Bill Simons, SP4, 058
© 2003-2011 by Author
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I enlisted in the Army in the Spring of 1959 and was assigned to the Army Security Agency (ASA) as I had requested. I had been "promised" training for Russian at the language school in California, hoping to learn enough Russian to help meet the second foreign language requirement for Graduate School after my enlistment was over. Unfortunately, I didn't do very well on the language test and so was sent instead to Fort Devens to learn touch typing and Morse code and became an MOS 058, a Morse Intercept Operator.
Upon graduation, I was assigned to TUSLOG DET. 4 in Sinop, Turkey. It was considered a hardship assignment and we were promised a choice of overseas assignments after our 12 month tour there was finished.
Five of us arrived at Ankara by a Turkish airline from Frankfurt in December of 1959. We were all fresh out of the Army Electronic Intelligence school and had all been in the Army less than a year at that time.
Our first few days in Turkey were spent in Ankara being "processed" and awaiting the next truck convoy to Sinop. We reported to a small office somewhere in the city where a portly Sergeant told us war stories about living in Turkey and dire warnings of what would happen if we offended the locals. The one warning that stuck in my mind was not to show a Turk the soles of your shoes because that would be considered an insult.
We were housed at the International Hotel in downtown Ankara which was relatively modern and well kept. We had been warned not to drink anything that didn't come out of a sealed bottle and for most of that us that was interpreted as a clear military directive to drink lots of beer. We spent quite a few hours in the lobby of the hotel playing pinochle with one of the British residents who had learned the game from other Americans passing through on their way to Sinop.
A buddy and I spent a pleasant but uneventful evening at a local night club buying "Champagne Cocktails" for two bar girls who came over to our table to keep us company. This social interaction was known locally as "Bowling". As our supply of Turkish Lira began to dwindle, the manager of the club was happy to exchange our Dollars for Lira in a dark corner of the club. His exchange rate of about 12 to 1, was higher than the official exchange rate that the banks would offer, about 8 to 1. I was now a "black marketeer".
It was a long bumpy trip of 8-10 hours from Ankara to Sinop in the back of an Army 2 1/2 ton truck. There were several trucks in the convoy but only one of them was carrying personnel. The other trucks were loaded with the supplies that kept DET 4 up and running. The drivers made this trip on a regular basis and would spend one night at Sinop before happily returning to Ankara and the relative luxury of the hotel.
We arrived at Det 4 after dark that evening and jumped out of the back of the truck into several inches of mud. We could hear catcalls of "New man, New man" and people telling us how "short" they were, enumerating the number of days that they had left until they left "The Hill".
The official name of the site was TUSLOG DET 4, but the sign at the main gate also referred to it as "Diogenes Station" because the Greek philosopher Diogenes (412-323 BC) was supposed to have been born in Sinop. The "Diogenes Station" name may have been an unofficial one because I don't recall seeing it anywhere else except on that sign.
As new arrivals, we were assigned to permanent guard duty until the next set of replacements ("Yenis" in Turkish) came in to relieve us. I especially remember pulling guard duty on Christmas Eve 1959. My guard post was located somewhere out on the edge of the base where I guarded 50 gallon drums of the diesel fuel that was used to power almost everything on the base. The perimeters beyond the barbed wire were guarded by Turkish soldiers. We were given an M1 carbine and informed that the Turkish word for "Halt" was "Dur" and sent along our way. Guard duty consisted of four hours on guard, four hours sleep, four hours on guard and so on, almost forever it seemed.
Our barracks was of wood frame construction and consisted of one large room with a smaller private room in one corner for the resident NCO. All of the beds were metal frame double bunks such as the ones I had used in basic training. A single oil heater was located in the middle of the room and burned diesel fuel. It was the only source of heat.
My bunk mates and buddies included Ernie Armstrong, Bill Barbeau, Chuck Fisher, Bob Palm, Larry Rickard, Gary Teski, Charlie Trull, Walter Stanton, Pete Vladyka and Johnny Willemssen. My apologies to all those good friends whose names are missing from this list because they are locked away in some dark recess of my aging brain.
Each barracks had a Turkish houseboy who mopped the floor, kept the fuel can filled and looked after the stove. The "houseboys", usually older men about 50 or so, would also take our laundry down to town for washing. Our fatigues came back stiff as a board with starch (as requested) and smelling of the strangely scented Turkish soap that was used throughout the country at that time.
Outside each barracks was a fresh air 8 hole outhouse . They were set up with electricity but the light bulbs were often missing. There was one wash house on base for the EM where hot water for washing and shower facilities were usually available 24 hours a day.
Most of our goods, except the mail, came to us by truck from Ankara. During rainy periods, the roads would become so muddy that the trucks couldn't get through and we often ran short of some essential items. One time there was no liquor left to drink at the Enlisted Men's club except Brandy, and nothing to mix it with except Root Beer.
There was a small theater on base where old movies were occasionally shown. Once a local Magician and his female assistant come in and put on a show. She was the only woman that I ever remember seeing on the base during my year there. She was without a doubt the most popular part of the magic show.
The PX consisted of a small building containing a single room but was pretty well stocked with cameras, typewriters, tobacco products, as well as presents for the folks at home. Chap-Stick was a popular item due to the drying effects of the cold and wind.
Music was played continuously outside the Operations building in an attempt to mask any sounds that might be coming from inside the building. The story was that Russian submarines would pop up at night out of the Black Sea and try to listen in on what was going on at the base. They played a lot of the Everly Brothers albums and the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" must have been someone's favorite because it was heard so often.
One of the GIs, Leslie Payne Delaney, wrote and published a rather scholarly booklet on the history and legends of Sinop and the DET 4 area called "Sinop in Ancient Times". Autographed copies were sold on base for $2. The photography for the booklet was done by Edward H. Svoboda who was on base during at least part of my stay in 1960.
There was also a set of comic postcards that were prepared and sold by another GI entrepreneur. The postcards can be seen on the Internet at Mike Moran's ASA Home Page at "http://www.dfwmm.net/~maddog/asa.htm". The page also contains a number of photos of the DET 4 base in 1960.
One of the fellows in my barracks was so upset about being sent to Turkey and being separated from his wife and child, that he went a little crazy. He was eventually flown out to civilization and it was rumored that he had been given a "Section 8" discharge. One of the guys who worked in the radio repair section protested his stay at Det 4 by shaving his head for the full year that he was stationed there.
The language barrier and religious differences with the local people forced most us to keep to ourselves on the base. Trips to town were infrequent and usually uneventful.
A few of the guys made friends with some of the people in Sinop but they were the exception. Nearly all the women in this rural area of Turkey kept their faces covered with veils and actively avoided being photographed. The men did not seem to mind the camera nearly as much.
Several of us went down into town to eat one day. The restaurant was a ground floor room in a private dwelling with a few tables that faced out onto the street. We had grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice. When we asked for some beer to go along with the food, a boy was sent out to the local store to buy it. The food was quite good.
Although conditions on the base were still quite primitive in 1960, permanent two story barracks were under construction and much better living conditions were only a year or two off into the future. The experience of meeting head-on an entirely different culture was certainly memorable and no doubt contributed to my broadening knowledge of the world that existed outside the USA.
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