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100 yıl Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, Part I; Izmir-Çiğli, June 3 – 6, 2011

Atatürk and the Turkish Air Force; Text and Photograph’s by Alex van Noye

The Turkish Air Force was founded in a period in which Turkey was a part of the former Ottoman Empire. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was an officer in the Turkish Army, a writer, a statesman and the founder and first president of the republic of Turkey. One of his famous sayings was: "The Sky is the Future."

The Turkish Air Force is one of the oldest air forces in the world. The history goes back to 1909, where preparations for its creation took place. In 1910, a delegation of a research team was sent to Europe to the "International Aviation Conference" in Paris. Based on their findings, they decided to focus on an Ottoman Air Force. A few officers were trained to pilots as a preparation for the founding of the air force. They did not succeed due to the poor situation of the country and the poor financial situation of it. Mahmut Sevket Pasha foresaw the importance of aviation for the national defense. On June 28, 1911, he sent Captain Fesa and Second Lieutenant Yusuf Kenan to the aviation school "Bleriot Aircraft Company" in France where they were trained to become pilots. In 1911, Staff Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Süreyya (İlmen) received the task to establish the Turkish Air Force. The aviation organization was founded under the name "Aviation Commission". The Balkan War broke out during the founding years of the Air Force. The Air Force was in the first phase of the Balkan War inexperienced and was not able to make a significant contribution. The Air Force developed itself in the second phase of the war and became more successful. These efforts were suspended in 1914 when the First World War broke out. The Turkish Air Force took part in the war and fought on almost all fronts from Çanakkale to Palestine. In 1918, the country was occupied by the Allies during these developments. The Ottoman Empire accepted the defeat and on October 30, 1918, the Armistice of Mudros was signed. A new era started for the Ottoman Air Force. The Ottoman army was dismantled according to the Armistice of Mudros. The Air Force existed only on paper after the dismantling; this was the period where the Ottoman Air Force ended to exist. On July 29, 1918, the General Inspector of the Air Force attempted to rebuild the Air Force. The Air Company was re-established with remaining aircraft from First First World Warn Istanbul, Izmir, Konya, Diyarbakır and Elazığ. In the meanwhile the Turkish War of Independence broke out which was led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). They tried

to achieve the freedom and independence of the Turkish people and the integrity of the country. The Air Force took part in this battle from the air base in Konya.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Thessaloniki, May 19, 1881 - Istanbul, November 10, 1938) was an officer of the Turkish Army, a writer, a statesman and the founder and the first president of the republic of Turkey. Mustafa was born in a Turkish family in Salonika in the Ottoman Empire. He began his career at the cadet school of the army where he received the nickname Kemal ("the perfect"). In 1908 he became a supporter of the Young Turks against Sultan Abdulhamit II when the sultan introduced some conservative and unwanted reforms. Abdulhamit was succeeded by the more pragmatic Mehmet V. During First World War he played a major role in repelling the Allied invasion in the Battle of Gallipoli. The Ottoman Empire was largely occupied by the Allies after First World War. In 1919, Mustafa Kemal revolted with a portion of the army against both the Allied invaders and the Ottoman sultan Mehmed VI Vahideddin. Between 1919 and 1923, Kemals troops fought against the European troops and the sultan minded forces. In 1920, Mehmed VI accepted the Treaty of Sevres. This was seen as humiliating by many Turks. Kemals movement in the Turkish War of Independence brought him much support among the Turkish population. A new Turkish Parliament was founded on April 23, 1920. Mehmet was officially deposed in November 1922, and Mustafa Kemal was recognized as the new leader of Turkey. The Treaty of Lausanne followed in 1923 after new peace conversations with the Allies. Turkey became a secular republic with Mustafa Kemal as first president and party leader of the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi = Republican People's Party) in the period from 1923 to 1938. He provided a new constitution and made Ankara the new capital of Turkey. He also carried out far-reaching social and political reforms. His greatest reform was the separation of church and state. He also introduced surnames and the Arabic alphabet was replaced by the Latin alphabet. The name Atatürk was given by the Turkish people to Mustafa Kemal in 1934. This name means Father of the Turks. After his death he was succeeded by Ismet Inönü, who had been prime minister since 1923 under Atatürk. He continued the policies of Atatürk. Mustafa Kemal died in 1938 at the age of 57 from liver cirrhosis. He was buried in Ankara in a mausoleum which was built especially for him. The mausoleum wears the name Anitkabir. The name Atatürk has today still an almost mythical status in Turkey and public criticism of him in the media is still not permitted. His portrait hangs in every public building.

During the Turkish War of Independence, the Turkish pilots took part in the battle from Anatolia. The entire organization of the Turkish armed forces, which in principle still did not exist, was anything but structurally established. Therefore the Turkish aviation was robbed of its organization, personnel and equipment since the independence war. The Turkish Air Force was terminated at the end of the Ottoman era. During the Turkish Grand National Meeting on April 23, 1920 in Ankara was decided that it was very important to have a proper organization of the defense department. The first action was to found a disciplined army before the air force would be founded. The air force got its own place in the new organization. All parts of the Turkish armed forces were joined to the War Office of the Ministry of Defense of the government in Ankara on June 13, 1920. Efforts were quickly made to repair the defective planes and to get the proper equipment complete after the air force was re-established. The Turkish pilots carried out their duties faithfully and were willing to operate for Turkey under the most difficult conditions. The organization of the new Air Force Branch became a part of the Air Force Directorate-General on February 1, 1921. The Air Force of Turkey was now an independent division within the Turkish armed forces.




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