Skip to main content

Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, Senior Naval Officer Present, and United States High Commissioner, Turkey, to Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

9 February 1919 Y-55    


Origin Stanav Constantinople

CS   9 Feb

     In accordance with my instructions I very strongly recommend that I be designated to coordinate the work all agencies of the United States Government. Private parties in Turkey [at] variance with respect to their relation[s] to the Allied Commission and to the Turkish Government. As senior representative of our government here I must accept responsibility, therefore I have taken charge of American affairs pending further instructions. This recommendation is based upon the fact that I can coordinate the work as may be necessary only to maintain the proper relation between our Government and the Allied Commission and the Turkish Government without interference with the special work of these United States agents but quite contrary greatly assists and aided in their work all United States agents should be made assistants to me. The one coordinating the work here must be clothed with the Governmental authority that other countries represented attaches can recognize disposition respective to immediate instructions. Everyone shows decided willingness to accept my coordinating work but naturally without tangible evidence have doubt regarding my authority. This recommendation is made because the Army officer passing through here has been quoted in the papers; further, preparing parties of a relief committee have been dealing directly with the Government of one of the Allies, Little,1 representative of the Food Administration and the present commissioners have taken steps that involve the handling of food shipping. The conditions here are very peculiar because by terms of armistice there is virtually military control under a commission of high commissioners from England, France and Italy which are dominated by England; further the neutral diplomatic agents’ representatives are virtually under the control of the Allied Commission and not allowed to use codes or ciphers for despatches; further, the representation of belligerent Governments by neutral ministers is maintained only in form; further, the weak Turkish Government accordingly dominated by the Entente with discord in the Government and little force or power; further the Swedish minister has small - - - .

     (A) In handling our affairs in Turkey at the present time might readily draw our Government into a false position which seems to be the desire abroad in some quarters. It is my understanding that we must preserve a neutral position between the factions here. Our relations now are very cordial with all factions. The Turkish Government and people seem very friendly towards the United States and look towards our President2 as their friend at Peace Conference. By preserving this feeling relief work can be more successful. Our influence exerted for the greatest good. Preservation of this feeling required permanently to avoid the appearance of any combination with the Allies which are at war with Turkey and we must not play a double game with each country associated with us in this war. Therefore I request full support of my Government to handle this situation. I do not recommend appointment of a high commissioner because that title would [equate] our representative with members of the Allied Armistice Commission and this did produce some friction in regard to the Grecian High Commissioner. The credentials by which all others will recognize [that] I have the proper authority is all that is necessary so as I represent the United States.


N. B. Comes badly garbled.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: Dr. Abby N. Little, Near East Relief.

Footnote 2: Woodrow Wilson.