[This trip journal was prepared in 2006 using original notes from the 1973 trip. In some cases where the original color slides had deteriorated too much to be used, more recent pictures have been substituted. The commentary is taken from the 1973 notes and sometimes differs from what we would say today, based on broader experience.]
Introduction: We were nearing the end of our fourth and last year with the Army in Germany. We had moved from Heidelberg to Bad Vilbel (outside Frankfurt) last June when I was assigned as the Staff Judge Advocate of V Corps. I’d been very busy in the new job, and we had little opportunity to take a trip of any length. Now I had managed to get two full weeks off, and we were going to spend it in Greece and Turkey. This would be our last major trip on this tour of duty. We had been to Athens ten years earlier, but for less than two days. This time we would explore beyond the city. And Turkey! Our four teen-age sons were not free to join us since they would be in school, but they were at the age where they were not interested in joining us anyway.
The Space-Available Fiasco. To hold down expenses, I had carefully planned for space-available seats on Air Force flights to and from Athens. There was a weekly Saturday medevac flight to Hellenikon Air Base outside Athens on a C-9, a modified version of the DC-9, that was very comfortable, with regular airline seats and an insulated cabin. He had been assured that if I checked in early the day before the flight (when seats were first released), we wouldn’t have any problems getting seats.
So on Friday, 31 March, I drove out to Rhein-Main Air Force Base early, arriving there at 08:00 when the office opened. Sure enough, there were over a dozen seats available. As I processed in, though, a glitch developed. Special shots were required to go to Turkey. We knew that, and Jane was at the dispensary at that very moment to get her last shot. But the clerk insisted that it wasn’t enough that she would have her shot record when we reported in for the flight; he had to have it in hand to process us for the flight.
I had to drive back into Frankfurt, locate Jane and get her shot record, then drive back to Rhein-Main. That took almost three hours. When I got back to the office, only one seat was still available on the C-9. There was a later Saturday flight that flew nonstop to Incirlik Air Base outside of Adana, Turkey, in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean. But it was on a C-141 cargo plane with an uninsulated cabin and without regular passenger seats. The C-9 we wanted to take continued on from Athens to Incirlik, where it stopped overnight. Since that was the end of the line for the flight, I figured we could get on it there and fly back to Athens, losing less than a day. So I signed us up for that.
Saturday, 1 April. The C-141 took off in late afternoon. There wasn’t a lot of cargo, and the crew attached a “passenger pallet” near the front of the hold. The pallet had a couple rows of unpadded wooden seats and a bathroom, and we wore earplugs, so the flight wasn’t so bad. We had box lunches for supper.
Sunday, 2 April. We landed at Incirlik after midnight. Nothing was open, so we couldn’t get military quarters for the night, and we had no idea how far it was into town or how to find a hotel if we got there. So we thought we would just sleep on the seats in the passenger lounge.
Then three airmen, two with their wives, approached us. The unaccompanied airman was stationed at Incirlik, and he and his wife had a small apartment in Adana. He invited all of us to spend the night at their apartment. Jane and I declined, but all the airmen really insisted, and we finally agreed. Our prospective host alerted his wife by phone (surprise!) and we took off. There were seven of us jammed into his car, and the apartment wasn’t much bigger. Jane slept on the couch (the place of honor), and the rest of us lay on the floor of the kitchen or living room. Although it probably wasn’t any more comfortable than if we had slept in the terminal, we certainly appreciated the kindness and generosity of our young hosts in inviting six total strangers to spend the night with them.
Our host drove us all back to the base in the morning. The C-9 was scheduled to take off about 11:00. We didn’t have any problem getting seats. The plane was very comfortable with wide seats, almost like flying first class. It landed briefly at Cigli Air Base outside Izmir, then had us at the Hellenikon Air Base on the Athens airport in Glyfada by 16:00.
We hadn’t had much sleep and were very tired, so we decided to get a room at the nearby Air
Force officers’ club in Glyfada, rather then going into downtown Athens. Unfortunately, they
didn’t have any vacancies. We spotted the Hotel Niki just across the road (on the water), so we
went there. They had a big sign in the window listing several credit cards they accepted, but when
I tried to use one, they insisted they didn’t accept credit cards. (At that time, few establishments
anywhere in Europe accepted credit cards, and I hadn’t counted on using mine anyway.) More
annoying was the fact that the hotel was right along the main approach to the airport, and the
noise from planes kept us awake most of the night.