From Smyrna to Mudania September-October 1922:
Greek Reactions in U.S. and Greece

By Stavros T. Stavridis

The Greek army evacuated Asia Minor in early September 1922 which resulted in a flood of Greek and Armenian refugees to Greece. Over the next 4 weeks the New York Times would keep its readers informed on the drama that was to unfold at Smyrna, Chanak and the Mudania conference that eventually paved the way for an armistice to end Greek-Turkish conflict.

The Greek-American organisations sent telegrams to U.S President Warren Harding and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, urging the American Government to assist the refugees from Smyrna and also hoping that the US might intervene in the Near East. The US was determined to keep out of any military fracas in the Near East. It should be noted that direct appeals from Greek organisations and politicians in Athens to the American Government and public appeared in the columns of the New York Times.

On September 2, 1922 George Horton , the U.S Consul in Smyrna, cabled the Acting Secretary of State, Phillips pointing out the low morale of the Greek army and basically that it could no longer maintain itself in Asia Minor. Horton stated that “My opinion is that situation is so serious that it cannot now be saved. Panic spreading among Christian population foreigners as well as Greeks and many are trying to leave. When demoralised Greek Army reaches Smyrna serious trouble more than possible and threats to burn the town are freely heard. In view of the above I respectfully request that cruiser be despatched to Smyrna to protect consulate and nationals." (United States Department of State Papers relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, 1922 Vol.2 p.414)

Two days later Horton sent another cable to Phillips mentioning that the problems in Smyrna were getting worse by the minute. "Refugees pouring into Smyrna and panic increasing. In interests of humanity and for safety of American interests beg you to mediate with Angora Government for amnesty (sic) sufficient to allow Greek forces to evacuate. Amnesty will avoid possible destruction of Smyrna, which may result from blowing up of ammunition dumps and acts of mutinous and demoralised Greek soldiers. Greek High Commissioner last night authorized me verbally to take steps towards mediation." (ibid. pp.414-15)

These two telegrams from George Horton to the State Department in Washington DC capture the prevailing mood of an impending catastrophe that was to engulf Smyrna and Near East in the coming months. It will be noted that the State Department archives contain voluminous cablegrams exchanged between Washington and its Embassies, Legations and Consulates in London. Paris, Rome, Athens, Constantinople and Smyrna during this dark period of Modern Greek and Near Eastern history. The unfolding events were given wide coverage in the newspaper columns of the New York Times.

On September 10 , the New York Times reported that a committee consisting of Senator William King of Utah, George Vournas, the Secretary of the Loyalists of America, Theo Marcopoulos, President of the association of Greek Liberals of Washington, Robert H.McNeil, Chairman of the American Friends of the persecuted Christian peoples of Asia Minor and lawyer Sotirios Nicholson appealed to President Warren Harding that the United States Government should use its good offices and if necessary collaborate with Great Britain, France and Italy in finding a solution to the Asia Minor issue and also ensure that the Christian minorities were given protection from Turkish reprisals. Here we see Venizelists and Royalists burying their political differences and working together during Greece’s darkest hour.

The Pan Ionian League, a Greek-American organisation representing Greeks who originally had come from Asia Minor, met at St Eleftherios Orthodox Church , located at 359 West 24th Street on September 20, to begin a campaign to raise $200,000 for the Greek refugees from Smyrna. K.P Tsolainos was the chief speaker at the meeting and declaring that the League had received thousands of requests from Greeks wanting to participate in a British expeditionary force against the Turks. Cablegrams were sent to the British and Canadian Prime Ministers’ requesting that the Greeks be allowed to join a Canadian force.

In the aftermath of the Greek-Turkish conflict, Britain faced the distinct possibility of going to war with Kemalist Turkey at Chanak, a town situated on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles. Britain abandoned by its allied partners -France and Italy- was about to face the Kemalist threat alone at Chanak. The British cabinet cabled her Dominions-Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand- on September 16, 1922 requesting them to send contingents to Chanak to defend the Straits. This decision caught the Dominions by surprise and without any prior consultation and also "came as a bolt from the blue."

Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister's, cable was couched in emotional language designed specifically to appeal to Dominion sentiment. It stated that: “.... Apart ... from the vital Imperial and world-wide interests in freedom of Straits for which such immense sacrifices were made in the war, we cannot forget that Gallipoli Peninsula contains over twenty thousand British and Anzac graves, and that these should fall into the ruthless hands of the Kemalists would be an abiding source of grief to the Empire..." Only Australia and New Zealand responded enthusiastically to Lloyd George’s request whereas Canada and South Africa remained ambivalent to the Chanak crisis. Many ex-soldiers in Australia, New Zealand and Canada volunteered to fight the Kemalists.

The Pan Ionian League also appealed to Senator Lodge “to use your prestige and influence of your position to avert further catastrophe in the Near East.” They hoped that Lodge would be able to do something for the Asia Minor Greek refugees and that American people would be called upon “to bear burden of relief work.” Lodge responded to their appeal that “deeply sympathetic with all you say. Shall do my best I can and shall submit your message at once to the President.”

It would be interesting to see if there is any evidence in the Lodge papers, as to whether he responded promptly to the telegram received from the Pan Ionian League. In the Papers relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, 1922 Vol.2, there is a cable from the U.S Acting Secretary of State to the US High Commissioner, Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol, in Constantinople on September 21 regarding steps taken in extending “emergency relief work in Near East.” Some of the measures included: - “(1) The President has asked Congress to appropriate $200,000 for the relief and possible repatriation of destitute American citizens. (2) In addition to $25,000 already advanced, American Red Cross has informally indicated willingness to make further advance possible to a total of $100,000. (3) Near East Relief has addressed general appeal throughout the country for an emergency fund and in addition to funds resulting from this appeal will probably be able to make advances to possible total of $200,000….” United States Department of State Papers relating to Foreign Relations of the United States, 1922 Vol.2 p.430)

Whilst the Pan Ionian League was trying to raise funds for its compatriots from Asia Minor, US relief organisations too were putting their fund raising machinery into operation. Some Greeks who left Smyrna in September 1922 were American citizens.

The Committee of Unredeemed Greeks based in Athens appealed to the New York Times on September 25 asking the assistance of the international community. They blamed Christian European diplomacy for doing nothing to stop the carnage at Smyrna. Moreover they excoriated the Allied fleets for remaining silent in the harbour of Smyrna by not lifting their finger to stop the Turks in carrying out their destruction of this beautiful city. They appealed to the League of Nations, Pope and Great powers in the name of humanity to assist the Asia Minor Greeks. The document was signed by the following individuals :- President Hadjioannou, Secretary Hudaverdoglu, members Doxiadis, Calafatis, Mavridis, Kalantidis, Tsalikis, Iliadis, Sofianos, Spyridis, Stavridis, Hadjipetrou, Tachmintjis, Solozonidis, Reontidis and Neophytos. Having something appear in the New York Times was a smart move on the part of the Committee of Unredeemed Greeks of reaching the large Greek-American community in New York City.

On October 8 the New York Times headline “Thracian Deputies appeal to Harding. Seek aid of Congress. Also to assure Protection to their Christian Constituents” encapsulates the sense of desperation on the part of 28 Greek deputies of Thrace in the Greek National Assembly who were about to witness their province returning back to Turkish control. They requested President Harding and US Congress that the Greek and Armenian populations in Eastern Thrace receive protection “should that area be turned over to the Turks.”

There was great dismay regarding the Mudania armistice terms that would hand back Eastern Thrace to Turkey. The Allies had promised after the World War 1 that the Christian population would not be placed under Turkish rule and that Thrace had been annexed by Greece under the Treaty of Sevres.

They made a last ditch effort to appeal to American public opinion in the following terms: - “We ask the support of the American Government and people in our demand, that if Greece must evacuate Thrace, Turkish rule shall not be re-established in Europe. We refuse to be bartered like cattle for alien interests; we demand but most elementary human rights, freedom and safety of life, honor and property in our native land. Shall it be said in the annals of history that in this supreme moment we appealed to Christian America in vain?”

Unfortunately the handover of Eastern Thrace to the Turkish Nationalists by the allied powers-Britain, France and Italy- resulted in a mass exodus of Greek refugees into Greece. The relief work of the American Red Cross, Near East Relief and other US organisations was crucial in feeding, clothing and providing shelter to the hundreds of thousands of Greek refugees who fled from Smyrna, Pontus and Eastern Thrace with very few movable possessions. It must be remembered that the Greeks of Eastern Thrace were able to carry a lot more of their personal possessions compared to their Smyrniotes and Pontian compatriots by using horse drawn wagons, motor cars, lorries and moving their cattle into Greece.

In conclusion Warren Harding and the US Government was not interested in becoming embroiled in a war in the Near East and therefore preferred to keep out of the problems of the old world. It was really up to the European powers to find a diplomatic solution to the recent Greco-Turkish conflict. However the American government through its relief organisations and also private charity institutions provided the economic and financial resources to assist the Asia Minor refugees.

The Greek-American organisations and Greeks in Greece tried to inform the US Government and ordinary Americans through the columns of the New York Times of the plight of their Greek compatriots.

Copyright 2005-08-28

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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