Ambassador Morgenthau's Story
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THE TURKS PREPARE TO FLEE FROM CONSTANTINOPLE AND ESTABLISH A NEW CAPITAL IN ASIA MINOR
THE ALLIED FLEET BOMBARDING THE DARDANELLES
Probably one thing that stimulated this German desire for peace was the situation at the Dardanelles. In early January, when Wangenheim persuaded me to write my letter to Washington, Constantinople was in a state of the utmost excitement. It was reported that the Allies had assembled a fleet of forty warships at the mouth of the Dardanelles and that they intended to attempt the forcing of the straits. What made the situation particularly tense was the belief, which then generally prevailed in Constantinople, that such an attempt would succeed.
Wangenheim. shared this belief, and so in a modified form, did Von der Goltz, who probably knew as much about the Dardanelles defenses as any other man, as he had for years been Turkey's military instructor. I find in my diary Von der Goltz's precise opinion on this point, as reported to me by Wangenheim, and I quote it exactly as written at that time: "Although he thought it was almost impossible to force the Dardanelles, still, if England thought it an important move of the general war, they could, by sacrificing ten ships, force the entrance, and do it very fast, and be up in the Marmora within ten hours from the time they forced it."
The very day that Wangenheim gave me this expert opinion of Von der Goltz, he asked me to store several cases of his valuables in the American Embassy. Evidently he was making preparations for his own departure.
Reading the Cromer report on the Dardanelles bombardment, I find that Admiral Sir John Fisher, then First Sea Lord, placed the price of success at twelve ships. Evidently Von der Goltz and Fisher did not differ materially in their estimates.
THE MODERN TURKISH SOLDIER, In the uniform and equipment introduced by the Germans. The fez---the immemorial symbol of the Ottoman---is replaced by a modern helmet
The situation of Turkey, when these first rumours of an allied bombardment reached us, was fairly desperate. On all sides there were. evidences of the fear and panic that had stricken not only the populace, but the official classes. Calamities from all sides were apparently closing in on the country. Up to January 1, 1915, Turkey had done nothing to justify her participation in the war; on the contrary, she had met defeat practically everywhere. Djemal, as already recorded, had left Constantinople as the prospective "Conqueror of Egypt," but his expedition had proved to be a bloody and humiliating failure. Enver's attempt to redeem the Caucasus from Russian rule had resulted in an even more frightful military disaster. He had ignored the advice of the Germans, which was to let the Russians advance to Sivas and make his stand there, and, instead, he had boldly attempted to gain Russian territory in the Caucasus. This army had been defeated at every point, but the military reverses did not end its sufferings. The Turks had a most inadequate medical and sanitary service; typhus and dysentery broke out in all-the camps, the deaths from these diseases reaching 100,000 men. Dreadful stories were constantly coming in, telling of the sufferings of these soldiers. That England was preparing for an invasion of Mesopotamia was well known, and no one at that time had any reason to believe that it would not succeed. Every day the Turks expected the news that the Bulgarians had declared war and were marching on Constantinople, and they knew that such an attack would necessarily bring in Rumania and Greece. It was no diplomatic secret that Italy was waiting only for the arrival of warm weather to join the Allies. At this moment the Russian fleet was bombarding Trebizond, on the Black Sea, and was daily expected at the entrance to the Bosphorus. Meanwhile, the domestic situation was deplorable: all over Turkey thousands of the populace were daily dying of starvation; practically all able-bodied men had been taken into the army, so that only a few were left to till the fields; the criminal requisitions had almost destroyed all business; the treasury was in a more exhausted state than normally, for the closing of the Dardanelles and the blockading of the Mediterranean ports had stopped all imports and customs dues; and the increasing wrath of the people seemed likely any day to break out against Taalat and his associates. And now, surrounded by increasing troubles on every hand, the Turks learned that this mighty armada of England and her allies was approaching, determined to destroy the defenses and capture the city. At that time there was no force which the Turks feared so greatly as they feared the British fleet. Its tradition of several centuries of uninterrupted victories had completely seized their imagination. It seemed to them superhuman---the one overwhelming power which it was hopeless to contest.
Wangenheim. and also nearly all of the German military and naval forces not only regarded the forcing of the Dardanelles as possible, but they believed it to be inevitable. The possibility of British success was one of the most familiar topics of discussion, and the weight of opinion, both lay and professional, inclined in favour of the Allied fleets. Talaat told me that an attempt to force the straits would succeed---it only depended on England's willingness to sacrifice a few ships. The real reason why Turkey had sent a force against Egypt, Talaat added, was to divert England from making an attack on the Gallipoli peninsula. The state of mind that existed is shown by the fact that, on January 1st, the Turkish Government had made preparations for two trains, one of which was to take the Sultan and his suite to Asia Minor, while the other was intended for Wangenheim, Pallavicini, and the rest of the diplomatic corps. On January 2d, I had an illuminating talk with Pallavicini. He showed me a certificate given him by Bedri, the Prefect of Police, passing him and his secretaries and servants on one of these emergency trains. He also had seat tickets for himself and all of his suite. He said that each train would have only three cars, so that it could make great speed; he had been told to have everything ready to start at an hour's notice. Wangenheim, made little attempt to conceal his apprehensions. He told me that he had made all preparations to send his wife to Berlin, and he invited Mrs. Morgenthau to accompany her, so that she, too, could be removed from the danger zone., Wangenheim showed the fear, which was then the prevailing one, that a successful bombardment would lead to fires and massacres in Constantinople as well as in the rest of Turkey. In anticipation of such disturbances he made a characteristic suggestion. Should the fleet pass the Dardanelles, he said, the life of no Englishman in Turkey would be safe---they would all be massacred. As it was so difficult to tell an Englishman from an American, he proposed that I should give the Americans a distinctive button to wear, which would protect them from Turkish violence. As I was convinced that Wangenheim's real purpose was to arrange some sure means of identifying the English and of so subjecting them to Turkish ill-treatment, I refused to act on this amiable suggestion.
Another incident illustrates the nervous tension which prevailed in those January days. I noticed that some shutters at the British Embassy were open, so Mrs. Morgenthau and I went up to investigate. In the early days we had sealed this building, which had been left in my charge, and this was the first time we had broken the seals to enter. About two hours after we returned from this tour of inspection, Wangenheim came into my office in one of his now familiar agitated moods. It had been reported, he said, that Mrs. Morgenthau and I had been up to the Embassy getting it ready for the British Admiral, who expected soon to take possession!
All this seems a little absurd now, for, in fact, the Allied fleets made no attack at that time. At the very moment when the whole of Constantinople was feverishly awaiting the British dreadnaughts, the British Cabinet in London was merely considering the advisability of such an enterprise. The record shows that Petrograd, on January 2d, telegraphed the British Government, asking that some kind of a demonstration be made against the Turks, who were pressing the Russians in the Caucasus. Though an encouraging reply was immediately sent to this request, it was not until January 28th that the British Cabinet definitely issued orders for an attack on the Dardanelles. It is no longer a secret that there was no unanimous confidence in the success of such an undertaking. Admiral Carden recorded his belief that the strait "could not be rushed, but that extended operations with a large number of ships might succeed." The penalty of failure, he added, would be the great loss that England would suffer, in prestige and influence in the East; how true this prophecy proved I shall have occasion to show. Up to this time one of the fundamental and generally accepted axioms of naval operations had been that warships should not attempt to attack fixed land fortifications. But the Germans had demonstrated the power of mobile guns against fortresses in their destruction of the emplacements at Liége and Namur, and there was a belief in some quarters of England that these events had modified this naval principle. Mr. Churchill, at that time the head of the Admiralty, placed great confidence in the destructive power of a new superdreadnaught which had just been finished---the Queen Elizabeth---and which was then on its way to join the Mediterranean fleet.
We in Constantinople knew nothing about these deliberations then, but the result became apparent in the latter part of February. On the afternoon of the nineteenth, Pallavicini, the Austrian Ambassador, came to me with important news. The Marquis was a man of great personal dignity, yet it was apparent that he was this day exceedingly nervous, and, indeed, he made no attempt to conceal his apprehension. The Allied fleets, he said, had reopened their attack on the Dardanelles, and this time their bombardment had been extremely ferocious. At that hour things were going badly for the Austrians; the Russian armies were advancing victoriously; Serbia had hurled the Austrians over the frontier, and the European press was filled with prognostications of the break up of the Austrian Empire,. Pallavicini's attitude this afternoon was a perfect reflection of the dangers that were then encompassing his country. He was a sensitive and proud man; proud of his emperor and proud of what he regarded as the great Austro-Hungarian Empire; and he now appeared to be overburdened by the fear that this extensive Hapsburg fabric, which had withstood the assaults of so many centuries, was rapidly being overwhelmed with ruin. Like most human beings, Pallavicini yearned for sympathy; he could obtain none from Wangenheim, who seldom took him into his confidence and consistently treated him as the representative of a nation that was compelled to submit to the overlordship of Germany. Perhaps that was the reason why the Austrian Ambassador used to pour out his heart to me. And now this Allied bombardment of the Dardanelles came as the culmination of all his troubles. At this time the Central Powers believed that they had Russia bottled up; that they had sealed the Dardanelles, and that she could neither get her wheat to market nor import the munitions needed for carrying on the war. Germany and Austria thus had a stranglehold on their gigantic foe, and, if this condition could be maintained indefinitely, the collapse of Russia would be inevitable. At present, it is true, the Czar's forces wore making a victorious campaign, and this in itself was sufficiently alarming to Austria; but their present supplies of war materials would ultimately be exhausted and then their great superiority in men would help them little and they would inevitably go to pieces. But should Russia get Constantinople, with the control of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, she could obtain all the munitions needed for warfare on the largest scale, and the defeat of the Central Powers might immediately follow; and such a defeat, Pallavicini well understood, would be far more serious for Austria than for Germany. Wangenheim. had told me that it was Germany's plan, in case the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated, to incorporate her 12,000,000 Germans in the Hohenzollern domain, and Pallavicini, of course, was familiar with this danger. The Allied attack on the Dardanelles thus meant to Pallavicini the extinction of his country, for if we are properly to understand his state of mind we must remember that he firmly believed, as did almost all the other important men in Constantinople, that such an attack would succeed.
Wangenheim's existence was made miserable by this same haunting conviction. As I have already shown, the bottling up of Russia was almost exclusively the German Ambassador's performance. He had brought the Goeben and the Breslau into Constantinople, and by this manoeuvre had precipitated Turkey into the war. The forcing of the strait would mean more than the transformation of Russia into a permanent and powerful participant in the war; it meant---and this was by no means an unimportant consideration with Wangenheim---the undoing of his great personal achievement. Yet Wangenheim, showed his apprehensions quite differently from Pallavicini. In true German fashion, he resorted to threats and bravado. He gave no external signs of depression, but his whole body tingled with rage. He was not deploring his fate; he was looking for ways of striking back. He would sit in my office, smoking with his usual energy, and tell me all the terrible things which he proposed to do to his enemy. The thing that particularly preyed upon Wangenheim's mind was the exposed position of the German Embassy. It stood on a high hill, one of the most conspicuous buildings in the town, a perfect target for an enterprising English admiral. Almost the first object the British fleet would sight, as it entered the harbour, would be this yellow monument of the Hohenzollerns, and the temptation to shell it might prove irresistible.
"Let them dare destroy my Embassy!" Wangenheim said. "I'll get even with them! If they fire a single shot at it, we'll blow up the French and the English embassies! Go tell the Admiral that, won't you? Tell him also that we have the dynamite all ready to do it!"
Wangenheim also showed great anxiety over the proposed removal of the Government to Eski-Shehr. In early January, when everyone was expecting the arrival of the Allied fleet, preparations had been made for moving the Government to Asia Minor; and now, at the first rumbling of the British and French guns, the special trains were prepared once more, Wangenheim and Pallavicini both told me of their unwillingness to accompany the Sultan and the Government to Asia Minor. Should the Allies capture Constantinople, the ambassadors of the Central Powers would find themselves cut off from their home countries and completely in the hands of the Turks. "The Turks could then hold us as hostages," said Wangenheim. They urged Talaat to establish the emergency government at Adrianople, from which town they could motor in and out of Constantinople, and then, in case the city were captured, they could make their escape home. The Turks, on the other hand, refused to adopt this suggestion because they feared an attack from Bulgaria. Wangenheim and Pallavicini now found themselves between two fires. If they stayed in Constantinople, they might become prisoners of the English and French; on the other hand, if they went to Eski-Shehr, it was not unlikely that they would become prisoners of the Turks. Many evidences of the flimsy basis on which rested the Germano-Turkish alliance had come to my attention, but this was about the most illuminating. Wangenheim knew, as did everybody else, that, in case the French and English captured Constantinople, the Turks would vent their rage not mainly against the Entente, but against the Germans who had enticed them into the war.
It all seems so strange now, this conviction that was uppermost in the minds of everybody then----that the success of the Allied fleets against the Dardanelles was inevitable and that the capture of Constantinople was a matter of only a few days. I recall an animated discussion that took place at the American Embassy on the afternoon of February 24th. The occasion was Mrs. Morgenthau's weekly reception---meetings which furnished almost the only opportunity in those days for the foregathering of the diplomats. Practically all were on hand this afternoon. The first great bombardment of the Dardanelles had taken place five days before; this had practically destroyed the fortifications at the mouth of the strait. There was naturally only one subject of discussion: Would the Allied fleets get through? What would happen if they did? Everybody expressed an opinion, Wangenheim, Pallavicini, Garroni, the Italian Ambassador; D'Anckarsvard, the Swedish Minister; Koloucheff, the Bulgarian Minister; Kühlmann; and Scharfenberg, First Secretary of the German Embassy, and it was the unanimous opinion that the Allied attack would succeed. I particularly remember Kühlmann's attitude. He discussed the capture of Constantinople almost as though it was something which had taken place already. The Persian Ambassador showed great anxiety; his embassy stood not far from the Sublime Porte; he told me that he feared that the latter building would be bombarded and that a few stray shots might easily set afire his own residence, and he asked if he might move his archives to the American Embassy. The wildest rumours were afloat; we were told that the Standard Oil agent at the Dardanelles had counted seventeen transports loaded with troops; that the warships had already fired 800 shots and had levelled all the hills at the entrance; and that Talaat's bodyguard had been shot-the implication being that the bullet had missed its intended victim. It was said that the whole Turkish populace was aflame with the fear that the English and the French, when they reached the city, would celebrate the event by a wholesale attack on Turkish women. The latter reports were, of course, absurd; they were merely characteristic rumours set afloat by the Germans and their Turkish associates. The fact is that the great mass of the people in Constantinople were probably praying that the Allied attack would succeed and so release them from the control of the political gang that then ruled the country.
And in all this excitement there was one lonely and despondent figure---this was Talaat. Whenever I saw him in those critical days, he was the picture of desolation and defeat. The Turks, like most primitive peoples, wear their emotions on the surface, and with them the transition from exultation to despair is a rapid one. The thunder of the British guns at the straits apparently spelled doom to Talaat. The letter carrier of Adrianople seemed to have reached the end of his career. He again confided to me his expectation that the English would capture the Turkish capital, and once more he said that he was sorry that Turkey had entered the war. Talaat well knew what would happen as soon as the Allied fleet entered the Sea of Marmora. According to the report of the Cromer Commission, Lord Kitchener, in giving his assent to a purely naval expedition, had relied upon a revolution in Turkey to make the enterprise successful. Lord Kitchener has been much criticized for his part in the Dardanelles attack; I owe it to his memory, however, to say that on this point he was absolutely right. Had the Allied fleets once passed the defenses at the straits, the administration of the Young Turks would have come to a bloody end. As soon as the guns began to fire, placards appeared on the hoardings, denouncing Talaat and his associates as responsible for all the woes that had come to Turkey. Bedri, the Prefect of Police, was busy collecting all the unemployed young men and sending them out of the city; his purpose was to free Constantinople of all who might start a revolution against the Young Turks. It was a common report that Bedri feared this revolution much more than he feared the British fleet. And this was the same Nemesis that was every moment now pursuing Talaat.
A single episode illustrates the nervous excitement that prevailed. Dr. Lederer, the correspondent of the Berliner Tageblatt, made a short visit to the Dardanelles, and, on his return, reported to certain ladies of the diplomatic circle that the German officers had told him that they were wearing their shrouds, as they expected any minute to be buried there. This statement went around the city like wild fire, and Dr. Lederer was threatened with arrest for making it. He appealed to me for help; I took him to Wangenheim, who refused to have anything to do with him; Lederer, he said, was an Austrian subject, although he represented a German newspaper. His anger at Lederer for this indiscretion was extreme. But I finally succeeded in getting the unpopular journalist into the Austrian Embassy, where he was harboured for the night. In a few days, Lederer had to leave town.
In the midst of all this excitement, there was one person who was apparently not at all disturbed. Though ambassadors, generals, and politicians might anticipate the worst calamities, Enver's voice was reassuring and quiet. The man's coolness and really courageous spirit never shone to better advantage. In late December and January, when the city had its first fright over the bombardment, Enver was fighting the Russians in the Caucasus. His experiences in this campaign, as already described, had been far from glorious. Enver had left Constantinople in November to join his army, an expectant conqueror; he returned, in the latter part of January, the commander of a thoroughly beaten and demoralized force. Such a disastrous experience would have utterly ruined almost any other military leader, and that Enver felt his reverses keenly was evident from the way in which he kept himself from public view. I had my first glimpse of him, after his return, at a concert, given for the benefit of the Red Crescent. At this affair Enver sat far back in a box, as though he intended to keep as much as possible out of sight; it was quite apparent that he was uncertain as to the cordiality of his reception by the public. All the important people in Constantinople, the Crown Prince, the members of the Cabinet, and the ambassadors attended this function, and, in accordance with the usual custom, the Crown Prince sent for these dignitaries, one after another, for a few words of greeting and congratulation. After that the visiting from box to box became general. The heir to the throne sent for Enver as well as the rest, and this recognition evidently gave him a new courage, for he began to mingle with the diplomats, who also treated him with the utmost cordiality and courtesy. Enver apparently regarded this favourable notice as having reestablished his standing, and now once more he assumed a leading part in the crisis. A few days afterward he discussed the situation with me. He was much astonished, he said, at the fear that so generally prevailed, and he was disgusted at the preparations that had been made to send away the Sultan and the Government and practically leave the city a prey to the English. He did not believe that the Allied fleets could force the Dardanelles; he had recently inspected all the fortifications and he had every confidence in their ability to resist successfully. Even though the ships did get through, he insisted that Constantinople should be defended to the last man.
Yet Enver's assurance did not satisfy his associates. They had made all their arrangements for the British fleet. If, in spite of the most heroic resistance the Turkish armies could make, it still seemed likely that the Allies were about to capture the city, the ruling powers had their final plans all prepared. They proposed to do to this great capital precisely what the Russians had done to Moscow, when Napoleon appeared before it.
"They will never capture an existing city," they told me, "only a heap of ashes." As a matter of fact, this was no idle threat. I was told that cans of petroleum had been already stored in all the police stations and other places, ready to fire the town at a moment's notice. As Constantinople is largely built of wood, this would have been no very difficult task. But they were determined to destroy more than these temporary structures; the plans aimed at the beautiful architectural monuments built by the Christians long before the Turkish occupation. The Turks had particularly marked for dynamiting the Mosque of Saint Sophia. This building, which had been a Christian church centuries before it became a Mohammedan mosque, is one of the most magnificent structures of the vanished Byzantine Empire. Naturally the suggestion of such an act of vandalism aroused us all, and I made a plea to Talaat that Saint Sophia should be spared. He treated the proposed destruction lightly.
"There are not six men in the Committee of Union and Progress," he told me, "who care for anything that is old. We all like new things!"
That was all the satisfaction I obtained in this matter at that time.
Enver's insistence that the Dardanelles could resist caused his associates to lose confidence in his judgment. About a year afterward, Bedri Bey, the Prefect of Police, gave me additional details. While Enver was still in the Caucasus, Bedri said, Talaat had called a conference, a kind of council of war, on the Dardanelles. This had been attended by Liman von Sanders, the German general who had reorganized the Turkish army; Usedom, the German admiral who was the inspector-general of the Ottoman coast defenses, Bronssart, the German Chief of Staff of the Turkish army, and several others. Every man present gave it as his opinion that the British and French fleets could force the straits; the only subject of dispute, said Bedri, was whether it would take the ships eight or twenty hours to reach Constantinople after they had destroyed the defenses. Enver's position was well understood, but this council decided to ignore him and to make the preparations without his knowledge---to eliminate the Minister of War, at least temporarily, from their deliberations.
In early March, Bedri and Djambolat, who was Director of Public Safety, came to see me. At that time the exodus from the capital had begun; Turkish women and children were being moved into the interior; all the banks had been compelled to send their gold into Asia Minor; the archives of the Sublime Porte had already been carried to Eski-Shehr; and practically all the ambassadors and their suites, as well as most of the government officials, had made their preparations to leave. The Director of the Museum, who was one of the six Turks to whom Talaat had referred as "liking old things" had buried many of Constantinople's finest works of art in cellars or covered them for protection. Bedri came to arrange the details of my departure. As ambassador I was personally accredited to the Sultan, and it would obviously be my duty, said Bedri, to go wherever the Sultan went. The train was all ready, he added; he wished to know how many people I intended to take, so that sufficient space could be reserved. To this proposal I entered a flat refusal. I informed Bedri that I thought that my responsibilities made it necessary for me to remain in Constantinople. Only a neutral ambassador, I said, could forestall massacres and the destruction of the city, and certainly I owed it to the civilized world to prevent, if I could, such calamities as these. If my position as ambassador made it inevitable that I should follow the Sultan, I would resign and become honorary Consul-General.
Both Bedri and Djambolat were much younger and less experienced men than I, and I therefore told them that they needed a man of maturer years to advise them in an international crisis of this kind. I was not only interested in protecting foreigners and American institutions, but I was also interested, on general humanitarian grounds, in safeguarding the Turkish population from the excesses that were generally expected. The several nationalities, many of them containing elements which were given to pillage and massacre, were causing great anxiety. I therefore proposed to Bedri and Djambolat that the three of us form a kind of a committee to take control in the approaching crisis.
They consented and the three of us sat down and decided on a course of action. We took a map of Constantinople and marked the districts which, under the existing rules of warfare, we agreed that the Allied fleet would have the right to bombard. Thus, we decided that the War Office, Marine Office, telegraph offices, railroad stations, and all public buildings could quite legitimately be made the targets for their guns. Then we marked out certain zones which we should insist on regarding as immune. The main residential section, and the part where all the embassies are located, is Pera, the district on the north shore of the Golden Horn. This we marked as not subject to attack. We also delimited certain residential areas of Stamboul and Galata, the Turkish sections. I telegraphed to Washington, asking the State Department to obtain a ratification of these plans and an agreement to respect these zones of safety from the British and French governments. I received a reply indorsing my action.
All preparations had thus been made. At the station stood the trains which were to take the Sultan and the Government and the ambassadors to Asia Minor. They had steam up, ready to move at a minute's notice. We were all awaiting the triumphant arrival of the Allied fleet.
"THE VULNERABILITY OF THE BRITISH FLEET"
---OLD-FASHIONED DEFENSES OF THE DARDANELLES
When the situation had reached this exciting stage, Enver asked me to visit the Dardanelles. He still insisted that the fortifications were impregnable and he could not understand, he said, the panic which was then raging in Constantinople. He had visited the Dardanelles himself, had inspected every gun and every emplacement, and he was entirely confident that his soldiers could hold off the Allied fleet indefinitely. He had taken Talaat down, and by doing so he had considerably eased that statesman's fears. It was Enver's conviction that, if I should visit the fortifications, I would be persuaded that the fleets could never get through, and that I would thus be able to give such assurances to the people that the prevailing excitement would subside. I disregarded certain natural doubts as to whether an ambassador should expose himself to the dangers of such a situation---the ships were bombarding nearly every day---and promptly accepted Enver's invitation.
On the morning of the 15th, we left Constantinople on the Yuruk. Enver himself accompanied us as far as Panderma, an Asiatic town on the Sea of Marmora. The party included several other notables: Ibrahim Bey, the Minister of Justice; Husni Pasha, the general who had commanded the army which had deposed Abdul Hamid in the Young Turk revolution; and Senator Cheriff Djafer Pasha, an Arab and a direct descendant of the Prophet. A particularly congenial companion was Fuad Pasha, an old field marshal, who had led an adventurous career; despite his age, he had an immense capacity for enjoyment, was a huge feeder and a capacious drinker, and had as many stories to tell of exile, battle, and hair breadth escapes as Othello. All of these men were much older than Enver, and all of them were descended from far more distinguished ancestors, yet they treated this stripling with the utmost deference.
Enver seemed particularly glad of this opportunity to discuss the situation. Immediately after breakfast, he took me aside, and together we went up to the deck.
The day was a beautiful sunny one, and the sky in the Marmora was that deep blue which we find only in this part of the world. What most impressed me was the intense quiet, the almost desolate inactivity of these silent waters. Our ship was almost the only one in sight, and this inland sea, which in ordinary times was one of the world's greatest commercial highways, was now practically a primeval waste. The whole scene was merely a reflection of the great triumph which German diplomacy had accomplished in the Near East. For nearly six months not a Russian merchant ship had passed through the straits. All the commerce of Rumania and Bulgaria, which had normally found its way to Europe across this inland sea, had long since disappeared. The ultimate significance of all this desolation was that Russia was blockaded and completely isolated from her allies. How much that one fact has meant in the history of the world for the last three years! And now England and France were seeking to overcome this disadvantage; to link up their own military resources with those of their great eastern ally, and to restore to the Dardanelles and the Marmora the thousands of ships that meant Russia's existence as a military and economic, and even, as subsequent events have shown, as a political power. We were approaching the scene of one of the great crises of the war.
Would England and her allies succeed in this enterprise? Would their ships at the Dardanelles smash the fortifications, break through, and again make Russia a permanent force in the war? That was the main subject which Enver and I discussed, as for nearly three hours we walked up and down the deck. Enver again referred to the "silly panic" that had seized nearly all classes in the capital. "Even though Bulgaria and Greece both turn against us," he said, "we shall defend Constantinople to the end. We have plenty of guns, plenty of ammunition, and we have these on terra firma, whereas the English and French batteries are floating ones. And the natural advantages of the straits are so great that the warships can make little progress against them. I do not care what other people may think. I have studied this problem more thoroughly than any of them, and I feel that I am right. As long as I am at the head of the War Department, we shall not give up. Indeed, I do not know just what these English and French battleships are driving at. Suppose that they rush the Dardanelles, get into the Marmora and reach Constantinople; what good will that do them? They can bombard and destroy the city, I admit; but they cannot capture it, as they have only a few troops to land. Unless they do bring a large army, they will really be caught in a trap. They can perhaps stay here for two or three weeks until their food and supplies are all exhausted and then they will have to go back----rush the straits again, and again run the risk of annihilation. In the meantime, we would have repaired the forts, brought in troops, and made ourselves ready for them. It seems to me to be a very foolish enterprise."
I have already told how Enver had taken Napoleon as his model, and in this Dardanelles expedition he now apparently saw a Napoleonic opportunity. As we were pacing the deck he stopped a moment, looked at me earnestly, and said:
"I shall go down in history as the man who demonstrated the vulnerability of England and her fleet. I shall show that her navy is not invincible. I was in England a few years before the war and discussed England's position with many of her leading men, such as Asquith, Churchill, Haldane. I told them that their course was wrong. Winston Churchill declared that England could defend herself with her navy alone, and that she needed no large army. I told Churchill that no great empire could last that did not have both an army and a navy. I found that Churchill's opinion was the one that prevailed everywhere in England. There was only one man I met who agreed with me, that was Lord Roberts. Well, Churchill has now sent his fleet down here---perhaps to show me that his navy can do all that he said it could do. Now we'll see."
Enver seemed to regard his naval expedition as a personal challenge from Mr. Churchill to himself---almost like a continuation of their argument in London.
"You, too, should have a large army," said Enver, referring to the United States.
"I do not believe," he went on, "that England is trying to force the Dardanelles because Russia has asked her to. When I was in England I discussed with Churchill the possibility of a general war. He asked me what Turkey would do in such a case, and said that, if we took Germany's side, the British fleet would force the Dardanelles and capture Constantinople. Churchill is not trying to help Russia---he is carrying out the threat made to me at that time."
Enver spoke with the utmost determination and conviction; he said that nearly all the damage inflicted on the outside forts had been repaired, and that the Turks had methods of defense the existence of which the enemy little suspected. He showed great bitterness against the English; he accused them of attempting to bribe Turkish officials and even said that they had instigated attempts upon his own life. On the other hand, he displayed no particular friendliness toward the Germans. Wangenheim's overbearing manners had caused him much irritation, and the Turks, he said, got on none too well with the German officers.
"The Turks and Germans," he added, "care nothing for each other. We are with them because it is our interest to be with them; they are with us because that is their interest. Germany will back Turkey just so long as that helps Germany; Turkey will back Germany just so long as that helps Turkey."
Enver seemed much impressed at the close of our interview with the intimate personal relations which we had established with each other. He apparently believed that he, the great Enver, the Napoleon of the Turkish Revolution, had unbended in discussing his nation's affairs with a mere ambassador.
"You know," he said, "that there is no one in Germany with whom the Emperor talks as intimately as I have talked with you to-day."
We reached Panderma about two o'clock. Here Enver and his auto were put ashore and our party started again, our boat arriving at Gallipoli late in the afternoon. We anchored in the harbour and spent the night on board. All the evening we could hear the guns bombarding the fortifications, but these reminders of war and death did not affect the spirits of my Turkish hosts. The occasion was for them a great lark; they had spent several months in hard, exacting work, and now they behaved like boys suddenly let out for a vacation. They cracked jokes, told stories, sang the queerest kinds of songs, and played childish pranks upon one another. The venerable Fuad, despite his nearly ninety years, developed great qualities as an entertainer, and the fact that his associates made him the butt of most of their horse-play apparently only added to his enjoyment of the occasion. The amusement reached its height when one of his friends surreptitiously poured him a glass of eau-de-cologne. The old gentleman looked at the new drink a moment and then diluted it with water. I was told that the proper way of testing raki, the popular Turkish tipple, is by mixing it with water; if it turns white under this treatment, it is the real thing and may be safely drunk. Apparently water has the same effect upon eau-de-cologne, for the contents of Fuad's glass, after this test, turned white. The old gentleman, therefore, poured the whole thing down his throat without a grimace----much to the hilarious entertainment of his tormentors.
In the morning we started again. We now had fairly arrived in the Dardanelles, and from Gallipoli we had a sail of nearly twenty-five miles to Tchanak Kale. For the most part this section of the strait is uninteresting and, from a military point of view, it is unimportant. The stream is about two miles wide, both sides are low-lying and marshy, and only a few scrambling villages show any signs of life. I was told that there were a few ancient fortifications, their rusty guns pointing toward the Marmora, the emplacements having been erected there in the early part of the nineteenth century for the purpose of preventing hostile ships entering from the north. These fortifications, however, were so inconspicuous that I could not see them; my hosts informed me that they had no fighting power, and that, indeed, there was nothing in the northern part of the straits, from Point Nagara to the Marmora, that could offer resistance to any modern fleet. The chief interest which I found in this part of the Dardanelles was purely historic and legendary. The ancient town of Lampsacus appeared in the modern Lapsaki, just across from Gallipoli, and Nagara Point is the site of the ancient Abydos, from which village Leander used to swim nightly across the Hellespont to Hero---a feat which was repeated about one hundred years ago by Lord Byron. Here also Xerxes crossed from Asia to Greece on a bridge of boats, embarking on that famous expedition which was to make him master of mankind. The spirit of Xerxes, I thought, as I passed the scene of his exploit, is still quite active in the world! The Germans and Turks had found a less romantic use for this, the narrowest part of the Dardanelles, for here they had stretched a cable and anti-submarine barrage of mines and nets---a device, which, as I shall describe, did not keep the English and French underwater boats out of the Marmora and the Bosphorus. It was not until we rounded this historic point of Nagara that the dull monotony of flat shores gave place to a more diversified landscape. On the European side the cliffs now began to descend precipitously to the water, reminding me of our own Palisades along the Hudson, and I obtained glimpses of the hills and mountain ridges that afterward proved such tragical stumbling blocks to the valiant Allied armies. The configuration of the land south of Nagara, with its many hills and ridges, made it plain why the military engineers had selected this stretch of the Dardanelles as the section best adapted to defense. Our boat was now approaching what was perhaps the most commanding point in the whole strait---the city Tchanak, or, to give it its modem European name, Dardanelles. In normal times this was a thriving port of 16,000 people, its houses built of wood, the headquarters of a considerable trade in wool and other products, and for centuries it had been an important military station. Now, excepting for the soldiers, it was deserted, the large civilian population having been moved into Anatolia. The British fleet , we were told, had bombarded this city; yet this statement seemed hardly probable, for I saw only a single house that had been hit, evidently by a stray shell which had been aimed at the near-by fortifications.
Djevad Pasha, the Turkish Commander-in-Chief at the Dardanelles, met us and escorted our party to headquarters. Djevad was a man of culture and of pleasing and cordial manners; as he spoke excellent German I had no need of an interpreter. I was much impressed by the deference with which the German officers treated him; that he was the Commander-in-Chief in this theatre of war, and that the generals of the Kaiser were his subordinates, was made plainly apparent. As we passed into his office, Djevad stopped in front of a piece of a torpedo, mounted in the middle of the hall, evidently as a souvenir.
"There is the great criminal!" he said, calling my attention to the relic.
About this time the newspapers were hailing the exploit of an English submarine, which had sailed from England to the Dardanelles, passed under the mine field, and torpedoed the Turkish warship Mesudié.
"That's the torpedo that did it!" said Djevad. "You'll see the wreck of the ship when you go down."
The first fortification I visited was that of Anadolu Hamidié (that is, Asiatic Hamidié) located on the water's edge just outside of Tchanak. My first impression was that I was in Germany. The officers were practically all Germans and everywhere Germans were building buttresses with sacks of sand and in other ways strengthening the emplacements. Here German, not Turkish, was the language heard on every side. Colonel Wehrle, who conducted me over these batteries, took the greatest delight in showing them. He had the simple pride of the artist in his work, and told me of the happiness that had come into his days when Germany had at last found herself at war. All his life, he said, he had spent in military practices, and, like most Germans, he had become tired of manoeuvres, sham battles, and other forms of mimic hostilities. Yet he was approaching fifty, he had become a colonel, and he was fearful that his career would close without actual military experience---and then the splendid thing had happened and here he was, fighting a real English enemy, firing real guns and shells! There was nothing brutal about Wehrle's manners; he was a "gemütlich" gentleman from Baden, and thoroughly likable; yet he was all aglow with the spirit of "Der Tag." His attitude was simply that of a man who had spent his lifetime learning a trade and who now rejoiced at the chance of exercising it. But he furnished an illuminating light on the German military character and the forces that had really caused the war.
Feeling myself so completely in German country, I asked Colonel Wehrle why there were so few Turks on this side of the strait. "You won't ask me that question this afternoon," he said, smiling, "when you go over to the other side."
The location of Anadolu Hamidié seemed ideal. It stands right at the water's edge, and consists---or it did then---of ten guns, every one completely sweeping the Dardanelles. Walking upon the parapet, I had a clear view of the strait, and Kum Kale, at the entrance, about fifteen miles away, stood out conspicuously. No warship could enter these waters without immediately coming within complete sight of her gunners. Yet the fortress itself, to an unprofessional eye like my own, was not particularly impressive. The parapet and traverses were merely mounds of earth, and stand to-day practically as they were finished by their French constructors in 1837. There is a general belief that the Germans had completely modernized the Dardanelles defenses, but this was not true at that time. The guns defending Fort Anadolu Hamidié were more than thirty years old, all being the Krupp model of 1885, and the rusted exteriors of some of them gave evidences of their age. Their extreme range was only about nine miles, while the range of the battleships opposing them was about ten miles, and that of the Queen Elizabeth was not far from eleven. The figures which I have given for Anadolu Hamidié apply also to practically all the guns at the other effective fortifications. So far as the advantage of range was concerned, therefore., the Allied fleet had a decided superiority, the Queen Elizabeth alone having them all practically at her mercy. Nor did the fortifications contain very considerable supplies of ammunition. At that time the European and American papers were printing stories that train loads of shells and guns were coming by way of Rumania from Germany to the Dardanelles. From facts which I learned on this trip and subsequently I am convinced that these reports were pure fiction. A small number of "red heads"---that is, non-armour-piercing projectiles useful only for fighting landing parties---had been brought from Adrianople and were reposing in Hamidié at the time of my visit, but these were small in quantity and of no value in fighting ships. I lay this stress upon Hamidié because this was the most import ant fortification in the Dardanelles. Throughout the whole bombardment it attracted more of the Allied fire than any other position, and it inflicted at least 60 percent of all the damage that was done to the attacking ships. It was Anadolu Hamidié which, in the great bombardment of March 18th, sank the Bouvet, the French battleship, and which in the course of the whole attack disabled several other units. All its officers were Germans and eighty-five per cent. of the men on duty came from the crews of the Goeben and the Breslau. Getting into the automobile, we sped along the military road to Dardanos, passing on the way the wreck of the Mesudié. The Dardanos battery was as completely Turkish as the Hamidié was German. The guns at Dardanos were somewhat more modern than those at Hamidié---they were the Krupp model of 1905. Here also was stationed the only new battery which the Germans had established up to the time of my visit; it consisted of several guns which they had taken from the German and Turkish warships then lying in the Bosphorus. A few days before our inspection the Allied fleet had entered the Bay of Erenkeui and had submitted Dardanos to a terrific bombardment, the evidences of which I saw on every hand. The land for nearly half a mile about seemed to have been completely churned up; it looked like photographs I had seen of the battlefields in France. The strange thing was that, despite all this punishment, the batteries themselves remained intact; not a single gun, my guides told me, had been destroyed.
"After the war is over," said General Mertens, "we are going to establish a big tourist resort here, build a hotel, and sell relics to you Americans. We shall not have to do much excavating to find them---the British fleet is doing that for us now."
This sounded like a passing joke, yet the statement was literally true. Dardanos, where this emplacement is located, was one of the famous cities of the ancient world; in Homeric times it was part of the principality of Priam. Fragments of capitals and columns are still visible. And the shells from the Allied fleet were now ploughing up many relics which had been buried for thousands of years. One of my friends picked up a water jug which had perhaps been used in the days of Troy. The effectiveness of modern gunfire in excavating these evidences of a long lost civilization was striking---though unfortunately the relics did not always come to the surface intact.
The Turkish generals were extremely proud of the fight which this Dardanos battery had made against the British ships. They would lead me to the guns that had done particularly good service and pat them affectionately. For my benefit Djevad called out Lieutenant Hassan, the Turkish officer who had defended this position. He was a little fellow, with jetblack hair, black eyes, extremely modest and almost shrinking in the presence of these great generals. Djevad patted Hassan on both cheeks, while another high Turkish officer stroked his hair; one would have thought that he was a faithful dog who had just performed some meritorious service.
"It is men like you of whom great heroes are made," said General Djevad. He asked Hassan to describe the attack and the way it had been met. The embarrassed lieutenant quietly told his story, though he was moved almost to tears by the appreciation of his exalted chiefs.
"There is a great future for you in the army," said General Djevad, as we parted from this hero.
Poor Hassan's "future" came two days afterward when the Allied fleet made its greatest attack. One of the shells struck his dugout, which caved in, killing the young man. Yet his behaviour on the day I visited his battery showed that he regarded the praise of his general as sufficient compensation for all that he had suffered or all that he might suffer.
I was much puzzled by the fact that the Allied fleet, despite its large expenditures of ammunition, had not been able to hit this Dardanos emplacement. I naturally thought at first that such a failure indicated poor marksmanship, but my German guides said that this was not the case. All this misfire merely illustrated once more the familiar fact that a rapidly manoeuvring battleship is under a great disadvantage in shooting at a fixed fortification. But there was another point involved in the Dardanos battery. My hosts called my attention to its location; it was perched on the top of the hill, in full view of the ships, forming itself a part of the skyline. Dardanos was merely five steel turrets, each armed with a gun, approached by a winding trench.
That," they said, "is the most difficult thing in the world to hit. It is so distinct that it looks easy, but the whole thing is an illusion."
I do not understand completely the optics of the situation; but it seems that the skyline creates a kind of mirage, so that it is practically impossible to hit anything at that point, except by accident. The gunner might get what was apparently a perfect sight, yet his shell would go wild. The record of Dardanos had been little short of marvellous. Up to March 18th, the ships had fired at it about 4,000 shells. One turret had been hit by a splinter, which had also scratched the paint, another had been hit and slightly bent in, and another had been hit near the base and a piece about the size of a man's hand had been knocked out. But not a single gun had been even slightly damaged. Eight men had been killed, including Lieutenant Hassan, and about forty had been wounded. That was the extent of the destruction.
"It was the optical illusion that saved Dardanos," one of the Germans remarked.
THE ALLIED ARMADA SAILS AWAY, THOUGH ON THE BRINK OF VICTORY
Again getting into the automobile, we rode along the shore, my host calling my attention to the mine fields, which stretched from Tchanak southward about seven miles. In this area the Germans and Turks had scattered nearly 400 mines. They told me with a good deal of gusto that the Russians had furnished a considerable number of these destructive engines. Day after day Russian destroyers sowed mines at the Black Sea entrance to the Bosphorus, hoping that they would float down stream and fulfil their appointed task. Every morning Turkish and German mine sweepers would go up, fish out these mines, and place them in the Dardanelles.
The battery at Erenkeui had also been subjected to a heavy bombardment, but it had suffered little. Unlike Dardanos, it was situated back of a hill, completely shut out from view. In order to fortify this spot, I was told, the Turks had been compelled practically to dismantle the fortifications of the inner straits---that section of the stream which extends from Tchanak to Point Nagara. This was the reason why this latter part of the Dardanelles was now practically unfortified. The guns that had been moved for this purpose were old-style Krupp pieces of the model of 1885.
South of Erenkeui, on the hills bordering the road the Germans had introduced an innovation. They had found several Krupp howitzers left over from the Bulgarian war and had installed them on concrete foundations. Each battery had four or five of these emplacements so that, as I approached them, I found several substantial bases that apparently had no guns. I was mystified further at the sight of a herd of buffaloes---I think I Counted sixteen engaged in the operation---hauling one of these howitzers from one emplacement to another. This, it seems, was part of the plan of defense. As soon as the dropping shells indicated that the fleet had obtained the range, the howitzer would be moved, with the aid of buffalo-teams, to another concrete emplacement.
"We have even a better trick than that," remarked one of the officers. They called out a sergeant, and recounted his achievement. This soldier was the custodian of a contraption which, at a distance, looked like a real gun, but which, when I examined it near at hand, was apparently an elongated section of sewer pipe. Back of a hill, entirely hidden from the fleet, was placed the gun with which this sergeant had cooperated. The two were connected by telephone. When the command came to fire, the gunner in charge of the howitzer would discharge his shell, while the man in charge of the sewer pipe would burn several pounds of black powder and send forth a conspicuous cloud of inky smoke. Not unnaturally the Englishmen and Frenchmen on the ships would assume that the shells speeding in their direction came from the visible smoke cloud and would proceed to centre all their ,attention upon that spot. The space around this burlesque gun was pock-marked with shell holes; the sergeant in charge, I was told, had attracted more than 500 shots, while the real artillery piece still remained intact and undetected.
From Erenkeui we motored back to General Djevad's headquarters, where we had lunch. Djevad took me up to an observation post, and there before my eyes I had the beautiful blue expanse of the Aegean. I could see the entrances to the Dardanelles, Sedd-ul-Bahr and Kum Kale standing like the guardians of a gateway, with the rippling sunny waters stretching between. Far out I saw the majestic ships of England and France sailing across the entrance, and still farther away, I caught a glimpse of the island of Tenedos, behind which we knew that a still larger fleet lay concealed. Naturally this prospect brought to mind a thousand historic and legendary associations, for there is probably no single spot in the world more crowded with poetry and romance. Evidently my Turkish escort, General Djevad, felt the spell, for he took a telescope, and pointed at a bleak expanse, perhaps six miles away.
"Look at that spot," he said, handing me the glass. "Do you know what that is?"
I looked but could not identify this sandy beach.
"Those are the Plains of Troy," he said And the river that you see winding in and out," he added, "we Turks call it the Mendere, but Romer knew it as the Scamander. Back of us, only a few miles distant, is Mount Ida."
Then he turned his glass out to sea, swept the field where the British ships lay, and again asked me to look at an indicated spot. I immediately brought within view a magnificent English warship, all stripped for battle, quietly steaming along like a man walking on patrol duty.
"That," said General Djevad, "is the Agamemnon"!
"Shall I fire a shot at her?" he asked me.
"Yes, if you'll promise me not to hit her," I answered.
We lunched at headquarters, where we were joined by Admiral Usedom, General Mertens, and General Pomiankowsky, the Austrian Military Attaché at Constantinople. The chief note in the conversation was one of absolute confidence in the future. Whatever the diplomats and politicians in Constantinople may have thought, these men, Turks and Germans, had no expectation---at least their conversation betrayed none ---that the Allied fleets would pass their defenses. What they seemed to hope for above everything was that their enemies would make another attack.
"If we could only get a chance at the Queen Elizabeth! " said one eager German, referring to the greatest ship in the British navy, then lying off the entrance.
As the Rhein wine began to disappear, their eagerness for the combat increased.
"If the damn fools would only make a landing!" exclaimed one---I quote his exact words.
The Turkish and German officers, indeed, seemed to vie with each other in expressing their readiness for the fray. Probably a good deal of this was bravado, intended for my consumption---indeed, I had private information that their exact estimate of the situation was much less reassuring. Now, however, they declared that the war had presented no real opportunity for the German and English navies to measure swords, and for this reason the Germans at the Dardanelles welcomed this chance to try the issue.
Having visited all the important places on the Anatolian side, we took a launch and sailed over to the Gallipoli peninsula. We almost had a disastrous experience on this trip. As we approached the Gallipoli shore, our helmsman was asked if he knew the location of the minefield, and if he could steer through the channel. He said "yes" and then steered directly for the mines! Fortunately the other men noticed the mistake in time, and so we arrived safely at Kilid-ul-Bahr. The batteries here were of about the same character as those on the other side; they formed one of the main defenses of the straits. Here everything, so far as a layman could judge, was in excellent condition, barring the fact that the artillery pieces were of old design and the ammunition not at all plentiful.
The batteries showed signs of a heavy bombardment. None had been destroyed, but shell holes surrounded the fortifications. My Turkish and German escorts looked at these evidences of destruction rather seriously and they were outspoken in their admiration for the accuracy of the allied fire.
"How do they ever get the range?" This was the question they were asking each other. What made the shooting so remarkable was the fact that it came, not from Allied ships in the straits, but from ships stationed in the Aegean Sea, on the other side of the Gallipoli peninsula. The gunners had never seen their target, but, had had to fire at a distance of nearly ten miles, over high hills, and yet many of their shells had barely missed the batteries at Kilid-ul-Bahr.
When I was there, however, the place was quiet, for no fighting was going on that day. For my particular benefit the officers put one of their gun crews through a drill, so that I could obtain a perfect picture of the behaviour of the Turks in action. In their mind's eye these artillerists now saw the English ships advancing within range, all their guns pointed to destroy the followers of the Prophet. The bugleman blew his horn, and the whole company rushed to their appointed places. Some were bringing shells, others were opening the breeches, others were taking the ranges, others were straining at pulleys, and others were putting the charges into place. Everything was eagerness and activity; evidently the Germans had been excellent instructors, but there was more to it than German military precision, for the men's faces lighted up with all that fanaticism which supplies the morale of Turkish soldiers. These gunners momentarily imagined that they were shooting once more at the infidel English, and the exercise was a congenial one. Above the shouts of all I could hear the singsong chant of the leader, intoning the prayer with which the Moslem has rushed to battle for thirteen centuries.
"Allah is great, there is but one God, and Mohammed is his Prophet!"
When I looked upon these frenzied men, and saw so plainly written in their faces their uncontrollable hatred of the unbeliever, I called to mind what the Germans had said in the morning about the wisdom of not putting Turkish and German soldiers together. I am quite sure that, had this been done, here at least the "Holy War" would have proved a success, and that the Turks would have vented their hatred of Christians on those who happened to be nearest at hand, for the moment overlooking the fact that they were allies.
THE BRITISH SHIP "ALBION". Shelling the fortifications at the Inner Strait. The splashes near the ship show that the Turks are replying vigorously
I returned to Constantinople that evening, and two days afterward, on March 18th, the Allied fleet made its greatest attack. As all the world knows, that attack proved disastrous to the Allies. The outcome was the sinking of the Bouvet, the Ocean, and the Irresistible and the serious crippling of four other vessels. Of the sixteen ships engaged in this battle of the 18th, seven were thus put temporarily or permanently out of action. Naturally the Germans and Turks rejoiced over this victory. The police went around, and ordered each householder to display a prescribed number of flags in honour of the event. The Turkish people have so little spontaneous patriotism or enthusiasm of any kind that they would never decorate their establishments without such definite orders. As a matter of fact, neither Germans nor Turks regarded this celebration too seriously, for they were not yet persuaded that they had really won a victory. Most still believed that the Allied fleets would succeed in forcing their way through. The only question, they said, was whether the Entente was ready to sacrifice the necessary number of ships. Neither Wangenheim, nor Pallavicini believed that the disastrous experience of the 18th would end the naval attack, and for days they anxiously waited for the fleet to return. The high tension lasted for days and weeks after the repulse of the 18th. We were still momentarily expecting the renewal of the attack. But the great armada never returned.
Should it have come back? Could the Allied ships really have captured Constantinople? I am constantly asked this question. As a layman my own opinion can have little value, but I have quoted the opinions of the German generals and admirals, and of the Turks---practically all of whom, except Enver, believed that the enterprise would succeed, and I am half inclined to believe that Enver's attitude was merely a case of graveyard whistling; in what I now have to say on this point, therefore, I wish it understood that I am giving not my own views, but merely those of the officials then in Turkey who were best qualified to judge.
Enver had told me, in our talk on the deck of the Yuruk, that he had "plenty of guns---plenty of ammunition." But this statement was not true. A glimpse at the map will show why Turkey was not receiving munitions from Germany or Austria at that time. The fact was that Turkey was just as completely isolated from her allies then as was Russia. There were two railroad lines leading from Constantinople to Germany. One went by way of Bulgaria and Serbia. Bulgaria was then not an ally; even though she had winked at the passage of guns and shells, this line could not have been used, since Serbia, which controlled the vital link extending from Nish to Belgrade, was still intact. The other railroad line went through Rumania, by way of, Bucharest. This route was independent of Serbia, and, had the Rumanian Government consented, it would have formed a clear route from the Krupps to the Dardanelles. The fact that munitions could be sent with the connivance of the Rumanian Government perhaps accounts for the suspicion that guns and shells were going by that route. Day after day the French and British ministers protested at Bucharest against this alleged violation of neutrality, only to be met with angry denials that the Germans were using this line. There is no doubt now that the Rumanian Government was perfectly honourable in making these denials. It is not unlikely that the Germans themselves started all these stories, merely to fool the Allied fleet into the belief that their supplies were inexhaustible.
Let us suppose that the Allies had returned, say on the morning of the nineteenth, what would have happened? The one overwhelming fact is that the fortifications were very short of ammunition. They had almost reached the limit of their resisting power when the British fleet passed out on the afternoon of the 18th. I had secured permission for Mr. George A. Schreiner, the well-known American correspondent of the Associated Press, to visit the Dardanelles on this occasion. On the night of the 18th, this correspondent discussed the situation with General Mertens, who was the chief technical officer at the straits. General Mertens admitted that the outlook was very discouraging !or the defense.
"We expect that the British will come back early tomorrow morning," he said, " and if they do, we may be able to hold out for a few hours."
General Mertens did not declare in so many words that the ammunition was practically exhausted, but Mr. Schreiner discovered that such was the case. The fact was that Fort Hamidié, the most powerful defense on the Asiatic side, had just seventeen armour-piercing shells left, while at Kilid-ul-Bahr, which was the main defense on the European side, there were precisely ten.
"I should advise you to get up at six o'clock tomorrow morning," said General Mertens, "and take to the Anatolian hills. That's what we are going to do."
The troops at all the fortifications had their orders to man the guns until the last shell had been fired and then to abandon the forts.
Once these defenses became helpless, the problem of the Allied fleet would have been a simple one. The only bar to their progress would have been the minefield, which stretched from a point about two miles north of Erenkeui to Kilid-ul-Bahr. But the Allied fleet had plenty of mine-sweepers, which could have made a channel in a few hours. North of Tchanak, as I have already explained, there were a few guns, but they were of the 1878 model, and could not discharge projectiles that could pierce modern armour plate. North of Point Nagara there were only two batteries, and both dated from 1835! Thus, once having silenced the outer straits, there was nothing to bar the passage to Constantinople except the German and Turkish warships. The Goeben was the only first-class fighting ship in either fleet, and it would not have lasted long against the Queen Elizabeth. The disproportion in the strength of the opposing fleets, indeed, was so enormous that it is doubtful whether there would ever have been an engagement.
Thus the Allied fleet would have appeared before Constantinople on the morning of the twentieth. What would have happened then? We have heard much discussion as to whether this purely naval attack was justified. Enver, in his conversation with me, had laid much stress on the absurdity of sending a fleet to Constantinople, supported by no adequate landing force, and much of the criticism since passed upon the Dardanelles expedition has centred on that point. Yet it is my opinion that this exclusively naval attack was justified. I base this judgment purely upon the political situation which then existed in Turkey. Under ordinary circumstances such an enterprise would probably have been a foolish one, but the political conditions in Constantinople then were not ordinary. There was no solidly established government in Turkey at that time. A political committee, not exceeding forty members, headed by Talaat, Enver, and Djemal, controlled the Central Government, but their authority throughout the empire was exceedingly tenuous. As a matter of fact, the whole Ottoman state, on that eighteenth day of March, 1915, when the Allied fleet abandoned the attack, was on the brink of dissolution. All over Turkey ambitious chieftains had arisen, who were momentarily expecting its fall, and who were looking for the opportunity to seize their parts of the inheritance. As previously described, Djemal had already organized practically an independent government in Syria. In Smyrna Rahmi Bey, the Governor-General, had often disregarded the authorities at the capital. In Adrianople Hadji Adil, one of the most courageous Turks of the time, was believed to be plotting to set up his own government. Arabia had already become practically an independent nation. Among the subject races the spirit of revolt was rapidly spreading. The Greeks and the Armenians would also have welcomed an opportunity to strengthen the hands of the Allies. The existing financial and industrial conditions seemed to make revolution inevitable. Many farmers went on strike; they had no seeds and would not accept them as a free gift from the Government because, they said, as soon as their crops should be garnered the armies, would immediately requisition them. As for Constantinople, the populace there and the best elements among the Turks, far from opposing the arrival of the Allied fleet, would have welcomed it with joy. The Turks themselves were praying that the British and French would take their city, for this would relieve them of the controlling gang, emancipate them from the hated Germans, bring about peace, and end their miseries.
No one understood this better than Talaat. He was taking no chances on making an expeditious retreat, in case the Allied fleet appeared before the city. For several months the Turkish leaders had been casting envious glances at a Minerva automobile that had been reposing in the Belgian legation ever since Turkey's declaration of war. Talaat finally obtained possession of the coveted prize. He had obtained somewhere another automobile, which he had loaded with extra tires, gasolene, and all the other essentials of a protracted journey. This was evidently intended to accompany the more pretentious machine as a kind of "mother ship." Talaat stationed these automobiles on the Asiatic side of the city with chauffeurs constantly at hand. Everything was prepared to leave for the interior of Asia Minor at a moment's notice.
But the great Allied armada never returned to the attack.
About a week after this momentous defeat, I happened to drop in at the German Embassy. Wangenheim had a distinguished visitor whom he asked me to meet. I went into his private office and there was Von der Goltz Pasha, recently returned from Belgium, where he had served as governor. I must admit that, meeting Goltz thus informally, I had difficulty in reconciling his personality with all the stories that were then coming out of Belgium. That morning this mild-mannered, spectacled gentleman seemed sufficiently quiet and harmless. Nor did he look his age---he was then about seventy-four; his hair was only streaked with gray, and his face was almost unwrinkled; I should not have taken him for more than sixty-five. The austerity and brusqueness and ponderous dignity which are assumed by most highly-placed Germans were not apparent. His voice was deep, musical, and pleasing, and his manners were altogether friendly and ingratiating. The only evidence of pomp in his bearing was his uniform; he was dressed as a field marshal, his chest blazing with decorations and gold braid. Von der Goltz explained and half apologized for his regalia by saying that he had just returned from an audience with the Sultan. He had come to Constantinople to present his majesty a medal from the Kaiser, and was taking back to Berlin a similar mark of consideration from the Sultan to the Kaiser, besides an imperial present of 10,000 cigarettes.
The three of us sat there for some time, drinking coffee, eating German cakes, and smoking German cigars. I did not do much of the talking, but the conversation of Von der Goltz and Wangenheim, seemed to me to shed much light upon the German mind, and especially on the trustworthiness of German military reports. The aspect of the Dardanelles fight that interested them most at that time was England's complete frankness in publishing her losses. That the British Government should issue an official statement, saying that three ships had been sunk and that four others had been badly damaged, struck them as most remarkable. In this announcement I merely saw a manifestation of the usual British desire to make public the worst---the policy which we Americans also believe to be the best in war times. But no such obvious explanation could satisfy these wise and solemn Teutons. No, England had some deep purpose in telling the truth so unblushingly; what could it be?
"Es ist ausserordentlich!" (It is extraordinary) said Von der Goltz, referring to England's public acknowledgment of defeat.
"Es ist unerhört!" (It is unheard of) declared the equally astonished Wangenheim.
These master diplomatists canvassed one explanation after another, and finally reached a conclusion that satisfied the higher strategy. England, they agreed, really had had no enthusiasm for this attack, because, in the event of success, she would have had to hand Constantinople over to Russia---something which England really did not intend to do. By publishing the losses, England showed Russia the enormous difficulties of the task; she had demonstrated, indeed, that the enterprise was impossible. After such losses, England intended Russia to understand that she had made a sincere attempt to gain this great prize of war and expected her not to insist on further sacrifices.
The sequel to this great episode in the war came in the winter of 1915-16. By this time Bulgaria had joined the Central Powers, Serbia had been overwhelmed, and the Germans had obtained a complete, unobstructed railroad line from Constantinople to Austria and Germany. Huge Krupp guns now began to come over this line---all destined for the Dardanelles. Sixteen great batteries, of the latest model, were emplaced near the entrance, completely controlling Sedd-ul-Bahr. The Germans lent the Turks 500,000,000 marks, much of which was spent defending this indispensable highway. The thinly fortified straits through which I passed in March, 1915, is now as impregnably fortified as Heligoland. It is doubtful if all the fleets in the world could force the Dardanelles to-day.