27/2/12

Η Καταστροφή της Σμύρνης, ένα Θωρηκτό, ένας Πάστορας και η διάσωση των Ελλήνων

  
Δευτέρα, 27 Φεβρουαρίου 2012 12:15
Στην κρατική τηλεόραση ΝΕΤ προβλήθηκε η ταινία για την καταστροφή της Σμύρνης. Αν και ντοκιμαντέρ, δίνει την εντύπωση ότι ο Ελληνικός Στόλος απεχώρησε χωρίς να προσφέρει την παραμικρή βοήθεια στον ελληνικό, αρμενικό και εβραϊκό πληθυσμό στην Σμύρνη και στα περίχωρα της. Και εδώ αρχίζει το ψέμα!
 
Η αλήθεια:
 
Ο Ελληνικός Στόλος είχε ως αποστολή την υποστήριξη του υποχωρούντος Ελληνικού Στρατού από την Μικρά Ασία.
 
Την 26 Αύγουστου/ 7 Σεπτεμβρίου η μοίρα του στόλου αποτελούμενη από τα θωρηκτά Λήμνος Κιλκίς το καταδρομικό Έλλη, τα αντιτορπιλικά Ασπίς και Σφενδόνη και το εύδρομο Νάξος υπό την διοίκηση του Υποναύαρχου Καλαμίδα εξέπλευσε της Σμύρνης και την νύκτα αγκυροβόλησε έναντι της ακτής Βουρλά της Ερυθραίας εντός του κόλπου της Σμύρνης.
 
Την αυτήν νύκτα, ο Ναύαρχος του ελαφρού στόλου διέταξε το θωρηκτό Κιλκίς, με κυβερνήτη τον Πλοίαρχο Ι.Ε.Θεοφανίδη ΒΝ, όπως, έχον υπό την διοίκηση του το καταδρομικό Έλλη και τα αντιτορπιλικά Ασπίς και Βέλος, υποστηρίξει την αποχώρηση του στρατού από Σμύρνη προς Τσεσμέ.
 
Η επιχείρηση αυτή, που άρχισε στις 27 Αυγούστου/8 Σεπτεμβρίου ( Ιουλιανό –Γρηγοριανό ημερολόγιο), περατώθηκε στις 3 /16 Σεπτεμβρίου. Τα υπόλοιπα πλοία του ελληνικού στόλου επιτέλεσαν την αυτή αποστολή σε άλλες περιοχές της Ιωνίας.
 
Η εμπροσθοφυλακή του τουρκικού στρατού εισήλθε στην Σμύρνη την 28 Αυγούστου / 9 Σεπτεμβρίου. Οι σφαγές και η μεγάλη πυρκαγιά είναι γνωστά. Η μικρή, άγνωστη, όμως, ιστορία έχει ως ακολούθως.
 
Ο πάστορας Αsa Jennings αnό το αμερικανικό ΥMCA, υπό το κράτος της απελπισίας από τις σφαγές και της πυρκαγιάς και μετά από έγκριση του Αμερικανού αρμοστού στην Κωνσταντινούπολη Υποναύαρχου Bristol ( ιδιαιτέρα φιλικά προσκείμενου προς τον Κεμάλ), αφού κατόρθωσε να συναντήσει τον Κεμάλ του ζήτησε να του δοθεί η δυνατότητα να βρει τρόπο να αναχωρήσουν οι Έλληνες από την Σμύρνη με πλοία, και αν το επιτύχει να σταματήσουν οι σφαγές. Ο Κεμάλ συμφώνησε με την προϋπόθεση ότι αυτό θα υλοποιούταν ΑΜΕΣΑ, και συγκεκριμένα σε διάστημα μιας εβδομάδας. Μια δεύτερη προϋπόθεση ήταν ότι, αν η μεταφορά γινόταν με ελληνικά εμπορικά, τα τελευταία αυτά θα εισέρχονταν στον κόλπο της Σμύρνης χωρίς σημαίες, και ότι δεν θα επιβιβάζονταν άνδρες σε ηλικία στρατεύσεως. Εάν όμως η προσπάθεια του πάστορα να διασφαλίσει εντός επτά ημερών τα συμφωνηθέντα αποτύγχανε, η σφαγή θα συνεχιζόταν μέχρι του τελευταίου νηπίου.
 
Για να φέρει εις πέρας το εγχείρημα που είχε αναλάβει, ο πάστορας ναύλωσε ιταλικό εμπορικό με το όνομα Κωνσταντινούπολις, που βρήκε στην Σμύρνη. Επιβίβασε δύο χιλιάδες εξαθλιωμένους Έλληνες και τους αποβίβασε στην Μυτιλήνη. Αποβιβαζόμενος δε στην Μυτιλήνη, συνάντησε τον ανώτερο στρατιωτικό διοικητή στρατηγό Φράγκο. Ο οποίος, όμως, του αρνήθηκε την διάθεση πλοίων.
 
Απερχόμενος απελπισμένος από τη συνάντηση αυτή, ο Asa Jennings αντελήφθη ότι στον λιμένα πλησίαζε ένα θωρηκτό – το οποίο μετά από λίγο και αγκυροβόλησε: Ήταν το ΚΙΛΚΙΣ. Διαπιστώνοντας δε ότι ήταν ελληνικό, ο πάστορας προσέτρεξε προς αυτό, με την ελπίδα κάποιος να τον ακούσει. Και αφού επιβιβάσθηκε, ζήτησε να τον δεχτεί ο κυβερνήτης.
 
Ήταν η 10 / 23 Σεπτεμβρίου πρωί. Ο πλοίαρχος Ι.Ε. Θεοφανίδης τον εδέχθη αμέσως.
Ο πάστορας τον ενημέρωσε επί της καταστάσεως στην Σμύρνη και του υπέβαλε την πρότασή του, ενημερώνοντάς τον συγχρόνως για τη συμφωνία του με τον Κεμάλ. Κατόπιν δε αυτού, ο κυβερνήτης επικοινώνησε δια σήματος με τον Υπουργό των Ναυτικών και τον πρωθυπουργό Νικόλαο Τριανταφυλλάκο και ζήτησε την έγκρισή τους.
 
Ακολούθησαν άλλα δυο σήματα. Μετά την αποστολή του τελευταίου σήματος, αργά το βράδυ της αυτής ημέρας, η κυβέρνηση απήντησε θετικά, αποδεχόμενη την πρόταση. Αφού δε έλαβε την έγγραφη έγκριση της κυβερνήσεως, ο κυβερνήτης του θωρηκτού διέταξε τους πλοιάρχους των εκεί αγκυροβολημένων εμπορικών να προσέλθουν στο Κιλκίς. Ορισμένοι καπεταναίοι αρνήθηκαν να εκτελέσουν την εντολή, προφασιζόμενοι βλάβες. Τότε όμως ο Πλοίαρχος Ι.Ε Θεοφανίδης τους είπε χωρίς περιστροφές ότι θα τους περάσει Ναυτοδικείο επί τόπου. Και κατόπιν αυτού πάσα αντίρρηση έπαυσε.
 
Με το πρώτο φως της ημέρας τα είκοσι έξι ατμόπλοια, με επικεφαλής τον Πάστορα Jennings στο πρώτο εμπορικό πλοίο, ξεκίνησαν μαζί για την διάσωση των εναπομενόντων ζωντανών Ιώνων της Σμύρνης.
 
Η Ελλάς ευγνωμονούσα απένειμε στον Πάστορα τον ταξιάρχη του Σωτήρος.
 
Είναι κρίμα που ο καθηγητής Βερέμης, ιστορικός σύμβουλος της ταινίας, δεν ενημέρωσε σχετικά την κυρία Ηλιού. Δεν γνώριζε τα γεγονότα, ή τα τελευταία αυτά αποσιωπήθηκαν για κάποιο λόγο;
 
Τίποτα εξ όσων προηγούνται δεν εμφανίστηκε στην ταινία .Σύμφωνα όμως με τον χρυσό κανόνα της αγγλικής δημοσιογραφίας «Comment is free, but the facts are sacred».
 
Όλα τα παραπάνω είναι πιστοποιημένα:
1. Στο αρχείο της ελληνικής επαναστάσεως τόμος Α και Β.
2. Στο επισυναπτόμενο σήμα του Θωρηκτού Κιλκίς.
3. Στα εκδοθέντα συγγράμματα The ships of Mercy.
4. Στο απόσπασμα toy συγγράμματος του Roger Jennings που ακολουθεί.

«Απόσπασμα από το σύγγραμμα του Roger Jennings»
 
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.”
 
In this remarkable example of “citizen diplomacy,” one determined individual saved countless lives.  While the Turks, Greeks and Armenians all hotly contest the facts of the “burning of Smyrna” and the turmoil of the period even today, one issue is not in dispute—the courage and resourcefulness of the author’s grandfather.  —The Editor
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How the Greeks, Armenians and Jews were saved at Smyrna, and how Turkey was put on a course of peace and prosperity is revealed for the first time from private archives.
According to the Armenian proverb, “within the heart of every man sleeps a lion.”   All citizens hope and expect that their leaders will deal effectively with the issues of the day, but at times that does not occur.  Then the citizen must act.  The obstacles can be overwhelming.  A special person is required to be successful.
One such person unknown today saved 350,000 people from certain death in 11 days and 1,250,000 in nearly a year.2 This person then created the social relief and vocational training programs to raise the standard of living of a nation.  When he died, his son carried on his work including arming the nation to preclude an invasion by Germany during World War II.  The son then convinced the Government to risk its neutral status and a German invasion by allowing ships with flags of neutral countries, but loaded with food and arms from the United States, to pass through its territorial waters enroute to Russia.  Providing aid to Russia helped to keep the Nazi army divided and fighting on two fronts.
The unknown person was Asa K. Jennings, an employee of the YMCA.  He was sent to Smyrna, Turkey (known today as Izmir), in August 1922 with his family.   Only 5’3” in height with a double curvature of his spine and still suffering the effects of tuberculosis, Asa was left in charge of the YMCA while others went on vacation.  Two weeks later the Turkish Army defeated the Greek Army.  The Greek Army retreated in panic to the port city of Smyrna along with thousands of civilians.

In 1919 Greece had landed an Army of some 60,000 troops at Smyrna.  The Army drove inland with the intent to annex part of the Ottoman Empire as new territories of Greece.  This was to be a reward for joining the Allies during World War I.  Other countries also occupied parts of Turkey pursuant to the Treaty of Sevres.  The Nationalist Government of Turkey and its leader Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, rejected the Treaty.  The Nationalists formed an army and attacked the Greeks.
 
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Greek Troops in Smyrna
 
Civilians for two hundred miles around feared the advancing Turks.  Five trains a day each with 55 cars packed with people brought refugees to Smyrna.  There was a steady stream of humanity walking and riding in carts, all heading for the safety of Smyrna.  Food and water were scarce.  The Greek Army proceeded to Cesme outside of Smyrna to board ships.  No police or soldiers were in the city to protect the civilians from robbery, rape and killing.
Asa Jennings formed the American Relief Committee.  Most of its members were from the International College in the Paradise section (now known as Sirinyer) of Smyrna.  They arranged for flour to be sent from the warehouse of Near East Relief in Istanbul on U.S. Navy ships to feed the masses.  Ovens and fuel had to be found.  Wealthy Greeks who could pay for passage out of the City donated their houses to the Committee.  One house became a maternity ward.  Others became orphanages for 2000 children.  Young, vulnerable women were crowded into other houses to avoid the most unspeakable of crimes.  Representatives of Near East Relief, American Women’s Hospital, Red Cross and other organizations joined the relief effort.  The U.S. Navy had several destroyers in the Eastern Mediterranean with crews of about 100-125 men per ship to provide humanitarian aid.  The sailors patrolled the city, but were greatly outnumbered by the undisciplined brigands who entered the City intent on plunder before the Turkish Army arrived.  The U.S. Navy panned its searchlights at night over the masses of people huddled on the wharf as a way of preventing some of the crimes being committed against people.  The people were praying for ships to come to their rescue, but no ships came.
 
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                                                                                                                                                Asa K. Jennings
 
The senior U.S. diplomat present was George Horton.  He was repeatedly invited to the meetings of the American Relief Committee.  Asa asked George Horton at each meeting to take action on behalf of the refugees.  There were now more than 350,000 people in the port, 300,000 of whom were Greeks.  George Horton was married to a Greek woman.  More than anyone, Horton had the title and prestige to seek an agreement with the Turks that would protect the civilians.  The U.S. had enjoyed friendly relations with the Turks during World War I despite technically being at war.  U.S. missionaries continued to work for the benefit of the Turks all during the War.  Horton’s response to Asa’s requests was merely to bring the subject up at the next meeting.  Despite repeated requests, Horton, in fact, did nothing on behalf of the refugees.

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Great Fire of Smyrna 1922
 
On September 13, 1922, the city was on fire and all U. S. and U. K. citizens were ordered by the U.S. and British navies to leave the city on warships.  Horton boarded a U. S. Navy destroyer and left more than 300,000 Greeks and 50,000 Armenians and Jews to be marched to the interior of Turkey and certain death like the Armenians in Eastern Turkey years earlier.  All of the U.S. and U.K. citizens left Smyrna save one.  Asa K. Jennings decided to stay behind to do what he could do in these very desperate circumstances.  Now that there was no senior diplomat present, Asa did not have to defer to anyone and could take what he considered to be the best course of action.
The Turkish Army camp was located within view of the Jennings’ house at the International College.  The Jennings children had watched the Greek and Turkish soldiers days before engaged in hand-to-hand combat.  Asa was overcome with great emotion and desire to save these helpless people crowded, body pressed against body, on the wharf.  He drove his YMCA Chevy to the Turkish Army camp and got a meeting with the Turkish supreme leader, Mustafa Kemal. 3

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Mustafa Kemal
 
Asa K. Jennings and Mustafa Kemal were an interesting contrast.  Kemal was a legend and hero among the Turks.  He had defeated the British at Gallipoli and organized the Nationalists into a party representing the will of the Turkish people.  His word was law, and he could order the execution of anyone.  By contrast, Asa K. Jennings was a 5’3” hunchback with no title, staff or resources at his command.  Asa did have great faith and determination.  He had an engaging personality, armed always with a smile that allowed him to make friends with everyone he met.  He was mentally quick and creative, but most of all he was pragmatic and persistent.
Asa wanted the refugees to be allowed to leave Turkey.  Kemal did not want to kill these people, but he could not leave them in the City where there was no food, water or sanitation.  Kemal’s first objective was the expulsion of foreign armies, but his second and more difficult objective was to stop the civil violence.  Turkey had been plagued for years with violence.  There was no civil authority to prevent violence.  Bruce Clark, an Editor at The Economist, states on p. 13 of his book Twice a Stranger, “It has been estimated that about 20 per cent of the population of Anatolia died violently during the last ten years of the Ottoman empire’s existence: some 2.5 million Muslims, up to 800,000 Armenians and 300,000 Greeks.”  Asa’s request to remove the minorities from Turkey was accepted by Mustafa Kemal as the way to bring peace and prosperity to both the Turks and the non-Muslim refugees.
Kemal imposed conditions.  Jennings had only 7 days to remove the 350,000 refugees from Smyrna.  These people could not remain in the City indefinitely due to the food, water, sanitation and security problems.  No Greek flags could be displayed, such as on the ships, because that would enrage the Turkish soldiers who had witnessed so much death and destruction at the hands of the Greeks.  No rescue ships could tie up at the wharf, because the Turks wanted to control the evacuation.  No men of military age (17-45) could leave Smyrna, because the Turks did not want them returning as a new invading army.  The men would go to labor camps.  Asa was in no position to bargain.  He accepted the best agreement he could get, and left in his Chevy for the port of Smyrna.
Asa requested and received a boat with coxswain from the U.S. Navy.  First, he went to the French merchant ship Pierre Loti.  The ship had plenty of room to take refugees to the safety of a nearby Greek island.  The French captain did not want to get involved, and sailed off with an empty ship while thousands were begging to be rescued.  Farther out in the harbor was an Italian ship, the Constantinople.  The Italian ship captain agreed to take 2000 people, but first he had to receive a bribe.  Asa, being a pragmatic person, raised and paid the bribe price, and loaded the 2000 people.   Then the Italian captain demanded an increase in the bribe price.  When challenged by Jennings, the Italian said the Greeks might not let the refugees disembark.  Asa responded that he would go along on the trip to the port of Mytilene and take responsibility for disembarkation.
When the ship arrived Asa K. Jennings was surprised to see Greek soldiers everywhere, and ships at anchor.  There were no problems getting the refugees off the ship, and Asa went to the Greek Army headquarters.  Repeatedly Jennings asked Greek General Frankou for the ships to remove the refugees from Smyrna.  The Turks had guaranteed safe passage, and the U.S. Navy had pledged protection for the Greek merchant ships.  Frankou repeatedly refused to make the ships available.  Asa was very frustrated with Frankou, a Greek, who was unwilling to save 300,000 of his countrymen.  However, Jennings did not know at the time that Frankou was part of a group of Greek officers planning a coup of the Greek Government.  The officers needed the ships and soldiers to gain power, and that was more important to them than the lives of so many people.

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As Asa, infuriated, came out of an early morning meeting with Frankou he saw a battleship entering the harbor.  Jennings boarded the Greek battleship Kilkis. Captain Theofanides was very willing to help even though an officer of superior rank had turned Asa down.  Asa then proceeded to write a series of messages to the Greek Prime Minister, which Captain Theofanides translated into Greek.  The messages were then taken to the radio room where the messages were encoded for security.  At first, the response was the Prime Minister was sleeping.  Asa demanded the Prime Minister be awakened.  Then the Prime Minister wanted a Cabinet meeting.  Messengers had to be sent around Athens to awaken ministers to attend the meeting.  Asa had a seven-day time limit while confronted by government officials who did not share Asa’s sense of urgency.  Finally, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet responded saying no ships could go to Smyrna.  They feared the Turks would capture the ships and invade the Greek islands.

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Greek Battleship “Kilkis”
 
Asa then sent his ultimatum.  If the ships were not made available to rescue the Greeks and others in Smyrna, Asa’s next message would not be in code.  The message would be sent openly so the world would know the Greek Government allowed the Turks to kill 300,000 Greek citizens.  The blackmail worked.  All of the ships in the area were put under Asa’s control, but he would be personally responsible, if any ship was lost.  The merchant ship captains were notified that the Greek Government had seized their ships, and they were to prepare to steam to Smyrna.  The captains were afraid to enter a Turkish port.  Some said their ships had mechanical problems and would not be able to make the trip.  Captain Theofanides ordered the merchant captains to a meeting on the Kilkis.  He informed the merchant captains that they would face court-martial, if their ships were not ready to leave by midnight.  All the ships sailed at midnight with Asa on the first ship.
Families were separated, with the women, young and old people boarding the ships under the protection of the U.S. Navy.  The Turks relaxed their conditions and allowed ships to tie up at the railroad pier to expedite loading.  The Turks also extended the deadline from seven to eleven days.  The men had gone to labor camps and everyone else had evacuated the port.  During the operation the coup occurred in Athens, and the new Government endorsed the successful work Asa was doing.  For days Jennings had been receiving urgent requests for ships to remove refugees from other ports.  Once Smyrna was completed the Turkish officials authorized Asa to take ships to all ports from the Black Sea to Syria.  The new Greek Government expanded Asa’s fleet to 55 ships.  All the refugees recognized him immediately with his hunchback and called him “Admiral.”  Wherever he went in Greece, people would keel before him like the Host was being brought down the street.  People would want to kiss his hands and feet.  Many wanted help finding lost relatives.  By December 500,000 people had been removed.  The Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church stated that 1,250,000 people were removed to safety before the rescue operation was completed.
This addition to the population of Greece put a great strain on Greece.  People were living in tent cities on many Greek islands.  Adequate food and other forms of support were a constant problem.  Disease broke out in the unsanitary environments.  Greece, however, had received the educated and skilled people who had sustained the Ottomans for so many years.  Turkey was left with soldiers and very few people with education and working skills.  The increase in population was such a great problem in Greece that the Greek Government asked the Nationalist Government to accept ethnic Turks who had lived in Greece for generations and who had no connections with Turkey.  The Greeks wanted to reduce their population.  The Turks accepted these ethnic Turks after the refugees had been removed from Turkey.  There never was a population exchange occurring at one time, as often reported, but rather two events occurring at different times.
Once Turkey had established its sovereignty by driving the foreign armies out of Turkey the terms of World War I were re-negotiated as the Treaty of Lausanne.  Greece and Turkey did not recognize each other.  Turkey held many Greeks as prisoners of war.  The Greeks held a few Turks.  The Turks offered one Greek in exchange for each Turk received.  Greeks and Turks hated each other after all the atrocities of war.  A Greek diplomat would not be successful negotiating with the Turks.  The Greek Government knew that Asa K. Jennings commanded the respect, friendship, and confidence of Mustafa Kemal and the Turkish Government.  So the Greek Government appointed Asa K. Jennings, an American citizen, to be the diplomat representing Greece for the repatriation of POWs at the Treaty of Lausanne.  The Turks knew the Greeks would not negotiate with a Turkish diplomat, and that Asa was a national hero in Greece.  So Turkey appointed Asa as its diplomat for the repatriation of POWs at the Treaty of Lausanne.  Perhaps unique in history, one person was representing two countries at war to negotiate a settlement of a critical issue.
Asa requested and received the help of the U.S. Navy to transport all POWs in such a way that the Turks could not keep count.  The U.S. Navy from the earliest days of the crisis was under the command of Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol who, along with the captains and crews of the U.S. Navy ships, assisted Asa K. Jennings in every way possible often risking their own lives.
For his service to Greece, Asa K. Jennings was awarded the highest military decoration of Greece, The Medal of Military Merit, and the highest civilian decoration, The Golden Cross of St. Xavier.  The Patriarch presented the Golden Cross.  This was the first time in Greek history that one person received the highest military and civilian decorations simultaneously.  Perhaps the most touching recognition is a scroll presented by a group calling itself The Common Committee of the Non-liberated Hellenes.  The scroll reads “The Common Committee …recognizing with gratitude your majestic and valuable services in saving 300 thousand refugees exposed to the danger of being slaughtered by the blood-thirsty Kemal, and the many dangers and labor to which you were submitted during their transportation and safe-conduct in Greek territory, Herald You, the real altruist, for this humanitarian action…”
Asa was asked by both Greece and Turkey to stay on for humanitarian work.  He could not be in both countries at the same time.  Greece was a modern country with an educated population and friends in the world.  Turkey had been ravaged by war, had an uneducated population, and socially was very under developed.  In 1923 the Turkish Republic was founded with its first President, Mustafa Kemal.  He asked Asa to establish social organizations around Turkey modeled after the YMCA while President Kemal was closing mosques and suppressing the mullahs.  President Kemal wanted to secularize and modernize Turkey.  The term Christian was offensive to Muslims.  Asa formed The American Friends of Turkey with an advisory council of Turks to provide vocational training, establish orphanages, and build playgrounds to teach competition without killing, and more.  Asa had established a strong relationship with Turkey’s first President.  That relationship has existed ever since, and today the U.S. and Turkey are strong allies.
After Asa K. Jennings died in 1933 his son Asa W. Jennings met with President Kemal.  Asa W. had been aide to his Father from the earliest days of Smyrna and had attended the meetings his Father had over the years with President Kemal.  Asa W. informed the President that the activities of The American Friends of Turkey would be discontinued due to insufficient funds during the Great Depression.  Asa W. had just graduated from NYU Law School and was immediately appointed as Turkey’s lawyer for its activities in the U.S.    The effectiveness of the Jennings men on behalf of Turkey led in 1940 to a request that Asa W. Jennings obtain multiple shiploads of arms so Turkey could defend itself from an anticipated invasion by Germany.  U.S. law and the attitude of the American people prevented any involvement in the European war.  Despite that obstacle, Asa W. was able to get the military aid a year before the Lend-Lease Act was passed to authorize transfers of military materials.  Turkey went on full mobilization, and Germany never attacked.  After Pearl Harbor Asa W. used the prior aid to Turkey to persuade the Turkish Government to risk its neutral status and invite a German invasion by allowing ships with neutral flags to pass through the Bosporus enroute to Russia with food and arms.  By providing aid to Russia the U.S. was forcing the Nazi army to fight on two fronts rather than being able to concentrate their forces.
Today the Jennings name is virtually unknown in both Greece and Turkey.  There is not a single monument or notation in official text in either country of these two men who saved more than 15% of the Greek population and put both the refugees and Turkey on a course of peace and prosperity.  The story of Asa K. and Asa W. Jennings and the many insurmountable obstacles and despicable characters they faced serves as a model for modern leaders.  In the heart of every man sleeps a lion, and these two lions by their character, force of personality and persistence overcame all in the name of the nameless.
End Notes
1  This article was based upon extensive records left by Asa K Jennings and Asa W. Jennings.  Both men kept diaries and copies of reports, letters; and diaries of refugees, photos, and more.  The archives include thousands of pages, most of which have never been published. Comments and questions can be directed to the author at rjenningsmfgco@yahoo.com Αυτή η διεύθυνση ηλεκτρονικού ταχυδρομείου προστατεύεται από κακόβουλη χρήση. Χρειάζεται να ενεργοποιήσετε την Javascript για να τη δείτε. .
2 Most of the exhibits included in Ships of Mercy by Christos Papoutsy came from only one 3-ring binder loaned to Mr. Papoutsy.  A second book The Saga of a Friendship: Asa Kent Jennings and The American Friends of Turkey, written in English by Rifat Bali, but sold only in Turkey was based in part on 2500 photocopies made from the Jennings’ archives.  The Bali book, which is available from the author also used other sources, such as the papers of Admiral Mark L. Bristol, USN, at the National Archives and the records of the YMCA.
3 The meeting between Asa K. Jennings and Mustafa Kemal is depicted in a 1945 MGM short movie titled Strange Destiny.   The film was produced based on information provided by Asa W. Jennings and Amy W. Jennings, the widow of Asa K. Jennings.  Asa K. Jennings received gifts from President Kemal including his personal worry beads and a signed photo addressed to Asa K. Jennings by the President.  The frame that came with the photo has President Kemal’s monogram GMK.  His signature was Ghazi M. Kemal.  The title Ghazi was of more importance than President to the man later named Ataturk by the Turkish legislature.
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    0 #3 Παπ. 25-04-2012 12:27
    Eξαιρετική ανάρτηση. Συγχαρητηρια:

    http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2010/0103/comm/jennings_oneman.html
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    0 #2 Aνδρέας Ζαχαριάδης. 11-03-2012 23:57
    Γράφετε:

    "...δίνει την εντύπωση ότι ο Ελληνικός Στόλος απεχώρησε χωρίς να προσφέρει την παραμικρή βοήθεια στον ελληνικό, αρμενικό και εβραϊκό πληθυσμό στην Σμύρνη και στα περίχωρα της. Και εδώ αρχίζει το ψέμα!"

    Δεν βλέπω να υπάρχει κανένα ψέμα. Αντιθέτως το μόνο μέλημα των αρχόντων ήταν η εκκένωση της Μικράς Ασίας από τον στρατό. κανένα ενδιαφέρον και κανένα σχέδιο για την προστασία ή τη σωτηρία των αμάχων δεν είχε προϋπάρξει.

    Αντιθέτως είχε επιλλεγεί η κυνική εγκατάλειψη του χριστιανικού πληθυσμού (ελληνικού και αρμενικού) στους τσέτες του Κεμάλ.

    Είναι γνωστός ο περίφημος νόμος περί διαβατηρίων με τον οποίο είχε απαγορευτεί από τον Ιούλιο του '22 η μαζική αναχώρηση από τη Μικρά Ασία, ενώ είχε από τότε αποφασιστεί η αποχώρηση της Ελλάδας απ' αυτήν. Όπως επίσης και το τηλεγράφημα του Δημητρίου Γούναρη προς τον "Έλληνα" αρμοστή με το οποίο του ζητούσε να μην επιτρέψει να δημιουργηθεί προσφυγικό πρόβλημα στην Ελλάδα. Επίσης γνωστή είναι και η περίφημη συζήτηση Αριστείδη Στεργιάδη-Γεωργίου Παπανδρέου, όπως την παραθέτει ο Γρ. Δαφνής στο βιβλίο του Οταν ο Στεργιάδης ανακοίνωσε στο νεαρό τότε πολιτικό Γεώργιο Παπανδρέου την επερχόμενη καταστροφή, δέχθηκε την ερώτηση: «Γιατί δεν ειδοποιείτε τον κόσμο να φύγει;» Η απάντηση του «Ελληνα αρμοστή Σμύρνης» ήταν η εξής: «Καλύτερα να μείνουν εδώ να τους σφάξει ο Κεμάλ, γιατί αν πάνε στην Αθήνα θα ανατρέψουν τα πάντα!»

    Δυστυχώς η σφαγή της Σμύρνης είχε ένα ηθικό αυτουργό (την κυβέρνηση των Αθηνών) και ένα φυσικό (το Μουσταφά Κεμάλ)....
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    0 #1 Στυλιανός Πολίτης 09-03-2012 10:22
    Με μεγάλη μου έκπληξη έμαθα ότι μέσα από κάποιο ντοκιμαντέρ σχετικό με την Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή, έγινε προσπάθεια να δοθεί η εντύπωση ότι ο Ελληνικός Στόλος απεχώρησε από την Σμύρνη χωρίς να προσφέρει την παραμικρή βοήθεια στους σφαγιαζόμενους Μικρασιάτες. Είναι απορίας άξιον το πώς και το γιατί ακούγονται τέτοια πράγματα και γενικά το γιατί διαδίδονται σήμερα τόσο μεγάλες ανακρίβειες! Όποιος ασχολείται με ιστορικά θέματα πρέπει να έχει απαραίτητα συναίσθηση της ευθύνης και να ερευνά με μεγάλη προσοχή τα γεγονότα για να μην διαψεύδεται από εκείνους που όχι μόνο τα γνωρίζουν πολύ καλά αλλά διαθέτουν και σημαντικά αποδεικτικά στοιχεία όπως αυτά του Ναυάρχου κ. Ι. Θεοφανίδη. Θέλω επίσης να τους πληροφορήσω πως η Ιστορία για τη διάσωση από το Στόλο μας τόσων χιλιάδων προσφύγων, που μας διηγείται ο κ. Ναύαρχος - χωρίς βέβαια τέτοιες λεπτομέρειες - δεν μας είναι καθόλου άγνωστη. Ενδεικτικά σας παραπέμπω στο βιβλίο του Giles Milton, Χαμένος Παράδεισος Σμύρνη 1922, έκδ. Μίνωας, Αθήνα 2008, σελ. 392 et seq. Σαν Μικρασιάτης τρίτης γενιάς και μάλιστα απόγονος αυτών που έζησαν το δράμα της Σμύρνης αλλά και σαν εγγονός μέλους του πληρώματος του ΒΕΛΟΥΣ της εποχής εκείνης, ευχαριστώ θερμά τον κύριο Ναύαρχο καθώς και τον Καθηγητή κ. Ε. Μάρκογλου για τις διορθώσεις τους. Επίσης παρακαλώ κάθε έναν που θέλει να αναφέρεται σε ιστορικά γεγονότα είτε με ντοκιμαντέρ είτε με οποιοδήποτε άλλο τρόπο να είναι περισσότερο προσεκτικός και να φέρει τον δέοντα σεβασμό σε αυτούς που πολέμησαν για την Πατρίδα.

    Αντιναύαρχος ε.α. Δρ. Στυλιανός Πολίτης
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