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The Istanbul Incident
by Robert Copple

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After sailing up the Aegean Sea and through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara, we finally reached our next port of call. It was Christmas, and my ship, the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier, was anchored off the channel at Istanbul, Turkey. My good friend Henry and I left the ship in a launch to explore the city of Istanbul. We walked around for a while, enjoying the secrets of that mysterious place. The old-world architecture along the narrow shiny streets was especially interesting. In order to have some souvenir pictures we bought pre-shot slides that were readily available from the numerous vendors around the city. After satisfying the tourist part of our visit we set out to indulge in the more personally gratifying parts. While indulging in various bars, we were accompanied by a pair of attractive young girls. The girl Henry was with was a native Turk and the one I was with was British. We began bar hopping and carousing about and found ourselves deep in a seedy run-down part of the city. At one point we entered a bar to continue our escapades and ordered drinks. As the waiter asked Henry for his order, he gave him a leer suitable for Boris Karloff and went away.

When Boris returned he informed us that he was forbidden to accommodate Henry and his friend but assured me that he would serve me and my friend. I had no idea what the problem was, and in a huff, we left. Outside there was an old beat up taxi cab nearby with a swarthy looking driver waving at us so we piled in and tried to decide on what to do next. A crowd began to gather around the car; we all looked at each other wondering what was going on. We were hoping the driver would start driving. Things escalated to a violent level, the crowd began rocking the car and yelling things we didn't understand. One of the girls began to scream. Henry was frantically trying to find out from the driver what was happening and I was trying to calm the girls. We were shaken by the suddenness of the attack and we tried very hard to not panic. We thought the driver was going to abandon us and run for his life but we insisted he step on it and thankfully he did. Not knowing where we were or where the hell the ship was, I said take us to the Hilton, the only American symbol we saw on our earlier travels through the city. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing there and thanking our lucky stars we got away. Ultimately we spent the remainder of our Cinderella liberty in the bar at the top of that Istanbul Hilton Hotel looking out at the Intrepid; she was decorated with Christmas lights from stem to stern, what a welcome sight. Soon it became time for Henry and me to say goodbye to the girls and head back to the ship. Of course a cultural element may have been the reason for the hostilities but we had no idea in 1960 what that was about. Things are much clearer now.

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