AHI Forum Commemorates 91st Anniversary of Smyrna Catastrophe
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a noon forum to commemorate the 91st anniversary of the Smyrna Catastrophe in Asia Minor featuring Dr. Robert Shenk, professor of English, University of New Orleans, October 7, 2013, at AHI’s Hellenic House.
Dr. Shenk, a retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve and former instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, presented on the topic “Key Decisions during the Smyrna Crisis, September 1922” and based his lecture upon a chapter from his book, “America’s Black Sea Fleet: The U.S. Navy Amidst War and Revolution, 1919-1923.” AHI Board Member James Marketos, Esq., who traces his family’s roots to Asia Minor, introduced Dr. Shenk.
“It is important to commemorate the Smyrna Catastrophe because it is a vivid reminder of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and it gives us pause to think about similar atrocities and human rights abuses that occur today,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “We appreciated Dr. Shenk’s informative and detailed presentation of the Smyrna Catastrophe through the perspective of the U.S. Navy’s historical records. He provided insight about how the U.S. Navy approached what was transpiring at Smyrna, including the attitudes of those officers in command at the time and the handling of refugees.”
Dr. Shenk’s presentation began by providing background about the U.S. Navy’s presence in the Near East region and the perspective of the chain of command led by Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol. According to Dr. Shenk, Rear Admiral Bristol was less interested in humanitarian or relief efforts, but rather, he was more interested in promoting American business in the region. Therefore, he ensured the U.S. maintained a neutral position. Dr. Shenk then presented accounts from naval personnel of the atrocities committed against the Greek and Armenian communities of Smyna by the Turks. He also cited the important efforts of U.S. Consul General George Horton and Asa Jennings, an American missionary who worked at a Y.M.C.A. in Smyrna at the time of the crisis. Jennings would eventually be honored by the Greek government for his heroic actions that included securing a large number of cargo ships to rescue the refugees.
Following Dr. Shenk’s presentation, President Larigakis offered closing remarks, and he moderated a Q&A session with the audience.
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