What was Gallipoli?



We are currently in the centennial of World War I’s Gallipoli campaign (April 1915-January 1916), a failure that bred later successes.  This Allied campaign against the Turks was supposed to open up the sea route to the Black Sea, where Russia’s southern ports are.  The landing was effective, but the support collapsed, and Gallipoli turned into a nine-month stalemate as the forces could not advance off the beach.

The design on the shirt depicts ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) troops with one of the inventions they came up with during Gallipoli:  the periscope rifle.  It was such a useful weapon it was adopted by both sides of the conflict.  Gallipoli is remembered rather favorably by the ANZACs, who built an elaborate trench network and successfully attacked some of the important Turkish trenches, making some of the few advances in the nine-month campaign.

The end of the campaign was handled better than the start.  The Allied troops were evacuated at night, with wet straw laid down on the roads to reduce dust, and other tricks to disguise what was happening.  When morning came the Turks found the Allied forces – gone.

Gallipoli was Winston Churchill’s idea and his first major assignment in the Admiralty. Though his strategy of landing was sound, the execution was flawed because with this first amphibious landing of troops in combat, the logistics of landing and resupply weren’t properly worked out.  Churchill’s career almost didn’t survive, but by refusing to give up, he went on to become one of the most famous leaders of WWII.

The US Marine Corps also learned from Gallipoli, even though after WWI, Gallipoli was considered the example of why amphibious landings don’t work.  The USMC studied what worked and didn’t, and used the lessons to successfully make amphibious landings on many Pacific islands in WWII, particularly on Iwo Jima.

The Gallipoli shirt is on sale at the National WWI Museum.  As Veteran’s Day (formerly Armistice Day remembering the end of WWI) approaches, the museum points out that ”there is no place more fitting to recognize and honor those who have served their country on Veterans Day than at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.”

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