November 25th, 1946
Nazik reasoned that they wouldn’t waste another rocket of shell on a location they already destroyed. So as soon as the shell hit, he jumped into the newly created crater. It was still warm and smoking, but otherwise a good hole to hide in. He didn’t think there was one piece of Turkey within his eyesight that was not destroyed. The barrage of rockets, shells and bullets seemed to reach a crescendo and then, to his amazement, increased. How could they have so many guns and rockets pointed at his poor country?
He had his back to the Turkish Straights and was one of the first to notice the parachutes. Thousands of them coming down behind their lines. He had only the vaguest idea of what a parachute actually looked like. He had even a lesser understanding that some of the chutes were attached to armored cars like a balloon vendor’s cart. He did comprehend the men hanging from the majority of white cloth mushroom caps. More importantly, he was clear that they were between him and safety. The very safety he was going to run to when the shelling stopped. He would have left earlier, but the American had been watching him and his squad. When the American was wounded, he and many others started to look to the east. They urgently needed to escape the shelling and what they assumed was about to follow.
For now they were about to be possibly cut off from even that avenue of retreat. It appeared that there was an avenue of escape left open to the southeast where fewer parachutes had fallen. Others saw what he saw and started to jump from crater to crater in the only direction that still seemed open to them. A trapped animal is at its most dangerous and a trapped Turkmen is even more dangerous individually than your normal soldier. No one excels at individual survival than these masters of stealth and hand to hand combat.
It is quite possible that the way to freedom was purposefully left open. No records can be found of such a plan but it was curious that a quarter mile wide gap was conspicuously left open by the Soviet paratroops. This avenue of retreat led to a desert wasteland devoid of any strategic value. Armored cars where particularly useful in keeping the Turkish forces moving in a southeasterly direction.
As Nazik made his way to the open avenue of escape, he noticed the Ruskies soldiers were not even shooting at them and even the ground was less tortured by the rockets and bombs. Contrary to what you might think, these details unnerved Nazik even more than the massive barrage of hours earlier.
Nazik and his men went to work. In less than an hour, he destroyed an armored car and shot or stabbed 7 other paratroopers. That made 13 kills including the crew of the armored car and one officer who was hanging around the vehicle. He had made his personal quota and it was time to save his life and lives of his men for another fight. Every bone in his body told him not to take the obvious retreat route left open by the initial paratroops. His animal instincts told him it was not safe. He had lost none of his squad and they had done a good job despite the others around them running at first chance.
Three of his squad snuck off and ran with the waves of others to the corridor open to the southeast. Nazik led his men directly east from his original area of operations, the Kucuksu Palace on the shoreline overlooking the straights. It was a small palace that had been renovated in 1944 and was used by royal hunting parties as a stopping off point towards parts unknown. Nazik and his men had enjoyed their stay on the grounds. It was now a pile of ruins and rubble destroyed by the initial shelling and rocket attacks.
Knowing full well what was about to happen, the Turkish high command made the controversial decision to make the Western part of Istanbul or European side an open city. They were hoping to avoid Istanbul’s destruction, once again by an invading army, and had heavily fortified the eastern side or Asian side across the Turkish straights. Nazik was thankful that the western side was devoid of fortifications as it made his escape much easier. His departure would have been without drama, except for the 10,000 or so Soviet paratroopers between him and short term safety.
In his mind, he had made his twelve-kill quota and if everyone did as well they would have won. He did his part and his squad had done theirs as well. Now it was time to survive to fight another day. The centuries old Kucuksu palace had been obliterated in very short order because that is what enemies do to each other’s potential strong holds. From what he could discern, only a handful of artillery pieces had destroyed hundreds of years of history in a matter of minutes.
There were some others who were actually making better time than his men and he. They shouted out that the Ruskies were coming across the straights in small boats and rafts by the thousands. With most of the opposition decimated by the guns, rockets and heavy attack aircraft, it was going to be a very easy crossing. There were no bridges to speak of and the government had destroyed all the ferries that had plied the straights.
He supposed the Reds had built their own ferries and would be bringing them from the Black Sea once they gained both sides. They had decimated the opposition and had no problem with the great rivers of Europe. Consequently navigating the straights would be trivial. The paratroopers would clear the waterfront of all opposition and the small boats they were using would bring enough troops over to defend until the larger tanks negotiated the transports.
Nazik caught a glimpse of something moving to his right, and signaled for his remaining men to spread out and go silent. He mentally thanked the American sergeant for teaching his troop the use of hand signals. Although some didn’t make much sense when translated into Turkish, others worked quite well. A couple signals were offensive. He chose to ignore them. His men had devised others to replace them while still remembering the meaning of the discarded ones. The figure he caught a glimpse of was wearing a similar uniform and carrying a weapon at ready. He moved differently than his countrymen and that is what caught his eye. He couldn’t put a finger on it yet this kind of instinctual decision-making is what had kept him alive in all the years of combat he had been through.
He spoke the code word for the day and waited for the proper response. He got it, but with an obvious accent. Then, he knew who it was. It was the American assigned to his company. The one who trained them and made them fight until he was wounded. Here he was back from the dead. He shouted out the American’s name so he would know they were friendly. Sure enough, Mankowitz popped his head up for a second. They all heard firing close by and ducked. Mankowitz hobbled his way towards them. He was still bleeding from a leg wound. Someone had bound it up pretty well and he appeared to be in good shape considering. When Nazik last saw him, Mankowitz was unconscious. The same rocket had hit them both but the Yank’s wound was much worse.