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Pleasant memories of Libya

June 06, 2004

Susan SPANO's "Libya, Within Reach" [May 23] rekindled memories of my 18-month stay in that country as a member of the United States Air Force stationed at Wheelus Air Base in 1963. The facility, a few miles east of Tripoli, was a slice of America anchored firmly along the Barbary Coast.

With its base exchange (the U.S. government's version of Wal-Mart), numerous clubs, restaurants, two movie theaters and a radio and television station, Wheelus served as a pied-a-terre for 1,000 or so American airmen whose mission was to facilitate target practice for our jet fighter squadrons stationed in Europe.

Besides its Arab population, Tripoli was also home to a sizable community of Italians that dated to Mussolini's days. (It was said that Il Duce had a palace there along the southern perimeter of Wheelus.) Thus, it wasn't difficult to find hearty Italian fare in numerous trattorias in downtown Tripoli. In fact, my favorite Sunday pastime was to ride the base bus into town, stock up on some fine Italian pastries and espresso, and stroll down to the waterfront to watch Libyan fisherman mend their nets.

As Spano said, the Roman ruins at Leptis Magna and Sabratha are incredible and -- for the adventuresome -- worth a visit to a country from which I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot.

Joe Ruszkiewicz

Seal Beach


I always enjoy reading Spano's articles, and I look forward to reading her travel suggestions and experiences. My wife and I try to compare them with those we have when we travel in the same areas.

I especially enjoyed her coverage of Libya. I was near there in 1946 but never got much farther than Tangier and Bone or Annaba, Algeria.

I recently finished reading a history of the North African campaign of World War II; Spano mentioned Ghat, Libya. It was in this area where American and British fought some of the fiercest battles of the war against the forces of German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. As I was reading this history, I could only imagine what it must have been like for our troops during these battles.

With Spano's story and its photographs, I have a better idea of what the country is like.

Jack DeLuca

Newport Beach

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