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(05 Oct 2013)
I had the misfortune of volunteering for Trabzon in late February 1959 out of Kirknewton Scotland. The CO had ordered an A3C to go and the Airman just went crazy, since he had his wife coming over to Scotland with the new baby he had not yet seen. It took six men to hold him down so the medics could work on him.
I was about to get married myself and reenlist for another six years, so it made sense to me. When I got to Trabzon, we lived on the economy for about a dollar fifty a day. We received eight bucks a day and still got robbed.
Our water came from a ginger ale bottle that we put two drops of iodine in each day. Our evening meal was two pieces of tough Turkish crust and a piece of meat we thought was tough beef. It took us eight months to find out it was goat.
Our hotel room had a simple sink and was swarming with bedbugs. The only medic we had issued us DDT cans to spray our bedding. Imagine my surprise to be told years later that stuff was dangerous. I doubt the iodine helped either.
After serving in Libya, Crete, and Scotland, and later four years of college, I never saw as many men turned into alcoholics as Trabzon. We even sent our Chaplain back to the states to dry out.
I will say that every enlisted man and officer there knew the importance of our mission and worked their butts off for our command and the country we loved. The mission was of the highest importance and we completed it.
Later, the base was opened, our barracks and food facilities were finished, and the small detachment moved up the mountain to complete our tours.
About the time I left in March 1960, I was told at my debriefing in Tripoli, that my volunteering in Scotland had been in vain. The guy I thought I was saving had lost his security clearance and been transferred elsewhere for his breakdown. At least, the six dollars a day I saved from the per diem got me through my freshman year of school. I am proud to have been one of the "Silent Warriors" in my Air Force tour.
(09 Oct 2013)
It was nice to hear from someone that once climbed the Trabson hill. It was easier going down. I am sorry it took so long to get back to you, but my in-laws came in for a visit and just left town.
You were surprised I lived in the hotel for so long, but believe it or not, it was under orders. Some people were expecting the base would be completed anytime, but the Turks were being paid by the day, so never have so few prayed to Mecca for so long. It took Tumpane & Company a long time to think about paying for each concrete block laid instead of daily wages. After that, those buildings went up fast.
I returned to the States for discharge and almost got extended and put in a WAF squadron at the port. I ended up discharging myself, but, that is another story. I got my BA, married an American girl our senior year in college, and ended up in Michigan for forty years and Florida for eleven. We returned to Michigan since we missed our grand kids. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had married my Scottish lass and reenlisted for the six years. By the way I turned down a chance for flight school and a job with NSA at graduation. I guess the Crypto clearance was still good after four years in school.
(23 Oct 2013)
Nice to hear from you again. I suggest you go to Lew Culkin's dissertation on his experiences in the service, in general, and Trabzon, in particular. He mentions the problem and states he was clean (meaning drug-wise). It has been so long so I take his word for it.
As for my discharge, I was coming home with less than 90 days left on my enlistment. I was asked if I wanted to serve it out in Libya' since it was on the way to Charleston' or did I want the discharge. That was a dumb question from Wing Hq. I hit Charleston thinking I would be gone in one day. How dumb could I have been. We were put out with the sticks and bags to police the base, just like basic training. The thing that bothered me, was seeing MSgts out there with us. One told me that he had enlisted in February 1940, was in the 8th Air Force in WWII, went to Korea, served eight years in SAC, and they gave him a stick. That killed any desire to reenlist for me. That night the Staff Sgt asked anyone if they could type. If so, one could report to the discharge office and work there. If one did volunteer, they would get out one day earlier. I knew not to volunteer for anything especially after raising my hand in Scotland. After thinking, I thought this was a snap assignment and the next morning, in my Class A's I reported. Imagine my surprise! It was a WAF squadron with 62 WAFs and a poor Captain that must have screwed up somewhere. My boss was a WAF about 65 years old. Someone told me she had been in since the First World War.
The job was simple.”I just had to cut discharge orders and arrange with Finance for their back pay and travel pay. After not being around women for a year, I had a good time at lunch and in the evening. After eight days, I saw I was cutting orders on guys that arrived with me. I complained to a SSgt I was dating after work and she told me that the MSgt had asked the Capt. if she could extend me for six months. The Capt told her he didn't have a problem but he had to get the Colonel to agree since I served two isolated tours. The very next morning, I put my name in the middle of the discharge orders, waited until the MSgt left the room, and asked the Captain to please sign them for me. I then called Finance and told them to prepare my pay and I would stop in during lunch. I then ran to transit, got my duffle bag, hit Finance, got a cab to the airport, and was boarding a plane to Nashville at 1:00 just as I was supposed to return from lunch. I then worried for two months, the Air Police would show up at our house to get me. I had planned to plead insanity at my court martial if there was one. I felt I could beat it if I could get one of the people we had sent home for excessive alcoholism or the two we sent home for mental problems as witnesses. Needless to say, I worried needlessly. Someone must have taken pity on me at the WAF Sq. I suspect the Capt. didn't want to look foolish. He looked silly enough being SQ commander for all those women. That is how I almost became a WAF and I did a stupid thing. I would have agreed to serve the 48 days left but not six months involuntarily extension.
In closing, I served with a SSgt in Trabzon that served TDY in Samsun. He thought everything was better there than Trabzon. He too lived in the hotel with the rest of us waiting for the mountain barracks to be completed. He also had the iodine water, the crust with goat meat, and hopefully lived a long life. I am now 73, just celebrated 50 years of marriage, still have my hair, but I think I sometimes glow in the dark. It must have been the DDT on the sheets. It was interesting,but I should never have volunteered in Scotland. Please don't discuss the black market in Trabzon. I would hate to see anyone in Levenworth during their senior years, but it happened during the years before the completion of the base. By the way, I assume you are living in Knoxville. My dad died there at the Baptist Hospital after he retired to Gatlinburg. [Yes Richard, I live in Knoxville, TN. George, Webmaster.]
(31 Oct 2013)
[Dick and I have been discussing my recent stay in the hospital, where I underwent surgery to remove what was thought to be a malignant tumor in my right lung. After getting "sliced and diced" and having the upper lobe of my right lung removed, it was discovered that the "mass" was scar tissue from an earlier bout with pneumonia, viral pneumonia which I had while stationed at Mainsite, Karamüse, TUSLOG 3, in 1963. Below is Dick's latest reply and some more thoughts on his USAF career.]
I received your email concerning your return from the hospital. I am so glad the prognosis was so good. When you mentioned you had smoked for 60 years, I quite honestly wrote you off. My uncle was a very good customer of Lucky Strikes for about the same length of time you smoked and he was dead about 90 days after he left the hospital. I am glad your family will have you around for many more years.
Stumbling on to your site has really gotten me to thinking about things I had pushed out of my mind. I think if I had been at Hq USAF, Fort Meade, or had just stayed in Kirknewton, I would have had a different attitude today. While I feel I made a difference on Crete and at Trabson, I wish it could have been more. I did get a good education from the training I received, the friendships I made and the countries I saw. I know Sinop, Samsun, and Trabzon were extremely valuable at the time but I am sure our bases are gone today. [Note from George: The buildings at Samsun are still there, but now belong to a school. Map Coordinates: 41.307834,36.32514.] I have done a lot of traveling since I got out of college, and, thank heaven, it wasn't on C-47's, C-119's or a C-54. Every base I was stationed at, has been abandoned by our government. I was given a personal tour of the base at Iraklion, Crete, by a General in the Greek army. The Europeans built hotels right up to the fence and main gate, and our antenna field became a tourist attraction. The General told me that he was hoping the U.S. would give his army the base. Since it has been vandalized, I guess we have contributed to blight on a beautiful island. He did tell me we built a new base on the other end of Crete. He said they were spying on the Middle East. I see that was a big secret.
About 25 years ago, I took my wife to Scotland. I wanted to see Kirknewton and she wanted to go to the Pringle cashmere factory at Inverness. On the first morning, I was on the street at 0600 to get a cab out to the base. On the way, the driver told me the Yanks had left a long time ago and the Queens Guards were now running the base. On arrival, I got out, and immediately got challenged by a sentry with an automatic weapon. He yelled for the Sergeant Major and he showed up with his Major in tow. I explained that I had been stationed there in 1958-59 and thought the U. S. still maintained the base. He seemed to be thrilled that I was standing there and insisted on giving me a tour. George, I swear to God that it was like going into the Twilight Zone. Nothing , with the exception of the antenna field disappearing, had changed. The mess hall was just as I remembered and our HQ was just as it was, but now it's their HQ. I asked to see my old barracks and neither men knew what I was talking about. I told them a barracks was the building where we slept. The Major told me the correct terminology was "my hut". Our "hut" was built in 1938 for the RAF and was nothing but a tar paper shack with a pot belly stove at each end. When the Major took me in, every guy in there went to attention. I showed them where my bunk was in 1958-1959, and I think the bunk I saw was the same one I slept in 30 years earlier. I told the Troopers that we used to think it should be torn down. One of those tall guys said, "That is funny, me mate and I said the very same thing last night". The officer jumped down the poor man's throat for talking at attention. After we got outside, I asked the Major not to give the kid any trouble since I started the conversation. He said he had already forgotten the matter. He apparently yelled to let everyone know who was in charge. [Kirknewton is now home to No. 661 Volunteer Gliding Squadron.]
I have been to Istanbul three times, but never tried to go to Trabson since the Pentagon told me the base had been closed for years. It was just as well. You can never go home again. Libya, Crete, Scotland, and Turkey all gone. I guess I was the original kiss of death.
Thank you George for helping the men who gave at least four years of their lives, to share their experiences, good and bad. These same men placed their lives on the line because we were targets number one with the Russians. I can speak with personal knowledge, that since we were minutes from Russian paratroopers, the commanding Turkish General had orders to make sure no Americans in Trabzon would be taken alive and our compound would be wiped out. Then these same men returned to their home towns to be turned away by the American Legion, because we didn't serve in wartime. They should tell that to the men who were shot down by the Russians. I once had a dispute with a local American Legion Post Commander who asked me for a sizable donation. Apparently his post had serious financial problems. I asked him what he did in the service. He said he had been drafted and had been a cook at Fort Hood Texas for two years. He proudly exclaimed that the mess sergeant told him he made the best oatmeal on the post. I know the army travels on its stomach, but for him to tell me that we were not eligible for membership because we were never placed in danger really ticks me off. His post was later dissolved for lack of money. To A2C Robert Moore of Monroe, LA, a friend of mine for ten days, who was so happy to get on flying status and was going to get $50.00 a month more than me, God bless you. May God bless the other crew members of the plane shot down by the Russian Air Force. Bob, you only got four months or $200.00. Perhaps you should have stayed on the ground in Germany. If you had survived, the American Legion in Monroe, would have rejected you, because you served in peacetime.
I am sorry I have rambled George, but you have brought these thoughts to the surface. I am thrilled you have dodged a bullet. I hope you have many years ahead of you and please live each day to the fullest.
(07 Nov 2013)
[Dick had a tour in Crete before his Kirknewton tour and his subsequent tour to Trabzon. He doesn't state what unit he was with, but it may have been one of the USAFSS Radio Groups Mobile at Iraklion.]
In Crete, there were many very attractive girls. Every night, the families would put on their Sunday best and show off their daughters by walking up and down the streets. They called it the "promenade". Some guys would join in hoping to get an introduction, while the majority sat on the sidewalk cafes grading the young talent. Those men who would make the plunge created a situation for themselves and for USAFSS. These young kids couldn't speak Greek and the girls thought English was only for a Englishman. After all, the Brits were there before the Germans drove them out in 1940. The girls wanted to learn American English since we were there then. Their families seemed to want American sons-in-law so that their daughters could go to the land of the big BX and drive a car like Doris Day.
Once the introductions were made, a date was arranged. The young Morse Intercept Operators (while it was usually them), were always a mystery to me. Maybe Keesler taught this as part of their training. Our young airman would make his appearance with his flowers and off the couple would go on their hot date with her mother, father, sisters, and sometimes Grandma following. Remember, no one could communicate. If young Romeo liked her, he would return for more of the same. At the second date, his OIC had to get the name of the girl, the name of her family, and their address. The CO would get the info and then I got to go to the Greek police to check out the family. It seems 40 percent of the inhabitants favored the Communist party at that time, and the Colonel wanted to keep our men Democrats & Republicans. Of course, he thought our guys could be compromised. If they came up Red, you can imagine what the CO told the kid. One time the Greeks told me the family was Communist, but were not very good ones. They only turned out on May 1st to celebrate. When I told the boss that the girl was not a red, but was only a weak shade of pink, I thought he would kill me on the spot. A red was a red and there was no pink. I always worried about the veracity of those cops.
If the family was clean, the dates continued normally with eventually only mother coming along. One jerk stuck it out until one day only a cousin showed up. It appears the cousin was in need of money, so she sold out the family for $1.00 each date. The cousin became wealthy by Greek standards, while the girlfriend got pregnant. One night I was on the bus to town, and there was a huge bonfire at the gate with a large group of men with pitchforks. One of them got on the bus with some old blunderbuss looking for lover boy. I got off the bus after the inspection and went to dependent housing to see the CO. He had found out about it a few hours earlier and had authorized the searches. He did not know about the gun and he went back to the gate to revise the rules. I guess it was alright to board the trucks and the bus with a pitchfork but not a gun. This stuff went on for weeks. I really do not know anyone that supported the airman. We wanted to feel welcomed by our hosts, not given dirty looks. Our dependent wives were really angry about this. They wanted a shotgun wedding. The Greek liaison couldn't guarantee our lover's safety. He thought the family would kill him before the cake was cut. The boss took his responsibility seriously to protect the lives of those who served under him, but at the same time, I know the gold star in his future was flying off into the sunset. He ordered me to go to our embassy in Athens to discuss the problem with the Ambassador. I got as high as a third or fourth deputy, who packed his bag, most likely with money and flew back with me on the mail plane. The next thing I was told was that our bad boy had been stuffed in a mail sack and sent off to Libya. The family kept showing up checking our trucks in and out, so I guess money did not change hands. I asked the Lt. Col. a month later what really happened. He told me if I liked my stripes never ask the commander about it again.
Somewhere in Crete walks a half Greek and half American. I wonder if this person suffered abuse in school by classmates and if the mother and family were cast out by relatives and neighbors. I know it could not be done, but perhaps our dependent wives were right, throw the guy to the family and hope for the best. It might have worked out for everyone.
Your next bedtime story will be about 600 men being congratulated by the Commanding General of USAF Medical Services from the Pentagon. It seems Iraklion, Crete, did something that has never been seen anywhere else in the world. At least the record stood in 1958.