Gallipoli is personal for me. I served as commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command, headquartered in Izmir, Turkey from October 2012 to November 2014. While there, I had the chance to visit Gallipoli five times, working with my dear friend and distinguished Professor, Haluk Oral, who taught me and many of my Officers many lessons about the operational level of war, about the challenges of coalition warfare, and about the significant impact that dynamic, visionary leadership of even one Man can have on the outcome of a massive struggle. My many visits to Gallipoli gave me insights and profound respect for the Soldiers on both sides. They also built in me respect for the Turkish people because of the way they had preserved the pristine nature of much of the battlefield with such respect for the Soldiers from all of the Nations who fought there.
It is also personal for me because there are 11 Soldiers named “Hodges” who were killed in this Campaign. Nine were British Soldiers and two were Australian. One was lost at sea while enroute to Gallipoli, his transport ship sunk by a German U-Boat in the Aegean. A second died as he was preparing to debark but his transport was struck at night by another larger transport, a manifestation of the relative inexperience of Allied forces doing large scale amphibious operations. One was seriously wounded and died in captivity. The remaining eight Hodges’s were killed outright during the Campaign, including one who was killed the first day at V Beach. I was struck by the fact that all 11 of these young Men were low-ranking Soldiers, most of them from different Regiments, who had come from so far away to serve in this Campaign. I don’t know that I’m related to any of them but I want to find out. I want to know their story…to see how so many young Soldiers, all with the same last name yet coming from 11 different locations, all ended up dying at Gallipoli and leaving their Families and their Villages behind. This notion of Service and Sacrifice was true of the Ottoman Soldiers as well as the Allied Soldiers…and it is what bonds me personally to this Campaign.
George Patton is famous among military historians and modern Soldiers for his aggressive, audacious, relentless, and hard-nosed approach to warfighting. He is also famous for his study of military history and his extensive library which was full of books with his thoughtful annotations and assessments of Leaders and Generals and campaigns throughout history. These annotations in his own books, in his own hand-writing, give insight into how he thought, and reveal his sense that he may actually have lived and fought in previous wars throughout history.
I first heard of General Patton when I was a young boy, before I’d ever even considered entering the US Army, when I watched the movie “Patton”. His inspirational leadership and his willingness to take huge risks and to frequently push back on those of higher rank than him when he disagreed with their plans or when he realized that they were still stuck in conventional thinking. This is part of what motivated me to want to be a Soldier and why I chose the Military as my own Profession.
At the United States Military Academy at West Point, I walked past Patton’s statue every day. He stood there in full combat gear, with his helmet and famous pistols and a leather jacket, binoculars firmly in his hands, as he gazed out across the Plain at West Point, looking at opportunities and daring his Men to follow him. He was, and still is today, routinely included in the top graduates of West Point, along with Eisenhower, MacArthur, Grant and Lee whenever somebody talks about why West Point is so special. His greatness has transcended the decades since his Service in the Second World War.
A veteran of the First World War, George Patton saw that future warfare would depend on mobility and protected firepower…the tank…if Nations were to achieve their military aims without the massive loss of life which was the legacy of the First World War. He dedicated his life after his experience in France to building that capability in the US Army, in anticipation of what he knew was sure to come…a second world war.
But his military career took an unexpected turn in the late 1930’s when he was assigned to the Pacific Division of the US Army and was assigned as the G2, Chief of Intelligence there in Hawaii, under the Command of Major General Hugh Drum. Typical of his zest for life, Patton hired a sail boat and with his wife and one additional deck hand, sailed from the United States to Hawaii to begin his assignment there in the Pacific Division, which of course gave him lots of time to continue his reading.
Most military experts in the West in the 1930’s assumed that a second world war was inevitable and that the United States would eventually go to war with an increasingly militaristic Japanese Empire. General Drum, as the senior US Army Commander in the Pacific, knew that war in the Pacific would require multiple amphibious operations if the US Army were to be able to do its part, in coordination with the US Navy, because of the geography of the Pacific…thousands of islands in the south and west Pacific, to include the US possessions in the Philippines and other smaller islands…as well as the possessions of our likely Allies from Great Britain and France and The Netherlands. And so General Drum tasked his G2, then-Colonel Patton, to do historical studies of recent amphibious operations to see what might be learned from those experiences, so that US Army forces could be prepared.
Patton immediately settled on studying the Allied campaign in Gallipoli, where British and French and ANZAC forces attempted landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula after the combined Anglo-French fleet was stopped by Ottoman land and naval forces in the Dardanelles.
Even though he never personally visited Gallipoli, Patton was able to draw on maps and reports of Allied Officers who had participated in this failed campaign. His own study includes dozens of maps, analysis of the terrain and of the opposing forces, and of the Commanders on both sides. His work is generally considered to be among the best, most thorough analysis of the Campaign, partly because of its expert assessment as studied by a professional Soldier who had spent his entire life studying leadership, generalship, and campaigns throughout history. Perhaps part of the respect shown his work is due to the fact that it was completely without any partisanship or revisionist thinking or apologies for either side. It was purely military, done for the purpose of professional learning so that American forces would be prepared for amphibious operations in the event that the United States would go to war with Japan.
The part of his assessment which has appealed to me the most was his final assessment that an Ottoman victory was not foreordained and that an Allied operation was not doomed from the start. He wrote that if the leadership on the Ottoman side had been in command of the Allied forces, then the Allies would have been successful at Gallipoli. In other words, it was all about leadership, about seizing and retaining the initiative, about every Soldier in the landing understanding their purpose so that individuals and small units would be able to exploit every opportunity at the tactical level…and there were plenty of them in the first day…the same way that Ottoman Soldiers like Sergeant Yaya did at V Beach on that first day and the way that Colonel Mustafa Kemal did throughout the first weeks of the Campaign.
George Patton lived and breathed initiative, he thrived in the riskiest situations when the stakes were the highest, and when a few fearless Leaders and Soldiers saw opportunity and exploited it…exactly as he did when he led his famous Third Army across France during the breakout from the Normandy Beachhead in the late summer of 1944.
America’s successful amphibious operations across the Pacific and in North Africa, in Italy, and France are hallmarks of America’s conduct of the Second World War. The Army actually conducted many more amphibious operations in the War than did the Marine Corps and their success can be traced back to the early work of then-Colonel George Patton and his study of the Gallipoli Campaign.
None of us knows when we’ll be called on to lead our soldiers in combat but we all pray that if and when we are called, we will have the clarity of thought, the understanding of Men in Combat, and the courage to use our initiative to be successful to win our Nation’s wars as George Patton.
Cadets at West Point and professional Soldiers today still study Patton’s campaigns…they are the signposts which guide us on how to employ our Nation’s greatest resources…our Men and Women in uniform…to success in combat. He recognized in his study of the Gallipoli Campaign, and demonstrated himself in combat, that Leadership is ultimately the most important element of Combat Power.
Lt.Gen Ben Hodges is one of the senior US officer in Europe. He was the head of Allied Land Command (LANDCOM), of which HQ is at Izmir/Turkey, between 2012-2014. He prepared “General Patton’s Gallipoli Staff Study” with Gallipoli Campaign researcher Prof.Haluk Oral. The study published in Turkish by İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları in February 2017
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