American Reactions to Asia Minor
Deportations in 1922

by Stavros Terry Stavridis

This article will outline how the eyewitness accounts of two American Near East Relief workers Dr Mark Ward and Mr. F.Yowell, concerning the deportations and massacres of Christians in Asia Minor had mobilized organizations and individuals in the United States into action. These eyewitness testimonies were published in the major US newspapers. It should be noted that American organizations and individuals supported the British Government’s initiative to establish an inter-allied commission of inquiry into the atrocities committed in Asia Minor.

Lobby groups, Churches and missionary organizations and private citizens organized meetings, sent letters and telegrams to the State Department regarding the importance of an allied investigation into the Turkish atrocities. George R.Montgomery, the Director of the Armenia America Society, wrote to William Phillips, the Undersecretary of State at the State Department, on May 22, 1922 outlining his reasons as to why the US should accept the British invitation to investigate the Asia Minor atrocities. Some of his suggestions were that the Harding administration had shown very little interest in Near Eastern affairs, and thus had abandoned some of the expected assistance that had been promised under Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. The United States could participate in an international enquiry without getting entangled in the affairs of the European powers. Montgomery was concerned at a news report emanating from Larry Rue in Constantinople to the Chicago Tribune ridiculing Yowell’s report. He pointed out to Phillips that the Near East Relief in New York considered Rue’s report incorrect and Rue was known for his longtime bitter resentment “to the Near East Relief activities.” Furthermore an American refusal “would be interpreted in Turkey as an act of friendliness towards the Turks and as indicating a lack of interest in the fate of the Christian in Asia Minor.” He further stressed that the American public would be “disappointed” if America did not participate along with Britain, France and Italy to check the veracity of American eyewitness accounts in Asia Minor.

At a large meeting held at Carnegie Hall in New York presided over by Rev William T.Manning, Episcopal Bishop of New York along with other religious and community leaders- such as Russian and Greek Orthodox Archbishops, Dr Lacy of Brooklyn, Barton Malcolm, an Armenian lawyer, George R. Montgomery, the director of the Armenia America Society, Thomas Tatanis, National Herald (Ethnikos Kyrix) and Nicholas Panagopoulos passed a resolution expressing their concern regarding the fate of the Christians of the Near East. This declaration was forwarded to the Secretary of State Charles E.Hughes on June 2. They believed that the presence of the Greek Army in Asia Minor was the effective guarantee “for the safety of the Christians and other non-Turkish minorities.” They were appreciative of Great Britain telling the world of these outrages and urged the US to participate in the investigation.

The Greek Orthodox Church in the United States was pleased with the US Government’s intention to participate in the atrocity inquiry. Archbishop Alexander telegraphed Hughes expressing his “external gratitude for Christian humane move of the government.” This could be further seen when a meeting of over 500 Greek-Americans attended a mass meeting at a Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco urged both Harding and Hughes “ to use their great influence toward stopping the terrible sufferings of many thousands of Greeks at the hands of the Turks.” Congressman John J.Nolan of California passed this onto the State Department requesting that “a statement as to the general attitude of the department in matters of this kind.”

Fred B.Smith, the President of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, wrote two letters to Charles E.Hughes and Allen W.Dulles in Washington on June 12 and July 21, 1922. In the first letter, he was pleased that US would probably cooperate with Britain “in making an investigation of the honest truth concerning the situation.” Smith believed that Admiral Bristol was using his position as US High Commissioner in Constantinople to “whitewash the whole situation and evade the actual facts.”

In his second letter Smith made it known of his opposition to an appointment of an individual from the US Army to the proposed international commission of enquiry. Such a person would come under influence of Bristol and under such circumstances the investigation would be a complete waste of time. Smith proposed that American appointments to this commission of enquiry should come from commerce and education that would observe impartiality and fairness in collecting the evidence from such an investigation. Some of the proposed names included:- “President France of Brown University, Bishop MacConnell of Pittsburgh, President Burton Smith of Ann Arbor, President Matheson of Georgia Tech, Governor Allen of Kansas and Bishop Brent of the Protestant Episcopal Church.”

Even the main US missionary organization, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was pleased with the decision of the US Government to join with the Europeans in sending a commission of enquiry to Turkey. James L.Barton told Hughes on June 26 that there were press reports suggesting that Mustapha Kemal would not welcome an investigation team into Anatolia. The commission of enquiry should reject this kind of action on the part of Kemal. Constantinople, Smyrna, Syria and possibly Trebizond and Samsoun according to Barton were entry points where the commission of enquiry could proceed into the Anatolian interior. Barton hoped that “Admiral Bristol and mission interests in Turkey will be requested by the Department of State to put at the disposal of the commission any and all information in their possession.” The most important part of Barton’s letter was that “all Americans who may be approached by the commission will be requested to give the commission all of the information they possess touching the condition of affairs in the interior of Turkey and the relation of the Kemalist Government to American interests.” There is no doubt that Barton was concerned about the future economic value of American missionary property and long term viability of American institutions in Asia Minor.

American private citizens sent letters to Hughes expressing their concerns over the fate of the Christians in Asia Minor. Edgar J.Fisher, a Professor of History of Robert College in Constantinople offered two suggestions in solving the problems of the Near East. His two propositions were, firstly, “Ours is a definite American control of the administration of Constantinople and Asia Minor, until such time as the hatreds, now greatly increasing, have subsided, and the people can be trained to govern themselves.” The second plan involved submitting the whole Near East issue to an international body like the League of Nations for resolution. Once the League made its decision, then the European powers and the US would promise to respect and guarantee its decision. While these two propositions had merit, they would have no chance of success. For a start, the United States was not even a member of the League and had decided to absent itself from the entanglements of the Old World. The League of Nations was predominately an Anglo-French club.

A Greek woman and an Armenian resident in the United States expressed their concerns too. Vasilike Haralambou of New York wrote to President Harding’s wife on May 31 stating that the Turks had killed her brother “without any reason” and had deported her younger brother into the Anatolian interior. She also mentioned that her 70-year-old mother had to take care of 4 starving orphans in Samsoun. She appealed to President Harding on behalf “of all Greeks and Christian sufferers of Asia Minor.”

M. N. Azgapetian’s letter of June 8 to Hughes outlined the formers concerns that the international commission should not have individuals like Admiral Bristol or from the American Board of Foreign Missions to collect information from eyewitnesses. He believed that an Armenian and Greek would be ideal candidates to assist an American Commissioner. These individuals would be well educated, be of superior character and knowledgeable of French and native languages. They would be familiar “with the tricks and deceptions of the Turks.” Moreover these individuals would “reach witnesses inspite of Turkish obstacles and should know how to discern Christian testimony under threats and duress.”

All these organizations and private citizens were pro-active in their endeavors to assist the Asia Minor Christians. Their heroic efforts were undermined by the lack of unity and resolve on the part of the United States and European Powers to use military force against the Kemalists.

© 2005 Not to be reproduced or distributed without the consent of the author.

About the Author

Stavros Terry Stavridis was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949 of Greek parents. He migrated to Australia with his parents in September 1952. Stavros has a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Political Science/Economic History and B.A (Hons) in European History from Deakin University and M.A in Greek/Australian History from RMIT University. His MA thesis is titled "The Greek-Turkish War 1919-23: an Australian Press Perspective."

Stavros has nearly 20 years of teaching experience, lecturing at University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education, the equivalent of Community College in the US) levels. He has presented papers at international conferences in Australia and USA and has also given public lectures both in Australia and on the West Coast of the US. Many of his articles have appeared in the Greek-American press. He currently works as a historical researcher at the National Center for Hellenic Studies and Research, Latrobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Stavros' research interests are the Asia Minor campaign and disaster, Middle Eastern history, the Assyrian and Armenian genocides, Greece in the Balkan Wars 1912-13 and the First World War and history in general.

Readers interested in the works of Stavridies may read more of his fine articles posted on HCS at the URL

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