Greece’s Ambassador to the United States Christos Panagopoulos joined Nick Larigakis, president of the American Hellenic Institute, and other leading members of the Greek American community at a special graveside service in Washington on October 22 to honor the memory of an American diplomat who saved thousands of Greeks 90 years ago during the Turkish invasion of the ancient city of Smyrna.
George Horton had served as the American consul-general in Smyrna when the port city went up in flames after the Turkish troops invaded. He wrote about the burning of Smyrna in 1926 in his book titled “The Blight of Asia”, in which he provided a rare first-hand account about the destruction of Smyrna and the plight of the Greeks of Smyrna.
In his speech on October 22, the ambassador praised Horton’s contribution to the accurate representation of the events and said nations must try to chart a future of peace without forgetting history.
Larigakis also expressed his gratitude to Horton for “properly recording the unfortunate and solemn truth about what transpired at Smyrna for future generations to realize and understand”.
“Thanks to George Horton, we know the truth about what happened in those dreadful days in Smyrna 90 years ago,” added James Marketos, an AHI board member. “But Horton’s testimony is useful not only for learning what happened in the past, and it is relevant beyond Greeks and Armenians. His experience is obviously dated, but it speaks directly to the problems that plague us today.”
The New York Times reporting on the events in Smyrna quoted Horton in a 21 September 1922 article. This is how Horton described his experiences in Asia Minor: “During my consulship at Saloniki I was bombed by Bulgars and Germans and during my official career I have had many rough experiences with submarines and fire, but never in my life have I seen anything like the Smyrna catastrophe…”
Horton died in 1942 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery of Georgetown in Washington D.C.