On this date in September 1922, U.S. Lt Commander Halsey Powell made this entry into the diary of the USS Edsall:
“Bodies can be seen daily floating around the harbor. The smell of burning flesh is at all time noticeable.”
The diary of the USS Edsall, including the events in Smyrna are covered extensively in the book “A Blue Sea of Blood; Deciphering the Mysterious Fate of the USS Edsall” by Don M. Kehn.
Arriving at Constantinople 28 June, Edsall joined the U.S. Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters to protect American lives and interests. The Near East was in turmoil with civil strife in Russia and Greece at war with Turkey.
She did much for international relations by helping nations to alleviate postwar famine in eastern Europe, evacuating refugees, furnishing a center of communications for the Near East, and all the while standing by for emergencies.
When the Turks set fire to Smyrna (Izmir), Edsall was one of the American destroyers that evacuated several thousand Greeks. On 14 September 1922 she took 607 refugees off Litchfield (DD-336) in Smyrna and transported them to Salonika, returning to Smyrna 16 September to act as flagship for the naval forces there. In October she carried refugees from Smyrna to Lesvos.
The history of the events at Smyrna are covered extensively in Lou Ureneck’s new book called The Great Fire, published this year by HarperCollins. Get The Great Fire in eBook or print format here.