One day Bob Brown came in and said they were going to try to get two or three people out and did I want to get out. Of course I said I wanted to get the hell out of this place. So he made the arrangements. They took me back to the hotel where the rest of the guys were and arrangements were made from there with Bob Brown. There was a fella who was a Colonel in civilian clothes that came from the United States over to Ankara and he was going to teach the Turks military tactics. He needed somebody that could use a typewriter and one of our fellas who was the Navigator /Bombardier, Charlie Davis (who died about a year ago) could type. He was a reporter for the Pittsburgh Gazette, and had the background fro taking down information that the Colonel needed.
Since Charlie Davis was working for the Colonel, he was given an overcoat because it was in December and cold. One day when he came in he came to my room, opened his coat and low and behold he had a rope wrapped around him from armpits to knees. We put the rope under the mattress of my tail gunner since his room was next to the toilet room.
Another thing, when we were interned in Turkey when we first got there we didn't take parole and wouldn't sign anything that we wouldn't try to get out, which is why we were under guard all the time. (If you signed parole and then made an escape they would send you back to Turkey and jail).
We bought civilian clothes and the information we got was that enlisted men would be reimbursed for their clothes, but that the officers and to furnish their own uniforms. Figure that one out. Another thing is while we lived out on the farm there was a small restaurant and we ate most of our meals outside on bench type tables. The food was terrible. We couldn't get them to boil potatoes-they had to use grease. They didn't eat anything in the way of meat except lamb. They had a big five gallon can by the stove and they would dip in there and get some lamb grease and cook something and what was left over they would put it back in the can with the grease. After a few days it would get rancid. Best thing we had while we were on the farm (we were close to a brewery owned by the government) we would have the guard go over to the brewery and have sent over some kilos of beer.
Going back to our escape, it was on (I can't remember the night we got out), but we had gotten word from Bob Brown that we were to go out the window in the toilet room. This window was high and it folded back inside and made it very difficult to get out of there. My tail gunner had tied the rope to the radiator and threw it out the window. I had told Anderson and Wicklund to go ahead whenever they were ready and we counted the steps that the guards made in the hall to where we knew when they got down to the end and we could slip over into the toilet room and go out. None of the three of us had any overcoats and it was cold. I guess it was about the 15th of January. There was about a foot and a half of snow on the ground. When I went out the window I figured I was going to be the last one and started running and ran downtown to meet Bob Brown. We got in the car with him and incidentally, we had to wait because we didn't all take the same route downtown. Bob Brown had our tickets to ride on the Express, which left at midnight. We were to ride second-class and he had overcoats for us and suitcases. We drove over to the train station, sat there in the car for about 10 to 15 minutes, but before we got out of the car Bob told us that a person was going to meet us about half way between Ankara and Adana. We bid him goodbye and got in our compartment.
We didn't have anything in the suitcases except some brown bread that the Turks make and some cheese. We proceeded and stayed in the car. I don't think I went to the toilet, but once during that whole time because when we missed our contact we were to go on to Adana and someone would meet us there. We finally go to Adana. We rode from midnight one night until about 10:00 or so the next night. The person that was to meet us in Adana also did not show. When we got off the train we saw an American made car parked but no one in it. We stayed around for a while, but no one showed up. Every time you hear a police whistle you get even more nervous so we took off walking and met an old man with a horse and wagon. (It was about 25 miles to Mersin, which is on the Mediterranean where we wanted to go because we had the telephone number of the British Consulate there) .
He said he couldn't take the horses that far because it would be against the law and told us to go over to the fire station close by and see if they could tell us where we could get a cab.
Wicklund by the way could speak pretty good Turkish and was quite a help to us in getting out. Anyway, they told us there was a fella that had a car so went to the restaurant. There was a Ford car sitting out under a tree. It had side curtains on it-might have been about a 1929 model. Wick went in and contacted the owner and told him that we wanted to go to Mersin. We told him we had some money and would pay him. Anderson and I were sitting in the car and the fella came out and had his son with him cause he wanted somebody to ride back with him. He had to get some water and put in the radiator because it didn't have any antifreeze.
Off we go. We stopped at the hotel-it had a red light out front. I believe I know what it was. Wick went in to use the telephone there. Meantime, a policeman had come by and shined his light in there at us and the driver told him we were going to the road camp. The British were building a road for the Turks, at the least that's what we were told. The camp was probably five miles from the Consulate, which was close to town. Wick came out said he couldn't use the telephone in there. They told him the telephone exchange was about a block down the street. So we paid the guy off and walked down the street.
The doors were open to the entrance of the Exchange and it was very dark. There was a stairway going to the second floor and a little light coming through a crack in the door. Wick had the number and went upstairs to make the call to the Consulate. They said they would send a man to escort us. In about 15 minutes a man came walking toward the entrance and it looked like he had a police hat on. (We ditched our bags in a culvert before we got to the Exchange since we were tired of carrying them around). We didn't walk out and tell him who we were or anything because we were afraid of him, but he walked upstairs. Pretty soon he came back down and left.
Well, we didn't know what to do then so wick went back up and called the number again. The fella was getting a little irritated, told him not to call again and that he was sending a man back down there. So we waited for him and when this same guy came back (he had the same hat on and we figured he was not a policeman) so we stepped out from under the stairway. He told us to follow him about a half a block back. So we followed him to the British Consulate. When we got in there, man I tell you, talk about a relief. They had some kind of food---I've forgotten what it was-and they had some vodka and cognac. After a while they took us out the back door, put us in a car and took us out to this road camp run by the British.
We were introduced to the fellas out there and that's where we were going to stay until we could get on a ship, which was called SS Inviken a Norwegian ship. This ship was loading aluminum ore to be sent to the United States. I'm enclosing a copy of my identifications card, which I kept. The Inviken was out in the Mediterranean and we could see it from land. We decided to use some used 5 gallon gas cans and make sort of a raft to get out over the breakers so that somebody could come in from the ship and pick us up. Then decided that was going to be too risky so I don't know how they made contact with Captain Olson, the Norwegian Captain of the ship. Incidentally, the ship had a Norwegian Engineer and the rest of the crew was Chinese-even the cabin boy the Captain had was Chinese. So they got word to the Captain to send somebody for us.
They took us into town from the camp in the late afternoon, and parked the car about a block from the dock. We walked out on the wood walkway and into the Customs Office. Since there was no one around we kept on walking toward the boat. We thought we had it made at long last. When we got in the boat with the Norwegian Engineer and just started to shove off all hell broke loose. Here came the Custom Officer running like he was crazy, arms flying in the air, jabbering Turkish, and wild eyed. (I think Wick was the only one that figured it out that he was saying, "only one person had come from the big boat and only one was going back." We had to get off. We walked back through the Custom building and I walked toward the man that brought us there and said "they wouldn't let us go, what now." He quickly said go back to the car.
Wick and Anderson followed me and we went back to the car. They took us back to the road camp. About half an hour or a little longer after we returned to the road camp, a knock came on the door and someone said, "you have three American Airmen in here", and it scared the daylights out of us! Then he started laughing and said after the Engineer got back out to the ship that Captain Olson said he was going to come ashore and go to the police saying that he had three fellas that had jumped ship and come into town to drunk and that he wanted them back. So they poured a little Cognac on us and got some on our breath and we acted like we were about half shot. They took us back into town and there was Captain Olson Standing under the streetlight. We didn't know him and he didn't know us. We walked up and he starting giving us the devil about whey we didn't get back on the ship and all that. We walked on into the Custom place and stayed in there about ten minutes. I don't know why, but we finally got clearance and went on out and got in the boat and went on out to the ship.
We were about two days out there and had to stay hidden until we could pull anchor. I think it was the third day that we pulled anchor and Captain Olson went topside and we took over this quarters. It was pretty nice and the food was good-it was great. When we got underway we were to join up with a convoy in a place called Iskenderum, which is a little bit east of Mersin. We did join with some other ships, which were going down to Port Said in Egypt. Everything was going along fine and the weather wasn't too bad. We were a little short on armament. We had one gun, a 50 caliber and two 30 caliber machine guns and that's all the armament we had.
I can't remember how long we were on the water there coming across the Mediterranean, but one night we had engine trouble. We lost the convoy because we were only doing about three knots at best, and we knew we couldn't hold them back so we were just out there by ourselves. We were going to try to get into Haifa Harbor for repairs. We didn't get down there in time. At 4:00 in the afternoon they closed the sub nets and you have to have a captain come from Haifa Harbor to get you through. The three of us were matching each night to see who was going to sleep in the Captain's bed. On this particular night, I was the odd one. Along about 4:00 in the morning I heard a bullhorn. They wanted the colors of the day and the code of the day. The first mate on duty was Chinese and I don't know whether he could understand very well what they were talking about. I looked out the porthole and told wick and Anderson, "don't say a word, there's a submarine out there and they've got dead aim on us." There was barely enough light to see what looked like a conning tower. In this type of situation your mind can really play tricks on you.
I went topside and finally found the colors of the day and the code of the day. Because the Captain, as soon as we took anchor up at Mersin he started drinking and he was drunk and couldn't be of any help. I finally found the stuff and had a bullhorn and hollered back over what the color of the day and the code of the day was. Then they identified themselves that they were an English Destroyer and that they were going to stay alongside of us until morning so the Captain could come out and take us into the harbor. That's how we got down to Haifa.