SMallpotatoEs in Japan

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Turkish Airlines evacuates Japanese

Posted by japansmallpotatoes on October 11, 2009


I have a thankful sentiment towards Turkish people and one of my reasons to start this blog is to express my appreciation to Turkish people in public.

In March 1985, I was in Tehran, Iran along with my wife and two years old son.  Iran engaged war with Iraq at that time and Iraq used to send bombers to Tehran every night and we kept sleeping under a table in dining room  for the minimum security.

In the evening of March 17, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein announced that Iraq would start  shooting all the commercial flights flying over Iran’s territory with 48 hours’ grace and would begin indiscriminate and intensive attack to Iran.  All the carriers flying to Iran decided to suspend the service by the time limit accordingly and, at the same time, each national flag carrier started to lift the compatriot from Iran for evacuation.

Japan’s national flag carrier JAL, however, was unable to send any flight to Iran for an internal reason and over 300 Japanese citizens were stuck in Tehran.  From the morning of March 18, many Japanese rushed in vain to ticket counters of European Airlines such as AF and LH to seek any vacant seat since the priority was naturally given to its own citizen.   

I knew that there was a land route so-called the Pan-Asian Highway to Istanbul via Erzurum, Turkey, to escape from Tehran and I had once taken the route in 1980 to be faced with a big problem. (I will write the details in other page.)  So, I did not dare to take that way again with my wife and son and was thinking to leave Tehran by car for the Caspian Sea side before the time limit to avoid possible heavy bombing in Tehran after visiting Europen Airlines without success. 

Around 8 o’clock in the evening of March 18, I received a phone call from consul of Japan informing that Turkish Airlines was kindly offering for the vacancy on its evacuation flights to Japanese citizens and suggested to go to Turkish Airlines office in the next morning. From the early morning of March 19, I went to Turkish Airlines office to join a queue for a few hours and finally purchased 3 tickets to Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines saved 215 Japanese in total by two flights just before the time limit 20:00 hours of March 19, 1985. Being so tired and exhausted on those several days, I was sleeping during the flight and don’t remember well how it was but all the passengers clapped their hands soon after the take-off and at the time of the Captain’s statement “Welcome to Turkey” when crossing the border.

Many years later, I came to know that H.E. Mr. Ozal, Prime Minister of Turkey had decided to send the evacuation flights in return to Japan’s efforts to rescue Turkish sailors on board of frigate Ertugrul which was wrecked on the coast of Japan in 1890. Turkey did this for something happened almost 100 years ago!   Those who are interested in this story, please pay a visit to Frigate Ertugrul

I would like to say “teşekkür” thousand times to H.E. Mr. Ozal, the crew members who have risked the life during the operation and all the Turkish people.

I attach an article of Turkish news paper “Cumhuriyet” issued on March 20, 1985 in which my wife’s answer to an interview on arrival at Istanbul airport is quoted. Page 1


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