The Importance of the Gallipoli Campaign in the Modern World

The Gallipoli Campaign, fought in 1915 in a peninsula on the western shores of the Dardanelles Straits in modern Turkey, is remembered by few Americans today. In truth, why a people who scarcely remember Valley Forge or the Ardennes Forest remember Gallipoli? Nevertheless, we might pause on March 18th to reflect that this nine-month struggle was a “coming of age” for the former British colonies of Australia and New Zealand, as well helping to form the identity of the modern nation of Turkey. Indeed, we might argue that it was during this brutal campaign that these peoples, Turks, Aussies and Kiwis, entered the mainstream of the twentieth century. 

Moreover, much like the great American battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the well-preserved battlefields on the Gallipoli Peninsula have become sites of reconciliation. Soldiers from a dozen nations lie buried together there amidst monuments attesting to their heroism and sacrifice. We should note that today the nations of Turkey, Australia, and New Zealand jointly conduct memorial services for the fallen – Turkey on March 18th, and the Australians and New Zealanders on April 25th. Were you to visit their embassies in Washington on those days you would see Turks, Aussies, and Kiwis standing shoulder-to-shoulder honoring their former enemies and mourning their dead. 

Like Gettysburg, Gallipoli has become a geographic reference point of convergence where national remembrance provides an opportunity to reflect on the nature of war and how to move forward after its finish. More importantly, to reflect on Gallipoli is to remark on the successful post-war reconciliation of the combatant nations. Today, Turks, Aussies, and Kiwis benefit from a unique relationship forged in the crucible of combat. Americans might reflect on how we might interact and move forward in the future with North Koreans and Iranians, and in doing so, look to the example provided by the Gallipoli Campaign.

Dr. Edward J. Erickson
Clark Center for Global Engagement
State University of New York at Cortland