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Culture & Arts

U.S. Navy Archival Sources Offer Insights into Greek Genocide

March 29, 2020

For those interested in the history of the Greek Genocide, eyewitness accounts offer valuable insights. Published in February 2020, The Greek Genocide in American Naval War Diaries: Naval Commanders Report and Protest Death Marches and Massacres in Turkey’s Pontus Region, 1921-1922, Edited by Savvas (Sam) Koktzoglou and Robert Shenk with a foreword by retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis, is an impressive collection of reports and protests from the U.S. Navy archives.

The American naval war diaries recently found in the National Archives offer accounts of what was happening on the northern coast of Turkey in 1921-1922. At the time, a series of American destroyers were continuously stationed at the port of Samsun, and the destroyer captains describe here many of the atrocities then being perpetrated upon the Asia Minor Greek minority by the ruling Nationalist Turks, along with local Greek reactions.

George N. Shirinian, editor of Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, 1913-1923, said of the book, “Published here for the first time is a selection of U.S. Navy archival sources that are quite valuable in documenting events related to the Greek Genocide.”

Professor of History at Haverford College Alexander Kitroeff said, ”The narratives are delivered in the sober professional tone one would expect of naval officers yet contain factual information that acquires an increasingly harrowing and nightmarish tenor that serves to underscore the inhuman suffering inflicted on the Greeks.”

Koktzoglou is a retired mechanical engineer. He received his engineering degrees from Villanova University and the University of Pennsylvania and has worked in senior level engineering positions in both the private and government sectors in the United States and internationally. He has been active in various capacities in a number of Chicago area nonprofit organizations. Prior to his engineering career, he served as a second lieutenant in the special forces of the Greek Army reserves.

Dr. Robert Shenk retired in Spring 2019 as a professor of English at the University of New Orleans. As author or co-author he has published nine books, including the Naval Institute Guide to Naval Writing; Authors at Sea (a History Book Club selection); and a naval history published in 2012, America’s Black Sea Fleet. Dr. Shenk is also a retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, having seen duty on a destroyer and on river patrol boats in Vietnam, and as an instructor of English on voluntary recall to active duty at both the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy.

The book is dedicated to Koktzoglou’s “maternal grandfather, Stavros Xygalas, who was executed in Amasia on September 21, 1921,” and to Koktzoglou’s “late parents Lefkothea and Ioannis, who as children in the course of this genocide lost many family members and were forced to leave their homeland in Pontus in Asia Minor to find refuge in Greece.”

Shenk also offered his own dedication, “To the victims of all genocidal actions that took place in Turkey’s Pontus both during and after World War I.”

As Admiral Stavridis writes in the book’s foreword, “These diaries are brief panoramas into events of a particular time and place that ended with the death of tens of thousands, and the birth of a new nation in Turkey at a terrible cost which has never fully been counted or acknowledged.”

The book is available online.

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