88th anniversary of Sakarya victory celebrated
Top government and military officials over the weekend attended a ceremony at Dua Tepe (Prayer Hill), the first hill seized by the Turkish army during the War of Independence 88 years ago, marking a historic change in Turkey's defense strategy. Contrary to popular misconception, the battle of Sakarya was fought in an area east of the Sakarya River close to Polatli, 80 kilometers from Ankara, not the Sakarya district of Adapazari in northwestern Turkey. And the confrontation with the Greek army known as the Battle of Sakarya was a cornerstone in Turkish history as it halted the Turks’ withdrawal since the Ottoman army's siege of Vienna in the late 17th century, and led to the Turkish army taking the offensive until all of Anatolia was cleared of enemy armies in 1922. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Deputy Premiers Cemil Cicek and Ali Babacan, Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul as well as top military commanders led by Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug attended the ceremony at Dua Tepe. Erdogan, on behalf of the government, and Basbug, on behalf of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), laid wreaths at a monument to fallen soldiers, most of whom were age 15-17. "Throughout its long history, Turkey, with its army and state structure, has known how to protect itself. This is a destiny written by history," said well-known historian Ilber Ortayli, citing Sakarya as an example. He said the battle ended a centuries-long Turkish withdrawal and opened a new chapter in the Turkish army’s tactical maneuvers. "Head commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk said in 1921, 'There is no defense of a line, but there is the defense of the superficies'," said Ortayli. "That heralded a change in military tactics. There is no doubt that was a turning point in the war's history." Hours before the ceremony started, people young and old defied cloudy weather to flock to the site and mark the day. Ortayli pointed to the public’s growing interest in national days in recent years, saying, "We see some things have not changed." Government officials, military commanders, and members of the press and public watched a reenactment of the battle, shouting out encouragement and giving applause. The ceremony ended with a show of Skorsky, Cooger, and Cobra helicopters, F-16 and F-4 jets, and a Turkish Stars aerial show. Erdogan and Basbug were also both given plaques by the Polatli Municipality.