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Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, Commander, United States Naval Forces in Turkey, and High Commissioner at Constantinople, to Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby

Constantinople, January 7, 1920—11 a.m.

[Received January 8—11:06 a.m.]

6. An appeal has been made to me by Henko, representative Russian Admiral Schramc<henko>1 of Denikin navy2 here, on the part of humanity. Odessa will resist or be taken by the Bolsheviki within two or three weeks. It contains more than 100,000 refugees and inhabitants who must be evacuated to allow any defense of the city. If they remain the city must be surrendered and many of them will certainly be killed and tortured. In the recent capture of Kharkov, the Reds murdered 25,000 persons. Greater atrocities are feared at Odessa unless it is properly evacuated.

For this 4000 tons more of coal are needed in the port where shipping is plentiful but without sufficient fuel. Admiral de Robeck3 appealed to has supplied already 2,000 tons on his own responsibility without consulting the British Admiralty. The French have been appealed to in vain. I find myself in the same position. I have here only 1200 tons necessary for our own ships, and am without authority to turn this over to the Russians. Our Government has no credit arrangements like France and England with Denikin.

In no way could America show to the world the unselfishness and altruism which have characterized us during the war than by in some manner furnishing this coal. Its supply would in no sense be an act of military aid, but rather one of sheer humanity.

The British transport Hanover has already made one trip from Odessa to Sevastopol carrying 6000 refugees, and is returning for another load. A French ship has left here on similar mission. We have no means to participate in this work. Any aid on our part in this most serious matter would be amply rewarded in future prestige. We are prejudicing ourselves not only in the eyes of Russians but of other nations by being forced to hold ourselves aloof.


Source Note: Printed, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1920, Volume 3, 573-4.

Footnote 1: Adm. Sviatoslav Shramchenko. A former officer in the Imperial Russian Navy during World War I, following the end of the war Shramchenko became one of founders of the Ukrainian People's Republic and Ukrainian State (predecessors of modern Ukraine), which was established following the 1917 February Revolution and lasted until the end of the Russian Civil War.

Footnote 2: Anton I. Denikin. Formerly a Lieutenant General in the Imperial Russian Army, Denikin became the leader of the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army, aligned with the Tsarist White Russians (Mensheviks) during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922). Denikin’s forces campaigned in southern Russia throughout 1918-1920, seizing control of territory throughout the Black Sea region until they were stopped 26 miles south of Moscow and forced into constant retreat by the Red and Black Armies. Denikin was eventually forced into exile in April 1920.

Footnote 3: Adm. Sir John M. de Robeck, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet, and British High Commissioner to Turkey.