From Ataturk to Erdogan A hundred years ago this week, an Ottoman army lieutenant-colonel stationed in Sofia as a military attache received a telegram from the Ministry of War back in Constantinople. In the months prior, as World War I intensified and the lieutenant’s requests for a divisional command were refused by Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Empire’s military leader, he’d grown weary of his post and impatient to fight. He’d even spoken to friends of enlisting as an ordinary foot soldier. But the telegram, from Enver’s deputy, appointed the lieutenant commander of the army’s 19th division.

Mustafa Kemal hurried back to Constantinople and then to Tekirdag, along the Marmara Sea in Thrace, to assemble his division. Those efforts were cut short on February 25, when he and his men were ordered to Gallipoli, a mountainous peninsula that divides the Marmara and Aegean Seas and controls the all-important maritime access to Istanbul and the Black Sea via the Dardanelles.

Two months later, the British attempted a naval landing on the peninsula, sparking one of the war’s most hard-fought battles. Directing his forces with inspired strategy and legendary stamina, Kemal won the battle of Gallipoli, proved the mettle of the Turkish soldier and made his name as a bold, brilliant and tireless leader.


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