Decommissioning from the Turkish Navy
As told by Robert Orleck.
Over five thousand miles away in Asia, Turkish Navy crew and officers gathered at "Poyraz Pier" at the Naval Base in Golcuk/Kocaeli, Turkey on April 1, 1998. The sun was shinning and the bright colors of flags stretched from the masts to the decks of a number of ships lined up next to each other. There was a large numbers of Naval Officers and Crew in their dress uniforms some with finely dressed women at their side. The whole sight was impressive.
A canopy draped with flags was in front of two particular ships (TCG YUCETEPE D 345 and TCG ALCITEPE D-346) and halfway between was a table with nicely wrapped packages and caps. To the right and left of the table were podiums with microphones. To one side a large contingent of the Turkish Naval Band, poised for the ceremony to start. The guests were seated when a black shiny vehicle drove up to the canopy.
Four Star Admiral Ilhami ERDIL emerged and with his wife approached the first row center of the guest viewing area. There his place was prepared with a small table, his name plate, bottled water and flowers. The Admiral acknowledged the first row that was composed of the all prior Commanders of the two ships.
Behind were other invited guests. The Admiral approached and extended his hand to Robert and Barbara Orleck of Randolph, Vermont, thanked them for coming from America and expressed his honor at the visit. They exchanged that expression of honor bestowed on them for they truly feel it was an honor that was theirs. The decision to decommission TCG YUCETEPE had come very quickly with little or no time to get the word out or plan.The invitation from the Turkish Navy was made to Bob and they had all they could do to get their passports in the 10 days they had. Things worked out and they were able to attend.
The ceremony and all that was said and sung was in Turkish but for Bob and Barb Orleck, although they did not know the language, they understood. Language could not mask the tremendously strong and affectionate feelings that people had for these two ships and especially for one, TCG YUCETEPE D 345. For the time had come when these ships, as beautiful and as operational as they were and as well kept as they had been maintained, hadreached "the end of their mission" as Commander Er, the Commander of TCG YUCETEPE had related to Bob Orleck. The ship was 53 years old.
The ceremony was sad. The music and the words were clearly spoken with heavy hearts. At the end of the ceremony men came from the ship and painted over the colors and as she was taken from the pier by tugs in a symbolic removal from service. As she turned sideways facing the reviewing stand, her Commander Er took his hat off and waved good-bye. Then all her officers did the same. There was not a dry eye in the place.
USS ORLECK DD 886 had served 37 years from its commissioning on September 15, 1945 in the United States Navy. The ship was named for Joseph Orleck, a son of a Russian emigrant. Joseph joined the Navy, rose through the ranks and took command of the USS NAUSET AT 89 at age 37. During the invasion of Salerno Italy on Sept 9, 1943 when his ship was approaching the assault area in the Gulf of Salerno it was struck by aerial bombs and was immediately consumed by fire.