The Small Town Kid and President Eisenhower
The Bay is loaded with senior citizens and they all come with life stories – some very interesting ones, a few filled with excitement and drama, but most are routine and common. But every once in a while, you come across someone who has a story that is far from ordinary and one that needs to be told. Following is just such a story of one of our neighbors, Douglas Abernethy, who lives right here in the Bay on Westwood Road. His story…….
Imagine you are a just turned nineteen year old kid sitting with thirty-one other guys all about your age in a stairwell on the third floor of a hotel in Tehran, Iran. You are all armed with combat knives and lethal sidearms. The year is 1959, the day is Dec. 14 – and you have the responsibility of guarding the life of President Dwight Eisenhower.
This nineteen year kid was Douglas Abernethy, born October10, 1939, the son of Forrest and Garth, owners of a clothing store in Hollis, OK, a small town sitting on the border of OK and TX, population 1,800. Doug was raised with the solid values of church, family and small town. He was a clean cut, hard-working kid, an apt student, a swift halfback (medium in size) with great hands and he even played the trumpet in the band.
Immediately following high school graduation in June 1958, Douglas joined the Navy and off to boot camp he went for eleven weeks. When a young man joins the military service, he goes through a series of training, allowing the command to evaluate the enlistee’s strengths and weaknesses. In Douglas’s case, he was recognized as possessing exceptional levels of skills, both mental and physical and also, an attribute even more compelling – toughness. His first class following boot camp was a 16 week assignment to learn the duties of a “Dispersing (Payroll) Clerk” putting his math and organizational abilities to use. He then spent two months at a D.C. language school learning Arabic. His next course of training was five months on the island of Corsica learning a fighting technique called “Savat,” which is similar to Kung Fu. Following this tour he was back in the USA at Camp Lejuene for three months of paratroop training. Then came the final leg of all this extraordinary training: four months of intensive covert warfare training in what we now call the Special Forces.
Special Forces was the forerunner of outfits we know today as the Green Berets, Navy Seals, Delta Force and Rangers. The protocol in 1958 was to gather forty pre-qualfied men from each of the five service branches – Army, Navy, Marines, AirForce, and Coast Guard – and put them through extremely rigorous training, equipping those who made it through for assignments far beyond normal military action. At that time, in classes of initially 200 approximately 160 men advanced to the Special Forces. Doug Abernethy was one of them
Upon admission to the Special Forces, Doug’s first assignment was to be part of a bodyguard contingent guarding a U.S. Navy admiral and his family stationed in Bahrain. His next assignment was as a member of a unit guarding President Dwight Eisenhower on two stops, (Iran and India), on his “Flight to Peace” goodwill tour of the Mideast Dec. 3 through Dec. 27, 1959, stopping also in Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Greece, Tunisia, Spain, France, and Morocco as well.
Although President Eisenhower was a very popular world leader, there were some elements abroad that held some major greviances against him and the U.S. In particular, there were many in Iran who were very upset by the role the U.S. under Eisenhower had played in orchestrating a coup in August, 1953 which ousted Iran’s elected leader, Mosaddeigh, and in turn, elevating the despotic and despised Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi back into power.
Next week: Douglas Abernethy’s story continues as some bad guys show up in Tehran.