Monday, March 14, 2016

1963- Chapter 6- Merhaba Y'all

  It was good to be home even if it was just for a few weeks. I love Tennessee in the late Spring and Oregon can't compare in my book. All too soon my leave was over and my departure date of May 31, 1970 arrived. Orders called for me to fly from Nashville to New York on American Airlines, From there I would fly Pan American to Istanbul with layovers in London and Frankfort. At Istanbul I would change to Turkish Airlines and fly into Adana Turkey, with a layover in Ankara. Adana is the home to Incirlik AFB. There I would process into Tuslog Detachment 93, which would be my duty station for the next year. After processing in at Incirlik I would fly military aircraft to Erhac AFB near Malatya Turkey. Sounded simple enough to me. My heart was heavy as I packed to leave that morning. Debbie drove me to the airport where I kissed her and Robbie goodbye. I boarded the plane and through my tears I could see Debbie waving from the observation deck while Robbie played near her feet, unaware of what was going on. For a one year old he was big for his age. I arrived at New York's LaGuardia airport where I took a bus over to JFK. I never expected to see a Pan Am 747 jumbo jet waiting there on the ramp. These planes had only been in service for about a month. I was assigned a seat in the middle aisle but I couldn't see out of the windows. My flying companions were a woman and a little boy that were also on their way to Turkey. The lady was to meet her Air Force husband there. The take-off went well and the weather was good. I talked to the lady for about forty-five minutes or so. After a while I fell asleep, which is unusual for me since I am a nervous flyer. How long I was asleep, I don't know. I was sleeping so soundly that I didn't feel the plane shudder or hear the explosion in the number four engine. Awakened by something, I gradually became aware of passengers in the window seats to my left nervously looking out of the windows. Passengers from the middle seats were standing in the aisle looking low over their shoulders. My lady friend told me that there was a loud bang. The pilot's voice suddenly came over the intercom. "Ladies and gentlemen we are shutting down our number four engine and will be returning to New York. Our estimated time of arrival will be one hour and fifteen minutes. For safety reasons we will be dumping fuel". Trying to appear brave in front of the lady my heart was pounding out of my chest. The flight attendants were walking through the plane turning off all lights.  Except for the aisle lights, which was to conserve power. It was night and the plane was dark. The passengers were whispering that a woman had passed out in the rear of the plane. After what seemed like an eternity, the hour and fifteen minutes passed but there was no sign of New York. The pilot came on the intercom again and said that it would be another 15 minutes. I was getting worried by this time. The tail of the plane was very low and it reminded me of the listing deck of a sinking ship. Our pilot made at least two more announcements that the landing would be delayed. The lights of New York finally came into view but the tail was still drooping. Just before touchdown the pilot leveled the plane and made a perfect landing. The passengers erupted into cheers and applause and a tremendous wave of relief swept over me as I watched the red and blue lights of the fire trucks and emergency vehicles racing out to meet our plane on the taxiway. After reaching the terminal I spotted a stewardess crying and being comforted by another stewardess as we were filing out of the plane.


    I was terrified at the thought of getting back on another plane. This was probably the closest I ever came to going AWOL. It took all the courage that I could muster but I stayed. I felt like the frightened Confederate soldier at the battle of Stones River. While under heavy fire in the cotton field near the Nashville Pike he saw a frightened rabbit scamper past him toward the safety of the rear. He shouted "Run cottontail. I'd run too but I have a reputation". This unplanned layover gave me one last chance to talk to Debbie before I boarded the plane. This would be the last time I would talk to her for a long time. It was unsettling to learn that we were boarding the very same plane. After boarding we were fed while mechanics repaired the broken engine. It took several hours and the plane was hot without air conditioning. We were finally given the green light and it was off to London again. This time the flight was very routine. After a nine hour flight we landed at Heathrow Airport way behind schedule. Instead of the Pan American Airlines plane that I was originally scheduled for I boarded a Turkish DC-9. As soon as I walked on the plane I smelled the country of Turkey. It had a unique smell that I could never put my finger on. I smelled it the entire time I was in country and it wasn't a pleasant smell. We flew to Zurich Switzerland and then on to Istanbul, landing there around midnight. It was very late at night but the airport was crammed with people and was old and dingy. It reminded me of a scene from a movie. As I walked toward customs people were waving and hanging over railings in the upper levels of the airport. Some of the women in the airport were dressed in mini skirts, which were popular at the time in western countries. Others were dressed in the Hijab, which was a Muslim woman's modest dress. More specifically, it was a square or rectangular piece of fabric which is folded, placed over the head, and fastened under the chin as a head scarf. The woman's face is exposed. Then there was the more fundamental Niqab which is a face veil worn by some Muslim women which may or may not leave the eyes uncovered. Turkish men either wore western style clothing or what we called (Seven Day Shitters). The Turkish name for these pants were salvar, pronounced (shalvar).They were very baggy in crotch and they usually reached just below the knees. Men that wore these were more prevalent in Eastern Turkey. M.C. Hammer popularized them in his music videos in the 1980's. Most men also wore mustaches and smoked god awful cigarettes that stunk to high heaven. Turkey was the most progressive of Muslim countries at the time. This was because of Kemal Ataturk who was the father of the modern Turkish state. He was a military hero that defeated the British at the battle of Gallipoli in WW1. Turkey was an ally of Germany. However the British destroyed the old Ottoman Empire in WW1 and all that was left of it, after the Versailles treaty, was Turkey. The Ottoman Empire had been referred to as the "Sick man of Europe" before the war. Ataturk ended Sharia Law and secularized the country. His goal was to westernize Turkey and bring it into the twentieth century. After WW2 Turkey and Greece became a crucial front in the Cold War and the containment of the Soviet Union. Britain had been their primary defensive partner after WW2 but the war had nearly bankrupted the UK. This is when president Truman developed the Truman Doctrine in 1947 and established American military bases in Greece and Turkey. It is my understanding that since the rise of radical Islam Turkey is now moving in a more fundamentalist direction today.
Turkish DC-9

Kemal Ataturk

The Hijab
The Niqab
salwar pants or (Seven Day Shitters)

  There was a crowd of young boys and men that swarmed around me jabbering in Turkish. I couldn't understand what they were saying but I soon realized that they were wanting to carry my duffel bag. Not knowing any better I let a boy carry my bag a few steps toward customs where he set it down. He then asked for fifty cents. I learned real quick to carry my own bags. Being in uniform late at night in a foreign airport was pretty overwhelming for me. Just then I saw two black Airmen standing on the other side of the airport terminal. I walked up and introduced myself. They were as happy to see me as I was to see them and the three of us decided to hang out together. They were also on their way to Incirlik. From the time I arrived in Istanbul it was space available on Turkish Airlines from that time on. We needed three seats to Ankara and we kept getting bumped. When it became obvious that we weren't going to get out of Incirlik that night we found a hotel room. It was hard to sleep because I heard car horns blowing all night long. For Turkish drivers a red light was more of a caution light than a stop light. They would lay on the horn as they ran the light. In essence they were saying, watch out, here I come. For most of the next morning we kept getting bumped. We decided to look for the American consulate. The taxi's didn't have meters and you would negotiate with the driver on the fare. At the consulate they were friendly but were no help. After returning to the airport we managed to get a hop on an Air Force C-130 that was leaving for Ankara that afternoon. We arrived in Ankara and again we could not find a connecting flight. At the airport we ran into a white Captain and MSgt, who were from Ohio. They were also headed to Incirlik. Ankara is the national capital of Turkey and is located in the western part of Turkey but more centrally located. We found a hotel across from the American Embassy that had broken windows from an anti-American demonstration earlier that day. The hotel only had two rooms available for the five of us. There was just one double bed in each room. We decided to grab a drink before bedding down for the night. There was a smoky bar nearby and it was packed with Turkish men. My companions ordered beer and I ordered a coke. The waiter brought me a coke in a bottle that was already open. We walked back to the hotel and I was feeling fine until I put my foot on the bottom step of the stairs leading up to our room. The room began spinning and I fell against the wall, clinging to the handrail. I thought that I was going to pass out and a wave of panic swept over me. I wondered if someone had drugged me at the bar. Each time I took a step I felt like I was walking on mattresses. The others noticed me lagging behind as I slowly made my way up the stairs and asked if I was okay. I followed the two black Airmen into their room and the MSgt and Captain called me over to them. In a low voice the MSgt asked me why I was wanting to sleep with the Airmen. He said "Are you sure you want to sleep in there?" I was promoted to E-4 at Kingsley, which was three stripes. Because of my rank I felt it was more appropriate that I sleep with them. The Sergeant kept shifting his eyes toward their room and told me that he thought I should stay with them. It finally occurred to me that he didn't think I should be sleeping with these guys because they were black. This made me more determined than ever and I walked right into their room. I closed the door and layed down in the middle of the bed. The bed was not that big and it was a tight fit. I didn't care because I was feeling so bad and I slept pretty sound. The next morning at breakfast the MSgt and Captain weren't talking very much and they left after breakfast. The rest of us took a taxi back to the airport where we waited all day until about 7:00 PM that night. We were finally able to board a Turkish Airlines F-27 to Incirlik A.F.B. in Adana Turkey.
Turkish Airlines F-27
  Incirlik was the largest American Air Force base in Turkey and is still a vital American base today. It was home to a squadron of F-4 Phantom's which were the most advanced fighters in the Air Force at the time. I would spend the next few days processing into TUSLOG Detachment 93, Erhac, which was a Turkish A.F.B. just outside of Malatya Turkey. The American Air Force in Turkey was under the command of USAFE or United States Air Forces In Europe. Incirlik was the lap of luxury compared to where I was going. It was an 18 month assignment for single Airmen and a two year assignment for the Airmen who brought their wives and dependents with them. Erhac was remote and wives or dependents weren't allowed to go there. It was a one year assignment. Incirlik had a nice Base Exchange, Commissary, hospital, theater, miniature golf course, recreation hall, NCO club, Officers club, and chow hall. They even had horse back riding. I rode horses a lot when I was a teenager and rode them at Incirlik but I haven't been on a horse since. After a couple of days of processing I was cleared to leave for Erhac. Mike Cannon and myself were processed in together. We had been stationed together at Kingsley Field and our orders were identical. Mike was from Los Angeles and was a very quiet and decent guy. We were scheduled to leave for Erhac early in the morning and had breakfast together in the Incirlik chow hall. I ate a heavy breakfast of link sausages, eggs, toast, SOS or as G.I.'s called it (Shit on  a shingle) and pancakes. SOS was toast with creamed chipped beef poured over the top. It was one of my favorite dishes and nobody makes it like the Air Force. Being stationed in a cold climate all I had was long sleeved fatigue shirts. For whatever reason the plane ride to Erhac was like riding on a roller coaster. It was probably the roughest ride that I have ever had on an airplane and I have had some very rough rides. The weather was clear and the wind didn't seem to be blowing that hard. The plane would rise and dip like a ship on rough seas. It was a two engine prop job called a C-131 Samaritan. It is used for V.I.P.'s or as a medi-vac. In this case it was configured as a passenger plane. The air conditioning wasn't working and it was 125 degrees on the ground. After a few minutes I broke out in a cold sweat and was feeling very sick. I ran to the lavatory. Even though my stomach was full from breakfast I wasn't throwing up that much. It was more like the dry heaves. The lavatory was very small and it was all I could do to stay on my feet with the plane rocking and rolling as it was. Every time that the plane dipped my head slammed into the wall. Not only was I sick at my stomach but now I had a terrible headache. The dizziness that I experienced that night in Ankara was still with me and when I walked it was if I was stepping on mattresses. When we stepped off the plane in at Erhac I was barely able to stand. As we waited for a vehicle to take us to the Detachment I could see the heat rising in waves off of the asphalt. For about three days I could barely get out of bed between the dizziness and nausea. I was able to take a picture however just after arriving at the Detachment. There are four Security Policemen in the picture. From left to right was a guy from Houston Texas whose last name was Carter. I can't remember the second guy's name. The third man was my friend Mike Cannon, and the last man was a guy named Rogers from Memphis Tennessee. Because of the heat we were allowed to wear our tan 1505's. Whenever wearing the OD green fatigues we were allowed to wear our shirt tail out. I weighed 220 pounds when I touched down at Erhac. By the time I left one year later I only weighed 175 pounds. This was because I was frequently sick with diarrhea. Troops today are able to avoid sickness by drinking bottled water. Doc Swope, our medic,  kept the water chlorinated but in my case it didn't help much.  

The F-4 Phanton
The C-131 Samaritan
Turkey in relation to other countries in the Middle East and Incirlik AFB

TUSLOG Detachment  93 at Erhac AFB was just outside of Malatya

Man on the left is Carter, 2nd man I cant remember, the 3rd man is Mike Cannon, and the 4th is Rogers. This is the 1st picture that I took in Turkey.
  The (Hog) as we affectionately called Detachment 93, was a godforsaken place to be stationed. I realize that I could have been stationed in a much worse place like Vietnam or Thule Greenland but I hated almost every minute that I was stationed there. Erhac was a Turkish AFB and our Detachment was mostly made up of Turkish facilities. With the exception of our recreation hall, the motorpool, and the trailers that made up our dispensary and NCO club. The base was fundamentally set up like Kingsley but with a few vital differences. Our mission was to guard the American nuclear weapons that were uploaded on Turkish F-100 fighters. These nukes were at least three times bigger than our Genie tactical nukes at Kingsley. Because of their size they were strategic rather than defensive and were meant for targets in the Soviet Union. Our primary posts were the Alert Area and the Nuclear Storage Area. Central Security Control or CSC was in the storage area. Everything else was handled by the Turkish security forces. The perimeter of the storage area and alert area was guarded by Turkish Airmen armed with rifles, sub-machine guns, and K-9 patrols. There were four barns in the alert area and each one had a Turkish F-100 uploaded with a nuke. On one side of each barn was a guard shack the size of a telephone booth for the American guards and an identical shack on the other for a Turkish guard. When we were posted we had to walk through a large Turkish security building where guards would check our badges. The storage area had a large building where two American Security Policemen controlled entry into the area. Only Americans were allowed around the nukes which were housed in bunkers on the inside of the storage area. Most nuclear storage areas in the Air Force had electrical sliding gates controlled from a panel inside the gate house. In Turkey the gates were secured by large master locks and we carried the keys. We were told that our Detachment building had been built in WW1. I don't know if this was true but it was a large, old, and dilapidated building. It was on the opposite side of the base from the Alert and Storage areas. Our barracks were in the Detachment building, along with various offices including our Detachment commander's office who was a Lt. Colonel. Our chow hall was also in this building. Lower ranking Airmen were assigned to four man rooms and higher ranking to two man rooms. It was nearly impossible to take a shower during the day or early in the evening because the water pressure was so low. The best time to take a shower was after midnight. Many times you would be all soaped up and the water would cut off. After playing basketball, football, or softball in the heat we would get dirty and smelly. Sometimes we would have to wait for hours to get a shower.


A Turkish F-100 Fighter


  When I arrived at the Hog I was shocked to learn that Mike Cannon and myself were going to be Flight Chiefs. The Security Police unit had two SSgt's and one MSgt. The MSgt's name was Buddy Wright and he was our NCOIC of Security. The two SSgt's were Flight Chiefs but we had four Flights. Since Mike and I were Buck Sergeants and the next highest in rank, we were given command of the other two Flights. I got off to a terrible start as a Flight Chief. My first night on duty was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. It was a midnight shift and I drove my men out to the nuclear storage area for Guard mount. On the way I had my first encounter with the Turkish Security forces. Each night we were given a color code. It was the basic colors like red, green, blue and yellow. We would slip a colored disc over the lens of a flashlight before being posted. At some point on the way out to the storage area we would be challenged by two Turkish Airmen carrying old Springfield bolt action rifles. When American Security Policemen challenged someone it would be at port arms. The Turks would point their rifles straight at you and you would be looking down the business end of a rifle. One of us would point our flashlight with the designated color code at the guards. Thankfully, we always had the right color.  I was always a little nervous around Turkish Airmen because it was like they were never trained in weapons safety the way we were. On duty sometimes I would see the Turks carelessly handling their weapons After reading the duty roster and passing along information to my men I posted them in the storage area Then I drove the rest of them out to the alert area. If there is such a thing as Attention Deficit Disorder, I have it. I was still homesick and had a lot on my mind. Once I dropped my men off I was supposed to wait for the men that were being relieved, outside of the alert area. From there I would drive them to the storage area, pick these men up, and take them back to the barracks. Deep in thought, I drove all the way back to the barracks alone. When I arrived an Airman was waiting for me in front of the Detachment. He had a big grin on his face as he told told me, "I think that you forgot something". It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized that I had forgotten the men. Luckily they were good natured about it and we all had a good laugh. They never let me live it down though.
This is me at port arms in the Nuclear Storage Area at Erhac 


  I knew from the start that we wouldn't be Flight Chiefs very long. We were only filling in until the new SSgt's arrived. I was Flight Chief for about a month but after they arrived I was bumped down to Assistant Flight Chief. I became assistant to a Flight Chief who happened to be black. He was never very talkative and I knew very little about him. I tried to establish a rapport with him but he would not talk to me unless it had to do with work. It was a very chilly relationship. From the start I was being posted in the alert area and I was never posted at the storage area, which was a better post. Then I began to notice that my name was last on the duty roster. As assistant I should have been listed second, behind the flight chiefs name. Everyone else was listed by their rank but my name was just Segroves. It didn't take me long to realize that I was being disrespected. At that point I had no idea why I was being treated like this because I had never mistreated this guy in any way. I have never liked confrontation but I don't appreciate being bullied either. There had to be a day of reckoning and soon. One midnight shift I decided that I would confront him as we were being posted in the alert area. I waited until everyone left the truck, except him and me. He was driving and I was in the passenger seat. I looked over at him and said "I don't know why you don't like me but if you don't start treating me better I am going over your head". As I stepped out of the truck with my rifle and alert bag I said, "Oh, by the way, I want my name and rank in the appropriate place on the duty roster when I come to work tonight". He came unglued and started screaming at me with every curse word he could think of. As I walked toward the gate house he jumped out of the truck and was screaming at me every step of the way out to my post. The Turkish guards were looking at him like he was crazy. I never said another word to him and I sat down in my gate shack with him hovering over me. He told me that he had better not come out on post check and catch me doing anything wrong. I was scared that he was going to shoot me. The Sgt stormed off and before he was even out of the area I was on the phone to the CSC dispatcher. I had him connect me with MSgt Wright. It was late and I woke Wright up. To that point I never cared much for him. He seemed to be arrogant and I thought that he would be upset because I woke him up. Instead he seemed very sympathetic and heard me out when I told him how I was being treated. The next day he sent word to me that I was being transferred to another Flight. The Flight chief was also black but we got along very well.

  For a while after this experience I couldn't understand why I had been treated so badly by this black sergeant. I was venting to a friend one day when he stopped me. "Greg, think about it, you have a Confederate flag on your wall". Until that moment I was pretty naive about the Confederate flag and how controversial that it was. I never really connected it to slavery or racism. I was just proud of being a Southerner and I wanted people to know where I was from. On our honeymoon I had bought a 3x5 Confederate battle flag at Six Flags Over Georgia. That flag went everywhere that I went while I was in the Air Force. I suddenly remembered the first day that I had met a black Airman from Memphis whose last name was Rogers. He had walked into my room after I hung the flag on my wall. Rogers asked if I was a Rebel. I said no, I'm just proud to be from the South. Apparently the word got around quick among the Black Airman that I had a Confederate flag.This made perfect sense. I now understood why the Sergeant didn't like me. In 1970 the Martin Luther King message, of non violence, was wearing pretty thin with many Black people. Especially Northern Blacks. There was the Black Power movement and the rise of black militancy. It was common to see young Airmen greet each other with the Black Power clenched fist salute. There was an irritating defensiveness that whites had to deal with. Being from the South I always addressed men my own age as boy. I never called an older white man or black man boy. Whenever I would see a friend I might say "Hey boy how are you doing?" or "Hey boy whats up?" Many young blacks would respond with "You must have said Lee Roy, there ain't no boy here". Their defensiveness was irritating because I meant no ill will. When blacks accuse me of racism it is both irritating and funny at the same time for me. I was never raised to be prejudiced and when many of my friends were I resisted the peer group pressure. I can't tell you how many times I was called a "Nigger lover" because I defended Martin Luther King and I was in favor of Civil Rights. The issue that really got me into trouble was interracial dating and marriage. I have always been in favor of it and there have been several times in my life that I thought that I was going to get my butt whipped for defending it. However the first time that I ever witnessed a mixed race couple was at Incirlik AFB. I must admit that it took a little getting used to. My father-in-law was never crazy about me and I think that it was mainly over my racial views. All racism and bigotry is bad, regardless of the race that espouses it. This Black sergeant treated me in the same way that he had probably been treated many times in his life. He judged me before he came to know me. I was judged because of the color of my skin, the region that I was from, and on the basis of a colored piece of cloth rather than the content of my character. The irony of the whole thing was that this same sergeant, although we never became what I would call close friends, warmed up to me and actually became friendly toward me before he left to go back to (The World) which was GI terminology for the United States. I had many Black friends in Turkey and after a while they began to realize that I was just a (Good Ole Boy). I doubled down on my flag and it was always hanging over my bed.
    
   We had regular floor shows in our chow hall and on our patio about twice a month. The chow hall was our largest room but it had terrible acoustics. These floor shows were usually British. One or two were German while I was there. Before each show we had a tradition of initiating the new members of the Detachment with the following chant. ( You, you, fuck you). Because of the language I never participated but Mike Cannon and myself had to endure this welcome when we first came to Erhac. Every week five current movies were flown into the Detachment. Each night after supper a bed sheet was hung from the wall and a movie was shown on a 16 millimeter projector. Because the chow hall was hot and the acoustics were so bad we began watching movies on our patio. We also started having many of our floor shows there or in the recreation hall. During a movie, if there was a nude scene, the projector operator would run the the scene over and over or freeze the frame to the boisterous cheers of the men. By the weekend the projector operator would replay the more popular movies of the week. If the weather was bad and our plane couldn't land the movies would get pretty old after a while. Our food was excellent. One thing that I can say about a remote assignment is that you are fed very well. We had steak at least twice a week and we were served four meals a day. An American civilian ran our chow hall and his cooks were Turkish. We had a recreation hall that had two pool tables, a ping pong table, and a foosball machine. The NCO Club was a large trailer and the only place in the Detachment with air conditioning. Needless to say I spent a lot of time there. We also had several slot machines in the NCO Club and I saw men blow their entire paycheck in those things. Beyond the occasional floor show, movies, recreation hall and NCO Club there wasn't much to do at Erhac. The men who drank did plenty of that. Since I didn't drink I put many of these guys to bed or helped them walk it off.
Me standing outside of the recreation hall

A British performer in one of our floor shows


  Debbie and I wrote each other everyday while I was in Turkey. I felt very fortunate because I saw the look on many of my friends faces who rarely got letters from home or heard from their wives and girlfriends. G.I.'s today are very fortunate to have cellphones and computers. This makes it possible to communicate instantly with their loved ones. We had no way to communicate except by letter. There were only two ways to hear Debbie or Robbie's voice. Either by cassette tape or driving 150 miles over a dangerous two lane road which was narrow, curvy, mountainous, and barren to our radar site at Diyarbakir which was a three hour drive. I was able to make this trip four times during the year I was there. We could only do it on our 72 hour breaks and we never did it unless we could go as a group. It was dangerous to go alone or with just two or three men. Usually we left in a group of anywhere from six to eight men. Most of the time we drove a Dodge six pack or a mini bus and we would leave early in the morning. Along the way to Diyarbakir we passed a huge lake at Elazig. Next to Crater Lake Oregon this was the bluest water I have ever seen. The terrain around it was very brown and barren but the blue of the water really stood out. At some point we crossed over the Euphrates River and drove along it's banks. There was also a fascinating village that sat on the side of a mountain. You would see men squatting down on the side of the road in their salvars or (Seven Day Shitters) in the middle of nowhere. There was a high mountain range that we had to go over that had little or no guardrails. You would see the wreckage of trucks or vehicles that had gone over the side of the mountain. I had seen enough Turkish drivers to know that some of them drove crazy. They would sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road. On one of these trips I was driving and rounding a very sharp curve going over a mountain when I suddenly swerved over into the left lane. My intuition had been right  because a car was in my lane. God was with us. Another time we were riding in a mini bus and I was sitting in the last seat in the rear. It was in the winter and raining. The driver was driving like a maniac on curvy roads. I had warned him several times to slow down. Suddenly the mini-bus went into a spin and we made several revolutions in the middle of the road. Everything went into slow motion but finally the vehicle came to a stop. By the grace of God there were no cars coming in the opposite lane. I was wearing a parka and I covered my head as I bent down in the seat bracing for a crash. When the bus came to a stop I slowly raised my head over the back of the seat in front of me. Everyone was looking back at me. The driver asked me if I was okay. Sarcastically I asked him if he was okay. Since I was the ranking Airman in the bus I told him that if I he didn't slow down I would drive the rest of the way. He was very safe for the remainder of the trip. As we neared Diyarbakir the terrain became flat and desert like. Camels and sheep became more prevalent. Diyarbakir was a very sensitive radar site that was part of our Cold War early warning system. The Airmen that worked there bragged that they could hear the Soviet pilots brushing their teeth in the morning. Diyarbakir wasn't Incirlik but it was a larger Detachment than Erhac. The facilities were much better than ours. It had a nice chow hall, movie theater, bowling alley, NCO Club and a miniature golf course. In the middle of the Detachment was a huge stork nest on the top of a pole. The storks were the Detachments mascots. After arriving at Diyarbakir we would settle into the transient barracks. Then we would all schedule morale calls back home. Because of the time difference in the United States we had to schedule our calls in the very early morning hours. These calls had to be planned ahead. I would notify Debbie by letter when we were going to Diyarbakir. I didn't want to risk missing her after going to all that trouble. When our call went through the reception was horrible. We could barely understand each other. However it was worth hearing her voice. We would usually leave at some point the next day and return to Erhac. There were many Turkish people that were very nice to us but a few would show their outright hostility. Once on the way back from Diyarbakir we stopped to ask directions from a crowd of men standing by the side of the road. I was sitting on the passenger side as they walked up and one of the men flipped a lit cigarette and it landed in my lap. On another occasion we were fairly close to Malatya when a lamb ran in front of us and we accidentally ran it over. A crowd of people came running up and were jabbering excitedly in Turkish but we had no idea what they were saying. We were apologizing for hitting the lamb but we didn't feel like it was our fault. It didn't matter because they didn't understand us and we didn't understand them. We drove the rest of the way into Erhac. The next morning our interpreter called us together and told us that an angry group of farmers were at the main gate demanding payment for the lamb. Not wanting to create an international incident we took up a collection and payed the farmer who owned the lamb.
Pictures Debbie sent me while I was in Turkey






Writing a letter to Debbie

The Euphrates River

A bridge over the Euphrates



On the road to Diyarbakir


On the road to Diyarbakir


Mountainous area on the way to Diyarbakir





            

   One day I was working a day shift and at lunch time I drove over to the chow hall. I didn't understand the Turkish speed signs and I was driving too fast. The speed sign was in kilometers and had the number 30 on it. Until that time I just assumed that it was 30 miles per hour. Thirty kilometers is about 19 miles per hour. Suddenly a blue compact station wagon was closing in on me in my rear view mirror. A Turkish NCO was driving, small Turkish flags flying from the hood, and blue lights were flashing in the grill. I pulled over and a distinguished looking man in a flight suit got out of the back seat and walked up to me. In a very polite but firm voice officer told me, in perfect English, that I was speeding. I told him that I hadn't been in country long and didn't understand the road signs yet. I apologized for speeding and he told me to be careful and walked back to his car. Thinking that I had gotten off with just a warning, I drove to the chow hall. I was in the middle of my meal when our detachment commander walked into the chow hall. He asked " Is Sgt Segroves in here?" Our commander had a perpetual smile on his face but when I raised my hand the smile quickly transformed into a scowl. "Report to my office immediately". After reporting he gave me a royal butt chewing. The Turkish officer that had stopped me was not only the base commander but was a general. My colonel was more upset that I failed to show the proper military courtesy and rightfully so. I should have stepped out of the vehicle, saluted, and remained at attention until told to stand at ease. I didn't know who he was but I should have treated any officer with the same respect. It was one of the hard lessons that I have learned in life. The general was an accomplished fighter pilot. Many times he would fly down to Incirlik and borrow an F-4 Phantom from the Americans. It always seemed to be on those days that we had worked a midnight shift and were in a sound sleep. He would nearly take the roof off as he made a low pass over our barracks showing off in his F-4. We would almost jump out of our bunks. 

  It wasn't long after I arrived in Turkey that I learned about the compounds. Prostitution was illegal in Turkey, as it is in Nevada. However brothels were legal in Turkey. These brothels were run by the state through the prison system and they were referred to as the compound. I never visited one but a large percentage of our men did. Both single and married men. The closest that I ever got to one was on a trip to Diyarbakir. I was driving and the men wanted to stop at the Malatya compound. I parked in a dark and smelly alley while everyone else went inside. It was scary sitting there by myself but I never saw anyone. Supposedly doctors checked these women on a regular basis but one of our guys kept getting the clap or gonorrhea on a regular basis. The following is a personal account of an Airman's visit to a compound in the late 1960's. It is from a blog called (Mighty MacBuddha's McBlog)  

The Compound was pretty dark. The entry was a gate between two buildings, with a couple of guards manning the entry. Mostly they chased off kids, and turned back any women that might have wandered up. But mostly kids, who are pretty much kids, no matter where they are in the world.

Our group was pretty obviously all men, and we didn’t even get much of a cursory glance as we passed through the entryway.

The gate opened onto a one block street, walled over at the other end. There were a couple of low powered dim street lights casting a murky glow over the street. The three story apartments lining both sides of the street had light shining from all the curtainless windows, as well as through the open entry doors, so even though it was murky and dim, you could still see. Sort of like a carnival at night.

There were no automobiles parked along the street, but there were a couple of street vendors selling cashews and kebab. But that wasn’t why all these men were here, crowding the street. All the men were here because of what else was in all these rooms looking out on the street.

The windows had women looking out, and quite often, calling down to the throng. I’m pretty sure that I saw some boobies! Unfortunately/fortunately, I was a young, still idealistic kid, and these woman were “not beautiful.” Perhaps one or two out of the whole throng MAY have been noticeable, but that’s about it. No Turkish Delights here!.

But, what could I expect? This was a Turkish Women’s Prison/State Run Brothel. According to the old timers accompanying us, this was a program for some of the women prisoners to “work off” some time on their sentence! I actually saw an old fashioned shiny brass cash register right inside one of the entry halls!

I know that prostitution was illegal in Turkey, so I easily believed that the state might want to work out a deal with these prisoners. The way this was all set up, I really have to believe that participation in this “business” was voluntary, and probably made up of mostly arrested prostitutes.

Of course, there were many stories about the place, and more than likely, a couple of urban legends. I won’t go into them, some could be quite unsettling. However, according to “facts,” a prison doctor inspected the girls twice weekly.

  The above airman goes on to say that he changed his mind and didn't partake. While I was in Turkey we had a Turkish strip show that visited our Detachment. In the days before it arrived posters were hung of beautiful nude Turkish women all over our recreation hall. By the time the show arrived our young hormones were raging. I went out of curiosity more than anything because I had never been to a strip show. Our pool tables were transformed into a stage. Two plump middle aged women in mini-skirts danced seductively on our impromptu stage. After a while it became obvious that no clothes were coming off. These ladies looked nothing like the women in the pictures. The men began booing and hissing. The women continued to dance as the boos grew louder and louder. Finally, a Turkish man brought out a girl that looked no older than thirteen or fourteen. It wasn't long before she was totally nude and the men were laughing at her. She was flat chested and had no boobs. I was so disgusted at what was happening to this girl that I got up and walked back to my room. There would be three more of these shows before I left Turkey but I never attended another one.

  We would go into Malatya as often as we could but it was a thirty minute drive into town. There were many items that were popular with G.I.'s such as tapestries, camel saddles, puzzle rings, rugs, water pipes, etc. I bought a lot of tapestries and a few other things but I regret that I didn't buy more. Malatya was an ancient city dating back thousands of years.The Assyrians called the city Meliddu. I enjoyed sightseeing in the city and walking through the many shops. Whenever you walked into a shop the owner would run up to greet you and hospitality was part of the sale. Immediately they would offer you a chair and Turkish Chai or a Coke. Chai is Turkish hot tea and it is delicious. They served it in a small glass on a saucer with a spoon and sugar cubes. It came in regular or cinnamon. Every night the Turkish Airmen were regularly served chai and they would always offer it to us. Turks love to barter and you never pay the price marked on the item. The Turkish currency was called Lira. I don't know the exchange value of Lira to American currency today but our money was highly valued then. It was illegal but I could buy pretty much anything I wanted with a ten dollar bill. There was large Mosque in downtown Malatya. Although Turkey was the most secular Muslim country the Islamic religion was very visible. You regularly heard the call to prayer. If it was prayer time Muslims would bow down to pray in the fields or anywhere they were at. Our Turkish barber in the Detachment would pull out his prayer rug and pray right there beside the barber chair as I was getting a haircut.

Notice the classic cars



Turkish tapestries
Turkish tapestries


A camel saddle

Turkish puzzle ring

Puzzle ring disassembled


A Turkish shop

Water pipes
Turkish carpets

A Turkish bazaar
Turkish bazaar

Chai

Lira


  I had a friend from New York who was an American of Italian descent named Joseph. We met a Turkish Air Force officer who offered to give us a tour of Malatya. After walking around the city he took us to a ice cream parlor. It wasn't very big and the ice cream was made out of goats milk. It was nasty. While we were eating I got up to take a picture of Joseph and the officer. There was a man and his wife sitting at a table next to us. I was not pointing the camera at them but just as soon as I snapped the picture the man jumped up in a rage. He was in my face screaming in Turkish and I thought that he was going to hit me. Just then the officer jumped in between us and said something to him. The mans whole demeanor changed and he meekly walked back to his table and sat down. The military was respected and feared by the Turkish people and there had recently been a coup. Soldiers could be seen walking in pairs all over town carrying rifles and sub-machine guns. I can only imagine what could have happened if this officer hadn't been with us. We were warned to be careful when taking pictures, especially of women. I always asked permission before I took pictures of individual Turks. Most seemed to enjoy having their picture taken but a few would not give permission. While I was at Erhac I met a Turkish MSgt by the name of Hussein Guldur. He was a jet mechanic that worked on the F-100 fighters. Hussein would come by our barracks and we would talk about many things. He explained Turkish culture and traditions to me. Hussein asked about life in the United States and about my family. I gave him my address back home and he wrote to Debbie on several occasions. Over time I visited his home in Malatya at least three times while I was in Turkey. On one occasion I took a friend from South Carolina who played the guitar while I sang. My friend also played the guitar while Hussein played the lute, which is a popular instrument in Turkey. I still have a cassette tape of that day I spent with Hussein. He had a great family which consisted of his wife and three children which consisted of two boys and a girl. The Guldur's were very hospitable and fed us authentic Turkish food. One oddity of Turkish life was the toilets. It was a round ceramic hole in the floor with a place for your feet on either side. After setting your feet you would squat down over the hole. There was a sink and no toilet paper. I was told that the Turks wiped with their left hand and washed their hands in the sink. This was why we were told never to shake a Turks left hand. Hussein had one of these toilets and we called them bomb sights. I had a friend named Garland (Chet) Atkins. We nicknamed him Chet because he could play a mean guitar. One night just before dusk we set off for Hussein's house. There was only one road into Malatya and it was a narrow and curvy road. Along the way was a small Kurdish village. As we approached the village we noticed two Turkish men in civilian clothes standing in the middle of the road. They were waving for us to stop and one of the men had a rifle strapped over his shoulder. Beyond the men the road rose up and over a ridge. We didn't know who these men were and we weren't about to find out. Since we were not in a combat zone we were not allowed to be armed. I was driving and at the last moment floored it as we swerved to the shoulder of the road in order to avoid hitting them. Just as we passed I saw a flash and heard a gunshot. I looked over and saw Chet slumped over in the seat. Thinking that he had been shot I slowed almost to a stop and asked if he was okay. He looked over at me and said "Get the hell out of here". We were usually allowed to take the vehicles that nobody else wanted to drive to town. I was driving a ragged International Scout and even though I had the pedal to the medal it was struggling to get up and over that hill. We didn't say anything to Hussein about what had happened. Chet drove wide open all the way back to the base but this time it was without incident.      
My friend Joseph and the Turkish officer just before the man behind him got in my face.

The Turkish Officer that saved my butt at the ice cream shop


The Guldur famil
Hussein playing the lute
One of the nicer Turkish toilets similar to the one in the Guldur home

A Turkish toilet without a sink

A card and letter that Hussein sent to Debbie



Playing football in the Detachment



  About a month after I arrived at the Detachment my good friend Eric Erickson from Kingsley Field arrived. Eric was from South Dakota. He was quite but funny. Then there was Gaylon from Memphis. Altogether we had 9 men at one time from Memphis. As far as I know I was the only man from Nashville. My friend Garland (Chet) Atkins came to Erhac in the summer of 1970. We immediately hit it off because he was an amazing guitar player. I have always been a singer but I was too shy to sing in public. There were several guitar players in the Detachment but none of them held a candle to Chet. We spent hours jamming and singing and over time we put together a list of songs that we practiced continuously. The Detachment made plans to have a Christmas Eve show that would consist of music and a beauty pageant. Unfortunately the beauty pageant was a bunch of guys dressed in drag. I was going to sing for the country portion of the show and there would be a singer for the rock portion. We practiced songs like Wanted Man by Johnny Cash, Crystal Chandeliers by Charlie Pride, and sing Me Back Home by Merle Haggard. As usual we made a stage out of our pool tables. The show was opened with the beauty pageant, which was pretty funny. MSgt Brown, or (Bubbles Brown) won the pageant. By the time we got to the music portion of the show a good portion of the Detachment was pretty smashed. I opened the show singing Wanted Man with Chet playing lead guitar. During the middle of Sing Me Back Home, a fight broke out. Beer cans were flying but we kept on singing. Reminded me of the old westerns where the piano player keeps on playing while cowboys are fighting all around him. Our winter was short but cold. We even had a few snows and the deepest was maybe a couple of inches.
Garland (Chet) Atkins to my right and last name Carter to my left 

Garland Atkins, can't remember the guy in the middle and Eric Erickson

Bubbles Brown


Garland Atkins playing lead guitar to my right




  One thing that I was always afraid of while in Turkey was being arrested for something. Turkish prisons were notoriously bad. This was portrayed in the 1978 movie Midnight Express. A movie about the arrest and imprisonment of Billy Hayes, who was trying to smuggle 2 KG's of hashish out of Turkey in 1970, the same year that I was there. He served five years in prison and would have served a life sentence if he hadn't escaped. I was always afraid that someone would plant drugs on me or I would be arrested for a minor infraction. Their laws were weird. We had a Security Police SSgt that was arrested for DUI and running over a Turkish pedestrian. While he was out on bail and awaiting trial he went berserk in the barracks one night. He was a big barrel chested guy and all of a sudden started attacking people. Several men jumped on him and were trying to restrain him. I grabbed my nightstick because he was acting really weird. He would act crazy and then all of a sudden he would seem to snap out of it. The men, thinking he was okay, would release their grip. For a few seconds he would be rational and then start swinging again. They would grab him and this process was repeated several times. Our hallway was narrow and because of a heating unit we couldn't get him past it. Finally he calmed down and we were able to put him to bed without further incident. I always felt like he was faking it in the hope that the United States government would fly him out of the country. He was freaking out at the prospect of having to appear before a Turkish judge. Eventually he would have his day in court. Unbelievably he got off with just a slap on the hand. How this happened I don't know. Ironically he would become NCOIC of Security after Sgt Wright left.
I am standing with my Turkish houseboy next to the heating unit that gave us so much trouble
      Many times when GI's are stationed overseas the locals will hire themselves out to take care of the barracks or your living areas. Vietnam veterans would talk about their mama-sans that took care of their hooches or living areas. Being an Islamic country only men performed these duties. We paid them to keep our rooms clean along with the barracks common areas and latrines. For a fee they would also spit shine your boots. Their fee wasn't very much and it was well worth the money. My houseboy was a kid that took care of me and many of the men in the barracks. They ranged in age from teenagers to older middle aged men. After the New Year Mike Cannon and myself began planning a trip to Athens Greece. I was getting "short" which was GI slang for getting close to my redeployment date back to the "world". I have always been interested in history but I did not appreciate the historical past of Turkey. It was home to the ancient city of Troy. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The city of Istanbul was the ancient Roman city of Constantinople. Revelation's Seven churches of Asia Minor were in Turkey and it was the birthplace of the Apostle Paul. Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark landed after the great flood, was probably 200 miles east of Erhac. Cappadocia's underground cities were in Turkey. The battlefield of Gallipoli during WW1, and Topkap palace, which was home to the Ottoman sultans. There were also many Roman ruins. I was not aware of all of this. If I had been I would have visited some of these places on my 72 hour breaks. I now regret that I didn't. However I was very familiar with the historical importance of Athens Greece because of Nashville's own replica of the Parthenon and our nickname as the Athens of the South.

  Getting around the Middle East and Europe is pretty easy if you are willing to fly on just about any kind of military aircraft that has space available. On the morning of Friday February 26th 1971,we flew to Incirlik on a C-130. Most 130's carried a certain number of parachutes. I counted 14 but many times there were more passengers than parachutes. I always wondered who would get the parachutes if the plane went down. From Incirlik we boarded a C-131 Medi-vac which was a milk run. It seemed like we landed at every landing strip in Turkey and Greece to pick up patients. I learned to appreciate Air Force flight nurses as I watched them tending to passengers who were very sick. The whole plane was configured for stretcher bound patients and we sat in the few seats available in the rear. When we finally arrived in Athens I was ready to kiss the ground because we had been on that plane so long. We arrived on Friday night and checked into the transient barracks. I slept on a bunk bed that didn't even have sheets on the mattress. Before going to bed we ran into a friend who was a Security Policeman that we had been stationed with at Kingsley Field. The next day we took a taxi to a car rental place where we rented a VW Beetle. Not thinking, we filled the tank up. A Volkswagen will run forever on a full tank of gas and we were only going to be there for two days. We drove along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea killing time until we could check into the Hotel Sivilla. The hotel was nice and had been recommended to us. Although I didn't know it at the time the hotel was popular with many GI's because the housecleaning staff served both as maids and prostitutes. On Saturday and Sunday we toured Athens. The Acropolis was in the center of Athens. It is an amazing sight that could be easily seen from anywhere in the city. The ruins of the Parthenon was on Acropolis Hill. Athens is a beautiful and romantic city. All I could think about is how much I wished Debbie had been there to share the experience with me. The Sunday while I was there, February 28th, was my 21st birthday. Although Athens had been the scene of terrorist attacks against the American military, and Americans in general, I felt very safe there. I was struck by how many beautiful women there were in Athens. You would see them walking alone by themselves late at night without a care in the world. The weather was beautiful all weekend but on the Monday morning that we left it was dreary and rainy. We got a hop out on another C-131 that was configured this time for passengers. There must have been an in-flight emergency of some kind because one of the flight crew began searching around on the floor for something. Then he took out a pocket knife and cut a square hole in the carpet. He then reached down into the hole and seemed to be turning a valve of some kind. The plane never seemed to be in trouble but it didn't do much to calm my nerves about flying. We landed in Istanbul and from there we got a hop out on a C-130 late that afternoon. The plane made a stop in Ankara after dark. I thought that we landed there to pick up more passengers. The rear ramp of the plane was lowered and I noticed an Air Force ambulance backing up to the ramp. Thinking that we were about to take on a patient I was shocked to see a metal GI casket, without a flag, when they opened the rear doors of the ambulance. The casket was brought on to the plane and strapped down right between us. I later learned that it was the body of an Air Force Lt. Colonel who had been killed in a car wreck. He was being shipped home for burial.
C-131 Medi-vac 











    I was getting short after I returned to Erhac from my R&R to Athens. I had one more embarrassing moment when I got off a midnight shift and took the keys to the nuclear storage area back to the barracks with me. For about thirty minutes nobody could get in or out of the area. We had an ORI or Operational Readiness Inspection. An ORI was a regular inspection given at Air Force installations all over the globe to test their combat readiness. During the year the Turks never took care of their alert aircraft. We were tasked to guard the nuclear weapons uploaded on the Turkish F-100's. These aircraft would sit day after day in the stalls without attention and over time the aircraft would be covered in pigeon poop. There was no way the pilot could even see through canopy if they had to fly. These planes were supposed to be ready to fly in a matter of minutes and I doubt they could have even been started, much less fly. The ORI was a comedy of errors. The Turks cleaned their planes for the inspection. During a scramble one of the pilots ran to his fighter without his helmet and the truck that was supposed to start the fighters had to be boosted off. The Turkish Airmen had no concept of Two Man Concept or a No Lone Zone. I was pulling my hair out trying to enforce it. Nuclear weapons unlike conventional weapons have to be armed in order to explode. Some of the training we received at Erhac was different from any training I had ever received at Kingsley Field. We were trained to arm the nuclear weapons on the ground and also to destroy them if we had to. In order to arm them we used a device that reminded me of a car battery. There was a way to dial in eight numbers. We had four numbers and command post had the other four. In the event of war Command Post would give us their numbers and once we matched them with ours the weapon was armed. There was also the possibility that the Turkish government could be overthrown by a regime hostile to the United States. If that happened we were trained to blow up the weapons with TNT and plastic explosives. I hated demolition training. A block of TNT was rectangular and had a hole in one end. We were taught to place a blasting cap over the end of a waxed fuse. Then taking a pair of crimping pliers we would crimp the end of the blasting cap on to the end of the fuse. You were taught to do this holding the blasting cap behind your butt in order to minimize the chance of serious injury in the event that it exploded. I was sweating bullets while doing this. Then you would slide the blasting cap inside the block of TNT. The fuse was long and we had time to take cover before the TNT exploded. If your block of TNT failed to explode, you were required to buy EOD, (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) a case of beer. They would have to go back and disarm the TNT. We also trained with plastic explosives. It looked like putty. You would stick a blasting cap into the putty that had dynamite wire connected. Then you would use a detonator to send an electrical charge to the explosive. It was all dangerous work.
TNT and blasting caps

Crimping pliers 




  One day we went to the firing range and afterwards we were sitting in the Security Police trailer cleaning our M-16's. We were all having a good time shooting the bull and busting each others chops until the subject of music came up. Everyone started talking their favorite performer. About half of our group were Black Airmen. Someone said that they liked James Brown. One of our White guys was from Massachusetts and we called him pilgrim. He must have been so focused on cleaning his weapon that he totally forgot where he was. Pilgrim said "I don't like James Brown, he's a nigger". You could have heard a pin drop for a moment as everyone, black and white, looked at him in total shock. He suddenly raised his head with an (oh shit) expression on his face. Some of the black guys went into a rage and tried to get at him while others tried to get between them. He profusely apologized but it took a few minutes to calm everybody down. This is the bad thing about using racial slurs. They may come out accidentally at the wrong moment. I was working 1st shift in the Alert Area one day when I heard tires squealing. Being close to the end of the runway I could see a fighter leaving behind a cloud of smoke as the pilot was standing up in the cockpit trying to stop before he ran out of runway. The fighter had lost it's brakes and ran into a net at the end of the runway where it bounced backwards as if it had been shot from a slingshot. Fire trucks and an ambulance responded. The pilot was placed in the ambulance and taken to the hospital.
This is a restraining net landing on an aircraft carrier


  Wild dogs roam free in Turkey and they can be very vicious. We would see them along the side of the road sometimes. On at least two occasions we had to shoot them when they wandered into the Detachment. I saw a Security Police Sergeant empty his .38 into one and on another occasion he shot a dog nine times with an M-16 before it finally went down. There were some exotic insects and a few animals that we ran across over there. The ones that I remember the most was the huge green grasshoppers and scorpions. The grasshoppers were bigger and greener than anything that I have ever seen before. The scorpions were wicked looking and a reddish brown. I once captured one in an empty canteen that was crawling near my gate shack in the Alert area. After I got back to the barracks I put the canteen in my locker. I forgot about it and left it there about two weeks. One night I remembered that the scorpion was still in my locker. Thinking that it was dead I opened the canteen and dumped it out on the floor of my room, very much alive. Another day I was sitting on the end of a bunk in the motor pool shooting the bull with a bunch of my friends. Suddenly I noticed something on the toe of my combat boot. The guys scattered after I kicked it off my boot when I realized that it was a scorpion. There was a cracking and squishing sound as I stomped on it with the heel of my boot. TSgt (Doc) Swope was our medic. There was a trailer that served as our dispensary. He kept a big glass jar on his desk that was full of snakes, bugs, and scorpions preserved in alcohol. Some of the men got together one night and decided that it would be fun getting one of the nerdy guys in the unit drunk. All night long I could hear their raucous laughter and cheering coming from a room downstairs. Late that night a couple of these men half carried him up to his room because he was drunk as a skunk. I helped him into bed and no sooner than his head hit the pillow he felt sick. Needing to throw up, he ran down the hallway to the latrine. The houseboys usually left their brooms in the corner near the entrance. On this night the brooms had fallen and the handles were lying across the threshold of the door. This poor boy tripped over the brooms. As he was falling he grabbed the open door of a toilet stall. These stalls had heavy steel doors. They were more like the doors on jail cells than toilet stalls. Falling forward the door slammed on his middle finger cutting it off above the knuckle. Later that night I used the same stall and there was blood and meat from the finger smeared on the door. Doc Swope stitched up what was left of his finger. The finger was preserved in a jar of alcohol, on his desk, until I left for home.
This looks similar to the grasshoppers we had in Turkey




 The last month in Turkey I wore a button that said "Short Hog" on it. We had a USO show that visited the Detachment from Hawaii called the Johnny Pineapple show. An incident happened during my last few days at Erhac that I have regretted all of these last 45 years. My friend Joseph and another SSgt that I was good friends with were having a party with friends in their room. We were beginning to question Joseph's sexual orientation because of rumors being spread around the Detachment. They were just rumors and as far as I know they were not based in fact. This SSgt was guilty by association and I got caught up in the gossip. One night I was leaning against a bunk bed in a friends room and right in the middle of spreading more gossip about my two friends, We were all laughing at their expense when I looked up to see the SSgt standing in the doorway. He pointed at me and said "Gotcha". Humiliated and embarrassed I wanted to apologize to both of them but I couldn't work up the courage. I left Erhac regretting this incident and If I knew how to contact them today I would like to apologize for what I did. Mike Cannon, myself and one other Security policeman caught a hop to Incirlik where we spent a few days processing out. I spent a lot of time at the swimming pool and horseback riding. Our bunks were in the transient barracks which were kept clean by a heavy set houseboy that was probably in his late forties or fifties. He was hilarious because he couldn't speak a word of English but he knew every curse word in the English language. Because of sickness I was skinny as a rail by the time I left Turkey. I only weighed 175 lbs. On May 31, 1971, we boarded a Turkish DC-9 for Ankara. Because of terrorist activity we were ordered not to wear our uniforms. The terminal in Ankara was an armed camp. About every twenty feet there was a Turkish soldier armed with a sub machine gun. Whenever someone got too close they were waved back from the window. Not long before I left Turkey, four American airmen were kidnapped by a terrorist group and the largest manhunt to that time was conducted by the Turkish military trying to find them. We all expected them to be killed but they were able to escape when their guard became distracted. Conditions were the same when we arrived at the Istanbul airport. I learned enough Turkish during my year in country to hold a very broken conversation. However I had some satisfaction when the hordes of men and boys converged on me to carry my bags. Each time one would run up to me I would say "Yoke Abby, getmek, yoke gelmek". In essence I was telling them no. They would realize that I was no longer fresh fish, and turn away disappointed. As I began boarding my plane at Istanbul it finally sunk in that I was really going home when I saw that big beautiful PAN AM 707 waiting for me on the tarmac. Turkish policeman were checking ID's and doing wall searches on all of the male passengers. I was ordered against the wall but when the policeman saw my military ID he told me in English that I was clear to board. After a short layover in Frankfort Germany we flew on to London. In the London  Times I was shocked to learn of the death of Audie Murphy in a plane crash. From London we boarded a PAN AM 747 bound for the good ole USA. We landed at JFK and I was thrilled to hear the agent say "Welcome home" after I cleared customs. It was here at JFK that I would say goodbye to my good friend Mike Cannon who I had served over two years with at two different bases. I had said goodbye to Eric Erickson in Turkey. He still had a month yet to serve when I left.

  After dark I boarded an American Airlines 727 bound for Nashville. Unfortunately it was a milk run because it stopped in about six cities before we arrived in Nashville. It was a beautiful clear peaceful night as we flew over the city lights far below. I was bursting with excitement as the plane touched down in Nashville and taxied to the terminal. Walking through the terminal doors with my carry on and uniform bag I saw Debbie, Donna, and Didi waiting for me. I had fantasized about this moment for a year. Without thinking I threw my bags down in the floor and took Debbie in my arms, kissing her passionately. Everyone was having to step over my bags in the doorway. It was probably two or three in the  morning. We drove home to her parents house on Boscobel St. Robbie was asleep when I got home but we woke him up. I was shocked at how much he had changed. He was a big two year old and it was obvious that he didn't know me. We would have to be reacquainted over time. After spending the rest of the night talking to everyone and passing out souvenirs it began to grow light outside. Debbie and I left to look for a motel where we could have some well deserved privacy. We drove to the Holiday Inn at Trinity Lane. I was in civilian clothes and the two of us looked very young. The desk clerk, who was a middle aged woman, refused to give us a room. I am a different person today in that I would have stood my ground and demanded a room. Instead I meekly left and looked for another motel. We stayed at the Matador Inn near the Jefferson Street bridge. I had not gotten any sleep for two days and of course I would not get any sleep that day. By the time we returned to Debbie's house later that night I had been up for three days straight. I was so tired that I was starting to act like a drunk man. Everything was funny and I was laughing hysterically whether someone said something funny or not. That night I crashed and slept well into the next day. I was home and with my family again. The worst was behind me.
Short Hog
USO Show at Erhac





Sgt Eric Erickson, Sgt Horvat and the Hog Hilton trailer park 

Our profane Turkish houseboy, myself and a friend while we were processing out at Incirlik AFB.




       

                       

No comments:

Post a Comment