THE GREAT FIRE: ONE AMERICAN'S MISSION TO RESCUE VICTIMS OF THE 20TH CENTURY'S FIRST GENOCIDE

Kirkus Reviews (Print)
March 1, 2015, Sunday

SECTION: NONFICTION

Ureneck (Journalism/Boston Univ.; Cabin: Two Brothers, a Dream and
Five Acres in Maine, 2011, etc.) brings to light the miracles of
a little-known hero.In 1922, Asa Jennings was a Methodist minister
working as a secretary for the YMCA assigned to Smyrna, located in
modern-day Turkey. Smyrna, occupied by Greece, was the richest and
most multicultural city of the eastern Mediterranean.

Jennings and his family arrived shortly after the Turkish Nationalist
Army defeated the Greeks at Afyonkarahisar-Eskishehir. The
Nationalist's leader, Mustafa Kemal, continued the policies of the
"Young Turks" who had taken over the government. Ureneck's research
is thorough and wide-ranging as he explains the 500 years of conflict
between Greece and Turkey, the World War I years of the Armenian
genocide, and the new government's policy of Turkey for the Turks,
barring all others. Jennings' appeals for evacuation to the American
senior Naval officer, Adm. Mark Lambert Bristol, were generally
ignored. Bristol was a well-known supporter of the Nationalists and
harbored little sympathy for the refugees. With the backing of the
heroic commander of the USS Edsall, Halsey Powell, and the help of
the Greek commander of the Kilkis, they managed to evacuate more than
250,000 people from Smyrna in only seven days. With no Allied ships,
they convinced the Greeks to lend merchant ships and then persuaded
the Turks to allow them into the harbor under American escort, as
long as they didn't fly the Greek flag. Powell certainly fudged his
orders by escorting the ships, and Jennings worked night and day to
move the refugees to a safe location. The story, especially that of
Jennings, crippled by tuberculosis and typhoid, is remarkable, and
Ureneck delivers it with a wonderful style that grabs and holds the
reader's attention. An inspiring illumination of a hero who deserves
recognition.

Publication Date: 2015-05-12 Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins Stage:
Adult ISBN: 978-0-06-225988-2 Price: $26.99 Author: Ureneck, Lou