- Politics and Social Issues»
- Europe Political & Social Issues
The Last Battle of the Asia Minor War 1922
On August 12-13, the Asia Minor Army, consisting of 1st, 2nd & 5th Corps held a line of over 700 kms long stretching in a huge arc from Kio to the Aegean Sea. It controlled two bridgeheads on the Meandre River at Ak Mendi and Ortanza, while the Turks controlled one at Seiyit. The Greek 12 divisions could not adequately cover the area and large gaps were left between units. Supply lines, communications and transport were threatened, morale was low, desertion high. The position was such that any relief took a long time to reach the front line. The headquarters of the 1st Corps and essential auxiliary units were dangerously close to the front line. Communications and organization were lacking, as were trenches, transport and essential supplies. The possibility of retreat or the evacuation of Asia Minor loomed large.
Only two of the 12 divisions along the front were south of the Akar River where a Turkish attack was expected. The Turks were amassing troops and establishing a significant advantage over the Greeks.The Greek supply route via Afion was insecure, but for months the possibility of retreat existed but nothing was done to secure better defensive positions. Changes in government and military leadership resulted in there being no plans for an orderly retreat and the ability to conduct military operations was minimal. Although General Hantzianestis (Commander of the Asia Minor Army) saw the danger posed by the long front line, he was too preoccupied with Istanbul and Thrace and did nothing to improve its defenses. Despite the demoralizing rumors of retreat and imminent attack by the Turks, only one regiment was brought back from Thrace. In fact, several divisions had been transferred from this front to Thrace in an effort to threaten Istanbul. Hantzianestis rejected Passaris’ plan and, in effect, made defense of the southern front impossible. He went to Athens to ask for an immediate withdrawal but it was too late. On August 18-19th the Turks launched a diversionary attack. The general public in Greece wanted all their military forces to come home, many soldiers had not been paid for months because Britain and France quit funding the Greek military army in Turkey. Greece political entities sought an honorable way out of the mess they found themselves in. They wanted to save face, yet, there was no way to do it withough disgrace.
The Greek Army
In August 1922, the Asia Minor Army had three Corps, a Cavalry Division, a heavy artillery regiment with three companies of 120mm guns, afield artillery regiment with three companies with 105 howitzer, an independent machine gun battalion, mechanized truck battalions. The airforce had four squadrons with 55 planes (mostly recon). Each Corps also had a regiment of mountain artillery. Only three of the 12 divisional commanders were major generals, the rest were colonels. Details of their deployment were as follows:
3rd CORPS (Eski Sehir - Major General P. Soumilas in command. Chief of Staff Colonel N. Spyropoulos).
From the Dardanelles to Ak In. It had four divisions at the front line:
The 3rdDivision at Ahalar, the 6th Infantry Reg at Kourban Mouhare, the 12th Infantry Reg at Yurouk Karatza and the 2/39th Evzones Reg. at Sinekli Kaya.
The 10thDivision at Kara Tokat, with the 27th Infantry Reg.at ArapEvren, the 28th Infantry Reg in Thrace and 30thReg at Harmanli.
The 11thDivision at Kiopron Hisar with the 16th Infantry Reg at Kioplou Hisar , the 17th Infantry Reg at Intzirliand the 45thReg on the Giaila Heights.
The Independent Division at Seinti Gazi, with the 51st Infantry Reg at Aivali, the 52nd Infantry Reg at Ispas and the 53rdReg at Seinti Gazi.
It also included the Military Command of Eskisehir (57th Infantry Reg.), the Military Command of Prousis and the 47th Infantry Regiment which covered Kio Pazarkii. Of the divisions, the 11thDivision covered the 60 km from the Gulf of Kio to Biletzik. The 16th Infantry Reg. covered Biletzik. The 3rdDivision covered the 50 km from Boz Dag to the Porsak River. The 10thDivision from Porsak to Maliabasi Hill (Tepe), some 50 km. The Independent xx from north of Seinti Gazi to Ak In-Kirk Kayia, some 30 km.
2nd CORPS (Kazli Gioul Hamam – Major General K. Digenes in command, with Colonel I. Vasilakopoulos as Chief of Staff. Concentrated in the area of Evret Doger, as reserve army and comprised four Divisions and the Military Commands of Kioutahia Ousak (32th Infantry reg). It also covered the gap between 1st and 3rd Corps at Saritze Dag and the Ouzak strip from the western limits of Akar Dag to the Fesli River.
The 9th Division at Kara Bounar with the 3/40 Evzones Reg. at Douker, the 25th Infantry Reg. at Maslilkii and the 26th Infantry Reg. at Kabalar. It secured the Saritze Dag gap, some 23 km.
The 13th Division(minus 5/42 Evzones Reg.) at Karatza Ahmet secured the Dermili section, some 10 km with the 2nd Infantry Reg. at Karatza Ahmet and the 3rdReg. Infantry at Beikii. The 5/42 Reg. had been given to the 1st Corps. It was southeast of the 9th Division and north of the 5th Division.
The 7th Division was at Evret, with the 22nd Infantry Reg also at Evret, the 23rdReg at Sousouz and the 37thReg at Osmankii.
The 2nd Division at Onsak covered the south west of the front, west of the 1st Corps. Reinforced with five battalions from the 31stReg. and 54thReg. Infantry, it held the Ousak strip, from the western reaches of Akar Dag to the River Feslik. Its three sections covered 170 km of front. The three instrumental battalions were the 1stbn at Tsivril, the 7thbn at Islamkii, and the 34thbn at Seltzouklar.
1st Corps (Afyon – Major General N. Trikoupis in command with Colonel Al. Merenditis as Chief of Staff). Covered from Touklou Tepe to Ayiazin Dere and consisted of four divisions.
The 1st Division at Bol Mahmout with the 4th Infantry Reg. at Geitzik-Eyiouk, the 5thReg. near Kirka Hasan Bel-Sinan Pasha and 1/38 Evzones Reg. at Karangiozeli and Tourklou Tepe. Also under the same division command was the 49th Infantry Reg. near Sinirkii-Tilki Kiri Bel and Kilitz Arslan Bel. This division held Akar but left gaps at Tsai Hisar and between it and the 4th Division to the east.
The 4th Division at Afion covered from Kaletzik to Akar (20 km)and included 8th Infantry Reg. (sub-section Mihail) northeast of Depar and 35thReg. (Kaletzik).
The 5th Divisionwasat Boz Euyiouk with the 33rdReg. at Altza, the 43rdReg. East of Ayiazin and 44thReg.west of Botsanli. It covered from the In Tepe heights and Auyian Tepe to Hairan Baba. The 2nd Corps was to its north and the 12th division to its south.
The 12th Divisionwas at Konmardas with the 14thReg. at Sousouz Giouzelim, the 41stReg. at Tsavdarli and the 46thReg. west of Abanaz , some 30 km. It covered from the Tsalislar heights to the Akar River.
The 1st Corps also had a Mixed Detachment from the 13th Division in reserve at Tsakiraz with 5/42 Evzones Reg. and cavalry under its direct orders.
The Asia Minor Army filded 220,000 men but only 80,000 were combatants. There were 2,592 submachine guns, 980 machine guns and 264 artillery guns. The area was sparsely covered (very few wooded areas) and transport for logistics was poor to bad. Both the officers at Corps and Divisional level lack of corps and divisions discouraged the use of initiative during training. The radio communication was minimal (each Corps and Divisional HQ had a radio. Regiments and lower did not) and communication by wire very insecure.
The Turkish Army
After suffering heavy losses in July and August ,1921, the Turks rallied and deployed their main force south of Afyon and began preparing for a general attack.
The French, British, Russians, and Italians, provided much support to Kemal. The Turkish Army received 400 trucks, 64 Howitzers (105mm-150mm), 54 mountain guns, and 50 aircraft from the French and 1500 trucks from the Italians just before the August offensive. The Turkish army now numbered over120,000 men with 55,000 of the 80,000 combatant troops deployed near Afyon. They had the advantage in the south and the four Greek divisions were horribly outnumbered and outgunned south of Akar River.
In May, Fehti Bey asked the French Foreign Minister for support at the coming summit in Venice and was told that France "traditionally" supported Turkey but a Turkish victory would lend weight to its arguments. Thus, in July, Turkey decided to launch a general offensive. Low morale in the Greek army meant they could gain territory before the Venice summit and Afyon was chosen for the offensive.
The Turkish plan called for the four Greek divisions to face 11 Turkish divisions with an additional four infantry and four cavalry divisions in reserve. Greek divisions would face eight divisions in first assault, supported by with 62 heavy and 200 light artillery guns
By August 13-14th, it became clear to the Greeks that Turkey was preparing an offensive south of Afyon. Greek intelligence forewarned of attack on positions held by the 1st and 4th Divisions, specifically, Turkish units concentrating on the gap between them, but no action was taken to bolster defenses there!!
The defection of British and French support of the Greek military adventure occurred in August 1921, after the Greeks failed to seize Ankara, Turkey's capital. After the battle of the Sarkarya, France and Britain switched horses and supported Turkey!
The Turkish Offensive
The attack began on 26th August with heavy bombardment south of the river Akar, the aim being to disperse the 1st and 4th Divisions and broaden the 6 klm Kauyiadibi Kamelar gap. Artillery fire began at 04.30 followed by infantry attack at 06.00.
Kemal and the Turkish leadership at Kaletzik had the whole area to immediate view while the Greek military command was 450 klm away in Izmir. Bombardment was so fierce that Greek trenches were destroyed and units decimated. It soon spread the whole length of the Kaletzik, under the 4th Division, where 100 light and 30 heavy artillery pounded barbed wire, enclosures, trenches, reserve positions and command posts in the main area of resistance.The Greek batteries and platoons were effectively cut off by the Turkish Skonda. The bombardment greatly helped the Turkish infantry.
The 14th August brought the final blow and the Greek front line was breached. Kemal’s plan was to strike between the river Tsai and Bonnar, the most vulnerable point in the front line. The Greek side put all forces of the 7th Division into action at the breach so the plan to counter-attack was cancelled. The 7th Division commanding officer took over from the 5th Infantry who had fled. The 1st and 7th divisions were barely holding the line.
Overwhelming Turkish forces scored a decisive victory at Kamelar (26 bns opposed by 6 Greek bns), where the 5/42 suffered extremely heavy losses, and the breach widened. Out of 2500 men, 58 officers, in two days1380 men and 43 officers were lost!