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Turkey Air Force History 1918-1923 - War of Independence

With the end of the Great War the country, primarily Istanbul, was occupied by the allied powers upon the acceptance of the defeat in the First World War by the Ottoman Empire and signing of the Moudhros Armistice on 30 October 1918. A new era started for the Turkish military aviation as of this date.

Discharge operations were initiated in the army as dictated by the provisions of the Moudhros Armistice and the German aviation personnel left the country. The Air Force General Inspectorate trying to reconstruct itself on 29 July 1918 had no personnel, but only remained as a title on paper. However, using the aircraft left after the First World War the Turkish aviators tried to establish air (aircraft) stations in Istanbul, Izmir, Konya and air (aircraft) companies in Elazig and Diyarbakir. The personnel, aircraft and materials began to be accumulated in the above-mentioned locations.

Following the Armistice, the Ottoman Empire was dismantled, and most of the Army, including the air forces, disarmed. Various parts of the Ottoman Empire became independent or were occupied by western powers. The air clauses of the May 1920 peace treaty provided that no military or naval air forces are to be maintained by Turkey ; that the entire Turkish air force personnel is to be demobilized within two months, and that the aircraft of the allied powers were to have freedom of passage over and transit and landing throughout Turkish territory until the complete evacuation of Turkey by the Allies. The manufacture, importation and exportation of aircraft or their component parts in Turkish territory during six months following the coming into force of the treaty was forbidden. All military and naval aircraft (including dirigibles) either complete or in pieces of manufacture, assembling or repair, all aeronautical material, armament, munitions and instruments were to be delivered to the principal allied powers within three months from the signing of the treaty. The air navigation clauses follow the lines of those in the other peace treaties.

Under these circumstances, the Air Force General Inspectorate was abolished and its personnel were dispersed under the Ministry of War directive dated 25 June 1920. Thus the Turkish Aviation was deprived of its organization, personnel and materials, in other words the Turkish Aviation in the Ottoman Era came to an end.

Meanwhile, the Turkish War of Independence under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Pasha broke out in Anatolia to ensure the freedom of the Turkish Nation and the integrity of the country. When an attempt was made to occupy different regions of Anatolia, especially by an invading Greek army, Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, rallied his countrymen, drove out the invaders and founded the modern republic of Turkey. In 1919, at the beginning of this national struggle, the Turks had no aircraft.

The Turkish aviators also took part in this struggle and joined Konya Air Station in Anatolia. The Turkish Air Force was reestablished March 1920 when pilots and other personnel met in Konya and Eskisehir and began to assemble their own planes from smuggled parts.The first national air force was founded with two planes in Adana and the first national aircraft maintenance facility was established in the Eskisehir railroad maintenance shop. The number of aircraft soon rose to 16. The new air force conducted reconnaissance missions and limited strikes on enemy targets and air units in support of the army. The aircraft used were Albatros, Breguet, Fiat, De Havilland and Spad models.

The new Turkish State, founded with the inauguration of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 23 April 1920 in Ankara, considered it essential, in the first place, to establish disciplined and regular armies and in parallel with this principle, the Air Force Branch was established being affiliated to the War Office by the order of Ministry of Defense of the Ankara Government, dated 13 June 1920.

After the first air force organization of the new Turkish State was inaugurated, efforts were pursued to repair the damaged and defective aircraft available at hand and to procure the required materials, and the Turkish aviators performed their duties faithfully even under the most stringent circumstances, by participating in the operations conducted at the east and west fronts.

On 1 February 1921, an organizational change was made and the name "Air Force Branch" [Hava Kuvvetleri (Kuva-yi Havaiye)] was changed as "Air Force General Command" [Hava Kuvvetleri Genel Müdürlügü]. Following this, on 5 July 1922, another organizational change was also made and the Air Force General Directorate was replaced by the Air Force Inspectorate having the same level of authority with a division.

When the War of Independence ended in 1922, the Air Force consisted of a group composed of three companies; Izmir, Afyon and Bandirma. There was also a naval air company in Izmir. Under the directives of Ataturk, considerable effort was given to strengthening the Air Force. French instructors were invited to teach in Izmir and orders were placed in various countries for modern aircraft. In 1928 an Air Ministry was established with three battalions. These were raised to regiment level in 1932, and brigade level in 1939. There were three main bases: Eskisehir, Diyarbakir and Izmir. Ataturk's encouragement of aviation was perhaps most symbolically confirmed when one of his adopted daughters became a pilot.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:06:36 ZULU