The Ottoman Tales X: An Officer and a Gentleman

This continues a series inspired (somewhat) by Noel Barber’s The Sultans.  The previous instalment is here.

I’ve mentioned earlier that the Ottomans were capable of adjusting their MO to suit non-Turkish public opinion when the situation called for it.  This story–which comes long after the last Sultan abdicated and the Empire came to an end–shows that the Turks are willing to go to great lengths to make a good image to others, even when the others didn’t expect it.

This story comes from a relative of my wife’s who was in the U.S. Navy in the 1960’s; the story dates from the mid-1950’s, and I have not been able to verify it from another source.  I would be grateful if any of you could shed some light on it.

Turkey was and is a member of NATO, and as a result is accorded all the privileges that come with that alliance.  One of those is for naval vessels to visit ports of call in the U.S., and a Turkish warship was doing just that in Norfolk, VA.  A couple of the crewmen (at least one of which was an officer) got drunk and stole a Renault Dauphine.  They were caught and returned to the ship; Americans then and now know that drunken sailors aren’t the greatest threat to the Republic.

The Turkish ship’s captain had other ideas.  He went to U.S. Navy officials and asked for some gallows.  His request was refused.  He then untied the lines, shoved off, and headed past the three-mile limit, which was then and for many years afterwards the beginning of international waters.  The miscreants were hung and their bodies dumped at sea.  The ship then returned to port in Norfolk and resumed its visit.

Ever since the Sultan received the U.S.S. Essex in the early years of the Republic, when the Stars and Stripes first flew over the Bosporus, the relationship between Turk and American has been a good one, World War I excepted.  But I’m sure that the Turkish way to insure the good behaviour of an officer and a gentleman made an impression on our people which has lasted for a long, long time.

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