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HomeBooks & ReviewsDIRILIS (Resurrection), by Turgut Ozakman

DIRILIS (Resurrection), by Turgut Ozakman

Bilgi Yayinevi,  March 2008, 3rd Printing

This is the 2nd of a Trilogy on the story of the final days of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

The first book, “Su Cilgin Turkler – Those Crazy Turks”, first published in 2005 and now in its 368th edition,  was about the war of independence, covering the period from 1919 to 1923. The author recently stated that he is now working on the third book of the trilogy, “Cumhuriyet – Republic”.

The 686-page book ends with the following statement:

“History is warning you for the last time:
Don’t sleep oh Turk.
If your vigour, unity, language, self-pride, history, fatherland and reputation is lost once again, you will never regain them. “

Many books have been written about the Canakkale – Dardanelles Expedition and the Gallipoli Campaign which changed not only the course of the First World War but also the world history. The 15-page list of references at the end of the 686 book includes most of the books written by Turks and several foreign authors.

Dirilis is the result of many years of research, based on a review of many of the books and publications and personal memoirs, by a one time lawyer, a historian and a writer. Turgut Ozakman has received numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees from many universities over the years, too many to list them except perhaps the “2006 – 2007 Ataturk Award” from Marmara University. He was born in Ankara in 1930. Dirilis is an incredible undertaking which is a gift to the concerned Turkish people around the world.

In the Introduction, the author reminds the readers that there are three kinds of books written on  Canakkale. First, books which ignore the role played by Mustafa Kemal and his achievements. The second kind is books which try to minimize the role of Mustafa Kemal, who can not dare to ignore his achievements but write in a way to underrate them. The third type present as if the commanders and soldiers did not play a role and the victory is told in religious superstitions and myths.

Following the introduction, the first section “The Beginnings” and in the next five sections, the book tells the story of the events that took place on both sides during the campaign, in a novel format, with emphasis on historical facts.  The period after the war, 1916-1918, is summarized in “The Results” part.

In “The Beginnings”, the critical date is 25 July 1914 when Sadrazam Sait Halim Pasa ask Sultan Resat’s Chief of Staff Ali Fuat bey that the Ottoman Empire should sign a treaty with the Germans and he should be authorized by the Sultan to begin the negotiations.

In the next five parts, every detail of the expedition, as seen from both sides are told.

First Part, 28 October 1914 – 18 February 1915, begins with the expedition of Yavuz battleship to the Black Sea and the bombing of Russian cities of Sivastapol, Odesa, Yalta, Kefe and Novorosiski, which resulted in Russia declaring war against the Ottoman Empire. The author reminds us that Enver Pasa played the Russian roulette and lost and the Russian armies invaded the eastern provinces on Nov 1, 1914. England, France and Belgium followed suit after the Russians and declared war also, which gave these countries the opportunity to meddle in the internal affairs of the empire and the Russians to call on the Armenians to revolt.

During this time, Mustafa Kemal was in Sofia as military attache to Ambassador Fethi Okyar. England lost no time and Churchill ordered the Dardanelles Expedition, sending a huge armada including submarinnes which sunk Mesudiye battleship as their first order of business. The tragedy of Sarikamis, mastermined by Enver Pasa, and the failed expediton to Egypt under Cemal Pasa’s leadership, is also told in this section.

Second Part, 19 February 1915 – 19 March 1915, begins with the assault of the Allied fleet at Dardanelles, officially starting the war on February 15, 1915. This was the first time that the English would be fighting against the Turks. Mustafa Kemal was appointed as the commander of the Eceabat Regional Forces which included the famous 57th Regiment.

As the fleet tries to enter the strait, the Turkish side sends out Nusrat Mayin ship, which sinks three of the biggest battleships and wins the heart of the soldiers (Nusrat Mayin Ship is exhibited at Canakkale Sea Museum, and a model at a park in Tarsus.) On March 18, the Turks win the battle and force the retreat of the allied navy, the day that is now celebrated as the Sea Victory Day across Turkey and abroad.

Third Part, 20 March 1915 – 24 April 1915 begins with the Allied forces admitting their defeat and abandoning their sea plan. Their goal now is to begin a land assault in parts of Gallipoli that led to the guessing where this would take place.

Liman Pasa believed that the assault would take place in Saror and sent the army-corps to this area. Mustafa Kemal predicted that the assault would take place at Ariburnu and areas below. A ship, Gulnihal, was converted into a hospital and sent to Canakkale, carrying Safiye Hanim, the first Turkish nurse.

Almost everyone knows about Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who cared for the wounded soldiers from the Crimean War, in whose name a Florence Nightingale Museum was established in London and also in Selimiye Kislasi in istanbul. Perhaps someday a museum can be established honouring the Turkish nurses who took part in the Dardanelles expedition.

Taking advantage of the Dardanelles expedition, the first Van rebellion of Armenians takes place which forces the government to arrest the agitators, committee members and rebels in Istanbul on April 24 (p.222.)

Fourth Part, 25 April 1915 – 2 August 1915 begins with the story of the preparation of 308 ship and sea boats for an assault, carrying the allied forces, with a small number of ships in Saros to distract the main plan.

Following the bombardment of the shores, the allied forces in the tens of thousands land at Ariburnu (later re-named Anzac Bay at the request of the Australian government) and begin one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

Esat Pasa, the commander of the forces meets with the commanders and the Turkish forces and Veliaht Yusuf Izzettin Efendi also pays a visit to the area.

Fifth Part, 3 August 1915 – 27 January 1916 tells the story of Orhan, a university student, who wants to go to Canakkale although he is sick, but wants to serve his country. His wish is finally granted and travels to Canakkale with one of the boats that carry ammunition and food.

The Allied forces try many times to capture the hills, but every time pushed back. Admitting defeat, the forces evacuate the area on 8/9 January, claiming this to be a tremendous success, but destroy much of the supplies that they leave behind.

In several sections, there are references to the revolts of Armenian rebels and the support given to the Russians by the Armenian deserters from the Turkish army in the east while the war in the west is waged against the allied forces that include the British, the French, the Irish, the ANZACS of Australian, the New Zealand soldiers, the GURKAS of Indian and Senegalian soldiers and others.

What happens after the campaign is over. This is told in “The Results” section, 1916 – 1918. Sultan Resat dies in 1918, succeeded by Vahidettin, the last Sultan (36th), Enver Pasa is killed in Turkistan fighting a war against the Russians, Talat Pasa murdered in Berlin, Cemal Pasa in Tiblisi and Sait Halim Pasa in Rome by Armenian terrorists. Colonel Mustafa Kemal is promoted to General on 1 April 2016, serving as the commander of armies in different locations.

The Results is followed by ”The Last Word” where the author tells the reader on the fate of the redoubts on both sides of the Canakkale straits and the cannons, which have all essentially been destroyed or sold for scrap. There is also a chronology of events, 105 pages of footnotes and explanations and an annexe about the “Engraved silhouette of a soldier with the following verses:”

Dur Yolcu! Bilmeden gelip bastigin
Bu toprak bir devrin battigi yerdir.”

Except, the poem was written after the 30 Agustos 1922 Victory Day, tells us Turgut Ozakman and suggests that this should be replaced by verses from Mehmet Akif’s “”Canakkale” poem.

Almost every other page of the book includes photographs of commanders, soldiers, both Turkish and foreign, battle sites, ships, including the Turkish Mesudiye Battleship which was sunk during the early phases of the battle, and maps of the battlefields.

The story of the awakening of the Turkish women who serve as nurses, throwing away their veils, the terror cast around Istanbul by the submarines that make their ways through the straits and sink several Turkish ships, the blunders of the German commander Liman Pasa are all told in a moving way.

Gallipoli, two books by Alan Moorehead and  Robert Rhodes James

I re-read many sections of two other books written by British authors on the Dardanelles naval and land assault while reading “Dirilis”. Gallipoli by Moorehead was the very first book that I had purchased when I arrived in the US in 1957, which was published in 1956.

This was probably one of the first and the definitive book on the Dardanelles Expedition  at the time, publicized as the ‘’The whole story of the most controversial campaign of modern times – an epic of gallantry and folly.”

Then another book with the same name, Gallipoli, was published by another Englishman, Robert Rhodes James in 1999. He states in the Preface that “He was long fascinated with Gallipoli when he was a schoolboy in 1947 and read two novels – A.P. Herbert’s The Secret Battle and Ernest Raymond’s Tell England– that were based upon the author’s personal experiences of the campaign.

Than James reads Alan Moorehead’s Gallipoli, which on his first reading, he shares the general admiration. However, after re-reading the book more carefully, he begins to have serious doubts, observing serious inaccuracies, unsustainable judgements and many gaps.

Realizing that  the “British Battles” Series had omitted Gallipoli, he decides to write about Gallipoli which he characterizes with the following:  “No single military campaign of modern times has been the subject of such intense and prolonged attention and controversy as the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.”

Those who have studied the Gallipoli campaign and read many books o this subject will certainly observe that even Robert Rhodes James does injustice to history admitting that, “I will not deny that I have deliberately omitted certain matters whose publication, even at this time, would give pain.” One of the distortion of facts in James’ book is reference to certain lost battles on the Turkish side which he characterizes as Kemal’s blunders although admitting that Mustafa Kemal’s intervention on April 25th and final achievement on August 10th on Conkbayiri (Chunuk Bair) were totally decisive while ignoring the failures of Liman Pasa, the German Commander of the Army in the region.

Unfortunately, neither one of these books nor several others written by Englishman and Americans, such as “Inside Constantinople During the Dardannelles Expedition, A Diplomat’s Diary, April – September 1915” by Lewis Einstein, are included in the long list of references in Dirilis. In fact, Lewis Einstein claims that if the fatal attack of the Allies on March 18 had never occurred, the massacres of the Armenians might have never taken place, although Epstein conveniently omits the Armenian uprisings and the killing of the Turks.

This subject is not covered much in “Dirilis”, purposely according to the author, listing only two references related to the Armenian issue.

This is an excellent book that will surely be read as widely as “Su Cilgin Turkler”. The book should be translated into English so that the young Turkish-Americans can learn about the history of Turkey truthfully. In fact, Turgut Ozakman should be invited to take part in the Turkish Week activities in NY City in May 2008 and deliver speeches on his books.

Yuksel Oktay, PE
30 March 2008
Washington, NJ

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