Charles Townsend Portland Maine article
I Round The World With May Dhnhran, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 31.-- This Is one of the most isolated airfields of our hlÂ« In regard bo- too he has for thÂ« so we preparations am sin- such safeguard peace Â» all we could get and we got that extension extension only by explicit recognition of the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia. The King to the government here and though by our standards he 1s not highly educated. Commanding Commanding General Richard O'Keefe says he to one of the three greatest men' he has ever met, the other two being Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston ,ChurchW. General General O'Keefe 1s a big ruddy Irishman, with a gentle voice, a deep knowledge of human nature, a charming wife nnd two Â·ons. 14 and 12. who look exactly like him. General O'Keefe to one of our lifelines. He is an air-force officer and runs, this base, which is, by terms of the lease, a non-combat base, open to all accnedited planes of the world, commercial and otherwise. otherwise. The Americans run the base, because because running an alrbose is a technical Job and the Saudi Arabians simply do not have the know-how. However, we are Â· teaching them. here. When I mentioned that this base lq our nearest to the Caspian and Russia's vital spots, the General's face went perfectly bland and he said gently that he to running a MATS iase; he wouldn't know anything about that. It s .perfectly true however that, outside of this base, with Its six thousand feet, plus runways, runways, there Is limestone under, a thin layer of sand and B-20s could land most any- Where, and where B-29s can land, B-38S can land, now. General O'Keefe to a friend of the King, one of the few Americans who are favorites favorites of the old Monarch, who to an utter despot, by custom and Is not hampered by such things asi law, except the Koran. Tho day after we got here, tbd General wont off to Jeddah. more than a thousand miles away, on the Red Sea, by plane, to see the King. THIS ajrbase was born of necessity, the Americans here tell us. During World War II, planes were going to the Japanese Japanese front by way of Cairo. Egypt; Abadan. Iraq; and Karachi. Pakistan. Tho air force needed a shorter route. "Beginning In February of 1843? Saudi Arabia got U-ndlcaso materials and the United States established a Legation lÂ» Jeddah. Soon thereafter, the King, whose name to Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud. permitted us to survey a possible route by air over ms country. In September of 1844 the United States made fbrmal request for permission to establish ah airfield at Dhahran and this was granted by an agreement of August. 1048. The airfield was formally opened In March of 1946. By that time the war with Japan was over, but we used the field for planes bringing troops horn* from the war. Dhahran -'now is -an essential essential link In our Military AlrTran- port Service. It is essential for re- fuelling and servicing. It to run by the air force and General O'Keefe, as MATS, and not as a military unit. MATS Is the air transport service for all our military forces, navy, marines corps, army and air force. It to run by the Â»lr force bocaus? that to natural, Just as the navy Is now running all the sea transport for all serv- This base Is let down In the midst of desert. A mile or so away are the bluo waters of the .Persian Gulf. Thtfe are about BOO people on the bass, which is United States territory, under lean*. Seemed awfully good to put a six cent U. 8. airmail stamp on envelopes carrying ,my column bock home It to strange, writing columns here, and dropping them into th; void, as It seems. I write It and then I give It to some American, a MATS officer, or an American Embassy man. and thafa the end of It so far as I know, except that I have supreme confidence that the main will go through, t bless the American commercial commercial linos over here. Pan-American and TWA. who carry our malls so faithfully. I don't have too much confidence In thÂ« strange foreign airlines I see everywhere. , At one airport there was the Ethiopian Airlines, with the yellow Uon of Judah painted on the front part. The houses on this base are permanent and very nice, gray stone from the desert, one-story, flat roofs. All across the Sub- Continent, as they call Southern Atla; wÂ« had heard that when we got to Saudt A-abla, we would cool off, because thÂ» houses on the base were air conditioned. Then when we got here we found the 'conditioning machinery had broken down a few days before, so we are hot as all the time. WINDOWS are sealed here against thÂ« sand, which gets Into everything. This seal- Ing to fine when the air.conditioning to on. but very bad when it to not. There to small pane at the top of one window, la our small bedroom, which can be opened. But It to behind a wall, to stop the sand, a sandstorm, so It to not much good for ventilation. Doris and I share the room, which to bad for her because she has a Â· slight claustrophobia, which 1s sensitivity to being shut-in. We have a big floor fan which stirs the air but does not cool it Evenings In the desert are something never to be forgotten. The sun disappear! suddenly, after a gorgeous sunset, and then It Is cool. Remember Coleridge: "ThÂ» sun's rim dips, the stars rush out- At stride comes the dark." The stars -ire bright and Innumerable. On the horizon is th5 red glare of Aramco, the Arabian-American Oil Corripany wells. It to" Incredibly still. There is no Insect life 'except files at certain seasons, of which this to one; bad luck to us) In desert. No water, so no mosquitoes, For one thing, we have a plentiful supply of water from artesian wells. First time for a long time that we have had more a trickle from a shower But It to hard water, as I found when I tried to wnsh We stay In the guest house, which to ell of the little stono house where General and Mrs. O'Keofe live. And who do you suppose I found hero but Eve Drew Townsend of Portland. Ufa. She to the wife of Lt. Col. Townsend: i her brother Is Vivian Drow bf Vtnnlhaven and her ulster Is Mr*. Bernlce Gibson of 33 Parrls Street. Portland. Portland. They have been here since July. He to one of those rare people who speafc Arabic. He learned It at the Army Language Language School. When you see how valuabli It 1s to Us to have men who speak thÂ« ., language of a country, you are angry Congress for the economy that cuts down* on this education In languages. Colonel Townsend to a Unqutot anyway, born in Cuba, speaks Spanish. French and sev.ral other odds and ends It delights the high and low. to find someone who their language. Makes them feel wÂ« really care something about them--besides them--besides wanting their oil! To really understand understand a people, you must know their language. I find there are one hundred for "camels." "That makes It tough." Â»ayi Colonel Townsend "I learn about 25 for camel, and then they spring thr'34Ui on rrfc."