868.48/113: Telegram

The High Commissioner at Constantinople (Bristol) to the Acting Secretary of State


190. Department’s telegram 122 of September 15, 5 p.m.12 The following message was received from Smyrna:

“September 15. After conference with prominent British, French, Italian, and American naval officers now at Smyrna, it was decided that the only solution is the evacuation of refugees. Accordingly the Italian Admiral will try to get permission from Kemal for Greek ships to enter Smyrna harbour for evacuation. Need for immediate evacuation is also being brought to attention of home governments. In event Kemal refuses, the thing to avoid is delay in action. Estimate 150,000 refugees to be evacuated.”

[Page 425]

The naval representatives at Smyrna arrived at this decision after several conferences initiated by Captain Hepburn, my chief of staff, when it began to appear that attitude of Allied navies present was to take no action to meet the emergency. Have encountered same disposition in British High Commissioner (see my 179 of September 13, 1 p.m., and my despatch 433 of September 1313). In accordance with Department’s telegram referred to above, I will await results of this conference before taking further steps to confer with my colleagues lest Smyrna negotiations be delayed by action here. If agreement cannot be reached with Turks, and Smyrna negotiations are delayed, I will then approach Allied colleagues on question of meeting situation at Smyrna by joint and comprehensive plan.

Last night the French High Commissioner, General Pellé, left unexpectedly for Smyrna in company of French Admiral, who had arrived here only an hour before their departure.

I am entirely in accord with Department’s view that private charity is quite unequal to the situation. Necessity for relief in regions devastated by retreating Greek forces is evident from reports of my officers in Brousse area and reports from other sources. American relief activities should be restricted, in my opinion, to Anatolia in giving aid to refugees awaiting evacuation, and the task of evacuating these refugees and providing for them at their ultimate destinations should be urged upon Greek and Allied Governments. It is probable that transporting and settling refugees will require protracted relief and that there will be little prospect of early remedy of situation. Conditions in Smyrna and Mudania districts have been ameliorated by unofficial operations already under way. The Allies should be brought to see responsibility not only for relief of refugees but also for prevention of even more serious occurrences. Not only do they have at hand naval and military organizations and equipment useful in relief operations, but they are also in some sense responsible for the present lamentable state of affairs. Kemal’s threat to advance against Constantinople is causing apprehension in the city, and it would take very little to create a panic. In considering local situations at Mudania and Smyrna, the possibility of a far greater disaster should also be kept in mind.

I shall be careful to inform Department fully of further action taken under instructions received from Department.

  1. Text quoted in telegram no. 290, Sept. 15, to the Ambassador in Great Britain, p. 423.
  2. Latter not printed.