Victory Day – Turkey – Zafer Bayrami

August 30


Today (August 30) Turkey celebrates Victory Day. The day honors those who have served in Turkey’s military and who fought heroically in the nation’s battles. Throughout the past two millennia, some of history’s greatest battles have been fought on what is now Turkish soil, but of all these, the Battle of Dumlipinar, fought in August 1922, was singled out to serve as the country’s Victory Day.

The Battle of Dumlipinar was the last major battle of the Greek campaign of the Turkish War for Independence (1919-1923).

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire found itself, along with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, at the losing end of an Armistice. The Treaty of Mudros didn’t reflect the reality of a war that in many ways was a stalemate. Western powers seized Ottoman towns and territory in the coming years…

“Greece, in a wild imperial venture supported by Britain, had invaded western Anatolia, hoping to make itself an Aegean ‘great power’ and to construct a ‘greater Greece’ out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. But the invasion ended not simply in Greece’s defeat at the battle of Dumlupinar in 1922, but in a calamitous rout and slaughter which drove not only the Greek armies but much of the Greek civilian population of Anatolia into the sea.”

— Neal Ascherson, Black Sea

As part of the treaty following the Greco-Turkish War, Turks and Greeks engaged in a population exchange, whereby Greek Muslims moved to Turkey and Turkish Christians moved to Greece. (Population Exchange Commission, 1923)

During these same years, Turkish revolutionaries under Mustafa Kemal simultaneously defeated the French and the Armenians in separate campaigns, forcing the Allies to revisit earlier treaties. The Turks dissolved the Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, and a new Turkish Republic was established, with Mustafa Kemal as its leader.

The Turkish Nation consists of the valiant descendants of a people that has lived independently and has considered independence the sole condition of existence. This nation has never lived without freedom, cannot and never will.

— Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

National Maritime Day

May 22

They say there’s nary a time like maritime — or is that no time like show time? At any rate, if there was ever a time to celebrate the merchant marine, that would be today, May 22, National Maritime Day.

Today the United States commemorates all those who have served in the merchant marine. Congress declared May 22 National Maritime Day in 1933. They chose May 22 because it was the anniversary of the day back in 1819 when the steamship SS Savannah left Savannah harbor in Georgia on its way to becoming the first steam-powered vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The SS Savannah arrived in Liverpool, England, twenty-nine days and four hours later. Even though it spent most of the journey sailing rather than steaming, the success of the Savannah was an important milestone for a young nation bordered by two oceans, and the voyage  made more established nations  such as England, Sweden, Russia, and France take note. King Charles XVI even offered to buy the Savannah for $100,000 of hemp and iron.

The merchant marine would be a vital component of U.S. Defense over the next 190 years. In fact, during World War II, the merchant marine suffered a higher casualty than any branch of the armed forces except for the Marines. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that merchant marine veterans were accorded many of the rights and privileges of other veterans.

SS Savannah


National Maritime Day is also a good time to educate youngsters about those eternal questions of life at sea. Questions like “Why is it called a ‘poop deck’?” No, you don’t need to avoid the poop deck on humid days. Poop is from the French ‘la poupe’, meaning stern (stern like in rear, not like your 4th grade teacher). The poop deck is so named because it’s located in the aft of the ship.

As for the Savannah, its post-Atlantic life was less than glamorous. The steam-powered engined was removed to make more space for cargo. Two years later, the ship that sailed the Atlantic was wrecked off the coast of Long Island. It would take another 30 years for a second U.S. steamship to successfully cross the Atlantic.

City of Savannah – S.S. Savannah

Historic Speedwell – S.S. Savannah


April 25

Last month the nation of Turkey remembered Victory of Canakkale, the World War I campaign that unified the Turkish spirt and brought together disparate elements that would form the Turkish nation.

But for every victor there’s the vanquished.

The Allies of World War I, including the French, British, Indian, Australian and New Zealanders, suffered a quarter million casualties in the Dardanelles (Canakkale) campaign. At the forefront of the battle, the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand took a disproportional brunt of the death and disease that characterized the fight.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC Day falls on the anniversary of the landing of the first Australian and New Zealand troops on April 25, 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula on Turkey’s Aegean coast. The assault was ill-planned and inadequately supplied.

The Turks entrenched themselves on the high ground pouring artillery and machine gun fire down upon the hapless Australian, New Zealand, Irish, French and British troops below.The battleground soon resembled that of the Western Front – both sides peering at each other from fortified trenches, forced to spill their precious blood in futile frontal attacks on well defended positions. —

In the aftermath of Gallipoli a rift widened between the two southern hemisphere countries and the British Empire they had been proud to be a part of. Resentment grew against Allied commanders for the ill-conceived attack that led Australians and New Zealanders like lambs to the slaughter, and for the motives involved in using Australian and New Zealand troops to invade the far-off lands.

About 40 per cent of all Australian males aged between 18 and 45 voluntarily enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), that is about 417,000 men, of whom about 60 000 died in all campaigns and another 160,000 were wounded or maimed. — Geoffrey Partington, Gallipoli – the Facts Behind the Myths

[Still, Partington clarifies, “the British, French and Indian causalities were far greater than those of the Anzacs,” and “the British bore the brunt of the fighting – and the losses.”]

ANZAC Day is one of the most important holidays in both Australia and New Zealand, observed as Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.

“On Anzac Day, we remember not only the original Anzacs who died on April 25, 1915, but every one of our service men and women who have served and died in all wars, conflicts, peacekeeping, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions,” — Australia Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston

For the record, Victory of Canakkale is no celebration in Turkey. It’s also known as “Martyrs’ Day”. The Turks suffered even more casualties than the Allies, around 300,000, in the brutal Dardanelles campaign alone. Today, the monuments and memorials of Gallipoli serve as a grim reminder that in war even the winners pay the price.

ANZAC Memorial, Sydney. Photo by Matthew Lammers