The Pittsburgh Press (December 8, 1943)
Simms: Time at hand for entry of Turkey into the war
Any delay beyond four months to be too late, diplomats say; decision could shorten conflict, save many lives
By William Philip Simms, Scripps-Howard foreign editor
Turkey is expected to be in the war within four months on the side of the Allies. If she isn’t, some of the best-informed diplomats here say, she will have missed the boat.
Now that Marshal Stalin, Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt have fixed the time and place for the final assault against Germany, the moment for Turkey to make up her mind is conceded to have arrived.
The master plan having been made, the details must be filled in at once. If Turkey comes in, the drive from the south will take one direction; if she stays out, it will take another. In any event, Russia, Britain and the United States must be told now in order to fit her into the complicated war machine which will probably start rolling about April.
Turkey’s entry within 120 days would probably be decisive. It might shorten the war by months and save countless lives and treasure.
If her entry is delayed, the chances are that it would do neither her nor the Allies much good. Once the Russians enter Romania and reach the Danube, Turkish intervention would be like Italy’s move against France in 1940. And the same might be said if it came after an Anglo-American invasion of the Balkans via Italy and the Adriatic, or via the Aegean.
Reports that Turkey intends to postpone joining the Allies until it will be “safe” are regarded as slander. According to some, she fears she would be overrun by the Axis.
Nevertheless, she has approximately a million men under arms and her mountainous frontiers looking out on Greece and Bulgaria are comparatively strong. According to military opinion, if she could not hold her own there until help arrives, it would be folly for the British and Americans to attempt landings on the difficult and hostile shores of Yugoslavia and carve out a bridgehead there.
Turkey-in-Europe already forms a powerful bridgehead in the Balkans. Close by, in the Middle East, there are at least 500,000 British, American, Anzac, Polish, French, Indian and other soldiers there begging for a chance. And with the U-boat menace checked in the Atlantic, and the route through the Mediterranean open, the Turkish front would not lack for supplies.
Turkish bases for the Allies without entering the war, or opening up the Dardanelles to Allied shipping, are discounted as beside the mark. To give us bases for use against the Axis would be an act of war in itself. As for the Dardanelles, before we could use them, we would first have to throw the enemy out of the Aegean and, second, dominate the air over Greece as well.
Istanbul, of course, is extremely vulnerable. Turkish cities would probably be bombed. But there is no such a thing as a safe war. But, here again, such talk ignores the national character. The Turks have never wanted in courage. Their soldiers are as gallant as any. And their people have endured the ravages of war for 2,000 years.
Turkey wants a place at the peace table. She sits astride Marmora and the Dardanelles, one of the world’s strategic prizes. She is the crossroads, by land, sea and air, between Europe and Asia. There is every reason why she should have a voice when the future of that part of the world comes to be decided.
But she has obligations as well as rights. Thus, as the Big Three foreign ministers said of Austria after their meeting at Moscow:
In the final settlement, account will inevitably be taken of her contribution to victory.