Defender of Gallipoli – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk I WHO DID WHAT IN WORLD WAR 1?


The “Father of the Turks”. That’s what
Ataturk means, and it was the title and surname given to Mustafa Kemal to honor him as the leader
and driving force behind the creation of modern Turkey. His exploits in the First World War
are legend, and it was his tactical skills that were the real secret in both his military
and political career. So… Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. My name is Indy Neidell. Welcome to another
special episode of Who Did What in World War One. Mustafa was born in May 1881 in Saloniki,
today’s Thessaloniki in what is now Greece, but was then part of the Ottoman Empire. His
actual birthdate is unknown, but he chose May 19th himself. His father was a timber
dealer and a former customs lieutenant who died when Mustafa was seven years old while
his mother came from a long-established rural family. He grew up in fairly modest circumstances
and had five siblings, but only one- a sister- survived childhood. After the death of the
father, the family moved to the countryside to live with one of Mustafa’s uncles and
Mustafa did not attend school regularly until he moved back to Saloniki at the age of nearly
ten. He wasn’t there for long, though, dropping out at the age of 12, but he eventually applied
to a middle school, was accepted, and graduated in 1895 as one of the top students. This is
apparently where he was given his surname Kemal from his math teacher. It was in praise
of his skills; Kemal means perfect in Arabic. After graduation, he attended cadet school
in Manastir, now in Macedonia. In 1899, he moved to Constantinople, the capital of the
Empire, now Istanbul, and became an officer at the military academy. He remained there
until 1902, but was arrested shortly after leaving by government intelligence and spend
several months in prison for opposition to the government. See, Mustafa had joined the
opposition party while at the academy, which supported western style reform movements and
wanted greater self determination and autonomy in the empire, rather than the absolute power
of the Sultan. The academy’s director intervened and got Mustafa released and soon enough he
was a captain employed by the War office. In Damascus, he founded a secret organization
called “Fatherland and Freedom” and shortly afterward himself became a member of the Committee
for Union and Progress, otherwise known as the Young Turks, a large opposition organization.
In 1908 as an army chief of staff he supported the Young Turks revolution, which deposed
the Sultan and restored a constitutional government. In 1910, Mustafa visited Western Europe for
the first time. His famous quote, “There are different cultures, but only one civilization,
the European one.“ comes from that visit. In 1911 and 12, he fought as a major in the
Italian-Turkish war. This war showed cracks in the foundations of the Empire and in 1912
Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria formed an alliance to exploit those cracks and attacked
the Empire in October. This was the First Balkan War, and Mustafa fought in Gallipoli
and Bolayir. After the war, he worked as a military attaché and in 1914 he became Lieutenant
Colonel in the Ottoman embassy in Sofia so when the first World War broke out, Mustafa
Kemal lived in Bulgaria. The Ottoman Empire fought with the German
Empire during World War One, and In January 1915, the 19th Division of the 5th Turkish
army was assigned to Mustafa Kemal – he transferred to Gallipoli, and his fantastic exploits against
the Allies while defending at Gallipoli brought him worldwide fame and attention, as well
as military glory. His forces beat back the British and French forces time and again,
and as the Gallipoli campaign ended in defeat for the Allies, Mustafa Kemal was praised
throughout the empire, even with the hundreds of thousands of Ottoman lives lost. After
Gallipoli, he was stationed in Edirne and Diyarbakir. Promoted to major general in April
1916, he fought to recapture Mush and Bitlis from the Russians, and after short battles
in Damascus and Aleppo, he returned to Constantinople. In early 1918, he visited the Ottoman Crown
Prince Vahideddin, later Sultan Mehmet VI, also meeting German Kaiser Wilhelm II, German
quartermaster general Erich Ludendorff, and Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg as they
planned spring offensives. That’s pretty heavy company. In June 1918, Mehmet became Sultan of the
Empire, the last one as it turned out. Mustafa was made Commander of the 7th Army with the
task of defending Syria against the British advance. This would prove to be an impossible
task, and Mustafa Kemal could only organize a coordinated retreat until the Treaty of
Mudros on October 31 ended the campaign. After the war, Mustafa returned to Constantinople.
The Empire collapsed after the war and the peace Treaty of Sévres in 1920 actually partitioned
the Empire among the victors and the indigenous peoples. The treaty was never ratified, though,
because the Turkish War of Independence brought everyone back to the negotiating table. Mustafa
Kemal was both the political and military leader during the war, defending his country
against foreign incursion and cementing his position as the man in charge, even when turmoil
in the country resulted in massacres of both Armenians and Greeks. Okay, this is way too
brief to do any justice to the story of the war or the civilian tragedies, but to cut
it even shorter, after four years of war the Modern Republic of Turkey was founded with
Mustafa Kemal as its first president, a post he would hold for 15 years, being honored
with the surname Ataturk in 1934. He was, and is, the symbolic figure of Turkish national
consciousness. I lived in Istanbul for a bit back in the mid 1990s, and even then, every
house, shop, or restaurant had a photograph of Ataturk displayed prominently, to a degree
that I personally have never seen of any other figure in any other country. It’s not really my job to talk about his
career as President, since, much like the War for Independence, that is well outside
of the scope of this show, but I encourage you all to read more about one of the 20th
century’s legendary figures. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk died of cirrhosis of
the liver November 10th, 1938. He was initially laid to rest in the Ethnography Museum in
Ankara, the new capital of Turkey, but in 1953 was moved to a huge mausoleum that overlooks
the city. He was admired worldwide by virtually every great politician of his era, and in
1981, UNESCO declared the “year of Ataturk” in honor of his 100th birthday. Here’s a
bizarre but cool piece of trivia- one of Ataturk’s adopted daughters was the world’s first
female fighter pilot. Really. So there you have it, a man who in many ways
was larger than life, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of all Turks, and the driving force
behind the creation of modern Turkey. If you want to see how the whole Gallipoli
mess really got going, check out this episode about the first landings and how Mustafa Kemal
was involved in the defense. And let us know if there is another important
figure from the war you would like to know more about. Don’t forget to subscribe.

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