Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Second Battle of Inonu: Turning Point of the Greco-Turkish War

Greek Troops Advancing During the First Battle of Inonu, January 1921

The Greco-Turkish War, which had begun in May 1919 with the landing of a Greek army in Smyrna,  had reached a near stalemate by early 1921. The initial effort by the invaders to secure the region around the city had been successful, but their expanded expedition into northern Turkey and Anatolia had been met with growing resistance, first from guerilla formations, then the more-organized opposition from the Turkish revolutionary movement led by Mustafa Kemal.

The forces of Kemal's revolutionary faction, commanded by Ismet Bey, entered the fray in January to oppose a Greek effort to capture the rail junction of Inonu in present-day Eskisehir Province. They were eventually able to drive the Greek troops out of the village. This minor victory, gave legitimacy to Kemal building on his reputation from the Great War, and allowed him to unify the other revolutionary groups under his leadership.

Click on Image to Expand

A conference, meanwhile, had been called in London by the Allies to review the Treaty of Sevres, which had been made with the Ottoman Empire, rather than the various Turkish leadership factions, and to address the war aims of these new competing Istanbul and Ankara (Kemal) governments and the Greeks. The ascendant Ankara negotiators, seeking major concessions, left the talks after concluding they were getting nowhere. Their bargaining power would be settled on the Turkish battlefields, where Mustafa Kemal had been busy reorganizing a more unified force.

The Greeks attempted to immediately restart their advance. The Second Battle of Inonu was fought between 23 March and 1 April 1921. The battle began with a Greek assault on the positions of Ismet's troops on 23 March 1921. It took them four days to reach Inonu due to delaying actions by the Turks in other sectors. The better-equipped Greeks pushed back the Turks and took the dominant hill called Metristepe on the 27th. A night counterattack by the Turks failed to recapture it. Meanwhile, on 24 March, Greek I Army Corps took Kara Hisar-i Sahib present-day Afyonkarahisar after running over Dumlupinar positions. On 31 March Ismet attacked again after receiving reinforcements and recaptured Metristepe. In a continuation battle in April, Refet Pasha retook the town of Kara Hisar. The Greek III Army Corps retreated. It marked a turning point in the Greco-Turkish War and the Turkish War of Independence of which it was a part, as Greek forces had previously been victorious over mostly irregular Turkish forces and suffered their first major defeat in Asia minor.

Victors Kemal and Ismet

The war dragged on, but the firm Turkish opposition henceforth broke the morale of the frontline Greek soldiers—desertions soared—and the home front public and politicians. Another defeat in August 1921 caused a political crisis in Athens, but the government decided to stay the course. A year-long Greek retreat back to Smyrna ensued. The end at Smyrna was an utter catastrophe, best told elsewhere.

The victory for the Kemalists led to the abolition of the Sultanate and the birth of the Turkish Republic with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as its first president. The commander of the Turkish forces at Inonu, Ismet, one of Kemal's closest collaborators, had his name changed to Ismet Inonu by Kemal Atatürk himself in memory of the victory at Inonu. He went on to become the second president of Turkey after Kemal.

Sources: Wiki Commons,

No comments:

Post a Comment