks. Fuel oil was used for heat and hot water. Fire hoses were rapidly hooked up and taken into the front door area. I just happened to be going to my barracks and shot photos when the firetrucks rolled up. I was never so proud of our base fire department as that day. These were the new barracks, just over a year old, and I just knew we were safe with a first-rate fire department on duty. There were many airmen and Turks trying to get a better look at what was happening inside the front door of barracks #S-453 that day. Just a small fire that was quickly put out. That's all there was to it. Repairs were made and all was well at İnçirlik Air Base.

March 31, 1959 was a day and night to remember at İnçirlik. We had a C-124C Globemaster 2 #51-5201 arrive at the base the day before. After unloading its cargo and picking up freight to fly away, it was refueled and ready to leave the night of the 31st. Just as darkness was setting in around the base, my partner and I stood fire guard to get the C-124C engines going, and to pull the chocks. We guided him toward the 05 end of the runway to leave the base. We went back to the Alert Office and since there were no other aircraft inbound or leaving, we took the weapons carrier to the chow hall. Base Ops was alerted to our plans and advised we would return pronto!



A C-124 similar to the one we're talking about here.

Just as we were finishing our meal, we heard the C-124C begin his takeoff roll. I remarked that the plane just did not sound right. As the C-124C broke ground there was not that tell-tale sound you always hear from a C-124C on takeoff. About ten minutes later, an airman came into the mess hall saying the C-124C had crashed on takeoff just a short distance from the 23 runway end. Away we went in the weapons carrier back to Alert to get flashlights and to tell Ops we were going out to the crash site to provide help.

Rough ground and all kinds of bushes and small ditches lay before us as we traveled out to the crash site. We had never gone this way before. As we came upon the crash site, the fire department had just about put the aircraft fire out. Small brush fires were still going around the area. We parked and came toward the site with our flashlights on, just then an air policeman advised us that two crew members were still unaccounted for. He wanted us to search a part of the area for them. Off we went looking for them, not knowing what we would find.

Turkish villagers from nearby had their oil lamps held aloft, looking on in disbelief. They, and we alike, had never seen a plane crash up close before. As the fires died down, we heard someone holler out the two missing crew members had been found. Blood and guts had been avoided in our search. Heading back to Alert, we wondered just what was the extent of the injuries the crew had suffered. C-124C #51-5201 was just a pile of wreckage never to fly again. The crew went to the USAF hospital at Wiesbaden, Germany for treatment. Two fatalities, we heard later.

March at İnçirlik Air Base was just the same old things over and over…just trying to get our jobs done and have some fun along the way. Fun at the barber shop was a laugh a minute. I wore a flattop, but you would never know just what you were going to receive. So I would say "high and tight" to the barber and grin and bear it. The barbers would talk among themselves in Turkish and seemed to care less if they learned any English words. Three Turkish barbers there, just putting in their time waiting to close and to catch the shuttle bus for Adana. Then they would do it all over again the next day they were open.

An amusing story that I believe happened in Late March, 1959: On the base, work was getting along slowly at the new swimming pool (click photo at left). Outside contractors designed the pool and were the foremen at the site using Turkish Workers to construct the pool. We would stop and look at what was being done every few days, hoping to use it that summer. The bottom section of the deep end was being poured with concrete hand-mixed right there alongside the pool. Two days later, out came the jackhammers and tore up the bottom that had just been poured. All the work was for naught as the correct angles, according to the blueprints, were not adhered to. This set the complete project back at least 40 to 50 days as other problems arose. I believe we did get to use the pool sometime in late July or early August.

While I was in Turkey, I would visit the dispensary now and then, complaining that the right side of my nose seemed plugged up. Finally they said I'd be sent to Wiesbaden, Germany's USAF Hospital, shown at left, but which was closed in 1990. I received special orders #A-118 dated March 25, 1959 saying I was authorized to proceed on or about April 2, 1959 to Wiesbaden on Temporary Duty (TDY) for 45 days to receive inpatient medical care and treatment. A medevac C-54 came to İnçirlik Air Base on the second or third of April (the nose of the plane in the picture at right) to take me and others to Germany. I met a tech sergeant on the flight from Ankara or Izmir as we stopped both places. We had a great time traveling over the Alps to Munich and on to Frankfurt and finally to the hospital in Wiesbaden. As he had been there before, the tech sergeant showed me the sights of Wiesbaden. One evening we visited the Cafè Roma, which was within walking distance of the hospital. The next day I had a super headache from the great tasting German beer. I walked back to the hospital alone at closing time after my stupor subsided.

I received a battery of facial tests at the hospital and was told I had a deviated septum in my nose that didn't need surgery at this time. I was given some medication to take, that was supposed to make all things better. What a SNAFU this trip was! So back to İnçirlik Air Base I went after just ten or twelve days. It was still April, 1959. The tech sergeant stayed there a few more days, I believe. A medevac flight back to Turkey retracing my flight up was in order. I still remember seeing the bomb craters around Frankfurt, Germany from World War II B-17 and B-24 bombers. They were still very visable after 14 years. Now, here I was again at İnçirlik Air Base, still stopped up on the right side of my nose. I finally had the surgery in 1964 in Louisville Kentucky, three years after I was out of the Air Force.

One good thing did happen with my stay at the USAF Wiesbaden Hospital. Remember the C-124C that crashed on takeoff the previous March 31st? Someone at the hospital heard I was from İnçirlik Air Base and advised me that some of the crew were still there at the hospital. I got a chance to talk with the pilot, the co-pilot and the navigator of the plane. They had some broken bones and burns, but all in all, they looked very good having survived a plane crash. One said the C-124 started to stall, lost air speed and went down. Each one praised our fire department and rescue teams for their lives having been spared.

Two B-57 bombers came to the base in, I believe, May 1959. They were parked out front of Air Freight on the large apron. They were from Germany and would be there for a couple of days. The planes were refueled and the day they were to leave I filled both B57s with Liquid Oxygen. Ops called and said the flight plan had been filed and the pilots would be at the planes shortly. I had replaced the black power starter cartridge for the right engines on both planes and was standing by as Fireguard.

Here come the pilots and they manned the two planes. The plane toward the east side of the base was being started by ground crews of another squadron which where there on temporary duty for their own planes. They were from the same base in Germany as the B-57s and I guess they thought this was OK. This was not authorized but as I was having to replace the black powder cartridge for my own plane (Twice, because the engine had failed to start) what else could I do?

Soon, both B-57s were running. When I pulled the 3 landing gear safety pins for my plane, the other B-57 was taxiing toward the 05 end of the runway for takeoff. I opened the pilots right side door and stowed the pins in their proper place, shut and locked the door. I waved the plane out onto the runway and gave a smart salute as it moved out. Back to Alert, pulling the LOX cart, I was met by out NCOIC telling me the nose wheel safety pin was not pulled on one of the B-57s. I met the B-57 in question at the 23 end of the runway and removed the nose wheel pin, stowed it, and the B-57 just turned around and took off again. I got my ass chewed out, but it wasn't my plane, and not my responsibility!!!

It was in August 1959 that the USAFE Skyblazers acrobatic team stationed at Bitburg Air Base came to İnçirlik Air Base. They were going to put on an air show in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Maybe they also had another country to visit, but staged from İnçirlik. I came to work one morning and there they were: five F-100s parked on the front apron, all decked out in their Skyblazers red, white and blue colors. I grabbed my camera and drove out near them to get some very good photos. All we saw in the next few days were F-100s coming and going. They sure did have a great crew that was taking super-good care of them!


Crew Chief David Laube

Sometime that summer, our base Goony-Bird #O-476388 crashed in Tel Aviv, Israel. My friend, Gerald Lasserre, was part of the crew. A crosswind and a green pilot caused the crash. The C-47 was given to the Israeli Air Force. Gerald was not in the crash. But the 13th of September 1959, special orders #A-382 sent a four man C-47 flight crew to Athens Greece TDY for three days to ferry C-47 #43-49505. Did we get this aircraft as a replacement for 0-476388? I just can't come up with the answer in what records I still retain after 50 years. Maybe I'll get online one day and try to uncover this occurrence.

Another C-47 crew chief, David Laube, spoke very good Turkish, having started lessons as soon as he got to Turkey. He was due to rotate back to the States December 20, 1959. Able to speak the language, it wasn't long before he had clandestine meetings with a beautiful girl. Undercover, you might say. Love was in full bloom and we had a very hard time convincing him not to get discharged there and seek to marry this woman. He was hard to control, but he finally saw the futility involved and went on home to California. He was very sad.


  
Above and below: May, 1959 on the southern coast of Turkey at the U.S.Air Force Yumurtalik fuel pumping station. A group of airmen from İnçirlik Air Base put up a blanket lean-to on a fence and swam, cooked out, and had a beer party. Related Story below.

Hot summer days at İnçirlik Air Base were normal for us in 1959. One weekend as I was off duty from Alert, I was asked if I wanted to go to Yumurtalik, along with two of my friends from the POL section. They were taking a 500-gallon truckload of diesel fuel to the pumping station there. I said I would be happy to join them on their trip, so the three of us left the base about 0800 hours on a Saturday morning, headed toward Yumurtalik. I found out then, we were also taking along a case of canned Schlitz and a case of canned Black Label beer. The airmen at the pump station would be happy.

Toward southeastern Turkey to Yumurtalik, which is 40 kilometers from Adana, we rolled along. I saw sharp curves, with vehicles heading toward us on our side of the road. We finally arrived at the pumping station on the beach. Turkish people were swimming and playing around the area. We offloaded the diesel fuel and, with the station crew, began to enjoy the hot beer. I waded in the Mediterranean water and subathed with the rest of the fellows. Some base airmen had already driven to the beach.

Some hours later, it was time to return to İnçirlik. The fun really started then. My two friends from the POL section were just wasted, and not able to drive back to the base. I asked one, whose name was Tom Piere, "What's next?" He said, "you have to drive us home!" I wasn't listed on the trip ticket and told him, "no!" But he said we must return before darkness set in. So off we go with me behind the wheel and my two wasted buddies piled upon each other next to me. The big empty yellow truck was moving right along when I neared the road that turned toward the base. From the main road I stopped. I shook Tom from his stupor and proclaimed it was his turn to drive the truck through the main gate.



Bunks in barracks 1959

We exchanged seats and started toward the main gate, across the railroad tracks. I said, "just get us through the gate and I'll get us to the POL section." He pulled up to the guard gate and got the guard to sign off on the trip ticket. Around the corner we stopped and I drove the rest of the way. I walked those fellows, one on each side of me, toward our barracks and deposited them upon their bunks to sleep it off. I believe they were also off duty Sunday. Did they sleep all day Sunday? I just can't remember. What a lovely day we all had at the Yumurtalik beach that Saturday in August, 1959.

One day, out the main gate a group of us went to see Snake Castle. We were on a tour directed by a Turkish gentleman who worked at the base library. I believe this was around the first week of September, 1959. We had a base vehicle from the motor pool driven by a Turkish employee. Over the railroad tracks, we turned to the left - I believe - and headed on our journey. Adana-İskenderun highway leads to the village of Misis on the banks of the Ceyhan River (east of the Seyhan River). The highway crosses over the river and continues southward.

Over the Ceyhan was a Roman bridge at Misis. The town of Misis was a boon for archaeologists. Nothing remained of the medieval castle on the hill. Remains of the [ancient city of Mopsuestia] aqueduct and the impression of a Roman theater and stadium were still to be seen. On the other side of the Ceyhan bridge is the village of Havranya. Near the bridge we saw the ruins of a Turkish caravanseri which was destroyed only recently by an earthquake. We saw evidence of the ancient city everywhere. Bits of columns, cut stones and pottery of several periods were scattered about.

Along the road from Misis to Ceyhan (east of İnçirlik) we saw the castle known to the Turks as Yilan (somtimes Ilan) Kale (Snake Castle). Across the river from the castle was the village of Sirkeli. We crossed the Ceyhan river on the Ceyhan-Kozan road and toured the castle. We found it had a mysterious atmosphere, and an evil reputation for snakes and sorcery, no doubt deriving from its setting above the muddy waters of the Ceyhan and the rocky ridge on which it stood. We were told at the time that nothing was known of its history.

(Editor's note: Today we know Yilankale - "Snakes Castle" was an Armenian stronghold and Crusader castle of the 12th century. According to legend it was the residence of Sheikh Meran, half man, half snake, who was killed in the baths at Tarsus while seeking to carry off the king's daughter.)

After we had enough of Snake Castle, I was glad to return to the base. There was a great deal of information told to us and we even received a pamphlet about our trip. I never went on another tour around the base, although I did go south to visit Mercin one time. What a lovely town Mercin was, with palm trees, stone and sandy walkways just off the Mediterranean Sea in southern Turkey. I only had a few more months to stay at İnçirlik Air Base before going to Dreux, France to finish out my overseas tour. I did take in the sites of nearby Adana a few more times while I was there.

The month of September came to the base and, of course, it was still warm weather in that time in 1959. One of the airmen on base had left on leave for the United States. This aroused my thinking, why couldn't I take a leave home, since I would have 33 days leave coming by October? So I went through the proper channels and put in for a leave starting the first week of October. Some of my buddies asked if I would really come back to the "rear end of the world." Some said they bet I'd go AWOL. I assured all of them I couldn't wait to return to see the surprised looks on their faces. Transient Alert wouldn't have to get a replacement for me, so I felt sure my leave request would go through. I found in just a week or ten days that my leave had been approved!

I was really fired up about going home to see my family. Early on, I got the things ready that I needed for the trip, and now I would have to be real lucky to get a flight from İnçirlik Air Base to Wheelus Air Base in Libya and from there to Charleston, South Carolina where I could grab a bus home and spend at least 20 or more days home. It would be just a nice little break in the action before transferring to Dreux, France. I went about my duties as usual, counting the days before I could leave. Little did I know that my future and present wife was born that September 1959 in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

I received my leave Orders A-382, dated September 10, 1959 later that month and was just waiting for the time to get out of there. I would call Base Ops when on duty and ask about any flights they knew of going to Wheelus. A C-130A came in one night on the first of October and was going the next day to Athens, Greece and then on to Wheelus Air Base in Libya. I was hoping to take this flight and go back to the world.

This was my lucky day! I asked my NCOIC if I could leave on that C-130A and he said yes. So I rounded up the things I needed to take with me that night. I knew the time of the departure for the plane and had already asked its crew if I could get on the manifest. All I had to do was get to customs the next morning, get my orders stamped and find a seat aboard the plane. Next morning I gathered my things and left a copy of my orders in the orderly room and signed out. I think I caught a ride to Base Ops. I told the fellows on Duty at Tranient Alert I would see them in a few weeks and let them know how it feels to kiss an American girl. Off to customs I headed!

Near Air Freight was the Turkish Customs House for İnçirlik Air Base. My orders were stamped and signed, so I headed for the plane. The C-130 took off from İnçirlik Air Base sometime that morning of October 2, 1959. It was loaded with cargo so there were no jumpseats for me to sit on. The load master said to sit on a large wooden crate for the trip. This crate was secured to the floor and couldn't move, but it was in the center line of the wing. I soon found out what prop noise was! This was a C-130A model with three-blade props that constantly seemed out of synch, causing a vibration through my entire body. When we got to Athens, I was really all shook up. Thank God we could get off for a little while and I could shake it off.

I didn't know it at the time but the C-130A was from the 322nd Air Division based at Evreux, France. After my leave, I was going to be transferred for duty at Dreux France with the C-119s. The C-130s and C-119s were a large part of the 322nd Air Division. After the flight crew did what was needed there at Athens, we again headed into the wild blue yonder for Wheelus Air Base. My companion, vibration, was with me all the way. When we landed at Wheelus Air Base, I thanked the crew for my safe journey and wished them well on their flight to France.

I headed to the air passenger center to ask about a flight to the U.S. The airman there said there was one leaving on the 4th, and I could stay at the transient building until then. I found my place to spend the night, a large bay with bunks for others, as well. I had dinner and looked the place over. The swimming pool was near my quarters and folks were having a good time. It was much warmer there than İnçirlik. The next day was spent sightseeing around the base with reading, meals and sleeping, too. A C-121A Super Connie came in that evening. I figured that would be my flight #A-262 out tomorrow.

I got over to the air passenger center and found out the C-121A was to leave for the Azores at noon and I was on the manifest. The Azores, Bermuda and Charleston, SC were to be my next stops on the trip home. Passengers were called by speaker to head toward the plane and to get aboard. My seat was just behind the wing on the right side. I would have a great view of most everything coming and going. The seats were taken by Air Force personnel and their dependents. We had many children on board the flight. I used my seat and the seat next to me as no one was occupying it and I had lots of room for my trip home.

Right on time we took off from Wheelus Air Base with a smooth roll, liftoff and climb out. Soon we began to observe water below us as we flew over the Mediterranean. The C-121A Super Connie was a solid aircraft to be on. It could accommodate 44 seated passengers and had a long range of 4,300 miles. Its six fuel tanks could hold 5,820 gallons of fuel and it held oil in four tanks totaling 206.4 gallons, and carried 61.0 gallons of hydraulic fluid. At cruising speed the plane burned 400 gallons of fuel an hour at 265 knots. The four engines were model 3350 Curtiss-Wright Cyclones, each rated at 2,500 base horsepower (bhp). With its three-bladed props it only needed 3,800 feet of distance for takeoff. I felt very safe aboard the Lockheed Constellation with its 144 sparkplugs doing their jobs and great flight crew at the controls.

The flying time to the Azores was approximately eight hours. There was rain and cooler weather as we deplaned to have a meal and to let the ground crews prepare the C-121A for her flight on to Bermuda. It felt good to be wearing my blue uniform. Our flight attendant asked us to load up and lets get going to Bermuda, and she needn't have asked us twice! We all were ready to get aboard. Water on the runway did not hamper the C-121A as we left the Azores, traveling out across the Atlantic. I thought I saw the waves below us from 15,000 feet as we climbed out.

It was just a routine flight for some until the aircraft commander advised all passengers to fasten seat belts and to stow our personal belongings. He thought some turbulence was ahead. Little did we know. It wasn't too long before the C-121A started to shake up and down, seeming to go sideways and then to drop altitude. Engines would rev up and we'd go back and do it all over again. We hung on for our lives. Children were getting sick and throwing up along with some adults. My stomach didn't feel well at all, and my neck was getting sore.

The pilot came on the intercom and told we had met a hurricane that wasn't supposed to reach us this fast, but it had. We had to fly through some of it and soon we'd be in the eye where things would calm down. It stayed calm for a spell and then we went out the other side for a repeat performance! When we finally passed through I was about ready to throw up, myself! The plane inside just stunk like a hog pen. The flight attendants tried to clean passengers up.

I found out, sometime later, that we had met up with hurrican Hannah, which started out September 27, 1959 as a tropical depression of 30-mile-per-hour winds, and built up to 110 mile an hour winds by October 3, 1959. When we flew through Hanna on October 4th, the winds were down to 90 miles an hour. Thank God for a Super Connie built by Lockheed in the good old USA. We all looked like we had slept in our clothes and things were in a mess inside the passenger compartment. Sometime before we got to Bermuda, the heat had to be turned off because of the smell. So many people had thrown up everywhere - and not just on themselves, but on most things around them.

Some eight hours later, we reached Kindley Air Force Base, Bermuda. The plane was still in good shape, but the whole interior of that plane had to be mopped and washed down by hand and disinfected. That took some time to do, along with refueling and whatever else was needed. I'm almost sure we didn't leave according to our flight schedule. We all got to go to the snack bar to refresh as best we could. Some of the kids were still shaken by the ordeal and I also needed something to calm the butterflies in my stomach. Tomato juice was the only drink I could use for this. I was afraid to eat anything figuring it would make me worse. I didn't want to be any more sick.

Here's just a little history about Kindley Air Force Base, Bermuda. In January 1946 Kindley Field was opened on the part of the U.S. Military Base begun in 1941 by the U.S then called Fort Bell. It was once reserved for the British Royal Air Force. In the early 1950s, MATS (Military Air Transport Service) took control of Kindley for as long as it remained a U.S. Air Force base. The Base commander was a MATS officer. Kindley was a refueling stop for aircraft flying the southern route via the Azores to and from Europe, the middle east and Africa.

The airport was 536 acres with Runway #1 heading 12/30 being 9,713 feet in length and 150-feet wide. There were eight aircraft sized concrete parking stands for planes to use while there. Restrooms and a snack bar were very nice. We just walked from our plane to the air terminal. Kindley was taken over by the U.S. Navy in 1970 to 1995 as the Air Force had lost its Wheelus Base in Libya due to the new Libyan government. The need of Kindley diminished with our loss of Wheelus and the increased ranges of USAF transport.

With just a little over 600 miles to go to Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, we boarded our C-121A at Kindley AFB, Bermuda. Needless to say we still felt poorly from our hurricane Hannah experience. Just a few hours more and I would be catching a Greyhound bus for home. It would be a surprise to Mom as I didn't tell her I was coming home from Turkey. I wrote her a letter on the back of a Certificate of Travel (ATLD) form (photo at right), but I didn't get to mail it.


Letter home above left; form it was written on, above right (click to enlarge).


Soon the flight attendant told us we would be landing at Charleston at around 2030 hours. I got all my things in order and was ready to land and get the bus home. After a very smooth landing and taxi up to the air terminal, the engines were shut down and stairs rolled up to the door. We left the plane in an orderly fashion, not forgetting to thank our great crew for getting us safely home to the USA. I had waited until I was 24 years of age to get the chance to fly through a hurricane and just hoped my kids and grandchildren would never have to do the same. I hoped they never had to do this.

Now it was October 5, 1959 and the bus terminal was right there at the base. My orders were stamped at the passenger counter at 2111 hours (9:11 p.m.). Now all I had to do was get that bus home to Louisville, Kentucky. The Greyhound left the air base sometime before midnight October 5, 1959. We traveled on the old highway as there was no interstate completed for our journey to Kentucky. South Carolina and North Carolina passed us by and soon we were into Tennessee. Gatlinberg was our next stop to stretch our legs and get something to eat and drink

Gatlinberg in 1959 was just a narrow road with some shops and places to eat and spend the night with just a few open late. The Smokey Mountains on narrow roads, in fog so thick, was a nerve wracking experience. The driver seemed to just shrug it off as he no doubt had been around the mountains many times before. We had our meal and were off to kentucky. With no more mountains like the Smokeys to travel, things were looking up. Not too many hours later we crossed into Kentucky. Louisville was just up the road on the Ohio River. Soon I got off the bus at the 5th and Broadway station. I hailed a yellow cab for the ride to Okolona, south out the Preston highway, where I lived. The trip only took 45 minutes and the neighbors wondered who had arrived by yellow cab.

It was now around noon on October 6, 1959 and I surprised Mom when I knocked on the door. She just about fell over with excitement and said the kids would be glad to see me when they came home from school. My sister Martha and her son Lennie were living on Taylor Boulevard in town and came out to see me when they heard I was home. My step dad came home from work and he wanted to know about the foreign women and the people abroad. I got on the phone and called my friends to let all know I was home for at least three weeks. It wasn't long before some came to take me around for visits here and there. I even went to the drive-in movie with my sister Martha and her boyfriend. Martha fixed me up with a girl named Pat that she worked with.

I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd have to get back to Turkey. I did as much as I could around the home to help Mom get things done. My friend Roland and I were out most every night doing something. The girl named Pat even came around and we went out in her car to different places. Our house was small, and I was used to the Air Force way of doing things which was in contrast to Mom's thinking. It was an enjoyable stay at home, but I seemed to get in the way. I wanted to see the old gang and hang out late. My family just couldn't believe the conditions I lived under at İnçirlik Air Base in Turkey. I had sent photos of Adana and how the Turks lived, but photos are deceiving and looked quite clean to them. Since there was no smell on the photos it was hard to relay.

Time finally expired for my stay at home, so I bid all goodbye until I could get back home again. I got a ride to town from one of my friends, and caught the Greyhound bus in Louisville back to Charleston Air Force Base on October 29, 1959. The bus trip would go about four hundred plus miles and put me at the air base the next morning after a one and a half hour layover at Greenville, SC.

I remember the layover at Greenville because a policeman there wouldn't let me sleep on a bench because he said some passengers had been robbed while sleeping. I walked around to stay awake and had some coffee as the lobby was off limits in the morning. The officer told me he couldn't watch everything as he was the only one there. I was really glad my bus would soon be there for me. The blue uniform sure felt good on me because the night air was getting colder.

The bus arrived and I left for Charleston AFB, so glad to be moving forward again. The night was really black and cold. I tried to get some sleep on the bus but it was hard to do. When I did get to sleep for some time, I heard the driver holler out that the base was just ahead. We pulled in to the air terminal and I gathered my bag and got off to sign in for a flight to Bermuda, Azores and Libya. I got my orders stamped on the flight counter (Friday, October 30, 1959 at 0820 Hrs.) that morning. I was told to check back in the next morning for a flight and was directed to the transient billets. I checked in there and got room #39, found me some chow and went to bed!

The next morning I went over to the air terminal to check on a flight. Saturday October 31, 1959 was a pleasant morning and I was feeling good about my chances of getting a flight out of there that day. The clerk told me there was a flight and gave me the time, saying I would have to wait and see if all the seats were filled as it was only space-available. The flight number was called and folks lined up by the gate. Then I was told all seats were filled and I could check back tomorrow for a flight.

So I spent the whole day sightseeing, eating at the mess hall, reading at the library and even took in a movie later that day. I called home to tell Mom what had happened about the flight. Sunday, November 1, 1959 was a good day to get out of there so I headed to the air terminal to check on my chances. I was told that no flights were heading to where I wanted to go. The airman at the counter told me there was a C-121 leaving tomorrow and I just might be able to board and get out of there. So I headed back to the Transient Billets to stay once more. I did what I could that day to pass the hours.

The next morning, Monday November 2, 1959, I checked out of room #39 at the Transient Billets. I then went to see about a flight out of Charleston, AFB. I was in super good luck that day. My orders were for 33 days leave and things were looking up that I would make it back to İnçirlik on time. I was given a boarding pass for flight #261 bound for Libya that morning. "Bermuda, here I come!" I said. After that: on to the Azores and Libya. All I needed was to get a flight out of Wheelus Air Base, Libya to İnçirlik Air Base, Turkey and I'd be home free!

I can still hear that public address speaker calling "All passengers for flight #261 may now board." I needed to get on my way and I was going. I wouldn't be coming back to Charleston AFB any more. The C-121 was looking very good to me as I found my seat and settled in for the flight to Bermuda. Just about 690 miles and somewhere around two and a half hours later, we set down at Kindley Air Force Base. The C-121 was refueled for the flight to Lajes AFB, Azores and we all got to the snack bar for refreshments and made a pit stop. We bought some snacks also.

We all were back in our seats and ready to take off for the Azores. Our C-121 taxied out to Runway #1 with a heading of 12/30 for takeoff. This runway was 9,713 feet long and since it was surrounded by water I felt quite safe, and sure we had enough room for lift-off. I had done this twice before from Bermuda, but there is just always something about an aircraft taking off. The crew went through all their preflight checks and we started our take-off roll. We only used right at 5,000 feet when the nose wheel lifted off and the main gear followed suit. The gear retracted as we watched the town of St. George fade into the distance. "Goodbye Bermuda, Hello Azores," I said to myself.

The C-121 aircraft commander came on the intercom to let us know we were at a little over 15,000 feet and may not have to go any higher. He said we were cruising now at 265 knots and should arrive at Lajes AFB, Terceira, Azores in approximately 7-1/2 hours according to the weather. He said the report was favorable and foresaw good flying conditions all the way. So I kicked back to get a nap as I listend to four beautiful 3350 engines lulling me to asleep. It wasn't too much later when the flight attendant asked me if I would like a box lunch as no hot meals were served on this flight. The lunch was very good and hot coffee made it even better…and I told her so.

I got up, stretched my legs a few times and checked out the latrine. Also, I talked to some of the passengers and found out that one of them was going to a base in Turkey. I read what there was to read onboard and looked at some photo magazines. I had made this flight two times before, coming and going, so I knew to just sit back and take it easy. There wasn't anything I could do to make it go any faster.

We were over halfway to Lajes when I remembered how we had flown through hurricane Hannah on my way west. The flight so far was uneventful and was just boring to the passengers in general. It wasn't too long before we were told to fasten seatbelts as we would be on our final approach to land shortly. Wind and rain are considered "trademarks" of the Azores though the climate is mild. Storms pass through fairly frequently during the winter months, but there are also periods of beautiful weather during that time. Winter temperatures are usually in the lower 50s to 60s. Only rarely does the temperature dip below 45 degrees. The winter months have the strongest winds, often up to and beyond 75 mile per hour.

I was reminded how Lajes Field played a major role in operation "vittles" during 1948 to feed the people of Berlin, Germany. Throughout operation Vittles, C-47, DC-4 and C-54 aircraft transited Lajes Field enroute to Germany. More than 3,000 aircraft passed through Lages during that time, and Lajes also contributed to maintenance and repair of "Vittles" aircraft. This station was never the same after September 1949 when "Vittles" was over. When officials realized that Lajes was an important link to counter Soviet aggression during the cold war they got busy to open negotiations with Portugal for a long-term right to use Lajes Field. Our aircraft still use Lajes today as a U.S. base.

Lajes Field is located on the northeast tip of Terceira. The island measure roughly 12 miles by 20 miles, is somewhat oval in shape and is almost entirely bordered by high cliffs. There are nine islands of the Azores and Terceira is the third largest.

Soon we landed at Lajes Air Force Base, taxied up to the terminal, and got a brief rest and food. Of course it was raining, cool and windy. Our C-121 was surrounded by ground crews preparing it for the flight on to Wheelus, Libya. What was needed was taken care of inside and out. As I was getting something to eat and drink inside, my thoughts were of the next 7-1/2 hour journey ahead for all of us. I had been up for some 14 hours and was just getting tired. Just feed my face and stretch my legs and get ready to face the heat at Wheelus AFB. The weather would be much warmer there but I'm almost back to İnçirlik AFB in Turkey. By the time I got to Wheelus, it would be November 3, 1959 and I hoped I'd quickly find a flight to İnçirlik Air Base.

We boarded our C-121 for the flight to Wheelus AFB and it was still raining at Lajes AFB. Our plane was off and away and it seemed like a rather fast takeoff. Maybe just the cold weather made it seem different. I leaned back and tried to sleep away the hours before arriving at Wheelus. Sometime later I felt the hand of the lady flight attendant - a staff sargeant - shaking me from my sleep and asking me if I would like something to eat. Of course I didn't pass this up from such a lovely lady. She brought me some supper, hot coffee and gave me a big smile. I checked the time and found I had slept away nearly 2-1/2 hours!

You know, I was getting very fond of flying aboard a C-121, but I was glad to be heading back to my home base at İnçirlik. I ate and tried resuming my sleep, hoping the next time I awoke we would be landing at Wheelus in Libya. The fellow next to me wanted to do some talking so I postponed my sleep and engaged in small talk with him. I can't remember just where he said he was from. We were over halfway there when we hit some rough weather, but after what I had previously been through, this was child's play. The roughness didn't last too long and that was fine with me!

Soon we were over the Mediterranean Sea and it wouldn't be long before landing at Wheelus Air Base. Nighttime flying was alright with me because that way I didn't have to look down at the water. The aircraft commander came on the intercom to tell us we would be landing in about 45 minutes and to get ready as we made our final approach. Wheelus AFB had two long runways. The longest was 11,076 feet heading 11/29 and the short one was 6,000 feet heading 03/21. As it turned out, we came in over the water from the north and landed on the 03 end of the 6,000 foot runway which was just a piece of cake for our C-121. I was glad to be on the ground after a long flight from Charleston AFB as we taxied to the air terminal.

I found out later that the air base in Libya was originally built by the Italian air force in 1923 and was known as Mellaha Air Base. Mellaha was used by the German Luftwaffe during the battle of North Africa in World War II. It was captured by the British 8th Army in January, 1943. U.S. B-21 bombers used the base to bomb Italy and southern Germany. It was renamed Wheelus Army Air Field in 1945. USAF Military Air Transport Service (MATS) took over June 1, 1948 calling it Wheelus Air Base.

While I was stationed in Turkey some interesting things happened not far from Wheelus Air Base. On November 9, 1958, British geologists flying over the Libyan desert spotted an aircraft resting on the sand dunes approximately 400 statute miles south of Benghazi, Libya. A ground party reached the site in March 1959 and discovered the plane to be the "Lady Be Good," a B-24D liberator of the U.S. Army Air Force's 376th bomb group (AAF Serial No. 41-24301). The USAAF bomber had disappeared after an April 4, 1943 high-altitude bombing attack by 25 liberators from an AAF base at SuluQ (near Benghazi) against the harbor facilities at Naples Italy. All planes but one returned to the allied territory that night. The one missing was the Lady Be Good.

Evidence at the crash site indicated the Lady Be Good crew had become lost in the dark and mistook the nighttime desert for the mediterranean sea. With the B-24's fuel supply depleted, the nine men aboard had bailed out and disappeared while attempting to walk northward to civilization. In 1960 the remains of the eight airmen were found, one near the plane, and the other seven far to the north. The body of the ninth was never found.

Here I was, November 3, 1959 at Wheelus Air Base in Libya, finding a bunk at the Transient Quarters and saying a prayer that I'd find a plane ride to İnçirlik AFB in Turkey the next day. I was told that night that there was no scheduled flight to Greece or Turkey tomorrow, by the airman on duty at the terminal. I tried to sleep that night but was thinking I'd have to turn myself in to the provost marshal soon, as I was running out of leave time and would be AWOL.

I awoke early the next morning and went to the air terminal to inquire about a flight. "No luck," said the airman on duty. It was still dark outside, so I headed to the mess hall for some breakfast and hot coffee. After eating, I returned to my bunk at the Transient Quarters and took stock of my plight. It was just too far to walk, and this brought on laughter from some who heard me say that. It was a good morning for a stroll so I walked toward the flight line for a look see. Lo and behold, what did I se sitting there on the flight line? It was our base Gooney Bird #49505! A beautiful C-47 shining in the early sunlight. "Here is my flight home!" I said outloud and ran toward the air terminal to find out what it was doing there.

When I reached the air terminal counter I saw our Base Commander, Colonel Markham there, and then I knew for sure the C-47 was indeed from İnçirlik Air Base, Turkey. I brought this to the attention of the airman manning the counter, showed him a set of my orders, and asked to be put on the manifest for the flight back to my home station. He cleared this with Colonel Markum and there was room for me on the flight to Athens, Greece and on to İnçirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The C-47 was going to leave in one hour, giving me time enough to check out of the Transient Quarters. Away I went in a flash, checked out, got my bag and was standing tall and ready to get on with going home. As the plane was not far away from where I was standing, I hollered toward Airman Second Class David Laube, the crew chief, as he topped off the fuel tanks for the departure. He waved and said he was glad to see me, and that some of the guys at the base had asked about me.

It seems the base C-47 "Gooney Bird" came to Wheelus to pick up some aircraft parts that morning, and also to allow Col. Markum to get in his flying time for his flight pay. The time came to get aboard and taxi out to the runway so all parties boarded the aircraft. This C-47 had the metal jumpseats down both sides of the interior and I took on on the left side near the front. There was a parachute for each seat if needed, and I buckled mine on, fastening my seat belt for the takeoff. There were only five or six people on this flight, and lots of room.


 
C-47 Gooney Bird USAF late 1950s.
 

We taxied out toward the takeoff runway which was the 6,000 foot one heading 03/21. The crew made their preflight checks at the 21 end of the runway and turned onto the runway for takeoff roll. Both engines revved up, brakes were released, and away we went. The tail lifted, and soon we were going fast enough to lift off. The old war bird took to the skies like she owned them, shook a little, and climbed out over the Mediterranean, with the landing gear coming up and heading for Athens. This was to be my first and only flight on board a C-47 Gooney Bird. Col. Markum was a little shaky at the controls and we wobbled some until we reached cruising altitude and the auto-pilot was engaged. The flight was to be around three hours, I was told, and we cruised at approximately 200 miles per hour. The distance to Athens was just 689 miles according to one of the passengers.

Right on the money, we came into the Athenai International Airport, landing on a 10,000 foot runway. The USAF used a small part of the airport for military cargo use. The 7206th Air Base Squadron was assigned to the airport. The landing was my first in a C-47 and was quite different from all the C-121 landings I had before. Just two bounces up and down and we were taxiing toward the terminal. This would be a short stop to refuel and stretch our legs. Engines off, we all got out from the side door and headed for a pit stop and snacks. The refueling truck was pulling up to the plane as I went into the building. Not more than 45 minutes later, we were all back aboard and heading out to take off for İnçirlik Air Base. Pre-flight checks were all done and we were all fastened in and ready to take off. We received our clearance from Base Ops and away we went, up, up and away! We were going to get home during daylight hours!

No flight attendant was on this aircraft. Not even a hot cup of coffee was served. Who really cared, in just somewhere around two hours I'd be on the ground at İnçirlik Air Base. Snack bar here I come, I thought to myself, maybe even get to the mess hall. I'll get into my fatigues and say hello to all the guys in my barracks and tell them just what it's like to go out with an American gal back home. Time passed fast.

All of a sudden, there it was: the runway at İnçirlik Air Base in plain view. We were parallel to the runway on its south side, heading for the 05 end to touch down. Everyone had their seat belts on tight, and I sure was glad! Col. Markum dipped the left wing down and made an abrupt bank to the left. He scared us all as he came around to line up with the runway for landing. I felt I was lying on my back and not upright at all. I turned and peered out the window near me and the left wing seemed very close to touching the ground. Just a little different landing in a C-47 than what we did at Athens! We were all shook up shortly, as the plane made a leapfrog landing with at least three bounces. Then the tail wheel touched down and we started taxiing to the 03 end and our parking ramp spot.

I was out of my seatbelt and chute in a flash, wanting to rid myself of this bucking bronco that had me. The follow-me truck was leading us to our parking spot as the crew chief said he was sorry about the rough landing. He wouldn't be flying with the Colonel again for sometime, he told us and just shook his head and laughed.

The C-47 was parked on the parking ramp, wheels chocked and engines shut down. I was back at my home base finally, and with a day to spare on my leave, not AWOL this time and hoping never to be. The side door was opened by A/2C David Laub, the crew chief. The step was installed for us to get down. I was glad to be back and told my fellow airman from Transient Alert I would be back working Alert duty soon. He gave me a ride to customs near Air Freight in our follow-me truck. I grabbed my bag and got my orders #A-382 stamped at customs. With a round half-dollar-sized purple stamp that said 4 Kasim 1959, the customs agent signed his name and number. Then I walked the short distance to my barracks. Some of the guys I knew hollered at me, welcoming me back from the world.

I entered my barracks from the rear door and placed my bag on my bunk. My bay was just inside the rear door, first door to the right. My bunk was against the rear wall, across from the door. Then I walked to the squadron orderly room on the right side of the long hall at the front entrance. I deposited a copy of my leave orders in the in-out basket and signed myself back in to my squadron on the sign-in sheet: Wednesday, November 4, 1959. I also spoke to the CQ runner on duty as he came in the doorway.

I think I ran back to my room and hurriedly dressed in my fatigues, said hello to some in my bay, and made my way to the mess hall which was still open. I checked in and went through the line, found me a table to sit down. I was back home now to İnçirlik Air Base and some pretty good chow, but as I tried to drink the reformulated milk it tasted plum awful! That's what some good whole milk back in the United States had done for me. I just could not drink the milk at the base since my leave in the U.S.

While in the mess hall I spoke to some about my trip back home. On my walk back to the barracks I reflected on just how much time I had left at İnçirlik Air Base. January 11th, the date I was supposed to leave for Dreux Air Base in France, would soon be here. I got back to my bay, unpacked, put my dirty clothes in my laundry bag, set my shoes out from the locker, and took a shower and shaved. I thanked A/3C Gary Longboat for keeping my area straight while I was gone. I was so very tired from my trip I didn't talk too long. Just went to bed.

The next morning was Thursday, November 5, 1959 and the chow hall seemed just like old times at the base. I was glad to have a regular meal and not just grab a meal here and there while traveling. My system might take a few weeks to adjust to regular meals! I had some fun talking to the Turkish servers while going through the line. As I spoke some Turkish, we laughed and joked with each other. After breakfast I walked down to the flight line Transient Alert office. There I met with Tech Sergeant Crooks, our NCOIC, and found out when I was to return to duty. Tomorrow was good for him and he welcomed me back from my leave, saying I was really missed on the Alert crew.

The rest of Thursday was spent getting my clothes to the laundry and cleaners, getting my mail and talking to whoever I saw. The Turks at the snack bar were glad to see me back. Old pop, our base shoe shine man, was overjoyed to see me and gave me a free shoe shine. We talked for at least an hour and I exhausted every word of Turkish I knew, telling him about going home to the United States. I had tears in my eyes, sitting beside this old gentleman on the curb at the snack bar, as he told me how much he had really missed me. I sure cared about him and he knew it was for real. He thanked me again for giving him the shoes and clothes he was wearing.

   
Here's that Chevy from 1958 mentioned in the final paragraph [click it to enlarge]. The owner, Roland Riddle is on the right and my stepdad Ed Chitwood stands at left. I did not get a photo of the car while I was at İnçirlik, but took this one when I got home. I hadn't found it when I wrote this story.  
 
Ahmet Bazlati, the personable manager of the İnçirlik Air Base AFEX, 1959.
 

Back to the barracks I went to sort out things for my return to Transient Alert duty the next day - Friday, November 6, 1959. Later I went to the AFEX for something and since I had eaten at the snack bar for lunch, I decided to go down to the mess hall for supper after getting a "high and tight" haircut. The airmens barber shop was in the same building housing the snack bar., on the left part of the building facing the doorway of the snack bar. You did an about-face and across the wide gravel street was our AFEX building.

After supper, I took in a shoot-em-up western movie at the base theatre across from our barracks. It was an older movie I hadn't seen. I still remember John Wayne, the cowboy in the movie. I didn't see movies as much as some in my barracks. I loved to play the tapes I received from home on my reel-to-reel tape recorder while the fellows in my bay gathered around to hoot and holler. One tape we played over and over was my high school chum burning out in his '57 Chevy, a 270 HP, dual 4-barrel, positive traction rear end. We all wanted a '57 chevy 4-speed with a 270 engine then.


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