The Greek-Turkish War of 1919-22 was one of a series of bitter conflicts that erupted immediately after the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, and was a disastrous war that effectively destroyed the multi-cultural society that had existed in western Anatolia since ancient times.
The war was triggered by the combination of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and a Greek desire to regain territory that had been lost hundreds of years earlier, during the long collapse of Byzantium. At first the Greeks had some support from the victorious Allies, who occupied large chunks of what became modern Turkey for several years after the end of the First World War. This including the French in the south-east, the Italians in the south-west and an International Zone around the Sea of Marmara. The Greek occupation of western Asia Minor could thus been seen in the context of a temporary post-war occupation, but that clearly wasn’t what they had in mind.
At first opposition to the Greeks was limited and mainly came from irregular troops. However the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal, was eventually able to build a Nationalist Army, come to terms with the Italians and French, and expel the Greeks after a series of major battles. At the same time Kemal was able to exert pressure on the Entente forces occupying Istanbul, who agreed to withdraw. On 1 November 1922 the last Ottoman Sultan abdicated, marking the end of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of the modern Turkish Republic. The war was marred by massive ethnic cleansing on both sides, including the expulsion or flight of well over one million Greeks and Christians from Turkish territory and half a million Muslims from the former European provinces of the Empire. The fighting itself ended with the occupation of Smyrna in September 1922, which was followed by a disastrous and still controversial fire.
This book provides a brief narrative of the war, and then moves on to look at the very varied forces that fought on both sides. On the Greek side the regular army was the main force from the start, but they also had irregular allies. On the Turkish side the initial fighting was done by local irregulars, before the Nationalist Army was formed from the wreck of the Ottoman Army. The Caliphate was also allowed a small army, but this dissolved when threatened by the Nationalists. Both sides relied on equipment left over from the First World War, using a mix of uniforms, guns and other equipment. The key to the Turkish victory was the dramatic recovery of the Nationalist Army over the winter of 1921-22, which gets a great deal of attention.
This is a useful examination of the armies that fought in an important but often forgotten conflict, that helped set the tone for the hostile relationship between Greece and Turkey.
The Greek Army in Asia Minor
Author: Philip S. Jowett