Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Who Set the Fire in Izmir ("Smyrna")?  
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Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
Sam Weems



"After the Turks had smashed the Greek armies they turned the essentially Greek city (Smyrna) into an ash heap as proof of their victory."

Sir Valentine Chirol, "The Occident and the Orient," page 58; that makes sense! To prove that you won a war, simply burn down your own city. (By the way, with a Turkish majority, the city was not "essentially Greek." Marjorie Housepian wrote in her book's introduction, "Greeks constituted the majority population in Smyrna ," but even her fave, George Horton, contradicted her, as you will read below. And that's with the increased rolls of refugees, not the "normal" population of a few years prior.)


Winston Churchill is quoted (in Greek sites; the source is missing) as believing in essentially the same motivation: "Kemal celebrated his triumph by transforming Smyrna into ashes and by slaughtering the whole of the indigenous Christian population." (Did Churchill shamefully go so far as to claim "all" Christians were slaughtered, mostly for fun?)


The Turks, Chetas or regulars, or both, burned the city to dispose of the dead after having carried away their loot."

An unnamed missionary woman who was "a person of the highest repute," in a letter dated Sept. 21, 1922, as cited by George Horton, in his hateful book.  It would have been so much work to get rid of the 1,000-2,000 casualties, the chosen Laurel and Hardy maneuver was to simply burn down the whole city. 

ADDENDUM, 10-07, from The Portsmonth Daily Times, September 15, 1922, "Turks Massacre Thousands of Christians":

"According to the general conviction the fire was started by the Turks to efface the traces of their massacres and other crimes."

Preceding the above: "A message from Greek semi-official circles from Athens dated Thursday reads: 'Absolutely trustworthy persons belonging to the foreign colonies at Smyrna and notably Americans... relate terrifying details regarding the massacre of Smyrna following the big fire...' "

There are other theories as well, such as George Horton's belief that destroying the city would have rendered it impossible for the Christians to return, neglecting the fact that destroyed cities can be rebuilt, and citizens can return, assuming conditions are friendly... as with Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans, in 2005. If the idea was to kick out the Christians, there were other ways of achieving such, without burning down a valuable city. Greece and Turkey agreed upon a population exchange afterwards, for example. (Meaning that Christian refugees who finally left were cared for, until that time... otherwise, there would have been no Christians remaining to conduct a population exchange with. See last sentence of Ataturk statement, below.) The bigoted religious fanatic further specified the idea was to "exterminate Christianity in Asia Minor." If that was the idea, not a single Christian would have been left in all of Turkey.


The likeliest theory, as a missionary (and a missionary who would have had special reason to hate the Turks, having been severely beaten by them) concluded was that the terrorists involved hoped to bring about Western intervention. (See below.) The British and the Turks were dangerously close to going to war, and the Armenian terrorists were experts in staging "massacre" events by this time, in order to entice the imperialist powers to come in and do their fighting for them.

Izmir and its seaside quays

One rarely mentioned incentive for Greeks and Armenians to have torced their own sectors, among those who figured the collusion of their people with the enemy meant life would never be the same, is that some may have considered the opportunity to receive compensation from insurance companies. Such could have served as a suoplement to a more solid reason making a great deal of sense: the Greeks and Armenians, who had abandoned their sectors to go to the quays (see above picture), leaving everything behind, did not wish their wealth and valuables to fall into the hands of the Turks, together with the warehouses and stations where many of the fires broke out. Among the destroyed goods were the fleeing Greek army's huge quantities of military stores and food supplies that were desperately needed by Turkish armies and civilians. Logically, indeed, why would the Turks have destroyed these materials? Especially since their whole nation was devastated, and Greece had looted so much from this particular region.

Mark Prentiss elaborated in his Jan. 1923 report: "It was a matter of common knowledge... 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."


The Armenian "Genocide" is far from the only anti-Turkish Con Job. The Burning of Izmir is another.

As a supplement to TAT's existing look at the matter, this page will provide further material on why it would be insane for any people to burn their own major city, especially when the rest of the nation lay in post war ruin, and especially when the enemy had demonstrated a scorched-earth policy in other occupied regions hastily evacuated. (The Greek Army had gone by this the time of the fire, but the idea of leaving nothing behind remained, for others to implement. George Horton reported, for example, that many Greek soldiers were given haven by the locals, and were dressed as civilians. Mark Prentiss wrote about "The Greek action in arming civilians, together with prolonged and extensive sniping.")


1) A Historical Backdrop

2) Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's "Smyrna 1922"

3) A Private Message Expressing Where Ataturk Stood

4) The Turks Tried to Stop the Fire

5) The French Said the Turks Were Not to Blame

6) A Missionary Eyewitness Lays the Blame on Armenians

7) Fire Chief Paul Grescovich

8) Captain Hepburn Stated in His Diary

9) Unfriendly Britons Lay Blame on Greeks & Armenians

10) Lamb, British Consul at Smyrna: Greeks & Armenians

11) From Halide Edip's "THE TURKISH ORDEAL" (1928)


Quick Historical Backdrop


Viscount Northcliffe

Viscount Northclife

Let's do a round-up of events, which I'll be basing on a 1924 court case account appearing in the generally anti-Turkish London Times, (published by Lord Northcliffe, a pioneer in the implementation of propaganda in the press; he was appointed "Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries" in February 1918), entitled "The Smyrna Fire Insurance Claim" (Dec. 20, 1924).

The article tells us "practically the whole town of Smyrna was destroyed" (and not just the Greek and Armenian sections, as we often hear; a Sept. 15? 1922 Times article entitled "Smyrna Burning" stated that the fire spread to the European quarter, where "several Consulates and other houses" were destroyed). We are reminded that in 1919 the Greeks occupied Smyrna, and advanced inland into Anatolia in 1922. The Greeks withdrew (as the judge put it: "On the retreat it burnt villages and laid waste the country"), the Turks came in on Sept. 9, 1922. (The judge said: this was the head of the Army, coming in without fighting and taking possession in a disciplined way. On Sept. 10, the main body of the Turkish Army arrived. A Sept. 19? Times article — "Last Days of Smyrna" — had a British eyewitness report that the Greek Army "poured through Smyrna" on Sept. 8, "in perfect order" with "no panic.") Military patrols were established by Sept. 12, the city was quiet, although parts of the Greek army were not far away.... two surrendering by Sept. 10, and the remainder escaping by sea. (George Horton, The Blight of Asia: "It was said that many of these [Greek soldiers] were taken into houses and given civilian clothes and that thus some escaped.") "No military operations of any kind were in progress when the fire broke out" in the Armenian quarter, spreading wide for four days, before dying down on Sept. 17. The article states there were many refugees besides the regular inhabitants, perhaps 400,000 in all. (Horton refers to this as an "official" figure, while thinking the figure to be 100,000 higher, breaking it down thus: 165,000 Turks, 150,000 Greeks, 25,000 each Armenians and Jews, and 20,000 foreigners. He does not account for the remaining 15,000.)

"There were mutual recriminations. The Greeks and Armenians said that the Turks had started the fire; and the Turks said that Smyrna was their own town, and having succeeded in expelling their enemies from it, they would not have been so foolish as to destroy it."

The judge declared: "There was evidence of other fires independent of one another, and little fires kept springing up behind the firemen." His Lordship did not buy the explanation that the independent fires might have been caused by sparks from houses already burning. From this, we may gather there was a concerted effort to burn the town down. It wasn't simply one fire going haywire.

The judge had a tendency to look down on this part of the world, certainly not alone among Westerners, associating barbarism with matters Turkish. In Housepian's book (see below), he is quoted with the following judgment: "If this was a more civilized city, one very probable explanation would be that somebody who was looting had got drunk. But as it is a semi-barbarous place the question of drink is not mentioned in the case."

“This is a charge against a nation”

Wright, counsel for the plaintiff, who maintained the evidence for the defense was flimsy, and that the opponent should stop ridiculing statements such as the Turks' making every effort to maintain order. He found no sympathy from the biased judge. (Housepian, "Smyrna 1922")

Judge Rowlatt felt the Turks were to blame, and found for the defendant, an insurance company. (An American tobacco company was the plaintiff; they tried to get money for their destroyed warehouse, claiming that the fire was accidental. The insurance company exercised their loophole, claiming the fire was deliberately set, and refused to pay. The lawyer for the plaintiff complained that the evidence of incendiarism [a willful setting on fire to destroy, and the act must be done for a criminal purpose] was "only that of a small number of persons who by race and nationality were bitterly hostile to the Turks."

A follow up article on May 2, 1925, where appeals to the case were turned down, revealed that "...the inhabitants had been driven out of their homes and that they had deserted and generally evacuated the [Armenian] quarter by September 13." In other words, there were few Armenian civilians left in the Armenian quarter when the fire broke out on Sept. 13. (This is significant because one reason given for the fire is that this was the way to exterminate the Christians.)

Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's "Smyrna 1922"

Smyrna 1922, by Marjorie Housepian

Smyrna 1922, by Marjorie Housepian

Marjorie Housepian Dobkin's work, "Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City" is recognized as authoritative, but the author shows her bias repeatedly. Lord Kinross settled on the number of Smyrna deaths at a couple of thousand (so did another author Housepian refers to, Michael Llewellyn Smith, one who lays the blame for the fire on the Turks), but Housepian reportedly prefers to go with perhaps 100,000.

The author had already made up her mind on the guilt of her accused, and was strictly interested in finding sources to prove her case, Dadrian-style. She gives profuse thanks to those such as Dadrian and Hovannisian. It's amusing the way she tries to play innocent by writing (in the updated edition) that she was "puzzled... a few" critics had found her book "highly charged" or "subjective."

The city's fire chief, a foreigner (Paul Grescovich) who was in the best position to know the goings on found genuine evidence that at least the Armenians were behind the fire. Housepian de-emphasizes sources as this one that goes against her agenda. As another example, she flatly reveals in her introduction: "I have taken American Consul George Horton's view of the atrocities committed by Greek troops as they fled towards Smyrna, rather than Arnold J. Toynbee's. [Because] The latter did an about-face..." While Toynbee himself was an "extreme Christian," even at his propagandistic peak he came across as a secular humanist, next to the blazing George Horton; Horton went out of his way, in his book, to make the Greek troops appear as angels. It speaks volumes that Housepian preferred to give overriding credence to Horton. (What true scholar could give credence to one the likes of George Horton? Referring to Horton for a picture of the Turks is like referring to the KKK for a picture of blacks and Jews.)

She also complains about "the missionaries who had discredited their own eyewitness testimonies," along with others as the aforementioned Arnold Toynbee who had done an about-face from their former propagandistic views. Housepian does not even consider the possibility that the former tellings of these partisans could have been false. (Toynbee was part of the British war propaganda division, for example.)

"Miss Mills Blames Turks for the Fire"

"Miss Mills Blames Turks for the Fire"

She tells us the British complained about Mark Bristol's being "carefully spoon fed by the Turks," as if Bristol were an idiot. (That's how Housepian practically sums up Bristol, by pointing to his "naiveté and ignorance.") Of course the British, who were practically at war with the Turks, did not appreciate Bristol's sense of fairness, when it was expected of Western diplomats to look at these matters from the traditional "Turks are not human" perspective. Bristol received missionaries constantly [a 1919 example, just before he became high commissioner, may be seen here], and he had plenty of exposure to the anti-Turkish views the British were more in line with. What distinguished Bristol was his ability to sort through the goop and to analyze these matters without overriding prejudice. This fairness and integrity is what has earned him the label of being "pro-Turk." (Bristol was only guilty of being "pro-Truth.") In short: why does Housepian expect us to accept the word of the British, who were the Turks' enemy, instead of an American ambassador?

The New York Times article at above right ("Miss Mills Blames Turks for the Fire") is one of many examples where Western publications published anti-Turkish blather at face value. Housepian certainly utilizes the witness said to be behind these words, Miss Minnie Mills, a missionary. Note the hysterical claims, such as all the Christians (i.e., the remainder of the "small proportion of the population [who had] escaped") having been massacred. The report originated from the Turk-unfriendly Near East Relief. (ADDENDUM, 10-07: From the Portsmonth Daily Times, Sept. 15, 1922, "Turks Massacre Thousands of Christians": "Miss Mills, matron of the American Girls' College, declares she saw an officer or non-commissioned officer of the Turkish regular army enter a house carrying several cans of petroleum soon after he came out the house burst into flames.")

Marjorie Housepian's Objectivity: Armenians were all innocent.

"The major effort ... is to change history; to make Turks, for instance, alleged victims of Armenian killings in 1915 ...."


Excerpts from an address given by Housepian in Thessaloniki on December 1, 1994, as reported in grecoreport.com (where the "Dobkin" of her name was left out, for some reason; I similarly followed suit while referring to her on this page). Housepian was referring to the great power of P.R. firms supposedly hired by Turkey, and yet she points to a quote by someone working on behalf of Bosnia. Yes, Serbs hoped to disparage the Bosnians during the Yugoslavian break-up by calling them "Turks," in an effort to get Western opinion on their side, but why can't Housepian make the distinction that the Slavic Bosnians are not Turkish? Most importantly, why does she not address how it could be possible Turkey's image is so awful in the West, with these supposed P.R. firms at the helm?

The fact is, when it comes to Public Relations, the Turks are hopeless.

She goes on to complain that she is "horrified and outraged" by the way Turkey's "media blitz" has the "acquiescent American press" in its pocket, which does not "bode well for democracy. " Is she living in another dimension?

As usual, the Armenians and Greeks do the crime (in this case, managing Western media to wholly accept their propaganda), and then point to the Turks as the culprits. Simple shameful.

A Private Message Expressing Where Ataturk Stood


In the following communication, Ataturk naively believed the foreign journalists would be fair and unbiased in their reporting of the fire in Izmir, and of the Turkish effort to stop it. (E. Alexander Powell wrote of the reality: "There was scarcely a newspaper of importance in the United States that did not editorially lay that outrage at the door of the Turks, without waiting to hear the Turkish version.") Ataturk wrote that even before the fire began the Turks had taken precautions, since the fire was expected. It was heard that the Greek priest Hrisostomos (English spelling commonly "Chrysostomos") preached in his church that to burn Izmir was a religious duty of all.

Note also that all of his claims are corroborated by Western sources, many of which may be found on this very page.



Tel. 17.9.38 (1922) (Arrived 4.10.38)

To be transmitted with care. Important and urgent.

Find hereunder the instruction I sent to Hamid Bey with Admiral Dumesmil, who left for Istanbul today.

Mustafa KEMAL

Copy To Hamid Bey,

1. It is necessary to comment on the fire in Izmir for future reference.

Our army took all the necessary measures to protect Izmir from accidents, before entering the city. However, the Greeks and the Armenians, with their pre-arranged plans have decided to destroy Izmir. Speeches made by Hrisostomos at the churches have been heard by the Moslems, the burning of Izmir was defined as a religious duty. The destruction was accomplished by this organization. To confirm this, there are many documents and eyewitness (suhud) accounts. Our soldiers worked with everything that they have to put out the fires. Those who attribute this to our soldiers may come to Izmir personally and see the situation. However, for a job like this, an official investigation is out of the question. The newspaper correspondents of various nationalities presently in Izmir are already executing this duty. The Christian population is treated with good care and the refugees are being returned to their places.


Source: Bilal Simsir, ‘Atatürk ile Yazismalar’ (The Correspondence with Ataturk), Kültür Bakanligi, 1981. (Translation thanks to Sukru and Yuksel; Document thanks to M. Mersinoglu.)



Dumesnil was the French admiral on board the flagship of the French fleet, at the time the Turks liberated Izmir. When Archbishop Chrysostomos’ execution was reported to Dumesnil, the admiral "sardonically" shrugged: "He got what was coming to him,"

That's from Marjorie Housepian's "Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City " (1972, note 134 pg 260): "Dumesnil quoted by Horton, letter to Secretary of State, 18 September 1922, NA."

Archbishop Chrysostomos

Archbishop Chrysostomos

Housepian actually refers to this trial and execution (see last paragraph of Sep 16, 1922 article, directly below) as a "massacre"! (There are incredible accounts of how he was "martyred" by a bloodthirsty mob in Greek sites... his beard pulled out, his hands chopped off.) George Horton was the bigoted American consul in Izmir, who would defame an entire nation with his book, "The Blight of Asia."

In this hateful book, Horton apologetically wrote (confirming Ataturk's charge, in a whitewashed manner) that he actually attended a sermon conducted by this priest: "Unfortunately, Archbishop Chrysostom (he who was later murdered by the Turks) began to introduce some politics into his sermon, a thing which he was extremely prone to do." Horton further quoted a Greek as having said: "Some ugly stories are told about the priest... He refused to say the prayers over the dead body of a poor woman's child, because she did not have the full amount of his fee, and it was buried without the rites of the church." Sterghiades, the Hellenic high-commissioner, is told of having slapped (whom he believed was) the priest in the face, accusing him of being a "disgrace to the Church and to the Greek nation." Horton later lovingly describes the priest as "venerable and eloquent," and that his only sin was that he was a "patriot." (Funny; when someone lives in a country as its citizen, and actively works against the interests of that country, to the tune of cooperating with invading enemies, I'd think the correct word would be "traitor.")

The Turks Tried to Stop the Fire

 The London Times, Sep 16, 1922; pg. 8



(From Our Correspondent In the Near East.)

Whatever was the cause of the Smyrna fire, the results are catastrophic. The greater part of the town has been destroyed and thousands of inhabitants and refugees are believed to have perished, while property valued at many millions has been wiped out.

There were ghastly scenes on the quays where thousands of refugees were huddled at the water’s edge, under a rain of sparks and cinders. The Turks failed to get the fire under, in spite of the employment of large numbers of troops, but they are not reported to have shown any sympathy with incendiaries or looters, whether Turk or non-Turk, who were shot at sight. The irregulars who are reported to have entered Smyrna before the fire may have caused it.

Looting certainly took place in the Armenian quarter prior to the outbreak. The richest seaport of Turkey has thus perished. Years must elapse before its trade recovers, and British merchants and residents have been among the greatest sufferers.

It is reported here that the Orthodox Archbishop of Smyrna, Mgr. Chrysostomos, has been tried by summary Court-martial and shot, and that the leading local Greek journalist, M. Lascaris, has been murdered.


The French Said the Turks Were Not to Blame


The London Times, Sep 25?, 1922


CONSTANTINOPLE, Sept. 24 — The correspondent of the Havas Agency declares that he is in a position to announce that the French High Commissioner in Constantinople and the French Consul-General at Smyrna, as well as Admiral Dumesnil, are convinced that the Smyrna fire can in no way be attributed to the Turks. This conviction is mainly based on the statements of salvage workers and trustworthy French witnesses who took part in the fight against the fire.

The French naval authorities immediately took steps to control the statements of certain witnesses who declared that they had seen Turkish soldiers sprinkling the streets and houses with petrol. As a result of this investigation these statements have now been proved to be without foundation. The correspondent goes on to declare that the fire originated in the Armenian quarter. — Reuter.


In addition:

From a New York Times editorial ("Responsibility at Smyrna," September 30, 1922) that unsurprisingly appears to (at least in the way it starts out; the entire piece was unavailable for me to read) blame the Turks: the French Foreign Office reported that the Turks did not set fire to the buildings and that there was "no evidence that the Turks were in any way responsible for the damage [at Smyrna]."

Pro-Armenians attempt to discredit the French and Italians, because they were at odds with the British by this time. For example, George Horton printed the statement of a French officer who praised the Turks, especially in the face of what he knew of the less-noble characteristics of the Ottoman Christians, and Horton claimed this attitude was representative of most of the French. [Click here]

The implication here is that the French simply must have lied. But once again, just because pro-Armenians have no problem with bending the truth, we can't assume every single individual who testified for the Turks must have suffered from a lack of conscience; we can't assume they all must have blindly followed this alleged directive, and lied through their teeth. I hope the accounts of these "trustworthy French witnesses" that the above article tells us about are available somewhere, as each testimony would need to be evaluated separately. Remember: the French were not raised with a fondness for the Turks, constantly having been exposed to "Turkish atrocity" propaganda. This attitude is certainly demonstrated in current times, with the general hostility of modern France toward Turkey.

Another point to bear in mind is that if the French were not to be believed, why would the word of the British be credible? The British have become notorious for their WWI propaganda, and were not known for telling truth. (Note Churchill's shameful statement at the top of this page.) Moreover, they were still occupying part of the Turks' country, brought in the Greeks and bore partial responsibility for the horrible crimes the Greeks committed, and were the "enemy." The British did all they could to make the progress of Kemal's forces as difficult as possible because, once again, the British were the "enemy." Those who prefer to value the word of the British over the French during this period show their own "enemy" stripes.

Reportedly, an article (written by Orhan Kologlu) from a Turkish history journal called Populer Tarih ("Popular History"), on the anniversary of Izmir’s liberation (September 2003 issue), examined the fire from Italian, French, American and British newspapers. An argument was put forth that the British press felt obliged to give a little equal time (in marked contrast to totally biased Turkish-related coverage in the past) because the opposition in Britain was becoming suspicious of Prime Minister Lloyd George. The New York Times also followed suit. Certainly the heavy foreign presence in the city must have also played a role; the western press did not have carte blanche to put up their typical, unverified horror stories, with other westerners around.


ADDENDUM, 10-07: The following appeared in The New York Times, September 27, 1922; note the insinuation that the burning of Izmir fell in line with Greek policy. This article was preceded by one written by Mark Prentiss, entitled, HASTEN EVACUATION OF SMYRNA HORDES, where he wrote, "The Turkish officials displayed remarkable forbearance and toleration, the soldiers having every provocation to resort to extreme measures of restraint, as the panic in this vast multitude was unparalleled and indescribable." Turkish soldiers, Prentiss added (once Prentiss brought the matter to the attention of the officers), were even beaten and threatened with shooting by their officers, unless the soldiers stopped accepting money from those who hoped for special privileges. In addition, "A remarkable contrast appeared hundreds of times when officers and soldiers tenderly escorted the enfeebled and injured through the passage. While from above the scene it appeared that the soldiers were beating refugees with rifle butts and clubs, a close-up observation showed that mostly the blows fell on bundles. I am absolutely certain no refugees were seriously hurt by the soldiers, though hundreds were bruised and trampled." (Thanks to Gokalp.)


Foreign Office Denies Kemalists Set Fire to Smyrna.

PARIS, Sept. 26 (Associated Press).-- The French Foreign Office in an official statement published today confirmed the news from Constantinople that General Pelle, the French High Commissioner in that city, and Admiral Dumesnil, the commander of the French forces in Near East waters , had satisified themselves that there was nothing to justify the holding of the Turks responsible for the burning of Smyrna.

Admiral Dumesnil also investigated the charges that the Turks poured kerosene on the houses and streets, and found them false. Both General Pelle and the Admiral found that there had been much excitement in the Greek and Armenian quarters of Smyrna and that a number of Turk officers and men had been wounded by bombs and hand grenades thrown from the houses.

The two French commanders found that fires were started in widely-separated spots in foreign quarters of the city. They learned that French sailors, who were fighting the flames, were fired upon. Turkish authorities tried to put out the fires, but the wind fanned the flames.

"The French Government, if it found nothing showing Turkish responsibility for the fire," said the statement, "on the other hand, has in its possession most damaging testimony of misdeeds of which the Greek Army is guilty and perpetrated during the retreat."

The statement declared that Eski-Shehir was not molested during the Turk retreat, but it was burned when the Greeks were routed. Brusa, which was destined for fire, was saved only by the French Consul and two Italian officers, who induced General Somilas, the Greek commander, to countermand an order for the burning of the town, it stated. The Foreign Office said that most of the neighboring villages were burned and pillaged by Greek soldiers.

A Missionary Eyewitness Lays the Blame on Armenians


The Turks did not massacre Greeks, as Greeks had done to Turks in May 1919. About the worst the Turkish Army did was force captured Greek soldiers to shout “Long live Mustafa Kemal” (in return to their forcing Turks to shout Zito Vrenizelos when they entered Smyrna) as they marched intro detention. Turkish soldiers protected International College during the disruption of the occupation; a Turkish cavalryman rescued MacLahlan from irregulars who nearly beat the missionary to death while trying to loot the agricultural buildings of the college. A three-day Smyrna fire (September 13-15), which Turks made every effort to control, destroyed nearly a square mile in Greek and Armenian areas and made two hundred thousand people homeless. Included in this loss was the American Board’s Collegiate Institute for Girls. MacLachlan’s investigation of the fire’s origin led to the conviction that Armenian terrorists, dressed in Turkish uniforms, fired the city. Apparently the terrorists were attempting to bring Western intervention. Informing Washington of a three million Dollars claim by the American Board against the Ankara government, Barton requested through an aide that the U.S. participate in any conference planned by the Allies to rewrite the Treaty of Sevres. As the West talked of negotiating with the Kemalists, part of the American public began to realize that Armenianism and godliness were not identical. Ever since missionaries in the nineteenth century had become the dominant U.S. concern in the Ottoman Empire, opinion in America increasingly favored Christian minorities.


From Protestant Diplomacy and the Near East, 1971, p. 263..Alexander MacLachlan was the missionary president of International College in "Smyrna."


Fire Chief Paul Grescovich

 The report of Paul Grescovich, Chief of the "Smyrna" Fire Department (1910-1922), is part of the collection of the Bristol Papers, within the Library of Congress. I am hoping to get a hold of it, to present in this section. This is the one that Housepian ignored (for all intents and purposes) in her book. (ADDENDUM, 10-07: I was likely mistaken for thinking there was such a report; what is in the Bristol collection, relating to Grescovich, must have been Prentiss' report. An article based on this report has been uncovered, and may now be accessed; see links at bottom.)

Until that time, let's review highlights from Mark Prentiss' private report that he sent to Admiral Bristol on January 11, 1923. I don't believe this was published anywhere, and especially if so, it can't be construed as propaganda. This report can be read in its entirety on TAT's first "Izmir" page.

Grescovich impressed Prentiss as a "thoroughly reliable witness." (Makes sense; why would the chief have purposely lied for the Turks? He left the job in the weeks that followed, in case anyone feels he would have broken the Ninth Commandment for the sake of maintaining his position.) Communication was clear, without the need for translators, since the Austrian spoke fluent English.

Prentiss arrived on Sept. 8, as the Greek Army was leaving. Prentiss met with Grescovich on at least the 10th and the 13th (Wednesday), when the fires had started.

"During the first week of September there had been an average of five fires per day with which his crippled department had to cope." Grescovich believed that while most were caused by carelessness, some were deliberately started.

"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 significant."

(As the approach of the Turkish Army became imminent, in the week before the Turks arrived, the fact that fires radically increased serves as a tremendous clue.)

"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." (Compounded by the Turkish military governor's [Kiazim Pasha] ordering the arrest of the Greeks in the fire department, reducing the force to only 37. These days would correspond to Sept. 10, 11 and 12, respectively. Remember, the fire "started" on Sept. 13.)

Because the fire department was unable to cope, these pre-Sept. 13 fires "were extinguished by Turkish soldiers."

On the morning of Sept. 13, Paul Grescovich personally found evidence: he "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 was undoubtedly certain, according to Prentiss, 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." (Sept. 12 and Sept. 13.)

On the first day of the fire, Sept. 13, "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."


Captain Hepburn stated in his diary:

  "The Turks had been so proud to have preserved Izmir intact throughout all the devastation caused by the Greeks, but the Armenians and Greeks have defeated us in the end"

------(Source unknown.)-------

The above individual was described by George Horton in the following manner: "Captain Hepburn, one of the naval officers, counted thirty-five dead bodies on the road leading to Paradise, a small village near Smyrna, where the American International College is situated."

ADDENDUM, Nov. 2006: Hepburn was a major player. Please see "Prof. Lowry" link at page bottom; a critical document by Hepburn has been reproduced in the second Appendix.

Unfriendly Britons Lay Blame on Greeks & Armenians





PLYMOUTH, OCT. 6 (The London Times, 1922)

Thirty-six refugees from Smyrna arrived at Plymouth to-day, having been sent home from Malta.
Mr. L. R. Whittall, barrister-at-law, who has been in Smyrna for some years said there was no evidence as to who set fire to the town, but the consensus of opinion was that it was Greek and Armenian incendiaries. It was on September 8 that the Greek Army administration and police evacuated the town. The following day a detachment of Turkish cavalry entered the town, and after that the Turkish Army poured in, followed by large numbers of irregular troops, all armed. The first house to be looted was one occupied by Mr. La Fontaine. The Greeks fired at the advancing Turkish cavalry, and then took refuge in Mr. La Fontaine's house. The Turks entered, shot the men concerned, and then started looting the English houses. Twenty or thirty houses were immediately looted by marauders.

Mr. Whittall contrasted the treatment meted out to British subjects with that extended to French and Italians. It was manifest, he said, that the Turks respected the Italians and French, while the British were stopped and robbed in the main streets.

Earlier in the brief article, we were told that all were in good health, "in spite of the suffering which they underwent when they were forced to leave their homes at the shortest possible notice." These British were understandably peeved: "They possess practically nothing but the clothes they were wearing and they complained bitterly that they were given no time to save their money and effects. The first warning they received of the seriousness of the situation was a notice issued by the British Vice-Consul on September 4..." (Note: an earlier Times account ["Smyrna Burning. Massacre Fears"], dated Sept. 14, reported, "The British inhabitants, with few exceptions, were safely evacuated last evening on board the warships.")

The last paragraph offers the testimony of "Mrs. Marty, who was probably the last Englishwoman to leave Smyrna." She tells a story about twelve Greek girls who were dragged away by Turks, to be found mutilated in the streets the next morning, "murdered after being ravished." Not to say such a crime could not have occurred [this was probably the same crime related in the
Times' "LAST DAYS OF SMYRNA. How the Turks Rode In. Sept. 18," with the difference that the victims numbered three, and Kiazim Pasha was reported to have taken "great trouble next day to restore order... reprimanding the newly appointed Turkish Town Major"], but it is safe to assume Mrs. Marty was not "on the spot," and was repeating yet another "Turkish atrocity" story of hearsay. It's obvious these outraged British refugees did not regard the Turks in the highest light, and therefore it is especially significant that their "consensus" was to lay the blame for Izmir's fire on Greeks and Armenians.

Lamb, British Consul at Smyrna: Greeks & Armenians

Still another witness is to be found in the person of the British Consul General at Smyrna (Mr. H. Lamb), who reported to his government that he had reason to believe that Greeks in concert with Armenians had burned Smyrna. This was confirmed by the correspondent of the Petit Parisien at Smyrna in a dispatch on Sept. 20.

From "Smyrna During the Greek Occupation," by Colonel Rachid Galib, Current History, V.18, May 1923, p. 319.

From Halide Edip's "THE TURKISH ORDEAL" (1928)

Halide Edip, the famous Turkish author and humanitarian, sheds light on the "Smyrna" happenings, and save for the nastiest propagandists, is regarded as a truth-teller. As Reader Cihan points out: "A lot of people think that when the Turkish army entered the city all the enemy had escaped. So, they claim if the city was burned down, it cannot (have been) Greeks. But the excerpt I am sending... states that there were still resistance from the Greeks and Armenians who were in the city even after the Greek soldiers escaped."

We get further insight on Noureddin, made out to be the villain of the fire by propagandists, and further insight from the spunky officer who got wounded as the Turks entered. If the assailant threw his bomb from a window (sensible; this way he would have escaped unharmed), then he was not going to get shot on the spot, as some biased foreign "witnesses" reported. The account of houses having been set up with bombs also makes a lot of sense, to pre-plan a fire raging out of control. Here, the blame rests with the Greeks.



SEPTEMBER 9 (pp. 383-84):

"Soldiers, your goal is the Mediterranean," was the opening line of Mustafa Kemal Pasha's order of the day at the beginning of the campaign. It was a dramatic proclamation with a Napoleonic touch in it, although it was written in the effective but simple style of Ismet Pasha. I thought of it as I caught sight of the blue waters when our procession reached the quay of Smyrna. It was a goal to die for — but the goal of the Turkish soldier was far deeper and more significant than that-it had nothing to do with particular lands and sea. It was an assertion of a people's will to live.

The stately mirrors of the hall of the konak reflected a dusty, khaki-clad group of individuals sitting in the arm-chairs in a silent mood. From a smaller room which opened on the hall one heard the loud voices of Mustafa Kemal Pasha and Noureddine Pasha discussing military matters. There was skirmishing still at Kadife Kale between the Greeks and the Turks, and street fighting in the Armenian quarter, where the Turkish army had been bombed from the windows. Among the crowds in the streets there were queer-looking individuals who made patriotic speeches. They were the usual mushroom heroes who rise up immediately after the success of any cause and show an excess of zeal that seems to leave the other workers quite in the shade.

Halide Edip

Halide Edib Hanum (cr.: Underwood & Underwood, NY)

On the table lay a sword sent by an Eastern country to be given to whoever should first enter Smyrna. Several units had entered the city simultaneously from different parts, so there were several claimants. But there was the commander of a cavalry unit, Lieutenant Sheraffedine, who had reached the quay first. He was standing in the middle of the hall, a little dapper figure: legs of a cowboy, head and one arm in bandages, but tingling allover with adventure, and telling his story with a boyish lisp.

"The quay was deserted as we rode," he began. "The first person who came in view was a French admiral. He began making a speech, advising me to be good to the Christian population — it was rather a long speech. I told his Excellency that the quay was not a safe place for him. My remark was prophetic, for before the words were out of my mouth a bomb fell from one of the windows and some one started rifle-firing. The next moment we were busy protecting the admiral from fire and getting him away from the scene. My bandages are souvenirs of that scene."

An English officer was standing by the door. He had brought a message from the English admiral, who asked for appointment with Noureddine Pasha. "You speak to him, Corporal; none of us speak English," said some one.

We drove away to Karshi Yaka. Two houses were picked out for headquarters. The two hostesses, elderly Turkish women, had charming manners. They dined with us and took care of Mustafa Kemal Pasha in their motherly way. I went to bed early. I had a great longing for home.

p. 386:

Fire had broken out in the Armenian quarter. People with bundles and household goods were crowding the quay. The fire was spreading, and the ruddy glow over the city lit the anxious and frightened faces of the people on the quay. In Ismet Pasha's headquarters the commander in charge of the city was telling how he found all the rubber pipes of the fire brigade completely cut to pieces, obviously by intention. He said the Greeks had made every preparation to burn the city.

As the night advanced, the crowd on the quay increased; the fire approached the headquarters. The faces of the people on the quay became more and more tragic as the glow became ruddier, and the disorder increased. When our headquarters caught fire we drove to Karshi Yaka. After finding conveyance for the press representatives, I left with Yoldash. Something in the expression of his eyes made me feel more akin to him than to any human person I spoke to at this moment.

Three long days the fire lasted. After the first few hours it became impossible to approach it. The dynamite and the explosives hoarded by the Greeks under the churches of Aya Triada and Foti, as well as in a number of private houses, were exploding. The sight and noise of it all was ominous. The crimson days in Smyrna evoked other crimson scenes over other fair cities. When would the ordeal by fire and sword of every people cease ? When will the peoples prevent their politicians from gambling with their lives and homes ?

(Thanks to reader Cihan)


Once again, TAT's first Izmir page may be accessed here.

Prof. Heath Lowry on the Burning of Izmir

Mark Prentiss'  Jan. 1924 Atlantic Monthly article, "Actualities at Smyrna."

"Smyrna During the Greek Occupation"

"Prentiss Blames Armenians For Firing City of Smyrna"

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