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:
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 — rightly or
wrongly — acquired was known. It was also known that they had marched for three
hundred miles through wantonly devastated territory — 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
It was too much for a good many men — 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
— 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
'What's the matter?'
'O my God, rny God!'
'Never mind that. What's the matter?'
'Oh, they 're killing them — killing everybody — 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, and—'
'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, — 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.
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
— 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
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.
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
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 — 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 — 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 array—a month later I learned I had taken all three exposures on one
film — 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
They showed me their arms, like so many children displaying their toys, and I
admired them volubly — 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 enquired— 'No—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 — and, besides, I liked him. I treasure my own copy of his portrait.
It has a poignant personal interest.
"Scientific" Explanation for the Atrocity-Fantasy Phenomenon!
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
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
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
Click here to listen to the
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,— you could have put the contents of any one on a wagon, — 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 —
sometimes loot — sometimes salvage — 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 saw—and are ready
to affirm the statement—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
(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
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, 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
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 Fight—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) [ADDENDUM,
Nov. 2006: Heath Lowry's essay on Izmir
establishes this document was indeed sitting among the Bristol Papers; Jan. 11 also
reflects the date of a letter Prentiss wrote to Bristol, reproduced on the link. While
correct on both those counts, I was wrong on this one: The article was slated for
publication, according to Prentiss, and he sent the manuscript to Bristol as a courtesy.
It would be interesting to learn if the article was published; readers in-the-know, please
let us know. In any event, the Lowry paper establishes powerful revelations, as
Vice-Consul Barnes' testimony for seeing Turkish soldiers lighting fires was in effect a
witnessing of such soldiers putting out the fires. The "Jan. 11" Prentiss
account, reproduced in its entirety in the Lowry paper, is not about a fudging of past
accounts, but the presentation of explosive new evidence that negates the initial hearsay
Prentiss was led to believe. ADDITIONAL: A search with unique phrases from the
article on newspaperARCHIVES.com, representing some 2,400 different publications
from some 650 North American cities, came up with nothing; it appears Prentiss may have
believed the article was fated to be "published in a syndicate of about 100 of the
greatest newspapers in America," but that evidently was far from the case]; 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
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
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
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.")