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Gary Schofield - Gallipoli Lecture

Gallipoli - Lessons Learnt by the USA

It is an honor to be here and as a New Zealand American I am pleased to say “G’day” to my fellow Australasian’s and Americans.

I also wish to honor your service as members of the RSL and the legacy that you have given to us.

It is a very important legacy in the way that Civilization, throughout history, always takes your experiences and shapes them into an image, into a story, or into a memorial.

Civilization takes art and music, history and literature and has shaped an icon, some picture of you, but your sacrifice reaches all of us and reflects into Australia today as Iraq also will reflect into a future United States.

My job has been, in a small way, to help shape how we view our history and I have found we are guilty of being caught, often, in re-telling an old play, in replaying an old story.

A few miles from the Iraqi border with in hearing distance of the explosions the University of Chicago recently discovered the secret of the ancient city of Hamouka.

One of the world’s first cities from 5,500 years ago the remnants of a last stand against the last attack and the city’s destruction.

This has been going on for a while.

We design our civilizations to collide and in thousands of years, apart from an attempt in the middle of the 20th Century, very little has been done to change that.

I grew up in a little country near the bottom of the world and the great learning experience for me was that we all have so much in common; this great universality.

I came here to Washington D.C. and began work on the study of Iwo Jima, this marine amphibious assault on a pacific Island that was such a tragic success. I wrote on the battle and painted “Iwo Jima in the Snow”.

Now I knew the campaign of Gallipoli began at 9am on the 19th February 1915.

That is the same minute, of the same hour, of the same day, of the same month exactly 30 years before Iwo Jima began.

Is it a coincidence?

Gallipoli had been studied. It was studied as an example of all the things not to do when launching an invasion. Everything that could possibly go wrong with that invasion went wrong, according to the history books.

But the most striking thing about history is that it is often a parable to current times. We view the great events of our country’s history through the events of today. In this way we remake the image of Gallipoli and Iwo Jima every generation. To my Grandfather’s generation Gallipoli was a defining moment in his country’s coming of age, in the unquestioning duty to fight alongside the undefeatable British Empire. Inspired by Lord Kitchener my Grandfather volunteered and joined a flood of youth propelled into the First World War, into the Great Adventure.

The image of the war then was one of a group of rugby teams sent overseas to play a series of games.

Just to give you some idea of the scale of this war: At the battle of the Somme the British casualties alone were 57,000, on the first day.

The Gallipoli idea itself was imaginative and Winston Churchill’s, then Lord of the Admiralty. : To sail the British fleet though the Narrows of the Dardanelles, through the Sea of Marmara to bombard Constantinople and even then on through the Black Sea to Romania and along the Danube strike at the very heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself.

How is that for a World War I plan?

Now the British army, the French, the Australians, the New Zealanders, we were all infantry. Have you ever wondered how this was Churchill’s, the Lord of the Admiralty, the Navy’s, campaign.

So think for a moment. The bombardment began on the 19th of February but us Kiwis and Aussies celebrate ANZAC day, the day of the actual invasion, on the 25th April.

So what do you think the enemy was doing for those months… preparing!

This is precisely why General Holland M. Smith, (they called him Howling Mad Smith) in command of the Iwo Jima marine attack force wanted at least 10 days of concentrated bombardment followed by an immediate assault. The specter of Gallipoli stalked amphibious invasions.

Gallipoli evolved from that naval plan in an extreme form of mission creep. There were no plans for infantry in this operation they were called for later to garrison the forts after they surrendered. From a garrison they became an assault force to take on an entire country: The Turks would surrender. Russia could be supplied and strengthened. Germany would be forced to withdraw forces from the Western Front and the War could well be over.

The irony was that back in 1914 the Narrows were virtually defenseless, just as Iwo Jima would be exactly thirty years later.

This was not the incompetence of bombarding too soon before an invasion as we are told. There was no invasion, that sound was Churchill’s naval plan failing. Churchill’s fleet under Admiral De Robeck nearly succeeded in forcing the narrows with 16 Battleships including the mighty Queen Elizabeth. He lost three and had 3 disabled.

I have observed most people make their life’s biggest mistake immediately after their second biggest but to be fair to Churchill that Naval plan nearly succeeded. It came within one mine of succeeding and secretly there was a conditional promise from Greece and the Balkans 150,000 man invasion of Constantinople upon breaking through the Dardanelles.

His plan had been to then blockade or bombard Constantinople into submission do not forget it was at an age when British Naval power ruled supremely but all the same it was only a sentiment that Turkey would surrender. If you have any doubts of the British willingness to use this doctrine it was apply to Dublin only the next year in 1916.

The Irish rebels had basically taken over the post office when the British sent in the HMS Helga to shell the city into submission, which it did but also helped to led to the rise of Shin Fein.

There is a parallel here with today’s might of airpower. The hypothesis is that air power alone can win a war; this experiment is now many decades long.

If you ask any US military strategist about the lessons learned from Gallipoli he will invariably tell you about the importance of an assault immediately after bombardment. Great wisdom but it came from the myth.

The catastrophe of Gallipoli was right there when the plan went from a naval plan to an infantry operation. There is no record of such a plan being approved by the War Council. (I am quoting Asquith the Prime Minister) That was remarkable. (Churchill also said he found it remarkable.)

Kitchener had a plan of his own. His plan was to invade the Mediterranean side of Turkey at an almost undefended place called Iskenderun. Cutting the rail lines there cut Turkey in half. Somebody talked him out of his plan and into the Dardanelles.

Any invasion had been considered costly back in November 1914 and requiring hundreds of thousands of troops. So how could it suddenly be possible to send only 75,000 comprising irregular troops picked for garrison duty to take on the country? That is the untold story of Gallipoli. Kiwis and Aussies weren’t even considered regular troops, and yet they nearly did it.

The infantry was sent in to save the naval plan but the irony was that even more ships were sunk trying to support the infantry plan!

The commanders on the field were cursed by Gallipoli to their graves for incompetence and yet they nearly did it.

There were 60,000 trained troops of the once Ottoman Empire defending the Dardanelles.

The Turks were fighting for their homeland just as it would be at Iwo Jima. That was the intensity and the will to fight to the death. The same courage it took to throw themselves at the entrenched machine gun positions of WW1 the marines had to have at Iwo Jima.

UNCOMMON valor was a common virtue the memorial reads and now it is 62 years ago that thousands of young American men set out to take that strategically important island.

It was vital for an airfield in the vast expanse of the Pacific. In the hands of the allies it was one stepping stone closer to the end of the war and a base for the B29s.

The Japanese knew the marines were coming and the island had become a giant fortress of block houses, pillboxes and caves. Mount Surabachi was the highest point and was situated at the southern most tip of the island but there were other high points and a high plateau all through here.

After only three days of naval bombardment on February 19th, the invasion began. Wave after wave of marines fell from the 5th Division and 4th Division along a 2 mile stretch of beach. I have painted in red the fields of fire raking the landings. No retreat or maneuver was possible in the black coarse volcanic sand. The marines could only fight or de. They were in the open and under fire by as many as 22,000 dug in troops.

The battle of Iwo Jima was to be called the “worst since Gettysburg,”Gallipoli, a failure and a calamity with grievous loss of life.

After Gallipoli Russia remained separated and then collapsed into the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Allies were then committed to more years of trench warfare on the Western Front and the loss of more hundreds of thousands of lives.

The profound nature of the war altered its image dramatically and shaped the character of Australia and New Zealand because of the personal scale of the tragedy. It was not only the experiences of the soldiers that weaved their way into the fabric of the country but the very real and undiminished grief of everyone else left behind.
My Grandfather was wounded at Gallipoli but on my mother’s side of the family, every one of my Grandmothers three brothers fought at Gallipoli.

We were a nation of about a million. The DuPuy Institute for Military Research estimates a western nation can support an army of 5 percent from its’ total population: That is an army of 50,000. Casualties at Gallipoli approached 10,000 or about 1 in 5 of the country’s total potential army

but at Gallipoli the number of troops deployed about equaled the number of casualties, think about that; the number of casualties approached the number deployed ( NZ>95%.)

The Australians deployed 33,000 men and suffered 28,000 casualties that is an 85% casualty rate. Usually anything beyond a 30 percent casualty rate is not sustainable in battle. There were about 30% casualties at the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.

The explanation, apart from great bravery, was that they were recycled: they were hospitalized in Cairo and then sent back and wounded again.

This is a map of the General area of Gallipoli. Here are the Dardanelles, the Narrows and the Sea of Marama leading off to Constantinople in the distance, the point where West meets East, where Europe meets Asia. Turkey even used to be called Asia Minor.

Anyone who can see this map knows terrain may be a factor in this battle.
The image of ANZAC at Gallipoli to strategists of the time was a small arc on the coast.Here is a sketch of Sir Ian Hamilton’s plan for capturing the Dardanelles. These are the Narrows and through this path lead to Constantinople. This whole area here had been mined and there were forts dotting the coast. The French were to land here. (Now I don’t know why we frequently leave the French out of discussions of Gallipoli but they played an important role.) The British were to take this area Cape Helles and the ANZACs were to land here and sweep across this easy terrain and seal off the peninsular. There was another landing up north comprising one man, Bernard Freyberg, who swam to Bulair and lit flares on the beach as a successful diversion.

Feryberg then went on to command the 2nd New Zealand division at Crete in WWII and then against Rommel in the desert this was call the 2nd brigade sometimes the 2nd Division sometimes the 6th Division or, a New Zealand division, mostly because we didn’t want anyone to know we only really had one unit!

Eisenhower, planning D Day used the same idea. His diversion was Calais. Rommel then was forced to have a mobile reserve to defend both landing areas.

Interestingly Rommel in an age of mobile warfare tried to explain to the German General staff and Hitler that he had to set up as if it were an ancient battle. Rommel was right but overruled. Without air superiority Rommel was not mobile.

Sadam Hussein discovered the same thing, twice.

Now I grew up believing this operation was such a bungle that they even landed us on the wrong beach. Well the British Navy of the time ruled the waves and prided itself on its ability to navigate and these were familiar waters. If you read the reports Hamilton was getting you see all this area, Sari Bair, was pitted with artillery covering that landing furthermore this area had been cut with trenches and barbed wire. There was only one place relatively sheltered and it was here at ANZAC cove.

Historians have said the wind and the currents must have carried them north but there weren’t any and if there were they would have dispersed them north in a general way. It was night, they couldn’t see each other and yet they all changed course simultaneously and went to this one spot. To me that means only one thing: they all had the same order. Hamilton was notorious for his secrecy. He changed the plan. He would rather have his men alive and on the wrong beach.

Mustapha Kemal the hero of the defense was not a general he was only a colonel who actually disobeyed battlefield orders and sent his regiment and then a whole division to defend ANZAC cove. He forced the ANZACs back into this small arc cutting into the rugged terrain of hills and cliffs facing Chunak Bair and Koji Tepe, the crown of the Sari Bair heights.

So the ANZAC line was supported by high ground on each flank; on the right, Lone Pine, mostly in allied hands, and on the left Russel’s Top. Between them was Monash Gully the supply line to the entire position and constantly under fire from above. Russel’s Top on the left was undermined by the Turks holding Baby 700 and the Nek that connected them.

The objective was to take the Sari Bair Ridge and both sides sent their young men to sacrifice in the age where the doctrine was mass and fire. The reality was the ANZACs had to win and press forward in a battle where each side was the same order of strength to the other but the New Zealanders and Australians had to assault the higher ground against entrenched positions.

Coarse volcanic sand, exactly 30 years latter would act as those rugged cliffs, advantaging the defender, slowing maneuver with an enemy above or an enemy below.

The Allies had more men and materiel but they were crammed into this little arc so at any point along this arc friend and foe were evenly matched. Just like Iwo Jima where the US had Air, Naval, men and materiel superiority but this was diminished by terrain and tactics.

The clear solution to this at Gallipoli was an invasion within an invasion and this is also precisely what happened at Okinawa 30 years latter at the Oroku peninsular, the last amphibious assault of WWII.

Hamilton invaded further north up the coast at Suvla Bay with three fresh divisions hoping, in surprise, to sweep up to the heights, unhinge the Turkish right and join forces with ANZAC.

A good plan but it wasn’t carried out. There was confusion, delay, no rush for the heights, no early assaults, hesitation of command long enough for Colonel Mustapha Kemal to redeploy. That was a painful lesson learnt.

To offset this redeployment Hamilton had ordered diversionary assaults back at ANZAC. One of those was made infamous in the movie Gallipoli and featured the futile charges of the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade at the Nek of Baby 700 but what is not commonly known were: the assaults by the 1st Australian Brigade taking the impregnable Turkish trenches at Lone Pine with hand to hand fighting and, New Zealanders capturing the Key to the Narrows itself, Chunak Bair, which is not bad for a diversion.

The invasion at Suvla ended in the loss of life assaulting Scimitar Hill and Australian and New Zealander pitting human courage against machine gun fire at Hill 60.

The reality was very different to the image. The men of ANZAC lived like cave dwellers in nooks cut out of the cliffs, constantly exposed to enemy fire and plagued by flies and dysentery. The water had to be brought from the Greek Islands and dragged up impossible terrain under fire.

Interestingly the New Zealander’s charge cry was “Eggs a Cooked” and the Australians was “Bloody Bastards”, the Turks charge: “Allah”. There was some debate in the Turkish trenches as to the religious significance of the ANZAC cries.

These were, in a fashion, echoes of the Rebel Yell and the Union war cries of the Civil War. The tactics and entrenchment and high casualties there some 50 years before were the harbinger of the WWI horrors to come. The machinery of war had advanced beyond the tactics.

What most people overlook is that it was in the application of artillery wherein lay lessons learned by the USA.

Suddenly with the use of the telephone artillery 10 miles away from the front lines could be accurately brought to bear. Accurate indirect fire was not possible before. This was new and deadly. Entrenchments helped to offset this and Naval gun fire, so that is why, at Gallipoli, High Explosive shell was so often called for but not available.

Now compare again Iwo Jima. The 28th marines from the 5th division had to swing south and take Mount Surabachi, the high ground overlooking and commanding the entire island.

There were no front lines in the conventional sense because the Japanese were hidden, sometimes underground.

Through intense even hand to hand fighting, by day 5 of the invasion the peak was secured but by then on the island of Iwo Jima more than 4,500 Americans had been killed or wounded.

On February 23rd the American flag was raised above Mount Surabachi but two thirds of the island was still enemy territory and losses would be terrible. This was before: the caves of Bloody Gorge, the Meat Grinder, Hill 382, Motoyama, Kitano Point, by the end of the battle the marines would suffer 26,000 casualties; that is more than the number of Japanese on the Island.

Whole battalions ceased to exist as losses were so great that units could no longer function. Of the 3,400 coming ashore with the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division, only 600 were standing when the battle closed.

It seems to me no one left Iwo Jima unwounded from the experience.

This image became the most famous photograph of the war, with its dramatic composition, lighting and statement.

Both of these conflicts are now icons to courage and valor. The Gallipoli campaign became ANZAC day, in a way, Australia and New Zealand’s Independence Day: The celebration of a defeat, a red poppy representing the blood of an entire lost generation. The Iwo Jima sculpture: valor, companionship and triumph.

The red stripes of the American flag is the only red used in the painting. Is it not ironical how seldom the color red finds its way into our memorials?

The image of Gallipoli changed over the next generation into one of Victory in Defeat; At Gallipoli there was a tactical victory in the casualty free retreat. Throughout history a retreating or routing army suffers terrible loss. Had the Turks attacked during the withdrawal the entire army could have been destroyed.

A brilliant withdrawal had been made in contact with the enemy with Australian and New Zealand ingenuity. ..but I would like to remind everyone the overlooked fact that we did successfully withdraw but left our friends, the British there. They were still there down at Helles and they were attacked. There were also 12,000 cases of frost bite as pt was really the weather that had necessitated retreat.

So there is more to this image of Gallipoli than a tactical victory in defeat. The celebration of a defeat is, in my view, the most profound wisdom. Very little is ever learnt in victory. Everything you did was probably brilliant when you have success it is usually only in failure that you learn.

There is a rumor that Aussies and Kiwis are rivals. That is true we are rivals culturally, economically because we are so similar and our being rivals is a luxury. There were no rivals at Gallipoli we were mutually dependant for our own survival. And when that was not the case we both paid in blood as happened with my Grandfather’s regiment, the 4th Otagos. In one of the early battles of the campaign the 4th Otagos and the 13th Australians were to attack together but the Otagos were late and each was destroyed in turn.

The image of Gallipoli will change again as we go forward into this 21st Century. As more time passes and as the 20th Century slips further into the distant past the First and Second World Wars will be seen as part of the same war with an armistice in the middle. A war in itself part of a 500 year long struggle to determine who would have hegemony over Europe.

In case we agonize too much over Gallipoli lets consider what may have happened should it have been a success.The New Zealanders and Australians take Baby 700 and hold it thereby breaching the Turkish lines directly to Chunk Bair. Meanwhile another invasion force lands further north at Suvla Bay and outflanks the Turkish position. The Turks are then forced to scramble back to the Sari Bair hills to reform their position. Mustapha Kemal is considered too pretentious for command with a name like Kemal, which means perfect, and is passed over.

The ANZACs secure the heights, march on to a defenseless Constantinople. Turkey surrenders and troops and wealth pour into Russia. Germany is crushed. Russia expands and prospers and does not descend into civil war remaining the giant of Europe and a rival to the United States far stronger than during our Cold War. In the Nuclear Age the Cold War ends in a Nuclear Exchange.

Thank you.

by Gary S. Schofield
Gary Schofield Art

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