Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gallipoli: A Movie Takes on Meaning

How good is your knowledge of World War I history? Do you remember the Battle of Gallipoli?

If not, then perhaps this map rings a bell for you.

The Battle of Gallipoli.

If neither the battle name nor the map tickles your history memory neurons, then maybe you recall watching the 1981 film entitled "Gallipoli."

I remember watching that "Gallipoli" movie my senior year in high school, as part of my AP European History class. For the record, AP European History was my absolute least favorite class. Thank god Mel Gibson starred in the film, or I very well may have napped through the movie, thereby forever filing "Gallipoli" and its battle into my memory's trash receptacle.

For those of you whose memories require a jump start, the Gallipoli Peninsula is on the northern banks of the Dardanelles Straits, in current day Turkey. During World War I, the straits provided a critical sea route to one of the Allied Powers, the Russian Empire. To secure the route, the Allies launched navel and amphibious attacks starting in April 1915, with the intention of gaining control over the capitol of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Lasting for nearly nine months, the campaign was eventually repelled by the Turkish forces and their German friends.

By the end of the battle, forces on both sides of the fighting had sustained numerous casualties; more than 120,000 people had lost their lives.

On our road trip from Germany to Turkey, we drove along a beautiful route that runs through the battlefields on the Gallipoli Peninsula. We stopped at many of the war memorials that have since been erected by the Turks, the British, and the ANZACs (the Australian and New Zealand forces).

Wow, these are some of the most beautiful battlefields and memorials that I have ever seen!

The Turkish Çannakale Martyrs Memorial, from afar.

Dilek, inside the Çannakale Martyrs' Memorial.
A huge Turkish flag is painted on the memorial's ceiling.

Dilek and me, observing an impressive wall at the Turkish memorial.

Experiencing a pensive moment.
It's difficult to imagine that one of the deadliest battles in history
took place in this Turkish paradise.

Despite the solemness of the memorial, it was hard not to smile,
being in such a beautiful place.

Here I am, walking around The Helles Memorial.
This memorial contains the names of British soldiers who died or went missing in the war.
I walked around the memorial in search of soldiers with my family name.
Alas, I found no familiar names.

Despite the heavy casualties, defending Gallipoli was a defining moment in history for the Turkish people. As the Ottomon Empire continued to weaken in the early part of the 20th century, the victory at Gallipoli provided the impetus for the Turks to fight for independence. Under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (refer to Hanging Out in Thessaloniki), the current day Republic of Turkey was established eight years after the Battle of Gallipoli.

I've never been much of a history buff, particularly for history involving far off places in far off times. But visiting those far off places removes one of the "far off" barriers, making it easier for history to come alive.

Thanks to our visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula, "that 'Gallipoli' movie" I watched back in high school now has meaning.


  1. I remembered the name, but that was it. Even Mel Gibson didn't get me to watch that movie back then! By the way, the smile is perfect. I am willing to bet any of the men who fought there would very much appreciate that pretty smile from you over any somberness you could have shared.

    1. I'm not surprised about Mel not inspiring you. In my humble opinion, there are...hmm..."more inspiring" actors. Mel's presence in the movie simply helped me remember the title. I can think of other actors whose presence would have make this one of my top movies, encouraging me to watch the movie multiple times and commit all the lines to memory. :)

      Ah, you're so kind about the smile. [blushing]


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