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The Great War
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Mustafa Kemal - Turkish Military Legend
Jay Winter
"One of the oddities of the battle of Gallipoli is that the Turkish position was very weak when the allies landed.

"And the way in which the defenses of Gallipoli were reorganized established a reputation for military thoroughness and serious military discipline that most westerners thought Turks were incapable of. The man who did it, Mustafa Kemal, created a military legend for himself in rallying the men under his command to stay on the heights overlooking Gallipoli, and to pin down the allied troops who had landed there.

"They know the terrain, they know the light, and they know the positions. The allies knew none of these things. And as a result of this, Mustafa Kemal appeared to be the kind of leader who could not only match western military prowess, but actually supersede it.

"His position was better than the allied position. If you put Mustafa Kemal, a junior officer, next to Sir Ian Hamilton, one sees what's going on and the other can't. One reason why that's true is that many of the leaders of the allied operation were hypnotized by the idea of Constantinople.

"There's a extraordinary tendency to think that what they're doing is not landing at Gallipoli, but somehow refighting the Trojan War.

"This idea that they're doing something which is, as it were, going back into history is part and parcel of the upper class education that many of the leaders of this operation, many of the people who planned it, had in their minds. But it bore no resemblance to reality.

"Turkey in 1915, had no resemblance to the kind of fame these people were imagining when they said Constantinople with their eyes on fire. So there is a wonderful jarring contrast between Turkish realism and western illusions about what war will be like, what war was like; and the people who had to pay the price were on the beaches, and that's where they stayed."

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