Friday, February 26, 2016

In Istanbul there is a small chapel referred to as the "Dutch Chapel" because it is located in the Dutch embassy.  In that chapel is a record book where names and places of people passing through the little chapel are recorded.  At the time I lived in Istanbul, Lew and Nancy Scudder were the pastors of the church.  They knew I was interested in learning about any Americans who were buried in the Protestant Cemetery at Ferikoy-Istanbul and they wanted me to take a look at their Chapel's Record Book.

At that time, my object was to learn as much as I could about each American buried in that cemetery - who were they, why were they in Turkey, where had they come from in America, and anything other tidbits that might come up.  There seemed to be no one place where all that information was available, and I intended to research as much as I could until it was time to return to California.

The entries in the Record Book at the Dutch Chapel really started much later than I expected.  As I recall, the earliest notations were from the 1920s.  I had been researching from the records of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions whose presence in that city began in the 1830s and I was a bit skeptic that this late record book would be very helpful.  But I was very wrong.

I had been alerted to the fact that an American Hippie had died in  shootout with the Istanbul Police in the 1960s but none of my contacts could give me a name or a good date.   But he was listed in the Dutch Chapel book, along with many others who died in the 1900s instead of the 1800s.

But most poignant was the following:

The Report of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Membershio of the Union Church, Istanbul, Page. 165:

In a blinding snowstorm in January of 1945, an American Naval Airplane crashed in Thrace not far from Istanbul, and three of its complement were instantly killed.  The plane was burned after an explosion and one body was never found.  The bodies of these two pilots were interred on 3 February 1945 in the Protestant Cemetery, Ferikoy, Istanbul.

Their names were posted in the Dutch Chapel Record book along with the above:  Lt. Lauren Winslow Hawees, USN, and Lt. JG Anthony F. Sommer, Jr. USN.

There was no marker where these men were buried.

In further research I contacted the National Personnel Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  This is the data they sent me:

Lauren Winslow HAWES
born 9 July 1913, Natick, MA
died 30 Jan 1945 Thrace (near Istanbul) Turkey
Dependents: Wife Rachel Hawes (nee Whittemore), Daughter Suzanne
Service: U. S. Naval Reserve - 16 Sep 1940 to Jan 1945
Last known address: Key West, Florida
Service Number: 75916

Anthony F. Sommer, Jr.
born 27 Jun 1922 Detroit, Michigan
died 30 Jan 1945 Thrace (near Istanbul) Turkey
Dependents: Father Anthony F. Sommer Sr.: Mother Helen Sommer; sister June/Jane
Marital Status - single
Service: US Naval Reserve. 13 Aug 1942 - 30 Jan 1945
Inducted Corpus Christi, TX, Jacksonville, FL, Norfolk, VA
Decoration and medals - European, African, Middle Eastern area Campaign medal
Last known address, 18914 Gainsborough (town not given).

At the time I was in Istanbul, there was no marker to identify where these men are buried.  However, since that time the cemetery received a large bequest from an American woman who had spent many years in Istanbul (I had heard of her through a friend, who spoke of her as "Charlie".  As I understood it, part of her money went to commemorate these two Americans who lost their lives so long ago.  I also understood that at least one of the bodies was subsequently brought back to America for re-interment.

I submit that these man surely belong to my Immortal Nobodies.

This is a picture of the 1945 flag they flew under.  Note that there were only 48 stars.

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