Friday, August 7, 2015

The Long Summer at Gallipoli

Western forces invade Muslim country. They expect easy victory, but are surprised to find tenacious resistance, difficult terrain, and high casualties. The invasion goes nowhere.

So what do they do? They try it again.

And again.

And again.

Thus we arrive at the month of August in the year 1915. The night of August 6th saw the start of the last of four concentrated battle campaigns seeking to break the Turkish lines beyond the beaches and the cliffs of the Dardanelles and open the route to the mythical Constantinople.

We generally associate Gallipoli with April 25, 1915. Our friends "down under" observe it as ANZAC Day (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). The Aussies and Kiwis were heroes that day, and afterward, for their immense bravery and sacrifice in desperately trying to carry out an invasion that was not their idea (and therefore not their fault).

The idea[s] came from the British, and the Gallipoli campaign has attained legendary status as one of history's great military bungles. The failure of the initial spring invasion resulted in a long stalemate and three more attempts to advance. This final August offensive also failed, and forces finally withdrew with nothing but an accumulation of misery and casualties and graves left behind.

ANZAC charging Turkish lines, Gallipoli campaign
Eight months of futility in the Dardanelles became a watershed for British leadership in the early part of the war, bringing down Secretary of War Lord Kitchener and General Ian Hamilton, who both basically exited the world stage at this point.

First Lord of the Admiralty (i.e. Navy Secretary) Winston Churchill also got sacked, but he would return to lead other battles in another war.

Many say that Gallipoli was the foundation of the national identities of Australia, New Zealand, and modern Turkey (although the arrangement of the Middle East that emerged after World War I remains unstable even now). As a military campaign, however, it was a frustrating waste of human lives that pointed toward greater frustrations still to come in the bloody year of 1916.

Hardcore JJ blog fans recall, perhaps, that we counted down the days to the beginning of the World War I centenary last summer. Honestly, however, I had to stop. It was just too depressing.

Nevertheless, I do not wish to neglect these dreadful years. We must remember and mourn the great violence of this war, which shows so vividly the ugliness that human beings can perpetrate against one anotherthe ugliness that creeps into our own hearts when love grows cold.