Turkey in World War 2

Actor of previous war, now remains silent. Plays diplomatic games with both sides to stay neutral.

With the end of the Turkish War of Independence in 1923 with the Treaty of Lausanne, Turks finally achieved peace after endless wars since 1800’s. A new era starts for Turkey. Mustafa Kemal; now he is a savior of a nation, and a Generalissimo; starts his reforms. He declared a Republic in 1923. And abolished the Caliphate in 1924. After supressing opposition and rebellions between 1924 and 1926, he gets even more fast and radical about his reforms. Some of his reforms were; De Jure Seculatisation (1924), Closure of Madrasahs and Education Reform (1924), Clothing Reform (1925), Legal and Civil Law (1926), Latinization of Turkish (1928), Women’s Suffrage (1934)…

Later, he will mention his revolution with these words:

A rundown country on the edge of the cliff… Bloody struggle with various enemies… Years of war… After that, the new homeland, which is recognized with respect, inside and outside, the new society, the new state and continuous reforms to achieve them… Here is brief summary of the Turkish Revolution…
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 4th Congress of Republican People’s Party, 1935

Atatürk, while worked for a Modernised Turkey with his 6 Principles (Later be known as Kemalism), he tried for settle Turkey in a more strong and peaceful diplomatic position. Turkey formed a Pact with Romania, Grecce and Yugoslavia in 1934. And signed a non-agression treaty with Persia, Iraq and Afghanistan in 1937. Turkey forced some rights to Allies as the German agression becomes a more threat. Turkey gained full-control on the Straits of Marmara with the Montreux Convention. Before Atatürk’s death in 1938, Sanjak of Alexandria gained autonomy (Republic of Hatay) and joined Turkey in 1939.

After the death of Atatürk, İsmet İnönü elected as new President. After the war brake up in Europe, Turkey began to mobilize immidiately, distributing foods adding with ration cards and collecting wartime taxes as “Varlık Vergisi” in 1942. Later, İnönü will say “I left you without bread, but I didn’t leave without a father.”.

Turkish Government wants to stay out of the war. Memories of the WW1 and War of Independence are still fresh at that time. Turkey has a manpower and equipment problem. Turkish equipment were low and outdated. In 1938-9, Turkish military is consisted of:

174,000 Soldiers (This number will become 1.3 Million after Mobilization)
20,000 Officers

370 Aircrafts
450 Pilots

1 Battlecruiser (Yavuz or Goeben)
4 Destroyers
5 Submarines
2 Light Cruisers
3 Minesweepers
2 Gunboats
3 Torpedoboats
4 Mine Vessels

But as the war goes on, Turkey had a pressure on both sides. In 1939, Turkey signed a Alliance with Britain and France for a mutual defence of Mediterrenian. After the German invasion of the Balkans, Hitler sent a letter to İnönü for stationing German troops behind 85 kilometers of Turkish border.

In 18 June 1941, Turkey and Germany signed a Non-Aggression pact. In conclusion, Turkey began to sold Germany 90.000 tons of chrome per year within a German military aid to Turkey. In Febuary 1942, a boat that carries over 700 Jewish Refugees, named Struma forced to anchor on coast of Istanbul with the pressure from British and Germans. After 9 weeks of wait, the Boat was sunk by Soviet SC-213 Submarine. All of the people died in the boat.

Turkey sent a military delegation to Germany before the Battle of Kursk. But after the German loss on both Fronts, Allies tried to add Turkey into the war. With a new front on Balkans, Soviets might gain lesser territories than actual. Turkey responded these requests with the lack of equipment, but as Allies increasing pressure, Turkey cut the Trade relations with Germany in 1944, and started a trial on Panturkist and Ultranationalist demagogues. Most of them released after the war. In 23 Febuary 1945, Turkey declared war on Axis Powers.


Mostly correct but my one caveat would be that portraying “Varlık Vergisi” as just a wartime tax. It was a nationalist move to change ownership of capital from non-muslim minorities to Turks. More info at


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