Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


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 Here is a missionary report from "Armenian Affairs" Magazine. Emphasized lines are Holdwater's.


The Pensacola Party and Relief Work in Turkey

Rev, Ernest C. Partridge was a missionary among the Armenians for about a quarter of a century. Between 1900 and 1917 he was the head of the American Teachers College in Sivas, Turkey, and from 1922 to 1926 was the educational director of the Near East Relief in the Armenian Soviet Republic. In the past few years he has been active in various national committees working in behalf of the Armenian people.


 Armenian Affairs, Summer-Fall 1950, Vol. I, No. 3-4, pp. 293-297 

The Pensacola Party and Relief Work in Turkey

IN the fall of 1915, following the deportation of the Armenians from Turkey, a group of business men in New York organized the Armenian Relief Committee and set out to raise funds for relief work among them. This work was carried on until after the Armistice with increasing volume and success, but it was felt that the problem was so great that an organization authorized by Congress would be essential to handle the work; so the Near East Relief Organization was set up. It was my privilege to be in charge of the first large party of relief workers who took out to Constantinople the first shipload of mixed supplies — medical, food and clothing. The War Department loaned our organization the use of a transport for one trip from New York to Beirut and Constantinople. This was the freight steamer Pensacola, which was engaged in bringing back troops from France,

The cargo of 7,000 tons consisted of food, clothing, fifteen complete hospital units of fifty beds each, including medicines for one year, surgical instruments, bedding and all the necessities for 1,500 beds.

The party of forty-two men, mostly young, volunteered for a year’s service at $50.00 per month and their expenses. Of these five or six were former missionaries returning to their fields, and a number of aviators who had prepared for the European war but had not been able to get across in time, so were glad to have this year’s experience. They were, on the whole, a very fine bunch of men who did valuable service in Turkey, all of them for a year; some of them for much longer. There were ten members of the Mennonite Church, most of whom were experienced farmers and mechanics, and they proved themselves very hard, and useful workers wherever they went.

In preparation for the trip I bought several crates of oranges, lemons and apples in order to supplement the food served on the ship. We were told at headquarters that we were to be the guests of Uncle Sam and would be well provisioned as to food. As it turned out, the officers of the ship, who had their own cook and dining room, fared pretty well, but we were assigned to the tender mercies of the sailors’ cook, whom the men said was the worst cook they had ever had. Many times they had threatened to drown him. The food was atrocious. We were given one section of a deck just below the main deck. Our organization put in iron spring beds, double deckers, with good mattresses, so that we slept comfortably. Most of the men had never been on the sea and were seasick off and on throughout the voyage. We had one photographer from a New York paper in the party who, though sick most of the time, never missed the opportunity of climbing the mast and taking pictures of passing ships, in spite of his disability.

After the Atlantic voyage we landed first at Gibraltar, and there I went ashore to see if I could find food to supplement what we were getting from the cook; but Gibraltar was barren. I purchased a few baskets of figs and olives but could get nothing else. After ten days on the Atlantic, during which time many of my men were seasick, they needed better food; so we dug down into the hold below us, where we found the finest of American canned foods, and I supplemented what the cook gave us from these supplies, which were for our consumption on the field, feeling it was my duty to get the men there.


 The Mediterranean trip was smoother and we came into the Syrian harbor of Beirut just too late in the evening to land, We were the first party flying the American flag to reach Syria since early in the war. There we discharged one-third of our cargo. The Mennonite members of our party proved their usefulness, because within two to three hours after we began to land supplies, they had Reo half-ton trucks out of the hold on their wheels and in operation hauling supplies from the dock to the warehouse. We had here the help of Egyptian English soldiers, who did the actual labor under the supervision of my men. We left about one-third of our personnel there and proceeded to Constantinople. There we were assigned two German-built warehouses on the bay just off the city, and proceeded to unload our cargo. Dr. James L. Barton, Chairman of the Relief Organization, and members of his Commission, came down to welcome us and informed us that four days later at 4:00 p.m. a train-load of supplies was scheduled to go down to Baghdad Railroad for distribution. With the help of several hundred Egyptian English soldiers, this feat was accomplished, the ship was emptied and sailed for France.

Of the many interesting incidents on our railroad journey, perhaps the most dramatic was this: We came into a railroad station where we had to wait for an engine, and there I fell in with an English captain who, with his soldiers, was policing that section of the railroad. He informed me that Zeki Pasha, the man who had so atrociously abused the Armenians in Mesopotamia, was in the village trying to escape. The railroad yard was full of cars loaded inside and on top with women and children returning from the deportations to their former homes. As I was walking down the track with a companion, we saw a rush of these Armenian people toward the station platform and hurried back to find out what was going on. There we found that this Zeki Pasha had come down to the station, evidently trying to escape, when some of these Armenian women recognized him and attacked him savagely. To save his life, the British soldiers locked him up in the freight station. Most of the men in my party had cameras and they were very anxious to have a picture of this man; so the English captain had him brought out, stood him up against the wall of the freight station between a couple of Scottish soldiers in kilts, and allowed us to take his picture. He is the man of whom it is authentically reported (and I have seen the documents) that he had gasoline poured on a box car train load of women and children and set it on fire. I never heard what his end was, but no end was too bad for him.

Holdwater: Not a very "Christian" way to think, is it? Even if these "documents" were "authentically reported"... just the kind of evidence the British were seeking so unsuccessfully for the Malta Tribunal.

Our train was to be in two parts, one of which Dr. Barton was taking down to points south toward Syria. The other part was mine, and we were going down the railroad about half way to Syria and then by car and truck up into the interior, leaving supplies at three places along the road. Our party was held some time at Konia, part way down the railroad, because I had received instructions from a member of the Commission not to leave the railroad without a British guard. This proved to be impossible, because, according to the terms of the Armistice, the line of the Baghdad Railroad was the limit to which allied troops could go to the north.2 I was always glad that we finally went up into the country protected by one Turkish gendarme, because the Turks welcomed us, and English soldiers would only have gotten us into trouble. At the point where we were to leave the railroad we secured from the Government a warehouse and put the contents of our ten to twelve box cars into it, leaving one of our American boys in charge. Our party which started up into the interior consisted of a truck train of ten Reo two-ton trucks whim solid flat tires, which frequently slipped off the road, and two Ford cars.

Holdwater: Isn't that amazing? The Ottomans were thoroughly beaten, the British were in charge, and the Turks still possessed more warmth in their hearts toward these frequently hostile foreign agents who aided in the empire's dishonor and demise. (Note how at the end of the next paragraph, the Turkish governor and mayor wished to treat this party royally.)

Missionary Mary Louise Graffam

Missionary Mary Louise Graffam

Of personnel I had with me two American volunteer workers who drove the Fords, two American women, our former Sivas nurse, Mrs. Levon Sewny, and Mary Hubbard, of Sivas missionary parentage, who helped in the orphanage and in industrial work, both of whom with experience in their work proved very valuable helpers, and last, but not least, Dr. Washburn, a famous Boston physician of 70 years, who had come out to supervise the setting up of the hospitals. The American boys drove the Fords, but the truck drivers were all native Turks or Greeks, with little experience. Due to accident, we covered only ten miles the first day, and a drive of 250 miles consumed four to five days. After a very disagreeable trip (this was in March) we reached Sivas, my old home. We were greeted two hours outside the city by Mary Graffam,3 who had remained there all through the war carrying on relief work, the last part of the time, the only American in the province. She was accompanied by a small group of Armenian women who had remained with her as helpers and nurses in the hospital. Our first surprise was that the governor of the province and the mayor of Sivas, who awaited us at the edge of the city, asked the privilege of giving us a banquet.


2 It is easy to see why the Turks sought such a provision in the terms of the Armistice; as beyond the Baghdad Railroad lay Armenia to the north and the Mesopotamian desert to the south, the two places where the deportations and massacres had wreaked havoc on the Armenians. It is also significant that it is in that area where Mustafa Kemal’s movement started. Did the Allies have their tongues in their cheeks when they signed the Armistice? Was it part of their plan to revive Turkey under some such leader as Kemal? For the answer see later in this article. That is really what happened, in a different setting, at the end of the second World War.—Ed.
3 See her biographical sketch by the author of this article in Armenian Affairs, Winter 1949-1950, I, 62.65.—Ed [Available at TAT; See link, bottom]

Holdwater: To answer the question raised by the Armenian Affairs editor, "Armenia" did not lie to the north. These centuries-old Turkish lands which were being occupied by the Armenians (the time period here must have been after the Armistice in late 1918) were devastated of Muslim lives and properties as American eyewitnesses Niles and Sutherland testified in 1919. So there was nothing to "hide" in these lands, not from the vantage of the Turks. If we're speaking of lands still in Turkish hands, what could the allied soldiers have seen? That the areas were cleared of Armenians, and now fast being reoccupied by Armenians who were returning (I suppose following the Ottoman decree of Dec. 21, 1918), as the reverend himself has reported?

As far as hiding the "Mesopotamian desert" (this is the region known as "The Fertile Crescent": no "Lawrence of Arabia" sand dunes in these parts) from allied eyes, what is the Armenian editor talking about? The British were in occupation of these lands, by this time... and could take as much of a look as they desired.

Was the Armenian editor in possession of his faculties when he speculated that the Allies planned to revive Turkey under a leader like Kemal?

The Allies had far from their tongues in their cheeks when they signed the Armistice, as many of the provisions were not respected, especially as time went on. What the British had in mind for the devastated empire became all too clear with the Sèvres Treaty — i.e., the death of the Turkish nation.


 I found Sivas a very busy place at the time of our arrival. Deported Armenians were trekking back to their former homes, and we had through our city a constant stream of people returning way up to the Black Sea coast. The relief work, considering the fact that Miss Graffam was alone, was as well organized and ministering to the needs of these refugee trekkers. In the course of a few weeks we had reinforcements from Constantinople, so that I had on my staff seventeen Americans, including orphanage workers, teachers, nurses, doctors, industrial supervisors, and office workers. During that short period, with the increasing return of people from the road, we had orphanages housing several hundred children and were giving relief to about three thousand widows.

Three interesting groups of visitors passed through our city during the summer. About the middle of the summer, as I remember, I received from our office in Constantinople a telegram saying, "Mustafa Kemal is on his way to Sivas. Meet him and help him in his work." I went immediately to the governor general and asked him who this man was and what he was coming for. He said he had been the Turkish commander in the Dardanelles campaign and was coming to Sivas about a number of civil and military matters, one of which was the repossession of their property by the Armenians, of which they had been deprived in the deportation. I thought, "Well, that sounds good. I will meet him and help him in his work." But the day before he reached our city the governor general received a telegram from the central government instructing him to arrest Mustafa Kemal and send him back to Constantinople in chains as a traitor. He was organizing all along the road as he came in a new revolutionary government against the Constantinople government. He passed through our city quietly, went up to the Russian front, organizing against the central government. He had gathered such a following that the governor general did not dare lay hands upon him. A little later he returned to Sivas and was there most of the summer and early fall, after which he went down to Konia and Angora and set up a government which still exists there. Years later I asked the friend who had sent the telegram to me from Constantinople why he had sent that telegram, and he said the British and French were at odds over the government of the city, and the British helped him to escape from Constantinople in order that he might go into the interior and set up this government, which they thought would be more favorable to them. At that time one frequently saw on the busy street corners in Constantinople a Turkish policeman on one corner, and on two of the other three corners British, French or Italian soldiers. These foreign soldiers were not there primarily to keep order, but rather to watch each other, and see that no country got the jump on the other.

Another interesting incident occurred during the summer. President Wilson had sent from Paris to the Near East a commission of two men — my old college president, Doctor King of Oberlin, and a business man from New York, Charles R. Crane, as a volunteer board of investigation to collect facts regarding an American mandate for Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and all the Near East. I had the privilege twice in Constantinople while they were there, of talking to these gentlemen at length about their work. I asked President King if, without betraying confidence, he could tell me what they planned to report, and he said they were definitely in favor of the United States taking a mandate,. I asked why. He said, "We got into the war last; we got out of it first; we made vast sums of money out of the war; and in order to save our own soul, America must take on a task to make a better world." He thought this might be our task.

Holdwater: Let's follow the logic of the theologian, Dr. King: the implication is that the USA acted immorally, and in order to save their souls, the immoral USA should have been entrusted to make the right decisions affecting all of the Ottoman peoples? Is that what Woodrow Wilson was striving for, to make a better world, by indiscriminately awarding centuries-old Turkish lands to his beloved minority of "Christian" Armenians? Here is a blatant example of the superior air the Westerners were capable of... they knew what was best, of course.

General James Harbord

General James Harbord 

A third interesting group of visitors we had in Sivas during the summer. President Wilson sent another deputation, a military deputation, to investigate a mandate from the military point of view. This deputation was composed of Major General Harboard [sic], who was General Pershing’s chief of staff in France, two other major generals, and fourteen other army officers. They had seventeen privates as their guard and chauffeurs. This commission contained railroad, mining and highway experts, who were looking up the financial possibilities of the country if we should take a mandate. They landed from the south Syrian coast, came up through the interior, passed through our city, and went on to Armenia and out by the Black Sea. We entertained this party of thirty-four men for a day and night while they made their investigations.

Holdwater: While the reverend comes across as somewhat "sane" in this article, let's not forget: he was a die-hard missionary. The missionaries were motivated by religious fanaticism in various degrees, and were given permission in their prayers to vilify the heathen Turks. Just as British gentlemen such as Arnold Toynbee could justify their lying while in the service of Her Majesty's propaganda departments, so too were these clergymen given license to break away from the Ninth Commandment, THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST THY NEIGHBOR. It wasn't difficult for the word of these "moral" people to be accepted at face value by the Christian West, since everyone knew people of the book would be honest to a fault. This fact became all the easier while convincing those who were in the role of performing the investigations. Dr. King, of the King Crane Commission, was the ex-head of the reverend's missionary school, and General Harbord was similarly a deeply religious Christian.

We can see the open access Rev. Partridge had to both these commissions, and he must have represented a handful of all the religious fanatics these commissions spoke with. To get an idea about these missionaries' influence, let's quote Richard Hovannisian from his "US post war commission" chapter ("America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915," 2003, p. 268):

"Harbord was told by Dr. Ernest Partridge and his sister-in-law Mary Louise Graffam that, of the nearly 200,000 Armenians of the (Sivas) province, only about 10,000 survived and these in a completely servile status."

Now how in the world could these two missionaries have arrived at the figures of survivors? Did they conduct an investigation as to what happened to each of those 200,000? (182,912 is Justin McCarthy's pre-war number, to be exact.) As Partridge relates in his own account, the Armenians were returning by the truckload. He tells us how Armenian women behaved like savages against a Turkish official who is made to sound like an awful villain. Does that sound like "completely servile" behavior?

These two commissions, the civilian and military, made their reports, but due to the failure of our entry into the League of Nations, nothing apparently came of them. As we say in Turkey, the reports were put under the minder, or cushion. This is a figure of speech that is used about governors and high officials who receive petitions upon which they do not wish to act favorably, and simply slip them under the cushion of the seat where they are sitting, and there they remain. And that is where they have remained to this day. I understood years later, after I had returned to America, that the Harboard commission report called for an expenditure of millions of dollars and an army of one hundred thousand American soldiers to set up and operate a mandate of Armenia. It was my opinion, if the government had sent a man like Colonel Haskell, who started the relief work in Russia toward the end of the war, with a staff of a group of officers and a few hundred men, they could have operated a mandate successfully without any interference or opposition. I made this remark to my friend, Dr. Barton, and he agreed with me. The relief and orphanage work in Sivas was built up and carried on from the early spring of 1919 into the summer of 1922, three years, when the new Turkish government made the work of the Near East Relief so difficult that the orphans were all removed from Turkey and taken over to Greece.

Woodrow Wilson awards land to Armenians

Who did Preacher's son Woodrow Wilson think he was?

Holdwater: Doing relief work is not the same as setting up a mandate, where (in this example) the United States would have been the "boss," probably making imperialist decisions like awarding "Wilsonian Armenia" to a gaggle of murderous Armenians in charge of a greater population of Muslims. It wouldn't have been long before the armed gaggle began operating in the bloodthirsty way the Armenians had proven themselves, with their familiar ethnic cleansing methods against defenseless civilians, even under the supervision of superior powers. This powderkeg would have soon exploded, and the USA would have found itself in the terrible position of committing more and more troops and money... just as would happen in Vietnam years later. Here's a sampling of the arguments in the U.S. Congress, as this mandate was being considered.








See Also:

Mary Louise Graffam: Witness to "Genocide," or Suffering?


Near East Relief

"Protestant Diplomacy": Missionary Influence








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