A Typically Biased "Eyewitness"
"New Light on the Destruction of Smyrna" (pp. 312-18) was written by Oran Raber, an assistant professor of Botany from the University of Wisconsin. We are told that it has "all the value of a document inasmuch as it is from the pen of an eyewitness whose training as a scientist and whose disinterestedness as an American fit him to he an accurate and impartial recorder." Of all the westerners, as if Americans did not rank as among the most hostile against the Turks. Dr. Raber was "of New England ancestry," to make matters worse... assuming Massachusetts is where he called home, the most Armenian-friendly state in the union, at that time. Raber showed his stripes at the outset of his article, proclaiming, "Greeks and Armenians beheld in terror the approach of the conqueror. Would the Turk live up to his old reputation as butcher and thief, or was this the beginning of a new era?" Pretty "impartial" and "scientific," all right. At least the man was no George Horton, the U.S. consul and hateful religious fanatic who had produced "The Blight of Asia"; Raber threw a few bones the way of the Turks, recognizing them as human beings. Ataturk's intentions were good, he wrote, and even threw a little light on the savagery of the Greeks. ("[T]he conscience of the Greek was not entirely clear. These same refugees had in severa! cases burned some of the Turkish dwellings before taking their places in the ranks of the retreating soldiers..." Note he made it seem Greek crimes were only incidental, the exception rather than the rule.)
As the Turkish Army approached, we get the familiar story regarding the Armenian who threw a bomb at the head of the troops. "No one was injured save the Armenian himself, who was promptly shot down by one of the Turkish cavalry. From that instant death and destruction were let loose. Shots filled the air..." Yet, in a Times of London account ("Story of a British Eye-Witness") entitled "LAST DAYS OF SMYRNA. How the Turks Rode In. Sept. 18" where we get a definite feeling that the eyewitness was really there (the article actually relied upon two British eyewitnesses, who did not always "eyewitness," either), Raber's account is challenged: the Turkish officer gets "wounded" by the bomb, meaning the Armenian was not the only one injured. "He made light of his injuries, and his troopers maintained perfect discipline. Some shots were fired that night, but less than had been feared," totally contrary to the melee our American "eyewitness" reported. (The Turkish officer's injury was corroborated in Marjorie Housepian's propagandistic "Smyrna 1922": "Spunky little Major Cherefeddin Bey described how he had been struck with a hand grenade as he led his cavalry regiment down the quay on 9 September two years before, but the Armenian culprit in his original story had now become 'a uniformed, armed Greek soldier who threw the bomb'. Beyond this incident the Major had seen no disorder at Smyrna because, he said, 'nothing took place'.")
Dr. Oran Raber
Raber describes the beginnings of the fire as thus; Armenians had holed up in a church that "served as a place of refuge as well as an arsenal." They refused to give up their arms, "and on this Wednesday morning a patrol of Turkish infantry was sent to the church to demand the surrender of the arms and ammunition which were concealed there. This patrol was insufficient. The Armenians made a sally from the building and repulsed the Turks. The Turks then threw a bomb into the church which set it on fire and exploded the stored munitions."
Naturally, Raber did not "eyewitness" this action. Neither did the British eyewitness, who painted the Turkish commander as an honorable man. Kiazim Pasha informed the Briton that the fire was, "as he believed, caused by a desperate band of Armenians who, refusing to surrender, had set fire to the church in which they had taken refuge. Later came loud explosions. 'Demolition bombs,' said he; but the fire spread and by the afternoon of the 13th everyone was desperately but vainly fighting the flames."
But our "impartial" and "scientific" American said this, instead:"That little fire was to develop into a holocaust, and before forty-eight hours the beautiful city of Smyrna was to be a mass of ashes and cinders... Instead of attempting to extinguish the fire, the Turks, thoroughly enraged, aided and directed it by petrol."
Horrible. This prejudiced American had it in for the Turks from the outset. It sounds like he made up the part about the Turks throwing the bomb (or quickly accepted the word of another biased party who had made it up), and all other sensible foreign accounts have reported how desperately the Turks had tried to extinguish the fire, instead of having . "aided and directed it by petrol." (It must also be borne in mind that, according to the Austrian fire chief, "many Armenian young men disguised... as Turkish irregular soldiers... were caught setting fires.") Moreover, the report of the Austrian fire chief completely contradicts Raber's assertion that the "holocaust" was the result of just one little fire that spread out of control. No, there were many fires. [See the links at the bottom of this page.] But then Raber hands us his coup de grace: "From what I saw and from evidence collected from both Turks and Greeks, there is only one conclusion: The burning of Smyrna was the work of Turks."
Why are we not surprised? Raber then tries to drive his biased opinion home by asking why the Turkish quarter was left intact. A missionary (MacLachlan) who nearly got beaten to death by the Turks had the honor to provide the logical answer: the Christians were hoping to bring about western intervention. (That trick, after all, had worked for these terrorists for the past century.) Raber refrained from analyzing the greater mystery, which Mark Prentiss summed up in his report to Admiral Bristol: "It is noteworthy that these fires broke out in buildings which it was greatly to the advantage of Turks to preserve, and to the advantage of enemies to destroy."
The bigoted American went to town toward the end of the article, recounting: "Children are howling and crying everywhere. Their mothers and fathers sit with sad eyes and watch the city slowly crumble into ashes." The parents of two brothers are on a Greek island, "safe from the Turk for the time." (Brother!) And just in case you didn't get his "Greek=good, Turk=bad" message, his ending line made matters crystal-clear: "Nine days before I found [Smyrna] a beautiful Greek city with happy homes and prosperous people. Today, I leave it a Turkish city, dead and in ruins."
William Gladstone wouldn't have been able to put this usual notion of "uncivilized barbarians who, wherever they went, left nothing but smoking ruins behind them and stamped out every vestige of civilization" (as Edward Said aptly described the bigoted West's perception of the Turks in his "Orientalism") more beautifully.
SMYRNA DURING THE GREEK OCCUPATION
By COLONEL RACHID GALIB.
In conjunction with the foregoing account by Dr. Oran Raber, the following article by Colonel Galib is of interest for the evidence it adduces to show that the Greeks were guilty of atrocities at Smyrna and in other parts of Asia Minor and also for the suggestion that the Greeks and Armenians were responsible for the burning of Smyrna. Colonel Galib was an officer on the General Staff of the Turkish Army of the West during the Balkan War of 1912, and is now a resident of Vienna.
Who are the barbarians in the Eastâ€” the Turks or the Greeks? To answer this question let us examine the behavior of the Greeks and the Greek Army during their invasion of Asia Minor and their subsequent retreat. The Greeks landed under the protection of the guns of allied warships at Smvrna three years ago. The town was entirely stripped of troops and offered no delense whatsoever. Yet no sooner did the invaders put foot ashore than they flung themselves like wild beasts upon the defenseless Turkish population. committing the foulest deeds. Wherever the Greeks came across Turkish inhabitants they shot them down in batches in the most savage manner. Homes were broken into and robbed; women and even girls of ten were violated.
So atrocious were the crimes committed by the Greeks who had been entrusted with the mission of civilizing Asia Minor that the Allies were forced to send a commission of inquiry to Smyrna to investigate on the spot the doings of their Hellenic protÃ©gÃ©s. The result of the investigation is known to the whole world. The commission, composed of Admirals and Generals representing the United States, Great Britain, France and !taly, conducted a most painstaking inquiry, and presented a report based on unimpeachable evidence to show the full extent of the atrocities committed against the deferseless Turks. Yet, in spite of all that. the protectors of the Greeks decided that it would not be prudent to give publicity to the crimes of their spoiled child. The report was pigeon holed and the culprits left unpunished, for what did it matter if some tens of tbousands of Turks had been massacred?
Having taken possession of Smyrna, as if the regular army was not sufficient to continue the work of destruction, the Greeks organized armed bands of irregulars for the express purpose of spreading devastation in Anatolia. During the three years of their occupation these hordes [had] sac[k]ed, burned and destroyed everything they could. Then came the day when the Turkish Army drove these Huns from Anatolia, but not before they did further damage. The regular Greek Army during its retreat burned more than 280,000 houses, after having caused Turkey, according to the Commission of Inquiry, a loss ofâ€™ 1.500.000.000 Turkish pounds. (The Turkish pound is normally worth $4.40.)
As evidence of the devastation wrought by the Greeks, the following report printed in The London Times of Sept. 27 speaks for itself:
Strong criticism of the behavior of the Greek troops and of the [British] Governmentâ€™s policy in the Near East was expressed yesterday by Lord St. Davids. when presiding at the haIf.yearIy meeting of the Ottoman Railway from Smyrna to Aidin, held at Winchester House [London].
Lord St. Davids said that from the very beginning the board thought, and said, that the attempt to hand over Srnyrna to the Greeks was a perfectly absurd action, even from the point of view of the Greeks themselves. The Greeks in their retreat burned every Turkish village they saw, robbed individual Turks, and, when these resisted, killed them. They did all this nowhere near the front, without any military necessity, and out of cheer malice. The company's reports were that it was done systematically by regular troops under orders. It was done by men who knew they could not hold the country, and meant to make it worthless for any one else.
Referring to the destruction of the railway by the Greeks, Lord St. Davids said: â€œWe are under distinct obligation to Mustapha Kemal for having sent up troops to rescue the staff. We think our Government has been a great deal too thoughtful about the susceptibilities of King Constantine, one of the worst enemies this country had during the war, the meanest and most treacherous of all our foes, and has not taken enough trouble, or used enough force, to make him and his Government pay what they owe us.â€�
Here is the evidence of Arnold J. Toynbee, Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Literature and History in the University of London. as printed in The London Daily Mail of Sept. 21:
I was an eyewitness last year of Greek atrocities against the Turks. The district where they occurred was a fertile and formerly prosperous peninsula on the southern coast of the Sea of Marmora. Incidentally, it was a part of the neutral zone set up by the Treaty of SÃ¨vres, but the Allies had not only allowed but invited a Greek Army to occupy it. The extermination was carried out partly by bands of local Greek irregulars with the countenance and collusion of the Greek military authorities, partly by the Greek regular troops themselves. I was coasting round In an Ottoman Red Crescent steamer which was evacunting the survivors.
The London Daily Mail of Sept. 12 reproduced a dispatch from The Chicago Tribune correspondent at Smyrna in which the following statement appeared:
The Greek Army has burned all the villages and towns on its march and converted Asia Minor into a ruin. * * * The Greeks have massacred the defenseless Turks en masse everywhere.
M. Franklin-Bouillon, who was sent by the Allies on a mission to Mustapha Kemal at Smyrna, when interviewed by a number of foreign journalists on Sept. 3, rnade this statement:
I have seen terrible and frightful things at Magnissa, a town near Smyrna. This town, hitherto so prosperous, had before the Greek invasion 50,000 inhabitants and 11,000 houses, of which 10,000 have been burned by the Greeks. The Greek commander himself directed this horrible operation from the balcony of the building where he hod his headquarters. As he gave his incendiary troops orders, he calmly smoked a cigarette. I ask the American journalists to use every effort to let the civilized Anglo-Saxon world know of these atrocities committed by the Greeks. We do not want Thrace also to become under Greek domination a ruined and ravaged desert. In Anatolia the Greeks have desroyed, devastated and externiinated everything and everybody.
During this interview one of the correspondents reminded M. Franklin-Bouillon of the massacres and atrocitics committed by the Greeks when they landed at Smyrna. and he replied that all those crimes which had been hidden until now should also be made known.
Still another witness is to be found in the person of the British Consul General at Smyrna (Mr. H. Lamb), who reported to his Government that he had reason to believe that Greeks in concert with Armenians had burned Smyrna. This was confirmed by the correspondent of the Petit Parisien at Smyrna in a dispatch on Sept. 20.
The number of children. cvomen, young men and old. among the Turkish noncombatant population. who fell under the knives of the Greeks, according to the (Illâ€™ferent official inquiries, ht~s reached a total of 213,136. .
Papoulos, the Greek Commander-in-Chief, in a speech in the Ava Fotini Church at Smyrna last year, made the impudent declaration that if some day the Greeks had to abandon the territories they had occupied. the destruction they had wrought would make it impossible for the Turks to draw any profit from Asia Minor for the next 250 years. And the Greeks have done precisely what Papoulos promised. Such, then, is the achievement of the Greeks in civilizing Anatolia, yesterday so prosperous, today a blood-smeared ruin.
(With thanks to reader M. Mersinoglu.)
TAT's first Izmir page may be accessed here :
American Reports on the Burning of Izmir ("Smyrna")
Everybody wants to get in on the genocide act, and this time it's the Greeks. It's commonly believed the Turks set fire to their own valuable city, as if that's exactly what they needed, with the monumental task of nation-rebuilding ahead of them. Meanwhile, the invading Greeks behaved in such a vile and barbaric manner, their own British sponsors withdrew support. Here the Greeks were, with their backs to the sea, their dreams of conquest destroyed... and they were about to "lose" "Smyrna." Will they leave the city in one piece, especially keeping in mind many of their own kind still lived in its borders, or will they take one last stab at following what was their scorched-earth policy, during their retreat from the Anatolian heartland?
Here is the commonly accepted Western view, written by Nicholas Tanery:
After a systematic campaign of race extermination the Greeks were also destroyed in Smyrna (renamed Izmir in 1930) by Turkish armies under the command of Kemal Ataturk. Over a hundred thousand Greek civilians were massacred in September 1922 under the watchful eyes of a 27 ship armada from the USA, Britain, Italy and France. Smyrna was burned to the ground save for the Standard Oil compound.
(Incidentally, "Smyrna," like "Constantinople," is Christian "code." The people of the Ottoman Empire never referred to their cities by these names, for the centuries these cities were under Turkish rule. The West's refusal to call these cities by their actual names was, and still sometimes is, a nutty attempt of claiming these cities don't really belong to the Turks.)
Incidentally, I've read in many Western sources that only the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city were burned, directly incriminating the Turks. Note that the anti-Turkish writer above states the entire city was burned, save for the petroleum compound. (As far as the oil... let's bear in mind the Turks had lost all their oil regions by the end of 1918, and Turkey today is not an oil-producing nation, to my knowledge.)
Note also the writer's claim that a hundred thousand Greeks were massacred. Well, if the Turkish army had nothing better to do amidst the fires of their burning city than to murder a hundred thousand innocent souls ... which is a mighty big feat, even if a city is not dangerously aflame... then what was the point of burning their valuable city? (Authors such as Lord Kinross and Michael Llewellyn Smith -- the latter blamed the Turks for the fire -- put the toll at 1,000-2,000.)
Greeks in particular should ask themselves... if Ataturk was so inclined toward murdering civilians, why didn't he ethnically cleanse the remainder of the Christian population, once in control? Additionally, in studying Ataturk's character, Greeks in particular should ask themselves... why did Venizelos nominate Ataturk for a Peace Prize in the years that followed?
Obviously, either this view can be right... or it can be wrong. Let's take a look at the following eyewitness account... and then:
2) A 1923 article that appeared in the American magazine, "The Nation": The Turkish Myth
3) A 1923 view from American writer, E. Alexander Powell
4) Stanford Shaw... on Izmir & Pontus
5) Impressions from THE BLIGHT OF ASIA
6) Dr. Georgios Nakratzas' Open Letter
7) A Response to N.Y. Gov. Pataki's Proclamation
American engineer Mark Prentiss reports, following the introduction.
Who Burned Izmir?
"...The Armenians and Greeks were determined not to let this booty fall into the hands of their hated enemies."
In 1920 Izmir was given up to the Greeks by the Ottomans as part of a Peace agreement proposed by Churchill. Although intended as an allied occupation under the armistice terms, it was in fact a Greek occupation which quickly became an excuse to extend the boundaries of Greece across the Aegean in accordance with the Greek dream of rejuvenating the Byzantine Empire.
In a three week battle Ataturk threw the Greeks back into the sea, captured the Greek commanding general and re-entered Izmir triumphant. The retreating Greek army massacred thousands of Turkish families who were mostly women and children since their men were away at war. Buildings were burned to the ground. Since then various allegations have been made trying to implicate the Turks for the burning of Izmir. Here we have the text of a little seen document from a witness which clearly absolves the Turks of any involvement in the attempted destruction of the city.
Here are the impressions of Mark Prentiss, an American industrial engineer, who was a special representative of the Near East Relief. Being in Izmir at the time he later wrote his impressions. He also sent on January 11, 1923 a copy of this manuscript to Rear Adm. Mark L. Bristol of the United States, the US High Commissioner at the American Embassy in Istanbul.
"... Many Armenian young men disguised either as women or as Turkish irregular soldiers... were caught setting fires Tuesday night and Wednesday morning."
Nearly everybody in America, it appears, is convinced that the Turks were responsible for the fire which added the final touches of tragedy to the Smyrna [Izmir] horror. The unanimity and firmness of this conviction surprised me at first, as I believe it would have surprised anybody else, of whatever nationality or political allegiance, who had recently come from the scene of the disaster. The motive, usually considered of supreme importance in crimes of this sort, does not clearly point to the Turks. They had captured Smyrna. The city, as it stood, was one of the greatest prizes ever taken in Oriental warfare. The Turks had unquestioned title to its foods, its commodities of all sorts, its houses. It was a store house of supplies most urgently needed for its peoples and armies. Why destroy it?
It was a matter of common knowledge, on the other hand, that the Armenians and Greeks were determined not to let this booty fall into the hands of their hated enemies. There was a generally accepted report in Smyrna, for several days before the fire, that an organized group of Armenian young men had sworn to burn the city if it fell to the Turks..
Evidence gathered by Paul Grescovitch, Chief of the Smyrna Fire Department, and carefully checked by myself, together with information which came to me from other sources, points to the Armenians as authors of the fire. The series of events which led up to the final terror on the Smyrna waterfront, as I was enabled to follow them, began in the first days of September, when Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, United States High Commissioner at Constantinople, organized the Smyrna Emergency Relief Committee in anticipation of what might happen in the city if it fell, as then seemed inevitable, to the Turks.
The USS Destroyer Lawrence, under command of Capt. Wolleson proceeded to Smyrna, carrying this committee, of which I was a member. We arrived on the evening of Friday, the eighth of September , in time to see the last of the Greek army leaving the city...
One of the most serious situations that confronted the committee was the possibility of fire. This situation developed into one of extreme anxiety when we learned that the entire city police department, together with nearly all the Greeks who were members of the fire department, had deserted their posts and fled the city in fear of the approaching Turkish army. I made it my business to make a general survey of the situation, and I found that the fire fighting forces consisted of approximately sixty men with two small station houses. I found two reasonably good fire engines and about half a dozen hand machines that were used along the waterfront by dropping an intake hose over the sea wall into the water. There were only a few buildings in the city over three stories high, the great majority being two...
A report has been widely circulated in this country to the effect that the Armenian hospital, where some fifteen hundred refugees had gathered was burned by Turkish soldiers who slaughtered many of the helpless occupants. The truth of the matter is that on Tuesday, early in the afternoon, in response to an emergency appeal, I had gone to the hospital accompanied by Dr. Post and two nurses, all of us members of the Near East Relief Staff.
While I was there a squad of from fifteen to twenty Turkish soldiers, under the command of the captain, came to take over the hospital for Turkish military purposes. The refugees were searched, as they came from the grounds, and arms of various sorts sufficient to fill a truck were taken from them. All of them, men, women and children, who had taken refuge both in the hospital building and in the adjoining grounds were dispersed by six o'clock that afternoon. The captain in command had written instructions from the Turkish commander to take possession of the hospital and to prepare it for immediate occupancy. He told us that they would begin moving Turkish patients to the hospital that night. He also mentioned that he had orders to shoot the refugees if they had refused to disarm, and that he certainly would have done so but for their unexpected docility in giving up their weapons. He credited their willingness to disarm to the presence of the Americans, Dr. Post, the two nurses and myself....
This photo was identified in a Greek site as the city's Christian residents being trapped between the flames and the sea. Waitaminnit. Weren't the Christians supposedly massacred by Turkish troops? And weren't there any Turkish residents left in the city, who could have been trapped? (Sigh.)
On the following morning, Wednesday, the thirteenth of September, the situation was critical in the extreme. Paul Griscovich, Chief of the Smyrna Fire Department, told me that he had discovered bundles of discarded clothing, rags and bedding, covered with petroleum, in several of the institutions recently deserted by Armenian refugees. Grescovich impressed me as a thoroughly reliable witness. I had met and had a long talk with him three days previously, on Sunday morning. Fortunately, I needed no interpreter, as he speaks English fluently. He is an engineer, born and educated in Austria, and has been identified with several large engineering enterprises in Turkey. Twelve years ago he became chief of the Smyrna fire department, which he continued to conduct in a very efficient manner, for that part of the world, during the Greek occupation. He told me that during the first week of September there had been an average of five fires per day with which his crippled department had to cope. In his opinion most of these fires were caused by carelessness, but some undoubtedly were of incendiary origin. The average number of fires in a normal year, he said, would be one in ten days, and the increase to five a day seemed significant.
As soon as the Turkish military authorities assumed control, Griscovich had applied for additional men and fire fighting equipment. Instead of helping him, the Turkish military governor, learning that there were still Greeks in the fire department, ordered their immediate arrest, which left the department with only thirty-seven men. Sunday night, Monday and Monday night, and Tuesday, so many fires were reported at such widely separated points that the fire department was absolutely unable to deal with them. They were extinguished by Turkish soldiers.
During Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, the Turkish soldiers shot down many Armenians who, they claimed, were caught throwing petroleum and starting fires in the Armenian quarter and also around the warehouses and station of the Cassaba Railroad. It was on Wednesday morning that Griscovich himself found evidences of incendiaries. He told me that early that morning had seen two Armenian priests escorting several thousand men, women, children from the Armenian schools and Dominican churches where they had taken refuge down to the quays. When he presently went into these institutions he found petroleum-soaked refuse ready for the torch.
The chief told me, and there is no doubt that he was sure of it, that his own firemen, as well as Turkish guards, had shot down many Armenian young men disguised either as women or as Turkish irregular soldiers, who were caught setting fires Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
At 11:20 Wednesday morning, at least half a dozen fires were reported almost simultaneously around the freight terminal warehouses and the passenger station of the Aidine Railroad.
It is noteworthy that these fires broke out in buildings which it was greatly to the advantage of Turks to preserve, and to the advantage of enemies to destroy.
At 12:00 o'clock five fires were reported around the Armenian hospital. At about the same time, two fires were reported at the Armenian Club, and a few minutes later several fires started simultaneously around the Cassaba Railroad station.
Shortly after noon Griscovich, convinced that the city was doomed, again went to the military authorities to ask for help, and again it was not forthcoming. It was not until six o'clock in the evening that he was given a command of 100 soldiers to serve under his direction and it was eight o'clock at night before the soldiers began the destruction of buildings by bombs, in order to check the spread of the fire.
Early in the afternoon, I was at the headquarters of Kazim Pasha; Turkish military governor of the district, and from his window I could see smoke from several parts of the city. I called his attention to this, but he assured me they were of no consequence. He said that he had been worried about the possibility of conflagration, and that his soldiers had received instructions to prevent it. When I left him I made an appointment to return at five o'clock that afternoon but the fire had spread so rapidly, the people had been driven from their homes down to the quay, in such numbers and the panic was so great, that I found it impossible to reach his headquarters to keep the appointment. During the afternoon the wind began to rise and blow from the Southeast which I was told was most unusual at that season of the year, and by night a perfect gale was blowing. People who had lived in Smyrna many years told me they had never known a wind of such violence during the summer months. Dense smoke and sparks were blown across the decks of the US Destroyer Litchfield, which after midnight was anchored 780 yards offshore.
It was not until three days later that I saw Grescovich again. He told me he had no sleep for five days and nights and he looked the part.... On that, and several succeeding days, we explored the great part of the burned area of the city, and I made notes of the most important things he told me. Later, when Lloyd's men came to ascertain the extent the damage, he refused to make any statements at all.
During several weeks after the fire I had an opportunity to talk with many Turkish commanders, and they were all of one mind in leveling either bitter or philosophical accusations at their enemies for destroying the city. They were contemptuous of the suggestion, made in a few quarters, that they had any responsibility for the burning. "Why should we burn the city?" they would ask. "Smyrna, with all its wealth and treasure, was ours. The fleeing Greek army had abandoned huge quantities of military stores and food supplies that were desperately needed by our armies and civilians. These have been destroyed, together with the warehouses and stations where many fires broke out. Besides, the fleeing Greeks and Armenians, many of them wealthy as you know, had abandoned everything in their homes and their stores. We were in absolute and undisputed possession. Do you think that we are such fools as to have destroyed everything?"
My attention has been called to many statements published broadcast in this country that the Turks were seen pouring petroleum around the American Consulate. I was in the vicinity of the Consulate most of the time and saw no petroleum.
It is a fact worthy of attention of the honest historian that very few people in Smyrna at the time of the fire, or during the succeeding weeks, believed that the Turks were responsible for it. That the Turks were grossly...negligent in the matter of ordinary precautions against an outbreak of fire, we all realized, and that they were tragically inefficient in fighting the fire was obvious to us all, but I have been able to find no evidence that either Turkish soldiers or Turkish civilians deliberately fired the city or wished its destruction.
The evidence all points in another direction....
From The Turkish Times, Sept. 1, 1998
"Prologue" from www.ataa.org
Mark Prentiss was behind another article, from the Jan. 1924 Atlantic Monthly, called "Actualities at Smyrna." (On this page you can also read attempts by pro-Armenians to discredit Mark Prentiss, and whether they make sense.)
From "The Turkish Myth"
"The Turkish Myth" appeared in the June 13, 1923 issue of the American magazine, The Nation, written by Arthur Moss and Florence Gilliam. For the full article, please click the link above.
Finally, there could be no more complete refutation of the long-perpetuated charges against Turkey than the behavior of the Turkish army during the recent offensive in Smyrna. All the events of this advance have been reported by British and American papers whose policy has been consistently anti-Turkish. When the victorious army entered the region, the Christian population, remembering the precedent of 1919 when the Greeks slaughtered 4,000 Moslems, began sending out panic-stricken appeals for protection, anticipating retaliation on the part of the Turks. And the Council of the League of Nations at Geneva sent to Angora a mild request that no reprisals be made for the Greek atrocities. A strange turn of phraseology: the League of Nations admitting Greek atrocities! Gradually it dawned upon the Christians in Smyrna and upon the Christian nations in Europe that no reprisals were to be made. But the retreating Greeks in complete demoralization behaved so badly that even the efficient British censorship could not stop the leaking of news. The pillaging and burning by the defeated Greek army grew to such proportions that it was difficult for lzmet Pasha to restrain his troops from retaliation. But restrain them he did, and his men behaved with such dignity and orderliness as to profoundly impress Western observers. (How different from the actions of our own marines in Haiti!) The first Turk troops to enter Smyrna were military police who prevented looting and did their best to still the panic among the hysterical Greek civilians. The correspondents of the Chicago Tribune, the London Daily Mail, and Reuterâ€™s stated emphatically that the unfortunate burning of the city was not in any way traceable to the Turks. In spite of these reports by correspondents who were on the spot and who have no reason to favor the Turkish cause, we still hear that the Turks burned Smyrna.
During the retreat, Reuterâ€™s correspondent was warned by Greek officers to leave Ouchak as that town was to be burned. I quote his dispatch from Smyrna: â€œThe demoralization of the Greek troops was complete and the behavior of most of the Greek officers disgusting. On the retreat to Smyrna many Greek officers personally led the looting and pillaging.â€�
But it remains for an American official, a man sent by a great relief organization to help succor the downtrodden Greeks and Armenians, to knock the last props from under the stupid edifice of lies and anti-Turk propaganda. Colonel Haskell of the American Red Cross has just returned from a tour of investigation in the Near East. Speaking officially he said: â€œAmerica should feed the half million Turks whose hinterland was willfully demolished by the retreating Greeks, instead of aiding the Greeks and Armenians who are sitting around waiting for America to give them their next meal. The stories of Turk atrocities circulated among American churches are a mess of lies. I believe that the Greeks and not the Turks are barbarians."
A 1923 view from American writer, E. Alexander Powell
Now I can readily understand and make allowance for the public's errors and misconceptions, for it has had, after all, no means of knowing that it has been systematically deceived, but I can find no excuse for those newspapers which, clinging to a policy of vilifying the Turk, failed to rectify the anti-Turkish charges printed in their columns even when it had been proved to the satisfaction of most fair-minded persons that they were unjustified. A case in point was the burning of Smyrna in September, 1922. There was scarcely a newspaper of importance in the United States that did not editorially lay that outrage at the door of the Turks, without waiting to hear the Turkish version, yet, after it had been attested by American, English, and French eye-witnesses, and by a French commission of inquiry, that the city had been deliberately fired by the Greeks and Armenians in order to prevent it falling into Turkish hands, how many newspapers had the courage to admit that they had done the Turks a grave injustice?
E. Alexander Powell, "The Struggle for Power in Moslem Asia," The Century Co., New York & London (1923), pages 32-33.
Stanford Shaw... on Izmir & Pontus
Below are excerpts from an October 21, 2002 letter sent to Governor Pataki from Yuksel Soylemez, which borrowed heavily from Stanford Shaw's two-volume "The History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey."
On May 15, 1919, under the protection of the British, French and
American fleets, a Greek army disembarked in the harbor of Smyrna (Izmir) and occupied the town. Smyrna was Greek Premier Venizelos' reward for having finally brought Greece into the war on the Allied side, and some thought its acquisition might even mark the opening of a new chapter of Greek expansion. Three-and-a-half years later these dreams were shattered; the Greeks' eastward advance had been halted by Mustafa Kemal Pasha at Sakarya, and in August 1922 the Turkish counterattack was launched and proved devastatingly successful. Now it was the turn of the Turks, in hot pursuit of the remnants of the disintegrating Greek army, to occupy Smyrna. On September 13, 1922, in the midst of the carnage, a great fire broke out that destroyed more than three-fifths of the town. No one knew from whence the first spark came; however, a secret letter from the Greek Committee to MAVRIMIRA is rumored to have established the hour to ignite the fire. Who knows if it is true?
...While retreating from Sakarya, the Greek army burned some 100 towns in western Anatolia and destroyed an entirely Greek and Armenian community that had prospered in Izmir during Ottoman rule.
Stanford Shaw on Greek slaughter and killing
To quote extensively from historian professor Stanford Shaw, "Mustafa Kemal's assignment to Anatolia was followed almost immediately by the Greek invasion of Anatolia, this more than any other, stimulated the Turkish War of Independence. The United States and Italy opposed the British and French efforts at the peace conference to secure territory for Greece around Izmir. Legal justification for the landings was found in article 7 of the Mondros Armistice, which allowed the Allies to occupy any strategic points in the event of any situation arising which threatens the security of the Allies'."
Professor Stanford Shaw
"The Greek armies landed amid a wild reception from the local Greek population, with church bells ringing, priests kissing the soldiers, and men and women falling to their knees before their 'liberators.' The landing was followed by a general slaughter of the Turkish population. Greek mobs roamed the streets, looting and killing, with those Turks who escaped being arrested by the Allied authorities. The Greek army began moving into Anatolia, ravaging and raping as it went, with the local Greek population taking the opportunity to join in the massacre. By the end of July 1919 the Greeks had overcome the local Turkish defense forces and gained control of the greater and lesser Menderes valleys, a far more extensive advance than the Allies originally had intended. Greek atrocities, not only in the southwest but also around Trabzon, where advocates of a Pontus Greek state had anticipated the arrival of the Greek army by instituting massacres of their own to remove the Turkish population. Thus encouraged, Kemal traveled through the east spreading his message among commanders, governors, mayors and local resistance forces, with the Greek advance to the Menderes strengthening both his resolve and the response" again in the words of Shaw.
Shaw on the Pontus propaganda:
"In north-central Anatolia, efforts unfolded to establish a Greek
state in the ancient Pontus region, encompassing the districts of
Samsun, Amasya and Sivas. A secret Greek society looking for such a state had been established in Merzifon in 1904, and it had developed into a widespread movement, giving the Greek government a golden opportunity to press its claims. On March 9, 1919, British forces landed at Samsun and went on to occupy Merzifon, leading Greek bands to revolt openly and to slaughter their Muslim neighbors in the hope of founding the new state. Order was partly restored, but with great difficulty, by the Ottoman police helped with some reluctance by the British."
History in a nutshell
"Origin of the term 'Pontus' is 'Pont-Euxin,' in ancient Greek which
is the Black Sea now. The emergence of Hellenic influence in the
Black Sea region can be traced back to the Ionians, who established Greek type city-states in Sinop and Trabzon in the VI. century B.C. The Macedonian King of Philip and his son, Alexander the Great, drove the Persians out of the Southeast Black Sea Coasts and consolidated Greek influence in the region. Following the takeover of Istanbul by Catholic/Latin Europeans, the Byzantines living in Istanbul emigrated to the Eastern Black Sea region and founded the Kingdom of Pontus. Despite the fact that it was unable to maintain full and effective control over the region, the Pontus Kingdom managed to survive for some 250 years and later came under the domination of the Ottoman Empire in 1461 following the conquest of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet."
Who committed war crimes?
Who committed "genocide" in the Black Sea region during the Turkish War of Independence? Was it the Turks or the Greek bands? "In the first part of the twentieth century when the Ottoman Empire was fast collapsing ethnic Greek irregulars, armed and encouraged by Greece, operated in the Turkish Black Sea coast regions. Banditry by these groups often resulted in the slaughter of Turkish villagers. Some 40 ethnic Greek bandit groups plundered Turkish villagers and murdered at least 2,000 Turks. After the 1918 Armistice Agreement, Greece and the Greek community in Anatolia tried to take advantage of the weakness of the Ottoman Sultan in maintaining effective control in the region and the Greek irregulars attempted to create an ethnic Greek state on the Black Sea coast modeled on the ancient state of Pontus. The American High Commissioner, Mark Bristol, in a report he wrote after a journey along the Black Sea coast, drew attention to the anarchy which the Greeks were fomenting."
"On July 7, 1920, the Athens Pontus Committee, in a memorandum delivered to the Greek government, proposed that 20,000 well-equipped men from Pontus should be sent to inland districts of Anatolia to support the invading Greek forces. The very fact that the armed irregulars of the ethnic Greeks in the Pontus numbered 20,000 which reveals the magnitude of the threat they posed to the Turkish civilian population in the region. While public disorder persisted in the eastern Black Sea region, the authorities of the Allied occupation forces in Turkey deliberately misrepresented the precautionary measures taken by the Turkish security forces as 'genocide'."
Fictitious and fabricated figures
According to Greek claims there were 700,000 Greeks in the eastern Turkish Black Sea region, and that 350,000 were killed. This is again a clear distortion of history. "The population of Greeks in the region according to Greek claims of 700,000 is far from truth and fictitious according to census reports."
"The King Crane Commission, authorized by the American government, reported on August 28, 1919 that the estimated number of Greek residents in the eastern Black Sea region was about 200,000. According to the Ottoman census held between 1893 and 1897, the Greek population was 193,000, as 322,500 Greek residents of the region had emigrated to Greece."
Finally it seems unfair and unjust the allegation of a "genocide" of
350,000 Greeks is a fictitious and fabricated figure to many.
"History thus points not to the Turks but to the Greeks as the party
that should apologize for the war crimes committed during its
invasion of Anatolia and the atrocities committed by Greek bands in the Black Sea region. Article 59 of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne refers to the war crimes committed by Greece in Anatolia."
Impressions from THE BLIGHT OF ASIA
George Horton's "Blight" of the title refers to Turks. This rabidly anti-Turkish racist is the perfect spokesman for the Armenian and Greek viewpoint (his words are naturally quoted on their web sites.). See how Mr. Horton reasoned why the Turks would burn their own city (followed by my own rebuttal.)
Dr. Georgios Nakratzas' Open Letter
The Greek Minister of Culture has put before the Greek President a proposed law that would make September 15th a "Memorial Day" in remembrance of the "Genocide against Greek inhabitants by Turkish forces in 1922."
The proposed law refers back to the Greek-Turkish War. Such a gesture by the Greek government would fuel nationalist sentiment in Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans. Below is a letter from Dr. Nakratzas, which eloquently articulates this sentiment.
To Mr. Evangelos Venizelos
Minister of Culture
Athens - Greece
Rotterdam 10 February 2001
I was interested to learn from reports in the media that on 9 February 2001 you forwarded for signature to the President of the Republic of Greece a Presidential Decree, in accordance with which 15 September is to be declared the official day commemorating the Genocide of the Greeks in Asia Minor by the Turks.
As Minister of Culture you will, I assume, feel a great respect for the historical truth, and I ask you therefore to permit me to inform you of certain details concerning the Genocide of the Slav-speaking Macedonians of Kilkis committed by the Greek Army in 1913, in addition to certain information on the crimes committed by the Greek Army in Asia Minor during the period 1919-1922 against the civilian Turkish population.
The Carnegie Report (ISBN 0-87003-032-9) informs us that the town of Kilkis was occupied, intact, by the Greek Army on 4 July 1913. Having occupied the town, the Greek troops removed the remaining residents and then plundered and burned their houses. The Report also mentions that in addition to the town of Kilkis the Greek Army also put to the torch 40 villages in the region, burning a total of 4,725 houses.
Of the total number of 100,000 Slav-speaking Macedonians who were thus obliged to seek refuge in Bulgaria, the Greek cavalry caught up with 4,000 at the village of Akangeli. 60 of the men were taken to a nearby forest and never heard of again. On the following day, according to eye-witness accounts, the Greek soldiers committed murder and rape and stole money. The committee were also given a list of 365 individuals from neighbouring villages believed to have been massacred by the Greek army at the village of Akangeli. Finally, a European eye-witness testified to the committee that on entering the town of Yevyeli the Greeks executed 200 Bulgarian citizens.
I do not know if this historical information will prompt you to recommend an additional Presidential Decree concerning the Genocide by the Greek army in 1913 of the Slav-speaking Macedonians of Kilkis.
As for the information on the crimes of the Greek army against the civilian Turkish population of Asia Minor during the period 1919-1922, there is insufficient scope in a short letter for a full description of the events involved.
I shall confine myself to mentioning in brief the massacre by the Greek army of Turkish civilians at Aidini, Menemeni and Pergamum.
I shall also mention the slaughter of Turkish prisoners of war in Smyrna on the day the Greek army disembarked in 1919.
Finally, I shall mention briefly the burning of thousands of villages in the areas of Eski-Sehir, Uzak, Kioutaheia, etc., as well as the destruction, robbery or looting of shops and businesses, and the seizing of vast quantities of livestock and grain from Turkish villagers. For more details and eye-witness testimony I recommend that you consult my book, recently published under the title
ASIA MINOR AND THE ORIGINS OF THE REFUGEES
The imperialist Greek policy of 1922 and the Asia Minor Catastrophe Batavia Publications, Thessaloniki 2000, ISBN 960-85800-6-4
I ask myself if the information you will find in the book will be sufficient to prompt you to recommend the appropriate Presidential Decree.
Dr. Georgios Nakratzas (The Netherlands)
P.S. For your information, a Turkish translation of the book mentioned above is shortly to be issued by a publishing house in Istanbul (Constantinople).
A Response to a Politician's Proclamation
N.Y. Governor George Pataki is yet another American politician who loves to play ethnic politics. His shameful one-sided report is covered on TAT in Inventing history for political ends: N.Y. Governor George Pataki.
Here's a response from ATAA using Western-oriented evidence that sheds a different light on this historic event.
The Honorable George E. Pataki, Governor of the State of N.Y.
Executive Chamber State Capital Albany, NY 12224
October 11, 2002
Dear Governor Pataki,
I am writing to you on behalf of the members of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations under whose umbrella are many Turkish American Associations from New York. Our community is appalled and angered at a recent proclamation that you issued "in commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe". This proclamation is racially and ethnically inflammatory and filled with factual inaccuracies. Its aim can only be to conjure up unnecessary hatred between the Turkish and Greek
American communities in New York and around the nation.
We cannot explain how such a proclamation can be issued by any public official. But when it comes from the Governor of a State that is home to many ethnic communities, that include the largest Turkish American community in the nation, it is particularly unexplainable.
While the inappropriate language of your proclamation is reason enough for a formal retraction, we would like to point out a number of discrepancies in your Proclamation and urge you to direct your staff to thoroughly investigate the statements being made and the sources being offered to substantiate them.
Firstly, the name of the city in question is Izmir. Calling it Smyrna will
not change the fact that it is now, and has for a very long time been part of both sovereign Ottoman and Turkish territory. We don't recall you ever calling New York by its even more recent historic names. In fact this deliberate use of its old Greek name by a senior US official is not only irresponsible but, is a cheap catering toward Greek extremists who never have given up their scheming for a "Greater Hellenic Empire."
Secondly, it was the Greek Army who occupied Western Anatolia as of 15 May 1919. Although the initial instructions of the Council of the Paris Peace Conference restricted the occupation zone to the borders of Izmir province, the Greek Army started to advance into Anatolia from the first day of their landing in Izmir. During this invasion and occupation the Greek forces committed so many atrocities that the Paris Peace Conference was forced to
establish a commission to investigate claims against Greeks. A Special Commission of Judicial Inquiry, established following the atrocity reports, reached the Turkish town of Menemen on 17 June 1919. The Commission was composed of Turkish administrative and military officers, the British officers, Captain Charns and Lieutenant Lorimer, and medical delegates from the British and Italian consulates in Izmir. They presented a report to the commanders of the Allied Powers in Izmir. Some of the horrible details that were stated in this report are as follows: "...From the unanimous declaration of (persons) questioned separately by the Commission, it stands out clearly that the Mussulman population of Menemen gave a perfectly correct reception to the Hellenic occupying corps and that far from provoking them to the excesses, which would have been reprehensible in any case, it remained absolutely calm and tranquil. The Greek commandant's allegation regarding the shots fired on the Hellenic soldiers was denied
upon oath by all the witnesses without exception. The non-existence of Greeks wounded, either civilian or military, as against a thousand Turkish victims, confirms the veracity of the evidence. The massacre, the destruction and the extortion committed at Menemen by the Hellenic soldiers and the native Greeks can only be imputed to a vile spirit of vengeance and cupidity..." "The Greeks, to hide the proof of their guilt, wanted to destroy the corpses. But the number of the latter being too great, for lack of time they piled them by tens into hastily dug trenches, insufficiently covered with earth...The massacres were not confined to the town. They extended also to the surroundings, to the fields, the mills, the farms where another thousand victims may be counted. All the buildings outside the town, as well as several hundreds of houses in the town itself, were pillaged, sacked or destroyed"1 In the end, the Commission concluded that atrocities were indeed committed and Premier Venizelos and Greek officials were warned by the Allied Powers. During the debate on the report Premier Clemenceau of France noted: "It was necessary to remind the Greeks that the Turkish question was not settled and to ask Venizelos to state definitely if they could maintain themselves in Smyrna (Izmir) with their own efforts." He also said, "The information received indicated that in many respects the conduct of the Greeks had been abominable and that the Turks would never accept the Greek occupation unless obliged to by force."
Clemenceau frankly affirmed, "The Council would be more and more led to respecting the integrity of the Turkish territory. Under the above mentioned circumstances, it would be well to warn the Greeks that they should not behave as the conquerors of Asia Minor."2
The Commission concluded its report with some of the following comments:
"The Council agrees that the incidents, which took place after the
debarkation of the Greek troops at Smyrna (Izmir), appear to indicate an almost total absence of the precautionary measures on the part of the Greek civil and military authorities, which the circumstances required: this omission was the principal cause of the unfortunate incidents reported by the Commission."
"It is our opinion that on the whole, the responsibility for the excesses committed and for measures the severity of which were not justified by the actual circumstances, rests upon the Greek military authorities. You (Prime Minister Venizelos) yourself, moreover, with the loftiness and sincerity of your character, have recognised these faults and these abuses, and have
ordered the punishment of the guilty."
Secondly, it is inconceivable that a victorious army would enter its own city it has just re-captured and proceed to raze it to the ground. From a military standpoint it is always the retreating forces that employ a slash and burn policy. During the Greek retreat, one city, town and village after another was set on fire. The American Consul at Izmir, Loder Park, who toured much of the devastated area immediately after the Greek evacuation, described the situation in the cities and towns he has seen, as follows:
"[Manisa] almost completely wiped out by fireâ€¦10,300 houses, 15 mosques, 2 baths, 2,278 shops, 19 hotels, 26 villasâ€¦[destroyed]. Kasaba [present day Turgutlu] was a city of 40,000 souls, 3,000 of whom were non-Moslems. Of these 37,000 Turks only 6,000 could be accounted for among the living, while 1,000 Turks were known to have been shot or burned to death. Of the 2,000 buildings that constituted the city, only 200 remained standing. Ample testimony was available to the effect that the city was systematically destroyed by Greek soldiers, assisted by a number of Greek and Armenian civilians. Kerosene and Gasoline were freely used to make the destruction more certain, rapid and complete." And "The US Vice-Consul Maynard B. Barnes, no friend of the Turks, admitted that it did not seem logical for the Turks to destroy Izmir. On the morning of 15 September the Vice-consul called with Captain Hepburn on the Vali (Governor) Abdul Halik Bey, and upon Kazim Pasha, the Military Governor of the city. Captain Hepburn stated in his diary: "The Turks had been so proud to have preserved Izmir intact throughout all the devastation caused by the Greeks, but the Armenians and Greeks have defeated us in the end" Thirdly, the Proclamation claims that: "Greeks of Asia Minor endured immeasurable cruelty during a Turkish Government-sanctioned systematic campaign to displace them". Yet history shows that this displacement refers to the compulsory exchange of Muslim and Christian populations between Greece and Turkey imposed by the 1923 Lausanne Convention. Thus many innocent civilians, Greek and Turkish alike, suffered as a result of Greek aggression and territorial ambitions in 1919.
Fourthly, in 1934, Greek Prime Minister Venizelos, nominated Ataturk for the Nobel Peace Prize, observing "in the life of a nation it is very seldom that changes to such a radical degree were carried out in such a short period of time ... these extraordinary activities have earned him fame as 'a great man', in the full sense of the term.". These are indeed grand statements from a Greek leader about a Turkish leader whom this Proclamation claims lead the armies that 12 years earlier had allegedly committed wholesale massacres of Greeks. I believe that as Governor of an ethnically diverse State such as New York, it is your sworn duty to foster goodwill amongst everyone and that you should not be playing policies on the graves of their ancestors long dead. You should not give in to pressures by a small group of fanatics in some communities to attack another. Americans of all ethnic backgrounds should be encouraged to take pride in their heritage, but not at the expense of wrongfully slandering another group or carrying old hatreds onto our shores.
We as for an immediate retraction of this Proclamation and hope that an apology to the Turkish American community will be forthcoming.
Dr. Orhan KaymakÃ§alan
Who Set the Fire in Izmir ("Smyrna")? :
REASONS FOR THE FIRE!
"After the Turks had smashed the Greek armies they turned the essentially Greek city (Smyrna) into an ash heap as proof of their victory."
Sir Valentine Chirol, "The Occident and the Orient," page 58; that makes sense! To prove that you won a war, simply burn down your own city. (By the way, with a Turkish majority, the city was not "essentially Greek." Marjorie Housepian wrote in her book's introduction, "Greeks constituted the majority population in Smyrna ," but even her fave, George Horton, contradicted her, as you will read below. And that's with the increased rolls of refugees, not the "normal" population of a few years prior.)
Winston Churchill is quoted (in Greek sites; the source is missing) as believing in essentially the same motivation: "Kemal celebrated his triumph by transforming Smyrna into ashes and by slaughtering the whole of the indigenous Christian population." (Did Churchill shamefully go so far as to claim "all" Christians were slaughtered, mostly for fun?)
The Turks, Chetas or regulars, or both, burned the city to dispose of the dead after having carried away their loot."
An unnamed missionary woman who was "a person of the highest repute," in a letter dated Sept. 21, 1922, as cited by George Horton, in his hateful book. It would have been so much work to get rid of the 1,000-2,000 casualties, the chosen Laurel and Hardy maneuver was to simply burn down the whole city.
There are other theories as well, such as George Horton's belief that destroying the city would have rendered it impossible for the Christians to return, neglecting the fact that destroyed cities can be rebuilt, and citizens can return, assuming conditions are friendly... as with Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans, in 2005. If the idea was to kick out the Christians, there were other ways of achieving such, without burning down a valuable city. Greece and Turkey agreed upon a population exchange afterwards, for example. (Meaning that Christian refugees who finally left were cared for, until that time... otherwise, there would have been no Christians remaining to conduct a population exchange with. See last sentence of Ataturk statement, below.) The bigoted religious fanatic further specified the idea was to "exterminate Christianity in Asia Minor." If that was the idea, not a single Christian would have been left in all of Turkey.
The likeliest theory, as a missionary (and a missionary who would have had special reason to hate the Turks, having been severely beaten by them) concluded was that the terrorists involved hoped to bring about Western intervention. (See below.) The British and the Turks were dangerously close to going to war, and the Armenian terrorists were experts in staging "massacre" events by this time, in order to entice the imperialist powers to come in and do their fighting for them.
Another reason that makes a great deal of sense is that the Greeks and Armenians, who had abandoned their sectors to go to the quays (see above picture), leaving everything behind, did not wish their wealth and valuables to fall into the hands of the Turks, together with the warehouses and stations where many of the fires broke out. Among the destroyed goods were the fleeing Greek army's huge quantities of military stores and food supplies that were desperately needed by Turkish armies and civilians. Logically, indeed, why would the Turks have destroyed these materials? Especially since their whole nation was devastated, and Greece had looted so much from this particular region.
Mark Prentiss elaborated in his Jan. 1923 report: "It was a matter of common knowledge... that the Armenians and Greeks were determined not to let this booty fall into the hands of their hated enemies. There was a generally accepted report in Smyrna, for several days before the fire, that an organized group of Armenian young men had sworn to burn the city if it fell to the Turks."
The Armenian "Genocide" is far from the only anti-Turkish Con Job. The Burning of Izmir is another.
As a supplement to TAT's existing look at the matter, this page will provide further material on why it would be insane for any people to burn their own major city, especially when the rest of the nation lay in post war ruin, and especially when the enemy had demonstrated a scorched-earth policy in other occupied regions hastily evacuated. (The Greek Army had gone by this the time of the fire, but the idea of leaving nothing behind remained, for others to implement. George Horton reported, for example, that many Greek soldiers were given haven by the locals, and were dressed as civilians. Mark Prentiss wrote about "The Greek action in arming civilians, together with prolonged and extensive sniping.")
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1) A Historical Backdrop
2) Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's "Smyrna 1922"
3) A Private Message Expressing Where Ataturk Stood
4) The Turks Tried to Stop the Fire
5) The French Said the Turks Were Not to Blame
6) A Missionary Eyewitness Lays the Blame on Armenians
7) Fire Chief Paul Grescovich
8) Captain Hepburn Stated in His Diary
9) Unfriendly Britons Lay Blame on Greeks & Armenians
10) Lamb, British Consul at Smyrna: Greeks & Armenians
Quick Historical Backdrop
Let's do a round-up of events, which I'll be basing on a 1924 court case account appearing in the generally anti-Turkish London Times, (published by Lord Northcliffe, a pioneer in the implementation of propaganda in the press; he was appointed "Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries" in February 1918), entitled "The Smyrna Fire Insurance Claim" (Dec. 20, 1924).
The article tells us "practically the whole town of Smyrna was destroyed" (and not just the Greek and Armenian sections, as we often hear; a Sept. 15? 1922 Times article entitled "Smyrna Burning" stated that the fire spread to the European quarter, where "several Consulates and other houses" were destroyed). We are reminded that in 1919 the Greeks occupied Smyrna, and advanced inland into Anatolia in 1922. The Greeks withdrew (as the judge put it: "On the retreat it burnt villages and laid waste the country"), the Turks came in on Sept. 9, 1922. (The judge said: this was the head of the Army, coming in without fighting and taking possession in a disciplined way. On Sept. 10, the main body of the Turkish Army arrived. A Sept. 19? Times article â€” "Last Days of Smyrna" â€” had a British eyewitness report that the Greek Army "poured through Smyrna" on Sept. 8, "in perfect order" with "no panic.") Military patrols were established by Sept. 12, the city was quiet, although parts of the Greek army were not far away.... two surrendering by Sept. 10, and the remainder escaping by sea. (George Horton, The Blight of Asia: "It was said that many of these [Greek soldiers] were taken into houses and given civilian clothes and that thus some escaped.") "No military operations of any kind were in progress when the fire broke out" in the Armenian quarter, spreading wide for four days, before dying down on Sept. 17. The article states there were many refugees besides the regular inhabitants, perhaps 400,000 in all. (Horton refers to this as an "official" figure, while thinking the figure to be 100,000 higher, breaking it down thus: 165,000 Turks, 150,000 Greeks, 25,000 each Armenians and Jews, and 20,000 foreigners. He does not account for the remaining 15,000.)
"There were mutual recriminations. The Greeks and Armenians said that the Turks had started the fire; and the Turks said that Smyrna was their own town, and having succeeded in expelling their enemies from it, they would not have been so foolish as to destroy it."
The judge declared: "There was evidence of other fires independent of one another, and little fires kept springing up behind the firemen." His Lordship did not buy the explanation that the independent fires might have been caused by sparks from houses already burning. From this, we may gather there was a concerted effort to burn the town down. It wasn't simply one fire going haywire.
The judge had a tendency to look down on this part of the world, certainly not alone among Westerners, associating barbarism with matters Turkish. In Housepian's book (see below), he is quoted with the following judgment: "If this was a more civilized city, one very probable explanation would be that somebody who was looting had got drunk. But as it is a semi-barbarous place the question of drink is not mentioned in the case."
â€œThis is a charge against a nationâ€�
Wright, counsel for the plaintiff, who maintained the evidence for the defense was flimsy, and that the opponent should stop ridiculing statements such as the Turks' making every effort to maintain order. He found no sympathy from the biased judge. (Housepian, "Smyrna 1922")
Judge Rowlatt felt the Turks were to blame, and found for the defendant, an insurance company. (An American tobacco company was the plaintiff; they tried to get money for their destroyed warehouse, claiming that the fire was accidental. The insurance company exercised their loophole, claiming the fire was deliberately set, and refused to pay. The lawyer for the plaintiff complained that the evidence of incendiarism [a willful setting on fire to destroy, and the act must be done for a criminal purpose] was "only that of a small number of persons who by race and nationality were bitterly hostile to the Turks."
A follow up article on May 2, 1925, where appeals to the case were turned down, revealed that "...the inhabitants had been driven out of their homes and that they had deserted and generally evacuated the [Armenian] quarter by September 13." In other words, there were few Armenian civilians left in the Armenian quarter when the fire broke out on Sept. 13. (This is significant because one reason given for the fire is that this was the way to exterminate the Christians.)
Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's "Smyrna 1922"
Smyrna 1922, by Marjorie Housepian
Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's work, "Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City" is recognized as authoritative, but the author shows her bias repeatedly. Lord Kinross settled on the number of Smyrna deaths at a couple of thousand (so did another author Housepian refers to, Michael Llewellyn Smith, one who lays the blame for the fire on the Turks), but Housepian reportedly prefers to go with perhaps 100,000.
The author had already made up her mind on the guilt of her accused, and was strictly interested in finding sources to prove her case, Dadrian-style. She gives profuse thanks to those such as Dadrian and Hovannisian. It's amusing the way she tries to play innocent by writing (in the updated edition) that she was "puzzled... a few" critics had found her book "highly charged" or "subjective."
The city's fire chief, a foreigner (Paul Grescovich) who was in the best position to know the goings on found genuine evidence that at least the Armenians were behind the fire. Housepian de-emphasizes sources as this one that goes against her agenda. As another example, she flatly reveals in her introduction: "I have taken American Consul George Horton's view of the atrocities committed by Greek troops as they fled towards Smyrna, rather than Arnold J. Toynbee's. [Because] The latter did an about-face..." While Toynbee himself was an "extreme Christian," even at his propagandistic peak he came across as a secular humanist, next to the blazing George Horton; Horton went out of his way, in his book, to make the Greek troops appear as angels. It speaks volumes that Housepian preferred to give overriding credence to Horton. (What true scholar could give credence to one the likes of George Horton? Referring to Horton for a picture of the Turks is like referring to the KKK for a picture of blacks and Jews.)
She also complains about "the missionaries who had discredited their own eyewitness testimonies," along with others as the aforementioned Arnold Toynbee who had done an about-face from their former propagandistic views. Housepian does not even consider the possibility that the former tellings of these partisans could have been false. (Toynbee was part of the British war propaganda division, for example.)
"Miss Mills Blames Turks for the Fire"
She tells us the British complained about Mark Bristol's being "carefully spoon fed by the Turks," as if Bristol were an idiot. (That's how Housepian practically sums up Bristol, by pointing to his "naivetÃ© and ignorance.") Of course the British, who were practically at war with the Turks, did not appreciate Bristol's sense of fairness, when it was expected of Western diplomats to look at these matters from the traditional "Turks are not human" perspective. Bristol received missionaries constantly [a 1919 example, just before he became high commissioner, may be seen here], and he had plenty of exposure to the anti-Turkish views the British were more in line with. What distinguished Bristol was his ability to sort through the goop and to analyze these matters without overriding prejudice. This fairness and integrity is what has earned him the label of being "pro-Turk." (Bristol was only guilty of being "pro-Truth.") In short: why does Housepian expect us to accept the word of the British, who were the Turks' enemy, instead of an American ambassador?
The New York Times article at above right ("Miss Mills Blames Turks for the Fire") is one of many examples where Western publications published anti-Turkish blather at face value. Housepian certainly utilizes the witness said to be behind these words, Miss Minnie Mills, a missionary. Note the hysterical claims, such as all the Christians (i.e., the remainder of the "small proportion of the population [who had] escaped") having been massacred. The report originated from the Turk-unfriendly Near East Relief.
Marjorie Housepian's Objectivity: Armenians were all innocent.
"The major effort ... is to change history; to make Turks, for instance, alleged victims of Armenian killings in 1915 ...."
Excerpts from an address given by Housepian in Thessaloniki on December 1, 1994, as reported in grecoreport.com (where the "Dobkin" of her name was left out, for some reason; I similarly followed suit while referring to her on this page). Housepian was referring to the great power of P.R. firms supposedly hired by Turkey, and yet she points to a quote by someone working on behalf of Bosnia. Yes, Serbs hoped to disparage the Bosnians during the Yugoslavian break-up by calling them "Turks," in an effort to get Western opinion on their side, but why can't Housepian make the distinction that the Slavic Bosnians are not Turkish? Most importantly, why does she not address how it could be possible Turkey's image is so awful in the West, with these supposed P.R. firms at the helm?
The fact is, when it comes to Public Relations, the Turks are hopeless.
She goes on to complain that she is "horrified and outraged" by the way Turkey's "media blitz" has the "acquiescent American press" in its pocket, which does not "bode well for democracy. " Is she living in another dimension?
As usual, the Armenians and Greeks do the crime (in this case, managing Western media to wholly accept their propaganda), and then point to the Turks as the culprits. Simple shameful.
A Private Message Expressing Where Ataturk Stood
In the following communication, Ataturk naively believed the foreign journalists would be fair and unbiased in their reporting of the fire in Izmir, and of the Turkish effort to stop it. (E. Alexander Powell wrote of the reality: "There was scarcely a newspaper of importance in the United States that did not editorially lay that outrage at the door of the Turks, without waiting to hear the Turkish version.") Ataturk wrote that even before the fire began the Turks had taken precautions, since the fire was expected. It was heard that the Greek priest Hrisostomos (English spelling commonly "Chrysostomos") preached in his church that to burn Izmir was a religious duty of all.
Note also that all of his claims are corroborated by Western sources, many of which may be found on this very page.
FROM COMMANDER IN CHIEF GAZI MUSTAFA KEMAL PASHA TO THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS YUSUF KEMAL BEY
Tel. 17.9.38 (1922) (Arrived 4.10.38)
To be transmitted with care. Important and urgent.
Find hereunder the instruction I sent to Hamid Bey with Admiral Dumesmil, who left for Istanbul today.
Copy To Hamid Bey,
1. It is necessary to comment on the fire in Izmir for future reference.
Our army took all the necessary measures to protect Izmir from accidents, before entering the city. However, the Greeks and the Armenians, with their pre-arranged plans have decided to destroy Izmir. Speeches made by Hrisostomos at the churches have been heard by the Moslems, the burning of Izmir was defined as a religious duty. The destruction was accomplished by this organization. To confirm this, there are many documents and eyewitness (suhud) accounts. Our soldiers worked with everything that they have to put out the fires. Those who attribute this to our soldiers may come to Izmir personally and see the situation. However, for a job like this, an official investigation is out of the question. The newspaper correspondents of various nationalities presently in Izmir are already executing this duty. The Christian population is treated with good care and the refugees are being returned to their places.
Source: Bilal Simsir, â€˜AtatÃ¼rk ile Yazismalarâ€™ (The Correspondence with Ataturk), KÃ¼ltÃ¼r Bakanligi, 1981. (Translation thanks to Sukru and Yuksel; Document thanks to M. Mersinoglu.)
Dumesnil was the French admiral on board the flagship of the French fleet, at the time the Turks liberated Izmir. When Archbishop Chrysostomosâ€™ execution was reported to Dumesnil, the admiral "sardonically" shrugged: "He got what was coming to him,"
That's from Marjorie Housepian's "Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City " (1972, note 134 pg 260): "Dumesnil quoted by Horton, letter to Secretary of State, 18 September 1922, NA."
Housepian actually refers to this trial and execution (see last paragraph of Sep 16, 1922 article, directly below) as a "massacre"! (There are incredible accounts of how he was "martyred" by a bloodthirsty mob in Greek sites... his beard pulled out, his hands chopped off.) George Horton was the bigoted American consul in Izmir, who would defame an entire nation with his book, "The Blight of Asia."
In this hateful book, Horton apologetically wrote (confirming Ataturk's charge, in a whitewashed manner) that he actually attended a sermon conducted by this priest: "Unfortunately, Archbishop Chrysostom (he who was later murdered by the Turks) began to introduce some politics into his sermon, a thing which he was extremely prone to do." Horton further quoted a Greek as having said: "Some ugly stories are told about the priest... He refused to say the prayers over the dead body of a poor woman's child, because she did not have the full amount of his fee, and it was buried without the rites of the church." Sterghiades, the Hellenic high-commissioner, is told of having slapped (whom he believed was) the priest in the face, accusing him of being a "disgrace to the Church and to the Greek nation." Horton later lovingly describes the priest as "venerable and eloquent," and that his only sin was that he was a "patriot." (Funny; when someone lives in a country as its citizen, and actively works against the interests of that country, to the tune of cooperating with invading enemies, I'd think the correct word would be "traitor.")
The Turks Tried to Stop the Fire
The London Times, Sep 16, 1922; pg. 8
THE FATE OF SMYRNA.
(From Our Correspondent In the Near East.)
CONSTANTINOPLE, Sept 15.
Whatever was the cause of the Smyrna fire, the results are catastrophic. The greater part of the town has been destroyed and thousands of inhabitants and refugees are believed to have perished, while property valued at many millions has been wiped out.
There were ghastly scenes on the quays where thousands of refugees were huddled at the waterâ€™s edge, under a rain of sparks and cinders. The Turks failed to get the fire under, in spite of the employment of large numbers of troops, but they are not reported to have shown any sympathy with incendiaries or looters, whether Turk or non-Turk, who were shot at sight. The irregulars who are reported to have entered Smyrna before the fire may have caused it.
Looting certainly took place in the Armenian quarter prior to the outbreak. The richest seaport of Turkey has thus perished. Years must elapse before its trade recovers, and British merchants and residents have been among the greatest sufferers.
It is reported here that the Orthodox Archbishop of Smyrna, Mgr. Chrysostomos, has been tried by summary Court-martial and shot, and that the leading local Greek journalist, M. Lascaris, has been murdered.
The French Said the Turks Were Not to Blame
The London Times, Sep 25?, 1922
ORIGINS OF SMYRNA FIRE
CONSTANTINOPLE, Sept. 24 â€” The correspondent of the Havas Agency declares that he is in a position to announce that the French High Commissioner in Constantinople and the French Consul-General at Smyrna, as well as Admiral Dumesnil, are convinced that the Smyrna fire can in no way be attributed to the Turks. This conviction is mainly based on the statements of salvage workers and trustworthy French witnesses who took part in the fight against the fire.
The French naval authorities immediately took steps to control the statements of certain witnesses who declared that they had seen Turkish soldiers sprinkling the streets and houses with petrol. As a result of this investigation these statements have now been proved to be without foundation. The correspondent goes on to declare that the fire originated in the Armenian quarter. â€” Reuter.
From a New York Times editorial ("Responsibility at Smyrna," September 30, 1922) that unsurprisingly appears to (at least in the way it starts out; the entire piece was unavailable for me to read) blame the Turks: the French Foreign Office reported that the Turks did not set fire to the buildings and that there was "no evidence that the Turks were in any way responsible for the damage [at Smyrna]."
Pro-Armenians attempt to discredit the French and Italians, because they were at odds with the British by this time. For example, George Horton printed the statement of a French officer who praised the Turks, especially in the face of what he knew of the less-noble characteristics of the Ottoman Christians, and Horton claimed this attitude was representative of most of the French. [Click here]
The implication here is that the French simply must have lied. But once again, just because pro-Armenians have no problem with bending the truth, we can't assume every single individual who testified for the Turks must have suffered from a lack of conscience; we can't assume they all must have blindly followed this alleged directive, and lied through their teeth. I hope the accounts of these "trustworthy French witnesses" that the above article tells us about are available somewhere, as each testimony would need to be evaluated separately. Remember: the French were not raised with a fondness for the Turks, constantly having been exposed to "Turkish atrocity" propaganda. This attitude is certainly demonstrated in current times, with the general hostility of modern France toward Turkey.
Another point to bear in mind is that if the French were not to be believed, why would the word of the British be credible? The British have become notorious for their WWI propaganda, and were not known for telling truth. (Note Churchill's shameful statement at the top of this page.) Moreover, they were still occupying part of the Turks' country, brought in the Greeks and bore partial responsibility for the horrible crimes the Greeks committed, and were the "enemy." The British did all they could to make the progress of Kemal's forces as difficult as possible because, once again, the British were the "enemy." Those who prefer to value the word of the British over the French during this period show their own "enemy" stripes.
Reportly, an article (written by Orhan Kologlu) from a Turkish history journal called Populer Tarih ("Popular History"), on the anniversary of Izmirâ€™s liberation (September 2003 issue), examined the fire from Italian, French, American and British newspapers. An argument was put forth that the British press felt obliged to give a little equal time (in marked contrast to totally biased Turkish-related coverage in the past) because the opposition in Britain was becoming suspicious of Prime Minister Lloyd George. The New York Times also followed suit. Certainly the heavy foreign presence in the city must have also played a role; the western press did not have carte blanche to put up their typical, unverified horror stories, with other westerners around.
A Missionary Eyewitness Lays the Blame on Armenians
The Turks did not massacre Greeks, as Greeks had done to Turks in May 1919. About the worst the Turkish Army did was force captured Greek soldiers to shout â€œLong live Mustafa Kemalâ€� (in return to their forcing Turks to shout Zito Vrenizelos when they entered Smyrna) as they marched intro detention. Turkish soldiers protected International College during the disruption of the occupation; a Turkish cavalryman rescued MacLahlan from irregulars who nearly beat the missionary to death while trying to loot the agricultural buildings of the college. A three-day Smyrna fire (September 13-15), which Turks made every effort to control, destroyed nearly a square mile in Greek and Armenian areas and made two hundred thousand people homeless. Included in this loss was the American Boardâ€™s Collegiate Institute for Girls. MacLachlanâ€™s investigation of the fireâ€™s origin led to the conviction that Armenian terrorists, dressed in Turkish uniforms, fired the city. Apparently the terrorists were attempting to bring Western intervention. Informing Washington of a three million Dollars claim by the American Board against the Ankara government, Barton requested through an aide that the U.S. participate in any conference planned by the Allies to rewrite the Treaty of Sevres. As the West talked of negotiating with the Kemalists, part of the American public began to realize that Armenianism and godliness were not identical. Ever since missionaries in the nineteenth century had become the dominant U.S. concern in the Ottoman Empire, opinion in America increasingly favored Christian minorities.
From Protestant Diplomacy and the Near East, 1971, p. 263..Alexander MacLachlan was the missionary president of International College in "Smyrna."
Fire Chief Paul Grescovich
The report of Paul Grescovich, Chief of the "Smyrna" Fire Department (1910-1922), is part of the collection of the Bristol Papers, within the Library of Congress. I am hoping to get a hold of it, to present in this section. This is the one that Housepian ignored (for all intents and purposes) in her book.
Until that time, let's review highlights from Mark Prentiss' private report that he sent to Admiral Bristol on January 11, 1923. I don't believe this was published anywhere, and especially if so, it can't be construed as propaganda. This report can be read in its entirety on TAT's first "Izmir" page.
Grescovich impressed Prentiss as a "thoroughly reliable witness." (Makes sense; why would the chief have purposely lied for the Turks? He left the job in the weeks that followed, in case anyone feels he would have broken the Ninth Commandment for the sake of maintaining his position.) Communication was clear, without the need for translators, since the Austrian spoke fluent English.
Prentiss arrived on Sept. 8, as the Greek Army was leaving. Prentiss met with Grescovich on at least the 10th and the 13th (Wednesday), when the fires had started.
"During the first week of September there had been an average of five fires per day with which his crippled department had to cope." Grescovich believed that while most were caused by carelessness, some were deliberately started.
"The average number of fires in a normal year, he said, would be one in ten days, and the increase to five a day seemed significant."
(As the approach of the Turkish Army became imminent, in the week before the Turks arrived, the fact that fires radically increased serves as a tremendous clue.)
"Sunday night, Monday and Monday night, and Tuesday, so many fires were reported at such widely separated points that the fire department was absolutely unable to deal with them." (Compounded by the Turkish military governor's [Kiazim Pasha] ordering the arrest of the Greeks in the fire department, reducing the force to only 37. These days would correspond to Sept. 10, 11 and 12, respectively. Remember, the fire "started" on Sept. 13.)
Because the fire department was unable to cope, these pre-Sept. 13 fires "were extinguished by Turkish soldiers."
On the morning of Sept. 13, Paul Grescovich personally found evidence: he "had seen two Armenian priests escorting several thousand men, women, children from the Armenian schools and Dominican churches where they had taken refuge down to the quays."
"When he presently went into these institutions he found petroleum-soaked refuse ready for the torch."
The chief was undoubtedly certain, according to Prentiss, that "his own firemen, as well as Turkish guards, had shot down many Armenian young men disguised either as women or as Turkish irregular soldiers, who were caught setting fires Tuesday night and Wednesday morning." (Sept. 12 and Sept. 13.)
On the first day of the fire, Sept. 13, "At 11:20 Wednesday morning , at least half a dozen fires were reported almost simultaneously around the freight terminal warehouses and the passenger station of the Aidine Railroad."
"It is noteworthy that these fires broke out in buildings which it was greatly to the advantage of Turks to preserve, and to the advantage of enemies to destroy."
Captain Hepburn stated in his diary:
"The Turks had been so proud to have preserved Izmir intact throughout all the devastation caused by the Greeks, but the Armenians and Greeks have defeated us in the end"
The above individual was described by George Horton in the following manner: "Captain Hepburn, one of the naval officers, counted thirty-five dead bodies on the road leading to Paradise, a small village near Smyrna, where the American International College is situated."
Unfriendly Britons Lay Blame on Greeks & Armenians
BRITISH REFUGEES FROM SMYRNA
FIRING OF THE TOWN
(FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT)
PLYMOUTH, OCT. 6 (The London Times, 1922)
Thirty-six refugees from Smyrna arrived at Plymouth to-day, having been sent home from Malta.
Mr. L. R. Whittall, barrister-at-law, who has been in Smyrna for some years said there was no evidence as to who set fire to the town, but the consensus of opinion was that it was Greek and Armenian incendiaries. It was on September 8 that the Greek Army administration and police evacuated the town. The following day a detachment of Turkish cavalry entered the town, and after that the Turkish Army poured in, followed by large numbers of irregular troops, all armed. The first house to be looted was one occupied by Mr. La Fontaine. The Greeks fired at the advancing Turkish cavalry, and then took refuge in Mr. La Fontaine's house. The Turks entered, shot the men concerned, and then started looting the English houses. Twenty or thirty houses were immediately looted by marauders.
Mr. Whittall contrasted the treatment meted out to British subjects with that extended to French and Italians. It was manifest, he said, that the Turks respected the Italians and French, while the British were stopped and robbed in the main streets.
Earlier in the brief article, we were told that all were in good health, "in spite of the suffering which they underwent when they were forced to leave their homes at the shortest possible notice." These British were understandably peeved: "They possess practically nothing but the clothes they were wearing and they complained bitterly that they were given no time to save their money and effects. The first warning they received of the seriousness of the situation was a notice issued by the British Vice-Consul on September 4..." (Note: an earlier Times account ["Smyrna Burning. Massacre Fears"], dated Sept. 14, reported, "The British inhabitants, with few exceptions, were safely evacuated last evening on board the warships.")
The last paragraph offers the testimony of "Mrs. Marty, who was probably the last Englishwoman to leave Smyrna." She tells a story about twelve Greek girls who were dragged away by Turks, to be found mutilated in the streets the next morning, "murdered after being ravished." Not to say such a crime could not have occurred [this was probably the same crime related in the Times' "LAST DAYS OF SMYRNA. How the Turks Rode In. Sept. 18," with the difference that the victims numbered three, and Kiazim Pasha was reported to have taken "great trouble next day to restore order... reprimanding the newly appointed Turkish Town Major"], but it is safe to assume Mrs. Marty was not "on the spot," and was repeating yet another "Turkish atrocity" story of hearsay. It's obvious these outraged British refugees did not regard the Turks in the highest light, and therefore it is especially significant that their "consensus" was to lay the blame for Izmir's fire on Greeks and Armenians.
Lamb, British Consul at Smyrna: Greeks & Armenians
Still another witness is to be found in the person of the British Consul General at Smyrna (Mr. H. Lamb), who reported to his government that he had reason to believe that Greeks in concert with Armenians had burned Smyrna. This was confirmed by the correspondent of the Petit Parisien at Smyrna in a dispatch on Sept. 20.
From "Smyrna During the Greek Occupation," by Colonel Rachid Galib, Current History, V.18, May 1923, p. 319.
Mark Prentiss' Jan. 1924 Atlantic Monthly article, demostrating how prejudiced Americans accepted Turkish atrocity stories at face value: "Actualities at Smyrna." :
Mark Prentiss on the Psychology of Turk-Atrocity Stories
The following is a highly important article by Mark Prentiss, the American at Izmir (or "Smyrna"; Prentiss was an industrial engineer and a special representative of the Near East Relief) who laid it on the line as far as who was responsible for the burning. He describes how otherwise honorable "good Christians" were behind false atrocity stories, not necessarily because they were lying... but because their brains had been washed by anti-Turkish propaganda. To wit:
"Until the end of the seventeenth century the 'Ottoman peril' lurked alongside Europe to represent for the whole of Christian civilization a constant danger, and in time European civilization incorporated that peril and its lore, its great events, figures, virtues, and vices, as something woven into the fabric of life."
"From the fourteenth to the end of the seventeenth century the Ottoman Empire was almost continuously at war with the Christian Powers of Western Europe. The terror inspired by the Turkish name among all the European peoples was largely responsible for the widely spread popular belief that the Turks were a race of uncivilized barbarians who, wherever they went, left nothing but smoking ruins behind them and stamped out every vestige of civilization. Religious fanaticism, coupled with the fear born of unbroken Turkish military successes, resulted in creating among some detractors of the Turks a state of mind which rendered them for the most part incapable of viewing Turkey and the Turks with an objective
and unbiased eye."
Edward Said, in his scholarly work, "Orientalism"
What I'm going to do here is REVERSE the sequence of "Parts I and II" of Prentiss' article, as I'd like to accentuate this phenomenon of how even apparently conscientious people saw illusions of Turkish swords everywhere. We know some missionaries and Western consuls lied outright with the telling of their pro-Christian tales, but what about the ones who were above lying, even with their religious and racial bigotry? The psychological outlook described below speaks volumes.
This rare article from The Atlantic Monthly (Jan.1924, pp.130-133) is made possible through the good graces of reader M. Mersinoglu. What follows is an analysis of the doubt cast upon Mark Prentiss' integrity.
ACTUALITIES AT SMYRNA
MARK O. PRENTISS, AMERICAN EYEWITNESS, SPEAKS
RECORDED BY JOHN BAKELESS
It is impossible to understand the psychology of atrocity stories without being through an experience like ours. The reputation that the Turks have â€” rightly or wrongly â€” acquired was known. It was also known that they had marched for three hundred miles through wantonly devastated territory â€” their territory. Atrocities seemed the natural thing to expect. Then there was the fire, and with Greeks looting, Turkish looting, private murders, men shot while cutting hose, deaths from fire, drowning, and military executions, bodies began to be pretty thick in the streets.
It was too much for a good many men â€” and not weaklings by any means. They were like children, who fail to distinguish between what they imagine or expect and what they really see. It is possible for an idea lo be so vividly present to the mind that it passes for fact on that ground alone. I was with a naval officer and some of his men in our consulate when a local Y.M.C.A. worker burst in the door. He was in the last stages of collapse, shaking all over and clawing convulsively at his hair â€” quite incoherent. We tried to quiet him.
'My God, my God, my God!' half a prayer and half an exclamation, was all we could get out of him. We forced him into a chair. When he was calm enough, we questioned him.
'What's the matter?'
'O my God, rny God!'
'Never mind that. What's the matter?'
'Oh, they 're killing them â€” killing everybody â€” the Y.M.C.A. Send your men, send your sailors, quick!'
'Who's doing this?'
'The Turks, the Turks. They've stormed the "Y" and got them, andâ€”'
'Did you see it?'
'Yes, with my own eyes. They^re killing them. Hurry, hurry I'
The naval officer quietly moved three fingers on his desk, and three sailors hurried out. I went with them.I had left my kodak and binoculars there an hour before and I wanted them. We ran as fast as we could to the Y.M.C.A., but when we got there we found nothing more dreadful than a few placid Turkish soldiers standing guard over a garage next door, of which they had .just taken possession. Not a soul had been hurt or even threatened. Neither was there the least sign that a struggle had taken place. The usual calm tense quiet reigned.
The same man burst in later with a story that Turkish soldiers had stripped and were violating six Armenian girls; yet when we went to the place he named we found nothing of the sort, â€” and we went instantly. In each case the man vowed he had seen these events with his own eyes; and he was a perfectly honest, decent chap, but quite out of his head with strain and excitement.
I must have investigated a hundred such stories, without finding one of them true.
I think I must have investigated a hundred such stories, without finding one of them true. A nurse, declaring she had seen the horrible wound, took me to help a woman whose breast was said to have been cut off. I found she had a gash in one arm â€” nothing more.
Such hysteria in a sound and normal American of about thirty helps to explain the frenzy of fear among the Greek and Armenian refugees. Their terror took the most grotesque and unexpected forms. The American sailors ran a positive risk from the Greeks, who would seize them like drowning men, merely because the sailors wore a uniform that might represent safety. One nearly had his back broken from being pressed down across the mud-guard of a motor beneath an avalanche of terrified Greeks and Armenians, all clamoring to be saved; and the bribes that those simple sailor lads were offered, and contemptuously turned aside, pass belief. One Greek merchant offered $50,000 in American currency, to be paid on the spot, if he was placed on board a destroyer: and there is no doubt that he would gladly have fulfilled his share of the bargain if he had had a chance.
The Turkish authorities had given us permission to evacuate all except men of military age, and some of the latter resorted to the most naive disguises. Big strapping fellows with several days' growth of beard relied on women's garments to save them; and I even saw one patriarch, far beyond the age-limit anyhow, who had donned feminine apparel for safety's sake, in placid indifference to a huge gray beard that flowed down nearly to his waist.
I saw one man of military age, thus disguised, detected by a Turkish officer, who sat his horse, watching the refugees streaming through the gate and on to the pier where the steamers lay to receive them. As they passed, the officer leaned forward suddenly near where I was busy getting the people in, and snatched at the head-dress of what appeared to be a Greek woman. Then he began to tear at the upper part of her clothing.
Once Again: The foregoing was the second part of this article. Below is "Part I," forming the beginning.
Interestingly, Prentiss relates what may have been the first instance on record of cooperation between American and Turkish armed forces.
After a few days' tour of investigation among the battlefields of devastated Anatolia, I was back again in Smyrna on September 22. The city, wrecked by the fire, was still filled with homeless people. In the nine days since the fire some 20,000 or 30,000 had been evacuated; but 230,000 remained, and the task of getting them away was baffling.
The chief problem was how to convey the refugees from the city out to the Greek ships, which did not dare to enter what was now a Turkish port and so lay at anchor outside; while the refugees were brought to them on lighters. There were plenty of ships, but not half-a-dozen lighters had been left in Smyrna, and the sea from mid-afternoon till midnight was so choppy that we could not work.
Under these conditions the United States naval authorities placed me in charge of the entire work of evacuation, and the appointment was confirmed by the local relief committee. We made a few calculations. At the rate the work was going, it would take about eighteen months to get all the refugees away, and in far less time than that, exposure, hunger, and disease would have finished every one, even if the Turkish authorities had not insisted on complete evacuation before midnight of the thirtieth.
We appealed to the Turkish captain of the port for permission to bring the ships into harbor and lay them alongside the railroad pier in the northern part of the city. They were Greek ships, mind you, and feeling against the Greeks was bitter, yet the Turkish officer gave consent at once. His only stipulation was that the ships must not fly the Greek flag in the harbor, and that no Greeks or British must come on shore. The Turks even assigned three hundred of their soldiers to help; and with these and as many sailors as the two destroyers could spare, we went to work.
I think it is the first instance on record of cooperation between American and Turkish armed forces. They were an odd contrast. The American boys had a keen, wide-awake Yankee interest in everything around them. The Turks were stolidly intent on the work in hand, nothing else. The 'kidding' of the American boys meant nothing to them, though they were never unfriendly; and the gobs' amicable efforts to learn Turkish met with no remarkable degree of success.
The naval officers at first proposed bringing a destroyer into the harbor and laying it alongside the pier, to prevent the massacre that many, at the bottom of their hearts, half expected; but I protested. The presence of a neutral warship could have done no good and might have irritated the Turks. If everything was quiet, the destroyer was needless. If trouble started, an American naval vessel could not interfere. We took the Turks at their word, trusted them, and never had any reason to regret it.
Of course, Smyrna by that time was full of atrocity stories. Half the buildings were in ruins, in the streets were bodies of men killed while cutting hose, killed in private feuds, executed by the Turks, drowned on the waterfront. I do not pretend that the Turks never did any killing m Smyrna. I know better, for an officer and some soldiers had me up in front of a wall for several of the most uncomfortable minutes I ever lived through, and there was a second or two when I did not expect to live very far through them.
It happened in this way, I had come suddenly on a group of Turkish soldiery with loot in their hands. As I had been making photographs wherever I liked, ever since the Turks came in, I very foolishly photographed these men, too. It was an all-but-fatal blunder. Their officer ran at me, seized me by the shoulder, pushed me against a wall, beckoned to some of the men, and stepped back.
It was instantly apparent that an impromptu execution was about to be staged with me as the hero of the occasion. I spoke no Turkish, they no English, and my status as a neutral interested solely in relief was a little difficult to convey in sign language. How were they to know that Kemal and I had parted a few days before on the best of terms?
I did the first thing that came Into my head â€” a foolish bit of bravado, no doubt, but one that served its purpose. Tearing open my blouse, as if to bare my breast to their bullets, I saluted with dramatic impressiveness â€” and then turned swiftly to the officer and made signs that I wanted to take his picture. In my turn I thrust him up to the wall and made ready to snap him, taking as much time in posing him and getting him ready as I could.
The dazzling idiocy of it was too much for the Turks. This wasn't the proper behavior for an executee at all, and they forgot all about their execution. (Heaven knows I didn't want to remind them of it.) First the officer was photographed; then he wrote his name and regiment in Turkish, so that I could send him a print. Then I spent a good many minutes posing the entire outfit. I took my time and arranged an impressive arrayâ€”a month later I learned I had taken all three exposures on one film â€” yes, I was rattled and I admit it.
Next the officer pulled a much-crushed package of dates from his blouse and gravely offered some to me. It was the breaking of bread, which in the east constitutes an inviolable bond. I made haste to accept, privately heaving sighs of relief. The men, too, now brought me bits of food. One held out a chunk of bread. As I clumsily endeavored to break off a piece, he jerked a murderous-looking knife from his boot, and for the first time in my life I felt seasick. 'Heavens.' I thought, 'is it beginning again?' But he merely cut off a bit of the bread and gravely handed it to me.
They showed me their arms, like so many children displaying their toys, and I admired them volubly â€” in sign language. One man handed me a two-foot knife, and I drew an appreciative forefinger down its edge, wagging my head admiringly as I contemplated its sharpness. "For Greek?' I enquiredâ€” 'Noâ€”for E-e-engleesh!' grunted the proud owner, by way of declaring the feeling of the whole Army.
We spent the rest of the afternoon together, and parted the best of friends. I never saw them again, but I took care to send the officer his photograph. It seemed only good manners â€” and, besides, I liked him. I treasure my own copy of his portrait. It has a poignant personal interest.
A "Scientific" Explanation for the Atrocity-Fantasy Phenomenon!
Dana Andrews in CURSE OF THE DEMON
Dana Andrews plays a psychologist investigating an occult ring in Jacques Tourneur's superb CURSE OF THE DEMON (1957). In response to fellow scientists puzzled by inexplicable happenings, Andrews' character (Prof. Holden) advises that all good scientists should continually be saying, Show me. "And if you are shown?" he is asked, to which he replies, "Then I look twice."
Isn't that a perfect description of why the scholarship of "genocide scholars" is usually so shoddy and amateurish? They rarely look twice, always content in accepting surface explanations, in the service of their bigotry and/or agenda. This is precisely why most are better "propagandists" than true scholars,
Getting back to the Turkish Atrocity-Fantasy Phenomenon that Mark Prentiss laid out so beautifully, what Prof. Holden continues to explain describes the phenomenon to a tee. (Simply substitute "demon monster" and "martians" for "Turks.")
Click here to listen to the "scientific" explanation!
I saw one Greek prisoner shot, with my own eyes. He was being led along by his guards when he suddenly broke away, fell flat in the street, clutched the wheel of a motor-truck, and lay there screaming. His guard first prodded him with the rifle-butt, then struck him, in an effort to make the man get up and go on. No use. The Greek was simply crazy with fright, and the Turkish soldier shot him where he lay screaming. Yet once I saw Kiazim Pasha shout from the window of his headquarters and have two soldiers brought before him. He had glanced out and seen them beating a prisoner.
I feel sure there were both looting and killing in the bazaars on the streets down which the occupying army marched. The pillaged shops, with bodies here and there among them, were the best evidence of what had happened. There was too much of it to hold the chettes and the irregular armed bands who accompanied the Turkish army alone responsible. What had happened was clear enough. Soldiers had gone into the little shops,â€” you could have put the contents of any one on a wagon, â€” where they helped themselves to anything that caught their fancy; and any specially rebellious Greek or Armenian proprietor who protested was knocked over the head, shot, or bayoneted.
Some of the looting I saw myself. One soldier passed me in full uniform, carrying a chandelier adorned with innumerable prisms. What he wanted with it or how he expected to carry it along on the next march, I don't know, but it was unquestionably loot. I saw another man with three dozen canes and umbrellas, and I took a photograph of a line of automobiles and camels, which Turkish officers had loaded with silks and calicoes and other goods. I also saw a Greek priest carrying a sewing-machine; but as he was a refugee, it may have been his own property. Thousands of soldiers and civilians were carrying everything you can imagine â€” sometimes loot â€” sometimes salvage â€” sometimes 'just picked up.'
A Note on Prentiss' Reliability
By now, we can expect as a certainty that Armenian and Greek forces are so determined to push their propagandistic views, they will stop at nothing to say anything and everything to cast doubt on the real facts. Mark Prentiss has also been a victim of this traditional discrediting campaign.
But here there appears to be some cause. On Sept. 18, 1922, the New York Times carried an article beginning with: "RELIEF MAN TELLS TRAGEDY; Mark O. Prentiss Cables Account of Sacking and Firing of City."
I haven't read the article, but Prentiss is quoted as such, according to an activist Armenian:
"Many of us personally sawâ€”and are ready to affirm the statementâ€”Turkish soldiers often directed by officers throwing petroleum in the streets and houses. Vice-Consul Barnes watched a Turkish officer leisurely fire the Custom House and the Passport Bureau while at least fifty Turkish soldiers stood by. Major Davis saw Turkish soldiers throwing oil in many houses. The Navy patrol reported seeing a complete horseshoe of fires started by the Turks around the American school."
Now note in each of the instances, Prentiss reported the stories of others... and not himself: Barnes, Davis and the Navy patrol. The Navy patrol appears to have witnessed only fires, which is different than speculating who started the fires.
(The major must be, as George Horton described him in The Blight of Asia, " C. Clafun Davis, Chairman of the Disaster Relief Committee of the Red Cross, Constantinople Chapter.")
The pseudonymous Armenian author of this material claims, "But after being instructed by his superiors, he changed his version and stated that he saw no petroleum being poured." No source is offered, regarding "being instructed." How could there be? What went on between Prentiss and his superiors, if anything, can only be a matter of speculation. (And Prentiss never claimed to personally witness petroleum being poured, as the Armenian is falsely stating.)
Remember: Prentiss was a special representative for the Near East Relief... I repeat, that was the Near East Relief, whose whole purpose was to protect and care for Armenians... and these "superiors" of the Near East Relief were going to be the last people to instruct Prentiss to lie for the Turks.
(Assuming Prentiss would have been unethical enough to lie because someone had told him to. The article you have read above gives a good picture of his character.)
It's one thing for someone to have his arm twisted by a superior and asked to deliberately lie, if we entertain that unfounded notion for the moment. It's quite another to prepare a detailed report, as Prentiss has done (see link below), and one evidently never meant to be publicized, that was deliberately and meticulously falsified.
Prentiss' chief source was the fire chief of the city (1910-1922), an Austrian, Paul Grescovich (at times Grescovitch), who had no reason to protect the Turks. Obviously, Prentiss did not put words in Grescovich's mouth.
Marjorie Housepian Dobkin
Marjorie Housepian Dobkin, in her propagandistic book ("Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City") too often cited as a definitive work on the matter, dug up other references from the fire department accusing the Turks. One such witness was a fireman named Katzaros. Whom are we going to believe, the firemen of Greek and Armenian descent, or the fire chief who had no reason to lie? (There was a court case in 1924, and the plaintiff's lawyer complained of the flimsiness of the evidence, provided mainly from "only that of a small number of persons who by race and nationality were bitterly hostile to the Turks.")
The pseudonymous Armenian author tells us Prentiss provided another account days later, presumably in The New York Times: "The burning of Smyrna will rank as the world's greatest tragedy, and it is likely historians will divide the responsibility. The Greek action in arming civilians, together with prolonged and extensive sniping, exasperated the Turks beyond their officers' control. The officers exerted an effort to maintain order and establish a record for peaceful occupation."
As a matter of fact, Prentiss appears to have been a primary correspondent for The New York Times on "Smyrna," writing four more articles after the first one from the 18th, on September 20 ("Our Missionary Work Is Not Desired"), 24, 25, and 27. He went on with a few more articles relating to Turkey in the next several months.
For example, in a Nov. 12 article not written by Prentiss but one where he was the subject, we are told "Mark O. Prentiss, special representative of the American Near East Relief" was "sent by headquarters to make a survey of the work..."
So his bosses supposedly reprimanded him, according to the Armenian "made up" story, and yet they trusted him enough to summarize what was happening. Now, remember, we were told Prentiss was under instructions to make the Turks look nice. Here's how Prentiss complied almost a couple of months afterwards: "Only Immediate Evacuation Can Avert Massacre. ALLIES AT TURKS' MERCY 'Will Be Forced Out' of Capital if They Fightâ€”8,000 Victims Marked for Death."
Yes, Mark Prentiss sure sounded "pro-Turk," all right.
Do you see what's happening here? Missionary-minded, Western influenced Mark Prentiss first arrived (on Sept. 8), and he brought with him impressions of the Terrible Turk. The Westerners of the Sept. 18 account told him Terrible Turk stories which Mark Prentiss readily accepted.
After he did his own investigating, he realized there was a lot more to the goings-on than typical Terrible Turk savagery. (He already had clues before Sept. 18, as revealed through discussions with Fire Chief Grescovich. It probably took him a while to sort through the conflicting information, preferring at first to accept the atrocity accounts that fulfilled his own pre-existing prejudices. When he kept seeing firsthand how unreliable the atrocity accounts were, as he related in the article on this page, he had no honorable choice but to slowly come around.) And Prentiss had the integrity to report the facts. He realized in order to get at the truth, one needed to scratch beneath the surface... anathema to Turcophobic genocide and "Smyrna fire" advocates.
(Prentiss provides another clue regarding his evolution, in his above account: "After a few days' tour of investigation among the battlefields of devastated Anatolia, I was back again in Smyrna on September 22." That means he was learning about the real state of affairs after the Sept. 18 Times account appeared, further discovering the Greeks and Armenians were not the angels he very likely had always been told, and his ingrained prejudices must have slowly been melting away. This is the same process Arnold Toynbee went through... the reason why Housepian indicated in her book that she dismissed Toynbee, because he had the gall to do an "about face," and Housepian concentrated instead on the hateful religious fanatic, George Horton.)
The Armenian author reported that Prentiss deliberately changed the "entire American version of the events," sending his story to Bristol, in "a form of a manuscript to be published in Jan. 11, 1923" (this is the Prentiss account from the link at bottom of page; but the Armenian appears to be "speculating" once again about the "to be published" claim. From the available facts, we can only conclude this account was written privately, and was never published anywhere, and was likely never intended to be publicized. The significance of the Jan. 11 date is that was the date the manuscript was sent to Bristol for his perusal as a U.S. official, not as a date of publication; furthermore, the implication that Bristol served as a "publishing house" or even a "writer's agent" is absurd. The reason why this report is known at all is that It was likely discovered among the Bristol Papers in the Library of Congress, sitting for years, unknown to the world. (Until some researcher came upon it... just like with "Actualities at Smyrna" above, which I had never heard of before.) Especially if this "internal" account was never published, then it could obviously not have been written for propagandistic purposes); the Armenian ridicules the part where "Armenians were in Turkish military uniforms, burning their own quarter."
But Prentiss did not make that up. Alexander MacLachlan, the missionary president of International College in "Smyrna" pinned the blame on Armenian terrorists, dressed in Turkish uniforms; they were apparently hoping to bring Western intervention. (MacLachlan had no reason to stretch truth for the Turks, not only because he was a missionary, but because he was almost killed by the Turks, during the events of the fire.)
Now it won't do for missionaries or missionary-minded individuals to go contrary to Hai Tahd, the Armenian cause, since missionaries are supposed to be the friends of Armenians. When even missionaries deviate, it's up to Armenians to come up with speculative reasons as to why they must be "deliberately lying."
For example, Housepian wrote in her book that "Allen Dulles, unable to officially refute the charges head-on, was driven to seek personal testimonials," because a book called The Great Betrayal (pinning part of the blame on the "Smyrna disaster" on "American economic imperialism" and Admiral Mark Bristol) made people, prone to accept anti-Turkish propaganda at face value, angry. Housepian lists villains such as "zealous volunteer, a Mr. William T. Ellis," Asa Jennings and Prentiss himself who snapped to command, by way of writing letters to editors.
(Asa Jennings was a Methodist minister and assistant YMCA director whom Housepian had painted heroically earlier, having saved many Greek refugees. This outside page gives the account.)
In other words, these people were going to be perfectly willing to falsify the facts, because someone merely asked them to. (Is that what you would do? Even if a government representative waved the flag in your face, unless perhaps if it was a matter of life and death for the nation... would you?)
Pro-Armenians must learn that just because bending the truth comes so easily for them, not everyone is going to suffer from the same affliction.
Prentiss' articles speak for themselves; for example, the one above was written well after his duties had been performed, more than a year after the fire, and he was safely back home. There was absolutely no reason for Mark Prentiss to have written "Actualities at Smyrna," other than wishing to report the facts... and there is no sugarcoating, either. Prentiss did not shy away from exposing the times the Turks committed offenses. The only thing Prentiss is "guilty" of is revising his views, as better information came along... which is the duty of all honorable people.
As a footnote, Prentiss is described as the "chief organizer of the National Crime Commission and author of many articles on crime prevention," in an Oct. 24, 1930 New York Times story, where he was reported to have caught a burglar in his own Manhattan home. (Prentiss might have learned something from the Turks, having cowed the crook with "a sword.")
Jennings of Smyrna
By WILLIAM T. ELLIS
Scribner's, v. 84, Aug. 1928, pp. 230-235.
An authority on the Near East in war or peace tells the remarkable story of how an assistant “Y” secretary bluffed the Greek nation into rescuing its people from Smyrna.
To have played the hero, and yet not to have posed the part; to have done a spectacuiar big thing, and then to have gone on to another unspectacular task—this is to have “acquired merit,” as our Buddhist friends say. Asa K. Jennings, affectionately dubbed “Commodore” Jennings by the officers and men of the American navy who were on Mediterranean duty in 1922-23, won this distinction; as did also Miss Cushman, of Konia, who is another story.
If this were a book, instead of a brief magazine article, I would first set up the background for my amazing bit of biography. There would be the kaleidoscopic romance of Turkey as a place setting: and of Smyrna in particular: seat of King Tantalus, birthplace of Homer, plaything of Alexander the Great, one of the Book of the Revelation’s “Seven Churches of Asia,” burial-place of Polycarp, and known to the Early Church as “the gateway of the martyrs.” Then the scene-setting would further show the deep racial and religious antipathies of the peoples of Asia Minor; their revolutionary plots and the famous Armenian atrocities. Next I would have to reveal the intrigues of the rival politicians at the Paris Conference, which set the jealous powers to plotting each other’s discomfiture in the Near East; and how Lloyd George thwarted the audacious Italian project to make a landing in force at Smyrna, in March, 1919, by swiftly thrusting in a Greek expedition ahead of them. (Lloyd George’s government later fell because of the consequences of the coup.) A grisly element would then appear in the atrocities committed upon the Turks by the Greek forces as they landed (vide the report of the Inter-Allied commission of investigation), and in tragic sequence there would follow the three years of war in the Minor between the British-abetted Greeks and the ragamuffin Nationalist Turks, under Mustapha Kemal Pasha. It needs the delicate pen of a satirist to picture this topsyturvy situation, wherein the Turkish Nationalistists shouting the Wilson slogans against two of America’s war allies; and charging the Greeks with atrocities of all sorts.
Finally, to put the last touch of background in a paragraph, came the Greek debacle in Asia Minor in August, 1922, the British having already withdrawn most of their co-operation. Under pressure from the Turks, the overextended Greek line crumpled, the never-strong morale completely collapsed, and the army rushed to sea. As they ran, with the Greek civil population of Asia Minor following them, they looted and burned and dynamited villages and towns and cities that they left or passed. I covered the route of that retreat a few months later, and even the eyes of a war correspondent accustomed to the devastation in France became filled with horror at this harvest of hate. (In passing, let me testify that, sofar as my own careful investigations on the spot could show, the Greeks did not burn Smyrna, as they had threatened to do. Neither did the Turks, nor yet the Armenians; although the big fire ,which destroyed the better part of the city from lesser fires for which individuals of all three of these groups were responsible.)
This dreadful anabasis culminated in Smyrna. The Greek army and many lucky civilians got away on Greek ships which were in waiting for them. But three hundred and fifty thousand Greeks, mostly women and children, remained in Smyrna, with no ships to take them off. Here, then, is the stage-setting outlined, with a mob scene at the front centre, and a large slice of Gehenna crackling as a sort of back drop.
Enter Jennings. There was no cue for him in the script. No prompter called him. He really was not cast for any part in the play. Also, he had no histrionic gifts. Nobody would ever have picked him for the hero’s part; he properly belonged among the “supes.” Jennings was no “old hand” in Smyrna or the Near East, and no leading citizen. In fact, he was only a rather recent assistant Young Men’s Christian Association secretary, an ex-Methodist preacher, who would never get any appointment on account of his size, his good looks, his “air,” or his oratory. He was only the common or garden variety of Y.M.C.A. worker. Withal, though, he was Kipling’s sort of American, who
“Turns a keen, untroubled face,
Home to the instant need of things.”
Here were folk to be fed and doctored and counselled, and, if possible, delivered. It was Jennings who was one of the moving spirits among the resident Americans to form an American Relief Committee. (When our querulous “intelligentsia” stop their quibblings long enough for a clear voice to be heard, some informed American cosmopolite may arise to tell the tale, unmatched in all the sagas of time, of how Americans have ever been the world’s big brothers; the helpers, the rescuers, the almoners, the friends in need. There is a great book in the theme of the American imperialism of altruism.)
One of Jennings’s little stunts, to particularize, was to open an emergency maternity hospital for the refugee mothers. No, there is nothing about managing maternity hospitals taught in the Y. M. C. A. manual of instructions; neither are obstetrics a course at Annapolis—yet the young executive officer of one of the United States destroyers in the harbor acted as midwife for many emergency cases in Jennings’s hospital. “It’s a way they have in the navy.”
All of the Americans in Smyrna during those dread days were working to the limit; only one—a casual visitor from Constantinople, who was so useless and in the way that the local folk got permission from Admiral Bristol at Constantinople to speed his departure —ever claimed to have done wonders; and that man wrote a magazine article about his exploits which almost made the American missionaries at Smyrna lose their religion, and the navy lose its morale, when they read the astounding “fake”—which consisted largely of telling as his own experiences the story of Jennings. Later, a proved propagandist of the Greek Government wrote a book indicting all Americans — the navy and the State Department in particular—for their “betrayal” of humanity at Smyrna; but by the time it appeared the average American was beginning to grow sophisticated and sceptical concerning propaganda about the Near East.
Individual stories of those days are legion.Theorctically neutral, the American naval force stretched and broke many a regulation in order to rescue refugees. There was not a war-ship that did not have its complement of Greek and Armenian Christians aboard. One night a head was seen swimming from shore. The ship’s lights were switched off, so that the Turkish sentries might not find the escaping refugee an easy mark. From the rail where Jennings and sailors watched, the swimmer was seen to be in distress, as the figure drew near the destroyer. There was no order to lower a boat; there could not be, as it would have had to be entered in the log, evidence of a breach of neutrality. “Why don’t you man a boat?” demanded Jennings of the men. “We can’t do it without orders,” replied the disciplined sailors, eager for action. “Well, I’ll order it: push off that boat!”
The rescued figure, well-nigh exhausted, proved to be an almost naked young woman. Sailors’ clothes and blankets quickly covered her; but there was nobody aboard who could understand her dialect. “Perhaps that boy up in the bow, whom we pulled overside to-day, can talk with her.” The two were brought together—and proved to be brother and sister! They are now in America.
After the Greek army had gone, the Turks assumed full control of Smyrna; and soon decreed that unless the Greek refugees were out of the city by the end of September, they would be sent back into the interior. Jennings, one day, noticed that an Italian liner in the harbor, taking off its nationals had plenty of empty deck space. So he negotiated with the commander to add refugees who could pay the passage money (Certain foreign ships, neither British nor American, reaped a golden harvest by exorbitant rates charged refugees.) Two thousand Greeks were crowded on the decks of the Italian ship as they sailed for the port of Mitylene, only five or six hours distant. Jennings went along, to oversee the debarkation, and an American destroyer was to follow to bear him back to Smyrna the next day.
As the refugee-crowded ship drew into the lovely island harbor of Mitylene, a cry of execration rose from tle throats of the deck passengers. Behold, riding high at anchor, twenty-five empty Greek passenger-ships—while only five hours away, on the Srnyrna Bund, were three hundred and fifty thousand Greek victims of Greek imperialism, praying for deliverance. Back there was need; here was succor—idle. What the refugees thought, and said, about the failure of the Greek Government merit to send these ships to the rescue may best be imagined by one who knows the Orient.
Jennings lost no time in verbal fireworks. Ashore, he called together a conference of leading men—the Greek military and naval commanders, prominent citizens, the British consul, and others in positions of responsibility. This was rather a cheeky procedure, but, as events showed, Jennings is not the man to wait for the unwinding of red tape. As forcefully as a red-blooded man could do, he laid before the conference the appalling plight of the refugees—with the approaching dead-line of deportation back into the interior, where they would have to reckon with all the deeds of the Greek occupation and flight. Thereupon the assembled Greeks gave themselves to talk. Jenningss waited and waited, listened and listened.
Then, convinced that the only outcome would be futile talk, he slipped out, and went aboard the flag-ship in the harbor, the old U.S.S. Mississippi, converted into the Greek Kilkis. He asked permission to send a message in code to the Athens Government. The sheer audacity of a private citizen’s thus addressing the government carried his point; besides, the Greeks throughout seem to have assumed that “the American,” as they called him, must have been some sort of plenipotentiary. Nobody would dare to act so high-handedly without the authority of the great American nation behind him. The nature of Jennings’s message to Athens made that clear. For it was nothing less than an ultimatum that this Yankee sent—declaring that unless the government, before six o’clock that day, ordered the twenty-five idle ships in Mitylene harbor to proceed to Smyrna for the rescue of the refugees, he would broadcast the facts in open speech to all the world!
Quickly came back the answer, which, paraphrased, was that of Davy Crockett’s coon:
“Don’t shoot; we’ll come down.”
Five conditions were laid down by the government reply. First, the American must assume financial responsibility for the ships. That was easy: out ot his salary of something like twenty-five hundred dollars a year, Jennings could readily accept personal responsibility for a few million dollars’ worth of shipping.
Second, the American himself must assume the command of the fleet, and ride on the bridge of the first ship entering Smyrna—so that possible mines or bombardments would have a personal significance to him. Sure; where else would a Yankee be than in the front of an adventure? That trip on the bridge made Jennings a brevet “commodore,”
Third, the American must secure the permission of the Turkish Government for the Greek ships to enter and leave the Smyrna harbor. Not so easy. By way of the American destroyer that had come for him, Jennings wireiessed the ranking naval officer in Smyrna to see the governor and get the permission demanded. Within an hour word came back that the Turks agreed to let the ships enter, but were non-committal about letting them leave. A wartime Y.M.C.A. conscience was equal to construing this as the necessary permission.
Fourth, an American war-ship must meet the Greek passenger flotilla as it entered Smyrna harbor and escort it to dock. Clearly outside the functions of a neutral navy! Still, Jennings knew his compatriots in blue, and he could make sure that there would be a destroyer quite accidentally in the channel offing the next morning that the Greek ships could follow. So, watching his words, that condition could be met.
Fifth, the American must take active charge of the evacuation and of the direction of the ships engaged in it. Naturally; what was the management of the embarkation of three hundred and fifty thousand panicky Greeks, mostly women and children, to an assistant secretary of the Y.M.C.A.?
If these conditions were met, proceeded the Athens despatch, “the American” could have not only the twenty-five ships at Mitylene, but also twenty-five other ships from Pircus. “Done,” replied “the American.” To the admiral of the Greek navy the despatch was shown. Jennings was prepared to take over at once the Greek merchant fleet for immediate departure for Smyrna.
Straightway difficulties arose. When summoned to the Greek admiral’s ship for instructions, all the captains of the Greek merchantmen began to make excuse—Smyrna and hell were synonymous words in Greek minds during those days. Not a single ship was reported seaworthy. Every one had some sufficient reason for being unable to sail. Then up spoke the Greek admiral —he had not been associating with “the American” for a whole day to no effect. Courage is as contagious as measles. So he forthwith reminded the merchant captains that it was a time of war, and that he was in supreme command in those Greek waters. He would send naval engineers aboard their ships, and in case of any one found fit to proceed to sea, although reported disabled, there would be a court martial of the captain that night, and a possible execution in the morning.
That bluff was as effective as Jennings’s wireless to Athens. For that night at midnight all of the Greek ships were reported with steam up and ready to sail. So, with “Commodore Jennings” on the bridge of the foremost boat, the flotilla of mercy set sail for Smyrna. At dawn, as prophesied by Jennings, an American destroyer was found loafing about the entrance to the channel; and how could it object if “Commodore” Jennings and his fleet followed its course through the minefield to the inner harbor of Smyrna, where the once-beautiful Bund was heaped high with a human cargo of misery?
After all, the work had only begun. How was this immense flock of frightened sheep to be shepherded onto the waiting ships, that it might be carried to Greek ports of safety? Problems of official relationship, of human inefficiency, of personal panic, of family unity, of luggage, of organization and of procedure, as well as of sheer physical effort in directing the embarkation, thronged upon Jennings and his fellow Americans, civilian and naval. Nevertheless, they mastered every problem.
No Homer was present to put the epic into deathless verse. It will never be told how the American navy, officers and men, did stevedoring work in getting that motley mass of misery separated and assorted and aboard the Greek boats. Not even a little chantey survives to tell of the children carried in the arms of American sailors. There was no help available ashore except American—the Greek merchant sailors dared not set foot on the Bund: the British were too closely identified with the ill-fated Greek military adventure to be free to circulate on shore. Only Americans—naval men, missionaries, teachers, and relief-workers—were at call for this huge task of evacuation at which Jennings had accepted the responsibility. They must ever share with him the glory of one of the most singular feats of human service in history.
As pledged by this landlubber “commodore,” in his message to Athens, all of the ships were returned safely to Greek harbors, after the three hundred and fifty thousand refugees had tranported aboard ship without the loss of a single life. It was efficiency walking hand in hand with audacity and altruism.
Logically, Jennings should have gone to Greece to bask in the sunshine of Greek gratitude. He did become a member of the prisoner-of-war exchange commission. There he seemed not to hate the Turks hard enough to please the Greeks, and he was once roundly rated in the Greek Parliament. Such is gratitude. Now he is back in Smyrna, in charge of a new Turkish-American social-service work for young people. He might be on the lecture platlorm in America—that deadfall for more than one great doer—but instead he is quietly carrying on by helping to meet human needs; still “Jennings of Smyrna.”
(With thanks to reader M. Mersinoglu.)
Was that not a wonderful article? Three cheers for the author, William T. Ellis, for the rare objective telling of a Turk-related tale, absent of bias. Would it have been asking too much to ask most American writers of that period (or sadly, this period) to carry themselves along the same intelligent and humanistic lines?
Parts that struck my fancy:
1) "Harvest of hate," describing the wanton atrocities performed by the retreating Greeks. Exactly the same motivations that drove the maddened Armenians in eastern Anatolia, as they retreated while the Turks were on the March. I'll have to remember to steal this wonderful phrase.
2) It is interesting the author blamed no one, and every one, for the fires.
3) I like the description of Jennings, as "Kipling’s sort of American." Indeed, Asa Jennings, in this episode of his life at least, embodied the best of what characterizes an American, the kind of giving heroics that were the stuff of Hollywood legend, the man of action who thinks of others before himself. (Naturally, that quality is not only limited to American men, but women as well.) Probably this kind of American was more easily found in those days of old than current times, but this is the kind of American spirit, romanticized though it may mostly be, that makes me feel proud. At any rate, it was good to run into a selfless and genuine example.
4) A lovely line: "Later, a proved propagandist of the Greek Government wrote a book indicting all Americans — the navy and the State Department in particular—for their “betrayal” of humanity at Smyrna; but by the time it appeared the average American was beginning to grow sophisticated and sceptical concerning propaganda about the Near East." This is why Armeinian propaganda had died down for some forty years, until the business re-activated in 1965, with their "fiftieth anniversary of the genocide." Americans had learned what liars the Armeians and Greeks had been, but memories have a way of growing short. Today, Americans are more bamboozled than ever.
5) Just like the Armenian revolutionary leaders who cared nothing for their own people, deliberately hoping their own Armenians would get massacred, isn't this story a sad example of how the Greeks really didn't give a hoot about the plight of their own. I could feel for the Greeks on the Italian ship, as they noticed the empty ships in the Greek harbor; it's painful to imagine the "cry of execration [that] rose from tle throats of the deck passengers."
6) Similarly, isn't it like the Greeks to forget their gratitude just because Jennings "seemed not to hate the Turks hard enough." (Marjorie Housepian was also not the most forgiving of the later Jennings in her propagandistic "Smyrna 1922," because Jennings wrote articles not as critical of the Turks as she would have preferred; she also directed ire toward the author of this piece, William Ellis, whom she chastized as being "zealous." It would take doing to consequently classify Jennings as a "pro-Turk" [this article tells us where his heart stood: he was "pro-human"], but no doubt Jennings must not have entirely escaped this smear treatment.) Getting back to Greek ingratitude, is this not yet another characteristic shared with Armenians; we need to refer to the words of Sir Mark Sykes: "The pride of race brings about many singularities and prompts the Armenians to prey on missionaries, Jesuits, consuls and European traveler with rapacity and ingratitude. The poor Armenians will demand assistance in a loud tone, yet will seldom give thanks for a donation."
7) How very astute and fair of the author to have referred to those 350,000 in the quays as "Greek victims of Greek imperialism." The general propaganda revels in referring to those people as victims of the mean old Turks. But, really, would those Ottoman-Greeks have found themselves in this predicament if the Greek leaders had not been belligerent? Similarly, would Ottoman-Armenians have been "deported" if Armenians leaders did not similarly declare war? It's almost always a case of Armenian and Greek action that brings about the Turkish reaction. When the Turkish reaction is too painful, these Armenians and Greeks are rarely "man" enough to accept the responsibility for their own actions. It's much easier to point fingers at the Terrible Turk. They have been getting away with this tactic then, and they are getting away with it no less now.
8) To complement the tale above, the reader is advised to tune into Mark Prentiss' "Actualities at Smyrna." Not to take away from Jennings' heroics, but the object of this telling was to glamorize the plucky ex-minister, and there may have been others to share the credit. Mark Prentiss tells us the number of refugees left on the quays was a more reasonable 230,000, and not the 350,000 reported above. In addition, Ellis was correct in stating the Greek and British sailors did not participate in the logistics, and it was the Americans who took on the task... but he failed to mention one other, very important participant.
Prentiss writes he was given the authority to be in charge of the evacuation, and once the Greek ships sailed in, they were afraid to come too close. It would have taken forever to get the Greeks aboard if the ships did not actually dock, so Prentiss pulled some heroics of his own:
We appealed to the Turkish captain of the port for permission to bring the ships into harbor and lay them alongside the railroad pier in the northern part of the city. They were Greek ships, mind you, and feeling against the Greeks was bitter, yet the Turkish officer gave consent at once. His only stipulation was that the ships must not fly the Greek flag in the harbor, and that no Greeks or British must come on shore. The Turks even assigned three hundred of their soldiers to help; and with these and as many sailors as the two [American] destroyers could spare, we went to work.
I think it is the first instance on record of cooperation between American and Turkish armed forces.
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better
information comes along. For the most up-to-date version,
the reader may consider reviewing the direct links as follows: