Military Traditions

May 21, 2019 By Bruce Bartels

My Greek Holiday

In the late 1960s, I was attached to an aviation Patrol Squadron deployed to Sigonella, Sicily, Italy. During those days our job was shipping patrols and looking for Soviet submarines. As part of our forward deployments, we went to Souda Bay, Crete. We lived on a Navy LST during that time and when we had the “ready alert” we lived in tents near the airfield. The idea was that if we needed to get into the air in a hurry, we didn’t have far to go. There were always two crews at Souda Bay — one crew on ready alert duty and the other on rest.

One evening while my crew was not on duty, we decided to do a little sightseeing on the island. We borrowed a jeep from the ship and took off. I was well prepared to handle the Greek language because I had my “pointie talkie” with me. It was a book prepared by the military in which common phrases and questions were listed in English and the Greek phrase or question was listed phonetically next to the English phrase or question. The idea, of course, was that you would find what you needed to say in English and then you could sound out and speak the same thing in Greek.

As fate would have it, the sightseeing trip got a little mixed up with Retsina wine and Ouzo. We thought we had enough for the evening and loaded into the jeep for the return trip to the base. It wasn’t long before the driver (me) was very lost (and the night was very dark). Finally, I noticed some light up ahead and saw a Greek flag flying from a flag pole. It was a Greek military base. The base was surrounded by a high wire fence and appeared to have a guard patrolling the perimeter. Time for the pointie talkie, I thought. I pulled the jeep up to the side of the road near where the guard was stationed and pulled out my book. As I approached the fence (and the guard), I was looking down at the book trying to find the right question to ask (as best I could, using the phonetics in the pointie talkie). I found what I wanted to say and looked up. What I saw was the business end of a long rifle pointed at my forehead and a very young and apparently frightened 14-year-old guard (well, he looked 14 to me) holding it.

Needless to say, I smiled and backed away from the fence rather hastily. Returning to the jeep, I told my crew the guard said we should continue down this dark road and we would get there. I put the jeep in gear and put the pedal to the medal. No shots were fired. We did continue down the dark road and, believe it or not, found our way back to the ship. I have to admit, I have not used a pointie talkie since.


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