William Morris Gilbert Jr. (1894 – 1971) from Yonkers was the son of William Morris Gilbert, the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. In the years of WWI, William Morris Gilbert Jr. served in the US Navy. After the war, he joined the organization Near East Relief and was stationed in Adana Province, Turkey.
In March – April 1920, the territory of Cilicia became a battlefield for Franco-Turkish encounters. In early April 1920, the Turkish troops entered the village of Garuniye in Adana Province where American and German relief organizations have been operating. The Turks ruined and burned down the entire village, including the American orphanage that at the time housed about 2,000 Armenian orphans.
On April 7, 1920, William Morris Gilbert Jr. managed to save those 2,000 Armenian orphans from death. On April 9, 1920, the “News” magazine in New York published an article titled “Yonkers man saves 2,000 children when Turks burn orphanage.” The author of the article also noted that the orphans would probably be moved to Cyprus since Adana was much disturbed.
William Morris Gilbert Jr.’s heroic act was also mentioned by the periodical “The New Near East” in an article titled “Near East Relief worker saves 2,000 orphans from fire.”