Battle of Sakarya 1921

Discussions on the final era of the Ottoman Empire, from the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
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Peter H
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Battle of Sakarya 1921

Post by Peter H » 26 Feb 2008 04:15

Turkey's Battle of the Marne?


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jwsleser
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Re: Battle of Sakarya 1921

Post by jwsleser » 29 Feb 2008 16:52

Peter

I would say more a Turkish 'Battle of Moscow 41'. Sakarya stopped the Greek thrust to Ankara, exhausted the Greek Army, and ended all Greek offenses. The Marne was followed by the 'Race to the Sea' and more fighting. Sakarya set the conditions for the Turkish 'Great Offense' that destroyed the Greek army in Asia. The Marne didn't do anything near comparable.

Jeff

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Re: Battle of Sakarya 1921

Post by Tosun Saral » 29 Feb 2008 21:01

Jorge Blanco Villalta (Former Spanish Ambassador To Ankara) "Atatürk" p. 287-298
Translated from Spanish by William Campbell
Ataürk Kültür, Dil ve tarih Yüksek Kuurumu Türk tarih Kurumu yayinları XVI, Dizi. DSa.39

CHAPTER 24
SAKARYA!
The sun of the Anatolian summer scorches the ground of the high and barren plateaus which descend in prolonged steps from the imposing east-ern massifs down to the soft and fertile regions of the Aegean coast. These last areas are a paradise, Avhilst the plateaus are a desert tortured by their climate.
A heavy heat falls upon the earth, and the cracks in the ground beg for wa-ter. Men and animals go in search of refuge in the shade; but hardly ha ve the worst hours of heat passed, when över ali the ill-cared-for roads of the plateau there is reneved the monotonous creaking of the solid wooden wheels which turn, complaining sadly, upon the axles, also wooden, of the "kağnı," the ancient two-wheeled carts drawn by oxen or buffaloes. Long lines of "kağ-nıs" move along the roads on journeys lasting weeks at a time. There are no men to be seen in these strange convoys, for the measured pace of the oxen is led only by vomen or children. There are also to be seen long cara-vans of camels or little donkeys moving along the tracks in the same direction. Night comes as a relief, but the groaning of the solid wheels does not end; now they make an accompaniment to the women's melancholy songs. Where are ali these convoys going across the interminable roads of Anatolia ? What grief, what pain is it that moves those women to abandon their homes and make these exhausting marches? For what do their voices weep along with the wheels of the "kağnı?"
it is the voice of their country, threatened, which leads them över the burning white roads, carrying ammunition and food to the men at the front who are waiting for the enemy's final assault; perhaps they will not be able to stop him, and then the whole of Anatolia will suffer the devastation which the western provinces have endured. The creaking of the "kağnı" and the song of the \vomen in the night make up a hymn never before heard in Anatolia, -vvhich makes the dust of the bones of sleeping generations vibrate ■vvith emotion, as they dream of glory beneath the protection of the Moslem minarets, or the stone lions of the Hittites, for it is a hymn to liberty, and to the efforts of the people to defend its right to live. Thirty centuries later, a western people, the Greeks, are following the trail of the Thraco-Phry-gians who destroyed the existence of the Hittite Empire; the new invaders are preparing to give the coup de grace to another Asian Empire, that of the Ottomans.
The boats, usually of small tonnage, which managed to escape the allied vigilance, deposited their precious cargo of war materials at the Black Sea ports. The ammunition and arms which had been obtained by those work-ing for the cause in istanbul were transported from those ports to the front, many hundreds of kilometres away, by an organisation of the people. Fine examples of the people's self-denial appeared daily. No orders from the Na-tionalist authorities ■vvere needed to have the boats relieved of their cargoes, and the contents dispatched in the recpıired directioıı in hundreds of carts and "kağnıs."
Women showed themselves as active as the men, and it was they who took charge of conducting the "kağnıs." Clothed in their orjental costumes of bright colours, their heads wrapped in yaşmaks, leaving part of the face uncovered, they took an effective step totvards their emancipation, by show-ing their usefulness and their capacity for self-denial.
War materials, which were no longer needed there after the Armenian campaign, were brought from the Russian frontier över a distance of more than a thousand kilometres. in the last stages, because of the lack of roacls or other reasons, the porters carried the ammunition on their shoulders, to deposit it right in the trenches or beside the artillery batteries, before turning back to their far-off villages, as usual tvithout a word. The invaders on the other hand were remarkably well-e<juipped with mechanical means of transport, as with the best ammunition and ali the conveniences which a modern army can enjoy. in addition, they were occupying the paradise of Anatolia, its western part, bathed by fresh streams, covered ■vvith rich veg-etatiop, and opening onto three seas which kept the expeditionary force in touch with the European world. They lacked nothing, neither the spirit of concraest, mystic fervour or racial hatred. Constantine realised that an even larger army was necessary for the decisive campaign. The two battles of inönü proved that Turkey 'vvas ready for sacrifices, and that the forty-two thousand Greeks who had made the final attack there would have to be doubled in order to make sure of victory. Within three months the number of men rose to a little under a hundred thousand, that of machine-guns to 5.600 and that of cannons to 345. Some of the new soldiers were recruited from among the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
Against such an army as this, Kemal had gathered together 56.000 men. it was impossible to enact a general mobilisation, since it was not that men were lacking but the means of maintaining them, arms and ammunition.
The Nationalist army waited behind the line of the Anatolian raihvay, in positions to the west of the fortified cities of Eskişehir, Kütahya and Afyon. There was no doubt that the third assault was about to be made.
King Constantine knew his people well; from Venizelos' example, he knew the fate that would await him if he did not obtain victory; he had been forgiven for inönü, but it was not wise to risk his fortune another time. When everything was ready down to the last detail, and he felt certain of victory, he chose the lOth of July for the decisive attack which Greece had been waiting for anxiously.
General Papulas was in command. He had experience of grief. After being beaten at inönü, he ımderstood his mistakes and was this time deter-mined to act more cleverly. He concentrated his army into two compact groups; however, instead of directing them against the fortified cities, he ordered them to attack en masse towards the gaps between them. The day dawned when the great Anatolian tragedy would begin, in which two peoples were to bleed to death. The Greeks marched enthusiastically to the attack on the plateau; many of them expected at any moment to see there appear in the sky the cross seen by Constantine the Great, with the words "in hoc signo vinces."
The most violent attack was made against the Turkish left wing be-tween Afyon and Kütahya. The first of these cities fell to the Greeks on the 13th and the second on the 17th. The centre of the Turkish army also began to give way. Only the positions at inönü, "which were only weakly besieged, kept up resistance. it seems that this -vvas part of the Greek plan, to hold the mass of the Turkish army at Eskişehir, and then surround the city and destroy the army finally.
With exemplary calm, General ismet was passing through the greatest crisis of his life. He was the commander responsible for the front, which had been broken up through the loss of Afyon and Kütahya, and there was a danger that the whole defending army might be annihilated. He could order a general retreat to the east of the raihvay, abandoning that backbone of Anatolia; this, however, would mean recognising defeat, and losing the army's whole prestige before the European Powers. Ismet's nerves were exhaust-ed by the continual tension; his plain soldier's uniform looked like a bor-rowed süit on his small body, which had become terribly thin. His generals wanted to resist, each of them havi ıg a different opinion. Like the officers and men, ismet understood that Kf mal's presence was essential; at such a time, Kemal's aura of military victory made him into a demigod of war. He had the genius and secret of electrifying the masses of soldiers, and it was he who could give life to that army on the edge of a horrible disaster.

On the day after the capture of Kütahya, the 18th, Kemal arrived at great speed at Karaca Hisar, tp the southwest of Eskişehir, where Ismet's head-quarters were situated. Ismet's dwelling was in a miserable shack; for fur-niture, he had no more than a camp bed, a rough wooden table on which the battle plans were laid, and tvvo or three chairs. Wİth a sombre expres-sion, Kemal carefully studied the placement of the little blue and red flags which showed the position of both sides; no tremor showed in his voice as he asked for certain information. ismet and other high commanders watched him, awaiting his orders; a certain relaxation could be seen in their manner, since they would no longer have to torture their hearts över dilemmas; from now on ali they would have to do was to obey.
Kemal spoke; the whole army was to be gathered to the north and south of Eskişehir; that city would have to be abandoned, and contact with the enemy broken off, the army retreating to the east of the river Sakarya, where it \vould be possible to reorganise it. These wise decisions provoked severe eriticisin; it was argued that they should not abandon such well-populated regions and important cities while there was stili hope. Kemal realised this perfectly well, and considered that this was the greatest disadvantage of his daring tactics, and he therefore added: "Let us unhesitatingly apply the lesson which military science dictates to us. We \vill take çare of the other disadvantages later."
On the evacuation of Eskişehir, it was entered by Constantine's troops on the 19th. The Turks launehed a counterattack to the east of the city, to allow enough time for their various formations to put enough distance between themselves and their invaders. The counterattacking troops were the last to break off contact, and make for the deserted plateau. About 150 kilometres of burning plain would have to be crossed before they reach-ed the river Sakarya, beyond which the remains of the army would be unit-ed. As the army marehed in small formations, and even in isolated groups of men, munition trains, and artillery batteries, it was joined by the Moslem population, who had managed to escape in time from the Greek invasion. The tracks overflowed with an uncountable number of vehicles drawn by various means. The carts which contained the rest of their belongings were attended by whole families, of whom the more fortunate could add a couple of cows, or a few goats and domestic birds.
These rivers of man and animals, converging towards Ankara, resem-bled the great migrations of the Turkish tribes on the march, but this time they were not marching in search of better lands to conquer and colonise. The great number of wounded men, the general agitation, and the terror of those ^ho were lagging behind, which could be seen refleeted on their faces whenever they looked round as if they feared at any moment to see enemies pursuing them, and the disorder among which soldiers and peasants went mingled together, showed that this time it was an exodus.
After the first moment of rejoicing had passed, Constantine realised that his victory had been reduced in effect since the Kemalist army, despite the heavy reverse it had suffered, had managed to retreat and give itself time to reorganise, by placing 150 kilometres of deserted country between it and himself. With the agreement of his generals he decided to make the final attack as soon as possible and capture Ankara.
Kemal moved away from the lost regions, travelling by raihvay from Eskişehir to Ankara. Enemy planes were bombarding strategic places. The general retreat had begun. There was nothing more for the Paşa to do there; it was in Ankara at the Grand Assembly and before public opinion, which had been frightened by the news of defeat, that his presence was necessary in order to struggle against loss of morale.
Mustafa Kemal was travelling in a compartment reserved for him, which was a carriage lacking in any şort of comfort. His face was contracted, pale to the point of greyness, as he absorbed himself in deep reflection. His com-panions, who included several high-ranking officers, were talking över the tragic events inlow voices and gloomy tones; half Anatolia was lost, includ-ing her most important cities and the raihvay; many thought that this meant the loss of ali hope. Kemal heard part of the conversation and raised his eyes towards them: "What can the raihvay mean," he asked, "or Eskişehir, of any other city? Nothing! For us the army is everything, and we have saved it!"
Outside the -vvindcvv it was night. Beside the tracks the Porsuk river flowed on its capricious course, at one moment beneath the rails, then further off, them coming near again. To the south, a people was marching, ex-hausted by grief and fatigue, across the deserted plain. The retreat of the Turks, which had begun under the walls of Vienna, had now reached the centre of Asia Minör, where men were trying to enslave them. Kemal looked again at his lamenting companions, and his eyes lit up as he said words which made them doubt his mental stability: "I will defeat the enemy within four weeks!"
Ankara became seized with anxiety as the general retreat began; it was certain that the Greeks were marching towards it, and that the Turkish army in its shattered state could not hold them back. As the first refugees were establishing their camps of carts like a belt around the city, many of Ankara's inhabitants fearfully left for destinations further to the east. Muted reproaches were heard against the Nationalist Government, and against Kemal, who had miscalculated the strength of the Turkish people and those of their adversaries.

The Members of Parliament who opposed Kemal found people to listen to them, even amongst his own partisans. His enemies, after painting a picture of defeat in more tragic colours, insinuated that there must be someone responsible for this most sad situation; that person was now preferring to remain in obscurity, but he must be dragged out and made to face his re-sponsibilities, wlıich he could not escape. Some members poured out their bitter rancor against the creator of the defences. Others gave themselves up to despair, thinking that total disaster was inevitable; the remainder thought that the only salvation lay in nominating Kemal as Generalissimo; up till then, his name had been synonymous with victory in the battlefield. Kemal waited till the storms of eloquence had passed before presenting himself at the Assembly. As soon as nerves were exhausted and oratory satisfied, public opinion moved to the conclusion that he should be asked to accept the supreme command, and he thereupon appeared in the Assembly during a secret session. He presented a note which was immediately read out, accepting the command under one condition, that he should be given ali the powers which the Assembly possessed. This ■vvas essential if he was to have speedy obedience to the orders he must give in order to increase his military power and the possibilities for defence. He also stipulated that the powers given to him were to be limited to a period of three months.
The members, who at the beginning had been cruite ready to crush him beneath the weight of a huge responsibility, recoiled before Kemal's demand. They thought they could see the spectre of dictatorship behind the dicta-torial powers he had asked for. During the two secret sessions, to which the dis-cussion extended, a pretext was made of anxiety for Kemal's own security, while it was also argued that the Assembly would lose ali its power. Kemal gave assurances on ali counts. On the 5th of August 1921, Kemal was invested with the rank of Generalissimo, and given ali the powers of the Assembly, though it was declared that both the title and the powers, which were given for a period of three months, could be withdrawn from him at any moment.
The Law of Dictatorship ■vvhich had been approved, was similar to that of "dictatore creando" which was promulgated by the Roman senate at the instance of Titus Largius, in the 253rd year of Rome, to be used in case of extreme danger to the state. The dictator was at the same time a magis-trate and commander of the army; his power was ecruivalent to that of the ancient Kings. His power was limited to six months. This law brought great advantages to the Roman Republic.
The Generalissimo remained in Ankara for a week, devoting himself to providing the army with men, clothing, and means of transport and or-ganising its proper supply. The last battle, the retreat, and the abandonment of large stores, had left the army in a lamentable state. Kemal knew those snıall details with which great things are made; his orders, which had the power of law, followed each other rapidly. A commission for recruisition was set up in every part of the country; now that Turkey's destiny depended on the efficiency of her war machine, the whole nation must contribute to the creation of its army.
Refet, who was a better organieer than a soldier, -vvas appointed Commissar for Defence, while Fevzi was given the exclusive responsibility for the General Staff. These two men vere placed under the immediate command of the Generalissimo. The country was transformed into a great workshop in which the most varied objects necessary for defence were tirelessly man-ufactured. The number of decisions issued by Kemal vithin only a few days -vvould astonish any ordinary army commander; for him, everything was improvisation, from the ensuring of the most insignificant details of the soldiers' elothing up to the provision of artillery ammunition.
On the 12th of August Kemal left for the front accompanied by Fevzi; ismet was stili commander of the front. The disorganised army had halted on the east bank of the Sakarya, the ancient Sangarius, which flows aeross the plateau över rough ground, before falling towards the Black sea, through defile after defile, with sharp changes of height. it was decided to try to hold the enemy along the Sakarya, on both sides of the bridge which carries the Eskişehir-Ankara railway aeross the river; the front was about a hundred kilometres long. it would have been an impossible task to fortify such a long front adequately. Kemal's genius perceived that the enemy would try to make an encircling movement around the Turkish left wing, since it would be easier to approach Ankara from that side. He decided to concentrate his best forces on the threatened wing. If he was wrong, ali was lost.
The Turks were helped by two geological allies, the river and the steep hüls. To eross the first of these, the Greeks would have to brave the Turkish machine-gun fire unprotected; to capture the hüls meant assaulting as many fortresses. There was a third ally too, the exhausting temperature of the Asian summer, which was making the areas which the invaders had to eross into deserts where water vas scarce.
Kemal suffered a misfortune on the mountain called Karadağ, \vhich dominated the railway erossing över the Sakarya. He had got off his horse to observe some defence works, holding the reins under his arm, and lit a cigarette before remounting. The horse shied, and jumped sideways, knoeking Kemal violently to the ground. At his headquarters, which were at Polatlı, behind Karadağ, it was found that he had a rib fractured in such a way that it was pressing sharply against a lung. The pain was terrible, and he could only walk by leaning över towards his wounded side. His doctors advised complete rest, but that was impossible. So many sacrifices were needed to obtain victory in the battle, and he could be one more of them!
The soldiers saw a bad omen in this accident; hotvever, before 48 hours had passed, they again saw the Paşa touring the front defence lines on horse-back. He told the groups who came round him, in a voice subdued vatla. pain and exhaustion: "in the same place that one of my bones was broken, the resistance of the enemy will be broken!"
Kemal's desperate resolve to win infected his army. Every resource of man and material was being used up and yet, on the eve of battle, the new army was ten thousand men fewer than that which had awaited the enemy in front of the raihvay; so great had been its losses.
The headquarters were moved from Polatlı to a viUage, Alagöz, from which the battle could be directed better, since it was an equal distance from both wings. The writer Halide Edip, a 'vvoman emancipated from the old customs, who had come at Kemal's cali to fight for the revolution, and in-flamed the people with her ardent oratory, entered the army as a private soldier. Later she became a declared political adversary of Kemal, and wrote a book in which she showed her animosity towards him; nevertheless, she could not but recognise on many occasions her admiration as a Turkish wom-an for that great man. in her book "The Turkish Ordeal" she recounts her first visit as a soldier to the Generalissimo at Alagöz: "The narrow viUage road is full of holes, muddy and dark. I think it is after midnight. We cross a little bridge and make for the largest of the houses on the other side of the stream. I recognise Kemal's personal guards, with their black tunics, like those worn by men of the Black Sea. it is a half-ruined house. The Paşa's Aide-de-Camp takes me to his room, which is the only one with a gas lamp. Mustafa Kemal stands up. it is clear that his rib is stili causing him much pain, as he walks with difficulty and rests himself against the wooden table which is in the middle of the room."
"At that moment I went towards Mustafa Kemal with veneration in my heart. in that humble Anatolian house, he was the incarnation of the decision of young men to die, so that the nation should live. No palace, title, or power would make him as great as he was in that room, from which he was to lead the Turks to their final effort to resist complete annihilation. I went to him and kissed his hand."
Before giving the order to advance on the conquest of the plateau, King Constantine advised his General Staff to take every necessary precaution against the climate and the ground, two dangerous enemies. The transport services were excellent, as a great number of lorries assured the supply of the staging posts, and the provision of water.

to be continued

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Peter H
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Re: Battle of Sakarya 1921

Post by Peter H » 27 Mar 2008 11:18

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Peter H
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Re: Battle of Sakarya 1921

Post by Peter H » 27 Mar 2008 11:21

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Re: Battle of Sakarya 1921

Post by dienst » 11 Apr 2008 12:09

Hey guys

My little contribution, the third picture is from the Balkan Wars 1912-13,
I have seen it in a Hellenic Chief of Staff published album.
You can also date it from the officer's tunic which is clearly the 1910 model.

Ta

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