Glenn B. Knight
"Merhlow," I mumbled as the phone went skidding off the nightstand onto the floor.
"Master Sergeant Knight, this the Incirlik Command Post," the very alert voice announced as I glanced at the clock radio, while searching for the rest of the phone, to see a red 4:10 a.m. staring back. "The Turkish military seized control of the government at 0400 local and is ordering everyone to remain in their homes until further notice. Anyone found on the streets will be arrested or shot."
wife had turned on the bedroom light and my eyes were slowly adjusting
brain kept asking just what was going on at this ungodly hour. The voice on the phone
continued to drone on
with words and phrases like "automatic 30 days in jail", "local
radio broadcasting only in Turkish", "apparently no hostility toward
Muttering acknowledgement, I really wanted to say, "This joke is not funny?" or a simple, "sure!" But before I could act on the impulse to treat the call as a prank, I realized where I was and what was going on.
Common Defense Installation is about 12 kilometers east of
"Bev," I called out to my wife who had already awakened and headed for the kitchen to make coffee and toast and pour a glass of milk--it was now 4:12. "No time for coffee but put some jelly on the toast and bring me a glass of juice." Without discussing it, each knew exactly what to do. Nearly two decades of various forms of crisis management had conditioned them to no-notice deployments and emergencies.
Joe Saxon, the public affairs officer, had arrived only a week earlier
and had elected
to rent an apartment in
a number from memory, I listened as Staff Sergeant Robinson answered in
unmistakable baritone and identified the American Forces Radio and
Service (AFRTS) detachment. Robinson
in the last hour of the early morning shift, fighting to stay awake
music played across the radio station that was not "actually" in
"Robinson, this is Master Sergeant Knight, I am going to give you a direct order and I do not have time to discuss it with you," I announced. " Interrupt programming for an emergency announcement, patch this phone into the broadcast signal, put me on live and tape it.” At the station the call had been switched to the speakerphone and I could hear his order being carried out.
In less than a minute the phone clicked and I could hear, "We interrupt this program for an important announcement from the Detachment 10 public affairs office. "With a special report, here's Air Force Master Sergeant Glenn Knight . . .” For nearly a minute I explained what little was known about the situation but was stern and officious enough to communicate a sense of urgency and concern.
An unannounced musical selection filled the silence at the end of the report and Robinson came on the phone. "As soon as I can re-wind the tape I will put it back on the air, how often should it be played?"
"Continuously until I get there. This is really serious," I said, remembering that I hadn’t even dressed myself. Biting into my toast and washing it down with re-constituted orange juice I grabbed a pair of shorts and a tee shirt then went looking for a base phone directory. The red numbers on the clock radio flipped to 4:15.
It seemed like the four rings I heard in the earpiece each took about 10 minutes.
"Hellooooooooooooo," the word ended in a yawn, was followed by recognition of the time and an irritated, "What the hell?"
I interrupted sharply. "This
Glenn Knight, I hope
that you remember the discussion
that we had over 'Black Cat' soon after you arrived on base. I don't have time to
explain but it is time
to find that 'airman'." Zeller Schwartz Katz was the cheap party
wine of choice among American GIs in
Fully aware of the content and context of the conversation the two hung up their phones at the same time without so much as an acknowledging grunt
a swig of milk and a last bite of toast, I slipped into my Indian water
sandals quick kissed my wife and the pre-dawn damp chill outside my
front door made
goose-bumps on my naked shoulders.
Covering my head with a "
the three minutes it took to negotiate the on-base streets to the radio
television station, I was able to consider the personnel situation. The lieutenant was in
The AFRTS staff announcers, talking heads, engineers and administrators were starting to arrive as my green and gray moped scooted to the front door of the studios. Some were waking up for their morning show routine and others had been routed out of bed with a unit recall or a rumor mill grinding away at full tilt. They had already begun to dissect the original announcement making a series of spot announcements and featurettes that they could load onto cartridges to begin providing a wider range of information for the audience.
Public Affairs and AFRTS personnel are both trained at the
network of dedicated cables linked together the dozen plus American,
joint U.S.-Turkish bases (called Common Defense Installations) all
the country. Incirlik
was a CDI. Part of
each wire was made available to carry
the radio signal, which came out of Incirlik.
Even at the most isolated stations, the overnight
watch had AFRTS
programming to help them stay awake and alert.
The growing public affairs team was confident that
the folks in the
isolated locations would be well supplied with information. The big concern was with the
people living in
signal was broadcast through a 150-watt transmitter that had toothpicks
into it at strategic locations to cut down the power.
The signal got from the transmitter to the
antenna through an old ragged cable further reducing the power of the
signal. The antenna
was sized for the
wrong frequency and was omni-directional while the American population
west of the base. The
people had estimated that they were lucky if they had a 5-watt signal
a basic Citizens Band radio) going out over the air.
Just the day before, the detachment of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations had reported heightened Turkish military activity and the Public Affairs Office's Rumor Control Hotline had received a couple of calls about the potential for war between Turkey and Bulgaria. The staff decision was for Public Affairs to make the contents of a recent statement by the Martial Law Command public.
This announcement was played during the late news, which closed out the television day and throughout the night at least once per hour on the radio. An updated version fit nicely within the station's new emergency format. Still well before 5 a.m. the television cameras were warming up and as soon as a signal could be generated the broadcast day would begin and plans were in the works to extend the day to 24-hours if necessary.
Entering the studio I found Robinson at the tape recorder and Army Specialist Tom Underwood at the microphone. Underwood looked up and recognized me as the base public affairs guy, noticing the unique nature of my uniform. "Interview and tape me," I mouthed so as not to be picked up by the live mike.
flicked a switch and just as quickly began, "The government of
Five minutes later the interview was complete and was immediately re-wound and re-played as it was being spliced into the regular program tape.
The next hour saw the Security Police given scripts for their cars which were patrolling the housing areas on base announcing the news and advising residents to tune in to the radio or television. Volunteers from the Communications Squadron attempted to call each of the 46 commercial telephones in Downtown Adana--meeting with a modest amount of success.
As all of this was happening an orange and white Toyota Land Cruiser which appeared to be driverless pulled up outside and a petite Bev Knight stepped down from behind the wheel carrying a basket and a clothing bag. The bag contained a complete uniform to replace the shorts, tee-shirt and sandals; while the basket was loaded with three Thermos bottles of coffee, packaged breakfast sweets, a bag of bagels and a couple of muffins left over from yesterday. Before leaving the studios, she had two pots of coffee brewing to meet the anticipated caffeine demand. As she reached for the moped, leaving the Land Cruiser behind, she reminded everyone that all of the teachers at the school on base lived "on the economy" and that there probably would not be school that day.
With the arrival of Colonel Paul Chase, the senior American commander on Incirlik and a briefing before the colonel's interview for both radio and television, I had run out of work at this location and was ready to move on to Rumor Control. I found Airman Hren in his barracks room and together we were soon enroute to our Quonset hut office. Having been briefed on the way to the office, Hren went right to work taking and recording calls from worried families and airmen at Inçirlik.
Rumor Control was a staple of the Incirlik Public Affairs Office and one of its most important communication media. The staff had the authority and the skills necessary to track down and either confirm or deny rumors. The Office of Special Investigations routinely stopped in to review the Rumor Control log which often contained intelligence information before their own sources came up with it. Rumors have powers for both good and evil--at Incirlik the good was supported while the evil was harnessed.
"Hi, could you use a warm body?" The voice and the smile belonged to tall, slim Major Larry O'Shea, commander of TUSLOG Detachment 2.
of a number of political missteps during various phases of the cold
Det. 2 was actually the Air Force Weather Squadron. Major O'Shea had come to be sort of an adjunct public affairs officer with a specialty in Rumor Control. Whenever there was a need, the major would show up and help out. "Major, this is Airman Hren, he's one half of the staff and I have just put him in charge of Rumor Control, and yes, we sure could use some help," I responded feeling very relieved.
O'Shea straightened his lanky six-foot frame, saluted sharply and announced, "Major O'Shea reporting to the airman for duties that he might assign." The airman had apparently never had a major under his command before as he half stood and partly saluted before he realized that he was being humored. They made a great team.
public affairs staff immediately decided to concentrate on feeding
to the on-base radio and television stations, Rumor Control and other
that would primarily improve communication with the internal audience. The international
concentrating on the activities in the capital city of
Up-channel notifications, official messages and requests for assistance were all taken care of by the time Colonel Chase held his crisis team meeting with senior commanders and selected staff agencies at 10 a.m.
"I just finished a conference call with the Ambassador, the Consul in Adana and General Burns (commander of TUSLOG), the ambassador is confident that the new Security Council is pro-American, but he is very concerned about the curfew," the colonel announced. "Knight, I assume that the lieutenant is not on base and not available by phone."
"Yes sir, we tried placing a call to another officer in the same apartment building not ten minutes ago, but could not get through," I responded as the acting public affairs officer. While accustomed to attending senior staff meetings, I was surprised to be first on the agenda.
continued, "The ambassador has heard of your work with the power outage
and the nationwide census and the shooting of the Navy chief petty
I could feel the blood coursing to my head and modestly accepted the accolades, but I knew that we had indeed done a good job--and most of it was even legal. "I wonder how that 'airman' in communications is doing?" I thought.
It had been only six hours since that jarring phone call and just about everything that could be done, had been done. The initial fears had been contained; the early notices had been made and just about anyone who needed to know was aware of the events of the morning. Now it was time to get pragmatic.
Boeing Services maintained the infrastructure of the base--electricity, water, fire protection, sanitation, commissary and exchange operations as well as interpretation services. Better than 90% of their workers were Turks. Those few who were on duty at 5 a.m. when the curfew began were now stuck on base, while the majority were trapped in their homes until the curfew was lifted. Rumor Control was among the first to spot the obvious problem as managers and patrons alike called to find out how the events of the day would affect them.
immediate concern to the Crisis Management Team was a scheduled 1 p.m.
conference by General Kenun Evran, chief of the new Turkish Security
Chase called Frank
Ricardoni, the American Consul in
Nese’," began the conversation that would seem strange even
D'Angelo was the
Turkish wife of an Air Force technical sergeant who was also Cubmaster
base Cub Scout Pack. As
I was the local
District Scouting Commissioner, we had worked together on Pinewood
Blue and Gold Banquets and other Cub Scout ceremonies.
The D'Angelo family was one of a small number
of families who we called "homesteaders".
Usually it was an American GI who met and
married a Turkish woman and then decided to stay in
"What can I do for you today, Mr. Commissioner?" was the typically straightforward and very un-Turkish question posed by the truly Americanized lady. It was most amazing how these two cultures merged in the D'Angelo household
"Straightforward" certainly could not be applied to Turkish society, I thought recalling the gyrations involved in a dinner visit to the home of a Turkish friend that lasted to well after midnight and the frustration of a recent trip to Adana for a car part. I had entered the auto parts shop and noticed that there were less than 100 parts displayed on shelves on two walls of the 14' by 20' shop. And there was no stock room.
After a terse welcome and the offer of a chair, the owner, in an exaggerated Amero-Turkish dialect asked, "Çay? Coca-Cola?" It was fruitless to decline the offer as no business of any kind would be discussed until the shopkeeper and the shopper had shared a libation. Coca-Cola was the acceptable option as it was too hot that day for hot tea.
The shopkeeper turned to one of the three boys loitering in the shop, directing him to purchase a Coca-Cola at the corner vendor. Once obtained it was usually wise to forego pouring it into a glass and drink it directly from the bottle. A few swigs and a few toasts or blessings later it was alright to ask for the item you are looking for--knowing full well that it was probably not in the shop. "No problem," announces the shopkeeper, using up a full third of his English vocabulary, turns to two of the boys and gives instructions.
One boy gets another Coca-Cola for the customer and the shopkeeper pours another çay for himself while the other boy travels from shop to shop looking for the part. The second youngster eventually found, procured and delivered the part. Price haggling began at a number well below the cost that would be expected in an American garage. The price is agreed upon and paid. The item is wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. Buyer and seller exchange "alahsmaladik" and "gule gule". In just over an hour the process is complete. Americans generally have a hard time with this, more accustomed to the pace of a K-Mart or Wal-Mart.
So it is something of a shock to hear a Turkish woman get right to the point. "I heard about the military takeover, is there something I can do to help?"
I quickly explained the news conference and asked her to provide a summary, in English, as soon as possible. She noted that she was not an interpreter and some words do not translate well and suggested that we rely on our Community Relations Advisor.
Atilan, Community Relations Advisor to the TUSLOG Det. 10 Public
was one of the highest paid local workers on base.
He read the newspapers daily, providing
summarized translations--which at some point each week would include a synopses of the latest
adventures of the crew of the
"Love Boat", the highest rated television show in the country. Salmi lived in one of the
"luxury" apartments in
She understood but said she would also contact the Security Police interpreter and the Assistant Fire Chief to do the same.
The press conference provided little additional or helpful information but the translated summary was released to the radio and television station to calm fears and stifle rumors.
By 5:30 when the ICF-TV "Evening Report" led with an interview of Air Force Master Sergeant Knight, it was much like business as usual on base. "The curfew has meant extra work for everyone on base but the response to the requests for volunteer help has been very good," I noted. "Many of our people who live downtown have been stuck on base and they will need a place to sleep. Cooperation is essential." The interview concluded with a run-down of events and activities and what effect the curfew was having on those things.
As evening approached the pace of activities slowed into a peaceful, calm pace. In all, there were few surprises and no reports of problems involving Americans--but it will be well into the next day when such reports could be expected to surface. It was an uneasy peace but a welcome respite.
morning's Crisis Management Team meeting began with an optimistic
there had been no indication of any problems involving Americans
"Rumor Control, Major O'Shea speaking, can I help you?" "No sir, we have no official notification that the curfew has been lifted," answered the volunteer.
"That's the fifth one of those in the last 10 minutes," O'Shea said turning to me as I was on the phone to the Office of Special Investigations who had been monitoring the Turkish radio broadcasts. "There's usually some truth involved when Rumor Control is that active." Ten minutes later, at 1:30 p.m. the reports were confirmed and an announcement was made that the curfew had been lifted at noon and would come back on at 8 p.m.
trapped on base could go home to their families in
"Rumor Control, Mr. Lewis, can I help you?" announced Milt Lewis, a civilian worker whose job was at that time not essential. Like the other volunteers he was manning Rumor Control for a four hour shift. "We have received no such information but we will check it out," he concluded.
"What's up?" I asked returning from a late afternoon meeting with Colonel Chase.
is my third call, starting at 5 p.m.," Lewis responded.
"According to the reports I am getting,
one American was wounded in
He added, "Oh yes, there is mail at the THY (Turk Hava Yolari) aircraft terminal which will be picked up and posted by tomorrow morning."
instructions to check with wing intelligence, command post, OSI and the
are actually returning to some level of 'normal' here at Incirlik," I
at the top of the interview. "The
curfew was lifted in
Even the opening of the commissary was sort of orderly. American dependents, anticipating a crisis tend to hoard food and supplies. Sometimes frenzy sets in and people become irrational. During a prior crisis two dependent wives had to be separated by Security Police as they were grappling over a loaf of bread. Today saw little more than some pushing and name calling.
reported that the Turkish nationals were returning to work and thanked
volunteers for an outstanding job under trying conditions. Even the rumor of the
Airlift Command had suspended all flights into and out of
were really looking up, and quickly.
except for that rumor out of
Sunday morning found one volunteer at work in Rumor Control. "Where the hell is Knight?" echoed the voice of an obviously irritated Colonel Chase as he stomped into the Public Affairs Office. "Find him and have him call me immediately."
Fearing the worst (whatever that might have been) but thinking quickly, Airman Roger Morris asked if there was anything that he should know to respond to Rumor Control calls. The colonel took a deep breath and calmed down to explain that one of the motors in the water line from the wells, which were off base, and the water storage tank had failed and we had to begin conserving water immediately.
The water tower, the tallest structure on base was the standard-issue tower that could be seen at almost any Air Force base in the world. But this one was totally unique. To make them visible to aircraft flying in the area, Air Force water towers were painted with large red and white checks. The civil engineering units on base were charged with painting and re-painting the towers as necessary. At Incirlik, the CE unit was run by Turks employed by Boeing Services. Given an allotment of red and white paint they set about painting the tower using Turkish logic. Alternating red and white checks would be difficult so they simply dumped the paint together and produced the only pink water tower on any base run by the U. S. Air Force.
The tower only held a week's worth of water and there was ample evidence that repair or replacement could take multiple weeks. It had been less than a month since the base electric power transformer had shorted out and what was originally thought to be a quick repair lasted two weeks. With no commercial power and a hot end of the summer it was a long, difficult two weeks under crisis conditions. Conservation of electricity was essential then and conservation of water would be essential now.
the time I answered the bedside phone in my quarters it was just after
on Sunday morning and the thought of sleeping in had evaporated. Telling Morris to call
Airman Hren and have
him write a notice to be read at church services that morning, I then
the Security Police desk sergeant and dictated an announcement for the
cars to make throughout the base.
quick call to the radio station and a recorded announcement would take
every available media. "Why
It was about noon when Colonel Chase got word that the culprit in the water system was a single motor and that it could be repaired locally by the end of the day. The Adali bus was running a regular weekend schedule, anxieties had retreated and common sense was again gaining control of the environment. By 1 p.m., the situation had cooled to the point that Rumor Control was closed.
was a local bus company with a contract to provide low cost
between the base and the areas of
was almost a typical Sunday at Incirlik with church services, off-base
residents on base to stretch their legs and both the Palms Cafeteria
Foodland open for business," began the "Evening Report" on
ICF-TV. "The only
mark on a perfect
day was the short-lived water problem"
I was able to deny the rumor of the shooting in
Izmir, announced that
elementary and high school would open on a half-day schedule starting
and that plans for "Operation Display Determination" would continue
on schedule. Colonel
Dayton, the base
commander, was welcomed back from his week-end vacation to
days. Only three
days to have your world
turned upside down and righted again with only minimal damage. What a trip.
Over the next two weeks everything would return to
what passed for
yes, the mysterious "airman"?
Soon after arriving on base one of the senior
and I spent an evening talking ham radio (illegal in
Two weeks after the takeover the communications officer and I ran into each other at lunch. "Sir, I've been meaning to ask you about the radio signal, it seemed to be much stronger the last couple of weeks. What happened?", I inquired.
"One of my 'airmen' removed the filters, switched the feed line, re-cut the antenna and added a reflector", he responded. "The 'airman' also changed the frequency slightly to get out from under Radio Moscow."
"Really?" I responded with a grin.
"I was livid when I found out and if I ever catch the son-of-a-bitch I will court martial him," the officer intoned with a gleam in his eye and a matching grin coursing his already flush face.
The "airman" was never found.