Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, Commander, United States Naval Forces in Turkey, and United States High Commissioner, Turkey, to Vice Admiral Harry S. Knapp, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
In reply refer to
And. Con 2739-20
U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN NEAR EASTERN WATERS.
U.S.S. SCORPION, Flagship.
1 April 1920.
FROM: Senior U.S. Naval Officer, Turkey.
TO: Force Commander.
SUBJECT: General Policy and Destroyers.
REFERENCE: (a) Force Commander’s confidential letter No. 102999,
of 25 February 1920.1
1. Reference (a) was received, together with enclosures. The two new destroyers arrived in Constantinople just in time to meet an emergency that arose in connection with the Bolshevik successes in South Russia. If these destroyers had not arrived at the time they did, I would have been placed in a very embarrassing position. In addition to these destroyers, I have been compelled to use the EAGLE boat, whose repairs were just completed, also the GALVESTON, and utilised the SCORPION for Station use. This has been a makeshift arrangement, but was absolutely necessary to meet the conditions that arose. Now, since the 16th of March, when the Allies occupied Constantinople, all communication with Asia Minor has been cut off. Also, there have been some reports that have gotten through that conditions in the enterior are becoming more and more disturbed, and, therefore, our Americans will be in danger. Likewise, previous to this time, the French fiasco in Cilicia and Syria brought about a very disturbed condition there, and now a state of war practically exists in that part of the country. Adana is cut off from communication with the interior and only has communication through Mersina to the sea. All the territory north of Aleppo is cut off, and Aleppo has communication with Beirut and the sea. The declaration of independence by Syria, and the ultimatum issued to the British and French forces to retire from Syria and Mesopotamia, will probably bring about disturbed conditions throughout Arabia. Conditions in the Caucasus are becoming disturbed, due to a fear of the Bolshevik advances in that direction, now that they have overcome Denekin2 and conquered the whole of the north Caucasus. Thus, our people in Armenia and that part of the world may be in danger.
2. In view of all these facts, it has become necessary to station a destroyer at Beirut, Mersina, Samsoun, Batoum and one at Constanza for radio communication to the Force Commander and the United States. Also the EAGLE boat has been stationed at Moudania. As soon as the GALVESTON can be released from the Crimea, she will replace the SCORPION and the SCORPION can replace the EAGLE boat. Thus, it seems to me that it is absolutely necessary, for the protection of American interests, to have at least six destroyers here at the present time, and the conditions are more urgent than they were even during the emergency in South Russia. We have over 500 American born citizens scattered throughout Asia Minor with absolutely no protection, and at the present time we have no means of communicating with them, except by this distribution of destroyers and by sending couriers inland from these stations, if that is possible. We must at least keep these destroyers at those places ready to evacuate our citizens if it becomes necessary. The Allied forces cannot be counted upon in any way to assist our people unless our people go to the territory actually occupied by the Allies, which is only along the coast. Thus, it would seem to me that an emergency exists in these waters that requires a policy with regard to destroyers to provide for.
(Signed) Mark L. Bristol.
(Original report sent to Admiral Knapp, U.S.S. PITTSBURGH).
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: This document has not been located.
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.