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SHIPS OF MERCY - The true Story of the Rescue of the Greeks - Smyrna September 1922


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For more than eighty years, Greek history has claimed that American warships were in the Smyrna harbor, yet provided no help. In fact, many Greeks have said that when the city's citizens swam out to these ships, they were forced away. Stories were told of American sailors throwing scalding water on them, smashing their hands with tools, and pushing them away with poles. The Smyrna citizens who were rescued from the quay were supposedly saved by Japanese ships. America, many Greeks say, turned a blind eye. Furthermore, many Greeks hold America largely to blame for this nightmare occurring in the first place.                       

They believe that the United States and her World War I Allies double-crossed the Greeks, by first ordering them to march into Turkey, then abandoning them when the Turks pushed the Greek army back to the coast.

Yet the facts about Smyrna have always been sketchy. Did events really unfold as many Greeks and others believe? We decided to find out the truth, as we believe that all sides need to know, without doubt, what occurred in Smyrna during September 1922.
 

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ISBN: 978-1-921406-44-7
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 254
Genre: Non Fiction

 

 

 

Author: Christos Papoutsy
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English

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About the Author

Christos Papoutsy (Papoutsis) was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, a second-generation Greek-American. His father was born in Vatoussa, Lesvos (Mytilene) and his mother’s family was from Asvestochori on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. He is a successful business executive, semi-retired -wide and developing his company into a global leader in the electronics industry. Mr. Papoutsy is a business graduate of Southern New Hampshire University, with post-degree studies at Harvard University in law, mediation, and psychology. In 1961 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater. An active philanthropist in his local community and international circles, he holds the title of Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, among many other awards and distinctions. He has lectured on business and business ethics at universities and institutions in Europe and the U.S., including Oxford University and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens. In addition to his interest in business ethics, he has researched the Catastrophe of Smyrna extensively because of his contact with many Mikrasiastes on Mytilene, his father’s ancestral home, and has launched Hellenic Communication Service at the Web site: www.helleniccomserve.com and information service for Greek communities.

Ships of Mercy reveals the true heroes of Smyrna, forgotten by history. It is based on more than ten years of research by the Papoutsys, who traveled around the globe to document the rescue of hundreds of thousands of Greek refugees on the Smyrna quay in September 1922. After more than a decade of preparation, this book uncovers surprising answers and displays previously unpublished materials. Vintage photographs, exhibits, naval war diaries and captains’ logs appear for the first time in the pages of this volume. Ships of Mercy dispels common myths about the evacuation of the refugees and documents clearly the real saviors in this enormous tragedy.

Preface

MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, we began a journey to uncover the truth about what happened to the Greek citizens in Smyrna, Turkey, from September 1 to September 30, 1922. It was a time of both tragedy and heroism, but as the years passed, events were lost to history. Few modern books even discuss Smyrna, but the aftermath has left its mark on hundreds of thousands of families, and the misunderstandings surrounding the events resonate today in Greece’s relationship with other nations.
During that period, September 1922, hundreds of thousands of Greek women, children and elderly men stood on the Smyrna quay with their backs to the sea. They had been driven there after Smyrna fell to the Turkish army. The Greek army had been routed, and immediate help was not forthcoming. For a time, it looked as though these desperate people would die either in the sea or in one of the violent outbreaks that were becoming increasingly common. While they awaited their fate, they suffered from hunger and thirst, and baked under the hot sun. For more than eighty years, Greek history has claimed that American warships were in the Smyrna harbor, yet provided no help. In fact, the Greeks have said that when the city’s citizens swam out to these ships, they were forced away.
Stories were told of American sailors throwing scalding water on them, smashing their hands with tools, and pushing them away with poles. The Smyrna citizens who were rescued from the quay were supposedly saved by Japanese ships. America, say the Greeks, turned a blind eye. Furthermore, the Greeks hold America largely to blame for this night-to march into Turkey, then abandoning them when the Turks pushed the Greek army back to the coast. Yet, the facts about Smyrna have always been sketchy.
Did events as we believe that all sides need to know, without doubt, what occurred in Smyrna during September 1922. We also wanted to recognize the loss of Smyrna and the suffering of the refugees, and acknowledge one of the most painful and infamous exoduses in history—that of the Ionian Greeks from the land of their heritage. Our research took us all over the world. We spent more than a decade visiting museums, libraries, government archives, media archives, the war departments of numerous nations, and historical departments. We hired read scores of books and magazine articles. We searched worldwide via the Internet. Gradually, our search began to yield answers—surprising answers, yet answers that were corroborated again and again through multiple sources.
This book is unique in that it reveals several key pieces of history that were lost for more than eight decades. Relations among several nations have been strained due to these misunderstandings. Equally tragic, deeds book helps right a wrong, and brings to light what we hope will be healing information. Our research has uncovered indisputable facts that have told the truth. The story is powerful and surprising, and one the world should hear.

Introduction (part sample)

Today, SMYRNA is called IZMIR. Izmir is a fully Turkish city, but this was not always so. Once the streets of Smyrna rang with many dialects; once her vitality and her soul were Greek. As late at the 1920s, Smyrna was a place of many cultures, blending as they had for centuries in this vital seaport.
To fully understand how the events at Smyrna unfolded, it is important to take a step back in time. Some of the events had their roots in wars and political actions from decades earlier. Others went back even further, to ancient land claims and lost empires. Religion played a role, too, as the ugly head. The Smyrna catastrophe was in part a result of the unrest that had been brewing for some time between Turks and Greeks within the Ottoman Empire; it was also brought about by the continuing desire for the vibrant lands of Asia Minor.
The Ottoman Empire
Today, we think of Turkey as one relatively small country, as it is depicted on a map. But for centuries, Turkey, as head of the Ottoman Empire, ruled a large portion of the world. At its height, the Ottoman Empire stretched from parts of Europe to Asia Minor and northern Africa. It existed from roughly the sixteenth century until 1923, when the empire was divided among other nations and Turkey became a republic. The interior of Turkey is rugged, broken by jagged mountains and high plateaus. More than once it has played a key role in Turkey’s survival, as many an army has come to ruin in the treacherous mountain passes. passions and great skills as warriors. Along the coast the land is different, and so are the people. Here, numerous cultures have blended for centuries, and the blending shows in the art and architecture, in the bazaars, in the customs and dress of the citizens.
Smyrna, on Turkey’s coast, was a city like this—educated, cultured, a beautiful urban center full of vitality. Ottoman Empire was that of Greece. Greeks had claimed this part of Asia Minor since the eighth century BC. Alexander the Great expanded this claim with his conquests, and for the thousands of years since, Greek descendants kept their culture alive in this part of the world. Even suffering cultures were interwoven in a myriad of ways. The Greeks were primarily Christian, as were a number of other Muslim. This major philosophical difference did cause clashes, but they passed, and Greeks and Turks, Armenians and Kurds, continued to meld in the rich lands of Asia Minor.

BOOK REVIEW - By Sophia Nibi 

Ships of Mercy: The True Story of the Rescue of the Greeks, Smyrna, September 1922

By Christos Papoutsy   

Because life, and history for that matter, is personal, I have always thought that the burning of the Mediterranean Metropolis of Smyrna in 1922 is my mother’s story.  Today, 86 years later, thanks to a newly published book, Ships of Mercy: The true Story of the Rescue of the Greeks, Smyrna, September 1922 by Christos Papoutsy, I know that the rescue of the hundreds of thousands of refugees of that great catastrophe is Asa Jennings’ story.  Jennings was a quiet, humble American Y.M.C.A. worker who moved heaven and earth to secure the evacuation of thousands of people, including, perhaps, my mother and her family.  Well documented in the book, Christos Papoutsy shows how driven by the force of his moral convictions, Asa Jennings engineered one of the largest rescue efforts in history.  

Today’s Turkish city of Izmir has nothing in common with the cosmopolitan city known as Smyrna in which my mother was born in 1916 and where at the age of six she witnessed unspeakable atrocities which haunted her till the day she died in Wellesley, MA at the age of 81.  In my lifelong search to find more about my mother’s childhood about which she would not talk because if was too painful, I have read just about every book about the Great Fire of 1922 during which 55,000 homes and 5,000 shops were burned and thousands of men, women and children were gasping for life on the quay of that historic city whose magnificent civilization spanned centuries.  And I have learned a lot about the heroic generation of the Greeks of Asia Minor.  But until now, I never knew how they were rescued or what a significant role an American, not just a forgotten hero, but until now also an unknown hero contributed to saving so many lives.  Ships of Mercy convincingly clarifies the role of the United States Navy, showing how American naval officers horrified by the plight of the refugees, worked with Asa Jennings and organized the ships in the area into a large-scale rescue operation.  Vessels from the United States, Great Britain, Italy and France evacuated thousands from the Turkish shores.  The American vessels also provided food and medical care, and delivered supplies to the refugee camps. 

Ships of Mercy does not tell the entire story of Smyrna and the Great Fire that destroyed it.   But it tells a lot and offers undisputed evidence of its presentation.  The book’s pages contain exactly what the Christos Papoutsy said it would when he chose the 15-word title.  Through an extensive ten-year long research by the author and his wife, Mary, which took them to many parts of the world interviewing descendants and records, the book offers a compelling backed by facts account of the resulting conditions from the Great Fire of September 14, 1922 and of the determined role Asa Jennings played in the rescue from the massacre.   The photographs are haunting.  The reproduced original news accounts and correspondence so telling that the reader finds herself in the middle of the massacre and feels the agony, the pain, the despair, and also the hope as the ships arrive.   

What Christos Papoutsy has given us and history through Ships of Mercy: The True Story of the Rescue of the Greeks, Smyrna, September 1922” is a magnificent missing piece of an epic event which the world has not always treated fairly.  I, a proud descendant of the heroic generation of the Greeks of Asia Minor, am grateful to Christos Papoutsy for presenting a documented and undisputed account which I view not just as a historical fact but also as a respectful tribute to my mother and to the Greeks of that historic area who lost the country they loved overnight through a catastrophe that not only should not have happened, but which should have at the very least been a lesson not to be repeated.  Sadly, as evidenced by the holocausts that followed it in other parts of the world, man’s inhumanity to man remains a condition not easy to eradicate. 

Ships of Mercy: The True Story of the Rescue of the Greeks, Smyrna, September 1922 should be on the history shelves of every library.  It is a book to have and read, a book to give as a gift, a book for lovers of history to study again and again.  Personally, I plan to visit its pages at least once a year, on September 14, the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, the day in 1922 when the Great Fire destroyed a civilization, killed thousands, and altered the lives of hundreds of thousands who left the land of their birth and became refugees in other lands.  And on September 14, I will not only think and reflect on my mother’s life but, thanks to Christos Papoutsy I will also offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the soul of one man, Asa Jennings, who showed us how “one person can make a difference, even in the most extreme circumstances.  Asa Jennings didn’t just believe this; he lived it.  We can aspire to do the same.” (Ships of Mercy, page 219)    

 

Sophia Nibi, the administrative assistant in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, is a former journalist, is a freelance writer. 

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