(Volume 25 Issue 4)
2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Canada. In the midst of the Second World War and despite its active neutrality, Turkey’s decision to join the Allies was the initiation of our diplomatic relations. Our relations have a longer history though, including the Royal Newfoundland Regiment’s participation in the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War.
The Gallipoli campaign has a significance for turning tragedies of the war into friendship between Turkey and the nations which took part in the campaign. It has also been true for Turkey and Canada, which have been close allies during the past 75 years within NATO.
Beginning with the Korean War, our nations defended the democratic ideals where Turkey played a key role. The code name of the Turkish Brigade was “North Star.” The Turkish troop contribution and casualties was fourth after the US, UK and Canada. Turkey and Canada fought shoulder to shoulder for the first time and defended democratic ideals. The 4,500 strong Brigade played vital roles in different parts of the campaign where the most critical of them was at Kunu Ri in January 1951. The counter attack of the encircled Turkish Brigade with bayonets paved the way for a hand-to-hand fight and victory. At the very same hours, the attack against Seoul failed. The Unified Command used both occasions as a conducive environment to start a counter attack towards the 38th parallel – which changed the course of the war.
Total casualty rate in the Turkish Brigade was among the highest with 22 per cent: 734 martyr, 2,147 wounded, 234 POWs and 175 Missing in Action. A total of four different Turkish brigades served in Korea totaling total contribution to 23,000 until 1971. The Brigade at the end received the American Distinguished Unit Citation, the South Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the South Korean Order of Military Merit.
Turkish movie “Ayla” based on a true story and shown at the Senate and Canadian War Museum on the occasion of the Turkish Martys Day on March 18th is a ample proof of the friendly bond and “blood brotherhood” born between Turkey and South Korea. After the war, it was also an interesting coincidence that on September 21, 1951, NATO Council recommended NATO membership of Turkey in Ottawa.
In his “Memoirs,” Mr. Pierre Trudeau while talking about his extensive travels throughout the world, describes his arrival to Turkey in 1948 after difficult journeys in countries under the Iron Curtain in East Europe as: “The gateway to the entire Middle East.” This analysis is still valid today not only for geo-political considerations, but for economic and commercial areas of cooperation. Since the Second World War, Turkey and Canada stood together in various geographies from Korea to Cold War, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Libya to the Black Sea, and today against international terrorism where we have been successfully fighting together in the International Coalition Against DAESH in Syria and Iraq.
Turkey is in a tough neighbourhood and we consider peace and stability in this region crucial for the global security and stability. As NATO Allies and two G-20 nations, we have common interests with Canada in the globe where we are all facing security challenges.
Publisher’s Note: On 24 March I had the pleasure of watching the film Ayla at a private screening at the Canadian War Museum. It is a very moving tale and a first class production.
It is also a great reminder of a troubled era in our recent history when Canada and Turkey stood allied in the United Nation’s defence of South Korea. Bravo Zulu to the producers.