Miracle at Charlottesville - Chapter 6

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  • Member since
    April 2007
  • From: Columbus OH
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Miracle at Charlottesville - Chapter 6
Posted by dabug on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 5:28 AM

                       MIRACLE AT CHARLOTTESVILLE

                                    CHAPTER 6

Now we begin the phase of this story on meeting a second railfan.  Under incredible circumstances!  But first, a brief review to assure we’re all on the same page before going further.

When we last left railfans Steve and Dave, our intrepid naval heroes (yeah, right!) at Security School in San Angelo TX, the class had received their orders for their first post-school duty stations, and had journeyed home on leave (February, 1967.)  Three other members and I of our 14-member class were going to Turkey; Steve and several others were destined for Kami Seya Japan; only one member of our class, John, received orders to a ship – the Pueblo.  My wife would stay with her mother in Toledo while I was overseas.  (By the way, Steve utilized the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland OR, then the Cascade down to Suisan-Fairfield CA, the stop for Travis AF Base and flights to Japan.)

Our ultimate destination in Turkey was a small town on the Black Sea named Sinope.  (This town is so ancient it can even be found on Biblical maps of that area, and was the birthplace of Diogenes the Cynic in 412 B.C.)  But first we had to check into Karamursel Air Force Base, near Istanbul.  To get there I flew to New York in early March, then climbed aboard a Pan American 707 for an all-night flight to London, and then to Frankfort.  This Pan Am schedule next stopped – only one day per week – in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.  Naturally, my flight occurred on that day!  (Was kind of hairy sitting on the ground there with me in uniform and communist soldiers patrolling the area outside with rifles.)  From there we headed for Istanbul.  But I still wasn’t “home” yet.  It was a good three-hour-or-so ride from the airport to the base utilizing a military bus with a Turkish driver and a ferry across the Sea of Marmara.  Finally arrived in late evening on a Friday.  The other three guys had arrived two or three days earlier.  (Since I was the only married member of we four, I had a few extra days leave – “comp” time, I think they called it.)  Anyway, we were due to leave for Sinope together the following Tuesday.

The only way to get to that isolated little town was by ship.  It made one round trip per week from Istanbul to Sinope and beyond to Samsun, a town further up the coast.  The ship left Istanbul on Tuesdays around midmorning, traversed the Bosporus, and into the Black Sea.  It arrived at Sinope around breakfast time the next morning.  The harbor there was too shallow for the ship to dock – German-built, I’d describe it as a junior-sized ocean liner – so the townspeople ferried passengers to and from in launches.  (The ship returned from Samsun on Saturdays, departing Sinope in the evening, and arrived in Istanbul the next evening.)

Sinope was indeed isolated.  Its only access to the outside world, at least at that time, was some dirt roads, that ship, and a small Army plane that ferried the mail (Sinope was an Army base.)  Some of the locals worked on the base as houseboys and such.  The Turks had a military base there too.  As this base was classified a “hardship” duty station – equivalent to shipboard duty – the tours there were only 12 months versus 18 months at other locations such as Japan.  Steve, however, remained in Japan his whole hitch.

Steve and I corresponded regularly by mail.  One day a most unusual letter arrived from him.  It seems that the U.S.S. Pueblo had docked at Sasebo, a Navy base near Kami Seya, before its fateful voyage off North Korea.  While there, John, the one guy in our class who had gotten orders to a ship, came to visit some of his old classmates.  Remembering that Steve liked trains, John related how he had run into some “nut” aboard ship who also liked trains.  Steve told John he would be interested in meeting this fellow, and he did come to Kami Seya and found Steve.  In this letter Steve told me about their meeting.

This fellow’s name was Chuck and he was from Staunton VA.  Steve also gave me his FPO address.  I in turn wrote Chuck a letter inviting a correspondence based on a mutual affection for railroads.

I never received a reply.  As the Pueblo probably had sailed from Japan before my letter was even written, it’s doubtful he could have received it before the ship’s capture.  The crew’s fate was of great concern to all us Navy personnel, especially for those of us who knew crewmen aboard.

(To be continued…)

Golly gee whiz, how did the railroads ever do it in the age before computers or government "help"?  (Then: they did it.  Today: forget it!)

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