The American High Commissioner in Constantinople was Admiral Mark Bristol. He reported to the Secretary of State but also had command of U.S. Naval Forces in Near Eastern Waters. His orders from the State Department were strict neutrality with not even a hint of helping an enemy of Turkey. His conversation, however, was obviously pro-Turkish and anti-Greek, anti-Armenian, anti-Jewish, and Anglophobic. His priority was to develop the maximum commercial benefit for American firms investing or trading in Turkey. This led him to minimize the significance of Turkish mistreatment of and atrocities against Christian minorities. He was also able to minimize and shape the news going to the U.S. by favoring or restricting the activities and travel of American newspaper reporters in Turkey. His influence can still be seen today and is one reason why the Greek genocides of 1922 are so little known.
A British military attaché in June 1921 was quoted as calling the Greek Army in Turkey “a more efficient fighting machine than I have ever seen.” He also praised their high morale. But these were now their only advantages. In August 1922, the Greeks were in bad need of almost everything, even food. Their last hope was a British loan, which never came.
On August 26, 1922, the Turks launched a major counter attack with unexpected force and ferocity. The major Greek defensive positions had fallen before the end of the day, and the next day, Afyon was taken. On August 30, the Greek Army was decisively defeated at the Battle of Dumlupinar. The major Turkish advantage turned out to be superior artillery, in size, range, and accuracy. They were nowhere close to having such an artillery advantage until they started receiving Soviet, French, and Italian arms. The largest share probably came from the Soviet Union. By September 7, the Greek Army had suffered between 101,000 to 130,000 casualties and had lost all their major equipment. By September 9, they had been chased 250 miles, all the way back to the outskirts of Smyrna.
Smyrna was normally a city of just over 400,000. It was majority Greek, but had a Turkish population of 150,000 and about 20,000 Armenians. There were many European residents as well, associated with its prosperous commerce with Europe and America. The surrounding vilayet contained about 300,000 people and was predominantly Greek. But now more than 300,000 Greek refugees swelled Smyrna’s population to uncomfortable levels, and they kept coming. The reputation of the approaching Turkish Army for brutal treatment of military prisoners and civilians alike was well known in Smyrna. Normally a prosperous city with a reputation for happy people and a good life, its broad crescent quay, well over a mile long, had the finest shops, luxurious hotels, wonderful restaurants, three modern cinemas, and beautiful public and commercial buildings. It was a city with many fine homes, churches, and cathedrals, and even had an American YMCA, YWCA, and many Christian academies and schools sponsored by American and British missionary societies. It had three archbishops: Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox. It was a city, where music, art, and learning thrived. But now it was a city of many extremely frightened people. The last remnants of the Greek Army withdrew by September 8. There were 19 British, American, French, and Italian warships in the harbor, but their orders were to remain strictly neutral, while evacuating only their own nationals and scrupulously honoring Turkish sovereignty.
The city of Smyrna was divided into residential “quarters” corresponding to ethnic background. These were Turkish, Jewish, Armenian, Greek, and European. The suburbs were predominantly Greek with some European and American favored neighborhoods.
On September 5, four days before the first elements of the Turkish Army entered Smyrna, the League of Nations received a note from the Turkish National Government alluding to alleged atrocities committed by Greek troops during their advance, concluding with the statement:
“Turkey declines all responsibility for consequences that may arise from these terrible provocations.”
The League correctly interpreted this as a notification that the Turks intended to exterminate the Christian population of Smyrna and Asia Minor, but they were powerless to intervene. The League did notify the governments of Great Britain, France, and Italy of Turkish intentions with the hope that they would notify the Turks that they would indeed hold them responsible for their actions. Nothing was done. It was obvious that the European governments had no intention of holding Turkey responsible for anything unless it affected their own commercial or military interests.
At 9:00 AM on Saturday, September 9, the Fourth Turkish Cavalry Regiment entered Smyrna, proclaiming that there was no danger. No one believed this, however, because they had heard that Mustafa Kemal had placed his cruelest general, Noureddin Pasha, in charge of the occupation of Smyrna. In addition, the Turks posted notices changing the penalty for murdering a Christian from death to mere punishment. This is actually according to Sharia Law, in which there need not be any punishment for killing a Christian. The Turks encountered only a few riffle shots and bombs thrown.
In 156 AD, Polycarp, the patron saint of Smyrna was burned alive in a stadium, the outline of which could still be seen there in 1922.
According to Dr. Niki Karavasilis, author of The Whispering Voices of Smyrna, Noureddin sent two policemen to St. Fotini Cathedral, who took Archbishop Chrysostomos and two Deacons to Noureddin’s office. There Noureddin asked Chrysostomos to write down the needs of the Greeks in Smyrna and promised their fulfillment in exchange for their turning in their guns for the sake of public safety—which they did. In the evening, the policemen returned to take Chrysostomos and the Deacons to see Noureddin again. This time he cursed the Archbishop and turned him over to a Turkish mob of several hundred. From his balcony, he shouted to the mob, “Treat him as he deserves.” They attacked him with stones and rods and dragged him through the narrow streets. Near a barber shop, they ripped off his beard, gouged out his eyes and cut off his nose, ears, and hands. Nearly nude, he kept on walking, praying continuously: “Father forgive them! They don’t know what they are doing!” Finally, he gave up his last breath and fell into a bloody heap. His body was hung for awhile in a public place. Most of this was witnessed by a small group of French Marines, who were kept at gun point from interfering.
The systematic destruction of the Armenian quarter and the extermination of its inhabitants had already begun. The Turks first blocked entry or exit to the Armenian quarter Armenian men in the streets were robbed and marched off in small groups to be shot. Many were shot on the spot and left lying in the streets. Turkish soldiers and civilians went from house to house looting and then killing the inhabitants. Some houses were set on fire. Only some of the prettier girls and women were saved for the Turkish Army. The next day, Turkish Army troops began looting and killing in the Greek quarter of Smyrna. To be continued.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author and Columnist
a.k.a. Leonard M. Scruggs
Mike Scruggs is the author of two books: The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths; and Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, and over 600 articles on military history, national security, intelligent design, genealogical genetics, immigration, current political affairs, Islam, and the Middle East.
He holds a BS degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Stanford University. A former USAF intelligence officer and Air Commando, he is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. He is a retired First Vice President for a major national financial services firm and former Chairman of the Board of a classical Christian school.
His viewpoint is unapologetically Christian, conservative, and patriotic. He has been a Republican County Chairman in two Southern states and remains an active participant in church, political, and veterans’ affairs.