868.48/118: Telegram

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

194. Department’s 131, September 19th.17 See my telegram 190, September 18th. Department’s 122, September 15 was garbled and thus delayed in transmission.

Yesterday government officers conferred with Italian and British High Commissioners; French High Commissioner is in Smyrna. I met with no encouragement for drawing up joint plan for Smyrna emergency. Therefore, in the meantime having received information that refugees could be evacuated from Smyrna, I directed our destroyers to assist in every way possible and another destroyer will be despatched as soon as possible to assist in this work.

At Italian High Commission I was assured that the high commissioners would take up the question of the Smyrna emergency at their meeting in the afternoon and I was authorized to convey this information to the British High Commissioner and when I saw him he stated he did not know there was to be a meeting in the afternoon. The Italian High Commissioner stated he had just received a telegram from his Government with reference to the Department’s telegram 122, but there were no instructions so he would have to wait for further instructions. I pointed out that the necessity for prompt action was imperative and requested that the Allied High Commissioners [Page 428] inform me as soon as possible their decision in regard to evacuating these refugees and the place to which they should be evacuated as these were the political questions that only the Allies could decide. I was asked to make a suggestion and I pointed out that I could not presume to do this and [gave expression?] to the desire to have a permanent curiosity [settlement?] as a result of action taken. In the same manner I asked what steps the Allies would take for the relief of these refugees and I was informed it was hoped the United States would step forward in her usual bountiful way and provide the necessary relief. I remarked that we had already spent $70,000,000 here on refugees and the situation steadily got worse with more refugees and we could not continue to assume such obligations without any end in sight. However, I was sure that we would cooperate with the Allies to take care of that situation.

At the British High Commission I was informed that no instructions in accordance with Department’s 122 had been received and without such instructions action could not be taken. I have noted the substance of the aforesaid despatch and discussed the situation. In this discussion and merely as information I was informed that the Greek patriarch had applied to Rumbold18 to feed 50,000 refugees at Rodosto for ten days until other means of relief could be provided. Rumbold had conferred with the military and naval commanders who had no provisions for this feeding and so he informed the patriarch that he could do nothing for these refugees at Rodosto. He had informed his Government of the action taken and they had approved. He went on to explain that on account of the great economy required of his Government they could not take up any such question of relief work where money was involved.

The relief committee of our chapter met with me today and we decided to continue our emergency relief work at Smyrna and to send a relief unit to Rodosto for immediate relief and report further relief necessary. The Armenian and Greek Patriarchs are to be requested to send ships as soon as possible to evacuate refugees from Smyrna. They are also to be informed that our relief measures are only to cover the present emergency and we will expect them to provide beyond this for the Greek and Armenian refugees. Thus Greek ships that cannot enter Smyrna will be loaded by destroyers at Mytilene or some other island near by. We are taking up the question of utilizing Ship[ping] Board ship or other vessels that may be available. The refugees have all been evacuated from Moudania and we have sufficient supplies for the immediate necessities at Smyrna. The Turks are evacuating the refugees from Smyrna into [Page 429] the interior. We have no information as to what is being done with these refugees. We will attempt to follow up these refugees and render assistance if necessary. Later there will undoubtedly be necessary relief work amongst Allied [Anatolian?] inhabitants in those areas that were devastated by the Greek Army during its retreat. Our committee of which the members are representatives of all the American institutions, agree that immediate relief measures should be taken to meet the present situation but with the understanding that Greece and the Allies should be induced to assume all future responsibility for the relief of these refugees and final disposition of them. It is our belief that our American people should not be induced to contribute money to relieve Greece and the Allies of their responsibility. However, we should receive full support for the emergency relief that we are now carrying out. Without waiting for the Allies to act and in view of the unexpected evacuation of refugees to the interior from Smyrna, we will take all possible steps to meet the present emergency and the latter facts induced me to give orders to use the limited number of destroyers I have available to assist in the evacuation.

I will see General Pellé as soon as he returns and follow up Rumbold and Garroni19 to draw up a joint plan for future action.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Sir Horace Rumbold, British High Commissioner at Constantinople.
  3. Marquis C. Garroni, Italian High Commissioner at Constantinople.