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The Fall of Adrianople

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Wikimedia Commons

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 62nd installment in the series. (See all entries here.)

March 26, 1913: The Fall of Adrianople

During the First Balkan War, the armies of the Balkan League—Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro—scored victory after victory against the ailing Ottoman Empire, until Turkish troops were isolated in a handful of fortified cities. About 20 miles west of the Ottoman capital Constantinople, the Turks dug in for a last stand at Chataldzha (Catalca), where they fended off repeated Bulgarian assaults. Elsewhere in the Balkans, Scutari (Shkodër) was besieged by Montenegrin and Serbian forces, despite threats from Austria-Hungary’s foreign minister, Count Berchtold, who wanted the city to be part of the new independent state of Albania. And to the south, a small Turkish garrison held out in Janina (Ioannina) until March 6, when the city finally fell to a massed assault by Greek forces.

But the most important city still in Turkish possession in March 1913 was Adrianople (Edirne), in Thrace. In addition to its strategic position on the way to Constantinople and the Turkish straits, Adrianople had cultural and sentimental significance for the Turks: After Sultan Murad I captured the city in 1365, Adrianople served as the Ottomans’ European capital until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and contains treasures of art and architecture including the Selimiye Mosque, designed by the architect Mimar Sinan in the late 16th century. Of course the ancient city—called the “most contested spot on the globe” by military historian John Keegan—was also important to the Bulgarians, who remembered it as the site of numerous clashes between the medieval Bulgarians and Byzantines as well a great Bulgarian victory over marauding Crusaders in 1205.

After defeating the Turks at Kirk Kilisse in October 1912, a Bulgarian force of 100,000 (later joined by 50,000 Serbs) laid siege to Adrianople, but repeated assaults were frustrated by 75,000 tenacious Turkish defenders, dug in behind German-designed fortifications that were widely considered impregnable. So determined were nationalist Turkish officers not to give up Adrianople that, when the Ottoman government in Constantinople agreed to surrender the city during peace negotiations, officers from the Committee of Union and Progress—CUP, better known as the “Young Turks”—overthrew the government in a coup on January 23, 1913, killing war minister Nazim Pasha in the process.

By March 1913, morale was plunging among the Bulgarians, who were low on supplies, exposed to the elements, and weakened by typhus and cholera. The Bulgarian commander, General Mihail Savov, knew that time was running out for a successful assault. The arrival of Serbian reinforcements—especially Serbian heavy artillery—in February helped Savov decide in favor of attack. The order was given on March 23, and the battle began the next day.

At 1 p.m. on March 24, 1913, the ground shook and the sky flashed as Bulgarian and Serbian artillery poured thousands of shells on Adrianople’s defenses. As this withering barrage reached its climax in the early morning of March 25, waves of Bulgarian and Serbian troops advanced towards Turkish lines to the south of the city. Fierce fighting continued until noon on March 25, resulting in heavy casualties—but the southern attack was actually just a feint, intended to draw Turkish troops away from the city’s eastern defenses. This elaborate ruse succeeded and the main assault from the east began around 3:50 a.m. on March 25. Within a few hours Bulgarian and Serbian troops had broken through barbed wire and trenches to capture the outer ring of Turkish defenses, reaching the inner ring by 1:50 a.m. on March 26. Turkish units now began to surrender en masse, and by 9 a.m. Bulgarian cavalry had penetrated into the city itself. At 1 p.m. on March 26, 1913, the Ottoman commander, Mehmet Şükrü Pasha, formally surrendered to the Bulgarians.

The loss of Adrianople was the final indignity for Turkish nationalists already humiliated and enraged by the loss of the Ottoman Empire’s Balkan territories. Public opinion was further inflamed by the arrival of around 400,000 Turkish and Albanian Muslim refugees from the Balkans, telling of horrible atrocities by Christian troops. And the situation was only getting worse: On March 26, 1913, the very day Adrianople fell, the Ottoman government was forced by Europe’s Great Powers to pass a law giving more autonomy to six provinces in eastern Anatolia with big minority (in some cases, majority) populations, including Armenians and Kurds.

Supposedly passed on humanitarian grounds, these de-centralizing measures cleared the way for Russia’s devious plan to extend its influence in the region, with an eye to outright annexation. As a result, the Ottoman Empire’s minorities—particularly the Armenians and Greeks—were viewed with growing distrust by Turkish nationalists, who feared they were unreliable and possibly even agents of foreign powers like Russia. This would have terrible consequences in the coming Great War, when the Ottoman government committed genocide against Armenians and Greeks.

The sudden upsurge of Turkish nationalist feeling was reflected in the publication of scores of pamphlets, books, journals, and newspaper columns calling for a Turkish “awakening.” Citing the recent military defeats as well as the empire’s inept administration, poor educational system and economic backwardness, Turkish nationalists called for wide-ranging reforms, indeed the creation of a “new society” or “new life.” Otherwise, they warned, the European imperialists would carve up the Turkish heartland in Anatolia.

One pamphlet, “The Ottoman Future, Its Enemies and Friends,” published January 18, 1913, was typical: “There can be no doubt that our homeland’s survival and well-being depends on the raising of our defensive strength… Ottomans!... If you do not want to become slaves, if you do not want to be destroyed forever, ready yourselves for the fight.” Significantly, several authors called for an alliance with Germany against the rising power of Russia and its Slavic allies in the Balkans. But the general thrust was simple rage and desire for vengeance. In a letter written on May 8, 1913, Enver Pasha, the leader of the Young Turks, poured out his anger: “My heart is bleeding… our hatred is intensifying: revenge, revenge, revenge, there is nothing else.”

See the previous installment, next installment, or all entries.

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History
Civilian Researchers Discover Wreckage of the USS Indianapolis
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Wikipedia/Public Domain

On July 30, 1945, the cruiser USS Indianapolis sank in the Pacific Ocean after it was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58. More than 70 years after the historic naval tragedy— which claimed the lives of nearly 900 crew—The New York Times reports that the ship’s mysterious final resting place has been found.

The discovery came courtesy of a team of civilian researchers, led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. His state-of-the-art research vessel, Petrel, located the wreck 18,000 feet below the Pacific’s surface, the team announced on Saturday, August 19.

"To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances."

Before it sank, the USS Indianapolis had just completed a top-secret mission to a naval base on the Northern Mariana island of Tinian. After delivering enriched uranium and components for Little Boy— the atomic bomb that the U.S. would drop on the Japanese city of Hiroshima about a week later—the cruiser forged ahead to Guam, and then to the Philippines. It was supposed to meet the battleship USS Idaho at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare to attack Japan.

The USS Indianapolis never made it to Leyte Gulf. Shortly after midnight on July 30, the Japanese submarine I-58 spotted the cruiser and fired six torpedoes. The USS Indianapolis—which was hit twice—sank within 12 minutes. Around 300 to 400 sailors and Marines were killed in the attack; the rest were stranded in the Pacific Ocean for several days.

Many of these survivors would ultimately lose their lives to sharks, a grisly scene that would be famously (albeit semi-accurately) recounted in the 1975 movie Jaws. Others died from drowning, heat stroke, thirst, burns and injuries, swallowing salt water or fuel oil, and suicide. More than 300 crew members were rescued after a bomber pilot accidently sighted the imperiled men while on a routine antisubmarine patrol.

The mass tragedy—which wouldn’t be announced to the public until August 15, 1945—sparked controversy: Charles B. McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis, was found guilty in a court martial of failing to steer the ship on a “zigzag” course to elude Japanese submarines. A Japanese submarine captain testified that this precautionary measure wouldn’t have thwarted the enemy, but McVay was charged nonetheless. The captain died by suicide in 1968, and wouldn’t be officially exonerated by the Navy until 2001.

For decades, the remains of the USS Indianapolis were lost to the ravages of time and nature. But in 2016, naval historian Richard Hulver found a historic ship log that mentioned a sighting of the USS Indianapolis. Allen’s search team used this information to locate the ship, which was west of where experts assumed it had gone down.

Allen’s crew took pictures of the wreckage, including a piece of its hull, and will search for more of the ship. They plan to keep the exact location of the USS Indianapolis a secret, however, to honor the sunken ship as a war grave.

"While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” Allen said.

[h/t The New York Times]

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entertainment
The Time That Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Opened Competing Restaurants on the Sunset Strip
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From 1946 to 1956, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were show business supernovas. With an act that combined singing, slapstick, and spontaneous hijinks, the duo sold out nightclubs coast to coast, then went on to conquer radio, television, and film. Long before Elvis and The Beatles came along, Dean and Jerry  were rock stars of comedy.

Offstage, there was a cordial but cool friendship between the laidback Martin and the more neurotic Lewis. But as the pressures of their success increased, so did the tensions between them. Martin grew tired of playing the bland romantic straight man to Lewis’s manic monkey boy. And when Lewis started to grab more headlines and write himself bigger parts in their movies, Martin decided to quit the act. In an angry moment, he told Lewis that he was “nothing to me but a f**king dollar sign.”

After the split, both men went on with their individual careers, though it took Martin a few years before he regained his footing. One of his ventures during that transitional period was a Hollywood eatery called Dino’s Lodge.

DINO'S LODGE

In the summer of 1958, Martin and his business partner, Maury Samuels, bought a controlling interest in a restaurant called The Alpine Lodge, at 8524 Sunset Boulevard. They hired Dean’s brother Bill to manage the place, and renamed it Dino’s Lodge.

Outside they put up a large neon sign, a likeness of Dean’s face. The sign turned into a national symbol of hip and cool, thanks to appearances on TV shows like Dragnet, The Andy Griffith Show, and most prominently, in the opening credits of 77 Sunset Strip.

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Dino’s Lodge was popular from the get-go, serving home-style Italian food and steaks in an intimate, candlelit, wood-paneled room meant to replicate Martin’s own den. In the first year, Dean himself frequented the place, signing autographs and posing for photos with starstruck diners. He also occasionally brought along famous friends like Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. To promote the idea of the swingin’ lifestyle that Martin often sang about, Dino’s served “an early morning breakfast from 1 to 5 a.m.” The restaurant also had a lounge that featured singers, though only females. Dean apparently didn’t want any male vocalists encroaching on his turf.

But as with many a celebrity venture into the food business, this one soon turned sour. And most of that was due to the jealousy of Jerry Lewis.

JERRY'S

In late 1961, Lewis wooed Martin’s business partner Maury Samuels away, ponied up some $350,000, and opened his own copycat restaurant three blocks down Sunset. It was called Jerry’s. To make it clear he was out for top billing, Lewis had his own likeness rendered in neon, then mounted it on a revolving pole 100 feet above his restaurant. In contrast to Dino’s Italian-based menu, Jerry’s would serve “American and Hebrew viands.” Lewis didn’t stop there. Within a few months, he’d hired away Dino’s top two chefs, his maître d', and half his waitstaff.

Wire Photo, eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

When Lewis was in Los Angeles, he made of point of table-hopping and schmoozing with his guests at his restaurant, and he occasionally brought in a few of his celebrity friends, like Peggy Lee and Steve McQueen.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

By the following year, a disgusted Dean Martin was fed up with the restaurant business and cut ties with Dino’s Lodge. Much to his aggravation, he lost a motion in court to have his likeness and name removed from the sign. So the new owners carried on as Dino’s Lodge, with the big neon head staring down on Sunset for another decade before the place finally went bust.

Jerry’s lost steam long before that, folding in the mid-1960s.

For the rest of the 1960s and the early 1970s, Martin and Lewis avoided each other. “Jerry’s trying hard to be a director,” Dean once told a reporter. “He couldn’t even direct traffic.”

In 1976, Frank Sinatra famously engineered an onstage reunion of the pair during The Jerry Lewis Telethon. While the audience roared their approval, Sinatra said, “I think it’s about time, don’t you?” And to Sinatra, Lewis said under his breath, “You son of a bitch.”

What followed was an awkward few moments of shtick between the former partners. Reportedly, Martin was drunk and Lewis was doped up on painkillers. There was a quick embrace, Martin sang with Sinatra, then blew Lewis a kiss and disappeared from his life for good. Martin died in 1995. Lewis passed away today, at the age of 91.

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