Florence! It’s Time To Plan Our Vacation!

As told to Bob Orleck by Major Melvin W. McLaughlin, USMC Ret.

When the ex-USS ORLECK DD 886 departed American waters to become a permanent part of another country’s Navy, it brought with it feelings of sadness and of relief. We were sad that we may never see her again in the United States but were relieved that she would have a prolonged life. The initial feeling was one of anxiousness regarding her trip to Turkey. For awhile we had very little information on our ship. However, we and the USS ORLECK had a friend who continued to check her out and keep us updated. Major Melvin W. McLaughlin, USMC Ret. of Randolph, Vermont, a friend of mine for many years on two separate occasions sought out the ORLECK and visited her. Once he traveled 2000 plus miles to the West Coast and once to Turkey. The following are Major McLaughlin’s words as related to me regarding his Turkish visit:

The long awaited approval from the Office of the Naval Attache, Turkish Embassy, Washington, D.C. arrived three days before our scheduled departure from Boston on 28 August 1990 to Istanbul, Turkey.

I am glad to inform you that your request to visit Ex-USS ORLECK, TCG YUCETEPE has been approved by the Turkish Authorities. (Phone numbers given) The operator may not understand English so you must tell him the extension in a clear and loud tone…

Respectfully yours,

Enver Dersan

Captain, Turkish Navy
Naval Attache

I was one step closer to once again walking the decks of this fine ship. Now the problem was to find her in port and not at sea. Upon arrival in Istanbul, a call was placed to Commander Karagoz at the Golcuk Naval Base and permission was granted for a visit on 3 September 1990.

Dawn found me buying a 7,000 Lira ticket at the Topkapi Bus Terminal and waiting departure of the Izmir bus that would take me across the Bosphorus and onto the Continent of Asia, then to the Eastern end of the Sea of Marmara and the Naval Base at Golcuk. Three hours later I was in the Base Security Office at Commander Burham Tokatli drinking tea and sharing Philadelphia Shipyard experiences with his Security Chief while awaiting an escort. Ensign Yanki Baguoglu from the YUCETEPE took me in tow for the walk back to the ship.

Approaching the waterfront, I was impressed with the array of ships against the blue of the water and sky, their bright red Turkish star and crescent flags snapping in the brisk sea wind. Third in the line of battleship grey ships was the TCG YUCETEPE and as I stepped aboard the gangway, the shrill notes of the Bos’n pipe filled the air as I was piped aboard. Salutes were rendered to the Turkish National Ensign and the Officer of the Deck with permission being granted to come aboard. As I proceeded forward to the Ward Room and my meeting with the Executive Officer, my thoughts were one of pride with the condition of the ship.

Commander Ahmet Aksoy, Executive Officer of the YUCETEPE extended a warm welcome of greeting and over a cup of tea we shared our common interest in the ship. It had been nine years to the month since my wife Florence and I shared a similar visit to the ship at her home port in Tacoma, Washington. At that time the picture of Lieutenant Joseph Orleck and his Navy Cross posthumously awarded for his effort to save the USS NAUSET (AT89) during the Salerno invasion occupied the place of honor behind the Captain’s chair. Today there is a bit of Turkish art work. Opposite is a beautiful color photograph of the YUCETEPE at sea. The engraved plaque presented to the Turkish crew at the time of transfer occupies the forward area. At this time I presented a copy of the 1 October 1982 Decommissioning Order of the USS ORLECK (DD-886) which contained a complete history of the ship, and the Commissioning Program of TCG YUCETEPE (D-345) with Commander Baykan Dilberoglu as the new Commanding Officer. The above copies were to be placed in the ship’s archives.

In time I was requested topside to see the Komutani, skipper of the YUCETEPE, Captain Ergun Demirel. A most gracious host and graduate of the Newport Naval War College. He was extremely proud of his ship and was helpful in many ways. I was honored with the request to sign the guest book before going below for lunch in the Ward Room, the same book President Ozal had signed a short time before. A signed photograph of the President hung in the cabin.

During the noon meal I was introduced to the officers of the ship and informed that since my correspondence with Captain Dersan, the annual promotion list had been posted and two of the assembled officers were being promoted. And Captain Eser Sahan would be relieving Captain Dersan as the Naval Attache in Washington. At the conclusion of the meal, the Captain requested that I accompany him on an inspection of the ship. At this time permission was granted for me to take pictures of the ship and crew. The inspection was most thorough, from the bridge to the engine room, the bow locker to the stern. Captain Demirel pointed with pride to several changes he had made including the dual training of the crew to assume other area responsibilities. Lessons learned from the USS STARK incident in the Persian Gulf.

Upon leaving the ship, in remembrance of my visit, I was presented with a picture of the YUCETEPE underway at sea and a ceramic plate depicting the dual role of the ship, protection above and below the surface. My day was not yet over. We were joined by Ensign Baguoglu and a sailor from the ship. Captain Demirel then took us all on a conducted tour of the entire naval base before driving off base to allow me to catch the public bus back to Istanbul. It was then that I discovered the reason for the sailor. He was to provide the charts necessary to transit unfamiliar waters, viz, the public transportation system of Turkey. I shall be forever grateful to the Captain for allowing Seaman Tunay Akkus a 48 hour pass to his home in Istanbul.

Seaman Akkus proved to be a delight to this Marine Mustang. He flagged the first bus and after an apology that we would have to stand until the next town of Kocaeli, we hopped aboard the crowded vehicle. Speaking good English and excellent German, we shared our personal lives on the way to the Topkapi bus terminal in Istanbul. Arriving at the peak of evening traffic, Tunay suggested that we take a taxi one mile to his home where he would get his car and then drive me to my hotel. It sounded logical to me and within a few minutes we were at his home, relaxed under a huge grape arbor in the back patio, drinking tea and waiting for his mother to return. The reunion of mother and son was something to behold. It was all in Turkish, and I later found out that the mother had a vision the evening before that she would be see her son today. Knowing the Turkish Military and the fact that they do not get to go home each week, it is not surprising that Tunay received a good deal with his two day pass. When word was passed that Tunay was home, the family materialized from nowhere. The end result was a big family meal and a warm evening of fellowship with a Turkish family that I shall long remember.

The time came for departure to my hotel and farewell to my new found friends. Prior to entering the Navy, Tunay drove a “taksi” for three years in Istanbul. He knew every street and short cut and it seems we took them enroute across town to my hotel. It was a memorable day that I shall long cherish, thanks especially to the wonderful Turkish people who made it all possible.

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