HISTORY: ON WHOSE SOURCES WILL IT BE BASED?
A CASE STUDY ON THE BURNING OF IZMIR
Heath W. Lowry
Osmanli Arastirmalari, 9 (1988): 13
<< No Picture then, and no history,
can present us with the whole truth :
but those are the best pictures and
the best historians which exhibit such
parts of the truth as most nearly
produce the effect of the whole. He
who is deficient in the art of selection
may, by showing nothing but the truth,
produce all the effect of the greatest
Thomas Macaulay : ‘History’
My purpose today is rather simple : by citing a number of examples from scholars who have
written on the burning of Izmir (Smyrna) in September of 1922, and juxtaposing these
illustrations with a variety of eyewitness testimonies preserved in the National Archives
of the United States of America, I intend to demonstrate the truthfulness of Macaulay’s
injunction that :
‘ He who is deficient in the art of selection, may by showing nothing but the truth,
produce all the effect of the greatest falsehood.’
This task, however is secondary to my real intent, namely the issuing of a warning to my
Turkish colleagues and to their governmental representatives who control access to the raw
materials out of which Turkish history should be written. The warning is simple: unless
prompt action is taken to provide access to qualified scholars seeking to conduct research
in the archives of the Ottoman and modern Turkish states, the history of your past
is going to be written exclusively by non-specialists on Turkish History, who selectively
utilize the archives of the other states to buttress pre-conceptions in regard to Turks
and their history.
To illustrate the point, I will return to an examination of the secondary literature
dealing with the burning of Izmir, which is available in western languages. Not
surprisingly, the majority of such studies have been written from the perspective of
Greeks and Armenians. I say not surprisingly, because to date no Turkish source material
has been made available to either Turkish or non-Turkish specialists on the period.
Consequently, the major body of source material hitherto utilized in writing the history
of this event, is that preserved in the United States Archives. The conclusions drawn from
this material were recently summed up quite succinctly by the Armenian-American historian,
Richard Hovannisian, who wrote :
<< When the Turkish Armies pushed the Greek forces into the Aegean Sea and burned
the city of Smyrna in 1922, the Armenian presence in Turkey, except for Istanbul, was
virtually eliminated >> .
As his source, Hovannisian cites the study of another
Armenian American scholar: Marjorie Housepian’s The Smyrna Affair . Housepian, a Professor of English at New York’s Barnard College,
published her study in 1966. Written without benefit of the scholarly apparatus (
Footnotes & Index ) which normally accompany works of history, Housepian concludes
that the city was fired by the Turkish army, in
order to rid the city of its Christian inhabitants. In so doing, she follows the approach
adopted forty years earlier by an American Consul, one George Horton, in his book entitled
: The Blight of Asia: An Account Of The Systematic Extermination of Christian
Populations by Mohammedans and of the Culpability of Certain Great Powers; with the True
Story of the Burning of Smyrna. Horton, as the
title of his work implies, believed that Turkish troops burned the city because military
representatives of the Great Powers had led them to believe that they would not be
Aside from a slight disagreement over motivation, Horton and Housepian (utilizing
many of the same eye eyewitness sources) are firmly united by their conviction that
the actual firing of the city was the work of organized Turkish military units.
To anyone familiar with the Turkish nationalist struggle between the years of 1919
– 1923, the Horton-Housepian school of thought (predicated upon a view of Turks as
brutal barbarians) rings somewhat hollow. In September of 1922, the Aegean port city
of Izmir was the long-awaited goal of the nationalists in their three year struggle
against the invading Greek armies. The staging point for the Greek occupation of
western Anatolia, it was veritable storehouse of all the items needed by the forces
of Mustafa Kemal. Its warehouses overflowed with much needed supplies of food,
clothing, medicine and weapons. Yet, within days of the entry of the Nationalist
forces, a massive fire destroyed over three-fourths of the city, and the victorious
Turkish armies found themselves in possession, not of the only real city in the
territories they controlled (Istanbul was still under Allied occupation ), but
rather with a smoldering ruin occupied by several hundred thousand homeless
refugees. Indeed if one is to accept the Horton-Housepian analysis, we are faced
with one of the few incidents in history where a victorious army systematically
destroyed the fruits of their victory. Even the barbarian Huns made certain they
retrieved movable properties before firing the cities they overran. Logically then,
the Horton-Housepian account suggest that the Turkish Nationalist forces were not
only barbarian, but lacked the instincts of earlier barbarian hordes !
To counter the version of the Izmir fire presented in such works, we must turn to
western accounts written by scholars who are specialists on the Turkish history of
the period. Names such as Bernard Lewis, Donald Webster, Lord Kinross, Richard
Robinson, and Stanford Shaw, come to mind. A quick survey of their works dealing
with this period reveals the following :
a) Bernard Lewis : <<The Turks won a crushing victory at
Dumlupinar, and, driving the Greeks before them, re-occupied Izmir on 9 September,
thus completing the reconquest of Anatolia>>.
In other words, Lewis does not mention the fire at all;
b) Donald Webster : <<All the world heard about the great fire which
destroyed much of beautiful Izmir. While every partisan accuses enemies of the
incendiarism, the preponderance of impartial opinion blames the terror-stricken
Armenians, who had bet their money on the wrong horse – a separatist national
rather than a cultural individuality within the framework of the new, laique
Turkey>>. Webster, who does not footnote
presumably formed his opinion while serving as teacher at the International College
in Izmir between 1931-1934:
c) Lord Kinross : <<The internecine violence led, more or less by
accident, to the outbreak of a catastrophic fire. Its origins were never
satisfactorily explained. Kemal maintained to Admiral Dumesnil that it had been
deliberately planned by an Armenian incendiary organization, and that before the
arrival of the Turks speeches had been made in churches, calling for the burning of
the city as a sacred duty. Fuel for the purpose had been found in the houses of
Armenian women, and several incendiaries had been arrested. Others accused the Turks
themselves of deliberately starting the fire under the orders or at least connivance
of Nur-ed-Din Pasha, who had a reputation for fanaticism and cruelty. Most probably
it started when the Turks, rounding up the Armenians to confiscate their arms,
besieged a band of them in a building in which they had taken refuge. Deciding to
burn them out, they set it alight with petrol, placing cordon of sentries around to
arrest or shoot them as they escaped. Meanwhile the Armenians started other fires to
divert the Turks from their main objective. The quarter was on the outskirts of the
city. But a strong wind, for which they had not allowed, quickly carried flames
towards the city. By the early evening several other quarters were on fire, and a
thousand homes, built flimsily of lath and plaster, had been reduced to ashes. The
flames were being spread by the looters, and doubtless also by Turkish soldiers,
paying off scores. The fire brigade was powerless to cope with such a conflagration,
and at Ismet’s headquarters the Turks alleged that its hose pipes had been
deliberately severed. Ismet himself chose to declare that the Greeks had planned to
burn the city.> Kinross devoted and entire
chapter of his work to the fire which destroyed Izmir.
d) Richard Robinson : <<The battle of Sakarya began on August 22. By
the end of the first week of September the Greeks began to weaken. In another week,
they were falling back. One year [sic. week] later they were literally driven into
the sea at Izmir, where they were evacuated by Allied ships. The date was September
9, 1922.>> Robinson likewise does not
make any reference to the burning of the city;
e) Stanford Shaw : << On September 13 a fire broke out in the Armenian
quarter of the city. It spread rapidly through gasoline-soaked buildings while the
Turkish army’s effort to extinguish it were stymied by the discovery that all the
city’s fire hoses had been cut and the fire cisterns emptied. In a single day as
many as 25,000 buildings were burnt and half the great city destroyed. Perhaps the
last atrocity of the war was the suggestion, quickly taken up by the western press,
that the victorious Turkish army was responsible for burning the conquered second
city of the old empire. Actual culpability has never been proved>>. Shaw, while rejecting outright the
suggestion that the Turkish army fired the city, remains neutral on the question of
This random sampling of the information contained vis-à-vis the burning of Izmir in
standard works by western scholars is a natural reflection of the dearth of consensus on
this question. Running from the absolute silence of Bernard Lewis and Richard Robinson, to
Shaw’s rejection of the charge of Turkish army complicity, to Kinross’ determination
that it resulted from accidental causes, and Webster’s conclusion of Armenian
involvement, it is clear that no consensus exists among western specialists on the
founding of the Turkish Republic, as to the cause of the fire.
We must now turn to an examination of the only archival material hitherto employed in the
published works on the Izmir fire. Specifically, the American Archives utilized by
Marjorie Housepian in her work: The Smyrna Affair . A careful analysis of Housepian’s
discussion of the fire, establishes that she relied on three basic archival sources, plus
a variety of survivor testimonies. Chief among her sources are a variety of materials
preserved in the papers of Admiral Mark L. Bristol in the US. Library of Congress. In addition, she often cites material from the
National Archives of the United States: Naval Records Collection [Record Group #45], and from the same archives, a variety of ‘Files
of the Department of State’.
At the outset it must be acknowledged that her analysis is fully supported by the sources
she uses. What is not so clear at the first reading is the fact that her utilization of
her sources has been extremely selective. As a case in point, let us now examine her
discussion of the testimony of Paul Grescovich, the commander of the Smyrna Insurance
Company Fire Brigade, relative to the origins of the fire and efforts to control it.
Housepian was aware of the existence of Grescovich and his testimony, because she cites
<<Report of Mr. Grescovich Commender [sic] of the Smyrna Fire Brigade on the
Great fire in Smyrna. Constantinople, 1922>> 
Interestingly enough, the above source is the only one in her ‘Bibliography’ which
Housepian annotates. As regards Gresgovich’s testimony she writes :
<<Mr. Gresgovich alleges that he saw two Greek soldiers light a box of matches on
September 8 and throw the lighted box on the house of an Englishman. Further, that the
Greeks said they would burn Smyrna when they left, and that the British signalmen on their
ships were signaling to each other as follows: ‘ The British Hospital is to be burned.’
On the 11th and 12th, Mr Grescovich saw through his field glasses, ‘ The activities of
the Armenians on the Armenian cathedral and on the roofs of their other high buildings’.
A number of firemen ‘saw from the steeple of the Armenian Cathedral signaling in code
known to be previously prearranged.’
From here on Mr. Gresgovich describes how houses exploded and burned all over the Armenian
quarter. He complained to Kiazim Pasha and suggested the area to be blockaded. He was
fired on while at work, and bullets made holes in his house>>
As if in anticipation of queries as to why she chose not to cite Grescovich’s report in
her notes, the above annotation appears under a heading which reads: << Three
publications by the Turks give their view of Greek atrocities in Turkey and of the
fire>>. Indeed, a thorough reading of her
notes appended to the chapters dealing with the fire, establishes that she completely
ignored the testimony of Grescovich .
More important than her rejection of the Turkish publication of Grescovich’s
testimony, is her failure to deal with a very important document housed in the
Bristol Papers, relative to Grescovich and his testimony. This document (a newspaper
report) was written by Mark O. Prentiss, an eyewitness to the burning of the city in
his capacity as a member of “Constantinople Disaster Relief Committee”, and as a
representative of the “ Near East Relief” organization. Prentiss, together with his fellow members of the ‘CDRC’
arrived in Izmir at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of September 9, 1922 aboard the USS
Lawrence. Prentiss provides the following
information relevant to Grescovich and his eyewitness testimony of the
a) He identifies Grescovich as: << Paul Grescovich, Chief of the Smyrna Fire
b) Reports that Gresgovich told him that on Wednesday, September 13, 1992 <<
he had discovered bundles of discarded clothing, rags and bedding, covered with
petroleum, in several of the institutions recently deserted by Armenian
c) Grescovich, whom Prentiss had first met on Sunday, September 10th is described by
Prentiss as follows: << I needed no interpreters, as he speaks English
fluently. He is an engineer, born and educated in Austria, and has been identified
with several large engineering enterprises in Turkey. Twelve years ago he became
chief of the Smyrna fire department, which he continued to conduct in a very
efficient manner, for that part of the world, during the Greek occupancy>>
d) On the week prior to the entry of the Turkish forces to the city, Grescovich
stated the following: << During the first week of September there had been an
average of five fires per day with which his crippled department had to cope. In his
opinion most of these fires were caused by carelessness, but some undoubtedly were
of incendiary origin. The average number of fires in a normal year, he said, would
be about one in ten days, and the increase to the five a day seemed
e) Following the arrival of the Turkish authorities, Grescovich << applied for
additional men and fire fighting equipment. Instead of helping him, the Turkish
military governor, learning that there were still twelve Greeks in the fire
department, ordered their immediate arrest, which left the department with only
thirty-seven men. Sunday night [Sept 10th], Monday and Monday night [Sept. 11th] and
Tuesday [Sept. 12th], so many fires were reported at such widely separated points,
that the fire department was absolutely unable to deal with them. They were
extinguished by Turkish soldiers>>.
f) As to the source of the fire which ultimately destroyed the city << it was
on Wednesday [Sept. 13th] that Grescovich himself found evidence if incendiarism. He
told me that early that morning he had seen two Armenian priests escorting several
thousand men, women and children from the Armenian schools and Dominican Churches
where they had taken refuge down to the quays. When he presently went into these
institutions, he found petroleum-soaked refuse ready for torch>>
Grescovich himself stated << that his own firemen, as well as Turkish guards,
had shot down many Armenian young men disguised either as woman or as Turkish
irregular soldiers, who were caught setting fires during Tuesday night [Sept. 12th]
and Wednesday [Sept 13th] morning>> 
g) Grescovich described Turkish response to the fires in the following terms (as
reported by Prentiss): << Shortly after noon [Wednesday, Sept. 13th]
Grescovich convinced that the city was doomed, again went to the military
authorities to ask for help, and again it was not forthcoming. It was not, until six
o’clock in the evening that he was given a company of 100 soldiers to serve under
his direction and it was eight o’clock at night before soldiers began the
destruction of buildings by bombs in order to check the spread of the fire>>.
h) On Grescovich's veracity Prentiss states: << Grescovich impressed me as a
thoroughly reliable witness>>. In
support of this assessment he provides the following account of the nature of his
discussions with Grescovich: <<It was not until three days later [Saturday,
Sept 16th] that I saw Grescovich again. He told me he had no sleep for five days and
nights and he looked the part. Not only was he physically exhausted, but his
emotions had been so wrought upon by the sights he had seen, that he begged to be
excused from talking over details. Realizing, however, that this was the time to get
the truth, I pressed him for information, and went over in chronological order of
history of the fire. On that, and on several succeeding days, we explored greater
part of if the burned area of the city, and I made notes of the most important
things he told me. Later, when Lloyd’s men came to ascertain the extent of the
damages, he refused to make any statement at all >>.
Regardless of whether or not one credits the testimony of Grescovich, the individual
charged with fighting the fire, no serious discussion of the burning of Izmir is
possible without taking his account under consideration. As a case in point, we may
cite Housepian’s one example of an American eyewitness who claimed to observe
Turkish soldiers lighting fires in the city. Her source is the American Vice-Consul
Maynard Barnes who she states:
<<Had seen Turkish soldiers pouring gasoline liberally along the street in
front of the consulate, was meanwhile working feverishly to save the consular
Barnes’ account, the most frequently cited source of official Turkish complicity
in the fire, appears somewhat differently in the official American account, that
compiled by Hepburn. There in describing the events of Thursday evening, September
14th, the following description is given:
<< The fire continued to burn throughout the night though considerably
diminished. Several separate fires were observed to start in locations distant from
the general conflagration, plainly indicating incendiarism. The Passport office,
located upon the North pier of the inner harbor, burned after midnight with many
heavy explosions, probably caused by gasoline, as a number of drums had been
observed in and near this building a day or two previously. This building was only a
few hundred yards from the “Litchfields” anchorage, and the actions of the
person that fired it were plainly observed by Vice-Consul Barnes from the
forecastle, although the distance was too great to allow of any sort of
identification. A number of Turkish troops were stationed at the inshore end of the
building at the time>> .
Heath Lowry (Ottoman War Machine)
Leaving aside the major discrepancies between
Housepian’s version and that found in the Hepburn report, and recalling Grescovich’s
account of attempts to halt the spread of the fire, it is clear that from six o’clock
on the evening of Wednesday, September 13th forward, a company of 100 Turkish
soldiers, under his orders were destroying buildings by bombs, in an attempt to
check the spread of the fire.  In other
words, any description of uniformed Turkish soldiers lighting fires in the city,
which occurs after 6: 00 pm on Wednesday the 13th September, may be assumed to be
part of the fire-fightings rather than incendiary attempts.
Vice-Consul Barnes offered his own assessment of the fire and its causes in another
document preserved in the Bristol Papers. As in the case of the Prentiss report,
Housepian conveniently and selectively managed to ignore Barnes’ conclusions:
<< American press accounts of the Smyrna irregularities arriving here contain
gross exaggerations and untruths. Impossible to say definitely number of Greeks and
Armenians killed-perhaps 2,000. Atrocities committed in the interior by Greeks and
Armenians outstrip those committed by the Turks in Smyrna in savagery and wanton
destruction. Majority of the Americans here believe Smyrna fired by Armenians.
Housepian’s failure to deal with the testimony of Fire-Chief Grescovich, also
raises serious questions in regard to her attempts to use the testimony of two of
the city’s Greek firemen vis-à-vis Turkish culpability . Specifically, her reliance on the accounts of a Sergeant
Tchorbadjis and fireman Emmanuel Katsoros as preserved in the transcript of a London
trial in 1924, suffers from her failure to
rebut Grescovich’s statement that following the arrival of the Turkish authorities
on September 9, 1922, he had :
<< applied for additional men and fire fighting equipment. Instead of helping
him, the Turkish military Governor, learning that there were still twelve Greeks in
the fire department, ordered their immediate arrest, which left the department with
only thirty-seven men. Sunday night [Sept. 10th], Monday and Monday night [Sept.
11th] and Tuesday [Sept. 12th], so many fires were reported at such widely separated
points, that the fire department was absolutely unable to deal with them. They were
extinguished by Turkish soldiers>> .
The statement must be reconciled with Sergeant Tchorbadjis claims that he was
fighting fire on Tuesday [Sept. 12th.] and Wednesday [Sept. 13th.] morning . If, as Grescovich states, Tchorbadjis and
his eleven fellow Greek members of the department were under arrest, his account of
the following incident on Wednesday [Sept. 13th] morning, is highly questionable:
<< The ten thirty alarm on Suyane Street disclosed ten houses ablaze. These
fire were barely under control when an alarm came from the Armenian church several
streets away. Leaving some fireman at the church, Tchorbadjis hurried on alone
toward some flames on Tchoukour Street; “I climbed to the roof and found bedding
on fire”, he testified later. “Then, I went down into one of the rooms and saw a
Turkish soldier, well armed. He was setting fire to the interior of a drawer. He
looked rather fiercely at me when he saw me, but he left. I caught the strong smell
of petroleum.>> 
By “selectively” ignoring the contemporary eyewitness testimony of the
Fire-Chief Grescovich, and totally endorsing that of Tchorbadjis (delivered two
years after the event), Housepian raises serious doubts as to her historical
In short, Housepian’s study fully illustrates the truth of Macaulay’s
<< He [she] who is deficient in the art of selection, may by showing nothing
but the truth, produce all the effect of the greatest falsehood >>.
As even these few examples establish, Housepian’s highly selective utilization of
the materials preserved in the US National Archives and the Library of congress,
casts serious doubt upon her contention that the Turkish military were the
perpetrators of the conflagration which destroyed the city of Izmir on September
13-15, 1922. Her study while well written (as befits a professor of English), adds
up to very poor history, i.e. she has produced a work of polemic rather than one
based on sound historical scholarship.
What is important here however is not the quality of Housepian’s scholarship, but
rather, the fact that the testimonies preserved in the United States National
Archives and the Bristol Papers in the Library of Congress, are, to say the least,
conflicting. On the basis of a selective utilizations of their contents each of the
following conclusions may be reached:
A) The Izmir fire was deliberately set by Armenian population of the city.
B) The Izmir fire was deliberately set by Greek inhabitants of the city;
C) The Izmir fire was deliberately set by the Turkish army;
D) The Izmir fire was an accident- stemming from the looting of Turkish irregular
Given the diversity of the interpretations it is possible to draw from the wide
variety of testimonies preserved in the American accounts (as well as those in
British, French and Italian sources), the actual cause and origin of the
conflagration will never be determined on the basis of this material alone. One key
missing element is obviously the records of the Turkish military authorities,
nominally in control of the city throughout the period in question (Turkish forces
entered the city on September 9, 1922) .To
date, no scholar (Turkish or foreign) has been given access to any of the records
surviving for the events in question.
Indeed, even standard sources, such as Mustafa Kemal’s six day speech, the Nutuk, makes
no reference to the fire which destroyed Izmir. 
Such refusals to permit scholars to the raw material out of which history must be written
means only one thing: TURKISH HISTORY WILL BE WRITTEN (AND DISSEMINATED IN THE WEST) ON
THE BASIS OF RECORDS PRESERVED BY OTHER STATES. Hopefully, the case study of “The
Smyrna Affair”, as written by Housepian, illuminates the obvious danger inherent in
History can serve as a guide only the extent that each generation is willing to benefit
from the lessons it preserves. Between 1915 and 1980, that is sixty-five years Turkey sat
quietly by as the history of Turco-Armenian relations during World War I was being written
by Armenians and a few foreign scholars with access to western archives. Today, in the
face of a contemporary political problem represented by Armenian terrorism, Turkey, all to
belatedly, is attempting to counter sixty-five years of Armenian publications.
For such efforts to have any success in influencing western public opinion (fed seven
decades on Armenian accounts of Turkish brutality), the Ottoman archives covering the
First World War must be thrown open to all qualified scholars, Turkish and non-Turkish
The burning of Izmir only the final page in the struggle of Turks to establish their own
national state out of the remnants of the Ottoman empire. Not surprisingly (given the
inavailability of the relevant Turkish records), the only book-length study dealing with
its destruction is written by an Armenian on the basis of carefully vetted American
accounts. “The Smyrna Affair”, will continue to be the only study dealing with this
event until and unless the government of Turkey throws open the doors to its history. Only
then will we have the possibility to more fully comprehend the chronology of events which
resulted in the destruction of Izmir in September, 1922.
Hovannissian, Richard G, << The Armenian Question, 1878 – 1923 >>,
Published in : A crime of Silence – The Armenian Genocide Permanent Peoples’
Tribunal. Edited by Gerard Libraridian. London ( Zed Books Ltd. ), 1985. pp.
11-33. For the quotation in question, see: p. 27.
2. Housepian, Marjorie. The Smyrna Affair.
New York ( Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. ), 1966 [ Hereafter: Housepian, Smyrna ].
3. Housepian, Smyrna
: Chapter XIV., pp. 141
4. Horton, George. The Blight of Asia.
Indianapolis ( the Bobbs – Merrill Company ), 1926 [ Hereafter: Horton, Blight
]. See: Chapter XVII. ‘ Where and When the Fires Were Lighted,’ pp. 144-154.
5. Horton, Blight : pp 153-154
6. Lewis, Bernard, The Emergence of Modern
Turkey, Second Edition. London ( Oxford University Press ), 1968, p. 254. [
Hereafter : Lewis, Emergence].
7. Webster, Donald Everett. The Turkey of
Ataturk - Social Process In The Turkish Reformation. Philadelphia (American
Academy of Political and Social Science), 1939, p. 96.
8. Lord Kinross, Ataturk: A Biography of
Mustafa Kemal, Father of Turkey. New York (William Morrow & Company), 1965, pp
370-371. Kinross devotes Chapter 40 of his work, “The Burning Smyrna” [p 365-375]
to the fire which destroyed Izmir.
9. Robinson, Richard D. The First Turkish
Republic: A Case Study in National Development. Cambridge( Harvard University
Press ), 1963 p 74.
10. Shaw, Stanford J. & Shaw, Ezel Kural.
History of Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Volume II: Reform, Revolution and
Republic : The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808-1975. Cambridge (Cambridge University
Press) 1977, p. 363.
11. Housepian, Smyrna: pp. 105-140
& pp. 251-255. As previously noted, Housepian fails to conform anything resembling
standard scholarly apparatus in her work. In place of ‘footnotes’, she provides
notes for each chapter at the end of her study. Arranged in the same order as the
contents of the chapter they refer to, the reader is forced to attempt to determine
which item referred to in the ‘notes’ serves as her sources for the statements
made in the text. Stated differently, in order to evaluate her utilization of the
sources she uses, the reader must actually check the originals of the documents she
cites. The extent to which she relied on the Bristol Papers in her discussion of the
fire may be determined by checking the ‘notes’ for Chapters X-XIII (pp. 251-255).
12. Given the fact that most of the relevant
documents pertaining to the fire Record Group #45, are likewise found in the Bristol
Papers, it is difficult to determine why Housepian chose to cite these two sources in
the manner she did, i.e., rather than referring to both she generally provides a
reference to one or the other. For her utilization of RG #45 materials on the fire
13. Among the ‘Files of the Department of
State’ used by Housepian are : Nos 763.72, 767.68, 867.00 and 868.48. See Housepian,
Smyrna: p 235 & pp. 251-255.
14. Housepian, Smyrna : p 229
15. Housepian, Smyrna: pp 229-230
16. Housepian, Smyrna: p. 229.
17. Housepian, Smyrna: pp 251-255.
18. Housed in the Library of Congress series
titled: Bristol, General Correspondence, Container # 38 (November-December, 1922 &
January-February, 1923), is a letter from Mark O. Prentiss to Adm. Mark Bristol dated
January, 11, 1923. Attached to it is a 7 page article titled: << The Hitherto
Untold Story of the Smyrna Fire Told by Mark O. Prentiss, American Representative of
the Near East Relief. Armenians, not Turks, Set the Fire. Evidence of Smyrna Fire
Chief Revealed >>. [Hereafter : Prentiss, Fire]. This key document appears as Appendix
I. at the end of this paper. Given the extent to which Housepian utilized the
Bristol Papers, it is hard to imagine that she remained unaware of this document. As
its testimony runs counter to her arguments, one of two reasons must account for its
absence in her work: a) she missed it in the research of her work; or, b) she was
aware of its existence and for reasons of her own decided to suppress it.
19. For the most important day by day account
(covering September 8-16, 1922) is that compiled by A.J. Hepburn, the senior American
naval official present in Izmir throughout the time in question. Hepburn’s “Report
Upon Smyrna Disaster” was submitted to Admiral Bristol (Commander, U.S. Naval
Detachment in Turkish Waters) on September 25 1922. It provides a day-by-day record
(comprised of 48 single-spaced typed pages). In his own words, Hepburn’s report was
intended to be <<a narrative of the significant and outstanding features of the
period, with such comment and explanation as are necessary to clear understanding of
events , measures taken, and the general situation as they appeared to me at the
time.>> Selectively utilized by Housepian, Hepburn’s account [see: National
Archives if the U.S. : Naval Records Collection, Record Group # 45 (Box 713) ] of the
origins of the fire [pp. 46-7] is totally ignored by Housepian. For his analysis of
the origins of the fire see: APPENDIX II. attached to this paper. [Hereafter :
Hepburn, Smyrna Disaster].
20. Prentiss, Fire: p. 1.
21. Prentiss, Fire : p. 4
22. Prentiss, Fire : p. 4
23. Prentiss, Fire : p. 4
24. Prentiss, Fire : p. 4.
25. Prentiss, Fire : p. 5.
26. Prentiss, Fire: p. 5.
27. Prentiss, Fire: pp. 5-6
28. Prentiss, Fire: p. 4.
29. Prentiss, Fire: p. 6.
30. Housepian, Smyrna: p. 155.
31. Hepburn, Smyrna Disaster: p.
32. Prentiss, Fire : pp 5-6.
33. Library of Congress: Bristol Papers- ‘Subject
Files ’. Container #75 ( Folder on High Commissioner Messages Received, 1922; and,
Inquiry, 1919). Barnes’ dispatch is dated October 9, 1922 and was sent from the USS
Edsall by radio.
34. Housepian, Smyrna: pp. 142-144.
35. Housepian, Smyrna: pp. 235 &
142-144. The trial in question was held at the Royal Courts of Justice, King’s Bench
Division, Commercial List, London, on December 2, 1924. It was a law-suit brought by
the American Tobacco Company, Inc versus Guardian Assurance Co, Ltd. Housepian used a
copy of the transcript preserved in the Bristol Papers- U.S. Library of Congress.
36. Prentiss, Fire: p. 4.
37. Housepian, Smyrna: pp. 142-143
38. Housepian, Smyrna: pp. 143.
39. The clearest chronology of what occurred
in the following days is that preserved in Hepburn, Smyrna Disaster: pp 1-48.
He provides the following detail on the actual sequence of the fire:
a) Saturday, September 9, 1922: At 11.30a.m. the first Turkish cavalry forces
entered the central city [p.7]. The senior Turkish officer is a Murcelle Pasha [p. 8];
b) Sunday, September 10, 1922: Reports of isolated incidents of sniping and
looting [pp 10-12]; Murcelle Pasha is replaced by Noureddine Pasha [p.12]; looting and
scattered killings are reported [p.13];
c) Monday, September 11, 1922: American relief officials establish first
personal contact with Nur-ed-din Pasha [pp14-20].
d) Tuesday, September 12, 1922: Meeting with the military commander Kiasım
Pasha [pp. 21-2]; plans for evacuation of naturalized American citizens [p.23;]
e) Tuesday, September 12, 1922: US Consul-General Horton sails from Izmir for
Piraeus with naturalized Americans [p.24]; First report of fire: a house burning in
the Armenian quarter in the forenoon [p.25]; 2:00 pm reports of three fires burning
around the compound of the Intercollegiate Institute [p.25]; By 6.00pm Hepburn
observes that: << Three district lane of fire were to be seen, two of which
appeared to have originated in the Armenian district close to the Collegiate
Institute, so far as I could judge, and the third was somewhat to the left. The first
two fires were burning fiercely and sweeping directly towards the water front. The
Consulate was directly in the path of the southernmost blaze. The adjacent fire to the
northward was on a somewhat broader front and its center appeared to be headed about
for the Smyrna Theatre. The third and most northernmost fire seemed to be under
control, or almost burned out. The wind had been very light during the day from the
southeast and it was now increasing. I judged the fire would reach the Consulate in
about two hours if the wind held; but this estimate was considerably in error, as the
Consulate did not burn until about midnight>>[pp. 26-27]; at approximately 9.00
pm Hepburn reports: <<The wind had been steadily increasing since sunset and was
now blowing fresh on the port quarter>> [p. 28]; <<From the point to the
Passport office, a distance of about a mile , the broad waterfront streets appeared to
be one solidly packed mass of humanity, domestic animals, vehicles and luggage.
Beyond, still separated from the crowd by a few short unburned blocks, the city was
mass of flame driving directly down upon the water front by a still breeze>>
f) Thursday, September 14, 1922: << The fire continued to burn fiercely
all day. It had reached the waterfront about 1:30 am, at a point near the open square
just south of the Smyrna Theatre. It did no immediately spread along the waterfront
from this point, but during the course of the day worked slowly in from the rear at
several points both north and south of its original outbreak on the quay >>
[p.31]; << The fire continued to burn throughout the night though considerably
diminished. Several separate fires were observed to start in locations distant from
the general conflagration, plainly indication incendiarism. The Passport Office,
located upon the north pier of the inner harbor, burned after midnight with many heavy
explosions, probably caused by gasoline, as a number of drums had been observed in and
near this building a day or two previously. This building was only a few hundred yards
from the LITCHFIELD's anchorage, and the actions of the person that fired it were
plainly observed by Vice-Consul Barnes from the forecastle, although the distance was
too great to allow of any sort of identification. A number of Turkish troops were
stationed at the inshore end of the building at the time>> [p.33];
g) Friday, September 15, 1922: << The fire burned itself our during the
night to such an extent that in the morning, the situations could no longer be
regarded as one of imminent personal danger for the refugees on the shore.>>
[p.33]; Hepburn visits Kiazim Pasha, who, << with a dramatic gesture he answered
my expression of condolence with “We have lost the war!” Neither he nor Vali gave
any evidence of having heard any rumor as to Turkish responsibility for the
disaster>>. [p. 35]
h) Saturday, September 15, 1922: No more reference to the fire.
40. See: A Speech Delivered by Mustafa
Kemal Atatürk —1927. Istanbul, 1963. Indeed, Mustafa Kemal’s account of the
conquest of Izmir avoids any mention of the fire whatsoever:
<< In a wireless telegram which was sent to me personally, I was informed that
the Allied Powers had given the requisite authority to their consuls at Izmir to enter
into negotiations with me and I was requested to decided what day and at what place I
would grant them an interview. I replied that we would be at Nif [a small town cast of
Izmir] on the 9th September,1922. It happened that I was at Nif on that day, but those
who had begged for an interview were not there; for our armies, which were already on
the quais at Izmir, had reached the first aim which I had indicated to them in
pointing them to the Mediterranean>>. [p. 567].
January 11, 1923
Dear Admiral Bristol:
These stories will be published in a syndicate of about 100 of the greatest newspapers in
America. It occurs to me that you might be interested in seeing them; I am, therefore,
enclosing the advance copies of the manuscript.
With renewed assurance of my kindest personal regards, I am
Mark O. Prentiss
NOTE: HOUSED IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS – BRISTOL PAPERS COLLECTION UNDER
THE FOLLOWING CLASSIFICATION: BRISTOL, GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, CONTAINER #38
(NOVEMBER – DECEMBER, 1922 & JANUARY – FEBRUARY, 1923).
(For Release Not Before January 16th.)
THE HITHERTO UNTOLD STORY OF THE SMYRNA FIRE TOLD BY MARK O. PRENTISS, AMERICAN
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE NEAR EASTERN RELIEF. ARMENIANS
NOT TURKS, SET THE FIRE. EVIDENCE OF FIRE CHIEF REVEALED.
(COPYRIGHT ## 1923, BY NORTH AMERICAN NEWSPAPER ALLIANCE IN UNITED STATES, CANADA,
GREAT BRITAIN AND SOUTH AMERICA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED).
--- BY MARK O. PRENTISS ---
NEARLY EVERYBODY IN AMERICA, IT APPEARS, IS CONVINCED THAT THE TURKS WERE
RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FIRE WHICH ADDED THE FINAL TOUCHES OF TRAGEDY TO THE SMYRNA
[IZMIR] HORROR. THE UNANIMITY AND FIRMNESS OF THIS CONVICTION SURPRISED ME AT FIRST,
AS I BELIEVE IT WOULD HAVE SURPRISED ANYBODY ELSE, OF WHATEVER NATIONALITY OR
POLITICAL ALLEGIANCE, WHO HAD RECENTLY COME FROM THE SCENE OF THE DISASTER. THE
MOTIVE, USUALLY CONSIDERED OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE IN CRIMES OF THIS SORT, DOES NOT
CLEARLY POINT TO THE TURKS. THEY HAD CAPTURED SMYRNA. THE CITY, AS IT STOOD, WAS ONE
OF THE GREATEST PRIZES EVER TAKEN IN ORIENTAL WARFARE. THE TURKS HAD UNQUESTIONED
TITLE TO ITS FOODS, ITS COMMODITIES OF ALL SORTS, ITS HOUSES. IT WAS A STORE HOUSE
OF SUPPLIES MOST URGENTLY NEEDED FOR ITS PEOPLES AND ARMIES. WHY DESTROY IT?
IT WAS A MATTER OF COMMON KNOWLEDGE, ON THE OTHER HAND, THAT THE ARMENIANS AND
GREEKS WERE DETERMINED NOT TO LET THIS BOOTY FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THEIR HATED
ENEMIES. THERE WAS A GENERALLY ACCEPTED REPORT IN SMYRNA, FOR SEVERAL DAYS BEFORE
THE FIRE, THAT AN ORGANIZED GROUP OF ARMENIAN YOUNG MEN HAD SWORN TO BURN THE CITY
IF IT FELL TO THE TURKS.
EVIDENCE GATHERED BY PAUL GRESCOVICH, CHIEF OF THE SMYRNA FIRE DEPARTMENT, AND
CAREFULLY CHECKED BY MYSELF, TOGETHER WITH INFORMATION WHICH CAME TO ME FROM OTHER
SOURCES, POINTS TO THE ARMENIANS AS AUTHORS OF THE FIRE. THE SERIES OF EVENTS WHICH
LED UP TO THE FINAL TERROR ON THE SMYRNA WATERFRONT, AS I WAS ENABLED TO FOLLOW
THEM, BEGAN IN THE FIRST DAYS OF SEPTEMBER, WHEN REAR ADMIRAL MARK L. BRISTOL,
UNITED STATES HIGH COMMISSIONER AT CONSTANTINOPLE, ORGANIZED THE SMYRNA EMERGENCY
RELIEF COMMITTEE IN ANTICIPATION OF WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IN THE CITY IF IT FELL, AS
THEN SEEMED INEVITABLE, TO THE TURKS.
AN AMERICAN RELIEF UNIT IN SMYRNA
THE USS DESTROYER LAWRENCE, UNDER COMMAND OF CAPT. WOLLESON PROCEEDED TO SMYRNA,
CARRYING THIS COMMITTEE, OF WHICH I WAS A MEMBER. WE ARRIVED ON THE EVENING OF
FRIDAY, THE EIGHTH OF SEPTEMBER, IN TIME TO SEE THE LAST OF THE GREEK ARMY LEAVING
THE CITY. EARLY IN THE MORNING OF THE NINTH, WE WENT ASHORE AND IMMEDIATELY
ORGANIZED A RELIEF COMMITTEE WHICH CONSISTED OF PRACTICALLY ALL OF THE AMERICAN
RESIDENTS THERE, TOGETHER WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NEAR EAST RELIEF AND THE
AMERICAN RED CROSS FROM CONSTANTINOPLE. ADMIRAL BRISTOL HAD SENT HIS CHIEF OF STAFF,
CAPTAIN HEPBURN, AS HIS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE TO SERVE AS CHAIRMAN OF THIS
ONE OF THE MOST SERIOUS SITUATIONS THAT CONFRONTED THE COMMITTEE WAS THE POSSIBILITY
OF FIRE. THIS SITUATION DEVELOPED INTO ONE OF EXTREME ANXIETY WHEN WE LEARNED THAT
THE ENTIRE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, TOGETHER WITH NEARLY ALL THE GREEKS WHO WERE
MEMBERS OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, HAD DESERTED THEIR POSTS AND FLED THE CITY IN FEAR
OF THE APPROACHING TURKISH ARMY.
I MADE IT MY BUSINESS TO MAKE A GENERAL SURVEY OF THE SITUATION, AND I FOUND THAT
THE FIRE FIGHTING FORCES CONSISTED OF APPROXIMATELY SIXTY MEN WITH TWO SMALL STATION
HOUSES. I FOUND TWO REASONABLY GOOD FIRE ENGINES AND ABOUT HALF A DOZEN HAND
MACHINES THAT WERE USED ALONG THE WATERFRONT BY DROPPING AN INTAKE HOSE OVER THE SEA
WALL INTO THE WATER. THERE WERE ONLY A FEW BUILDINGS IN THE CITY OVER THREE STORIES
HIGH, THE GREAT MAJORITY BEING TWO. THE WATER PRESSURE WAS STRONG ENOUGH TO FORCE
STREAM OF WATER OVER ALMOST ANY BUILDING IN THE CITY AND THERE APPEARED TO BE PLENTY
THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY MORNING, MR. JAQUITH, OF THE NEAR EAST RELIEF, MAJOR DAVIS OF
THE RED CROSS AND I TOOK A TRIP BY AUTUMOBILE IN THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE CITY. THE
TURKS BY THIS TIME, WERE IN FULL OCCUPATION. WE SAW THREE WIDELY SEPARATED FIRES
TOTALLY CONSUME ISOLATED BUILDINGS. ONE OF THESE WAS A SMALL SHOP, AND IN THE
BURNING DOORWAY WERE THE BODIES TWO WOMEN. OBVIOUSLY, LOOTING, MURDER AND ARSON HAD
BEEN COMMITTED HERE BY TURKISH SOLDIERS.
THE ARMENIAN HOSPITAL NOT BURNED BY TURKS
A REPORT HAS BEEN WIDELY CIRCULATED IN THIS COUNTRY TO THE EFFECT THAT THE ARMENIAN
HOSPITAL, WHERE SOME FIFTEEN HUNDRED REFUGEES HAD GATHERED WAS BURNED BY TURKISH SOLDIERS
WHO SLAUGHTERED MANY OF THE HELPLESS OCCUPANTS. THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT ON
TUESDAY, EARLY IN THE AFTERNOON, IN RESPONSE TO AN EMERGENCY APPEAL, I HAD GONE TO THE
HOSPITAL ACCOMPANIED BY DR. POST AND TWO NURSES, ALL OF US MEMBERS OF THE NEAR EAST RELIEF
WHILE I WAS THERE A SQUAD OF FROM FIFTEEN TO TWENTY TURKISH SOLDIERS, UNDER THE COMMAND OF
THE CAPTAIN, CAME TO TAKE OVER THE HOSPITAL FOR TURKISH MILITARY PURPOSES. THE REFUGEES
WERE SEARCHED, AS THEY CAME FROM THE GROUNDS, AND ARMS OF VARIOUS SORTS SUFFICIENT TO FILL
A TRUCK WERE TAKEN FROM THEM. ALL OF THEM, MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN, WHO HAD TAKEN REFUGE
BOTH IN THE HOSPITAL BUILDING AND IN THE ADJOINING GROUNDS WERE DISPERSED BY SIX O'CLOCK
THE CAPTAIN IN COMMAND HAD WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE TURKISH COMMANDER TO TAKE
POSSESSION OF THE HOSPITAL AND TO PREPARE IT FOR IMMEDIATE OCCUPANCY. HE TOLD US THAT THEY
WOULD BEGIN MOVING TURKISH PATIENTS TO THE HOSPITAL THAT NIGHT. HE ALSO MENTIONED THAT HE
HAD ORDERS TO SHOOT THE REFUGEES IF THEY HAD REFUSED TO DISARM, AND THAT HE CERTAINLY
WOULD HAVE DONE SO BUT FOR THEIR UNEXPECTED DOCILITY IN GIVING UP THEIR WEAPONS. HE
CREDITED THEIR WILLINGNESS TO DISARM TO THE PRESENCE OF THE AMERICANS, DR. POST, THE TWO
NURSES AND MYSELF. I HAD PREVIOUSLY GONE AMONG THEM AND EXPLAINED, WITH THE AID OF AN
INTERPRETER, THAT THEY WOULD BE SHOT IF THEY PERSISTED IN HOLDING ON TO THE BOMBS, KNIVES
AND REVOLVERS THEY HAD CONCEALED ABOUT THEM. THE FIRST COMMAND OF THE TURKISH CAPTAIN THAT
THEY SURRENDER THEIR ARMS HAD NOT PRODUCED RESULTS, FOR THEY WERE CRAZY WITH FEAR, AND IT
WAS SOME TIME BEFORE I COULD PERSUADE THEM TO TRUST THEIR CONQUERORS.
SIGNS OF INCENDIARISM
ON THE FOLLOWING MORNING, WEDNESDAY, THE THIRTEENTH OF SEPTEMBER, THE SITUATION WAS
CRITICAL IN THE EXTREME. PAUL GRISCOVICH, CHIEF OF THE SMYRNA FIRE DEPARTMENT, TOLD
ME THAT HE HAD DISCOVERED BUNDLES OF DISCARDED CLOTHING, RAGS AND BEDDING, COVERED
WITH PETROLEUM, IN SEVERAL OF THE INSTITUTIONS RECENTLY DESERTED BY ARMENIAN
GRESCOVICH IMPRESSED ME AS A THOROUGHLY RELIABLE WITNESS. I HAD MET AND HAD A LONG
TALK WITH HIM THREE DAYS PREVIOUSLY, ON SUNDAY MORNING. FORTUNATELY, I NEEDED NO
INTERPRETER, AS HE SPEAKS ENGLISH FLUENTLY. HE IS AN ENGINEER, BORN AND EDUCATED IN
AUSTRIA, AND HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED WITH SEVERAL LARGE ENGINEERING ENTERPRISES IN
TURKEY. TWELVE YEARS AGO HE BECAME CHIEF OF THE SMYRNA FIRE DEPARTMENT, WHICH HE
CONTINUED TO CONDUCT IN A VERY EFFICIENT MANNER, FOR THAT PART OF THE WORLD, DURING
THE GREEK OCCUPATION. HE TOLD ME THAT DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF SEPTEMBER THERE HAD
BEEN AN AVERAGE OF FIVE FIRES PER DAY WITH WHICH HIS CRIPPLED DEPARTMENT HAD TO
COPE. IN HIS OPINION MOST OF THESE FIRES WERE CAUSED BY CARELESSNESS, BUT SOME
UNDOUBTEDLY WERE OF INCENDIARY ORIGIN. THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF FIRES IN A NORMAL YEAR,
HE SAID, WOULD BE ONE IN TEN DAYS, AND THE INCREASE TO FIVE A DAY SEEMED
AS SOON AS THE TURKISH MILITARY AUTHORITIES ASSUMED CONTROL, GRISCOVICH HAD APPLIED
FOR ADDITIONAL MEN AND FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT. INSTEAD OF HELPING HIM, THE TURKISH
MILITARY GOVERNOR, LEARNING THAT THERE WERE STILL GREEKS IN THE FIRE DEPARTMENT,
ORDERED THEIR IMMEDIATE ARREST, WHICH LEFT THE DEPARTMENT WITH ONLY THIRTY-SEVEN
MEN. SUNDAY NIGHT, MONDAY AND MONDAY NIGHT, AND TUESDAY, SO MANY FIRES WERE REPORTED
AT SUCH WIDELY SEPARATED POINTS THAT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT WAS ABSOLUTELY UNABLE TO
DEAL WITH THEM. THEY WERE EXTINGUISHED BY TURKISH SOLDIERS.
I DISCUSSED WITH GRESCOVICH THE DANGER OF FIRE AT THE PLANT OF THE STANDAR OIL
COMPANY. ALTOUGH THESE TANKS WERE LOCATED AT LEAST A COUPLE OF MILES FROM THE CITY,
IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT FIRE AND EXPLOSIONS THERE WOULD DO TERRIFIC DAMAGE, AND IN SPITE
OF THE DEPLETED PERSONNEL OF THE DEPARTMENT AND THE ISOLATION OF THE PLANT, WHICH
WAS BEYOND MUNICIPAL JURISDICTION, HE SAT AND MAINTAINED TWO MEN TO ACT AS GUARDS
DURING TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY MORNING, THE TURKISH SOLDIERS SHOT DOWN MANY
ARMENIANS WHO, THEY CLAIMED, WERE CAUGHT THROWING PETROLEUM AND STARTING FIRES IN
THE ARMENIAN QUARTER AND ALSO AROUND THE WAREHOUSES AND STATION OF THE CASSABA
RAILROAD. IT WAS ON WEDNESDAY MORNING THAT GRISCOVICH HIMSELF FOUND EVIDENCES OF
INCENDIARIES. HE TOLD ME THAT EARLY THAT MORNING HAD SEEN TWO ARMENIAN PRIESTS
ESCORTING SEVERAL THOUSAND MEN, WOMEN, CHILDREN FROM THE ARMENIAN SCHOOLS AND
DOMINICAN CHURCHES WHERE THEY HAD TAKEN REFUGE DOWN TO THE QUAYS. WHEN HE PRESENTLY
WENT INTO THESE INSTITUTIONS HE FOUND PETROLEUM-SOAKED REFUSE READY FOR THE TORCH.
THE CHIEF TOLD ME, AND THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT HE WAS SURE OF IT, THAT HIS OWN
FIREMEN, AS WELL AS TURKISH GUARDS, HAD SHOT DOWN MANY ARMENIAN YOUNG MEN DISGUISED
EITHER AS WOMEN OR AS TURKISH IRREGULAR SOLDIERS, WHO WERE CAUGHT SETTING FIRES
TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY MORNING.
AT 11:20 WEDNESDAY MORNING, AT LEAST HALF A DOZEN FIRES WERE REPORTED ALMOST
SIMULTANEOUSLY AROUND THE FREIGHT TERMINAL WAREHOUSES AND THE PASSENGER STATION OF
THE AIDINE RAILROAD.
IT IS NOTEWORTHY THAT THESE FIRES BROKE OUT IN BUILDINGS WHICH IT WAS GREATLY TO THE
ADVANTAGE OF TURKS TO PRESERVE, AND TO THE ADVANTAGE OF ENEMIES TO DESTROY.
AT 12:00 O'CLOCK FIVE FIRES WERE REPORTED AROUND THE ARMENIAN HOSPITAL, THEN
OCCUPIED BY THE TURKS. AT ABOUT THE SAME TIME, TWO FIRES WERE REPORTED AT THE
ARMENIAN CLUB, AND A FEW MINUTES LATER SEVERAL FIRES STARTED SIMULTANEOUSLY AROUND
THE CASSABA RAILROAD STATION.
SHORTLY AFTER NOON GRISCOVICH CONVINCED THAT THE CITY WAS DOOMED, AGAIN WENT TO THE
MILITARY AUTHORITIES TO ASK FOR HELP, AND AGAIN IT WAS NOT FORTHCOMING. IT WAS NOT
UNTIL SIX O'CLOCK IN THE EVENING THAT HE WAS GIVEN A COMMAND OF 100 SOLDIERS TO
SERVE UNDER HIS DIRECTION AND IT WAS EIGHT O'CLOCK AT NIGHT BEFORE THE SOLDIERS
BEGAN THE DESTRUCTION OF BUILDINGS BY BOMBS, IN ORDER TO CHECK THE SPREAD OF THE
A SOUTHEAST GALE FANS THE FLAMES
EARLY IN THE AFTERNOON, I WAS AT THE HEADQUARTERS OF KAZIM PASHA; TURKISH MILITARY
GOVERNOR OF THE DISTRICT, AND FROM HIS WINDOW I COULD SEE SMOKE FROM SEVERAL PARTS OF THE
CITY. I CALLED HIS ATTENTION TO THIS, BUT HE ASSURED ME THEY WERE OF NO CONSEQUENCE. HE
SAID THAT HE HAD BEEN WORRIED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF CONFLAGRATION, AND THAT HIS
SOLDIERS HAD RECEIVED INSTRUCTIONS TO PREVENT IT. WHEN I LEFT HIM I MADE AN APPOINTMENT TO
RETURN AT FIVE O'CLOCK THAT AFTERNOON BUT THE FIRE HAD SPREAD SO RAPIDLY, THE PEOPLE HAD
BEEN DRIVEN FROM THEIR HOMES DOWN TO THE QUAY, IN SUCH NUMBERS AND THE PANIC WAS SO GREAT,
THAT I FOUND IT IMPOSSIBLE TO REACH HIS HEADQUARTERS TO KEEP THE APPOINTMENT.
DURING THE AFTERNOON THE WIND BEGAN TO RISE AND BLOW FROM THE SOUTHEAST WHICH I WAS TOLD
WAS MOST UNUSUAL AT THAT SEASON OF THE YEAR, AND BY NIGHT A PERFECT GALE WAS BLOWING.
PEOPLE WHO HAD LIVED IN SMYRNA MANY YEARS TOLD ME THEY HAD NEVER KNOWN A WIND OF SUCH
VIOLENCE DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS. DENSE SMOKE AND SPARKS WERE BLOWN ACROSS THE DECKS OF
THE US DESTROYER LITCHFIELD, WHICH AFTER MIDNIGHT WAS ANCHORED 780 YARDS OFF SHORE.
IT WAS NOT UNTIL THREE DAYS LATER THAT I SAW GRESCOVICH AGAIN. HE TOLD ME HE HAD NO SLEEP
FOR FIVE DAYS AND NIGHTS AND HE LOOKED THE PART.... ON THAT, AND SEVERAL SUCCEEDING DAYS,
WE EXPLORED THE GREAT PART OF THE BURNED AREA OF THE CITY, AND I MADE NOTES OF THE MOST
IMPORTANT THINGS HE TOLD ME. LATER, WHEN LLOYD'S MEN CAME TO ASCERTAIN THE EXTENT THE
DAMAGE, HE REFUSED TO MAKE ANY STATEMENTS AT ALL.
“WHY SHOULD WE BURN THE CITY?”
DURING SEVERAL WEEKS AFTER THE FIRE I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO TALK WITH MANY TURKISH
COMMANDERS, AND THEY WERE ALL OF ONE MIND IN LEVELING EITHER BITTER OR PHILOSOPHICAL
ACCUSATIONS AT THEIR ENEMIES FOR DESTROYING THE CITY. THEY WERE CONTEMPTUOUS OF THE
SUGGESTION, MADE IN A FEW QUARTERS, THAT THEY HAD ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE
"WHY SHOULD WE BURN THE CITY?" THEY WOULD ASK. "SMYRNA, WITH ALL ITS
WEALTH AND TREASURE, WAS OURS. THE FLEEING GREEK ARMY HAD ABANDONED HUGE QUANTITIES
OF MILITARY STORES AND FOOD SUPPLIES THAT WERE DESPERATELY NEEDED BY OUR ARMIES AND
CIVILIANS. THESE HAVE BEEN DESTROYED, TOGETHER WITH THE WAREHOUSES AND STATIONS
WHERE MANY FIRES BROKE OUT. BESIDES, THE FLEEING GREEKS AND ARMENIANS, MANY OF THEM
WEALTHY AS YOU KNOW, HAD ABANDONED EVERYTHING IN THEIR HOMES AND THEIR STORES. WE
WERE IN ABSOLUTE AND UNDISPUTED POSSESSION. DO YOU THINK THAT WE ARE SUCH FOOLS AS
TO HAVE DESTROYED EVERYTHING?"
MY ATTENTION HAS BEEN CALLED TO MANY STATEMENTS PUBLISHED BROADCAST IN THIS COUNTRY
THAT THE TURKS WERE SEEN POURING PETROLEUM AROUND THE AMERICAN CONSULATE. I WAS IN
THE VICINITY OF THE CONSULATE MOST OF THE TIME AND SAW NO PETROLEUM.
IT IS A FACT WORTHY OF ATTENTION OF THE HONEST HISTORIAN THAT VERY FEW PEOPLE IN
SMYRNA AT THE TIME OF THE FIRE, OR DURING THE SUCCEEDING WEEKS, BELIEVED THAT THE
TURKS WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. THAT THE TURKS WERE GROSSLY AND CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT
IN THE MATTER OF ORDINARY PRECAUTIONS AGAINST AN OUTBREAK OF FIRE, WE ALL REALIZED,
AND THAT THEY WERE TRAGICALLY INEFFICIENT IN FIGHTING THE FIRE WAS OBVIOUS TO US
ALL, BUT I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FIND NO EVIDENCE THAT EITHER TURKISH SOLDIERS OR
TURKISH CIVILIANS DELIBERATELY FIRED THE CITY OR WISHED ITS DESTRUCTION.THE EVIDENCE
ALL POINTS IN ANOTHER DIRECTION.
NOTE: THIS APPENDIX CONSISTS OF THE FINAL TWO PAGES (PP. 46-7) OF THE “REPORT
UPON SMYRNA DISASTER,” COMPILED BY A.J. HEPBURN, THE SENIOR AMERICAN NAVAL OFFICER
PRESENT IN IZMIR FROM SEPTEMBER 8-16, 1922. SUBMITTED TO ADMIRAL BRISTOL ON
SEPTEMBER 25, 1922, HEPBURN’S REPORT PROVIDED A DETAILED DAY-BY-DAY RECORD OF THE
PERIOD IN QUESTION. LOCATED IN THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF THE UNITED STATES: NAVAL
RECORDS COLLECTION, RECORD GROUP OF # 45 (BOX 713), THIS IS THE MOST DETAILED EYE
WITNESS ACCOUNT BY AN AMERICAN WHO WAS PRESENT THROUGHOUT THE CONFLAGRATION:
ORIGIN OF FIRE
THE ONLY DIRECT EVIDENCE BEARING UPON THIS SUBJECT WHICH CAME TO MY NOTICE AT THE
TIME WAS THE STATEMENT OF VICE CONSUL BARNES THAT HE SAW TURKISH SOLDIERS POURING
KEROSENE IN THE STREET IN FRONT OF THE CONSULATE. THIS WAS AT A TIME WHEN FIRE MADE
CONSIDERABLE HEADWAY, AND IT WAS APPARENT THAT AT LEAST A LARGE PART OF THE CITY WAS
BEYOND SAVING. THERE WERE OTHER REPORTS THAT SIMILAR ACTIONS HAD BEEN OBSERVED BY
SOME OF OUR MEN ON DUTY AS GUARDS, BUT I DID NOT HAVE ANY OPPORTUNITY TO INVESTIGATE
THESE FULLY AT THE TIME. IT IS EVEN UNDERSTANDABLE THAT INDIVIDUAL TURKISH SOLDIERS
SEEING THE CITY BURNING, AND EITHER ASSUMING THAT IT WAS BY ORDER OF TURKISH
AUTHORITY OR SEEING IN THE EVENT A FURTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR LOOT AND DISORDER, SEIZED
THE OCCASION TO HELP THE CONFLAGRATION ALONG.
WITH REGARD TO ALL COLLATERAL EVIDENCE ON THE SUBJECT, AND ESPECIALLY AS REGARDS THE
QUESTION OF MOTIVE, THE LOGICAL CONCLUSION SEEMS TO ME TO EXONERATE THE TURKISH
AUTHORITIES, SO FAR AS DELIBERATE INTENT TO BURN THE CITY IS CONCERNED. THE ONLY TWO
MOTIVES I HAVE HEARD SUGGESTED ARE, FIRST, THAT THE INTENTION WAS PRIMARILY TO BURN
THE ARMENIAN QUARTER IN ORDER TO DESTROY EVIDENCE OF LOOTING AND MURDER; AND,
SECOND, THAT SMYRNA WAS LARGELY A FOREIGN CITY, KNOWN AS ‘INFIDEL SMYRNA,’ AND
THE TURKS HAD DETERMINED TO RID THE COUNTRY OF ALL NON-MOSLEMS. THE LATTER
SUGGESTION SEEMS FAR-FETCHED, AND THE FORMER INCONSISTENT WITH THE OPEN WAY IN WHICH
THE LOOTING WAS CONDUCTED; THERE WAS SO MUCH EVIDENCE OBTAINABLE ON THIS HEAD THAT
THE BURNING OF THE ARMENIAN QUARTER WOULD HAVE MADE LITTLE DIFFERENCE.
THE TURKISH ATTITUDE WAS THAT THE CITY WAS FIRED BY ARMENIANS; THAT THE GREEK ARMY HAD
MADE ALL PLANS FOR THE EVENT, BUT WERE PREVENTED FROM CARRYING IT OUT BY THEIR
UNEXPECTEDLY HASTY EVACUATION; THAT THE GREEK CIVILIANS REFUSED TO CARRY OUT THESE PLANS,
BUT THAT THE ARMENIANS LENT THEIR AID. THERE IS A CERTAIN CONSISTENCY ABOUT THIS VIEW, OR,
AT LEAST, THE SINCERITY OF THE TURKISH BELIEF IN IT, IN THAT IT CHECKS WITH THE ACTIONS OF
THE ARMENIANS IN THROWING BOMBS AT THE ENTERING TURKISH TROOPS, AND THE GREATER SEVERITY
WITH WHICH THE ARMENIANS WERE TREATED IN COMPARISON WITH THE GREEKS. THE INCREASED
SAVAGERY EXHIBITED BY THE TURKISH POPULACE TOWARD THE ARMENIANS AFTER THE FIRE, AS WELL AS
THE GENERAL DEPRESSION EXHIBITED BY ALL THE TURKISH CITIZENS AND OFFICIALS, WERE
INDICATIONS THAT COULD HARDLY HAVE BEEN COUNTERFEIT.
IF THE TURKS REALLY WISHED AND INTENDED TO PRESERVE THIS CITY, AS I BELIEVE THEY DID, THEY
WERE STUPID AS WELL AS CULPABLE IN ALLOWING ANY SUPPRESSABLE DISORDER. ONLY THROUGH THE
MAINTENANCE OF GOOD ORDER COULD ATTEMPTS UPON THE CITY BY HOSTILE ELEMENTS, SUCH AS THE
ARMENIANS, BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE LAWLESS ACTS OF THE CHETAS AND OTHERS WHOSE CONDUCT
WAS BEING OPENLY TOLERATED.
A. J. HEPBURN
(Thanks to Hector for providing and transcribing the above article.)