Sinop, Turkey - The Lonely Life On The Hill
(from the June 1973 edition of The Hallmark)
Courtesy of Dave Shively
In the fall and winter bone-numbing winds lash the Turkish-American radar site that stands like a beacon high above the ancient Black Sea port of Sinop, Turkey."The Hill," as it is known to the changing contingents of troops stationed here, was created centuries before the arrival of man
- the product of a geologic convulsion that left a slender promontory jutting into the sea.Although a thriving Greek settlement at the time of Diogenes,the salty iconoclast born there during the fourth century B.C., the city today is on the remote fringe of NATO's southeastern flank.
The physical ruggedness of the site, and its off-the-beaten track location 900 feet above the sea, leave impressions that men who work here carry with them the rest of their lives.
"They tell me you always remember a tour on 'The Hill.' After a winter
here I know why. The wind howls incessantly. Half the time we're
squatting in a cloud bank. When it snows the flakes fly horizontally,"
said a junior officer who has developed an appreciation for the neat, snug
little base and the rough-hewn beauty of the surrounding terrain.
"In the summer it's quite pleasant. On a clear night we see the lights of
Sinop twinkling below us."
Not everyone shares his enthusiasm, but a surprising number of men seem to
be philosophical about a tour at Sinop and many acquire a strange fascination for the assignment, once they become accustomed to the isolation and the unusual setting. The remoteness is something that is sensed from the day the new arrival flies into the Black Sea port of
Samsun aboard a two-engine Turkish Airlines (THY) plane. From Samsun he
has time to savor the rugged beauty of the coastal terrain, as he rides the base bus on the lone road to Sinop,a rough and winding three-hour trip on a route that never strays far from the sea.
To make up for the isolation, the base has been equipped with many of the
amenities found back home.During the summer, Ataturk Field is lighted for evening baseball and softball.The gymnasium, handball courts, bowling alleys and steam bath are open year round.
For men who wish to indulge in pursuits of the mind, the education office
schedules university and high school courses and the library offers 10,000
volumes - a larger selection than normal for a base the size of Sinop.
The biweekly newspaper, "The Diogenes," (handset by Turkish printers who
do not read English) chronicles on-base and off-base activities.
The theatre, now receiving the latest movies from the Armed Forces Motion
Picture Service, is one of the most popular places on base.
Regularly scheduled chapel tours are run to Trabazon, an ancient community
on the Black Sea, and to Izmir, the historic city on the Aegean.
The "White Boat," a Turkish cruise ship that travels between Sinop and
Istanbul twice a week, is particularly inviting to men on "The Hill," with
its reasonable $25 round-trip tab for military personnel.
Most men on leave take the bus as far as Samsun, where they book flights
on THY to Ankara, Istanbul and Europe.During the one-year tour many personnel manage to make at least one trip home via chartered air - round-trip fare that usually runs less than $250.
Two four-place U8 aircraft maintained at a nearby field are used for
limited runs to Samsun and Istanbul.In Sinop, a city of 16,000, the Yeni (New) Hotel restaurant is a popular rendezvous for Americans who order donner kebab, roast lamb built up from thin layers on a thick spike.
Next to eating, souvenir hunting in Sinop shops and boar hunting in the
region around Sinop are favored diversions.
But it was Diogenes, born about 320 B.C., who put Sinop on the map with
his wit and showmanship, the most famous act being his search with a
lantern in broad daylight for an honest man.It gets lonely. Only a handful of servicemen, (204), are assigned to the site from TUSLOG,Det 4. One hundred and sixty nine live off post and most of them do so because they paid to transport their families overseas.
Because there are no family quarters and no dependant school on base, a
tour to Sinop is unaccompanied. As a result, servicemen who choose to be
accompanied must pay their wives' transportation from the United States.
Most men consider the separation from their homes and their families the
most undesirable aspect of duty on "The Hill."
"It wouldn't be bad at all if we could have our families with us," said a
junior NCO. "It's okay. You eventually get used to it. But the winter really drags.Especially during the bad weather, when the roads become a quagmire, and we don't get mail for a week," said a single soldier with a girl friend back home.
Army Lieutenant Colonel C.D. Crowell, former commanding officer of TUSLOG,
Det 4 and installation commander, urges men to get off "The Hill" as often
as possible."The biggest problem here is providing something for the individual to do when he's off duty," another officer said.
Summer is the most pleasant season in Sinop and it's during summer that
most men take leave for travel in Turkey and Europe.The base bus, departing daily at 5:30 a.m., offers the quickest link toEurope via Turkish Airlines at Samsun.
Throughout the 120 miles it's a thrilling ride along the rugged coast
where birds of prey soar from steep cliffs.Conspicuous by their absence are the resort hotels which now mark similar coastal regions across much of the globe.Reactions vary.Going to or coming from Sinop, individuals' reactions run the gamut.
Although his outlook is hardly typical, Specialist 5 Philip B. Bird, en
route to Atlanta to visit his pregnant wife, offered an appraisal of his
tour at Sinop which may be food for thought.
"Duty on the Hill isn't bad at all. I've traveled to a number of small
towns in the vicinity of Sinop and I've grown very fond of the Turkish
people," Bird said."In the summer there are plenty of things to occupy your off-duty time.The beach rented by Special Services on the isthmus is delightful."
"A lot of guys complain. But a tour on the Hill makes them learn to live
by themselves. In this sense an assignment such as this helps them grow up."
Reality check from Dave Shively:
Handball courts = 1
Bowling alleys = 2 lanes
Steam bath = 0
Library = 0
Newspaper = 0
Modern movies = Mary Poppins; Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang; etc.
169 living off base = maybe 5
Taking a trip home = ????????
Diner at the hotel restaurant = only available Saturday night
I've never seen such a bunch of caca del toro in my life!
- Dave Shively