In about 30 minutes Perrone, my engineer on the Blue Goose came forward and said we did not have enough gas left to even think about trying to make Syria. The decision was then made to try to make somewhere in Turkey-possibly Ankara since the American Embassy was located there. We threw out several cases of 50 cal ammo to lighten our load along with some other things that we didn't think we needed.
We kept constant watch on our remaining fuel and transferred what gas we had left in the auxiliary tanks to the wing tanks and pumped out the gas in #2 engine to #1, 3 and 4 wing tanks. Wicklund was busy making calculations for the distance that we had to go to get into Ankara. About 11:00 or so in the morning of June 12, we had Ankara in our sights. We were at about 3,000 feet and picked out a runway since we had no ground contact. I saw two B-24' s on the parking ramp and got all squared away for landing. The wheels had been dropped and checked a little further out than usual because I knew that we had no chance to make another approach.
As we were getting into touch down there were some Turks working on the end of the runway. I knew I had to cut things as close as I could because the runway was only 3,000 feet. When we did hit down I told Eugene Ziesel (my COP) that I had it under control, which I didn't. My legs were jumping on the brakes and shaking, and another engine quit and pulled us off the runway about two feet. We sank down to the hub and didn't do any other damage, but we were stuck. I had a gut feeling there was something wrong because none of the fellows from the other B-24's came out there to give us some jazz about not being able to land an airplane properly, etc.
About that time a fellow walked out and got to talking to one of the crew and asking where is the pilot of this plane. They called me. This fellow was Jewish looking--- dark completion. He was Lawrence Steinhardt (sure enough foreign looking to me so I didn't believe him), the Ambassador at the time. So he said, "I want you to squat down and I want to ask you some questions." Well I thought, that was rather strange because I always had heard that your Ambassador was your mouthpiece and you could just tell him whatever you wanted to tell him. Anyway, I cut him real short and he didn't like it and stormed off and went back to the terminal.
No one had told us anything about Steinhardt or what he looked like. All we had was the telephone number of the Embassy, which of course we had no chance to use since the Turks immediately took us under their jurisdiction. At the Fourth of July (propaganda party) at the Embassy I did apologize to Mr. Steindhardt for being such a horse's ass at the airport, but at that point I was suspicious of everyone. He was really a nice fellow and made a personal call to my Dad when he came to the United States while we were interned. I think Senator Barkley from Kentucky whose home was in Paducah had a hand in this.
At that time the Norden bombsight was still up in the nose because in the briefing we were told we were going to get out and there wasn't any point in trying to hide it. Besides, my money was locked up in the bombsight vault. We were instructed before we left the states that if we ever had to land in what we thought was enemy territory to be sure and shoot your .45 Caliber pistol into the eyepiece of the bombsight blowing it up. I carried my money around in a pillowcase and when I couldn't keep it in the plane vault. I slept with it and put it between my legs at chow. (Most bothersome money I ever had to fool with).
After we got the airplane out from being stuck we went inside and still didn't see any of the other gang. They took us upstairs interrogating us as to what we were doing and where we were from, etc. They wanted to know where my money was and I told them I didn't have any. The next day some Turkish officers came to the barracks where we were staying at the time with a representative from the Embassy. Then they made me go back out to the airport and unlock the safe where the bombsight was kept and give them the money, which I didn't get a receipt for and I didn't get a chance to count it. That followed me around forever while I was in the service because they said I was $117 short with funds. They took us into town and gave us some lunch and we laid around a while. I think the reason was that they were trying to get enough beds put into one room in the barracks where they had an infantry training school and a cavalry outfit. So we got there all in the same room and it was a lousy set up. I think we stayed there about three or four days and then they took us out to a government farm outside of Ankara to an old schoolhouse. We catch two of us, the other four could have a few hours of freedom. We would head for the basement of Carpage (spelling?) Restaurant or the basement of the Ankara Palace Hotel. The bartenders knew who we were and would bring good food and drinks to us.
I happened to be down there one day when Wendell Wilkie came over to Turkey and they were having a big reception upstairs. They bartender told us that he thought we would like to come up and see the table they set for him. So we went upstairs and man they had food spread out everywhere. We took a little bit of everything and went back downstairs and enjoyed it. We never did get to see Mr. Wilkie. It's been so long ago I don't remember whether Wilkie was Vice President at the time or whether he was running for President or just what, but he was quite a figure back then and you're probably not old enough to remember him.
I know you are not going to use any of the above (paragraph), but I thought you might get a laugh out of some of the "cat and mouse" games we had with the guards. This is the only fun we had. Sometime get me to tell you about the time we took the guards "frog gigging" in the creek on the farm.
We moved into a hotel about two blocks off the main drag. This hotel looked pretty decent from the outside, but inside it was a mess. Infested with bedbugs, which we had to fight constantly. We were put up on the second floor of a three-story building. I believe it was about the first or middle part of October. They decided they wanted two of the airplanes taken over to a place called Eskisehir, which was the so-called Randolph Field of Turkey. None of the Turks could fly the B-24 and all they wanted was a pilot, co-pilot and navigator. So we knew that we ought to try to get more people out and get squared away so we could make an escape if it became at all possible. So we told them we couldn't fly the airplane until they agreed to let a t least five people on each airplane go, which they finally agreed to. They had two officers on each airplane with side arms so we didn't try to do anything. We were told by the Embassy too that if we did try anything or escape at that time that we would be brought back. Eskieshir was about half way between Ankara and Istanbul. It was an old town that looked like it still had marks from WWI. We would walk from the place where we were staying out to the airport. We decided at that time that we could make an escape since the Turks wanted us to work on the airplanes and get them in shape and try to give them some instruction on it. I don't know why I was picked, but I flew Little Eva to Eskisehir.
At lunchtime they would set off a siren and everyone would take off in a dead run for the mess hall. If they didn't get seated on time they would be fined. I don't think an enlisted man was making more than about $.50 cents a week American. Everything was furnished them. This pattern you could count on. I think Wilbur West can take it from here since he was the "Bandit" that stole one of the planes and flew everyone out (but me since I was in the hospital in Istanbul) .
I don't know how long it was that I was there in Eskisehir, but I got a terrible case of death threatening jaundice and they put me in a hospital, which was an old run down place. Nobody in the hospital could speak English, and I could speak very little Turkish. One day I got hold of a fellow who came in from the airfield and told him to get hold of Lt. Brown (he flew the other airplane over there) and tell him that I need some help. So he came to see me and the second night after that, two guards took me on a train at midnight to Istanbul to the American Hospital, which was run by Dr. Shepherd and his wife who had also had a stint in WWI.
Their daughter and son were over in the States where one was going to Harvard. They had an Armenian nurse, people that had been purged out of Russia way back in WWI. I stayed there for about a month and a half in the hospital, which was real nice. They decided that they were going to try to get me released by the Turks on a medical basis. Well, I went before a board with Dr. Shepherd and they interrogated me about my condition and at that time I weighed about 125 lbs. I had lost a lot of weight. They turned me down saying I would be taken back to Ankara and be with the rest of the fellows. There was a fella named Robert Brown who lives in California now. He was rather young--- about 25 years old and an Air Attached at the American Embassy. He was suppose to meet me at the train when they brought me back from Istanbul. He didn't show up. On the way to the police station we passed Bob Brown riding horseback with a girl friend. (Boy was I teed-off). I was at the police station for about two or three hours and finally someone came from the Embassy and picked me up. He said I was going to live with Bob Brown and a couple of other fellows.
One named Coffman was there on lend-lease business and he is now a Federal Judge someplace. I stayed with them about two weeks.